Joey chatter
2

Knocked a drive to the floor and destroyed it. No data lost, it seems.

Posted
Joey chatter
17

my cat is now "michi, destroyer of terabytes"

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
A dog's guide to goat language
Two goats

I've been spending a lot of time with our goats as I obsessively monitor Abigail's slow slide toward delivery. The actual specifics of when ligaments disappeared, when udder bulked up partway and then became further engorged, and so forth are going down on paper to make our doe's next pregnancy less nerve-wracking for the human observers. But today I can't resist sharing some of the thoughts I've had on goat language in the interim.

Goat standoff

The way goats communicate is so simple that I can't quite figure out why Lucy doesn't get it. Here's a typical exchange:

Lucy: Let's play! (Head down, tail up in downward-facing dog.)

Artemesia: Let's play! (Slightly lowers her head, then raises one front hoof, waving it about in the air.)

Lucy: *Sigh*. No one wants to play with me. (Wanders off.)

Artemesia: *Sigh*. No one wants to play with me. (Wanders off.)


Goat-dog standoff

Or:

Lucy: Let's play!

Abigail: If you know what's good for you, you'll back away slowly, right now. (Head lowered with horns directly facing forward.)

Lucy: Oh, goody, you want to play! (Bounds forward.)


Goat-dog fight
Abigail: #!*@ (Butts Lucy in the face.)

Lucy: WTF?! (Growls.)

Anna: Lucy! Bad dog!

Lucy: Oh, now I get it. Abigail is a cat.


Sometimes, I'm glad to be a human who speaks English, dog, goat, and cat. Does that make me multilingual?

Posted
Joey git-annex devblog
day 262 ipfs

Did a deep dive into ipfs last night. It has great promise.

As a first step toward using it with git-annex, I built an experimental ipfs special remote. It has some nice abilities; any ipfs address can be downloaded to a file in the repository:

git annex addurl ipfs:QmYgXEfjsLbPvVKrrD4Hf6QvXYRPRjH5XFGajDqtxBnD4W --file somefile

And, any file in the git-annex repository can be published to the world via ipfs, by simply using git annex copy --to ipfs. The ipfs address for the file is then visible in git annex whereis.

Had to extend the external special remote protocol slightly for that, so that ipfs addresses can be recorded as uris in git-annex, and will show up in git annex whereis.

Posted
mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
100 year flood
100 year flood


Snow melt + 2 1/3 inches of rain = 100 year flood.


Flooded gullyWe moved the chickens to the uphill coop when the flood waters began to lap at the toes of their former home.

I tried to retrieve our closer sap bucket, but had to let it go.

Red-winged blackbirds moved into the newly created swamp, and the ducks roamed far and wide.

Maybe we'll be able to cross the creek sometime next week?

Posted
Joey chatter
dissonance in #140

"More snow, WTF! When did I move to Alaska?" - 100% of US South. "This disproves global warming, so there!" - ~75% of US South

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Melt
Ducks in snow melt

I feel like I'm living in one of those nature documentaries where the ice pack is melting and the grizzlies are hunting in flooded streams. Except the only thing hunting in our flooded streams is ducks...who have finally stopped pouting in the coop and have slowly begun to lay once again!

Oats through snow

As the snow melts, I remember that a world exists beneath the white. Abigail will be thrilled to learn that some of the oats have survived the deep freeze due to their frosty blanket and will soon be dry enough to consume.

Snow Buddha

I'm finally collecting sap again from the sugar maple and box-elder, and the Buddha who had entirely drowned in snow is dancing in front of the trailer once again. Crocuses by next week, perhaps?

Posted
mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Grumpy goat
Trimming Artemesia

We trim the goat hooves once a month, but let Abigail skip this month due to her being a little grumpy about being wrangled with her extra weight.

Artemesia likes the attention but wiggles a lot. I ended up holding her while Anna finished the last hoof.

Posted
Joey git-annex devblog
day 261 random improvements

Fixed a mojibake bug that affected metadata values that included both whitespace and unicode characters. This was very fiddly to get right.

Finished up Monday's work to support submodules, getting them working on filesystems that don't support symlinks.

Posted
Joey chatter
21

Lack of a distributed standard for git pull requests (besides email) is part of the problem. See https://joeyh.name/blog/entry/idea:_git_push_requests/

Someone build that, and it'll be as easy as git push git:// and if the repo accepts it, you'll know the request has been forwarded to the maintainers.

Posted
Joey chatter
could almost be hiking the AT

Propane tank didn't fit inside backpack, but hauled it home strapped to the outside. Kinda like a really clumsy bedroll.

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
My newest gardening paperback is live!
The Naturally Bug-Free Garden

There's a new book on my shelf...and maybe on yours as well? I braved the flooded creek Tuesday to bring my first copy of The Naturally Bug-Free Garden home, a copy that I ordered from Amazon since the box from my publisher is running late. It was just too hard to wait any longer to hold my second paperback in my hands....

Interior

Do you want to jumpstart your 2015 garden with a primer on natural pest-control techniques? If so, you can get order the paperback here:

Or you can join in my launch treasure hunt and enter for a chance to win a signed copy of your very own! Just head to your local library or bookstore and ask if they have The Naturally Bug-Free Garden in stock, snap a photo of my book in the wild, then enter using the widget below. Or, if you've already bought a copy and want to win a copy for a friend, snap a shot of yourself with your new book! I'm letting this giveaway run for a full month so that you'll have time to request your librarian stock a copy for even easier entries. (Yes, strangely, I get even more of a kick out of hearing folks tell me that they checked one of my books out of their local library rather than buying their own copy.) May the hunt begin!

Posted
Joey chatter
15

Not only aquired, Gitorious is going away end of May. Manual migration needed even if you decide to roll over to GitLab. Not much time.

(I hear they may be uploading 4 tb of git repos to archive.org.)

Does Gitorious include a bug tracker?

Posted
Joey git-annex devblog
day 260 random month

This month is going to be a bit more random than usual where git-annex development is concerned.

  • On Saturday, the Seven Day Roguelike competition begins, and I will be spending a week building a game in haskell, to the exclusion of almost all other work.
  • On March 18th, I'll be at the Boston Haskell User's group. (Attending, not presenting.)
  • March 19-20, I'll be at Dartmouth visiting with the DataLad developers and learning more about what it needs from git-annex.
  • March 21-22, I'll be at the FSF's LibrePlanet conference at MIT.

Got started on the randomness today with this design proposal for using git-annex to back up the entire Internet Archive. This is something the Archive Team is considering taking on, and I had several hours driving and hiking to think about it and came up with a workable design. (Assuming large enough crowd of volunteers.)

Don't know if it will happen, but it was a useful thought problem to see how git-annex works, and doesn't work in this unusual use case.

One interesting thing to come out of that is that git-annex fsck does not currently make any record of successful fscks. In a very large distributed system, it can be useful to have successful fscks of an object's content recorded, by updating the timestamp in the location log to say "this repository still had the content at this time".

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Sapwood in shiitake logs
Log in the snow

When I was reading up on inoculating logs with shiitake mycelium, recommendations on log sizes varied widely, ranging from 3 to 12 inches in diameter. Large logs tend to fruit longer and to hold moisture better during dry spells. On the other hand, small logs fruit faster and are easier to wrangle (especially if you plan to soak logs to force fruiting).

One factor I didn't read about, but soon thought of once I started looking at the logs Mark cut for me, is the sapwood-to-heartwood ratio. Shiitakes only eat the sapwood, the pale-colored wood around the outer perimeter of the log. And bigger logs, especially if they grew slowly in woodland settings, might have three quarters of their volume made up of useless heartwood, leaving the fungi far less food than you might think.

Sapwood versus heartwood

In case you can't pick out the sapwood in the first photo in this post, here's a labeled diagram to get you started. This log has been sitting around for a couple of weeks --- the color difference is even more evident in the wet wood of a newly cut log.

Looking closely at my logs got me thinking that maybe the puny 3-inch treetops that I had earmarked for firewood are actually better mushroom logs than these huge logs that I'd originally considered prime fungi fodder. In fact, the smaller-diameter logs have no heartwood at all, so they might contain nearly as much sapwood as the log pictured above. Assuming I'm willing to keep logs moist over the summer with sprinklers, perhaps little logs are the way to go after all?

The decision will have to be made soon because spring weather is finally upon us! Highs in the forties and lows in the twenties means it's finally safe to pull the mycelium out of the fridge and inoculate those logs. Time to enjoy the March Into Spring!

Posted
Joey git-annex devblog
day 259 submodules

I had thought that git-annex and git submodules couldn't mix. However, looking at it again, it turned out to be possible to use git-annex quite sanely in a submodule, with just a little tweaking of how git normally configures the repository. Details of this still experimental feature are in submodules.

There is still some work to be done to make git-annex work with submodules in repositories on filesystems that don't support symlinks.

Posted
mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Pummeled plum trees
Splintered tree


When the snow slid off the barn roof, I almost thought I could feel the ground shake.

Unfortunately, the plum trees nearby were squashed by the avalanche. It looks like the snow danger zone extends out for at least twenty feet from each side of the barn.

Good thing Anna ordered plum rootstock to bring our devastated trees back to life.

Posted
Maggie
Spirituality with a spot of Fertility

For a time I thought it was being spiritual that separated my friends from my nonfriends. Maybe you don't put feeling first. Or maybe some think they'll feel too much put close to me. My friends tended to have more emotional problems. Sometimes they were invisible or hidden, other times they talked about it.

I think there is something about feeling that is sometimes put aside as false because it is a perception. Perception is reality. Even when our gut gets things factually incorrect there is something in it we need to put our ear on.

We all have a huge spiritual side. A part of all of us always is feeling, a sort of blindsiding we give ourselves to protect our spirits.

I think I am vastly unschooled in the spirit.

I listen to a radio show, On Being, were it is talked about. Krista Tippet is the show's producer. She asks people questions on spirituality as a regular part of the show. I crave for a conversation on spirit. (What must a girl do to get on that show?)

I am not always sure what it means to me. I wandered into my religion thinking we'd talk more about spirit. Sometimes I think Quakers don't do that enough. Other times I am more open to the idea that what Quakers do can be spiritual.

What is it about feeling that defines my understanding of spirituality?

In part it is the shared common universal thing feeling inherently must be. Feeling of the sun warms all of us though some may dislike it or fear its melanoma causing effects.

I had a friend send me a Venus figurine. When I first touched it the weight of it surprised me. It was cold and seriously detailed for something so small. Before I even noticed these features I knew it was a powerful figurine. I almost was afraid. My dogs came storming into where I was, wagging like there was a new member of the family to greet. I had this strange feeling of a really big accident, like I guess a woman feels after discovering she is pregnant.

I wrote out my thoughts about the Venus in short hand. "Fertility. Creativity. Abundance. Femininity. Productivity in any way; planting seeds, writing, art."

I think these were spiritual thoughts. It was such an unusual feeling, like when I met the friend who gave me the figurine.

When I was a little girl I deeply believed in magic. "I am magic." I would say. Not bunnies out of hats or Ronald McDonald. Something wider, wilder, and more powerful. I guess spirituality is very close to that magic. It's like the potential energy of a boulder hanging over the edge of a very high pinnacle.

When you meet people you feel them. I'm not talking of hand shakes, skin on skin. But the connection, essence, and experience of how a person is, not just who they are. When I met my friend who sent me the Venus, I had never felt a person so powerful in their magic. I felt she was more powerful than me and I had never encountered someone like that.

Maybe some people feel a big energy when they meet me. The fertility goddess somehow contains her magic. I put it by my orchids and it's now opening a fourth bloom.

My mother sees the earrings I now wear that also are fertility figurines and she subtly hints I should be careful.

I had a dream about a woodpecker and she said "keep him away from our tree. It's expensive when they fall down."

My true friends affirm me around the potential of pregnancy. My family generates a lack of faith in my abilities as a mother. Having a baby has always been one of the biggest core purposes for my life.

People remind me my medicines would retard the baby.

The family says my lifestyles would starve the baby, my disconnect with reality would hurt the baby, babies need houses and things. "People shouldn't have babies for internal reasons. It should be for the baby." That is the stupidest thing anyone has ever told me and I too often believe it.

I am not always good at listening to myself. Writing this is actually the best processing I have done for ages. I have a belief that dreams are real so I keep a dream notebook to tap into that reality. I mention this because I think I could use a spirituality notebook for the same purpose.

Thoughts don't go deep enough when we let them float by. Writing is a process that allows us to catch thoughts and really delve into them. I can't do that as well when I contemplate or have a conversation. So yes, I think I will be tapping into my spiritual understanding on paper again soon.

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Brushing snow away from the bee hive
Snow-covered hive

I took these photos a week ago, when snow had been on the ground for six days and I suddenly had the realization that my poor honeybees might be smothering inside their hive. I rushed out and brushed the entrance free, then pressed my ear against each side of each Brushing snow away from hivebox. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. And then --- there! --- a low buzz.

The colony sounded awfully weak, which didn't really surprise me given the extremely low temperatures we'd been experiencing. But, at the same time, I knew that people successfully keep bees in much colder climates than ours, so I hoped for the best.

Imagine my joy when I went to listen again this past weekend and heard a louder hum. I think the bees were just hunkering down during the extreme cold, and I now have high hopes that they'll be able to make it until the first spring flowers begin to bloom. The dandelions should be out in force within a month --- hang in there, bees!

Posted
Maggie
Tal vez

Lo que me hace que es todo aquí en este momento . 
Yo no tengo que impresionar a nadie . 
Excepto tal vez escribir esto que estoy haciendo por ti.

What makes me is all here right now. 
I don't have to impress anybody. 
Except maybe this writing I'm doing for you.
Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Signs of spring 2015
Snowy garden

Two weeks ago, when the snow and deep freeze hit our farm, spring ground to a halt. It wasn't until this past Saturday that I felt like we were on the upward swing once again. The snow is finally melting faster than it's falling, and here and there bits of plant matter are beginning to poke above the snow.

Hazel catkins

Hazel catkins loosening and disgorging their pollen are nearly always the first spring bloom on our farm. Like everything else, I noticed the first catkin just about blooming before our snow storm...then the hazel bush went right back to sleep. But with highs above forty forecast for most of the next week, I'm betting the maple sap will start flowing and we might even hear frogs as our snow finally melts away. I sure am glad we don't live in the North!

Posted
Maggie
Hardened into Prose: A Poet's Words on Writing and the New Age of Self Publishing

Anna Quindlen points out that many of the finest children's books are poetry, that Where the Wild Things Are is a poem, that after childhood we “harden into prose," we complain about poetry because it is so much harder for us to understand. Language can be so beautiful but also so bland. For every teenager with a diary of poetry, there is a reality that poetry is embarrassing to claim, especially in a teenager's diary. It is in the diary not the Facebook status for that exact reason. But I want adolescents to read poetry, to read and write poetry, not to have to listen to their only poems embedded in songs, but to taste that beauty, to have more options than that.


First off there are way more good poets than formally recognized broadly published poets and Poet Laureates. All the poets in the world are largely shelled up inside the belief they are “not good enough" for publishing, to be read, to be honored. Believe me, poetry prizes get a lot of entries. In fact, thousands of entries typically are read for every single poetry award. In 2004 there were just 373 legitimate poetry prizes, according to Poets an Writers Magazine, which coined the expression “an economy of false dreams." Colorado Review cites that a slim 1% of contestants are submitted in the journal.


Everybody isn't brilliant, in fact, lots of people are mediocre. But the truth is poets are lying about their passion, internally and externally, to their acquaintances and themselves. Ultimately poets cannot gamble at getting a career in poetry, but every poet owes a little bit more effort towards their words, their passion. My suggestion is two fold. First there is not the same money put into poetry as prose which is driven by the fact that people are not reading enough poetry. Then also, there is a way with modern technology for poets, English majors and everyone else to claim poetry and ultimately to get published.


I have a dream that poets everywhere publish themselves. There are some easy ways to do that. For starters Kindle e books can be created at Amazon.com for free and Createspace makes it easy to print an assigned quantity of self published materials. Not to advertise for huge corporations. Personally I print my own chapbooks in my personal local community college that has free printing and I call it “Cracked Nut" printing press. There are simple ways to split a page in half in horizontal view with two columns and end up with a pretty crisp looking booklet.


There are abundant good poets in this world. I went to the Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark New Jersey and felt critical of the hierarchical structure of the event. One of the biggest names in contemporary poetry, Billy Collins, was on the stage with other poets who have made it big – and likely have a volume of poetry at Books a Million. There were approximately 50 big name poets like Rita Dove, Mark Doty, Sharon Olds, and Gary Snyder, all of whom are wildly worthwhile valuable people who write great polished poetry. But there were 2,000 teachers and 4,500 student audience members at any given moment sitting in the audience begging their hands to create their own poetry too.


I knew deep in my soul that every person who kept to the audience side, who never were on the stage, who taught and learned Literature ALL WERE POETS TOO. Good poets. Mediocre poets. Bad poets who still would benefit the healing properties of creation if they only were encouraged to write. If all the poets in that room took their art seriously, self published their poetry, would it change anything?


I think so. Because small bookstores do.


Those four words thicken the plot. It takes popularity beyond your wildest dreams for a poet to get the shelf in Barnes and Noble or any big name seller. A twisted Catch 22 to that is that it is nearly impossible to become popular enough to end up in the chains without first being published.


But small book sellers almost unanimously as an unwritten rule will shelve your poetry book. My self published chapbooks have “occupied" and been purchased clean gone from the shelves of “Maliprops" in Asheville NC, “Mountain Aire" in Bristol TN, “Zazzy Z's" in Abingdon VA, and the Meadowview (VA) “Farmers Guild". I need to distribute more around to more small booksellers. It's on my to do list.


It is true people need to read more poetry, but it is also true we need to start believing in poetry again. Many people already drool for poetry to read. I do. Children do. Rare teenagers do. Many reaffirmed adults do, adults who have gone through a period of becoming open to reading poetry again. Defiantly more readers exist than poetry books in big stores.


The most important message is your poetry is worth sharing. You edit it, you pick though the poems with your own self proclaimed litmus test to see if you share it or not. You are the one who can change second person “you" pronouns to third person “he, she" if you need distance or anonymity. You are your inevitably best editor. But the big thing here is you are a worthy, valuable, intelligent, poignant, worthwhile, beautiful poet. Your words matter because everybody has a unique perspective and their own beautiful way of putting things.


Even more importantly, human beings speak lyrically at the core. As children we read Dr Sues and it makes sense to us. The talk on the playground isn't “yeah man, I don't see why there was a cat in a hat" or even “slant rhyme would have worked better in this one." In human evolution poetry was a natural part of what made us human. People have language but we don't grow up speaking just in prose. We jump rope and poetry skips out of our mouths. Children's rhymes are the spoken word poetry on the playground and the classics of children's literature are quite often poems.


We are children at our core. Our bones are made of young stock, we have
“inner children" across all religions, there is the traditional child inside from hippies to hipsters. Poetry is our music. It's as natural to us as money is to the book chain CEO. Everyone is a poet; it used to be that there were not as many literate people , but now we are all secretly poets. Poetry is our music, where the heart speaks. It's a personal type of writing where vulnerable narratives go down. But they are our words, our traditions, we are the culture of a million poets, but with just eighteen on the stage at any given time. There is something vastly wrong with that.


Don't let your lyrics harden to prose. The best teachers I ever had were poets too. It is time all of the poets take their writing seriously. We are poets and our “music" is worth many readers.

Posted
Maggie
Trailer

Movie preview, I don't want to - I can't

watch that movie, but I can't stop

thinking about what happens. Woman

diagnosed early onset altimeters

using her illness over her daughter who

tells her she can't always use the illness.

The woman without blinking

replies "Why shouldn't I?"

I can't get past that part of the movie I

didn't even see. This is not how it played out

in my life. People said to me

"you can't always use the illness"

and I shrunk and recoiled like

cotton candy melting away on the touch

of a tongue.


What a stupid dynamic to be in.

What a stupid thing, illness,

disabling forgetfulness,

incapacitating sadness

and wild peeks of joy!


I wanted to say "why shouldn't I"

I didn't know where it would take me;

I didn't care where it took me.


But I wanted to go back.

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Early signs of goat labor
Playing with goats

I'm stealing Mark's spot to hit up our readers for timely advice. This morning, I became convinced that Abigail was going into labor, but now I'm not sure if what I'm seeing counts as contractions. At intervals, I'll see a ripple slide across her baby bump, often with a bulgy kid-part pushing out in an ungainly fashion. Once, I put my hand there and felt a hard kid hoof. Is this simply kids repositioning pre-labor, or do those movements count as contractions?

Goat chewing her cud

Other signs of imminent delivery abound. I caught Abigail arching her back like a cat once this morning, she's been yawning frequently, and she seems intent upon scratching the top of her head against the fence. Actually, our usually standoffish goat even came over and lay down right in front of me, then put her head in my lap asking for a head scratch. Meanwhile, Abigail has also been adamantly chasing our little doeling out of her immediate vicinity. Otherwise, though, she seems content to eat hay and chew her cud as usual.

So, what do you think --- should I be camping out in the starplate coop and locking our doe in her kidding stall, or relaxing until tomorrow?

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Experimenting with bokashi
Homemade bokashi starter culture

One of the soil additives that I'm researching this year for my upcoming book is bokashi --- a method of composting food scraps in a sealed five-gallon bucket at high speeds with little or no smell. The jury's still out on whether this is a trendy technique primarily of interest to apartment dwellers, or whether land-based homesteaders should also give it a try. I suspect Soaking newspaper in bokashi culturethat after reading the book and doing a few experiments of my own, I'll be far more loquacious about my feelings on the topic.

In the meantime, I followed some internet instructions to make a starter culture out of one cup of whey drained from plain yogurt, one cup of molasses, and six cups of warm water. Soaking newspaper in this mixture, letting the excess water drain off, then sealing the wet newspaper in a ziplock bag to ferment on top of the fridge for two weeks is supposed to create a bokashi-like starter culture (although author Adam Footer believes that this culture isn't as high quality as the store-bought cultures some use). Mark's trying to talk me into buying some of the official starter culture too as a side-by-side comparison, which does sound like a useful way to dip into the advance from my publisher.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. Have you tried bokashi? What did you feel were the pros and cons of the composting technique?

Posted
Joey chatter
awesome bandwidth use

I put up a tor entry node a while ago. It's relaying around 1 TB a month, so I've had to throttle it back to 400 GB/month. Awesome!

Posted
Joey chatter
hello great firewall

I'm in the public library, in the USA, and outgoing SMTP connections are MITM'd, and STARTTLS is filtered out.

Proof:

joey@darkstar:~>telnet kitenet.net smtp
Trying 66.228.36.95...
Connected to kite.kitenet.net.
Escape character is '^]'.
220 kitenet.net ESMTP Postfix (Debian/GNU)
STARTTLS
500 Syntax error, command unrecognized

Compare with the same command run from elsewhere.

Amazing. I don't know where to start. Well, other than configuring my laptop's MTA to force use of TLS so this downgrade attack doesn't work, and bringing up my ipv6 tunnel or tor to bypasses this.

Posted
Joey chatter
14

When a politician acts in an apparently stupid way, like claiming that "this snowball disproves global warming!", it's probably more useful to consider why they're doing that, rather than just point and laugh at teh stupid.

They might, for example, be a sociopath who is busy lying to a certain set of people in a carefully calculated way..

Or may be just on the payroll of certain corporations and happy to say anything their bosses suggest. Well, maybe that is pretty stupid, but a lot of generally non-stupid people seem to behave that way..

Posted
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Dealing with soil compaction

Soil compactionIf you don't want to destroy soil texture, burn up organic matter, and decimate your microorganism population by plowing or tilling the soil, what do you do to counteract compaction? Of course, your first step should be not to allow compaction to begin in the first place. I've trained everyone in our household (except Huckleberry) to only walk on our permanent aisles, staying out of the growing beds in our garden, and that goes a long way toward keeping soil compaction to a minimum. In addition, if you're not tilling, you're unlikely to be working the soil during wet weather --- another leading cause of compaction.

Still, who knows what happened to your ground before you moved in? Our core homestead was seriously overfarmed a few decades ago, and I can guess where permanent pastures once existed based on barbed wire that we're still digging out of the ground. Given the wetness of our homestead, I wouldn't be surprised if cows (the most likely animals to have been grazed here) seriously pugged winter soils, repeatedly treading the mud until all of those essential pores between soil particles collapsed.

Oilseed radishIf you suspect compaction, there are a variety of remedies available for the no-till gardener. Adding lots of organic matter never hurts and can greatly improve your soil structure when earthworms collect the compost or mulch and bring it deep into the soil, leaving handy channels for air and water in the worms' wake. Oilseed radishes and some other cover crops (such as alfalfa) are often planted for their tillage traits since the roots extend deep in the soil, then rot and create organic-matter-lined pathways much like the ones earthworms leave behind.

And then there's the broadfork. Given my penchant for winter digging, I've always eyed this tool speculatively, but the high price tag turned me off since I wasn't certain that my soil really needed the help. Still, leaving broadforks out of my upcoming soil book seemed like a major oversight, and when one of the bloggers I follow did all of the research for me and determined that Meadow Creature offers the best model in the U.S., I was sold. When I learned that Meadow Creature was willing to send me a review copy to try out, I was even more thrilled.

BroadforkThe big question then became --- which size broadfork should I choose? Meadow Creature offers three versions, each of which is a little bit bigger and heavier (and will also reach deeper into the soil) than the last. Margot Boyer at Meadow Creature wrote, "The 14" is our best seller; it weighs 20 pounds and provides deep cultivation in an ergonomic design. The 12" is also popular, especially with people who are 5'4" or under --- at 15 lbs it's easy for most folks to use and still digs deeper than any other forks we're aware of. I'm not suggesting the 16" size; it's a heftier tool and of interest mainly to professional farmers."

After talking it over with Mark, I finally settled on the smaller size. Yes, I consider myself to be pretty strong, but I'm also short and I know that the 17-pound t-post driver is right at the upper limit of my strength for repeated use. Plus, experience has proven that tools are much more likely to be used if they're easy to handle and fun.

Which is all a long way of saying that, once the snow melts and my new toy arrives, I'll be improving the structure of my garden beds with a broadfork this spring! I'll probably begin by hitting just half of most beds the first time around so I'll be able to report how much of a difference the broadfork action makes on this year's plant growth. Stay tuned for updates!

Posted

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