Joey chatter
18

Home greets me with sun-ripened tomatoes and solar power. So sweet..

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Two bad weeds (and what they tell me)
Ground ivy

Weeds and what they tell usThe hypothesis I often see put forth by the permaculture community is that you can use weeds to discover imbalances in your soil.  When I finally tracked down the best book on the subject, though, I was disappointed.  Since then, I've come to my own conclusions --- problematic weeds are an indicator of issues with your management strategy, not necessarily of problems with the ground underfoot.

Since I tweak my gardening techniques every year, it's no surprise that our worst weeds change with the times.  This year's doozy is a plant that I used to consider barely noticeable --- ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea), which is pictured above.  My mother enjoys this plant in her garden for its bee-friendly spring flowers, its pleasant aroma, and the way it quickly covers the ground.  Unfortunately, ground ivy wreaks havoc with the mulched areas since it quickly grows amid straw and makes you lose most of your mulch when you rip it out.

Why is ground ivy suddenly a big problem for us?  I only see the weed in the shadier parts of my garden, and primarily during wet years, making me think that there's something about cool, wet conditions that gives ground ivy a foothold over the grass that's supposed to be colonizing the garden aisles.  I can't do anything about the weather, but I can change a management technique that I think has been giving the ground ivy a foothold in the front garden aisles --- weedeating.  Until this summer, Mark was in charge of cutting our "lawn," and he generally opted to weedeat the front garden rather than mow it since the aisles aren't very linear.  However, close cutting can promote ground ivy over grass, especially in shady areas.  Time to commit to mowing instead of whacking the front garden grass!

Quickweed

When I first identified our second troublesome weed of 2014, the book I looked it up in gave it the appellation "devil's racehorse."  I haven't been able to track down the source of that name, and now call the weed by its more common names (quickweed, shaggy soldier, Galinsoga quadriradiata).  But the colorful name that originally made me scratch my head makes so much sense now that I garden --- quickweed will take over a garden lickety split.

While ground ivy is the bane of my existence in the shady front garden, quickweed makes its annoying presence known in the sunny mule garden.  I made the mistake about three years ago of letting a single plant go to seed in a garden bed there, and the result has been nearly endless handweeding of every crop I've grown in that spot thereafter.  The solution here is pretty simple --- whatever you do, don't let quickweed go to seed in your garden!

Have you learned from your garden weeds?  If so, which ones taught you memorable lessons?

Posted
Joey chatter
plan for the day

Get on the front page of hacker news for no apparent reason, then head down to Phoenix for lunch, and then pop over to my mom's house.

So far, gorgeous views of Mt Hood (?), Ranier, and flew over the grand canyon.

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Training newly grafted apple trees

New apple branchesMost folks will tell you to leave a grafted apple alone for its first year of life.  The goal is for it to grow straight and tall, into a one-year-old whip that is hopefully four feet tall (for an apple on MM111).

That makes a lot of sense if you want a tree to achieve its full height potential, but what if you plan to use high-density methods to fit more apples into a smaller space?  As our grafted trees surpassed waist height, it occurred to me that if I want branching to begin relatively close to the ground, I might as well break the apical dominance now rather than waiting until this winter to begin pruning.  The photo to the left shows what happens a couple of weeks after snipping the top off one of the whips --- new branches begin to form in the leaf axils of the top three leaves or so.

Branching apple

What next?  The photos above show an apple on MM111 rootstock that is several years older, and also several weeks further along in its top-snipping adventure.  As you can see, I've tied down all but one of the new branches so the tree will once again enjoy apical dominance while turning the horizontal twigs into scaffolds.  On a vigorous tree like this one, I've managed to snip the top off the tree twice this year (if I recall correctly), building two whorls of scaffolds in one summer.

I doubt our little grafted trees will put out much more growth this summer, but hopefully they'll sink at least a little energy into the new branches.  If all goes as planned, when I transplant them to their new homes this winter, they'll be a bit further along than the typical one-year-old whip.

Posted
Joey chatter
16

Watching a guy walk his pig in the PSU park. Hello portland..

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Snake in the nest box
Snake eating egg

A few weeks ago, we noticed a drastic decline in the number of eggs coming out of our coop.  As day length decreases, it's normal to notice fewer eggs, but a hen's lay usually drops off gradually rather than all at once.  Added to the mystery, some days our egg haul was back to normal, followed by a series of days with only one or two eggs in the nest box.  What was going on?

Mark solved the mystery when he found a black rat snake sunning itself outside the coop in the middle of August.  For a while, we gathered eggs earlier in the day, and the snake seemed to have moved on, but numbers once again declined this past week.  Sure enough, this time Mark caught the snake in the act, its body swollen around an egg.

Hunting a snakeBlack rat snakes are completely non-poisonous, and from my days as a naturalist, I know most are actually pretty friendly too.  But I still didn't feel comfortable just picking up the snake (which I planned to relocate to the other side of the hill).  Instead, I tried pushing the snake into a bucket, then I ended up chasing it across the coop where the reptile kept trying to slither out holes which no longer fit its body due to the addition of the egg lump.  Eventually, the snake regurgitated its egg and disappeared into the weeds...just as Mark appeared with a homemade tool to make snake handling easier.  Stay tuned for Mark's post on that topic later (and, maybe, a successful catch this afternoon?).

Posted
Joey chatter
15

my laptop bag is full of meats #DebConf #PSU #Portland

Posted
mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Miter saw weed trimmer
me using Stihl circular saw blade trimmer

Thanks for the comments on using a miter saw blade with a weed trimmer.

Most people are like my neighbor and report problems with it binding up when cutting small trees which could be a result of not keeping the blade exactly even during a cut.

Maybe in the future Stihl will invent some sort of LED indicator you could look at and know which way to tilt the blade to make the most level cut.

Posted
Joey chatter
14

Breakfast of espresso and enormous Oregon blackberries at the farmer's market. Loving that I've been here long enough to go to it twice. Also feeling I've been away from home a loong time.

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Carbon sinks on the homestead
Sunflowers

While we refer to our "lawn" only in parentheses since the grass is full of dandelions, clover, and whatnot and never gets fertilized (except with the chicken tractor), I do occasionally feel guilty about the grassy areas.  Granted, on our farm, grassy garden aisles make sense, but most like-minded people think all lawns are evil.  However, as I mowed Thursday, I started wondering whether the carbon dioxide coming from our mower might not be offset by the carbon being sequestered in the soil as grass blades and roots turn into humus.

Sure enough, independent scientists (in addition to the lawn-care "scientists" you might expect to feel this way) report that lawns do act as carbon sinks.  A minimal input lawn like ours that only gets mowed with no other treatment sequesters about 147 pounds of carbon per lawn per year (after you subtract out the carbon released by the mower).  The abstract I read didn't mention lawn size, but I'm assuming they're using the American average of a fifth of an acre, which matches up with another study that reports each acre of lawn sequesters a net of 760 pounds of carbon per year.

Of course, cover crops will put the puny carbon sequestration powers of a lawn to shame.  Sorghum-sudangrass will pump a massive 10,565 pounds of carbon per acre into the soil, and oilseed radishes don't do so bad either at 3,200 pounds of carbon per acre.  In fact, a 120-year-old northeastern woodland only clocks in around the carbon sequestration powers of oilseed radishes, and you can still grow tomatoes in the oilseed-radish ground during the summer.

Which is all a very long way of saying --- if you're considering making a patio or leaving that area as lawn, go for the lawn.  But if you really want to sequester carbon fast, plant some cover crops.

Posted
Joey chatter
13

Linus Torvalds at DebConf.. this is going to be kinda weird I think.

Posted
Joey chatter
12

10 minute demo with 1 intentional haskell type error, 5 lines of code entered, 1 docker container provisioned, one change to my dns server provisioned.

Success!

Posted
mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Danger zone
using a circular saw blade in a weed trimmer eater

Our neighbor mentioned that he uses a miter saw blade on his weed trimmer.

The arbor hole is the same diameter as the Ninja brush blade. Make sure the teeth point to the left to take advantage of the cutting teeth.

I only tried it on some rag weed and it was like a hot knife cutting through butter. Our neighbor reported when he tried it the blade would bind up on even medium sized trees. I think we don't need the little bit of extra cutting power for such a huge leap in danger.

Posted
Joey chatter
4

It will run on amd64 or arm. I don't think on i386, because I put the amd64 qemu in it.

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Two bean cover crops
Buggy beans

I appreciated all of the thoughtful comments on my scarlet runner bean post last weekend!  Several of you correctly pointed out that the species is actually a perennial, although the distinction won't make much of a difference for most of us since (like tomatoes) scarlet runner beans are perennials that act like annuals in temperate climates.  On the other hand, that reminder did point out that not only the green beans, shelled beans, and flowers, but also the tubers of scarlet runner beans are edible.

Bean beetle larvaHowever, what I wanted to share today is a downside I just discovered of my beautiful bean planting.  Unfortunately, scarlet runner beans seem to make awesome nurseries for Mexican bean beetles, as you can tell from the holey leaves in the photo above (and from the larva that was hiding in a photo in my previous post, repeated to the left).  We use the ultra-simple bean-beetle control method of succession planting bush beans (explained in more depth in The Naturally Bug-Free Garden), but adding scarlet runner beans to the mix means that this year's beetle population exploded and quickly colonized my bush bean plants.  Good thing I'd already frozen several gallons of the staple crop because the plants will probably soon bite the dust....  I might try scarlet runner beans again, but this piece of data suggests I should keep my for-food beans far away from my for-beauty beans in the future.

Fava bean seedling
On a semi-related note, our experimental fava beans have come up!  The seedlings look more like peas than like beans, which is probably because fava beans are really a vetch.  We hope to experiment with eating both the fava bean seeds and the scarlet runner bean seeds at lima bean stage...even though I don't think I've ever eaten lima beans before in my life.  For those of you who are more experienced --- what kind of introductory recipe would you recommend?

Posted
Joey chatter
3

Forgot to mention, image by Aigars Mahinovs who must have held his DSLR out really far!

Posted
Joey chatter
Multnomah Falls from above

What a beautiful day we had. And, how lucky I am to have a waterfall not far from home that can be compared to Multnomah in exquisiteness of experience, if not sheer height.

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Goldenrod leatherwing
Goldenrod leatherwing

Insects on echinaceaThis week, the world seems to be chock full of soldier beetles.  Specifically, these goldenrod leatherwings are in a mating frenzy --- I counted half a dozen on just a few echinacea flowers on Wednesday afternoon.

With nearly 500 species of soldier beetles in the U.S., gardeners aren't likely to learn them all by name.  But I'm pretty sure all of the soldier beetles are either innocuous or beneficial (although some of their larvae are minor problems on fall fruits).

Feeding soldier beetle

The beneficial species are handy because the larvae eat slugs and snails while the adults consume aphids.  Other species (like the goldenrod leatherwing) seem to fixate on nectar instead, but the world can't have too many pollinators!

(Yes, this post is just an excuse to share pretty bug photos.  What can I say --- they're cute!)

Posted
mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Pre pulling
Chevy S-10 truck stuck in the mud with me and Frankie looking at it

Our neighbor with a tractor has agreed to help us get the truck unstuck.

Today we just looked it over and developed a plan.

With any luck it will continue to dry up and make things a little easier.

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
August lunch
August lunch

August is probably the tastiest time of the year on our farm.  This week, we've enjoyed the first lettuce and red peppers, and the fall round of red raspberries are starting to be nearly as copious as the blueberries we've been enjoying for weeks.  Three cups of berries per day make perfect desserts.

Celeste figWe're still eating tomatoes and cucumbers and watermelons (although they're starting to decline), and have plenty of summer squash, green beans, and Swiss chard that will continue to go the distance.  We're nearly at the end of our spring cabbage and carrots (which currently live in the crisper drawer of the fridge), but fall crops are all growing like gangbusters and promise to replace the spring round soon.  In fact, I saw the first pea flower Monday!

What am I watching with an eagle eye?  Our fig bushes!  Last year, the first fig ripened up at the very beginning of September, and I'm looking forward to tasting the first few Celeste figs (along with bowlsful of Chicago Hardy) later this year.

What are you enjoying and looking forward to seeing soon in your own garden?

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Learning to cook on a rocket stove
Rocket stove

Our power was out for about 21 hours Sunday afternoon through Monday morning.  That seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out the new rocket stove that our neighbor gave us!

Stovetec rocket stove

I'd like to be able to tell you "I only needed two sticks of wood to scramble our breakfast eggs," but the truth is that this first iteration of rocket-stove cookery was a learning experience.  What I mostly learned is that damp wood doesn't fly in rocket stoves --- I didn't really get the fire blazing until I tracked down the piece of kindling in the middle of the photo above, which had been sitting in our woodshed for a couple of years and was bone dry.  The sticks that have been drying on the porch for a week mostly smoldered instead of burning.

Perhaps because I only ended up using one dry piece of wood, the temperature in the skillet on top of the rocket stove never got warmer than what equates to about medium on our electric range.  That's fine for scrambling eggs, and would be great for things like soups, but for my next experiment I look forward to trying out the skirt that fits around a pot to increase the stove's efficiency by 25%.  I also want to get a more solid handle on exactly how much wood the rocket stove consumes, although I have to say that I'm already impressed in that regard.

Rocket stove on cinderblock

What was the biggest surprise about making breakfast on the rocket stove?  How much I enjoyed the fire therapy!  Usually, I get a little cranky during power outages due to internet deprivation, but a dose of fire first thing in the morning instead set me singing happily as I weeded the garden.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that our Cyberpower Battery Backup combined with my laptop battery means I can enjoy about an hour and a half of blogging time even while the grid is down.

In case you're curious, everything in the freezer stayed frozen during the outage, despite highs that nearly reached 90.  If the juice had stayed off for more than 24 hours, though, we would have topped off the cold with our generator.

Posted
Joey chatter
Note to my family

A lot of my posts this week have pictures, but they are not showing up on the family blogs page. If you click on the title of a post, you'll see the picture.

(This is because of issues with pump2rss.com. I need to find a better rss feed.)

Posted
Joey chatter
90 minute ballet

Managed to escape DebConf's gravitational pull for a few hours; wandered down to Pioneer Square and watched ballet in the park over a salad.

But it's hard to escape.. Stopped for an expresso on the way back and in no time the conversation jumped from indiginous Brazilian music to haskell on powerpc. Then on the way back to my room I had an intense mind-meld of a conversation about the best battery choice for our respective solar powered dwellings.

.. And that was a relaxed 1.5 hour gap in the DebConf schedule. Got back just in time for the ledger BoF (double-entry accounting for geeks).

Posted
Joey chatter
9

sorry about kicking down your door.. a bit of a bad habit

Posted
Joey chatter
11

kkh^Dhhh,.\nwljhhh

Yeoj died on level one. Killed by a Chris's apostrophe golumn.

Inventory: A +2 ring of armhf power (worn on left hand).

Attributes: You used no wishes. You were devoutly libre software.

Posted
Maggie
laughing willow

sometimes I forget too much
to share the laughing willow
of abundance that is me
with myself

Posted
Maggie
Pilgrimage to Rising Tide North America

I went camping this weekend in a beautiful natural and human landscape to represent the work I’ve done against hydrofracking in an anti climate change movement I am somewhat familiar with called rising tide. I am thinking a lot about pilgrimage and my life actions as broadly being a pilgrimage and my involvement with these people reminded me the environmental world badly needs human intervention and a changed way of consuming to survive. I felt a bit out of place in the group as I always do in groups. At one point I even felt I needed to defend the Tea Party people because I believe anyone can be taught and brought to better ways and I heard a shunning of sorts of people who might actually even make up a large percent of my home town.

I guess my point as an “activist” or among activists is that I like to bridge the gap between people groups who believe in climate change and those who don’t. That is very necessary work. In the next hundred years the sea level will rise so incredibly much regardless of what we do and we all must prepare for what is to come.

I am not personally good at the nonviolent civil disobedience tactics generally used by Rising Tide but I think it was still good for me to go.  I am a contact for them in Bristol.  

In my beliefs a pilgrimage can be many things.  For me I use the word because I think it is accurate.  But don't be confused.  I wasn't bringing much to the group I think.  I mostly just sponged up thoughts for my future use.  

The biggest lesson for me though when I am among radical activists is that the situation of climate change is real and looming.  So increasing my influence of others environmental decision making really does matter.

I am very grateful for the willingness of the organizers to give me the scholarship they offered.  I now also feel I owe them money.

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Keeping an eye on varroa mite levels
Honeybee on Joe Pye Weed

The bees haven't managed to do any extra comb-building this week, as evidenced by a photo up through the bottom of the daughter hive.  Sure, there are scads of flowers available at the moment, but bees can't fly when it's raining every day.  Luckily, both of Worker beesour colonies have socked away so much honey that they could probably coast until winter if they had to.

Honey is on my mind because this is the time of year to start thinking about the hives' winter survival.  But survival through the cold months doesn't just mean honey stores.  Varroa mites can be a huge drain on a hive's resources in the winter, and the populations sometimes balloon in late summer and early fall.  So I like to do a mite check in August, another in September, and one more in October just to make sure the colonies are on track.  Our two hives passed with flying colors during this first round --- the daughter hive dropped two mites per day while the mother hive dropped 1.3 mites per day, far below the worrisome threshold.

What will we do if mite levels rise over time?  We already use a lot of the methods of varroa-mite treatment/prevention listed here.  Last year, we tried out treating bees with powdered sugar as well, but I don't think I'd do that again --- it could be just a coincidence, but the hive dosed with sugar is the only one where I've ever had a colony abscond in the fall.  Instead, I might try the rhubarb trick that an old-timer recently shared with me.  Better yet, here's hoping our hygenic bees will groom off so many varroa mites that I won't have to do anything at all.

Posted
Joey chatter
ad-hoc networking at DebConf

The XKCD display box and router converts the internet wifi into a local ethernet.

Right next to it is a mini-network consisting my my freedombox, running as an access point, and bridging via ethernet to the the git-annex-logoed OLimeX computer.

I was using this today to get a clean Debian installed on the Lime (it came with a messy debian preinstalled), and investigate what needs to be done to support it in d-i. https://lists.debian.org/debian-arm/2014/08/msg00219.html

I was surprised I managed to get the kernel, filesystem, and even u-boot replaced. Mostly because I don't have a serial cable for this box, so the only access was over wifi-to-ethernet, and via looking at the microsd card after it booted! Only 2 twice did it fail to boot at all, luckily. :)

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Scarlet runner beans
Scarlet runner beans

I'm intrigued by the potential of the scarlet runner beans I'm growing for the first time this year.  I planted them for quick shade along the south face of the trailer while the perennial vines get established, but I was soon taken by the way the orange-red flowers attract hummingbirds (plus bumblebees, butterflies, and other insects).  And now I'm wondering whether biomass production might not really be scarlet runner beans' primary selling point.

Seven weeks ago"Those plants are like annual kudzu!" I told Mark at lunch yesterday, and he asked me why I was being so mean to the beans.  But, the truth is, I was paying them a compliment.  If the species wasn't the scourge of the South, kudzu would have a lot going for it from a permaculture perspective due to its ability to fix nitrogen, to thrive in poor soil, and to grow extremely quickly.  Scarlet runner beans seem to share many of the same traits, as you can see by comparing the two photos above --- the top picture was taken this weekend while the second photo is from only seven weeks earlier.  Since scarlet runner beans are annuals instead of perennials, they can put out this crazy amount of weekly growth with much less risk of the beans taking over the world.

Cover crop polyculture

Since our soil is getting richer by the year, meaning we can grow more food in less space, I've been tossing around ideas for what to do with the freed up growing room.  One big goal is to grow more of our own compost and mulch.  To that end, I'm experimenting with some plants that I wouldn't quite call cover crops since they don't out-compete weeds, but which might mix together to make a prime compost pile.

Insects on bean flowersThe photo above shows this summer's experiment of sunflowers and sorghum, with oilseed radish planted around the roots of the left-hand bed for weed control.  Perhaps the relatively woody stems of sunflowers will combine with the high-nitrogen vines of scarlet runner beans to create good compost?  As a lazy gardener, I'd love it if the compost could be made in place --- just toss the plant carcasses on top of a garden bed in the fall and let them rot into compost by spring while shading out weeds in the process.

It seems like I've always got exciting cover crop experiments in the works.  That's the sign of a geeky gardener --- she's drawn to the buckwheat being grown for soil improvement before she takes a look at your tomatoes.

Posted
Joey chatter
free as in coffee

Excellent and free DebConf coffee cart is dannngerous to my so far not complete caffeine addiction.

Posted
mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Best chicken cam?
goats from chicken cam

I've looked at a lot of chicken cam set ups over the years and have not been impressed with any until I found Terry Golson's HenCam.com.

What's it take to keep 4 live streaming cameras going in a barnyard environment
? Terry's husband does an excellent job explaining the not so easy IT details that make such a project possible.

They've also got goats to keep their flock of over a dozen chickens entertained.

Posted
Joey chatter
7

Beautiful morning wandering around the Portland farmer's market, located right out front of DebConf.

Posted

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