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Saturday, March 14, 2009

A little ahead of the curve

The Rhode Island Reds have been here three weeks

They had their first day of exercise in the yard yesterday, which was sunny. This drew the attention of the Barred Rocks and Araucanas in the pasture, but of course they can't be introduced for some time yet, when big enough to fend for themselves in the flock. They'll move in at night, when those with seniority are half asleep.

A 60-year-old homesteader who works in town learns to pace herself, and so there is not that much to report. Two years ago, my driving commute was 26 miles round trip. Last year, it was ten miles. This year, I have cut it down to three miles round trip! But there's a price. I found I could manage a bus route that passes within a mile and a half of us, but I'm on the bus a long time on weekdays, getting home at ten minutes after six. So, I'm tired ... and Saturday I'm relatively listless, proving much more ready to farm on Sunday, when I'm already behind schedule.

The park-and-ride I had been using had become a significantly more dangerous place for unattended cars over time, and it seemed best to relocate, and even though the new bus route is long and slow, the safer parking and the reduced carbon footprint/cheaper gas bill seem worthwhile, to say the least.

Each day, while in town for my job, I walk about on my breaks and keep an eye open for jugs that can be made into hotcaps, newspapers that can be made into mulch, or used for cleaning, or as fire-starter, or to wrap apples in, empty wine bottles for our winemaking (we are taking only green ones -- a matter of preference), and other recycling goodies, which I pack into a kraft carton the size that reams of copier paper come in, and carry home on the bus. These loads add up, and we now have quite a lot of materials for a variety of projects.

"You're turning into a bag lady," complains Beloved.

"We're all going to be bag ladies soon -- I'm just a little ahead of the curve."

Of the many things I would like to have done today, I held it down to taking the water sprouts off the apple trees, splitting the week's wood, dividing off three new rhubarb plants, dividing and replanting the chives, moving a rosemary, potting up a few lilacs, direct seeding a few beets, carrots, spinach, peas, chard, and lettuce, and transplanting some tomatoes from pots -- those with too many plants -- to failed pots, then heaping up new potting soil around their little green "ears."

Tiny tomatoes easily sprout roots on any portion of stem that is buried up to the first pair of leaves, and this gives them more strength than if they are allowed to get spindly or "leggy." If I have done this right, there should be 42 four-inch pots, each with one strong tomato plant growing in it. I had quite a bit of success with this over a decade ago but in recent years have lost the touch, and am trying to regain it.

The other flats, with peppers and eggplant, show no sign of seedling activity yet. I'm able to keep the area only warm enough for them part of the day -- not the best plan, but there it is -- one keeps one's fingers crossed and hopes for the best.

It was better when we could use the greenhouse -- plants grow less spindly there than in the west window -- but we have been fighting a plague of mice there. Retreating to the dining room with our flats was the "better part of valor." We'll be back -- but it's one thing at a time around here.


The Ideas of March

Big winter storm out there; great conditions for an indoor project. I'm working on creating a solar food dryer. I'm not really good enough at carpentry for this kind of thing, but since all the parts are from the scrap heap, no harm trying!

The back and the sides, top and bottom are 3/8 plywood on a frame of 2X2s. The top and bottom each have six holes bored in them, and screening is stapled over the holes on the interior to prevent fly traffic. The window had been cut out of a building somewhere with a power saw, so it had no sill flanges for attaching it to the box; but I drilled through the plywood into the frame and put screws through. It seems tight and steady. All there is left to do is make carrying handles for the sides. It's not pretty but it may just be serviceable.

I don't have the patience to fill such a thing with little shelves and such. The idea here is to slide the window open, fill the floor of the box with open egg cartons with fruit slices in them, close the window, and tip the box against the south side of the house at enough angle to get lots of sun but not enough to cause shifting of the egg cartons. Maybe with a hook and eye arrangement on the wall to prevent problems with wind gusts?

Today I ate the last stored apple from the cold room ...


  1. Anonymous8:24 AM

    Well, your "just" weekend leaves me exhausted just reading about it!

  2. Not to worry -- I'm much lazier than it sounds! If one doesn't spend a lot of time going to concerts, say, or watching tv, and the kids are all grown, these things fit into a day.

    In the "guest" room there is a little Jotul woodstove that hardly gets any use. If one stays right with it, feeding it small bits of wood, it will keep that space toasty, but if one wanders off, the fire goes out and the space cools down.

    Beloved pointed out that it's a practical stove for a Norwegian Bachelor Farmer -- if you don't have anything to do all winter but feed the stove, it's a good stove.

    Lots of homesteading is like that! You have time to plant peas because nothing else is going on ...

  3. I love your writing. I feel like I've found a kindred spirit.

  4. I just re-read your profile. Yep. Definitely a kindred spirit! ;-)

  5. Your weekends sound like my whole weeks! Here in Texas, were it's practically summer year-round, there's never nothing going on. Have you tried fluorescent lights on your seedlings? Works a treat. I'm having far better results from that than I did with window light. We also had them in close proximity to the wood stove so they got some warmth.

  6. Ayah, they are by th' woodstove. And the west window is BIG, I made it from a double-glazed sliding glass door. Lights would help, but there's no power in that wall and I get these looks if I run an extension cord across the dining room.

  7. the kale was delicious, more?

  8. I'd love to augment/replace our electric dehydrators, but find a lot of food is so lusciously juicy that much sticks to the plastic screens. How do you cope with stickiness in the egg cartons? Or do you just use the cartons for things like herbs?

    Thanks for a fabulous site, by the way; kindred spirits everywhere.

  9. From what I've seen of some other designs, I now think this one's weakness is its efficiency. It's, umm, too efficient! I was told to try wax paper, and I did, but it ...

    ... melted.

    So I know I must be losing some nutrients but persist -- as my tomatoes have lasted the winter and taste great.

    The cartons have given me the best results so far, as I can sort of lean the slices on the various angles so that the undersurface of each slice gets a chance to share in the drying, before it all sticks down.

    Also, I don't use the whole tomato any more -- four or six slices from each one, and all the bits going into the dryer have skin down. The pulpy core then goes into a concurrent canning project. This works for plums or small apples too, so far.

  10. Isn't that just amazing — free energy and it's job is done too well! Thanks for the help; will let you know what we come up with and how it works.


Stony Run Farm: Life on One Acre

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