Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Late May

A photo tour as June approaches

Transition zones, such as the mudroom, become crowded in late May

Table, put together from scraps, is ready for another summer of outdoor meals

Covering paths with grass clippings.

View south past the compost bins and grape arbor toward the barn

Overview of main garden. In view: peas, chives, spinach, garlic, lettuce, tomatoes, poppies, sweet Williams, cosmos, zinnias, green beans, winter squash, summer squash, leeks, cukes, blueberries,quinces, apples, sunchokes, cherries, pears, raspberries, grapes, compost bin.

Cherries, pears, quinces and apples in the chicken moat/run/pasture. Stone mulched.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mix things together

A chicken tractor with some young Welsommers trying it out

The poppies popped the day after Risa came home

Comfrey ready to be cut and added to the compost heap

Polyculture. Mix things together and pests have more trouble finding the one they want

Lettuces and spinach

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Surprise some trees

Invest in a really solid tree-planting shovel with heavy-duty steps on the shoulders of the blades. Every year in fall or winter, when trees are asleep, get it out and surprise some fruit, nut, sap, fiber, shade, building material, and fuel saplings by giving them a new home. Learn to sprig. Learn to graft. 

Make the earth sing.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Back liniment

Things were only slightly out of control when I got home to Stony Run after four months away. Beloved works full time and could not do yardwork, but she did hire some grass cutting done.

Things are very strange here; the trees set fruit a month ahead of schedule and it has been up to 90F, yet this morning there was frost damage, even on the grape leaves. The benefit to this, at least in the early going, is some insect pests will have been set back by the late frost.

Here's the main garden yesterday:

Here it is today, a little bit cut back:

We were not able to do our own starts this year, so we got some today, along with some bales of straw and some back liniment. [grin]

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In the kitchen

We do bread in batches of four to eight loaves to save on running the oven. The wheat is locally grown, and we tend to throw in whatever is on hand -- extra eggs, shredded veggie leaves, chopped chives, oats, barley, brewer's yeast, rye, etc. Stale breakfast cereal hides well in it. Veggie stock or the whey from pasta may provide the liquid. Add yeast, salt, honey to taste and stir till it "rises off the bowl" (forms a lump). Cover and leave overnight in fridge or cold room, shape and bake in the morning. Round loaves on a cookie sheet work best for me. Start eating one right away, freeze the others after a stint on the cooling rack.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mud patrol

In winter, let them into the garden. They will plow for slug eggs. But remember to keep a fresh bucket of water handy, as they may cake their bills with mud -- if it's too far to their usual water source they can suffocate. Patrol the garden for fresh eggs, because there's always at least one especially casual mother. When ready to plant, fence out.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

An early bedtime saves fuel

Kerosene is a fossil fuel, but sometimes these lamps are the way to go, such as during power outages. Keep the blackened end of the wick scissored away, finished on a gentle curve like that of a trimmed fingernail. Avoid colored "lamp oils"; if you want the traditional red reservoir, do it the way the Ingalls family did, by putting in red bits of cloth. The refraction will do a very convincing job and is a nice touch.

Clean the chimney every day in order get the most light. When lighting, set asiide the chimney, roll the wick up so that the match can kiss it alight, replace the chimney quickly, observe the yellow, smoky flame, then slowly roll the wick back down till the smoking stops and the light brightens.

Now be careful not to tip the thing over! And do necessary chores that can be handled with such low lighting. I would avoid reading or sewing. Consider sitting around singing together instead. An early bedtime saves fuel and wakes you up in time to use all the daylight.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Save seed!

A good idea to keep from running out of food: let one really nice kale plant or collard plant mature and go to flower. The tiny seed pods can become fragile and shatter, losing you your seed, so keep an eye on them for the best time to harvest. The pods have been air dried, spread on a sheet, and pounded with a shovel. Here, the results have been poured off into a colander to sift the seeds into a bowl. From there they will go into an airtight container in the cold room. Kale seeds don't always keep well, so figure on using them next year, year after.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Same-year crop rotation for higher latitudes

If a garden bed isn/t doing anything else, consider broad beans. They will produce a crop and a green manure (vegetable matter to be incorporated for soil improvement and fertility) simultaneously. Instead of tilling, we scythe ours at maturity and let it lie, to be covered in time with other mulch/compost ingredients, such as comfrey leaves, grass clippings, composted barn straw (rich in offerings from the chickens and ducks), and tree leaves, then later plant seedlings right through it all.

Broad beans and favas or "field beans" can be planted in late fall and will crop when most other crops are being planted, providing much needed nutrition at the critical "hungry time."

Friday, May 04, 2012

Wine not?

You can make wine as way of preserving nutrients from almost any fruit, or even dandelion blossoms. It might not taste like thirty dollars a bottle, but it will do for home consumption, or is useful in cooking, or, if it turned into vinegar, no need to dump it, as it makes a fine ingredient in water-bath canning, or making sauerkraut, or even as a cleaner. If worst comes to worst and it suffers from "flowers of wine," use it in making compost teas. Use any good guidebook or site to learn how, or find a mentor, and be sure to observe any applicable laws or regulations.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Introduce the concepts

Be thinking ahead to make or just pick things to bring to potlucks, meetups, and parties that are entirely home-grown. It's a great way to introduce the concepts of subsistence, homesteading, organic, local, and permaculture.