War NO more!
Can you imagine what the world would be like if this United States wasn't exploding all of the money with people in foreign lands? I don't think human nature is at all to be ruthless or fight. War is a recent thing. Hunter gatherers represent the heart of human nature, which is something we need to return to!!!
pay it forward

root whispers

up to fruit dangling on shriveled vine

fighting for life

thank you

root speaks a little louder

as pumpkin hits ground

thank you

pumpkin tells seed



her thanks into yonder



everything, expect


The Sun Gilded Hillside

Great grandfather was at root a gilder.

All I have is love.

Driving through shining fields,

All I know is love-

Not always this easily brought,

I know love.

Single as the goldenrod,

I take my love -

Beam it over the Appalachian lands,

Dig deep for love.

Let my heart the sun gild these hills,

With beams of love,

Till all the world is golden.

Love is a mother,

Aching her child is gone,

Knowing love's nature,

Though, she has seen with time -

Love only magnifies.

Joey chatter
Also, note that signed git tags are only a signature of the sha1, so cannot be used to detect a collision attack.

Checking git commit signatures can detect a collision attack. Of course, that checking is also not enabled by default, and there's not yet a config to change that.
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Harvesting the rest of the carrots
Digging carrots

Our last big harvest of the year is always carrots. I actually dug a few beds in September to spur along my garden renovation, but there were still several more beds to go. Good thing Kayla was willing to come over and turn a chore into a long morning of fun and gossip.

Sorting carrots

We dug, washed, and sorted nearly a bushel of carrots in a couple of hours, which leaves me perhaps a third that much to work up today. That's a lot of carrots, but only the cream of the crop will go to two-leggers, with the goats eating up the remainder.

Assuming, of course, that I can teach Artemesia to eat anything other that wild food, hay, and alfalfa pellets. Our littlest goat actually nosed the butternut squash out of her dish yesterday morning even though I drizzled molasses on top to sweeten her disposition.

Goat eating sweet corn

"I think she's already sweet enough," said Kayla, patting our darling doeling in the head.

"Yeah, but I'm worried she might not be getting enough carbs to keep her kids fed if she really is pregnant," I replied. And then I proceeded to tether our spoiled first freshener amid the sweet corn stalks.

"Now that's carbs worth eating," Artemesia proclaimed. Munch, munch, munch.

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Using a gentle leader to train a goat
Goat gentle leader

Ever since we started letting our goats eat oats again, Abigail has been very ornery on the way back to her pasture. She doesn't want to leave those tasty cover crops behind!

Anna got tired of dragging Abigail when she'd lie down and refuse to walk, so we found Lucy's old gentle leader. The harness makes it easy to win the battle of wills with our ornery goat, so now Abigail goes where we want her to.

We change back to a collar after walking to or from the garden, though. Even though the gentle leader doesn't make it impossible for a goat to open her mouth, we figure Abigail might as well be comfortable during her leisure time.

And maybe, as with Lucy, a few weeks training is all it will take before the gentle leader can be retired once again.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
How much garlic should I plant?
Garlic planting

How much garlic do we plant to feed the two of us all year? Now that we've entirely converted over to huge, hardneck Music heads, we get by with 96 plants. About 15 of those are our "seed" garlic, which I split up to plant at this time of year (rejecting the smallest cloves). The other 81 heads of garlic feed us well and also act as an occasional dewormer for our goat herd. We give a little bit away, too, and always have a few extra heads when the time comes to pull in next year's harvest in June.

On the other hand, if I were like my brother, who mentally translates "clove of garlic" into "head of garlic" in all recipes, I'd have to plant a lot more. But for more normal eaters, I'd say 40 heads of garlic a year per person is a pretty good amount.

Joey chatter

I am kind of surprised also today to see on the top of HN.


As I began my swim

words leaped of my inner voice

"Thank you, Maggie."

The Wayfarer

I saw a wayfaring nomadic hippy
once in a Greyhound Terminal
an older man with wool sweaters
and a purse from Mexico.
We chatted a while.
I wonder if he is your father.

Joey chatter

Yeah, that's a red alert if the two are casually connected. In this case it's too little sleep due to reading an excellent book and stuff and locking/concurrency problem noticed due to if anything, being in an unusually open frame of mind. So not a bad casual connection.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Jumping back into the fall garden
Goat, oats, and hazels

Our staycation coincided perfectly with a week of seemingly endless rain. Then, when Monday told us to get back to work...the sun came out! The change in weather gave everyone on our farm the gumption to jump back into outside tasks joyfully.

Six week old Red Rangers

Mom asked what we're up to now that our staycation is over. I've still got a few beds of garlic and lettuce to plant this week, but mostly we're in renovation mode to make sure that this year's garden weeds don't get away from us the way they did last year. In fall 2014, the only straw we had on hand was seedy, so our mulch was worth than useless. This year, our straw is great and we've also got time to plant a rye cover crop in bare beds. Just gotta get rid of the results of last year's laxness before the ground becomes too cold for my tender fingers!

Joey chatter

Cooked gumbo for the first time, and while the 1st roux failed miserably, I got there in the end. Soo rich dark and good!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Take a quick survey, win free books

Free homesteading booksIt's that time of year again when I purge my bookshelf of books I'm no longer reading so I can make room for new interests. Many of this year's texts come highly recommended --- I've just milked all of the knowledge I can from them and am ready to pass the carriers of information on.

Want free books of your very own? Head over here and take my four question survey about your reading habits and you'll be given a link to the rafflecopter form to enter the giveaway. I'm going to give away the books in groups of three or four to allow more people to win, so be sure to take a minute to decide which books you want the most now. Your options include:

As you'll be able to tell from my survey, I'm trying to decide whether to stick with Amazon's KDP Select program, which requires me to keep my books exclusive with them if I want readers to be able to borrow the titles for free using Kindle Unlimited. So consider this post a warning as well as an oportunity. If you were thinking of borrowing my books but haven't gotten around to it, you might want to do so now in case I start pulling them out of the program! Happy reading.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 320 porting and such

Lots of porting work ongoing recently:

  • I've been working with Goeke on building git-annex on Solaris/SmartOS. Who knows, this may lead to a binary distribution in some way, but to start with I got the disk free space code ported to Solaris, and have seen git-annex work there.
  • Jirib has also been working on that same disk free code, porting it to OpenBSD. Hope to land an updated patch for that.
  • Yury kindly updated the Windows autobuilder to a new Haskell Platform release, and I was able to land the winprocfix branch that fixes ssh password prompting in the webapp on Windows.
  • The arm autobuilder is fixed and back in its colo, and should be making daily builds again.
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Artemesia's dates
Cute goat

So, I've been tearing up the virtual pavement trying to find Artemesia just the right date. There was that nice Mini-Nubian buck who wanted her to come stay over for a month...but Abigail and I begged our darling doeling not to go since we would have missed her too much. A high-class Dwarf Nigerian offered to meet Artemesia for a quick hookup, but he never told us his phone number and didn't call back after he saw her online profile. (Poor Artie felt so jilted.) Then there was the blue-collar guy who I was trying to set her up with...until I took a closer look and decided maybe I needed to be thinking about another sort of date entirely.

Goat pooch test

Goat from aboveTwo weeks, ago, the pooch test appeared negative. But now, considering this lineup of goat butts, I'm suddenly 50% sure Lamb Chop actually managed to do the deed in June after all. Meanwhile, my post on a goat forum resulted in two expert opinions, both in favor of Artemesia being knocked up.

Artemesia is a lot rounder lately too, but she and Abigail have been eating more hay since the weather turned wet and I cleared the old stuff out of the manger. I'd say our doeling appears just as big on the right side as the left side at the moment --- inconclusive.

The biggest point in favor of a possible pregnancy is that Artemesia doesn't seem to have come into heat at all this fall. Abigail has --- our usually quiet goat yelled like crazy this week and sported mucous under her tail. But Artie --- usually the chatty one --- has been mild-mannered and quiet for months.

Goat friends

So maybe I have a first freshener on my hands, not a doeling after all? This would be wonderful news --- winter milk starting up just about the time Abigail dries off, plus a doeling who will kid while fat and happy on summer browse.

Depending on whether a Mini-Nubian counts as a standard breed or a miniature breed, Artemesia would be due between November 5 and November 10. Gulp. I'd better start training her to enjoy butternuts and carrots if I want to keep that healthy layer of fat on her back. And if the signs of pregnancy continue to look positive, we can buckle down for the next step --- guessing how many kids will pop out.

Haiku Dreams

Five laughing maidens

inside a hollow tree

feeding me pawpaws.

Shimmied up a tree

the bandit following

after me.

For a while

I entered Brazen's pack

of dogs.

Two headed

student, substitute teacher's

worst nightmare.


crawling on my


Grave digging

with close family friends

Christmas Eve.

Hearing the

tufted titmouse, asleep

before light.

Chopping wood.

Feeding horses


Tiny dog

pushing me closer, closer

to the edge.

Black kitten

before meeting my pet, chunks

of snow in fur.

Edge of

thicket fawn is


Teambuilding 4 Facebook

I want to write a response for facebook worth repeating for all of those argumentative moments that just make me want to hide. Like when someone is saying something in their status that is bold and takes guts and then someone immediately disagrees sometimes in a mean way. When someone writes me and says I might be more compassionate or says to me I could focus on being empowering, those words trigger in my heart a response that puts my best face forward. I put others before myself then. The point isn't to win an argument. I don't have to prove anything. Leading from the compassion and empowerment comes simply. But everyone doesn't have these same positive triggers though I imagine for some the word is "positive" itself and for others there is no word, though the aroma of lavender might slow them down or a cup of hot water or chamomile tea. Yet other people are allergic to chamomile and others hate purple or think hot water is for sissies.

Getting along is hard. It is something like a substitute teacher going into a high school class. If you enter loud and mean, you will escalate any potential problems. If you go in quiet and smiling they might refuse to hear you. Recently an employee of a nonprofit camp for disabled youth visited my classroom where I was subbing. He entered the room with a bundle of rope, and his laid back attitude immediately set the group into an ease. The team building exercise he did with our group impressed me. It was a simple task of counting with a few rules and the option of doing anything other than breaking the rules. If a student said the next sequential number on either side of a person who had said the preceding number they had to start over. The objective was just for the thirteen students all to say a number and coordinate without talking to get to 13. One neat thing about the exercise was I noticed there were several predominant leaders in the group. A tall boy used gestures to instruct who would count next, which was important. But as I pointed out, defying authority was a big part of the lesson. He sometimes pointed at the wrong student, one that would have made the game restart at the beginning. When those students kept quiet, that helped the group figure out how to amend the error.

Facebook is not a team that begs to be built. The humans of facebook often do use it to argue, even. And we often do disagree with leaders who sometimes cannot figure things out. And sometimes, like in social media, leadership begins with just speaking out. But if you get the point of what I mean when I describe how I pause when I hear the words compassion and empowerment, I wonder if you also have something that brings you into yourself too, that makes you want peace before conflict. If so, that's a great place to start.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Lost and found
Trail blaze

Before I started on my hike, Mark admonished me "You'll stay on the trail, right?"

"Of course I will," I promised. And I really did mean to. The trouble was the blazes.

Actually, I was highly impressed by how well the trail was marked at first. If you understand blazes --- pay attention to the color and look for double-blazes to alert you to an unexpected turn --- following the trail from the High Knob Tower to Edith Gap was child's play.

National forest

Okay, yes, I'll admit that as I got closer to Edith Gap, the trail got slightly trickier. Orange blazes joined the yellow as a horse trail cohabited with my walking trail. And, in some spots, only orange blazes existed to mark both avenues. But after I figured out what was going on, I was okay with that.


The trouble happened when my trail crossed the next forest-service road...and seemed to disappear. While the higher-elevation portions of the Chief Benge trail could just as well have been located in a National Park, this region shows the reality of trail-building in the National Forest --- clearcuts. Through some oversight, a clearcut had been smacked down right in the middle of the trail, meaning that I was suddenly walking through a thicket of five-year-old trees with no blazes in sight. Gulp.

Repaired backpack

Enter my handy, dandy map. When walking over new ground, I try to bring along a high-quality topo map at all times. And here's why --- the visual helped me figure out how to bushwhack in just the right direction so I could meet back up with the trail less than half a mile downstream. Success!

Board walk

I think I probably used more calories during my fifteen minutes being lost than I did during the whole rest of the hike. And since the blazes were suddenly scanty from there on out, I tired myself out yet more wondering if I'd actually found the right trail and was heading in the right direction. Boy was I glad to see this boardwalk at the upper end of Bark Camp Lake, proving that I'd not only guessed correctly, but was also on the home stretch.

Bark Camp Lake
All told, I figure I might have walked about 13 miles that day. There's the half mile round trip from home to car to tack on, plus another mile or so from accidentally going around the long side of both High Knob Lake and Bark Camp Lake. (Oops.)

I'll admit that I wouldn't have wanted to walk longer, and I did end up with tired muscles and sore feet. But I learned that a hike of that magnitude is definitely not beyond my means, which is an empowering feeling.

I do think I'll wait a while before hiking the other half of the Chief Benge trail, though....

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Benge Trail part 1
Benges Trail

Mark made the excellent point that if I was going to challenge myself to a long hike that might push my capabilities, it was best to start as early as possible. To that end, I milked Abigail by flashlight before dawn, and we hit the top of High Knob a bit after 8. The mists were very heavy, so I didn't get to enjoy sunrise from the tower. But I was too excited to care.

High elevation fungi

Instead I walked with a big grin on my face...and photographed fungi. We've had a relatively rainy week down in our valley, but I could tell that High Knob is much wetter than even our soggy farm. How can I tell? I measure overall precipitation for an area by fungal proliferation, and High Knob definitely won out in that department.

(The astute naturalist will notice that there are two lichens above...or at least I think that one in front of my hand is a lichen. But they're related to fungi, so I included them in the collage. Also, don't miss the high-elevation birch polypore in the top shot!)

Fallen tree leaves

I also enjoyed the fact that high-elevation trees are already starting to sport their fall foliage, making the hike particularly beautiful. In fact, I was able to measure my downhill progress by the leaves beneath my feet. Up high, sugar maple leaves coated the forest floor, but I eventually dropped down into the land of tulip-trees, and then walked up onto a drier ridge where blackgums dominated.

Red eft(And, hey, look --- a newt! I actually saw seven of these along the trail.)

My hike was going swimmingly. After a couple of miles, my can-I-do-it? jitters had washed away. My first lunch of two peanut butter apples and my second lunch of homemade mozzarella with peppers, tomatoes, and snow peas hit the spot...especially when washed down with a thawing quart of goat milk. And I could tell that my planned timing --- 2 miles per hour, plus a spare hour for wiggle room --- was going to get me to the destination just a little early. Perfect!

And then I got lost....

Joey git-annex devblog
day 321 download verification

While at the DerbyCon security conference, I got to thinking about verifying objects that git-annex downloads from remotes. This can be expensive for big files, so git-annex has never done it at download time, instead deferring it to fsck time. But, that is a divergence from git, which always verifies checksums of objects it receives. So, it violates least surprise for git-annex to not verify checksums too. And this could weaken security in some use cases.

So, today I changed that. Now whenever git-annex accepts an object into .git/annex/objects, it first verifies its checksum and size. I did add a setting to disable that and get back the old behavior: git config annex.verify false, and there's also a per-remote setting if you want to verify content from some remotes but not others.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Email fast for free perennial vegetables

$10 Root CellarThis is just a quick post to alert you to two special deals. First the freebie --- we ended up with three more boxes of Egyptian onion top bulbs. The first three people to email their mailing address to me at will be the lucky winners of this delicious and easy perennial vegetable! (Unfortunately, we can only mail these within the U.S. --- sorry to our international readers.) The onions are now claimed!

In other news, my $10 Root Cellar ebook is marked down to half price today only. In addition to the project that led to the title, the book includes tips on growing roots, feeding roots to livestock, and much more. I hope you enjoy it!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Choose your own adventure
Chief Benge scout trail

The Chief Benge Scout Trail has been calling my name for the better part of a decade. It's a 21ish-mile hike (if you tack on the optional addendums at each end) that begins on the top of a nearby knob and runs down nearly to the valley floor. A fascinating high-elevation ecosystem combined with the fact that you can easily divide the trip in half added to the appeal. So why haven't I hiked it yet?

West half of the Chief Benge Scout Trail

In the first place, the logistics have daunted me a bit in the past. While the trail is very close to our farm as the crow flies, it's at least a 40-minute drive up winding forest-service roads to get to any of the trailheads. And then I started figuring in the extra time it would take to leave a car at one trailhead while being dropped off at another, and the adventure suddenly seemed like less fun.

Long-suffering husband

Enter my long-suffering husband, who volunteered to not only drop me off, but to pick me up too. How could I refuse?

High Knob tower

Oh, yeah, there is the fact that I haven't gone on such a long hike in many years. Sure, I used to log about eight miles a day while carrying a 50-pound pack as a matter of course...when I was 22. But could I still go the distance? Tune in for tomorrow's post to find out.

(In the meantime, if you're local enough to want actual information about the Chief Benge Scout Trail, here's an excellent map and description of the west half.)

...again she wrote for the whole world to see

I want people to see me as a human being, a poet, a teacher, the girl with funny hats. I want people to see my intelligence and my compassion and my emotion. But I always have shared about my mental illness with everyone I know and I met and I got proud of who I was in terms of my struggle. I want people who know about my mental illness to be proud of my mental illness or rather to admire how I handle it.

When I go to Bennington starting in January, I am not sure if I want to bring my mental illness into the open there for those ten days. I am realizing that is the question I was wanting perspective on. I am who I am. I don't want to slump into the closet in terms of this. I write about pain and recuperation. My hope has to rise out of something, like misery. But I also am tired of being thought of as bipolar or schizo-affective. I like my story but in the context of other people's stigma when I don't always get to explain myself all the way, I feel misunderstood sometimes.

When I prayed the night before I learned of my acceptance, I asked for another door to open. I needed to start over in a way. How can I keep a boundary around this? I am not sure.
The Climb*

We were the special ones

they asked us into their homes for dinner

they consulted us over tea about how much to ice their rare orchids

as if they didn't know

they felt out our variables with slender prodding fingers that never really touched us

they observed how we pet their dogs

they remarked on how unusual we were

allured us to watch their house for them

opened their Paul Simon record case up for our perusal

we met them again in long decorated hallways

other ones whispered as we talked to them in first names

how can I be a special, one seemed to wonder

an other one with clad in red and black with bright red lips asked directly

she wanted to apprentice a short young man she said could fit in her pocket

the next morning she was invited in

but to the nest of a cat loving woman with books piled high on her walls

we all were taught to walk with straight backs

to put our forks three o'clock when the meal was done

there was no discriminating

all who asked a way in were thrown amidst into the line

no one got where they expected

no one was paired with the mentor they suggested

as all the professionals once were special once

gazing up with stupor at the hope so often false gleaning through the lines.

*This is just a poem.

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Flying over fences
chicken in motion

Our flock of future layers have developed a bad habit of flying over fences.

It might be a side effect of having multiple breeds in the same coop?

The solution will most likely be a height extension on our 5 foot high fence.

feeling transformative

The Ecosystem of a Writer, a food chain depends on real back breaking work, can't just write about movement, must lift my weight to build the core muscles needed to not be in pain while I earn my keep writing all the while. My nephew and mother are right.

How to Devote my Life to Poetry

Trying to figure out how I can take my writing and reading studies even more seriously, from now through my Masters of Fine Arts program, to an ultimate goal of earning a living from my poems. Key to this success will not be to eliminate facebook or this blog, but to spend five to six well tracked hours a day deep in my studies, reading and writing. I also am not working as much when school starts next semester because it simply takes too much time and energy from my writing, but everything in moderation, which is key. In college, a visiting writer came to our class and I asked her about her routine. What stood out to me is she emphasized keeping herself uncorrupted by email or news until after her writing routine. I definitely think I should figure out what that means in my life and follow that great example. Positive factors that feed into my writing I would like to increase in my life include more time outside, more exercise outside, more mile swims, and wandering walks without a destination in mind. Butt sitting grows only the hiney. So as frost takes over our world in the next couple months, I do plan to spend more time in the garden as well.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Remineralizing with animals
Spoiled goat

Our goat pastures are flattish and dryish, but otherwise contain some of our farm's worst soil. Seriously, nothing but black locusts would grow there for the longest time. Even the ground was nearly bare of herbaceous growth (aka grasses and weeds). So I sent away a soil sample last fall, and the results confirmed my suspicions --- this area needs help. The CEC was 7 and the pH was 5.2. No wonder plants kicked the bucket before they had time to get their feet under them.

Deficient comfreyNow, I'd planned to use the fast, traditional approach to solving my acidic-soil problem --- adding lots of lime. But last winter was so wet I would have had to carry dozens of 50-pound bags back to our core homestead on my back. And our local feed stores suddenly only sold dolomitic limestone...which I don't want to apply because our soil is already overfull of magnesium. So I dropped the ball, ahem, decided to experiment with using ruminants to improve the soil.

My experimental protocol was simple --- use this pasture as a sacrifice area over the winter, letting the goats poop there with wild abandon. Then, this summer, I turned our herd of two into the same pasture at least a third of the time, even when the does were clearly too spoiled to eat the grass and weeds growing therein. In other words, I was taking hay from some other farmer along with weeds and tree leaves from our own woods and gardens, passing the plant matter through our goats' bellies, and using their manure to fertilize the pasture's poor soil.

Soil improvement with goatsThe results were astonishing. CEC increased by 30%, percent organic matter improved by 14%, and pH rose to 5.6. And plants also started to grow! Not lush, thriving jungles of weeds the way we see in other parts of our core homestead. But at least I stopped noticing comfrey so deficient in nutrients its leaves were pale yellow.

Meanwhile, calcium levels of the soil also rose, even though I applied no lime. If you're a proponent of remineralization, you want 60 to 70% of the cation exchange sites in your soil to be full of calcium. Pre-goats, our pasture soil was at a measly 33%; now the calcium percentage is 42%.

Maybe in another two or three years, this soil will have been entirely remineralized...all due to kelp-fed goats. Do you think then our darling does will then deign to dine on their own grasses?

secret tides

there is a part of me today that wonders

what Truth the pills block from my finding

what perceptions I am not listening to

what passions I am not following

people do not spend their time on the right thing

so I gaze into myself like a surfer sailing above a vast ocean

my eyes dive into myself and wash up my lingering fingers,

but I always pull back these foamy questions

I am unwilling to return to insanity even its Truth

but yes I long for it's answers

I yearn to be known by that cold salty water

in every part of my being

wine dark hue

the sky was wine dark before

humans had identified the color blue

the color blue was laughing at us then

as I think most of science remains undiscovered

just as behind a cloud of ego

a poet might frighten their creative voice flat

and when we wake into the afterlife

surprised as if loving for the first time

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Staycation midterm
Mark in the woods

What's the recipe for a perfect staycation? One part adventure, one part spending time with friends and family, and one part relaxation. As with everything else, the trick is finding just the right balance.

Fall leaves on the windshield

It's completely un-homesteading related, but in case you're curious, my goal is to find one interesting event for each day of our week off. To that end, we've visited Bristol Caverns, watched Star Wars episode 1 with Kayla and her husband (working toward my goal of watching all six of the first movies in order before the next comes out), missed the super eclipse due to clouds (oh well!), and had a fun picnic in the park. Today, Mom's coming over, we'll probably head to the movie theater to see The Martian later in the week, and I'm also hoping I'll be brave enough to hike an 11.5 mile trail I've been eying.

And then we'll hit the ground running with renewed vigor when our staycation is over. Already, I can tell that it was a good decision to stay home this year. Ten days of rest with minimal driving is just the ticket to make our homesteading goals and projects come back into focus. And it's fun too!

disproving "T.I.N.S.T.A.F.L"

I believe in free. Some people are so ardently opposed to the concept of free anything, the expression "there is no such thing as free lunch" oppresses the rest of us. I remember free lunch throughout public school and having a teacher explain to me the anti-free philosophy. I think free ties in directly with the concept of pay it forward. I get but I also give. I don't do either with the prescribed shame so many hoist towards so many poor people. You don't have to be rich to pay it forward. Generosity is a real thing in this world.

my palms used to be turned up to catch the rain

used to be so smart

I really could count the drops

calculus was my blood and breath,

derivatives of losing intelligence is no parade

but we need the medicines to stay alive

and calculus is still in our veins

in there a deep gust of wind, a breath

or that fast math in our head isn't really needed

most of us were smarter than most people then

and after 10 years on too high a dose of mood stabilizer

thing is life is actually worth the loss it brings us

sign from above

I walked home and it was cloudy but I did see one hillside to the west of us lit up by some magical beam of sun that did not touch Steele Creek's hills or any others.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Threshing and winnowing soybeans
Dirty soybeans

As Mark mentioned, we've been harvesting some of our soybeans this fall. Since this is our first year growing the crop (and since I'm primarily growing them for soil-improvement purposes), my goal is pretty simple --- to end up with as many seeds as I bought with minimal work. (Meaning I don't want to shell the beans by hand and am willing to get much lower than maximum yields as a result.)

But before I delve into my threshing experiments, I wanted to answer Susie's question from this weekend. These are Viking 2265 soybeans from Johnny's, not an heirloom but also not GMO. They're meant to be grown as a cover crop, but you could presumably eat the seeds. (Our dog and goats sure like to.) If I lived in soybean country, though, I'd save my pennies and buy the seeds at a feed store (although that source would be much more likely to be GMO).

Okay, variety information aside --- how did I separate my seeds from the plants and what would I do differently next year? First, I yanked up plants once all the leaves had fallen off Drying soybeansand piled the tops on a tarp on the porch. If I had this to do over again, I would have cut the plants rather than yanked them --- the extra few minutes at harvest would be worth it for the much lower dirt quotient in the finished product. I also would have used a bigger tarp so the plants could lie in one or two layers rather than in a mound since, even though I harvested "dry" plants, some molded in the interior of the pile due to our high humidity.

Screening beans

It took a week or two for most of the soybean plants to start turning crinkly and dry. At that point, I shod myself with close-toed shoes and did a little dance on top of the plants as a rough-and-dirty threshing. Sure enough, quite a lot of soybeans turned up on the tarp when I pulled the plants aside to peak underneath.

I swept up soybeans, dirt, leaves, and all into a dust pan, then deposited the mass in my biochar sifter, retrofitted with a smaller screen that we'd bought for our honeybees. I just pushed the new screen into the sifter on top of the old screen, but it did its job --- preventing anything the size of a bean or larger from falling through the holes. A bit of shaking, and the beans --- plus dirt clods --- were separated from the smaller particles.

Screening beans
There are still quite a few beans left in the plants on my tarp, so I'll do another round of tromping and sifting once they dry a bit more. But I've already got enough seeds for next year's planting, so I'll call the breaking even part of this experiment a success. Looks like soybeans will be the first of my cover crops that come full circle on the farm!

Apparently from Perspective of a Cat

"Hafiz" (by Hafiz)

Is All
Just a love contest
And I never
Now you have another good reason
To spend more time

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Tips for starting a food forest
Heirloom apples"My wife and I just bought a piece of land out in central MA (zone 6A), and I'm planning to put in a whole slew of fruit and nut trees next spring. It's exciting, but also a daunting exercise trying to figure out what to put in, how to arrange them, what spacing, etc. Do you have any advice for a novice? Anything you wish you knew when you were planting your first trees?"
--- Brett

Starting a new food forest is an exciting undertaking, although also fraught with a lot of difficulties. What I wish I'd known before I planted the first tree is that our initial site had such high deer pressure that nothing could survive, then the second site had such high groundwater that winter water once again killed all of my expensive trees, and finally that our entire homestead exists in a frost pocket where spring blooms are inevitably nipped by late frosts. Moral so you don't repeat my mistakes: spend a year growing annual crops in your future food forest site to find out which problems will need to be overcome before you throw a lot of money away with perennials.

Pear blossomDuring that year, you can learn grafting and can read up on forest gardening. However, be aware that many of the authors of bestselling forest gardening books are theorizers rather than practitioners with decades of success under their belts. For example, I learned the hard way that planting comfrey within the root zones of young fruit trees results in nitrogen-starved trees, despite the fact that many books advocate this type of interplanting. And even though many texts list dozens of fruiting plants that can handle heavy shade, scientific experiments suggest that yields are much reduced in these scenarios. To be honest, I'm working my way out of wishing to create forest gardening guilds and am focusing more on a diverse planting in which each productive plant is given lots of mulched elbow room.

Since I'm keen on no-spray organic gardening, I also wish I'd realized that many of the commonly sold varieties will flounder in these conditions. Hunting down disease-resistant apples, pears, and stone fruits will reduce future headaches dramatically. While you're at it, high-density methods with dwarf trees is a great way to get a head start on what will inevitably be a bit of a game of trial and error figuring out which varieties thrive in your unique conditions and suit your tastebuds. Of course, trees planted in this manner require more work in the weeding, mulching, and summer-pruning departments, but you'll cut years off your experiments and will enjoy fruit much sooner. Once you figure out what grows well for you, you can use that information to plant larger, less needy trees.

HazelnutsAfter almost a decade of experimentation, we're still very much getting our woody perennial legs under us. The only variety that has been an unabashed success has been the hybrid hazel bush that started producing last year. It survived everything our farm threw at we planted three more bushes. Luckily, various types of berries have filled in the gap, but I'm still waiting for those bushels of apples I dreamed about when we first moved to the farm. Maybe easily coverable espaliers or that sunny hillside across the way will overcome our spring freeze problems....


The window opens to let death pass.

Standing in a stillness

outside I watched a shuffle

of leaves high in a tree.

Then moments later the gust found me.

Who has seen the wind?

I know only it holds lives.


you might think you are

the only one

but Maggie knows

human nature stretches

arms beyond borders

human nature says

neighbors send casseroles

call you over with

empty bowls


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