Joey chatter

Have not been reading a lot of fiction the past year or two, but I certainly am this week. Read just 8 novels in Jan-Mar, but already 5 in April, and 2 in the past 2 days.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Cookbook giveaway
Goodreads giveaway

This is a short bonus post to give you a quick cookbook update. I was surprised by the interest in the paper version of Farmstead Feast: Winter, so I decided to go ahead and put out the paperback version of Farmstead Feast: Spring ASAP. Both books are still priced at the bargain-basement price of $3.99 and are eligible for Amazon's free shipping, so nab a copy now while they're cheap.

Meanwhile, if you want to throw your hat in the ring, I'm giving away a copy of both cookbooks to one lucky reader over on Goodreads. Click here to enter. (You'll need a Goodreads account, I believe.)

Finally, I wanted to thank those of you who took the time to read and review so quickly. With the help of a Bookbub ad and your kind words, Farmstead Feast: Winter spent 24 hours as the number one free book on Amazon this week! It's thrilling to get in front of 40,000 new eyes and I hope my recipes make everyone's spring a little more delicious. Thank you so much for helping make it happen!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Bokashi experiment, phase 3

We're moving along to phase three of our bokashi experiment, with the Lactobacillus bokashi in the waiting phase, sealed away in its full bucket. This time around, we're using store-bought bokashi starter, and I have to admit that I have seen a different within the first two days of the experiment.

What differences could I notice so quickly? I applied a light sprinkling of starter on top of the sawdust in the bokashi bucket and then again on top of the food scraps two days ago, and when I opened the bucket for my next deposit I could see white fungi beginning to grow on many food surfaces. In addition, while the Lactobacillus bokashi bucket smelled like composting food scraps each time I opened it (no surprise there), the store-bought starter did live up to the marketing and seemed to have no odor at all from a couple of feet away. (I should note that the gamma-seal lid means that neither bucket smells when closed, though, so don't worry about foul odors in your kitchen.)

* Of course, I'm well aware that this "experiment" is far from scientific. With a sample size of one for each of the three treatments, with slightly different food scraps in each bucket, and with a different time of year (especially temperature) for each treatment, all I can do is get ideas for further research.

Food scraps in the soil

In the meantime, it was the one-month-after-application mark for my control food scraps, which had spent a month in an unsealed bucket with no microbial starter, then were buried in a shallow trench in a very poor-soil area. According to the bokashi literature, food scraps should have become compost by this point if treated with bokashi starter during the bucket stage. Un-bokashi food scraps, though, look very much like rotten food after one month in the soil, with a few worms starting to move in but with the outlines of the scraps well recognizable. The only really surprising part about this phase of the experiment is that Lucy didn't dig up the trench to eat the scraps --- I guess I chose a spot far enough out of her usual stomping grounds.

Stay tuned for more updates as our Lactobacillus and store-bought bokashi buckets hit the soil!

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
EcoGlow chick brooder power cord repair
Brinsea EcoGlow brooder power cord repair

Our Brinsea EcoGlow chick brooder we love so much stopped working.

The power cord broke at the little nub. Some careful plastic surgery freed the nub enough to reach the wires on the other side.

Splicing the wire and deleting the nub brought it back to life. The wires aren't color coded, so you have to figure out the polarity by trial and error. A dab of silicone is all it took to seal up the hole.


I am sorry.

I am a mess.

Yes, I know I am toxic.

If I were a plant I would be Tobacco.

I was born on a tobacco farm beside milkweeds and swallowtails.

My father had a toothache as if predicting the pain I would bring.

I have heard of friends writing out former friends

because of their toxin.

I would be a carcinogen -

the source of the death of my first true friend.

I will hurt you.

I want to be friends with you like a cig craves fire.

I want you to know I will hurt you in savage ways I did not mean to.

I am a wanting honest burley Nicotiana.

I also am a human being.

Drugs cannot not harmless but I can be harmless but I can be cured.

Our family were tobacco farmers.

Some wild idea – a seed planted that farming canceled out the unpronounced poison we sowed.

After we moved, legislation would pass giving educational grants to farmers.

You probably can imagine the feeling of blood on our hands.

Yes, I am saying I am aware my personality is dangerous.

Please do not put me in your mouth – I'll burn a hole.

But if you can bring me in a pouch to remember native tradition

I'll carry your thoughts to the Creator. I can do that.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Goats, apple blossoms, chickens, and bees
Rainy cardinal

Ten weeks after its first cleaning, the goat bedding had once again built up to the point where straw was overflowing the cinderblocks on the downhill side of the coop. In early February, I used the manure/straw/hay mixture in an experimental area, but this time around I needed the biomass in the main garden. So I deposited the goat bedding around blueberries, gooseberries, Cleaning out deep beddingcurrants, a few apple trees, and on beds that will be planted with corn and cucumbers in two weeks. Here's hoping weed seeds don't make me regret this use (but you'll notice I only spread the bedding in areas where it will be simple to kill mulch if necessary to keep sprouting grasses in line).

You'll also notice that I was too engrossed in my task to get Mark to photograph me this time around --- the photo above is from February when I cleaned out the coop with goats inside. This time, I tethered our little herd near the blueberries, which went great until Abigail pulled up her tether at the bitter end and got three good mouthfuls of apple leaves. Bad goat!

Two variety apple tree

Speaking of apple trees, the first blossoms are opening on the earliest apple varieties. The tree shown above is primarily Virginia Beauty, but I grafted a little bit of William's Pride onto one limb two years ago. The graft union has nearly disappeared, but I can tell where one variety stops and the other starts because the Virginia Beauty buds are just barely unfurling while the William's Pride is in full bloom. Maybe we'll get to taste both types of apples this fall?

Chickens and ducks on pasture

This was also the week when we shut our hens and ducks into the pasture for the growing season. One of you mentioned in the comments a few weeks ago that you didn't remember we still had chickens --- if you want to read more about our poultry, be sure to check out our chicken blog where we give many more details about our feathered friends.

Empty honeycomb

I'll end this disjointed post with a look up under the bee hive. There's not much going on in the bottom box yet, but our colony is working hard and will hopefully reach their basement level soon. We've got another package shipping next week, so our apiary will be even more abuzz in short order!

Can you tell it was a beautiful and exhausting spring day Wednesday?

New Life

When the elm tree died a message was sent under her boughs.

Grow, grow grow!

I know herbalists who lived in Tennessee for decades,

farmers, naturalists who only saw a handful - ever.

That elm had five morels in my small backyard just yesterday

and two more coming today.

Waking with questions of morels and ethics

a part of me is extinguished by self loathing, doubt.

So I reach inside and kill it -

get rid of this flaw and that flaw,

chop them down,

hoping for something better.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Weeding in the rain
Muddy weeding

Do you weed during rainy days or stay inside where's it's dry? My answer depends on the season. In March, no way am I weeding in rain that freezes my fingers and leaves me shivering. But in April? When it's t-shirt weather and a gentle shower makes dandelions pop out of the soil with a gentle tug? Sure, I'll weed in the rain. Once your pants and shirt are fully soaked, you don't even notice the water (and mud) anymore.

Weed pile

The real conundrum is what to do with all that weedy biomass. I once read a novel that I was thoroughly enjoying...until the author had her heroine weed the garden and stuff the weeds into garbage bags to go out with the trash. I stopped reading in horror. Sure, weeds have troubling seeds and the perennials have roots that will start growing again under the right conditions, but no way am I letting all that organic matter leave the farm.

Lately, I've been dumping weeds in big piles at the ends of perennial rows where a few resprouting weeds won't present a problem. The weed piles rot down into excellent soil that --- with a cardboard layer on top --- is perfect for planting a new tree or bush into. I started one of this past fall's new high-density apple rows that way, and the trees seem to be thriving in the rich ground.

But I'm always looking for new weed solutions. What do you do with your weeds?

Living without/in Quaker Meeting

Stick your head under the water a little more, and really listen. Every moment is Quaker Meeting. You're in the lap pool wondering how you can install Quakerism into your daily life. You are here in the pool swimming right now. You know how to swim. You can make it to the end of a pool. There is a little child learning to swim.

You do not have to work or want to work. You do not have to explain yourself to others. You are a scholar of swimming. Maybe there is a drought right now. Or maybe it is raining and you are the only one with vision enough to see - the moment is God. All you know is this child one lane over is afraid of water. The woman with him demands a certain space - give it to her. But smile. All you have to do in this moment is to smile. Enjoy the water. Maybe he will look at you and see that it is possible. Maybe as a child his vision of the world will be as unobstructed as yours and he will see the grace here.

Effortlessness can be the hardest thing in the world. There will be a place for you to live up to the responsibility you have as a Quaker minister here on this Earth. In a Meeting there are obvious responsibilities to be fulfilled. The Meeting house needs all of the funds that run a house or the light bulbs and the toilet paper will not magically appear. The children need a caretaker who can pass a background check and the elderly people - everyone actually - needs a committee to gently poke into their business and the house needs someone to open and close the doors and lock up and move the chairs in place and turn off the heat and on the heat. It is no small duty to write away to end the wars and the death penalty and to take care of our Earth.

But in a way when we have a Quaker Meeting house and a Quaker Meeting ready and available, we sometimes forget we live in a beautiful world every day. We are pilgrims/sages/ministers every moment, that is we should be. So go a while without sticking your toes in the ocean. Live by the sea pining for it, or be such an inlander that swimming is impossible for a very long time. You are fasting to learn that food actually is not what nourishes us. This is already too many metaphors all piled together. But the point is we are vessels of God's work every moment.

You are and your interupting mother is. You must write this blog no more. You must feed your body. Life is a contradiction in terms but here we are. Love it! Find the beauty in it. Beauty itself is a purposeful direction.

Sometimes in silent worship you realize there is no silence there either. Just rain, a member cutting carrots in the kitchen, the coffee maker brewing, and a dog panting on the porch out front.

We must mile at all of these things, at the impossible goal of life, especially because smiling is the feeble only thing possible in the situation at hand. Smile tiumphantly at this impossible beauty.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 275-276 mostly Windows

Mostly working on Windows recently. Fixed handling of git repos on different drive letters. Fixed crazy start menu loop. Worked around stange msysgit version problem.

Also some more work on the concurrentprogress branch, making the progress display prettier.

Added one nice new feature yesterday: git annex info $dir now includes a table of repositories that are storing files in the directory, with their sizes.

repositories containing these files: 
    288.98 MB: ca9c5d52-f03a-11df-ac14-6b772ffe59f9 -- archive-5
    288.98 MB: f1c0ce8d-d848-4d21-988c-dd78eed172e8 -- archive-8
     10.48 MB: 587b9ccf-4548-4d6f-9765-27faecc4105f -- darkstar
     15.18 kB: 42d47daa-45fd-11e0-9827-9f142c1630b3 -- origin

Nice thing about this feature is it's done for free, with no extra work other than a little bit of addition. All the heavy location lookup work was already being done to get the numcopies stats.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
A day of garden firsts
Mowing the garden aisles

Monday was a day of firsts for 2015. First pass of the lawn mower through the garden...

Strawberry flower

...first blooming strawberry (which would have been more photogenic if I'd snapped the shot before the lawn mower dusted the plant with grass clippings)...

Tomatoes in cold frame

...first day I trusted the long-range forecast enough to put our tomatoes and basil outside in the cold frame (you sure can tell the difference between the plants that were right up against the window and those who had to cope with less light inside)...

Asparagus and spring greens

...and the first delicious taste of homegrown asparagus (which we promptly roasted).

Grazing goats

Nursing goat kidThe garden excitement was punctuated by the sound of three tethered goats chomping as quickly as they could through the new greenery. Well, Artemesia tried to jump up in my wheelbarrow as I passed by, Lamb Chop did his level best to tangle everyone up in his lead, and Abigail stood guard against the terrifying sound of the lawn mower. But our herd did some grazing too.

Do you think Abigail will keep letting her son nurse if he grows taller than she is before he's two months old?

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Farm monorail solution?
farm monorail system also called MonoRack

We've been thinking about solving our driveway problem with a farm monorail.

They're called Monoracks in Japan and they've been used since 1966.

We're not quite sure how much or how to order one. The website hasn't responded to our inquiry. Have any of our readers seen one of these operating in the United States? Maybe we could be the first?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Farmstead Feast: Spring

Farmstead Feast: SpringFirst of all, I owe a huge thank-you to everyone who read and reviewed my first cookbook so quickly! Your kind words then make it cost effective now to list the second book in the series free for one day only. So nab Farmstead Feast: Spring while it's hot...and if you have a minute to write a review after you're done reading, then chances are I'll give you the next book in the series free too.

(I hope that doesn't count as bribery. I like to think of the technique as more like the teacher who promises the whole class a pizza party if no one is absent for an entire month.)

Not sure if my cookbook is worth your time? You'll find another
dozen-plus recipes inside that are easy and delicious to fix using homegrown ingredients, so Farmstead Feast: Spring should hit the spot. As a bonus, I've included a step-by-step guide to harvesting dandelions and to taking maple syrup from tree to table, along with a quick primer on planting for a 12-month harvest. So hopefully everyone will find something to love in this short book!

On a related note, I'm well aware that cookbooks are a bit annoying to use in ereader form. So I've created a print version of Farmstead Feast: Winter, and marked the print price down to the bare minimum Amazon would allow --- $3.99. There will be a print edition of Farmstead Feast: Spring coming down the pipe soon, too, so stay tuned!

Finally, if you're not sure whether Farmstead Feast: Winter is worth keeping on your shelf, come back to Amazon tomorrow and the first ebook in the series will be free for a limited time as well. I hope that helps you round out your cookbook collection. And, as always, thanks for reading!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
2015 fruit tree flowers running a little slow
Wet pear flowers

Apple flowers in a fistWhen extreme winter cold nips the peach bloom buds before they can even start to swell, spring feels very slow in coming. But I think we're only running about three or four days behind last year, based on the emergence date of the first nanking cherry flower (April 9) and pear blossom (April 10). That sets us perhaps two weeks behind some much warmer springs...which might mean our tree flowers will sidestep the freezes of dogwood and blackberry winters.

Honeyberry flower

This is the time of year when it's so hard not to count your fruits before they set. My rule of thumb with perennials flowering for the first time is that they won't keep their developing flowers all the way to fruition unless there are dozens of blooms present. That means the crazy Kidd's Orange Red apple tree, who appears to have a clump of bloom buds despite having only been grafted this time last year, has almost no chance of setting fruit. But the Seckel pear, with dozens of flower buds in evidence even though the tree hadn't bloomed before, might just make my day sometime this fall.

Lettuce bed

RaabOf course, there's enough going on in the vegetable garden right now that I really shouldn't be wasting time drooling over fruit-tree flowers. We enjoyed our first spring salad Thursday and raab is finally popping up with its broccoli-like cooking opportunities. To celebrate, the second cookbook in my Farmstead Feast series will go live tomorrow and will be free for one day only. Be sure to check back and download your copy!

Recycled Moment

There is this woman in the center of page 33 -
the expression of her face is so subtle -
her rosy cheeks -
her strong willful eyes.
I divide her face with my finger.
There is no symmetry,
but she is perfect and realistic.

I'm pulled into the picture;
dust off my apron.
I want to introduce myself.
I want to be her friend.

“It's my vest,”
she says;
tells me she is used to stares.

I want to say that no it is her eyes,
but then our train starts going and
she turns to a man with the brush and the pallet.

“I never saw much in the Mona Lisa.”
I say.
“But what do they call you?”
I wonder.

I let my imagination take me.

Joey chatter

0x27 in programmer years means

... I can mostly sort of understand this:

... And hey, I remember that guy, we had lunch in Canberra once and the whole table of LCA attendees happened to know Haskell.

... And, it seems, I wake up at 6 am to watch lectures like this now?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Mouse nest in the hive
Feeding bees

We'd get a lot more honey if we fed our bees more. But I try to use sugar water as a last resort, only feeding when the bees wouldn't have enough stores to survive without the helping hand.

Still, when I took out the bottom board of our warre hive, tried to take a photo up through the screen...and couldn't because the entire bottom of the hive was covered with mouse debris, I knew that only a weak hive would let a rodent move in. Time to feed.

Taking apart a warre hive

And also time to take apart the hive to get rid of that mouse nest. From my aborted photo, I'd assumed that I really needed to get into the bottom box to deal with the mouse, but it turns out that I could have just lifted up the whole hive the way you do when you nadir and cleaned off the bottom board that way. Because the mouse hadn't damaged any of the comb in the bottom box at all, as I discovered when I broke warre rules and took the hive apart.

Since the two boxes were already apart, I also took a quick peek in the top box, saw some capped brood, and quickly closed the colony back up. Although the boxes are light and thus clearly very low on honey, sugar water and dandelions should carry the colony through. Looks like our three-year-old hive is still buzzing along!

Joey git-annex devblog
day 274 concurrent annex state

Back working on git annex get --jobs=N today. It was going very well, until I realized I had a hard problem on my hands.

The hard problem is that the AnnexState structure at the core of git-annex is not able to be shared amoung multiple threads at all. There's too much complicated mutable state going on in there for that to be feasible at all.

In the git-annex assistant, which uses many threads, I long ago worked around this problem, by having a single shared AnnexState and when a thread needs to run an Annex action, it blocks until no other thread is using it. This worked ok for the assistant, with a little bit of thought to avoid long-duration Annex actions that could stall the rest of it.

That won't work for concurrent get etc. I spent a while investigating maybe making AnnexState thread safe, but it's just not built for it. Too many ways that can go wrong. For example, there's a CatFileHandle in the AnnexState. If two threads are running, they can both try to talk to the same git cat-file --batch command at once, with bad results. Worse, yet, some parts of the code do things like modifying the AnnexState's Git repo to add environment variables to use when running git commands.

It's not all gloom and doom though. Only very isolated parts of the code change the working directory or set environment variables. And the assistant has surely smoked out other thread concurrency problems already. And, separate git-annex programs can be run concurrently with no problems at all; it uses file locking to avoid different processes getting in each-others' way. So AnnexState is the only remaining obstacle to concurrency.

So, here's how I've worked around it: When git annex get -J10 is run, it will start by allocating 10 job slots. A fresh AnnexState will be created, and copied into each slot. Each time a job runs, it uses its slot's own AnnexState. This means 10 git cat-file processes, and maybe some contention over lock files, but generally, a nice, easy, and hopefully trouble-free multithreaded mode.

And indeed, I've gotten git annex get -J10 working robustly! And from there it was trivial to enable -J for move and copy and mirror too!

The only real blocker to merging the concurrentprogress branch is some bugs in the ascii-progress library that make it draw very scrambled progress bars the way git-annex uses it.

Joey chatter

Pleased that I helped the curl developers fix its behavior when downloading a 0-byte url. Before now, it "successfully" didn't create a file at all in this situation.

They went from "It certainly works like this on purpose, it is not a mistake" to "I have merged the fix for this issue". All it took in this case was gently pointing out a better approach than the one they'd gotten stuck on.

Good bug reporting is such an art. Mine aren't always so good, or successful. Sometimes just funny is the way to go

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Grafting plums and pears
Woody plant propagation

Every year, I treat myself to $100 worth of perennials. This is my big splurge so I squash my usual skinflint tendencies and allow myself to be experimental. As a result of my whims, maybe a third of the perennials bought during these splurges perish and I learn that almonds are beloved by Japanese beetles and get a lot of diseases to boot (making them unworthy of babying on our farm) and that honeyberries taste more like sour blackberries than honey. On the other hand, I also discover that Bocking 4 comfrey is indeed the very tastiest variety from a livestock point of view and that Caroline red raspberries are both delicious and extremely prolific.

This year, I added two additional hazelnut varieties to our forest garden, but I spent the entire rest of my perennial budget on shipping out scionwood (to swap for varieties I wanted) and on ordering rootstock. The most experimental of my graftees this year are the plums, which are really supposed to be grafted by budding during the growing season. However, snow from the barn roof completely snapped off one of our plum trees and did a number on the other, so I decided to try dormant-season grafting to keep Imperial Epineuse and Seneca alive on our farm. And, while I was at it, I also swapped for Mirabelle de Nancy, Late Transparent Gage, and Reine de Mirabelle to round out our planting. All types of scionwood were grafted onto St. Juliene rootstock, then went into pots to sit inside where it's warm since pros warn that, with dormant-season grafting of plums, any cold weather during the callousing process will lower your chances of success dramatically.


My main grafting episode, though, involved pears. We've decided to add a couple of rows of high-density pear trees since our high-density apple trees are growing so well...and since the high-density system makes it much more feasible for me to try out a large number of varieties in a small space. I mostly aimed for disease-resistant pears, Seckel bloom budbut I added in some other varieties as well when swappers offered types I'd never heard of. If all of my grafts take, Moonglow, Leona, Hosui, Warren, Blake's Pride, Potomac, Honey Sweet, Shinko, Maxine, and Carl's Favorite will be joining the ranks of our farmyard pomes. I'll be sure to tell you how the trees fare and the fruits 2022 at the latest.

And, in other pear news, out in the orchard, Seckel looks like she's about to bloom for us for the first time in 2015! Now, if everyone will send "no freezes below 25 degrees" thoughts wafting toward our farm, maybe we'll get to taste what is sometimes colloquially known as a "honey pear" this fall.

Maggie too
One Woman Looking for Right Words
She was an easy target. She sometimes brought cold shoulders and empty rooms. Maybe she had low self esteem – but she called it humility when she verbally badgered herself. She would rather not stoop to their level though, a sure sign of beauty. They liked to tease her, to beat her at their mean games.

Her mother told her one morning she had a way of not arguing. She thought she misheard her mother, so her mother repeated it. According to her mother then, she didn't want conflict in her life.

She always thought she was outspoken and sometimes she was, but she also sometimes turned the other cheek or tried to gloss over trouble. She looked down at her feet wondering how she could be more vocal for herself. Could she argue more in a manner that did not burn bridges, but clearly stated her opposition? Clearly she didn't agree with everything.

This more than anything feels like my story as a woman today.

I sometimes loose the energy to speak up for myself. So many things I should say or should have said. I don't want to fill the role of a person who is easy to get along with. I don't want to let people speak over me when I know more than they do about the situation. I want to stand up for myself.

My personality doesn't want to be weak anymore. I want to speak and I want to find how to be heard in a way that honors who I ultimately want to be.

My big heart belongs on my sleeves and compassion is the way. How do I respond with strength all the time?
Joey git-annex devblog
day 273 unexpected release

I've had to release git-annex twice this week to fix reversions. On Monday, just after I made a planned release, I discovered a bug in it, and had to update it with a .1 release. Today's release fixes 2 other reversions introduced by recent changes, both only affecting the assistant.

Before making today's release, I did a bunch of other minor bugfixes and improvements, including adding a new contentlocationn plumbing command. This release also changes git annex add when annex.largefiles is configured, so it will git add the non-large files. That is particularly useful in direct mode.

I feel that the assistant needs some TLC, so I might devote a week to it in the latter part of this month. My current funding doesn't cover work on the assistant, but I should have some spare time toward the end of the month.

Let Us See What Fisherman Will Do
"Just wait and see what happens." Not my favorite mental health plan; not what would wish on anyone, epecially with my temperament. But my vessel is just a fish in waters with no control over my waters. If I find myself on the deck of some ship, maybe that sailor will throw me back in. Gasping anxiously is the exact opposite of a good plan for that moment. So it's ok to just be completely helpless - because when you stop and think of it, we all are!
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
When to transplant spring seedlings
Cabbage seedling

I'm extremely picky about transplanting weather at this time of year. Sure, I prefer to pick an overcast day with rain on the horizon, but I also aim for a day when there will be no frosts for at least a week. The cabbage I set out a few weeks ago and the broccoli and onions I transplanted Monday can all handle light freezes once they're established but transplant stress + freeze = unhappy seedlings. Thus waiting until the perfect day comes around, even if it doesn't match the planting date on my calendar.

Of course, with our variable weather, I'm pretty much guaranteed to still have to cover our transplants (and early sprouters like peas) with row-cover fabric a time or two before our frost-free date. After all, even established cabbages can be damaged by freezes below about 25 degrees (aka killing frosts). But it's worth that inevitable babying to get the jumpstart on the season since early broccoli and cabbages have much less pressure from cabbageworms, while early peas produce more fruits before hot weather makes the vines unhappy.

As usual, gardening is a balancing act between planting too late and too early. Maybe that endless puzzle is why I stay entertained with growing the same vegetables year after year...or maybe it's just the delicious flavor of homegrown food that makes the weeding worthwhile.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Planting willow cuttings
Willow bush

Salix purpurea catkinI've been holding off on my willow-building experiment because I couldn't quite decide whether our native black willow (Salix nigra) was too tree-like (eventual height 33 to 98 feet) to keep small in the format of a living sculpture. Then, while out hunting cattail spears for lunch, I stumbled across a stand of what are probably planted purple willows (Salix purpurea) and decided that this smaller (up to 15 feet), introduced species would be easier to keep within bounds.

Preparing willow cuttings

It's good that I found the willow stand when I did because the bushes were already blooming and a few leaves were even popping out on the most advanced branches. For my experiment, I chose young branches, cut off any blooming tops, snipped the wood down to about eighteen inches, then whittled each base into a point. Willow cuttings ready to go into the ground!

Rooting willow cuttings

Back home, I prepared the ground by laying down chicken-feed bags, cut open, which will act as a weed barrier. (This is important --- it's hard for even a willow to grow roots and get established if it has to compete with weeds.) Next, I used a rebar to punch holes through the paper and about eight inches into the earth, then I pushed my willow cuttings into the holes.

Now it's time to wait for the show to begin. In the meantime, I fed the willow tops to the goats, and Abigail deemed them "highly palatable --- hey, get away from my willow twigs, Artemesia!" So I guess the eventual prunings are already spoken for.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
How much rain does it take to fill an IBC tank?
Water tower

For those of you concerned about the safety of Mark's jack-support hack --- don't worry, he's going to beef up the tower some more.

In the meantime, I wanted to let a little rain flow into the IBC tank to get an idea for how much precipitation it would take to fill the reservoir. The photo above was taken in the middle of the rain event, but, much to my distress, even after the full 1.2 inches fell, the tank still looked nearly empty.

Goat kid on mushroom logs

"You know, we only have the tank plumbed to a small section of the roof," Mark reminded me. True, but surely a 50-square-foot section of roof was enough to fill up an IBC tank in short order? Time for a little math! 275 gallons of capacity equals 63,525 cubic inches. Divide that by the 7,200 square inches of roof area we have plumbed to the tank...and it would require nearly 9 inches of rainfall to fill 'er up.

Which is actually good news, although the realization will make more work for Mark. There's another nearby gutter section currently draining into what has turned into a swamp along the backside of the trailer. If we add another T and include this gutter into the IBC-collection line, then we should be able to fill up the tank with only 4.5 inches of rainfall (while drying up problematic ground). That means we'd fill the tank up every month on average, giving us plenty of water to keep the mushroom logs below well hydrated. Back to work!

Joey chatter

Laundry, taxes, and then an emergency .1 bugfix release. I've had better days.

my Moment of truth

Somebody in my mood group suggested I keep a regular mood chart right now. I replied to her:

'I like your idea of keeping a mood chart, which maybe I shall start. I am not good at IDing my moods though. Like the other day I was manic and thought I was just undergoing a large life transition and totally "fine". And then yesterday I was weeping to my sis on the phone and she said I might be depressed and I said "depression is at least a week."

Now I am for one second resting in the humility of 'I have been wrong. I have been identifying my moods wrong all my life. I have a mood disorder so that really matters. I need to listen to the wisdom of others who are better than me at distinguishing moods at least until I learn how. I need to learn how.' But how?

Also, my world is blown open right now because I have been so misguided for so long, and because I thought I was doing so much better than I really am. For instance, I never was 10 years without an episode, just out of the hospital. No wonder my personal human resources are so exhaustable.

But hope has to be here. Maybe this is my sink or swim moment. Maybe this is my turning point and thanks to all the chocolate along the way, I am particularly buoyant.'

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Trailersteading on sale for 99 cents!

TrailersteadingTrailersteading began as a joke, turned into an inspiration for aspiring homesteaders, and now --- in its expanded second edition --- the ebook contains dozens of pages of additional hands-on information to help turn that inspiration into a reality.

Even if you don't want to live in a mobile home, this book contains step-by-step instructions for replicating some of our permaculture systems, like treating greywater in a wetland that provides beautiful wildlife habitat and also grow cattails for the table.

There are sections on rain barrels and humanure, along with thirteen case studies of homesteaders who have embraced voluntary simplicity in a mobile home.

And, of course, if you think a trailer might be in your future, the book will be even more helpful with tips on insulating, fire-proofing, and much more.

Trailersteading usually goes for $5.99, but it's on sale right now for 99 cents. So snag your copy and enjoy!


On a related note, I want to thank Buck Books for featuring Trailersteading (a link to which will go out in their daily deals email tomorrow). If you're like me and read voraciously (and especially if your library is very small), it can be a struggle to feed your literary appetite. Since authors often run free or very cheap price promotions as a way of getting our books in front of new eyes, it's possible to stock up on books for no or very little cash. Buck Books is one of the services that helps hook up authors with readers, and if you're in either camp, then I recommend you check them out!

Joey git-annex devblog
day 272 forest for trees

Rethought distributed fsck. It's not really a fsck, but an expiration of inactive repositories, where fscking is one kind of activity. That insight let me reimplement it much more efficiently. Rather than updating all the location logs to prove it was active, git annex fsck can simply and inexpensively update an activity log. It's so cheap it'll do it by default. The git annex expire command then reads the activity log and expires (or unexpires) repositories that have not been active in the desired time period. Expiring a repository simply marks it as dead.

Yesterday, finished making --quiet really be quiet. That sounds easy, but it took several hours. On the concurrentprogress branch, I have ascii-progress hooked up and working, but it's not quite ready for prime time.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Cable pulley hauling line

Mark has wanted a zipline to run from our parking area to our core homestead for years, both as a way of moving people and of moving stuff. Over and over, I explained the reasons I didn't think it would work:

  • The cable would have to run across our neighbor's field to go in a straight line, and I don't think said neighbor would be thrilled at the idea.
  • We'd actually have to run two ziplines to be able to go in both directions, and that would also require hauling supplies up onto the hill above our cars before attaching said supplies to the zipline.
  • We'd have to cut down a lot of trees to give the zipline a straight shot.
  • The total distance (about 900 feet in a straight line) is pretty daunting.
Route map

However, I've been wondering lately if a different cable-related scheme might be the way to expedite hauling while the floodplain is sodden and our eventual driveway upgrade is slow in coming. Glad of any line-based solution, Mark was quick to remind me that we really only need to span the worst of the swamp, which would be a smaller distance and would require cutting fewer trees out of the way.

our new access point by the goat shed, we could potentially run a 350-foot cable from a hill above the driveway near the ford (point A) to the goat-shed area (point B), hauling supplies in the ATV to point A (since an old logging road runs up onto that knoll) and then in a cart from point B to our garden along another old logging road. This would cut off the entirety of the terrible-driveway areas and allow me to haul in the manure I so badly a few short weeks. (Yes, we're hitting crunch time around here.)

Pulley system

A zipline might be dicey for hauling supplies, but what about a circular line designed like a hefty pulley clothesline? One person would stand at point A loading buckets onto the line, then someone else would pull the line at point B and unload the buckets.

I'm thinking of using galvanized "aircraft" cable just like people use for ziplines, either 7x7 or 7x19 strands. Does anyone know how to figure out the weight limit on a system like this (so I can decide which diameter cable to spring for --- 3/8", 5/16", or 1/4")? And how would you suspend the load --- make a little carriage for the buckets to ride in that is suspended from the cable by some kind of hook? Or make the cable support a single line like a zipline (instead of my pulley system) with a carriage that rolls along it pulled by a rope on both sides? Either way, do you think this system is even feasible over a 350-foot span? Please tell me why my idea is every bit as crazy as Mark's was (or how you would design the system to make it work)!

Maggie too
Son. Sun. Potato, Potato. In Which Christ Rises Again
Jesus isn't reborn literally. Son. Sun. Potato, Potato.
There was a great man. He knew a lot about medicine? He had a great atitute towards prostitutes. Way ahead of his time.
He walked across water, on a particularly high sand dune. When he was crucified, he died. He died in a time of prophets. They were pretty spot on about what would come in the days of climate change.
He rose again the next Sunday, in lightness. He rose into the eyes and hearts of all who remembered him. He was love. He was the force that brings us all to tears, the bright son. We would always think of him, on earth and in heaven, eating our daily presliced bread, or before sliced bread. In the eyes of others, we would see that of something holy.
Wars would be fought in his name. He would role over in his grave.
Some would use his name for peace. Others would plant tomatos wondering if it would be sunny tomorrow, but otherwise bored with the story of the son, of Jesus.
a Seed Emerging

They saw her with almonds

pulling the pits from her pockets

her face dry from their pulp.

They saw her sitting at a gas station

on the outskirts of town

scratching a pen on a legal pad.

They smelled her there

the homeless man who she first saw

said she was the scent of second hand tobacco.

Others said she wore a sweet perfume

water or salt.

A few were afraid of her.

Many spit as they walked past.

Then she got up

and kept on like a boat finding its horizon.

But she must have changed her course.

A man saw her sitting in the shade

by his little creek.

A girl saw her scamper

to the other side

as if she felt their eyes.

To become what seeds become

when a woman's stout hand

points them deep into fertile ground.

He lets her tresspass there

despite her leg hair.

Who owns the land anyway?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
A goat tradition
Goat grazing on rye

A club I once attended had a saying, "If we hold an event twice in a row, then it becomes a tradition." With a goat, this is even more true.

After tethering our girls after the human lunch for three days running, during which time we allowed the caprines to graze until Abigail could barely waddle home afterwards, our goats decided there was no point in eating morning hay. Why not just wait for afternoon rye and clover? So, on day four, when life got in the way and I didn't let the girls out until 4 pm, the moaning and bellyaching coming from the goat area was overwhelming. Abigail told me she was starving to death...even though she still had plenty of hay in the manger.

Grazing clover

Goat laundryUnfortunately, it's not quite the season for daily gorging yet. Over the course of three short days, our goat herd mowed down all of the high rye areas in our yard, and now there are just patches of newly growing grasses and clover for them to eat. I guess our girls will have to make do with half-full bellies for another week or two until the grass catches up with the overwintering grains. (Or they'll have to resort to eating hay. Horrors!)

Goat closeup

As a side note, I was considering starting to milk Abigail out in the evenings after our milk production nearly doubled one day this week to a pint during our morning milking. But when I got our doe on the milking stand that evening, I discovered that her udders were much emptier than I've ever seen them. In other words, I'm now confident that Abigail holds back about half of her morning milk for the little rascal, which means she's likely producing at least a quart a day (even though she only gives us a cup). Maybe that one high-production day she just forgot to hold back Lamb Chop's milk, or he hadn't drunk her quite as dry the night before? Either way, as I watch Abigail's kid eat a little more grass every day, I dream of the milk production once he's weaned.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 271 parallel get groundwork

I've started work on parallel get. Today, laid the groundwork in two areas:

  1. Evalulated the ascii-progress haskell library. It can display multiple progress bars in the terminal, portably, and its author Pedro Tacla Yamada has kindly offered to improve it to meet git-annex's needs.

    I ended up filing 10 issues on it today, around 3 of the are blockers for git-annex using it.

  2. Worked on making --quiet more quiet. Commands like rsync and wget need to have thier progress output disabled when run in parallel.

    Didn't quite finish this yet.

Yesterday I made some improvements to how git-annex behaves when it's passed a massive number of directories or files on the command line. Eg, when driven by xargs. There turned out to be some bugs in that scenario.

One problem one I kind of had to paper over. While git-annex get normally is careful to get the files in the same order they were listed on the command line, it becomes very expensive to expand directories using git-ls-files, and reorder its output to preserve order, when a large number offiles are passed on the command line. There was a O(N*M) time blowup.

I worked around it by making it only preserve the order of the first 100 files. Assumption being that if you're specifying so many files on the command line, you probably have less of an attachment to their ordering. :)


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