Dear me half my age,

A few days ago I ran into a young woman at the pool. Worry is a big word and I did not worry for her, but I wondered if my perception was true. She was a fast swimmer about 16 by my estimate and I mentioned to her she was the quickest swimmer I ever have seen, though she denied it could be true.

Today she was slower in the waters. Our small talk for her probably was unexciting, but in her tired eyes I saw a person so like me at that age I wanted to tell her my life story, teach her all the lessons, but of course, in stead, I let her do her thing. People here at the Y and often on this earth do their thing and sometimes let their thing, the pattern of it sometimes govern their life in a way that is not free.

I asked her for a conversation. I told her I wanted to teach her a lesson, and though she found it odd, she was not concerned. Luckily she had been my student as a sub one time. She took a rain check on the conversation and I let her go, but a part of me was remembering. A part of me was remembering how much pain I went through just after being so much like her.

I had said to her it is ok to slack, but she denied that she tries too hard. She mentioned she seeks balance in parts of her life but pushes harder in swimming and grades and cleaning. But slacking as much as I meant is something that takes years to really feel as an accomplishment. I really am terribly hard working. I was just using the term slack to get to something I knew must be true for her.

In her tired eyes I saw a life that could easily be governed by patterns aiming at accomplishment that never really breath or play or give herself time to feel completely entirely lost but ultimately find a much more true and genuine self. Walking away from the pool I wondered what great and sad things will happen to this girl. I wished her all the best.

Then I trod off into the air knowing more than ever I have something special here in my own life that most people do not see or understand is there. But that is ok with me!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Please help my friend become a NYT bestselling author
Secret Worlds box set

I don't usually bore you with too many book posts, but I'm hoping you'll bear with a bit more publishing news. First of all, if you missed last week's summer sale post, Homegrown Humus is marked down to 99 cents for one more day, you've got two days left to snap up Thrifty Chicken Breeds on sale, Pasture Basics went on sale this morning, and Growing into a Farm will join the 99-cent ranks on Thursday.

But that's not what I really want to tell you about this afternoon. Instead, I'm escaping the world of homesteading for a few minutes in order to share Aimee Easterling's big news. I've been helping Aimee publish her novels through Wetknee Books, and one of those titles is now included in a box set that went on sale this morning. For a limited time, you can snap up all 21 novels for only 99 cents, meaning that even speed readers like me could have a whole month of reading for less than a buck. What a great deal!

Secret Worlds box set teaser

The overarching goal is to help the box set hit the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists. We have the first of these in the bag (we hope), but it's going to take some serious book-selling if we want Aimee to be able to call herself a New York Times bestseller.

Girl in greenTo that end, I hope you'll take a minute to share the news with anyone who enjoys paranormal fantasy. And, if you wrote a review of Shiftless when it first went live, I hope you'll take a minute to copy and paste that review over onto the box set page. Then email me with a link to your review by the end of the day today and I'll put your name in the hat. One lucky reviewer will be receiving signed paperback copies of both of Aimee's werewolf books (or, if you prefer, of The Naturally Bug-Free Garden and The Weekend Homesteader). I hope that sweetens the pot and makes you more likely to spend three minutes at the keyboard this afternoon.

Book sales are what give me the leisure to experiment in the garden all day and share my learnings with you, so I really appreciate your efforts to make Aimee's box set a success.
And thank you so much for bearing with this commercial break!

revisited old poem

Every mood I tried
to capture with paint
I learned that some things
are truly impossible,
that the cabbage white butterflies
and the question marks and commas
transform before me
into locust leaves or flakes of frost and snow
everything changes so quickly
that very reason
is why I paint in complimentary colors.
I see red so I paint green.
Nothing remains. We all are shadows
testifying to yesterday.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
The Lonesome Pine Limited
Steam engine

Between morning and evening milkings Saturday, I collected my mom and went back in time to the nineteenth century. The age of steam!

Old and new trains

Mom and MaggieBack when steam trains were starting to go out of style, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum started buying up engines and passenger cars in an effort to keep at least a few of these old-timey trains on the rails. They renovated the steam trains, and now you can take short or slightly longer trips behind a coal-powered locomotive. When I saw that a day trip was leaving from Bristol (1.25 hours from our farm and a five minute walk from my mom's house), I was hooked. My summer adventure had been decided!

Appalachian farm country

After enjoying the rush of watching the steam locomotive back the train up to the historic Bristol train station, Mom and I climbed aboard and settled in to watch the scenery pass by. Although we were paralleling a minor highway (11E) the whole way, it was intriguing to see the countryside from a different perspective. Even just a few miles from the highway, the landscape was pastoral, full of cattle pastures, ancient farm houses, and the occasional backyard garden.

Tennessee mountains

I'm pretty sure I noticed someone emulating Salatin's egg-mobile along with an example of Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening method. There were blooming mimosas and trumpet vines, one wild deer, and at least a hundred interested people parked at crossroads with cameras in hand, ready to record the steam locomotive's charismatic presence (and to wave us on our way).

Me smiling

About halfway through the journey, Mom and I decided it was time to explore! So we set out to walk to the commissary car in the middle of the train, four cars forward. I loved the gaps between cars, where you could hear the wheels turning beneath you and felt closer to the world whooshing by outside.

Bull's Gap festival

And then, before we knew it, we'd reached our destination --- the tiny town of Bulls Gap, Tennessee. It felt like all 719 residents were involved in welcoming us with a festival erected in our honor. There were tents full of sale items, two museums opened for our perusal, and a delightful bluegrass band playing live music.

Bulls Gap, TN

Yes, with nearly a quarter of the town's population living below the poverty line, I'm sure the goal was to grab some much-needed tourist dollars. But the event had the feel of a down-home welcome anyway, and Mom and I dove right in.

Old wringer washer

Old seed packetsThe museums were a little too packed for comfort (at least for this introvert), but the homeplace of Archie Campbell was more my style. The house is furnished with period stoves, beds, and other paraphernalia, and nothing is marked as hands-off. You can play with the wringer washer and hand-cranked record player and can pick through ancient packets of flower seeds to enjoy the artwork. If you're ever in the area, I recommend dropping by Bulls Gap to see for yourself.

Train painted on saw

Back in the melee of tents, Mom picked up a book by a local herbalist (which came with a free plant), and then we marveled over a scene painted on a saw blade. The section photographed above shows the very engine we rode into town behind.

Mom eating blueberry

We were allotted an hour in Bulls Gap, which was just about right. Although the train folks kindly provided us box lunches before we reached our destination, I'd also packed homegrown goodies since I don't trust the outside world to feed me properly anymore. So Mom and I munched on cucumber sticks, blueberries, and brownies, washing it down with slowly-thawing jars of frozen goat's milk. I felt a bit bad for the folks trying to sell us hot dogs, popcorn, and soft drinks...but, really, which snack would you prefer?

Train coming around the bend

And then engine 4501 pulled back into the Bulls Gap downtown and we climbed aboard.

Mom in front of the train

(Here's an extra photo of Mom with her plant in front of the locomotive, just because.)

Looking ahead

The ride home was quieter as we all drifted back into the beauty of the surrounding scenery.

Home in the rain

And just when I was starting to think that Abigail would be pissed if I was gone much longer, we pulled up to the Bristol station in a pounding rain. Maggie had kindly brought the car down to pick us up so we didn't get soaked, and she'd cooked up Lamb Chop's right front leg into a delicious supper.

But more on that later since this post is already far too long. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride!

crayon statistics

crayons break every day

if we knew the numbers

we could never play

old fashioned crayon homage

they don't make crayon boxes how they used to

and have you seen the button jar

maybe you have one

of each

but if you don't there is hope for you still

outside the box there is a human

waiting to export emotion

on some blank sheet

Crayons in Heat

It doesn't matter where you are

how much damage has been done

rich or poor,

surrounded by passengers for a train

or alone waiting for the umbrellas.

Did you teach a child birding?

Did you walk that dirt and gravel road

so your dogs could run free?

Did you take off your shoes

or replace the bandages to ease the pain?

As long as you are here

waiting for the curtain to draw

moments melting together like hot crayons.

I know you can figure out how to milk the sky.

I know you can do the right thing.

There is never a reason to worry.

for me

rainbow rain

Just let music stream

color in the dark bold shapes

rainbows on lenses.

Emergence and God

In my recently researched understanding, the phenomena of emergence is this way of thinking about how the whole can be larger than the sum of its parts. This huge simple idea is very close to how my conception of God began to evolve. It is a scientific explanation behind ants and birds making collective decisions in the blink of an eye. Emergence in terms of plants and bacteria also makes up our world. In fact water is one of the main substances that easily exhibits emergence. You know how how bodies are composed of cells (and lots of microbial bacteria)? Well there is something bigger happening than a bunch of cells all toppling on top of one another, more than the order and arrangement. My cells all make up this beautiful person with a name and a personality. Who is Maggie? I am not just the sum of my parts, I am so much more!

In my world, when I started to think about God, I let in huge thoughts like this, that God could be something in the very process of evolution. Then for a while I considered all matter, decomposition and death, as a sweet next step for the human body. We become butterflies and snowflakes. Our blood separates and washes away. Somehow this comforted me. But when I started thinking of myself as a Quaker, I considered their huge belief that we are all children of God, or more relevantly, that we all have God in us. I liked the sound of that because it made all humans equal in a justice sense. But it seems a bit forces and dumbed down to me now. I love the Quaker religion, and there are tons of Quaker scientists, but when I talk to Quaker Friends, I hear things too often in terms of clichés. Even the justice expression "that of God in each of us" seems to me overused because it is not an original thought adding to the conversation each time.

New thoughts matter to me because I want to be excited about what I am thinking from the science of emergence to God.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Compost pile, solarization, and beans
Compost pile of weeds

I often use garden weeds to hold down newspaper or cardboard kill mulches around berries or to lower weed pressure under large fruit trees. But the weeds were growing faster than I could use them in June, so this week I gathered up two days worth of weeds to make a compost pile.

The photo above shows the pile before I added a bucket of bokashi-food-scraps and another two wheelbarrow-loads of weeds on top. Next up --- daily urine deposits to start rotting down the relatively high-carbon compost pile. It sure was fun to mound up my weeds, so I might make another compost pile next week!


In other soil-related news, Mark had the bright idea of solarizing the last remaining weed patch within our core homestead. This area gets mowed maybe once a year, and in between it tends to grow up into blackberries and ragweed. My hard-working husband whacked the weeds to the ground and then we laid down a sheet of plastic to see if this technique can work its magic in an area with much higher weed pressure than we've tried it on previously.

Washing green beans

And now that you've seen the weediest parts of our core homestead, I'll end with a happier photo --- the summer's first green beans. Sauted with homegrown garlic and a bit of salt, they were delicious!

Laugh Therapy

Being granted the right to sit in a nice office with a person who specializes in compassion for an hour every two weeks is something that means a lot to me. Meeting a new therapist has been traumatic for me to many times. So when I lived in Virginia, it was with unbounded appreciation to find a LSW who would not judge me, who looked sympathetically upon my condition, who offered steady insights and helped me think better on my own two feet. For a long time I saw that therapist, crossing state lines to see her, paying unfortunate copays, all in old cars that made me uneasy. When I found out insurance will not cover my seeing her, I did cry a lot because of the loss. I harvested a flower for her office that resembled her artificial flower. Delivering it to her office gave me hope.

My new therapist was a bit of a surprise. After two horrible trial runs with two miserable therapists, I had about given up that found hope. Then a couple leads delivered me to an amazing acquaintance with a practice a block from my house. I spent a huge percentage of our first appointment in mutual laughter, like 50 percent of the hour, head back in laughter, with another person who actually finds me funny. (I feel it is important to say he is a man who is pretty much married to another man, and on this special day after love's victory, he hopefully is technically married.) How wonderful it is to have a platonic person with a shared sense of and apreciaton of my kind of humor! If I was just to remark on the first couple sentences, it would be clear he is a fabulous therapist too. His first words to me were that he doesn't like to dredge up old stuff unless they really need brought up.

I don't know if other people would comprehend our jokes but I will give it a try. For example I was kind of explaining my place in things with a sarcastic joking witty angle of speech and he caught on right away and laughed out loud many times. "Well it's not like I live with my mother. I mean I am rolling in dough. I mean it's not like I had to walk here. I forget which new car I brought this time actually." I must say the irony was dripping out of me and he really got it. I actually checked and he did get it! I said I was a "superior kind of crazy" in this play on grandiose. Sure you'd of had to of been there but these are examples, and the thesis here is: Telling jokes with a therapist my first session is more fulfilling than crying over old pains and basically rocks, especially when I am not the only one laughing. :) And I wasn't!

I think research should be done on this method of therapy. Crying is a release, but there is something honest and gritty about laughter, and it releases emotions too. Since I cannot have the first good therapist for a while, I just want my readers to know I have found something equally brilliant, something that feeds my soul, and though I may have tears this time around - I am laughing.

Joey chatter
Yesterday we celebrated my Dad's 74th, and the beginnings 40 years ago of our family's Ocracoke Island tradition. And, if we had known, in our news-free sand and surf bubble, could have celebrated marriage equality too!
Joey chatter
getting plugged back in after a week camping at the beach
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
The summer of the postcard
Botanical postcards

I used to write letters to a few college friends and family members long-hand. The trouble is that, in this age of computers, writing by hand feels terribly slow, so we all got behind in our correspondence and began to consider the letters a chore. Plus, it's hard to fill a letter with unique information now that I share 90% of my daily thoughts with the world on our blog.

Enter the postcard. This summer, I've been playing with these beautiful botanical postcards, dashing off a line whenever I think of it and sending them to all and sundry. Paper correspondence quickly became fun once again!

Kid cards

The first few weeks, it felt like I was fishing. I'd send out postcards to people I hadn't heard from in a while...then wait to see if they'd bite. My mom and I soon settled into a weekly postcard routine, and my grand-niece and grand-nephew came through with the amusing replies above. Glad I'm not the only one who likes strawberries!

I know this post has very little to do with homesteading. But the moral is --- if something used to be fun but became a chore, shake it up and make it fun again! And, if you can't think of your own unique spin, you could do far worse than joining me in the summer of the postcard.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Back to morning tethering

Pair of goats
One of the most joyful parts of having our herd whittled back down to two is that I can return to morning tethering. I still take the girls out for their woodland grazing in the evening, so now I just tether until Abigail grows bored about an hour into her grazing period. To me, our doe doesn't look full after sixty minutes of tethering, but I have to accept that our goat knows what she wants.

Goat and dog

Which isn't to say that our pair of capricious beasties don't stop for a few more mouthfuls of succulent treats on the way back to the coop. Here, Lucy is reminding the goats that the porches (a couple of feet to the left of the photo) belong to her.

Goats eating alfalfa

A few mouthfuls of alfalfa make a good post-breakfast dessert. Then back to the coop to nap and chew their cuds until after the humans' dinner. Such a fun way to start the day, with an hour weeding beside the goats!


more painting...

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
More good solarization results
Soybeans in solarized ground

The photo above shows the results of two different solarization experiments. On the right, two-week-old soybeans are happily growing in ground that used to be a mass of ground ivy prior to solarization (begun two weeks before planting). The weeds have nearly completely decayed into the soil and the soybeans appear to be thriving. There are a few smartweeds coming up from seeds, but none of the perennial weeds have regrown at all.

On the left, you can see a newly solarized area, the ground-ivy debris still lying dead on the soil surface. I could have ripped up those weeds by hand, but the bed would have lost all of that organic matter and my fingers would have been exhausted afterwards. Instead, five minutes of work results in richer soil ready for a round of cover crops.

Preparing for solarization

I've been pretty tentative with my solarization experiments so far because I initially didn't buy into the technique. But with so many successes under my belt, I asked Mark to buy me another roll of clear plastic and am preparing half of our brussels sprouts beds using the lazy-gardener method. The photo above shows a bed that used to be weedy lettuce (full of red clover), which I scythed, then topdressed with soiled goat bedding, and (after the photo was taken) covered with a sheet of clear plastic. I'm excited to see what the soil will look like in three weeks when the brussels sprouts are ready to go into the ground. Maybe solarization will become my fast-and-easy soil prep step in future garden years?

Why do you paint?

I paint because there is something about painting

that beats talk therapy, writing, and sometimes even trumps swimming.

I paint because Jamie said I look to the birds and I should paint the birds

and I never have ever caught one and a bird is to be free.

I paint because I CAN mix colors but I often chose not to.

I paint to see if my Mom knows which way's up.

I paint because my sister said I could have that one thing.

But really

I don't paint.

The brush manipulates its way into my hand,

color slaps onto its tip

and art steals my heart so it pours on out.

Like a bucket of water on an ocean of waves,

like a bucket of water on an ocean of waves!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Summer book sale

Summer books aleNow's your chance to snap up four of my ebooks at a dramatically reduced price! You'll need to mark your calendar, though, to catch each sale on the proper day.

I start off today, June 24, with Homegrown Humus marked down to 99 cents.

Tomorrow, June 25, I'll bring you Thrifty Chicken Breeds at 99 cents.

We'll take the weekend off so you have time to digest this week's cheap books. Then next Monday, June 29, we'll jump back on the sale bandwagon with Pasture Basics marked down to 99 cents.

And we'll finish our sale next Thursday, July 2, when Growing into a Farm is also 99 cents.

As a side note, if you want to be reminded on each of these sale dates, you'll see my books in Buck Books' daily newsletter during this time period. Click here to subscribe and find lots of other 99-cent books too!

Finally, in case you're interested, I'm currently hard at work on The Ultimate Guide to Soil, which will reach you in ebook form this winter and in print form next summer. One of the holes in my rough draft is container gardening --- I haven't done much of it but know that many people only have space for a few pots on their patio. If you've got some great photos and tips about container gardening that you'd like to share, I hope you'll take a minute to email me back and I may include your information in the final book.

Thanks for letting me take a day out of my usual round of gardening geekery and goat gallivanting for a bit of shameless self-promotion. I hope you enjoy the books!

Fear Of Water

Practiced Swimmer

High Board Winner

Swan Dive Swan Dive

Cracked Broken Spine

Lazy Lifeguards

Bored Emergency Room Workers

Heal Heel Hell Hole Only Only Time

Blame Guilt Agony Why?

Waiting Patience Patients Who Am I?

Crack Sound Trauma

Fear Of Water

Fear of Heights

Fear of Liberated Rights

Time Heals Whole

How Suture Spine?

Disbelief In Time

Years Later

Slower Pace

High Dive Anguish

Grimace Face

Ease In Swimmer

Paddle Sure

Rise Eternal

Time Does Cure

The Riddle

How do you inspire love?

Do you get love by giving?

About ten minutes ago I figured out the answer. When your heart is broken, give it away. When your voice is strained sing a lullaby. When you are starving give food. When you feel forgotten remember.

Give give give.

One thing not many know or understand: hate and love are the same thing, strong emotion. The switch to both of them are deep in your heart. You are the only one who can work that lever.

So be a lover.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
The end of Lamb Chop
Carrying a goat across the creek

As an omnivorous homesteader, there comes a time when you have to put your money where your mouth is and kill that animal. For our first trial with homegrown red meat, we opted to take the halfway-house approach and drive Lamb Chop to the butcher. But I'll admit I still shed more than one tear over the endeavor.

Traveling with a goat

Honestly, I'd thought the hardest part would be getting our buckling across the creek and into the car, but he's used to following my lead. Yes, Lamb Chop and his mother (and Artemesia) cried as if the entire world was on fire as I led him away...but once I paused and let our buckling nibble on a mouthful of leaves he forgot all about the herd in a heartbeat. Instead, he followed me agreeably, submitted to being hoisted across the creek, hopped up onto the tarp-covered backseat with a bribe of alfalfa pellets, and then simply lay quietly with my arm across his back for the entire drive.

Goat on a leash

Only when we emerged from the car did he balk, and that was merely because the world was big and scary with a highway only a few yards away.


Without much prodding, our kid followed me into the slaughter room. Then I took off his collar, and we drove away.

(That's when I cried.)

Grazing goats

And, yes, the truth is that I let myself love our first homegrown kid a little too much. Even though he'd started harassing Artemesia (despite never quite finishing the job) and headbutting my legs when we walked together (in jest...he said!) and gnawing on my yoga mat (even though I continually pushed his nose away), I nicknamed our buckling Choppy and scratched behind his horns and let him lay down beside me as I read. Yes, despite protestations to the contrary, Lamb Chop and I were friends.

Goat on a log

I expected Abigail to cry all day after losing her kid, but the coop was ominously silent after Mark and I got home. And I'll admit that I dreaded my usually lusted-after evening grazing session that day --- I halfway expected our doe to call me a murderer when I came out to play. Instead, she was ready to eat, only looking up twice to call out Lamb Chop's name before putting her mind back to the serious business of grazing.

It was quieter in the woods without Lamb Chop present, but more peaceful too. And I learned at dusk that our buckling had been getting two thirds of Abigail's daily milk. Choppy, I thought we'd agreed to go halfsies!

Farewell, Lamb Chop

Which brings me back to the reality of homesteading --- if you want milk, there are offspring about once a year and 99% of the boys are really only good for meat. (The world would overflow with wethers in short order if we castrated all the males and tried to give them away as pets.)

So even though I shed a tear when I said farewell to Choppy, Mark and I still felt like we were doing the right thing. Next year, I'll probably be a little more distant with our kids...and maybe they'll be a little less magical in response. But as Tennyson said (about something else entirely), it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. So, for this year at least, I wouldn't have changed a thing.

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Best Off Grid DC powered fan?
12 volt fan hooked up to car battery

We lost power yesterday about an hour before sunset.

It only took a few minutes to hook up what might be the best DC fan money can buy.

I have tried several battery powered fans and this one is in a class by itself. The battery I used was from the old truck we took to the crusher over three years ago. I was surprised it still had enough charge to last all night on low...maybe I could've increased to the next speed without draining the battery.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
The ones that got away
Congregating swarm

I feel like such an amateur at beekeeping, even though we've kept hives for six years now. Which is my way of saying --- I messed up.

When I visited our bees a few days after our swarm-prevention split, I was pretty sure I knew which hive had kept the old queen. And I was 100% sure that the queen-right hive had swarm cells in it. But, I left the extra queen cells alone because...what if I was wrong about that hive having a mature queen? And what if I killed all of the colony's new potential queens and the whole hive bit the dust?

I should have been brave, though. Because one of those queens hatched out Friday Honeybeesafternoon. As a result, a tremendous mass of bees rose out of the hive with the old queen, sat for three hours on a very tall limb, then flew away. The photo at the top of this post captures the swarm when about 70% of the bees were still in the air, if that gives you an idea of how many bees flew the coop.

Which isn't the end of the world since the swarm's old home now boasts a new queen and at least some workers to carry them through. And the break in brood cycles is a sure-fire way of lowering varroa-mite levels. But it also dramatically lowers our chance of honey this year.

Now both mother and daugher hive are back on the sugar-water wagon for the foreseeable future as they raise new queens and get their feet back under them. Hopefully they'll at least go into winter as two healthy colonies...and by this time next year, the bees will be back in Langstroth hardware so I can manipulate them more easily and prevent future swarms.

And maybe in another decade or so, I'll stop feeling like such an an amateur apiarist....

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Summer solstice 2015
Butternut squash

Sometimes I get so engrossed in the minutiae of homesteading that I forget to share the big picture. So here's a disjointed post with a few photos of last week's triumphs. Above --- the forest garden weeded and mulched, with tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash thriving.

Baby seckel pears

Summer pruning completed...and three baby seckel pears discovered amid the foliage! I guess that late frost didn't get quite all the blooms (although it did twist the developing fruits a little).

Young hazelnuts

Another happy surprise --- our hazel bush is completely loaded! The only troubling fact? For the first time ever, squirrels entered our yard last year, as evidenced by the dozens of walnut seedlings I've been pulling out of various parts of the garden this spring. Will the tree rats get our delicious nuts?

Young carrot

In the vegetable garden, we're starting to hit the stage where there's so much produce that the freezer and larder are slowly filling back up. The newcomer this week is baby carrots, which I pull out to thin the beds. Nothing like carrots to remind me of how much our soil has improved over the last nine years!

I hope you'll take a step back from frowning at the weeds and pests today to enjoy the beauty of summer. Now's a great time to take pictures so green they'll make your eyes pop in January. Happy solstice!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Cabbage and lactofermenting
Cabbage harvest

We harvested our cabbages in three sittings this week because our bushel basket would only hold four or five heads at a time. Plus, I learned that the goats will eat at least some of the outer leaves, but that they're more interested if I only bring up half a wheelbarrow-full at a time.

Husking cabbageWe'll eat some of these cabbages right away, then will freeze some and store some in the fridge to be added to harvest catch-all soup for winter. Unfortunately, despite last year's experiments with lactofermenting, we haven't come up with a fermented cabbage recipe that we enjoy.

On the plus side, goat cheese seems to feed our guts with the same bacteria and fungi you'd get in sauerkraut, and Mark notes that his tummy feels better this year than ever before. My stomach, on the other hand, never needs any help, presumably because of those gallons of dirt I ate as a child.

Joey chatter
mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Organic hornet control
organic hornet control measures

We had a problem today with some aggressive hornets on a pear tree.

There was a short debate on who would suit up and move the nest.

Anna wanted to do it but I had to pull the Head of the Household card and asked her to take pictures from a safe distance while I snipped the problem limb and threw the whole thing over a hillside.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Fall webworm
Webworm caterpillar

I haven't seen a single tent caterpillar this year, but the fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea) have come to visit our farm for the first time ever. I'm not glad to see them.

Caterpillar web

Like tent caterpillars, webworms hatch out in large groups and then spin webs around themselves to protect their tender bodies. Since predators can't easily get to the caterpillars inside, the insects make short work of leaves within their webs. In our yard, the webworms have invaded the red raspberries, elderberries, pears, and hazels.

The good news is, clipping off the affected limb and throwing it over the hill seems to do a pretty good job of protecting the plant in question. So I guess webworms are more of an annoyance than a scourge. They would have been even less annoying if I hadn't waited two weeks to identify and deal with them, afraid that a new and terrifying invasive had come to call!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Swimming with goats
Goat walk

It's been blazing hot, with highs in the mid nineties. So, after supper, the goats and I head to the creek for a cool-down.

Summer creek

I jump in one of the deep holes while the herd looks on in horror. Actually, on day one, all three goats ran up and down the bank and cried, "Please get out! You'll drown! Or the alligators will get you!" No matter how much I explained that naming one of our wettest areas "the alligator swamp" was poetic license, they wouldn't calm down.

On day two, Artemesia was the only one worried about me, though. And by day three, the whole herd just quietly grazed along the shore, although my favorite little doeling did keep her eye on me the whole time. I guess it's handy to have a goat lifeguard, even if the water is less than waist deep.

Grazing goats

By the time my core body temperature has cooled down sufficiently to make life enjoyable again, the goats are deep into their grazing cycle. This week, they're spending their days in our poorest pasture, which wasn't even grazed by chickens last year and which runs out of goat-friendly greens after about day 1. I want the goats to keep depositing manure there, though, so I bring tree branches each morning and drop by with cabbage and carrot leaves midday. Still, by dinner time, the goats are hungry.

Head butt

So I settle onto my yoga mat with a book or a notebook (depending on my mood) and relax for an hour or so. I know when each belly fills because the attached goat drifts back to visit with me, and make trouble (Lamb Chop) or act cute (Artemesia).

Of course, the herd isn't ready to go home until the herd queen is 100% full. So when Abigail makes an appearance and decides head butting is more fun than eating, I pack up and we walk back down the driveway to our core homestead.

Goat on a bridge

The goats scurry alongside with little or no verbal prodding, Artemesia often right at heel with her ears perked back to make sure I'm still coming. The other goats are less concerned about a human's presence, so they just make a beeline for the coop where the deer flies they've accumulated will be confused and will soon fly away.

Goats running up a hill

And that's my post-supper goat hour in a nutshell. The only part I left out is the frolicking leap of goats 1, 2, and 3 down the hill at the beginning, during which time they really do appear to be clicking their heels together in joy. I'm still working on catching that on camera, so you'll just have to imagine goat glee at 6 pm today.


Broke down car - WAlmaRt market side -parking lot bonsai oak tree -

sitting in a patch of dry moss - until a rock - a fossil catches my eyes -

what's this impression doing - here forget momentarily - long stretches -

just feeling fossil - as reading all world's books - all moments collect -

THIS WHOLE DAMN DESERT - parking lot - food-less grocery store -

my gas tank? my spirit? MY MEMORY OF LIFE LARGER THAN ME?

may take ages - listen the pavement - until pubic blades of thirsty moss -


listen ages longer - let the heat DANCE and SING - passages of desert bibles -

take the moment now - feel this mercy pleading growth - pray you last as long.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Disease-resistant tomato update
Tomatoes starting to bulk up

For the past three years, by this part of June, I've been keeping secrets from my husband. I'd come in for lunch on Mondays disgruntled and would dread walking down the tomato row. That's right --- my weekly pruning sessions inevitably turned into a game of fight-the-blight.

It's been drier this year, but based on neighborly reports, I think the real reason blight has yet to hit our farm is because I paid the big bucks for blight-resistant tomato varieties. I've been cutting off lower leaves so they don't drag on the ground, but otherwise have nothing to do during my Monday sessions except tying up stems that have grown a foot or more during the last week. Never mind the eventual yield, those pricey seeds have already paid for themselves in anti-depressant effect!

Plum regal tomato

Nasturtium flowerMost of the new tomato varieties act just the way you'd expect, but Plum Regal seems to be a little odd. I've grown determinate varieties before, but none have topped out so short --- right around knee high. To keep the plants growing, I've taken to leaving the suckers in place since the main stem seems to have already achieved its preferred height.

What's with the nasturtium? It's just another burst of happiness in the tomato zone this year! I planted our 2015 tomatoes in old hugelkultur beds, and one spot contained relatively unrotted wood that made it hard to dig tomato-planting holes. So I instead filled that gap with nasturtiums, borage, zinnias, and chamomile. It's fun to have a colorful collection of flowers in between two of my tomato plants!

Joey git-annex devblog
day 293 last push before summer vacation

Well, not the literal last push, but I've caught up on as much backlog as I can (142 messages remain) and spent today developing a few final features before tomorrow's release.

Some of the newer things displayed by git annex info were not included in the --json mode output. The json includes everything now.

git annex sync --all --content will make it consider all known annexed objects, not only those in the current work tree. By default that syncs all versions of all files, but of course preferred content can tune what repositories want.

To make that work well with preferred content settings like "include=*.mp3", it makes two passes. The first pass is over the work tree, so preferred content expressions that match files by name will work. The second pass is over all known keys, and preferred content expressions that don't care about the filename can match those keys.

Two passes feels a bit like a hack, but it's a lot better than --all making nothing be synced when the a preferred content expression matches against filenames... I actually had to resort to bloom filters to make the two passes work.

This new feature led to some slightly tricky follow-on changes to the standard groups preferred content expressions.


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