Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Broccoli bouquet
Goat eating broccoli

Basket of broccoli leavesMy garden layout revolves far too much around the goats.

"Hmm, what can I plant in this open bed?" I wonder. "How about some field corn and sweet potatoes to boost Artemesia's milk production?"

Or, Monday morning: "I wonder where I can find a spot to grow sweet corn? Well, if I feed these used-up broccoli plants to the herd, our summer crops can slip in right there."

The trouble is, goats are just so appreciative. Artemesia and company told me they enjoyed their broccoli bouquet very I'll probably repeat the endeavor today. I'll just have to freeze another load of broccoli first....

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Eating with my eyes
Ripening gooseberry

French psychologist Erika Apfelbaum once said, "Americans eat with their eyes." The sheer quantity of wasted produce in our food system proves that she is, unfortunately, correct.

Young enterprise apple

However, I have to admit that as a gardener I totally eat with my eyes. Only I do so long before the food in question is ripe.

Ripening black raspberry

For example, in the making of this post, I consumed a delectable gooseberry, half a dozen apples of various flavors, and a handful of raspberries (both red and black). I'm stuffed!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Our favorite strawberry varieties

Strawberry varietiesDisease-resistance, date of bearing, and size of berries are all relevant factors for the organic strawberry grower to consider. But if I'm being honest, I'll tell you that I make variety selections based 95% on taste.

With that in mind, we've ripped out multiple varieties that just didn't make the cut. Fresca, Jewel, and Allstar simply weren't tasty enough for my palate.

At the other extreme, delectable keepers have included:

  • Honeyoye --- a big berry with a more subtle (and slightly sourer) flavor than most. On the downside, this variety is prone to diseases, and those diseases accentuate the sour. But an undiseased, sunkissed Honeyoe is a delight!
  • Ozark Beauty --- a small but ultra-sweet berry that melts in your mouth. I snack on these the most when I'm out and about in the garden because they're just so dependably good. On the downside, I'm not 100% sure the plants actually are that variety since I bought them at Wal-mart and the big box stores are notorious for mislabeling edibles, so you might not get the same results I have....
  • Sparkle --- this late-fruiting variety is like Ozark Beauty on steroids. Some fruits are small, but many are big, all are sweet, and they are actually too soft for some applications. These plants benefit from daily rather than my usual bidaily picking and I'll admit that a few end up rotting on the vine.
  • Galletta --- this ultra-early variety lost most of its blooms this year to freezes. Perhaps that's why the berries that did set are humongous rather than small as I'd understood they'd be? They're also quite firm --- nearly the consistency of storebought --- but are almost as sweet as Ozark Beauty and feature a hint of Honeyoye's tartness. I find myself snacking on these almost as much as on Ozark Beauty.

How about you? Which strawberry varieties have turned you into a fruit connoisseur?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Battling goat hoof rot
Goats at the gate
The goats like to wait for me at the gate.

Okay, I never said they were all on the same side of the gate.

Goat family

More seriously, there's been some trouble in paradise over the last few weeks --- hoof rot. As these things go, I suspect it's a very light case, but the recessed hoof area freaked me out enough to order some zinc sulfate to stop the bad bugs in their tracks. While I was waiting for the drug to arrive, I also instituted once-a-week hoof trimming, which Artemesia submitted to with her usual "please don't...but okay if you must" grace. Interestingly, by the time the Hoof-n-Heel came in the mail, her problematic hoof area was already starting to regrow.

Hoof trimming day

I suspect the root of the problem was threefold. First, Abigail was a bully and often didn't allow Artemesia to stand up out of the mud on the loafing stations...even though we put two porches in the pasture to ensure there was enough space. Yes, our ex-herd queen would run back and forth chasing Artemesia away from anything tantalizing just for the fun of it.

Second, the threadworms that popped up in Artmesia's fecal matter were a warning sign I should have paid more attention to. I did read that threadworms can cause hoof rot as well as being an intestinal parasite but I ignored that issue since our goats' feet have always been top notch.

Finally, I skipped hoof-trimming during Artemesia's last month of pregnancy because she really wasn't in the mood. But a slight jostling of her kids would have been worth nipping the hoof rot in the bud.

Treating for hoof rot

All of that said, it's not the end of the world. I'll keep treating the problematic front hooves daily with the zinc sulfate and trimming weekly until all signs are gone, and I've also rotated to a new pasture in hopes of keeping our doe off wormy ground.

Now that Artemesia is back eating lots of greenery, her overall health has improved so much that she might have been able to fight off the problem on her own. And even the weather is cooperating, turning hot and dry. So hopefully our darling goat will be back at 100% in short order.

Goat kids

Oh and here's one last cute-goat photo to make up for regaling you with such a difficult topic today. Our goat kids really might be growing faster than the weeds!

Joey git-annex devblog
day 395 leaky abstractions

Release today includes a last-minute fix to parsing lines from the git-annex branch that might have one or more carriage returns at the end. This comes from Windows of course, where since some things transparently add/remove \r before the end of lines, while other things don't, it could result in quite a mess. Luckily it was not hard or expensive to handle. If you are lucky enough not to use Windows, the release also has several more interesting improvements.

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
14 pints of broccoli
Basket of broccoli
We had to plug our big freezer back in today.

Fourteen pints of broccoli is twice as much as we froze in all of 2015.

Even better, two-thirds of the crop is still in the garden.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Pristine broccoli
Pristine broccoli

What's the first thing you look at when you pick a head of broccoli out of your garden? Personally, I flip the whole thing over and search for signs of cabbage worms. This year, each head I've harvested has been pristine.

What's the secret? Starting the plants early so they bulk up before butterfly season is in full swing. (Yes, the cabbage "moth" is really a butterfly.) I cover this and other permaculture tactics for dealing with pest invertebrates without chemicals in The Naturally Bug-Free Garden. Here's hoping your broccoli is just as sweet and caterpillar-free as ours have been this spring.

Joey chatter

Did I just read a 400 page novel in 8 hours? Also, where did today go?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Herb garden
Drying herbs

My little herb bed on the south-facing side of the trailer is doing beautifully this year. On the recommendation of one of our readers, I started some Greek oregano from seed last year and found to my delight that it did indeed have much more of the flavor I was looking for than the plain old oregano I'd grown before. Throw in some sage, lavender, thyme, chamomile, fennel, chives, and a few flowers and I have a pretty and delicious space right outside the back door.

Cooking with herbs

Being so close to the kitchen, the herb garden reminds me to pick a little flavor for meals that I might otherwise skip. I'm also air-drying a few of the more aromatic leaves while they're at their peak since last year's dried basil really hit the spot over the winter.

Mostly, though, I'm just enjoying the low-work, high-reward growing space. There's nothing quite like zone 0.5 homesteading projects that really work.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Swarmed out
Queen cells

I hate to admit it, but I got a bit disheartened by our bees and ignored them for a solid month. The thing is, I actually lost track of how many swarms materialized and then flew away, never to be seen again. (Four, I think?) It was pretty amazing when I was watching Artemesia and family graze in the oats and a mass of bees came flying just over our heads, a few landing on the trailer roof before leaping back into the air. But my rational side knows that each absent swarm is that much less chance of homegrown honey this year.

I seem to use lots of 20/20 hindsight with the bees, but here's a little more. When I opened up our swarming hive in April, I saw lots of queen cells at the bottom of the warre box. I cut off one...then got all worried. If the old matriarch left and I removed all the queen cells, will the new hive perish? So I left the rest in place. As you can see in the image above, though, there were many more queen cells than were really necessary, the likely source of so many afterswarms.

The other hive did swarm too, though. That one had fewer queen cells in it (two or three, I think), probably because there wasn't the gap between warre and langstroth boxes that my converter top created. Honestly, I think that feeding warre hives in the spring just makes them swarm. So if I want to bulk up the hives early in search of honey, I need to hurry up and get those bees back into langstroth boxes so I can checkerboard and use other swarm prevention techniques. (Warre frames just aren't movable enough to use techniques like this with success.)

HoneybeesOn the plus side, the hive that swarmed several times has capped brood and is bringing in lots of pollen. So, fingers crossed that their new queen will finally start laying eggs in the langstroth boxes and I can remove the warre box to complete the conversaion. The other hive swarmed a bit later and is all warre (so harder to tell what's going on inside). But they've got a good bit of honey and will hopefully have new workers soon.

And, all things considered, I don't regret being so engrossed in Artemesia's kidding and in the twins' early childhood that I missed a heaping handful of swarms. If I could go back in time, even knowing what I know now, I'd do it all over again. But maybe next year the two events won't coincide and I'll be a little smarter about early spring bee management. And, who knows, it could still be such a good nectar year that we get honey. Hope springs eternal....

Joey git-annex devblog
day 394 implicit vs explicit

git-annex has always balanced implicit and explicit behavior. Enabling a git repository to be used with git-annex needs an explicit init, to avoid foot-shooting; but a clone of a repository that is already using git-annex will be implicitly initialized. Git remotes implicitly are checked to see if they use git-annex, so the user can immediately follow git remote add with git annex get to get files from it.

There's a fine line here, and implicit git remote enabling sometimes crosses it; sometimes the remote doesn't have git-annex-shell, and so there's an ugly error message and annex-ignore has to be set to avoid trying to enable that git remote again. Sometimes the probe of a remote can occur when the user doesn't really expect it to (and it can involve a ssh password prompt).

Part of the problem is, there's not an explicit way to enable a git remote to be used by git-annex. So, today, I made git annex enableremote do that, when the remote name passed to it is a git remote rather than a special remote. This way, you can avoid the implicit behavior if you want to.

I also made git annex enableremote un-set annex-ignore, so if a remote got that set due to a transient configuration problem, it can be explicitly enabled.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Winter strawberries
Strawberry leather

Strawberries are my favorite fruit and fruit is my favorite food group. So you'd think I'd be tempted by out-of-season berries at the grocery store.

The trouble is, homegrown strawberries are so good I now turn up my nose at even the offerings from the local berry farm. Instead, we gorge on delicious red fruits for one month out of the year and we dry a little bit of leather for winter treats.

Since writing that linked-to post, we upgraded to an
Excalibur dehydrator to make it more feasible to dry food in our wet climate. But, otherwise, our method of storing summer sunlight is very much the same.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 393 fun and more fun

Over the weekend, I noticed that a relative path to GIT_INDEX_FILE is interpreted in several different, inconsistent ways by git. git-annex mostly used absolute paths, but did use a relative path in git annex view. Now it will only use absolute paths to avoid git's wacky behavior.

Integrated some patches to support building with ghc 8.0.1, which was recently released.

The gnupg-options git configs were not always passed to gpg. Fixing this involved quite a lot of plumbing to get the options to the right functions, and consumed half of today.

Also did some design work on external special remote protocol to avoid backwards compatability problems when adding new protocol features.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Milking time
Goat kids at play

Although I milked Artemesia for the kids' first two weeks of life, the youngsters quickly grew big enough to take up that slack. Luckily, two weeks of age is also when goatlings are old enough to be locked away for the night, giving the human twelve hours of free milk.

The trouble, as Mark alluded to, was that our kidding stall is not impossible for a determined goat to access. The first night I locked the kids in, I heard distressed crying for about ten minutes...then everything went ominously quiet. Sure enough, when I went up to check on the herd, Artemesia had jumped over the wall to be with her babies. So I opened the gate and put on my thinking cap for a solution.

Milking a goat

We could have bulked up the walls and done our best to keep momma goat out. But I don't like Artemesia to be in distress, and barely being able to see her kids through the lattice gate was clearly too scary for her to handle.

Enter the dog kennel shown here. It worked perfectly --- the twins were a little pissed at not being able to get into mischief overnight, but Artemesia could lie down right beside them and everyone was happy. In fact, our doe gets so relaxed after not having kids crawling all over her for twelve hours, that by day three I stopped locking her head in the stanchion during milking time. With carrots in the hopper, Artemesia's quite content to stand still and let the machine pull out her milk.

Goats nursing

The kids are always anxious to get their breakfast, but they wait semi-patiently until it's their turn. Rather than hand-milking out the last cup or so, I just release the barbarians and they stampede for the udder. Then I take my two or three cups home with a smile --- happy goats make for a happy human!

Joey chatter

Found a footprint, with claw marks. I think too close together to be a bear.

Joey chatter
surely not racoons

Garbage can dragged 10 feet across yard, bags a further 20 feet down hillside. I found a long scrape where a large animal slid.. bear?!

Joey chatter
midnight fridge thief

A racoon opened my fridge (on the porch) and stole some eggs and steak last week. Had to move the propane burning fridge into the house.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Fruit tree autopsy
Baby apple

I've been spending a lot of time ogling my apple trees, watching the unexpected fruit swell under the summer sun. But everything isn't rosy in the mini-orchard.....

Dead apple tree

We had three tree deaths this winter, all individuals who simply failed to leaf out as planned when the cold weather broke. It's tempting to blame the losses on variety. The specimen above (Pristine), for example, barely grew last summer due to a terrible case of cedar-apple rust...even though its fellows just showed a few spotted leaves then shrugged off the fungal disease.

Dead espaliers

However, I'm now feeling like the ultimate deciding factor in who thrived and who perished was location. The two trees shown above, like the one in the previous photo, are the individuals closest to our north-facing hillside. And they just happen to be the only trees who perished among all eleven of the 2014 graftees. Hmmm.... I guess that permafreeze, high shade zone just isn't fruit-tree friendly. Good to know, and good to learn on home-grafted trees that cost us no more than a buck apiece.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
A smaller, better manure pile
Horse manure

We used to get our compost at this massive horse-manure mother load.

Goat manure
But I have to admit I love this pile ten times more. Yes, after rotting down all winter, our homegrown goat-poop pile is minuscule in comparison. Yet the compost is located a short wheelbarrow journey away from our garden and I know exactly what went into every shovelful. In fact, manure day is the only time of the year when I wished I had twice as many goats.

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Swisher string mower update
swisher mower

The big thing we like about the Swisher string mower is its ability to mow heavy weeds without the danger of a metal blade hitting something.

One of the downsides to its awesome power is the way it throws weed pieces everywhere.

Our solution is to use the old push mower on stuff near food we want to eat.

Joey chatter

When Carrot Quinn started blogging about the Hayduke trail, I had no idea what it was. Would it take a few days or a week? Why hike in such desert conditions in the first place? In Utah?!

62 days later, so many descriptions of enchanted tiny canyons later, photos of unworldly slickrock landscapes later, grand canyon later, past polygamyville ... Now I know how little I know, in the best way.

We’re walking past a large compound when five small, tousled blonde heads pop up over the high metal fence.

“What are y’all doin?” Says the oldest boy. He’s maybe ten.

“We’re walking across Utah,” says Dan. The boys’ eyes practically bug out of their sockets.

“Why don’t you just drive?” Says one of the younger ones. His face is dusty and he’s wearing a backwards baseball cap.

“Because this is an adventure,” I say. The boys stare at me.

A woman with a hair poof and a prairie dress appears outside the front door. She’s putting empty plastic water jugs on the curb.

“It’s so great,” I say quickly. “We walk through all these canyons.”

“And you just find a place to camp?” Says the oldest boy.

“We have a tent,” I say.

The woman is calling the boys. They startle, and the blonde heads dissapear.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Best-behaved chicks
Six-week-old pullet

We usually move our chicks from free ranging to fenced pastures when they're about a month old. The transition isn't for their sakes but for mine --- older chicks have a tendency to scratch up my mulch and peck up my strawberries.

This set of pullets preferred browsing the far edge of our yard beneath the pear trees rather than invading the garden.
But at six weeks old, they'd dramatically outgrown their brooder. Off the coop it was to learn grownup perching!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Drizzly transplanting
Planting sweet potato slips

A drizzly day is perfect weather for setting out sweet potato slips. This is almost the end of our summer transplants, but I do have a flat of sunflower seedlings waiting in the wings. After I find them homes, it's time to start all over by filling yet another flat with brussels sprouts in preparation for the fall garden.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Rain in the garden
Wet rose

The best part about rain in a garden? Even if you're snug inside with a book, the flowers and vegetables are still growing.

Rainy garden

The worst part about rain in a garden? Even if you're snug inside with a book, the weeds are still growing.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Blackberry winter, round 2
Grape flower buds

Winter coats (for us) and row covers (for the plants) came out one last time this weekend.

Frost-nipped squash seedling

Forecast low --- 38. Actual low --- 32. Luckily, damage was very minimal, mostly because the frost was extremely short-lived and spotty. I could hear frozen dew melting off the porch roof shortly after dawn as the outdoor temperature rose above freezing. In the end, only a few leaves here and there were impacted. (Yes, the squash plant above was under a row cover.)

Harvesting strawberries

That had better be the last freeze, because it's time for these...

Raspberry flower

...And, soon, some of these. Hear that, winter --- it's time to relinquish your grasp and let summer have a go.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 392 v6 fixes

Fixed several problems with v6 mode today. The assistant was doing some pretty wrong things when changes were synced into v6 repos, and that behavior is fixed. Also dealt with a race that caused updates made to the keys database by one process to not be seen by another process. And, made git annex add of a unlocked pointer file not annex the pointer file's content, but just add it to git as-is.

Also, Thowz pointed out that adjusted branches could be used to locally adjust where annex symlinks point to, when a repository's git directory is not in the usual location. I've added that, as git annex adjust --fix. It was quite easy to implement this, which makes me very happy with the adjusted branches code!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Accelerating apple variety trials
Six-year-old cleft graft

I went over to my movie-star neighbor's orchard Saturday, ostensibly to help him thin the fruits but actually just to peruse his ingenuity. The oldest tree in the orchard looks like it's about a decade old, and Frankie has grafted different varieties onto several branches. The photo above, for example, shows a limb that was cleft grafted maybe seven years ago.

Apple tree

Here's the same limb from further afield. It's coated with tiny apples.

Another limb of the same tree was grafted more like five years ago and is an interesting data point. The parent of that particular scionwood is in the orchard nearby and barely has half a dozen baby apples on it...but the branch on the older tree is coated with a hefty crop of incipient fruits. In other words, the maturity of the tree accelerated production of that branch, something I've noticed in my own small experiments in that direction. So if you want to try out lots of varieties fast, the best option is to graft them onto branches of older trees rather than onto rootstock.

Shaking a peach tree

Finally, here's the best option we came up with for thinning those peach branches way above our heads --- give the tree a hard shake. Just don't look up!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Cream of the pasture
Goat eating oat flowers

On Mother's Day, Artemesia finally got the message --- she needs to fill her own belly first. Okay, so she didn't entirely toe the line immediately. But she started nibbling a bit of the cream of her pasture, was willing to eat out in the world while I sat nearby with her kids, and even grazed for up to half an hour in the forest when I shut the kids in the coop to keep them out of both of our hair.

I'm ashamed to say that this last scenario is my favorite --- kids are cute, but I vastly prefer the serenity of enjoying the outdoors with a gentle adult goat. Artemesia, on the other hand, prefers option two --- she's only fully content when her kids are accessible to her eagle eye.

Oat flowers

To please the crowd, I usually take momma and babies out to nibble on oats at the bloom stage for their morning/noon repast. These are the cover crops I planted into close-cut lawn last fall, and the patch did an amazing job of feeding goats all winter in the sunnier parts of the yard (while pretty much doing nothing in the shadier parts of the yard). The goats kept the grains nibbled low enough that they survived the winter in a vegetative state, and the plants are now pushing up blooms...which apparently are the tastiest thing since dried sweet corn.

Artemesia browses through the patch at head height, eating nothing but the top six inches of growth. Once she's done, I'll see if more tasty flowers pop up. If not, I'll sprinkle soybean seeds into the standing grain then have Mark whack the latter down to ground level. Come fall, I'll definitely plant this area in oats once again. The amount of enjoyment and forage value we've gotten out of $5 of cover-crop seeds is truly astounding.

Joey chatter
Mom and I walking, separated wild turkey and her chicks. Mother turkey flew back past us. Followed by a chick, who flew *between* us. Wow!
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Three week old goat kids
Three week old doeling

Our goat twins are three weeks old, but they seem more like miniature adults! They're still gorging on milk, but have been starting to nibble at greenery for the last week or so.

This photo is Aurora, who's both much skinnier and much more adventuresome than her brother.
Sometimes I worry she's a little too skinny...then I figure he's probably just a little too fat. After all, I watch Auorora drink and feel her belly to make sure it's full every day, and she continues to outpace her brother in overall body height and length. I think she got more of the Nubian genes and he got more of the Nigerian.

Three week old buckling
The other kid news of the week is that our little buckling has a name --- Punkin. Since his home will be on the Punkin Patch farm and since his hair has an orangish cast, I think the name is fitting. Here's hoping he'll learn to answer to it --- not that he does anything I ask at the moment anyway.

Punkin is a major cuddler, always happiest when he's in my lap. But his favorite game is bouncing on and off endlessly. Now that his hooves are getting harder and his horns are starting to poke out of the skin, I'm slowly turning the lap game rules into sit-still-and-shut-up, which he complains about...but still begs for whenever I enter his space. Yes, he does appear to have inherited the world's sweetest goat genes from his mother (who deserves her own post, coming soon!).

Joey chatter
I'm holding a computer in the palm of my hand. It's small and warm. It's grepping its filesystem for my name. 991 matches found.
Joey chatter
super handy fun computer
super handy fun computer

I backed this kickstarter and am looking forward to it finally arriving in the next couple weeks. (I have the CHIP board already, nice enough little arm board.)

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