til: git expands wildcards. Because one expansion of wildcards, by the shell, is not enough?
We used a scissor jack to
secure the front part of our new mushroom tower.
Next up is to re-direct the gutter and design a misting system for the logs.
Winter came back with a
vengeance this past weekend. First, we had a light snow on Saturday
morning, then Sunday morning dropped down to 16 degrees Fahrenheit.
Luckily, the cold was short-lived and I doubt the fruit trees saw any
I went ahead and moved all of the plants out of the cold frame
just to be on the safe side, and that was probably a wise move even
though the interior temperatures only barely dropped below freezing.
Unfortunately, when I put the plants back out on a sunny but frigid
Sunday morning, I didn't take into account the power of the sun. By 2
pm, most of the broccoli plants had baked with the lid closed even
though outdoor temperatures were still in the low to mid 40s. I guess
I'll be starting some more broccoli seeds and paying more attention to
the cold-frame cover next time. Even if the air feels cold, if the sun
is out, the lid should be open!
On the plus side, I
thought I'd messed up the cabbage seedlings, but they seem to have
weathered Dandelion Winter just fine. A week ago, the long-range
forecast only showed one low of 31 on the horizon, so I went ahead and
set out the cabbage into the garden...then instantly regretted it when
the weather report shifted dramatically. I covered the plants with
row-cover fabric, crossed my fingers, and was thrilled to see that they
seem to have come through the cold unscathed! So I guess we'll have
early cabbage this year, and late broccoli.
mushroom log experiment is showing signs of shitake growth.
We plugged them about 5 weeks ago.
Last fall, I sent out seeds of some of my tried-and-true
(along with a few experimental) cover crops to readers to see how the
species fared in other soils and climates. My favorite result is shown
above --- Aimee in Ohio planted oilseed radishes in beds that will be
used to grow strawberries this year. She reported: "[The oilseed
radishes] stayed crisp and green clear past Thanksgiving, which gave me a
ready supply of greens and radishes for the guinea pigs. I'll admit it,
I ate a few myself. Even though I am not a radish person, they weren't
bad." Oilseed radishes also got good reviews from Missouri, although
Charity in the Pacific Northwest preferred barley and white mustard in
What's coming up this
spring? I splurged on several new varieties, which I plan to try out
both within the garden and as cut-and-come-again mulch producers in the
newly bare aisle soils in areas where I recently mounded up earth to
create higher raised beds. I figured --- why let that bare ground turn
into weedy lawn if it can do double-duty by producing biomass for the
garden instead? (Of course, I may regret this choice when I have to wade
through tall grasses to get to my tomato plants.)
New species on the planting agenda include:
- Barley --- This may be the plant I've been looking for to fill the
early-spring gap before weather warms enough to plant buckwheat. This
grain is supposed to mature enough to flower and be mow-killed in just a
little over two months. I wasn't terribly impressed when I tried barley
as a fall cover crop in the past, but I have higher hopes for its
performance in the spring garden.
- Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids --- I'm trying two different varieties, which look very distinctive in the seed stage (pictured above). I figure this will be a good fit for my aisle experiment.
- Pearl Millet --- This species should fill a niche similar to the sorghum-sudangrass.
- Alfalfa --- In part, I'm growing this legume for the goats since I'm currently buying alfalfa pellets to boost our milking doe's protein intake and calcium levels. But I figured it would also be interesting to see how alfalfa fares as a nitrogen-fixing cover crop left in place for the entire summer.
Want to join in the fun? I
have room for a few more experimenters since some of last fall's
gardeners dropped out. If you live in zones 3, 4, or 8, drop me an email
at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll
chat. Folks chosen will receive free seeds as long as you promise to
share photos for my book and to report on your results!
The GNU project has released its first major subsystem, the EMACS editor. -- http://article.olduse.net/194@encore.UUCP
I just got a copy of GNU emacs, and it is large. I am willing to post it to mod.sources, but it is HUGE (about 20 postings) -- http://article.olduse.net/729@genrad.UUCP
Can you imagine the expense of shipping 1MB of data between all net sites and of storing that 1MB on every sites disk -- http://article.olduse.net/483@hoxna.UUCP
If you wish to recover GNU emacs you can dial into our system and retrieve it. [..] The modem is 1200 Baud. [..] With the current performance of UUCP you will see a transfer rate of about 100 chars/second. Using this value you will see transfer times around 2 hours for GNUshar.Z to 8 hours for GNUtar. So, pick your medicine. -- http://article.olduse.net/203@encore.UUCP
We discovered today that a
half buried tire makes an awesome goat toy.
Lamb Chop likes to jump from one to the other.
The different types of
sugars in birch sap compared to maple sap make birch syrup a little
trickier to boil down. It's imperative not to allow the developing syrup
to get above 200 degrees Fahrenheit with birch sap unless you want the
sugars to caramelize, darkening the color and impacting the flavor. In
addition, it's a bit trickier to know when birch syrup is done since it
doesn't get as thick as maple syrup, so you'll need to make your best
guess, then weigh the finished product to determine how close you are to
the optimal 11 pounds per gallon.
Luckily, our birch tree started running hard when the warm weather came around, and several days in a row of 1.75-gallon yields gave me enough condensed sap to try my hand at syrup making. I ended up with about a quarter of a cup of syrup from three gallons of sap, at a weight of 3.3 ounces for the final product, which means I actually cooked the liquid down a bit further than is optimal (even though the syrup still looked pretty runny, even when cool). This equates to about 192 gallons of sap per gallon of syrup, requiring half again as much boiling down as even the box-elder sap we experimented with last month and three times as much boiling as our sugar maple sap.
With a larger supply of syrup on hand, we were able to try out a more in-depth tasting, this time substituting birch syrup for the sorghum molasses in our favorite oatmeal cookie bar recipe. The result was delectable! I'll include the recipe in my upcoming ebook, Farmstead Feast: Spring, due out in March, but if you'd like some farm-friendly recipes while you wait, Farmstead Feast: Winter is still for sale for only 99 cents. Enjoy!
While I plowed through a lot of backlog the past several days, I still have some 120 messages piled deep.
That work did result in a number of improvements, culminating in a rather
rushed release of version 5.20150327 today, to fix a regression affecting
git annex sync when using the standalone linux tarballs. Unfortunately, I
then had to update those tarballs a second time after the release
as the first fix was incomplete.
And, I'm feeling super stressed out. At this point, I think I should step away until the end of the month. Unfortunately, this will mean more backlog later. Including lots of noise and hand-holding that I just don't seem to have time for if I want to continue making forward progress.
Maybe I'll think of a way to deal with it while I'm away. Currently, all I have is that I may have to start ignoring irc and the forum, and de-prioritizing bug reports that don't have either a working reproduction recipe or multiple independent confirmations that it's a real bug.
Lucy went on a trip today to
visit our nice vet in the big city.
She got a clean bill of health and multiple compliments on her beauty.
Wish I could understand why, when someone is reporting a really strange problem, I can get 100% puzzled by it and stuck. But then, if I manage to reproduce the same problem, I can always quickly figure out the root cause and fix it.
It's often a night and day difference, I can go round and round with a user for hours trying to understand what they did, but once I reproduce the problem, I can have it fixed in minutes.
It's something to do with bandwidth, and limited information, and communication difficulties, and confirmation bias, and.. I don't know what all.
Being able to diagnose and fix reproducible problems is a good skill. Being able to coax reproducible test cases out of users is a good skill. But I feel there's something here I could be better at.
(Users could also be a lot better at reporting bugs and reliably communicating of course..)
Kayla and I enjoyed a girl's day out Thursday --- we attended the annual grafting workshop
at the Gate City extension office. I've been to nearly half a dozen
grafting workshops now, and this one was by far my favorite. Not only
was it held at 2 pm so we could get home before dark, but the selection
of scionwood was astounding. I came in the door with nine pieces of
scionwood I'd brought from winter trades, planning to just graft what I
had...but I walked out with sixteen apple trees. (Good thing they were
willing to sell me extra rootstock for a dollar a pop.)
In addition to the copious scionwood choices, the organizers had three
apple books on hand, so I could look up each variety to see whether it would hit the spot. Yes, I did spend
an hour paging through the books to determine which types of apples were
worth a try. Even though the pages were simply text, I found the most complete book was Fruit, Berry, & Nut Inventory --- I may have to get a copy for future variety selection.
As a side note, I should mention that half of the instruction and most of the scionwood came courtesy of Kelly's Old Time Apple Trees, whose website is rather sparse but who sells both scionwood and full apple trees to ship across the country. Our wedding apple trees came from Kelly's and the fruits are superb! If you don't want to go through the hassle of swapping for scionwood, then Kelly's may be your one stop shopping outlet.
But the positive points
of this workshop went far beyond excellent scionwood selection and a
good time of day. The instructors were also pros who helped me learn
safer and more effective methods of making the classic whip-and-tongue
graft. First, start with their "rule of thumb" --- grasp the rootstock
where the top roots branch off, then cut off the top where the tip of
your thumb reaches. (I figured my thumb was a little shorter than the
digits on their male hands, so cut just a little higher.)
Next (top right photo), hold your knife in your right hand so the beveled edge is up and don't move that hand. It feels awkward at first, but you'll soon learn how to hold the rootstock in your left hand with the roots facing away from your body so you can pull the rootstock away from you against the stationary knife. This is much safer and makes a much straighter cut than the whittling method I'd been using.
Finally, for the tongue, brace the thumb of your knife hand against your other hand (which, again, feels quite awkward at first), and gently pull the knife into the wood by sawing it back and forth. Once the knife is seated, finish the cut by rocking the knife rather than pulling it down. Then slide the two pieces of wood together, seal them well with grafting tape, cut down to two buds on the scionwood, dab some sealer on the cut end, and you're done!
I'm still far from perfect, but after sixteen trees, I was starting to feel pretty proficient. Good thing too since I suspect this will be my last grafting workshop for a while --- I'm finally running out of spots to put new trees. Kayla and I are going to have to think of a new girl's day out plan for next year.
Why did I secure a chicken
door with pipe strapping in the goat barn?
Because one of our goats figured out how to pop the latch and open the door.
If you've sent me an
email or given me a call recently and I've been extremely slow to
answer...blame it on the sun. This bout of stunningly gorgeous weather
means that our usual schedule of half a day working inside and half a
day working outside went right out the window. Instead, Mark and I have
been catching up on all of the fun garden tasks that got put off when
snow was on the ground, barely coming inside for meals and then
collapsing at the end of a long, glorious day. I promise to be a better
correspondent once the cold, wet weather returns this weekend.
Specifically, I've been weeding and mulching garlic and strawberries, pruning perennials, transplanting cabbage seedlings, and direct seeding carrots, parsley, and mangels this week. As I plant, I'm experimenting with the broadfork, fluffing up half of each bed while simply raking topdressed manure into the top inch of the other half. It's easy to see the broadfork's effects right away, with manure filtering down into the looser soil in the broadforked areas while the fluffed up soil sits higher above the aisles. I'll keep you posted about germination, growth, and yields of the roots in the broadforked vs. unbroadforked beds as the results come in.
A short section of nylon rope should keep our foot bridge from floating too far during the next big flood.
While traveling for several days, I filled dead time with a rather massive reorganization of the git-annex man page, and I finished that up this morning.
That man page had gotten rather massive, at around 3 thousand lines. I split out 87 man pages, one for each git-annex command. Many of these were expanded with additional details, and have become a lot better thanks to the added focus and space. See for example, git-annex-find, or any of the links on the new git-annex man page. (Which is still over 1 thousand lines long..)
git annex help <command> can be used to pull up a command's man
I'm taking the rest of the day off to R&R from the big trip north, and expect to get back into the backlog of 143 messages starting tomorrow.
It's been a long time since I took our goats out to play. First, the honeysuckle
started to give out, then the snow fell and completely covered
everything edible. But now our grass is just barely starting to grow in
the sunniest part of the yard, so I decided it was high time I started
reconditioning our herd's gut bacteria. Five minutes longer nibbling on
grass each day means that our goats' digestive system will stay happy on
the fresh greenery, and I figure within a week or two the ruminants
will be safe to graze lush grass at will. Abigail thinks this plan is
the ultimate in human stupidity...but I hold the leash.
Well, I try
to hold the leash. I'd meant to walk our little herd to the other side
of our core homestead where sun is really making the grass grow, but as
soon as Abby saw the tall rye coming up in the front garden, she decided
it was time to dine. Rye held little to no appeal this past winter, but
I guess the lush new growth tastes sweeter now --- the leaves even
smell sweeter as I stand by and watch our doe chew. She also went for
tiny new clover leaves barely pushing a quarter of an inch above the
ground, in search of protein to go in her milk, I suspect. Those alfalfa
pellets we bought are being eaten avidly, but who wants dried when they
can have fresh?
Abigail has a voracious
appetite --- making milk uses up lots of calories. In contrast,
Artemesia is just learning to walk on a leash, so our smaller goat spent
much more time figuring out how not to get her feet tangled than she
did eating. As for Lamb Chop, he apparently thinks dirt is tastier than
grass. And who really needs to eat solid food when the milk bar is open?
At the moment, Lamb Chop
is also too young to need a leash. Which is a good thing since I'm not
sure I could handle three goats in my two hands. On the other hand, our
buckling is much braver at two weeks old than Artemesia was at six
months old. When Mark came out for our photo shoot, Lamb Chop kept
trying to follow my husband across the yard rather than staying with the
goat herd. Maybe our buckling has realized that he's one of very few
males on our farm and figures the guys need to hang together?
We finished up our new
mushroom logs today.
16 logs total with 3 different varieties of shitake plugs.
Are you pulling out your maple taps and plugging the holes? Maybe it's time to tap a birch!
Birch trees begin running around when sugar maples let up, making them a good second crop for people who have already invested in the equipment for the former and want to extend their syruping season. But birch syrup isn't the same as maple syrup, of course. For one thing, the former sells for a lot more --- maple syrup tends to go for thirty-something dollars per gallon, while birch syrup sells for (by some estimates) ten times that much.
What's with the excessively high price? I think some of the appeal is simply that birch syrup is a niche product, added to which you have to boil down about three times as much birch sap as maple sap to make syrup. Birch syrup is also reputed to be a bit trickier to produce since you have to be more careful to keep the sap from scorching, which likely adds to the price tag. On the plus side, birch syrup is supposed to have a lower glycemic index than maple syrup and table sugar, being closer to the value of honey and sorghum molasses. In addition, birch syrup is often treated as a healthful tonic, perhaps because the extra boiling means that you're concentrating more minerals in each spoonful of syrup.
Mark and I aren't
interested in selling birch syrup, but since our maples stopped running
last week, we figured we might as well tap a birch tree and see what all
the fuss is about. I have to admit that I've only boiled down the
barest smidgen of syrup (made from about three pints of sap), but I can
tell that birch syrup is very different from maple syrup. For one thing,
the former is much darker, even in the sap stage. The photo above shows
condensed sap that began life as one gallon of liquid and will still
need to be boiled down considerably before it becomes true syrup. As you
can see, the condensed sap is already much darker than the box-elder syrup beside it.
between maple and birch syrup is flavor, although this factor will vary
depending on which species of birch you're tapping. Most birch syrup
sold in the U.S. is made from Paper Birch or Alaska Birch grown in (you
guessed it) Alaska, but our much more southern clime means that Black
Birch is our common species. Although Black Birch twigs taste strongly
of wintergreen, I didn't notice any wintergreen flavor in the syrup we
sampled. Instead, the dark liquid reminded me of sorghum molasses, and
I'd likely use my birch syrup in the same recipes I use with that
southern staple sweetener.
I'd be curious to hear from folks who have tapped birch trees and made their own syrup. What did you think of the flavor and how did you use it in the kitchen?
Back in the sweet, mellow air of the South!
We cut our swamp
bridge in half and moved
it to a new location.
The new path will avoid a spot that was going to need a bridge soon.
Thanks for all the useful comments on how to avoid losing our bridge the next time it floods. Next up is to tether a rope to the bridge and tie it off on the medium Willow next to it.
It's decision time around
here. Do we take the money we've been saving to improve our access and
sink 100 tons of rip rap into the 680 feet of terribly marshy floodplain our driveway currently traverses?
(That sounds like a lot, but I suspect it would be a mere drop in the
bucket.) Or do we use the cash to hire a neighbor with a bulldozer to
try to carve a path out above the floodplain, a task that might come to
naught if he hits bedrock too soon, and one that would require building a
bridge across a rather large gully?
Here's a bit more
information about plan B. After crossing the creek, there's easy access
up onto the knoll you see at the right side of this photo, but the
hillside the bulldozer would be carving into is difficult, to say the
least. There would be a lot of short-term devastation involved (although
perhaps not more than we cause on an annual basis tearing up the wet
soils of the floodplain). And our neighbor warned us that there's no
guarantee he won't hit rock before he's able to carve out enough earth
to make us a road, which would mean we had sunk our money into a project
with no improvement to our access at all.
Then you reach a gully, which our bulldozing neighbor says would have to be bridged --- he's pretty sure his equipment won't continue carving around the bank you see on the right as it runs up this little cove. Instead, he recommended felling two trees to make a bridge for our ATV (which is the intended recipient of whichever driveway fix we decide on). Mark and I don't like the idea of a bridge rotting out under us after a few years, though, so we might instead see if we could find a big culvert or two to bridge this gap (and find out whether the bulldozer can haul them in). Unlike our main creek, this little rivulet dries up in the summer and never gets big enough to wash a culvert out, so a bridge here is more feasible than in other locations. (Our most recent flood reached about six vertical feet up the side of the hill here, but it should stay clear of the top of the bridge.)
If we were able to carve around the bank and bridge the draw, we'd be home free. Up here is where Joey's yurt
stood, and an old logging road runs between this spot and our core
homestead. All it would take is a little chainsaw work to make the route
passable with the ATV and it's all dry, with no creeks to ford or swamp
It's hard to decide between plan A and plan B because we don't have any solid cost estimates for our neighbor's work, for culverts, and for the eventual rock that would need to go down to hold this driveway possibility into place. Our neighbor says it would probably take about two days of dozer work, assuming all goes as planned, but when does anything ever go as planned?
While Mark and I are mulling it over, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts. Assuming all you wanted was to be able to haul in manure and straw a few times a year, would you go for plan A or for plan B? If you were looking for a big culvert, where would you look and how much would you expect to pay?
Friday was one of those days
where the truck broke down and the car lost its entire exhaust system.
Nice of it to happen within a mile of leaving home.
Sometimes I miss taking the bus.
goats grow almost unbelievably quickly. The kids can stand up within
minutes of birth, they seem to double in size at a remarkable rate, and
at two weeks old they are mature enough to be separated from Mom
Friday was Lamb Chop's big night. After milking Abigail nearly at dark, I stuck our little kid in the milking stall all by himself and walked away. He cried and Abigail cried, but they both fared fine overnight, and the next morning I was able to collect a larger share of the milk (11.8 ounces). As Lamb Chop learns to eat solid food over the next few weeks, I'm hoping the human milk quota will continue to grow.
My original milking plan involved separating the kid(s) at night
and then just milking once in the morning, but Abigail's early nursing
issues set me off on a
different track. Even after Lamb Chop found his
way to the teat on day four, I kept milking twice a day anyway, only
getting dribs and drabs (seldom more than cup and often much less). The
small amount of milk
was appreciated, but I felt like the milking was particularly important because Lamb Chop seems to prefer Abigail's right side, a common issue
with single kids. By milking our
doe out twice a day, I'm able to ensure that both sides of Abigail's
keep producing milk. Meanwhile, Lamb Chop was getting all he could drink
until the nighttime separation, so I didn't have to worry that he was
lacking in nutrients. In fact, he seems to have doubled in size over the
Speaking of lacking in
nutrients, Abigail has recently started peeling bark off the little
saplings in her yard. I suspect she's getting desperate for fresh
growth, and I have high hopes that we can set up some temporary
enclosures in the most sunny part of the yard in a week or two to let
our goats enjoy the first spring grass. I learned this fall that even
though goats aren't supposed to be grazers, our girls are quite happy to
eat tender leaves growing out of the ground and I can hardly wait for
our girls to be off the hay train.
other news, Artemesia seems to be losing her youthful bounce at the
same time that Lamb Chop learns to caper --- I guess there can only be
one baby in the family at any given time. As you can see in the photo
above, I upgraded our doeling to a real collar and gave the mini collar
to Lamb Chop. I think our buckling is confident enough in his
masculinity that he won't mind wearing pink. In fact, he'll be old
enough to possibly become a father in just another ten weeks --- then
we'll have to figure out whether Artemesia is willing to go into heat in
the summer for a fall kidding or whether we'll need to separate Lamb
Chop for the summer so he doesn't knock his mother up. Goat management
definitely leaves us with a continuing set of hurdles, but they sure are
Our little Lamb Chop is at the point where he likes to jump up into a warm lap every chance he gets.
Spent a couple of days at Dartmouth hanging out in the neuroscience department with the Datalad developers. Added several new plumbing commands and a new post-update-annex hook, based on their feedback of how they're using git-annex.
spring comes to our farm long before the equinox. But the natural world
is running a little late this year. Can you believe it's officially
spring and the first daffodil is still struggling to open its bloom?
On the other hands, the frogs are calling like crazy, the first hepatica was spotted in the woods Wednesday, and Mark and I each heard a grouse beating on a hollow log calling for a mate. Perhaps we can finally write off Old Man Winter after all.
In the garden, I'm a bit
behind in chores and the plants are a bit behind in emergence. I went
into the winter a little remiss because sprouting-straw
issues meant that half of my garlic never got mulched in the first
place, and snow cover in February and early March meant that I wasn't
able to reach the ground to rip out the chickweed that had taken over
that open ground. Luckily, a warm week and a lot of rain washed away the
snow and I was able to get peas and lettuce in the ground
by the middle of the month. Now I'm hard at work weeding and prepping
beds for carrots, parsley, mangels, and cabbage transplants, while
slipping in a bit of time to weed our garlic and strawberry beds.
I'm also behind on pruning, but purposely so since I was afraid that early pruning during a particularly cold winter would exacerbate freeze damage. The good news is that my gut feeling was right --- early pruning combined with cold weather is what killed back our red raspberry canes last year. This year, an even colder winter (low of -22 Fahrenheit) didn't nip the brambles, so we'll get our usual spring and fall crops --- success!
On the other hand, the first elderberry leaves are now starting to pop out, so tree flowers can't be too far behind. That means I need to hurry up and prune like crazy to make up for lost time, a good project for wet days like this when the garden is too sodden to make weeding a pleasure.
Even though the raspberries fared well during our winter cold, I still plan to test some bloom buds on each new species before I prune. After all, if the winter nipped some percentage of the peach bloom buds, for example, I'll want to leave more behind to take their place.
Even though our vegetable
garden is running behind, wild food is already becoming available.
Creasies keep springing up in our garden despite the fact that I'm
pretty sure I haven't let any go to seed since moving here, and
dandelions always find new ground to sink their deep taproots into. I
pulled a large bowlful of these two delicious greens out of the garden
while weeding Wednesday, then washed them in several changes of water
and sauted with balsamic vinegar and peanut oil. A delicious dose of
On the bus at 5 am, sleepily looking thru slices of my brain while on my way to see RMS.
But do they ever test their backups?
cp /dev/MRI/brain/* . ; git annex add
I wanted to share this nice T-shirt design one
of our readers made.
It's only available for the next 14 days, and she needs at least 3 orders to get the printing process rolling.
Sarah is available for custom shirt designs and can be contacted through her ThreadBearDesign Facebook page.
Git's data/protocol certainly allows that; its UI does not have an easy way.
We should sit down and look at using propellor. Its properties and their configuration parameters are fully introspectible now.
Our newspaper bokashi experiment is now underway. Here's our current method:
- Make a lactobacillus starter using yogurt, molasses, and newspaper. Wait at least two weeks. (We waited nearly three.)
- Use a gamma-seal lid and a five-gallon bucket to make an airtight container.
- Fill the bottom of the container with about four inches of dry sawdust to soak up any liquid that forms. Alternatives to this step include adding a spout to the bottom of the bucket so you can decant the leachate, drilling holes in the bottom of the bucket and setting it inside another bucket for the same purpose, or using newspaper or cardboard to soak up the leachate.
- Place a layer of the newspaper starter on top of the sawdust.
Instructions say that one sheet here is fine, but I had plenty of
newspaper and didn't want to try to tease apart wet pages so I included a
whole newspaper section. (More starter never hurts --- it just helps
the bacteria work faster.)
- Pour in food scraps. These should be no more than two days old and shouldn't include moldy or spoiled food, but you can include meat and dairy. As you can see, at this time of year, our scraps consist of eggshells, orange peels, a bit of discarded dandelion roots, and onion peels.
- Add another layer of newspaper starter to completely cover the food scraps.
- Put a plastic grocery bag on top of the newspaper and use your fists to pound everything down. The goal is to remove as many air pockets as possible and to bring the newspaper starter in close contact with the food scraps.
- Leave the grocery bag in place, screw on the lid, and set aside for two days until more food scraps accumulate. At that point, you repeat the food-scraps layer, the newspaper layer, and the pounding, then continue with bi-daily additions until the bucket is full.
- Let the bucket ferment at room temperature for two to four weeks
after filling, then apply to the soil. (More on this step in a later
I'll admit up front that I'm a bit dubious of the efficacy of bokashi, even more so after I read the "science" chapter in Bokashi Composting
by Adam Footer. So I'm running a three-part mini-experiment to give
myself a rough idea about whether the more complicated bokashi method is
worth the time and expense.
The control is shown above. I filled a normal five-gallon bucket (no air-tight lid) with food scraps, let them sit on the porch for a month or so, then applied them in a trench in the starplate pasture. I marked the location of the control and will be adding similar trenches full of bokashi made using two methods (store-bought starter and homemade starter) in the months to come. Finally, I'll dig into each area a month or so after application to determine whether the bokashi method really did make the scraps decompose faster and whether the soil seems to be better in the bokashi zones than in the control zone. Stay tuned!
Drove to vermont for Worthy burger. mmmmmm
We're trying a new syrup
experiment on a nearby black birch.
Our Meadow Creature broadfork
came in the mail a week and a half ago, but between the flood and my
cold, I only got to play with it for the first time Wednesday. My first
impression? This tool is fun! I'm slowly running out of terraforming opportunities to keep myself happy during the winter, so adding the broadfork to the mix will be as good as an antidepressant.
More seriously, in soft
garden soil, the broadfork works almost too well. Mark had to rein me
in, reminding me that our goal is merely a light loosening rather than
to really till up the soil. I eventually decided that a gentle fluff
from the edge of the bed is a good compromise in this kind of situation,
which will hopefully add a bit of aeration without negatively impacting
soil life. I plan to run a side-by-side comparison this spring, but
suspect that beds loosened lightly with the broadfork will be especially
good for root crops like carrots.
I also wanted to see how
well the broadfork performs in hard ground, so I headed up to the
extremely poor soil of the starplate pastures for test run number two.
Here, it took more effort to sink the tines into the earth and I had to
put my back into it to loosen once the tines were engaged. This area
will definitely be a good spot to work up a sweat next winter, and the
soil will probably benefit much more from broadfork action up here than
down in the main garden, but I'll admit this area felt more like work
than like play.
So did I select the right size? I went for the smallest model, and that is definitely all I could handle in the starplate pasture. I suspect I could have worked with the next size up if I'd stuck to the main garden, but I'm not so sure the extra two inches of loosening depth are really mandatory. So, yes, I think Mark's nudge toward the smallest size was a good choice, and for most female gardeners I would recommend the same. If you're particularly tall or brawny, though, feel free to choose the 14 inch!
We finished up the new cold
Two coats of paint and some caulk where we connected the two windows should help it to go well into the future.
"gusts up to 57 mph".. that explains it
Boston wind is nearly knocking me over. Pho soup and chai and other hot things the order of the afternoon..
have a love-hate relationship with books from Chelsea Green. Their
titles are so enticing...but the price tags are daunting and about half
of the books ultimately disappoint once I crack them open. Farming the Woods
by Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel was partially inspiring and partially
disappointing, with a dry and academic tone and far too much basic
information, but with beautiful pictures and hands-on information that
made reading worthwhile.
The most helpful part of the book was the authors' realistic notations on which plants will really produce in the shade. Despite forest-gardening literature to the contrary, Mudge and Gabriel report that in a woodland setting with more than 40% canopy cover, the only species that reliably bear fruit are pawpaws, elderberries, ramps, and mushrooms. At 25 to 40% shade, shisandra, hawthorn, currant, gooseberry, honeyberry, hazelnut, juneberry, and groundnut join the mix, although productivity is likely to be significantly lower than yields in full-sun environments. For example, hazelnuts produce about 70% of their optimal yield in 30% shade and 30% of their optimal yield in 90% shade, so you have to decide at which point the juice is no longer worth the squeeze.
Another useful facet of Farming the Woods was the authors' analysis of which non-timber forest products make economic sense. After all, for forest farming to be more than a hobby, landowners need to be given an incentive to keep those trees standing rather than selling them to the local sawmill. Although many non-timber options were presented, the authors felt that the most economically feasible include tapping sugar maples (and possibly birch) for syrup, growing ginseng for roots, and raising shiitakes on logs. In addition, chestnuts and hazelnuts can provide relatively lucrative nut crops, and turning the forest into a nursery for shade-loving ornamentals can also help pay the bills.
In the end, Farming the Woods isn't the must-read permaculture book of the year that I thought it would be, but it's definitely worth at least checking out of your local library. Or maybe you'd like to be the lucky recipient of my lightly read copy? Enter the giveaway below and you may get a copy of your very own for free!
It was 5 degrees warmer
inside our new cold frame than the outside temp.
Adding some silicone and spray foam sealant today should help to keep it even warmer tonight.
I've used both quick hoops and cold frames in the past, and usually prefer the latter. However, now that we've finally skirted around the front of the trailer,
I couldn't help thinking that the sheltered, warm spot would be perfect
for a glass-covered cold frame to house flats of cabbage, broccoli, and
onion seedlings while they wait for safe outdoor-planting time. The
area is close enough to the front door that I won't mind opening and
closing the lid daily during sunny spells, and it'll also be pretty
simple to carry the flats inside if we hit a really cold spell. So when
Mark found two large, double-glazed windows in the barn, I figured the
cold frame was fated to be!
The first step of building our new cold frame was checking to make sure we'd still be able to get up on the roof to clean out our chimney. Now that I have a grapevine on the right side of the wood-stove alcove and a cold frame on the left, Mark will have to go up the front. Luckily, he says the ascent is feasible...as long as I hold the ladder.
This area is a relatively
easy spot for cold-frame construction since two sides of the cold frame
can simply butt up against the existing building. Mark attached a
two-by-four along the trailer to support the windows...
...Then hinged the first window into place. (Thanks for the hinges, Rose Nell!)
After adding the second
window, we realized that the two windows bumped against each other when
closed all the way. Although we could have tweaked the hinge arrangement
slightly to prevent this issue, Mark instead used metal brackets to
attach the two windows together into one solid piece. In addition to
fixing our slight mismeasurement, that arrangement also made it easy to
hold both windows open with a single screen-door hook on the side of the
Next, we used a
two-by-six to form the front wall of the cold frame. Slanting the glass
from an 18-inch-high back to a 5.5-inch-high front should help the cold
frame collect more winter sun. But the angle did
make it tough to determine the location of the two-by-four support on
the right side. "Oh, that's easy," Mark said. He lifted up the window
glass and motioned me inside to mark and hold the support board.
The left side of the cold
frame involved building a triangle out of wood, which we opted to do
the easy way. We used the end of the two-by-six that had formed the
front of the cold frame to butt up against the window on the top, then
cut segments of an old door (thanks, Sheila!) to fill in the gap left
We've still got a little
work to do filling in gaps and painting the untreated wood, but the cold
frame is nearly ready to go after just a couple of hours' work. I've
got a max-min thermometer
in there now to test the waters and can hardly wait until we reclaim a
bit of our kitchen table from the cold-hardy seedlings. Right now,
there's barely enough room to fit two plates into the section the plants
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