Thursday, May 26, 2011

Healthy stuff

So, this being our most popular thing to post on, here, let's be thorough. You all love to garden, yes?

[Crowd roars.]

And you all love your turnip greens, right?

[Roar subsides considerably.]

Well, okay, here's what ya do. First, get some surplus or freebie windows and mount them on boxes. Put holes in the ends of the boxes, so there will be inflow from below and outflow from above, and screen the holes to reduce bug traffic.


Second, grow lots of leafy greens. (Unless you're concerned there will be a lot of cesium on them, which, alas, is not going to be impossible. But we won't dwell on it here.)

Third, cut-and-come-again with your greens (and your herbs, to taste):

 Fourth, put 'em in your box(es) in at least moderately sunny weather, aimed at the sun. Risa uses a window screen or some egg cartons to hold everything off the back of the box and improve circulation:

Fifth, gather the dried stuff, strip the leaf matter off stems and veins --

 -- sixth, shred with air-blending --

 or run it through a universal grinder for a finer texture, mixing veg species as you go:

Risa's current mix, shown here, includes, in more or less descending order: collard greens, kale, turnip greens, spinach, chard, beet greens, lettuce, dandelions, cabbages, elephant garlic leaves, chives, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram. But whatever suits ya!  So seventh, we store ours in a big wide-mouthed apothecary jar on the counter and grab a pinch for whatever we're baking, cooking, blending -- keeps for years. Healthy stuff, yes?

[Crowd murmurs mostly in assent.]

Well, you don't have to spoon it right into your mouth. Make everything you like and just add some. We'll maybe skip it on the ice cream, though. Here's some on hard-boiled eggs in a steamed salad.

You like?

[Crowd roars.]

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

They'll be put to use

These are Buckskin bush beans, with what looks to be a few sports harking back to some kind of black bean. Risa found them at a sustainability fair two years ago, about 1/2 of a pint mason jar full, and they were advertised as drought resistant, so for two bucks she thought she would try them. They were tucked into the potato patch across the creek, and after a few initial waterings to see them through infancy, allowed only one watering every two weeks thereafter, with a deep mulch. Come fall, after the potato harvest, she lifted the "bushes" (they were very small plants) and wheelbarrowed them into the potting shed to be shelled later, and then was interrupted by a family emergency on the other end of the continent. A few days ago, she got round to shelling the beans -- which were in the pod for eight months! -- that might explain why some of those shown are rather shrivelly.
    There were some losses each time they were transported, as the pods like to split and dump their beans, like sweet peas. Nevertheless the end product, for very little labor, was a half gallon of dried beans that were not grown in the regular garden beds. She doesn't plan to repeat the experiment -- these beans seem intended for field use with some kind of harvester, and she prefers pole beans. But they'll be put to use sometime in chili or baked beans.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Summer flats

Risa went to the reservoir for the first time in months, to practice kayaking in case she gets to make the repeat Willamette River end-to-end trip, this time with daughter. Out of habit, she took along her fishing gear and rigged to troll while paddling; the results made a nice dinner along with potatoes and onions -- first dinner outside, this year!

Afterward there were chores to do; Beloved renewed everyone's feed and water -- currently at Stony Run there are twenty chickens, twenty ducks, and two geese. Risa brought in all the mint she'd dried for tea, then went to the potting shed to water the summer flats: runner beans, corn, several kinds of summer and winter squash, beets, lettuce.

Beloved brought in the winter's house plants to keep the flats company.

Library presentation

Beloved is one of the happy employees shown (0:48 and 3:26). They're happy because they have a mission and they're a good and compatible team -- doing their part to preserve the commons!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Outside chores

Risa, impatient as ever, has put in the tomatoes in very coolish ground. The good news is they show no sign of shock, because the continuing rainy weather has been kind to transplants. She hopes it's also because she watered-in using about a tablespoon full of milk powder and sugar per plant, which seems to have been enjoyed by other tomato starts in days gone by. These starts are from a small organic business just getting going about five miles away, owned by a family friend. They are Sungold, Stupice, Black Prince, and Amish Paste, spaced four feet on a diagonal zigzag pattern, with kale starts on the opposite dogleg.

Here we have a bushel of mint beginning to solar dry. Even with the cloud cover, the heat in the box has steamed up the window in ten minutes.

A second bushel. There's lots more mint; Risa needs to make more of these dryers. If there's ever another bumper crop of tomatoes, like in 2007 or 2008, she'll need them all.

The chickens watched the whole process of harvesting and setting up, and now they are bored and picking at the mulch around a young pear tree. They only like grass clippings if you mulch something with it, hence the wire cage. In the background you can see a fresh stump; sadly the plums got a nasty case of a leaf-shriveling virus and had to go. Risa may put quince trees in their place.

When you're done with outside chores, "Chicken soup with rice/Is very nice." Shown here with homegrown zukes, onions, veg-flake spices, and, umm, homegrown chicken ...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mucking-out day

A real farm day at last! Risa built a pen for the new chicks inside the barn, on the floor underneath the entire row of nesting boxes, of hardware cloth. It sticks out in a "L" shape at the end, with a chicken wire lid, for handling food and water and changing light bulbs if necessary. The chicks like it because there is real dirt with real bugs in it under the new straw.

Then she went out and scythed all the comfrey and spread it over the grass clippings on the garden beds. From the coverage that resulted, she thinks she's got about 1/3 the comfrey plants she needs. Where, oh where to put them?

Here's the same scene later in the day. Last Son mucked out the barn and spread the bedding over the comfrey, and on other beds as well.. He did a good job -- about twelve wheelbarrow loads. Risa was mowing the chicken moat and poultry pastures meanwhile, and Beloved worked around the barn changing water and updating feed and such.

Here's the renewed chicken moat, with plenty of bird action. The grass clippings were placed inside the wire enclosures of the young fruit trees. Risa has noticed that the chickens will not touch grass clippings that are thrown to them, but will peck and scratch at it endlessly if it's used to mulch trees. Hence the wire cages. 

Susannah, the goose at far right, is in laying mode and was distressed to find the barn mucked out. We spread straw in her shelter in the outside pen and she stood looking at it, miffed, for a good fifteen minutes before settling in. Sylvester, her consort, shrieked at her to get on with it -- as if he were anxious about his immortality.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Seeing red

So here is the future goat barn in red -- the stain will fade in a year or so and the east and north walls will match better than shown here -- the north wall being steel and the new east wall being assorted scrap lumber. The idea is that it matches the poultry barn, shown here undergoing similar maintenance a few years ago:

Probably next winter or the next, GWATCDR, when more free lumber has accumulated, Risa will put in a floor in a third of the building and add milking stanchions. Between now and then, if you have a line on a bummer lamb, drop her a line ...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Newly defined space

Today, Risa begins collecting Social Security. She's also eligible for a fifteen percent discount on Amtrak, and other goodies. At least she's not using a walker yet!

Risa has enclosed the "goat barn." Next, a coat of barn red (this was requested).

It's always thrilling to see a newly defined space for the first time. The wall and windows are all recycled from free materials.

Meanwhile, in the old barn, new life. These are supposed to be all Australorps, but the guy at the feed store appears to have scooped up an Americauna among them. Oh, well.

Not a lot going on in the garden, but here are a collard and a kale getting ready for seed saving.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Goat barn in progress

The upper barn, a simple stamping shed, will be rehabbed into a goat barn.

There were hundreds of pounds of fir branches and debris on the roof. The branches made five wheelbarrow loads of firewood, and the sweepings made about as much compost.

An industrial grade push broom can be one of your best friends.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A lifetime partnership

Not entirely trusting the spring weather, Risa has left off planting after putting out the cole starts and peas, and is back to winter tasks. She's replacing the poultry fencing near the house, which had been cobbled together from scraps, with nice new stuff. The old bits will go to surround another potato patch.

Yes, this is not a general-purpose how-to photo. Fence stretching can have safety issues. You don't see a hard hat and safety goggles here. But it's not barbed wire or anything that will be highly tensioned; she's just straightening out about two tee posts' worth of 48" welded wire at a time. For that, the come-along and length of steel pipe have always sufficed.

Risa has owned the come-along for almost forty years. Last week, the pressed steel nub finally came off the end of its cable. She thought over buying a new come-along, but things are not made the way they once were. So she tied a knot in the end of the cable with a nut and bolt through the knot and that is holding well. With any luck, she and the come-along will go out together after a lifetime partnership.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Homestead TV

Risa returns from semitropical captivity to find Stony Run overrun.

Day two -- looks better already

Time to build a pen for the new Khaki Campbells

Susannah, the goose, calls to them to follow her. Sylvester, the gander, will have nothing of it. He body-blocks her and hisses at them. New channel for us to watch.
Update: Monday, planted out the flats and some seeds: lettuce, kale, collards, chard, beets, spinach, leeks.