After the first frost,
the leaves start to fall faster.
The goats and I are both
intent upon collecting as many as possible as fast as possible.
Our methods differ a
bit, though. I rake and bag so I can easily transport my haul back to
the chicken coop.
Artemesia and Aurora
just nibble, nibble, nibble to digest at their leisure.
We both get the job
done, though...as long as nobody cheats!
started to write that our first frost was late this year. Then I went
back to look at the six years I've been keeping track:
2011 - 10/3
2012 - 11/3
2013 - 10/21
2014 - 10/31
2015 - 10/17
2016 - 10/23
Hmmm, looks like this frost is right on schedule. No more figs or peppers, but no more summer weeds either. Time to light a fire in the woodstove and relax into fall.
I took this picture while recording sound for a classmate's project yesterday.
It seems like you can never have too many AA batteries when you shoot all day.
I'm still figuring out
the best time to top brussels sprouts to promote sprout formation. In
previous years, I've topped them too late (November), so it didn't do
much good. This year, though, I'm pretty sure I topped too early, as
you can see in the image above --- the sprouts on the topped plants are
turning into new shoots instead of bulking up into edible mini-cabbages.
Luckily, I only topped a
few of the biggest plants. In contrast, smaller, untopped plants are
bulking up sprouts as usual. So maybe I should have topped in early
October instead of mid
Last year, we
were overall quite pleased with our Red Ranger broilers, but I
wished their fat was more yellow than white. Did the fault lie in the
breed (which forages a lot more than a
Cornish Cross, but a lot less than a "normal" chicken) or in the time
of year? To answer that question, we started our chicks a month earlier
in 2016 so they'd bulk up while the grass was still green and bugs were
This week, we harvested half of our current flock. Unfortunately, the fat is still white, pointing to breed as the culprit.
Despite the lower quality fat, I still think Red Rangers are a good compromise for the average homesteader. They're relatively efficient converters of feed to meat, don't die like Cornish Cross, and do produce succulent meat that doesn't require special cooking techniques like heirloom breeds do.
All of that said, in the interest of cutting back our workload so I don't stress myself out again next summer, Mark and I decided to outsource our broiler production to the same folks who provide our pastured lamb each year. So...back to Cornish Cross we go!
Rainbow like the fall color lept off the hillside and across the valley.
In bright sunshinee, looking at the base, some trees were a multi-colored
mix of leaves and refraction. And then above, a second dimmer bow, double rainbow!
A good place to be on a rainy day like today is a wooden platform with your Mom.
I thought I was on the
mend with my hummingbird
diet...and then I started trying to add a few foods back in and it
all went to pot. This is the trouble with uncontrolled
experiments where you change more than one variable at a time.
Luckily, you can always come up with a new hypothesis and try again.
So I pored over the
internet some more and came up with another alternative ---
carbohydrates known as FODMAPs could be irritating my gut. I was leery
at first of adding back in delicious ingredients that I'd assumed had
far too much fat or fiber for my bowels to handle. But I was thrilled
to learn that aged cheeses, oranges, clementines, lettuce, leafy
greens, and carrots have all been well received down there as long as I
cook the last two into submission to increase digestability. I almost
feel like I'm eating real food again!
The plan this time around is to do two weeks of a severely restricted FODMAP diet, then begin trialing the five categories one per week. In case you'd like to start a betting pool, I'm guessing I don't have issues with lactose or galactans but do with fructose and, to a lesser extent, polyols and fructans. Don't you love home science experiments?
The chicken knife is going on 3 years now and is still a good, safe cut.
This continues to be our
best year ever for broccoli. Most of the increased yield is due to
starting the seedlings inside and setting them out at the exact right
time from a weather point of view. But this mellow fall has also helped
since our second crop has been able to bulk up huge and copious
after-florets, producing a crop twice as big as the one a month before.
I still can't eat broccoli, but Mark's been enjoying the tasty treat at least four times a week for months now. We're also filling the freezer for a time when my gut is more pleasant and broccoli is once again back on my menu. (And, yes, I had one very vivid dream about consuming broccoli, so at least I'm getting micronutrients in my sleep. What, that's not normal?)
This past week has been the week walnuts have decided to do their Winter drop.
The autumn color in our
valley tends toward yellows rather than the fiery reds and oranges
you'll see up high. But a few blackgums and other startling leaves
According to my weather guru, fall is officially running a little late this year...and I don't mind one bit. A few extra weeks to clean up the garden and slaughter broilers before the frost hits is much appreciated.
While Kayla and I were
touring Punkin Patch farm last week, we enjoyed a view of the rye field
that will provide our homestead's straw in 2017. So green against the
Posting this link on Pump with full awareness of the irony.
Several bug fixes involving v6 unlocked files today. Several related bugs were caused by relying on the inode cache information, without a fallback to handle the case where the inode cache had not gotten updated. While the inode cache is generally kept up-to-date well by the smudge/clean filtering, it is just a cache and can be out of date. Did some auditing for such problems and hopefully I've managed to find them all.
Also, there was a tricky upgrade case where a v5 repository contained a v6 unlocked file, and the annexed content got copied into it. This triggered the above-described bugs, and in this case the worktree needs to be updated on upgrade, to replace the pointer file with the content.
As I caught up with recent activity, it was nice to see some contributions
from others. James MacMahon sent in a patch to improve the filenames
importfeed. And, xloem is writing workflow documentation for
git-annex in Workflow guide.
I've noticed how our Red Rangers have been lounging instead of ranging these last couple weeks before their retirement date.
Our new washing machine arrived...and I got so
excited I washed pretty much everything I own immediately. After four
loads of laundry, I'm ready to give my review --- I love it!
Please keep in mind I've been using a wringer washer for the last ten years, so I have no clue what someone accustomed to a modern American washing machine would think. But I was pleasantly surprised by the capacity (about half of a normal load for me), thrilled by the agitation (clothes end up three times cleaner than in the wringer washer), and impressed by the spin cycle (non-jeans end up dry enough to finish when draped overnight in the house).
The model I purchased does have a lint trap, which is a bit fiddly but pulls out about 60% of the lint. On a less impressive note, the instructions are fascinating as a study in computer translation but are nearly unreadable --- good thing there's a how-to video in the Amazon reviews. The gravity drain system is more positive and removes enough water that I'm pretty sure I can safely store the machine on the porch.
Overall, I'm thrilled with our choice and look forward to dirtying up some more clothes in the near future. Definitely a good addition to our homestead!
rhubarb strips to the hive was only of secondary importance when I
delved into our apiary this week. My primary purpose was to make sure
that the bees had socked away enough honey to make it through the
Last month, the Langstroth hive was 25 pounds low, so I decided to feed them sugar water just in case the fall flowers weren't sufficient to make up the difference. But my brain went fuzzy and I mostly forgot to feed them --- I think I might have given them about ten pounds of sugar, all-told.
Luckily for me, the bees knew what to do. The Langstroth hive is now at about 43 pounds while the Warre hive has nearly the exact same amount (without supplemental feeding).
Or it did until I pulled out one frame of honey for us that was all alone in an otherwise empty box. That's a major downside of the Warre hive --- it's tough to switch frames around to consolidate living quarters in winter, and this time I figured it was better to take a bit of extra honey rather than making the colony heat a largely useless box all winter long.
We've driven the Kubota a
little over 30 miles since the beginning.
I topped off the tank when it got down to half way recently and estimated that the average mileage for our style of driving is 7 MPG.
In the Deep South, the garden
year is entirely different from what most of us are familiar with. My
second cover-crop experimenter, Sara, gardens in zone 8 along the gulf
coast of Louisiana, and she was able to grow what I think of as summer
cover crops in October, November, and December of 2014.
I sent Sara several different types of seeds to play with, but the only ones that sprouted and grew were oilseed radishes, buckwheat, and sunflowers. That last didn't make the cut as a cover crop due to excessive seed predation (the reason we now start our sunflower seedlings inside), but they did manage to keep growing until a hard freeze hit in early January. Buckwheat wasn't quite so hardy, but the plants managed to suppress weeds until the first light frost at the beginning of November.
Oilseed radishes are more of a traditional winter cover crop and in previous years, Sara has really enjoyed the amount of biomass the radishes produced in her forest garden. Unfortunately, during the study period the plants didn't do as well in her main garden, probably due to late planting (October 10).
You can read more about Sara in her profile in Trailersteading. Or check out the new print edition of Homegrown Humus for tips on incorporating cover crops into your own growing year.
My name is Maggie, I am 34 years old, I have a mental illness, and I am proud.
Mental illness is not a cake walk and we with mental illness mess up just like everyone else but when we do it can feel really quite embarrassing. It is easy to want to hide in a patch of people who say they are normal, though if you picked through the patch you’d probably find a bunch with mental illness just like you trying to blend in.
I don’t have anything to be ashamed of in my mental illness. Bipolar or schizo-affective disorder, anxiety or depression: these diagnostic names should be as neutral as hair color or height.
Certainly a mental illness is a medical diagnosis equatable to a physical disorder like diabetes. Just because brain chemicals and the brain are the origin of mental illness doesn’t mean mentally ill people are somehow flawed or wrong or all the same at all.
I talk very openly about my mental illness, and in the course of this conversation, I know most people know someone with mental illness and/or experience it first hand.
The world around mental illness is changing. The stigma is decreasing while 6 times as many patients are being seen by professionals since 50 years ago.
One in five children ages 13-18 have or will have a serious mental illness.
I am here to tell you though the diagnosis may last a lifetime, things will improve for you if you work with a doctor and give the process time.
Maybe you don’t want to be classified in this group, so you plan not to tell anyone or to just tell your Mom and one close friend. But I think you should be proud of who you are and not hide behind the veil of normal when your very difference is what makes you so extraordinary.
Our friend Walter at the
Punkin Patch has a neat structure for his goats to climb on.
It also doubles as a shady spot for some of the afternoon.
I checked our hives for mites a month ago, the Warre hive passed with
flying colors. The Langstroth hive, on the other hand, had more varroa
mites than I would have liked...but not quite enough for immediate
intervention. So I decided to take a wait-and-see approach.
After a month of wait, it was time to see. A second mite count this week showed that counts had increased a bit but not dramatically in both hives. Still, with a 47 mites/day fall in the Langstroth hive, I opted to try out the rhubarb home remedy we heard about years ago.
To that end, I took two of the last rhubarb leaves remaining in the fall garden and stewed them in water for a couple of hours. Then I turned off the heat and let sheets of printer paper soak in the water for a while before taking them out to dry.
Finally, I opened up the Langstroth hive for the last time of the year. While counting honey stores, I found the quite small brood area and slipped the homemade varroa strips in between the frames. I suspect the bees will chew and remove the strips in relatively short order, so only time will tell whether the remedy has any effect. Let's see if I can remember to do another mite count in the middle of November to gauge the results.
It was dry enough today to
run the sprinklers all afternoon.
After using the new tripod sprinklers this Summer we are ready to conclude they are a worthy upgrade to our garden irrigation system.
I've been hoarding
a couple of cover-crop experiments, planning to include them in a revamped
version of Homegrown Humus. But, on rereading, I decided that the
simplicity of the existing ebook will make it easier for new gardeners
to dive into cover cropping. So, I set the current words in stone by
turning them into a print book (it's new and cheap ---
check it out!) and will be sharing those additional experiments here on
the blog instead.
The first of my off-farm experimenters was Charity, who homesteads in zone 9 along the coast of Oregon. At the time she was experimenting (18 months ago), her garden consisted of weeds rather than bare soil, so she embarked on what basically consisted of modified pasture cropping --- mowing the grass down close to the soil, broadcasting cover-crop seeds, then raked the seeds into the top of the soil as best she could before waiting to see what would grow.
Unsurprisingly given those tough growing conditions, Charity saw a lot of problems with establishment and growth. The soil was very dry when she planted and nothing sprouted for a couple of weeks until the first fall rains came to call. By that point, rodents and birds had done a number on the seeds (especially the oats), so her stands were moderately to very patchy.
Nevertheless, Charity was able to pick out a few winners that did well despite the initial germination issues combined with low soil fertility. Barley, fava beans, and white mustard all made the cut to be tried again, with the last being handy for early-spring planting since plants bloomed and were ready to mow-kill early in the spring season.
Thanks for sharing, Charity! Hopefully other gardeners in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere will get some ideas from your well-recorded experiments.
of you have asked for a followup on my health. I'm pleased to report that
after 2.5 weeks on imodium combined with a very low fiber and fat diet,
I'm doing a lot better.
As proof of healing, my body is slowly letting me add more fat into my diet, which in turn allowed me to increase my calories back to the recommended level as long as I eat in small meals every two hours. Almost instantly my energy and brain power returned.
The next step is to slowly wean myself off imodium. I'm taking this week by week --- last week I cut back to 67% of the previous imodium dose and today I'm down to 50%. Let's hope that sticks!
In the meantime, I'm gradually adding the "safest" fruits and vegetables back into my diet to replace the juices and teas which I'd been using as sources of vitamins and minerals previously. It's a slow add --- for example, last week, I started by trying half of a peeled plum as the day's total additional dietary intake. That worked, so I increased to a whole peeled plum the next day, which also stuck. Soon, I'll try peeled and boiled-to-death carrots, then perhaps some raw lettuce or citrus (with membranes removed).
I appreciate everyone's well wishes and I hope you know that I couldn't have kept my spirits up without you. Kayla and Mom particularly --- you have been rocks in the turbulent sea of my life this summer and I get so much out of your frequent doses of love. Thank you all for being on my team!
Stowed away 9 bales of good looking greenish hay for Winter goat feeding.
Finished up where I left off yesterday, writing test cases and fixing bugs with syncing in adjusted branches. While adjusted branches need v6 mode, and v6 mode is still considered experimental, this is still a rather nasty bug, since it can make files go missing (though still available in git history of course). So, planning to release a new version with these fixes as soon as the autobuilders build it.
Homemade bread, the second-to-last tomato of summer, mesquite smoked turkey, and marinated mozarella.
If you're on my email list,
you might have taken part in a poll recently --- which
homesteading-related magazines do you like to read? I thought our wider
audience might enjoy the results:
1. Mother Earth News won by a landslide, with 79% of our readers frequently checking out this well-known magazine.
2. Hobby Farms and Backwoods Home tied for second place. Interestingly, only two readers subscribed to both of these runners-up --- I suspect you're either a hobby farmer or a backwoods farmer, and never the twain shall meet. (I'll bet you can guess which camp I'd fall into.)
3. Grit came in a close third.
Other magazines enjoyed by at least two of my readers include: Molly Green, Backwoodsman, Countryside, Backyard Poultry (one of my personal favorites), Back Home, Small Farmer's Journal, Organic Life, Permaculture International, and Taproot.
Want to join in the fun? You can record your vote here and see up-to-the-minute results afterwards. Happy reading!
Over a month ago, I had some reports that syncing into adjusted branches was losing some files that had been committed. I couldn't reproduce it, but IIRC both felix and tbm reported problems in this area. And, felix kindly sent me enough of his git repo to hopefully reproduce it the problem.
Finally got back to that today. Luckily, I was able to reproduce the bug using felix's repo. The bug only occurs when there's a change deep in a tree of an adjusted branch, and not always then. After staring at it for a couple of hours, I finally found the problem; a modification flag was not getting propagated in this case, and some changes made deep in the tree were not getting included into parent trees.
So, I think I've fixed it, but need to look at it some more to be sure, and develop a test case. And fixing that exposed another bug in the same code. Gotta run unfortunately, so will finish this tomorrow..
Today's work was sponsored by Riku Voipio.
With a low that dipped
just barely into the 30s Saturday night, I developed a sudden affinity
for sun. The girls didn't mind at all going out to enjoy the subsequent
warm afternoon --- in fact, they led the way.
Mark had gone to meet
his mom for lunch, so we all welcomed him home at the ford. The only
problem with this plan is that Artemesia detests seeing any sort of
herd split apart. When Mark veers off toward the trailer while I take
the girls back to their paddocks, she wavers for a moment before
obediently following my lead.
One of these days, I'll
snap a good shot of our darling does dancing. But I suspect you can
feel Aurora's joy in this photo despite the lack of focus.
Another wonderful day with goats!
Baked a really ugly flatish loaf of bread, that's the best tasting and best
textured bread I've ever eaten. (Granted, being fresh from the oven makes
this a slightly unfair comparison.) After a year of learning (and the summer
off), I feel I am only getting started on baking.
I want our new chicken
tractor to have big wheels.
The plan is to make these 26 inch wheelchair wheels work.
The frost-free date is
fast approaching --- time to take
those storage vegetables inside!
Unfortunately, the butternut closet that Mark made me last year quickly filled up with odds and ends over the course of the summer once its original inhabitants had gone into goat and human bellies. I cleaned out two-thirds of the space, but wanted to leave the towels and sheets on the top shelves for safe keeping. So what was I to do with the other 2.5 bushels of sweet potatoes and butternut squash?
For now, the least likely specimens are living under the counter atop the convertible bathtub and under the dining table (not yet in use since we're still dining on the porch). I'm feeding the starchy food sources to Artemesia as fast as I can, both to get weight back on our goat before she's bred and to clear up the floor space before cold temperatures drive us back inside. Despite living amid my goat fodder, I find it hard to complain about four bushels of sweet potatoes and nearly an equal number of butternut squash. The garden certainly did a good job this year when it comes to storage vegetables!
We felt some fringe effects of the hurricane which prompted backdoor Winterization.
When you live in an average
American home, you don't bat an eyelash at filling space with a
conventional washing machine. But in a tiny house, the math is
considerably different. Once you factor in room to open up the door, a
4.2-cubic-foot, front-load washer uses up nearly ten square feet, which
would be almost 2% of the floor space in our small
Given that data, you'll be unsurprised to learn that we've spent the last ten years washing with alternative devices. My favorite for a long time was the ancient wringer washer that Mark's grandmother gave us...which has the massive benefit of being able to live outside. I've really enjoyed open-air washing, too, but have to admit that since I've been sick, I've wished certain things around here were a little easier. Specifically, exterior wringer washers have the disadvantage of freezing your fingers off in the winter and taking about three times as many active minutes as a traditional washer.
So why can't you just put a traditional washing machine outside? We learned the hard way during our early years on the farm that conventional washing machines never drain fully. The pump that moves water out of the wash chamber keeps a bit of liquid in it even after being done, and that leftover water freezes and busts the surrounding machine in the winter months. Please don't repeat our mistake --- it's wasteful and it just won't work.
Enter a new class of washing machine that I'd never seen before --- the portable, semi-automatic washer. These little cuties are meant to be filled and emptied with hoses and are light enough to easily move outside after use. Best of all, the model shown here gravity drains, which means it shouldn't have a freezing issue if we opt to store it on the porch between loads. Even if you keep the washer inside at all times, it uses a mere quarter of the floor space of the average front-load washer, so it's a great choice for apartment dwellers as well.
Of course, there are always downsides. You'll note I called this little device "semi-automatic" --- that's because you have to manually move your clothes into a different compartment for the spin cycle and must run separate wash and rinse cycles. I have a feeling this will be a good compromise between space constraints and time use and will also suit our tendency to accumulate dirty clothes slowly, allowing us to run several small loads per month rather than saving up for one big laundry day. Stay tuned and I'll report back in once we've given it a spin!
We got all caught up on goat
Each time gets a little easier.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, the Back to Eden system is similar to the the instant no-till techniques I outline in Small-Scale No-Till Gardening Basics (which is available in print as part of The Ultimate Guide to Soil). Basically, you lay down a cardboard kill layer in new ground, top it off with three to four inches of compost, then add wood chips on top as mulch.
Okay, back to merryann's question. It is tricky to choose cover crops that suit no-till gardening, but luckily there are several that work well once you weed out the problematic species. The tricky part is making sure you select cover crops that are easy to kill, either with winter cold (probably a good choice for you), mowing at bloom time, or hand weeding out. My top choices given those constraints are buckwheat for summer, oats and oilseed radishes for late summer planting with optimal fall growth, and rye for full winter and spring coverage.
The only major difference between the Back to Eden garden and my version of no-till from a cover-crop point of view is using wood chips instead of straw for mulch. You'll want to rake back the wood chips to expose bare ground before planting your cover crops, and since wood chips will likely smother your seedlings in a way straw won't I'd also rake back a bit of the compost/topsoil as well. After sprinkling your cover crop seeds, just pull the excess soil back over top (leaving the wood chips along the edge of the bed) and you're good to go!
I'd love to see your Back to Eden garden full of cover crops. I hope you'll drop back by next year once you have photos to share!
If your gpg key is too valuable for you to feel comfortable with backing it up to the cloud using keysafe, here's an alternative that might appeal more.
Keysafe can now back up some shares of the key to local media, and other shares to the cloud. You can arrange things so that the key can't be restored without access to some of the local media and some of the cloud servers, as well as your password.
For example, I have 3 USB sticks, and there are 3 keysafe servers. So let's make 6 shares total of my gpg secret key and require any 4 of them to restore it.
I plug in all 3 USB sticks and look at
mount to get the paths to them.
Then, run keysafe, to back up the key spread amoung all 6 locations.
keysafe --backup --totalshares 6 --neededshares 4 \ --add-storage-directory /media/sdc1 \ --add-storage-directory /media/sdd1 \ --add-storage-directory /media/sde1
Once it's done, I can remove the USB sticks, and distribute them to secure places.
To restore, I need at least one of the USB sticks. (If some of the servers are down, more USB sticks will be needed.) Again I tell keysafe the paths where USB stick(s) are mounted.
keysafe --restore --totalshares 6 --neededshares 4 \ --add-storage-directory /media/sdb1
Using keysafe this way, physical access to the USB sticks is the first level of defense, and hopefully you'll know if that's breached. The keysafe password is the second level of defense, and cracking that will take a lot of work. Leaving plenty of time to revoke your key, etc, if it comes to that.
I feel this is better than the methods I've been using before to back up my most important gpg keys. With paperkey, physical access to the printout immediately exposes the key. With Shamir Secret Sharing and manual distribution of shares, the only second line of defense is the much easier to crack gpg passphrase. Using OpenPGP smartcards is still a more secure option, but you'd need 3 smartcards to reach the same level of redundancy, and it's easier to get your hands on 3 USB sticks than 3 smartcards.
There's another benefit to using keysafe this way. It means that sometimes, the data stored on the keysafe servers is not sufficient to crack a key. There's no way to tell, so an attacker risks doing a lot of futile work.
If you're not using an OpenPGP smartcard, I encourage you to back up your gpg key with keysafe as described above.
Two of the three necessary keysafe servers are now in operation, and I hope to have a full complement of servers soon.
(This was sponsored by Thomas Hochstein on Patreon.)
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