Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Goat pregnancy pooch test
Mini-dwarf goat

It seems like sacrilege to have such a cute, adorable goat and to waste a whole post looking at her hind end. So here's a starter photo of Artemesia cleaning up a fenceline for me. And now, on to the butts....

Goat buttsDuring Abigail's pregnancy last year, I tried a lot of home tests to figure out if she was pregnant. The only one that seemed at all diagnostic was peering at her vulva at intervals. The bottom photo in this series shows the marked change that occurred in Abigail's butt geography as she moved from her second to her fourth month of pregnancy. Notice how the wrinkles fled as the vulva widened in preparation for pushing a kid out a very small hole.

Looks diagnostic, right? Now peer at the first pair of photos to the right. Those pictures were taken in 2015 when I thought Artemesia might have been pregnant with Abigail's grandchild. The obvious change, though, turned out to be due to some combination of Artemesia maturing into her full sexuality (her first birthday was in June) and perhaps changes to her vulva as she went into heat. She wasn't pregnant after all.

Okay, now look at the middle photos. These are the ones I'm currently scratching my head over. We hope Artemesia is 2.5 months into her first pregnancy, assuming her post-Thanksgiving driveway date stuck. As a certified nervous nellie, I change my mind about whether Monte did the job every time our mini-Nubian (a cheerful, chatty girl) calls a hello to me from her pasture or wags her tail in greeting when I bring her breakfast. I haven't seen any mucous on her vulva since D-day, but wagging and talking can both be signs of heat...which would mean our first freshener hadn't freshened after all. And since we put all of our eggs (milk bottles?) in one basket this year, that would mean no homegrown dairy products in 2016.

Goat eating in the snow

Unfortunately, based on this series of butt shots, I have to conclude that I can't actually conclude anything for another month. A trip to the vet to utilize his ultrasound looks better and better, but I'll probably keep biting my fingernails and tough it out. After all, if we really wanted a summer kidding, the difference between a July and an August birth wouldn't be that great. Maybe I shouldn't have named Artemesia's hypothetical unborn daughter Aurora after all?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
10 tips for heating with wood
Goat in the snow

MEN postMark's in school today, which means you're supposed to not get an evening post. But I couldn't resist sharing this link to a piece I recently wrote for Mother Earth News about using a wood stove.

I'd be curious to hear what those of you well-versed in wood heat would add to the list. You can comment here, of course, but I'd love to see a few comments on the Mother Earth News post itself. Maybe if it gets enough traffic, they'll put it in the print magazine!

(And, no, the photo of Abigail has nothing to do with wood heat. But doesn't she look sweet against the snow?)

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Filling up the flats
Soil cubes

What's a gardener to do when on a bitter February day? Plant seeds, of course!

Planting into a soil cubeI ran out of storebought potting soil to mix with my stump dirt, so I'm trying a flat straight and hoping the cubes hold together. Worst-case scenario, the soil cubes disintegrate and fuse into a flat of intermingled roots. Since I'm sprouting pea seeds with the hope of getting seedlings out in the garden in two weeks or less, that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

The real issue is that, ever time a flat germinates and comes off the heating mats, I think of something else to fill a new tray with. Why not start some kale seeds to replace the plants that are pretty much dead in the garden for very early greens? And maybe some extra-early broccoli to set out under quick hoops? I'm going to run out of space fast at this rate....

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Three soil preheating trials
Preheating the garden

During a warm winter, I'll start lettuce under quick hoops on February first and peas in the open on Valentine's Day. During a frigid winter like last year, I might not get anything out into the ground until the middle of March.

This year will likely fall somewhere in between with the determining factor being how Onion seedlingsmuch this week's cold snap chills the soil. I'm looking for soil temperatures that are at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit first thing in the morning to prevent seedlings from rotting in the ground. And to that end I'm preheating my pea/lettuce bed in three different ways.

Treatment one, in the foreground above, includes some solarization plastic from last summer weighed down with this and that. Treatment two, in the middle-ground, consists of solarization plastic under a quick hoop. And treatment three is the quick hoop alone. I'll check soil temperatures in a couple of weeks and see which, if any, area hit that critical 40-degree mark.

In the meantime, I'm starting more and more seeds inside. My first onion seedlings are already up, and I plan to play with broccoli and peas in soil blocks today. Maybe when the outdoor garden is warm enough, I'll have some starts ready to go and will end up with a harvest just as early as during warm winters in the past. Only time will tell.

Joey chatter
took long enough

Milestone: First non-Christian has won a major party’s state-primary election for president in the US. Ever.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 361 adjusted branches design

Working on a design for adjusted branches. I've been kicking this idea around for a while to replace direct mode on crippled filesystems with v6 unlocked files. And the same thing would allow for hiding not present files. It's somewhat complicated, but the design I have seems like it would work.

Joey chatter

Slow braised pork, and corn tortillas heated on the woodstove.. Good fuel for a snowy day.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Property taxes and homesteading
Tax reassessment

I think property taxes are one of the most-overlooked items that should be considered before buying new land. I read all the time about homesteaders who settle in wealthy areas and end up paying a thousand bucks or more per month in property taxes. If quitting your job is on your homesteading agenda, that kind of tax burden will make it exceedingly difficult to simplify your life enough to become self-sufficient financially.

I have to admit I didn't think about property taxes when I bought our land either. Luckily, I couldn't afford much, and ugly-duckling properties with junked singlewides on them command very little value on the open market. Which is a good thing! It means that even after our most recent tax reassessment, our property taxes are likely to stay below $35 per month. Now that's a tax burden we can afford.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Exploring old ground
River perch

The forecast said Sunday was going to be the last beautiful day for quite a while. So I packed a lunch and a camera and took to the woods.

Railroad tunnelThe explorer in me likes new trails...but I detest driving long distances in order to hike. So I ended up back at our old stomping grounds --- Sugar Hill in St. Paul.

Luckily, nature had changed the face of the riverside trail since Mark and I last walked it, so there was plenty to explore. Most striking was a tremendous rootball uprooted by a fallen sycamore at the river's edge. I couldn't resist clambering to the top and perching fifteen feet above the ground while listening to the swollen river rush past.

After sunning for a while, then walking another mile to St. Paul falls, I decided to bushwhack back to the parking lot. On the way, I was treated to several shows of cliffside seeps plus icicles in a railroad tunnel. A fun adventure for a sunny Sunday!

letsencrypt support in propellor

I've integrated letsencrypt into propellor today.

I'm using the reference letsencrypt client. While I've seen complaints that it has a lot of dependencies and is too complicated, it seemed to only need to pull in a few packages, and use only a few megabytes of disk space, and it has fewer options than ls does. So seems fine. (Although it would be nice to have some alternatives packaged in Debian.)

I ended up implementing this:

letsEncrypt :: AgreeTOS -> Domain -> WebRoot -> Property NoInfo

This property just makes the certificate available, it does not configure the web server to use it. This avoids relying on the letsencrypt client's apache config munging, which is probably useful for many people, but not those of us using configuration management systems. And so avoids most of the complicated magic that the letsencrypt client has a reputation for.

Instead, any property that wants to use the certificate can just use leteencrypt to get it and set up the server when it makes a change to the certificate:

letsEncrypt (LetsEncrypt.AgreeTOS (Just "me@my.domain")) "" "/var/www"
    `onChange` setupthewebserver

(Took me a while to notice I could use onChange like that, and so divorce the cert generation/renewal from the server setup. onChange is awesome! This blog post has been updated accordingly.)

In practice, the http site has to be brought up first, and then letsencrypt run, and then the cert installed and the https site brought up using it. That dance is automated by this property:

Apache.httpsVirtualHost "" "/var/www"
    (LetsEncrypt.AgreeTOS (Just "me@my.domain"))

That's about as simple a configuration as I can imagine for such a website!

The two parts of letsencrypt that are complicated are not the fault of the client really. Those are renewal and rate limiting.

I'm currently rate limited for the next week because I asked letsencrypt for several certificates for a domain, as I was learning how to use it and integrating it into propellor. So I've not quite managed to fully test everything. That's annoying. I also worry that rate limiting could hit at an inopportune time once I'm relying on letsencrypt. It's especially problimatic that it only allows 5 certs for subdomains of a given domain per week. What if I use a lot of subdomains?

Renewal is complicated mostly because there's no good way to test it. You set up your cron job, or whatever, and wait three months, and hopefully it worked. Just as likely, you got something wrong, and your website breaks. Maybe letsencrypt could offer certificates that will only last an hour, or a day, for use when testing renewal.

Also, what if something goes wrong with renewal? Perhaps is not available when your certificate needs to be renewed.

What I've done in propellor to handle renewal is, it runs letsencrypt every time, with the --keep-until-expiring option. If this fails, propellor will report a failure. As long as propellor is run periodically by a cron job, this should result in multiple failure reports being sent (for 30 days I think) before a cert expires without getting renewed. But, I have not been able to test this.

Joey chatter
culture of design-focused self-promotion

"culture of design-focused self-promotion" explains why javascript etc libraries have such unbearably shiny websites. "design as a signal of how up to date or nice a library is"

Also probably applies to a lot of other stuff. Probably obviously to many, but not to me.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
New seed-starting supplies
Seed-starting flat

Onions are probably our biggest vegetable-gardening Achilles heel --- we ran out in January again this year. Wanting to be able to start these Old seed flatsseedlings inside in February was a big part of the impetus for my spare-no-cost improved seed-starting campaign in fact.

So it seems fitting that onions should be the first vegetables to enjoy our new flats. The containers I've been using are literally a decade old, so all are torn and not-quite waterproof. The new white ones are reputed to be a little hardier, although I can tell I'll still need to be careful with them. But maybe they'll be in a little better shape in 2026 when Mark once again talks me into buying new gear?

Seed-starting rows

Onion seedsI didn't use all new supplies, though. I found this wooden stick in Mark's workshop (hopefully it wasn't intended for anything important) and cut it to just the right length to make indented rows in my found stump dirt. Then I meticulously sprinkled in the seeds, half an inch apart. Finally, I added another thin coating of stump dirt atop each row and pressed down gently with my palms to compact the earth.

With potting soil, there'd be a moistening step in there too (preferably before the soil even hits the flats). But stump dirt comes out of the tree at the perfect hydration level for planting seeds.

Seed-starting setup

Mark growled when I took the heating pad out of Lucy's den and put it under my first set of flats. (Hey! That's why we bought the pad in the first place!) So I went ahead and splurged a little further, this time buying a heat mat that's waterproof and is just the right size and shape to fit beneath a seedling tray. My new humidity domes hadn't arrived in the mail yet, so I popped a larger dome we use for rooting perennial cuttings on top and called that flat complete.

Seedling heat matI'll admit that these are going to be some expensive onions since we spent nearly a hundred bucks on new seed-starting supplies. And that doesn't even count the lights (which Mark already had on hand) or the electricity we'll be using in the process.

On the other hand, all of the same equipment will be reused next month for starting broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. Then, since the flats came in a ten-pack, I'll probably even make soil blocks for watermelons and see if we can't get a crop of those heat-lovers in the ground a little early this year. All told, I'm positive that these supplies will more than pay for themselves many times over during the next decade...and that's not even counting the dose of winter greenery that will boost my spirits as I wait for spring.

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
DIY boom pole update
micro boom pole

My DIY boom pole worked okay, but it turned out to be a little too heavy.

It also created small amounts of noise whenever I shifted my body weight.

The Rode boom pole is the perfect size and weight but if your shock mount is 5/8 then you need to buy a 5/8 male to 3/8 female adapter.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Animal assisted February gardening
Stump dirt with goat

I took advantage of the warm weather to gather some stump dirt for onion seed starting this week. The goats "helped"...which means they poked their noses into the bucket repeatedly, completely confused about why I would waste energy gathering something that wasn't immediately edible.

Chicken tractor on fall oats

The tractored hens also assisted with early garden preparations. Day by day, I pulled the small flock across the downhill side of a high raised bed in the swampy back garden so they could eat up chickweed and scratch up dead oat stalks. This area will go under a quick hoop shortly to preheat the soil for the earliest lettuce and peas.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 360 results of 2015 user survey

The 2015 git-annex user servey is over with, and I'm reading through it and comparing with the 2013 survey.

37% fewer users responded to the 2015 survey than in 2013. It's hard to tell if this has anything to do with the total number of git-annex users; Debian's popcon suggests the number of users has doubled since 2013, although its graph also suggests the number of users has flattened off since 2014. The difference may just be that I promoted the 2013 survey better than the 2015 survey, perhaps reaching kickstarter backers who I was in touch with back then.

25% use the assistant. Of those, 20% use XMPP, which is good to know as I'd like to get rid of it.

Android use has quardrupled, and Windows use has doubled; both are now at 4%. It's not surprising that Android and Windows users still think more porting work is needed for those OSes. iOS is the only unsupported OS that more than 1% of users want. Embedded and NAS systems were mentioned much less than in 2013; probably the arm tarball build met many such needs.

About the same percentage of users prefer direct mode in 2015 as did in 2013, and ditto for indirect mode. But, more users in 2015 only use direct mode on platforms that force its use. Correlating with the OS percentages suggests that many of these users are using removable media with the FAT filesystem, rather than an OS like Windows or Android. Hopefully v6 unlocked files will eventually better meet those user's needs.

The percent of users installing git-annex from source has halved since 2013, and it seems that builds from this website have taken up most of that slack; I would have expected more installs from Debian, Homebrew etc, but that seems not to have increased.

The number of repositories per user has gone up quite a lot since 2013, when only 7% of users had more than 10 repos. Now, 23% of users do. And, 2% of users have more than 100 repos! This probably involves both more repositories for different purposes, and cloning of repositories to more devices.

Similarly, the amount of data stored has gone up. 34% have more than 1 terabyte stored, up from 18% in 2013. 2% have more than 16 terabytes.

There's some indications of more users sharing repositories or otherwise using it in teams of larger groups, although most users still use it by themselves.

Users seem happier with git-annex now than in 2013. 16% call it "one of my favorite applications of all time". And, significantly fewer find it too hard to use than in 2013.

The main blocking problems are documentation, performance with many files (a general git problem), and various issues with the assistant. Respondants suggest more focus on making it easier for nontechnical users, and for use in larger groups/organizations.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
First cultivated flower
Hazel catkins

The first cultivated bloom of the year for us is always the hazel bushes. From a bee standpoint, it's nearly time to look for pollen when you see the catkins begin to loosen and Hazel stamensyellow, meaning that stamens will soon emerge.

I don't think the bush really counts bloom time until a little later, though. The tiny female flowers won't open up until the male flowers are in full bloom, which probably won't be for a couple more weeks yet.

Meanwhile, for those of you keeping track in your own yards, I should mention that hazel is very different from witch hazel. The latter can bloom at any time between late fall and early spring, with the bloom time (according to
Lee Reich) depending on the number of chill hours the tree has enjoyed. Our witch hazels bloomed quite early this winter, which I hope isn't an ominous sign meaning our fruit trees will be similarly precipitous.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Goat in the manger
Bad goats

"Oh, Abigail, why do you have to be so bad!" I exclaimed when I entered the goat shed Monday morning. I'm used to Artemesia jumping over into the kidding stall and then onto the tarp-covered pile of stored hay therein. But Abigail used to stay put in the main room where both goats belong.
Climbing goat
No longer. Our herd queen bent down the top of our wire manger then figured out how to leap from milking stanchion to a new perch atop the hay. Next, she proceeded to sleep there and poop there, meaning the loose hay was no longer on her goat-approved menu.

In her defense, though, I think Abigail was just trying to force my hand since I'd kept adding new hay on top of old hay that she wasn't entirely keen on. So I cleaned out the whole manger and put a much smaller layer of fresh hay back in. Hopefully that will be enough to make our herd queen obey the rules...although I have no hope that our little leaping charmer will keep her feet planted firmly on the ground.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 360 annex.largefiles mimetype

The same parser was used for both preferred content expressions and annex.largefiles. Reworked that today, splitting it into two distinct parsers. It doesn't make any sense to use terms like "standard" or "lackingcopies" in annex.largefiles, and such are now rejected.

That groundwork also let me add a feature that only makes sense for annex.largefiles, and not for preferred content expressions: Matching by mime type, such as mimetype=text/*

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Gray paint
Paint brush

We're taking full advantage of this dose of midwinter sun and warmth. Monday, we managed to get the creek pump going despite icy ground, filling the wash-water tank before it drained completely dry. Tuesday, I caught up on a bit of laundry while the sun was shining, Painting a cabinetthen pulled out the paint can and brush to coat some of our kitchen remodeling projects.

Mark chose this dark blue/gray based on the reality of our housekeeping skills. We'd originally considered just staining the boards since we both love the warm tones of plain wood. But our cats have free rein of the kitchen and like to leave dirty footprints everywhere. We wipe up after them now and then, but figured it might be smarter to just start with a darker color to begin with so those paw stains aren't so obvious.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 359 annex.largefiles gitattributes

For use cases that mix annexed files with files stored in git, the annex.largefiles config is more important in v6 repositories than before, since it configures the behavior of git add and even git commit -a. To make it possible to set annex.largefiles so it'll stick across clones of a repository, I have now made it be supported in .gitattributes files as well as git config.

Setting it in .gitattributes looks a little bit different, since the regular .gitattributes syntax can be used to match on the filename.

* annex.largefiles=(largerthan=100kb)
*.c annex.largefiles=nothing

It seems there's no way to make a git attribute value contain whitespace. So, more complicated annex.largefiles expressions need to use parens to break up the words.

* annex.largefiles=(largerthan=100kb)and(not(include=*.c))
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Groundhog's Day launch
Trailersteading with cat

The print edition of Trailersteading is now live! You can read our cats' half-hearted endorsements here or check out what human readers have to say here.

Trailersteading collageFeline back-stabbing aside, I've been amazed at how well received this book has been. After all, I originally envisioned it as a bit of a joke. Why would anyone want to learn about our choice to homestead in a dirt-cheap mobile home when they could dream about strawbale houses or cob domiciles?

What I didn't expect was the 150+ five-star reviews from homesteaders just like me who were itching for a less expensive and time-consuming alternative to the traditional path of home ownership. Readers called the book "new and exciting," "a groundbreaking literary effort," and "very informative," while several mentioned that Trailersteading had inspired them to retire early by embracing life within an old mobile home.

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Trailersteading should now be available at your local bookstore or library --- if not, just ask them to order a copy. And the book is also up for purchase on your favorite online retailers, whether that's Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or someplace else.

I hope you enjoy the read and a huge thank-you to everyone who has already given it a shot! Your early purchases and reviews help my books get out of the gate and ensure that Mark and I can continue to spend our time regaling you with our hopes, failures, and successes from the tranquility of our permaculture trailerstead. Thank you for helping to make our dreams a reality.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Winter goat greenery
Goat eating brussels sprout

Around the beginning of January, goat greenery seemed to screech to a halt. Our does had been gorging on honeysuckle and oat leaves since September, but pickings were finally getting slim. Don't get me wrong --- none of the plants were completely wiped out. But Abigail told me the juice wasn't worth the squeeze.

When the herd queen speaks, I listen. So I changed gears, cutting the fresh greenery out of their daily diet and replacing it with an afternoon feeding of butternut squash, carrots, apples, and clementine peels instead. Since I missed spending time with the herd, I also took them out in the woods for walks a couple of times a week, but there wasn't really much for our girls to eat out there. Instead, they were reduced to living on their daily rations plus an unlimited supply of hay.

Farm clutter

Fast forward ahead nearly a month, and suddenly those slim pickings seemed worth eating once again! Mark would be horrified by this shot of the clutter beside our barn, but the debris did its job well --- it prevented me from grazing our herd on a lone patch of honeysuckle, saving those leaves for a midwinter treat. Meanwhile, I let the girls have a couple of brussels sprouts plants that had seen better days, and I'm hoping that once the snow melts later in the week our goats might be willing to munch on low oat leaves once again as well.

Good thing too --- we've finally run out of homegrown goat carrots and the butternut stores are even getting a little bit low. Friday night, I dreamed of tall grass, rich and ready for our goats to browse. I love the restful season of winter, but I'm beginning to anticipate the bounty of spring.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Sun day
Melting snow

I reveled in the snow. I enjoyed walking through the untrammeled surface during the first couple of days, knowing that no one and nothing had set foot on that patch of earth except me since the snow fell. I loved watching the way tree shadows on the hillside made stark bands of black against the snow. And, later, I enjoyed seeing how the first episodes of melt changed the texture and color of the snow, how tiny bird and mammal tracks began to mar each surface until it was no longer a blank canvas but one marked upon by all the wild and not-so-wild inhabitants of our little farm.

But after about a week, I was ready for the snow to melt.

Snowy compost pile

Obediently, the sun came out and began carving the frozen water away. South-facing surfaces thawed first while everything closer to our north-facing hillside maintained a heavy coating of snow much longer.

Winter garden

The mule garden --- our sunniest patch --- was nearly snow-free by Saturday afternoon when I set out with the camera to take these photos. Our cooped chickens live in this same zone and had finally come out of their house for the first time in over a week that morning. But when I got to this point later in the day, I heard yet another sign of life...bees.

Snowy bee hives

Both hives were very busy, with workers flying in and out to release a month worth of poop onto the snow. I'm glad to see such active colonies in the middle of the winter and am seriously considering giving each hive a new box and a bit of sugar water in February to get them moving. It sure would be nice to get some homegrown honey this year....

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
The cold frame comes through again
Lettuce seedlings

In an un-Anna-like fit of passion, I sprinkled some lettuce seeds into gaps within our cold frame sometime in (maybe?) early January. The planting wasn't on my list and I didn't mark it on my spreadsheet. But the weather was warm enough that I had a feeling the seedlings would sprout.

Butternut soupFast forward ahead to Friday. The cold frame had been under a thick coat of snow for the last week plus, first due to the actual snowfall, then to thick mounds of snow that slid down and plopped off the nearby roof throughout the last three days.

Finally, the glass was clear, and I wanted to pick a few baby kale leaves to add to a butternut-squash soup.
But, oh, wait --- what is that? Baby lettuce seedlings! Hope for spring.

Plus, excellent arugula and kale for the soup too. Mark noted that the cold frame was worth it just for the homegrown salad harvested from the protected zone in early January, but I'm going to add these lettuce seedlings and soup seasoning to the gratitude list too. One cold frame tucked up against the sunniest side of the house a thin wall distant from the wood stove is definitely a good move.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
How thick does a board need to be for homemade furniture?
Hanging counter

Homemade countertopWe've been having fun with amateur furniture-making this winter and are learning a lot in the process. For example, what's the optimal board thickness for a table- or countertop? The answer seems to depend on how the board will be supported. Atop our marked-down cabinet, we easily got away with a 3/4-inch-thick board because the thin countertop is supported over nearly its entire lower surface with the cabinet edges. Even a half-inch board might have worked as well.

On the other hand, a 3/4" board wasn't good enough for our bathtub counter project (pictured at the top of this post). We got the whole thing pretty much assembled, then had to take it back apart when we realized that a board hung from chains (for easy removal when the tub flips down) needs to be considerably thicker than three-quarters of an inch. I didn't even go so far as to test the countertop with our heavy stand mixer --- just Mark pressing down in the middle proved we'd either need a thicker board or would have to build a frame underneath to prevent bowing.

Homemade tableHow about our 1-inch-thick tabletop? That board has done very well supported on the back edge plus on two legs along the front edge despite being a full four feet long by two feet wide. So that's definitely a thick board that will go the distance. Here's hoping using a similar product for our hanging counter will do the trick as well.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
A hankering for hybrids

Hybrid seedsI love saving seeds from heirloom vegetable varieties. But when it comes down to a choice between saving free seeds from potentially problematic plants or annually purchasing seeds of dependable hybrids, I always choose the latter. It's just a better use of time and money to spend five bucks on seeds and know I'm going to harvest a bountiful crop rather than ending up spending fifty or a hundred bucks over the course of the year buying that vegetable at the grocery store.

Our annual seed order went in this week, about $90 spread across two companies (Johnny's and Jung) to get the exact varieties I know have done well here in the past. Hybrids I felt were worth paying for included Pontiac onions, Lunchbox Red peppers, Bolero carrots, Metro butternut squash, Vision corn, Harmonie cucumbers, and Diablo brussels sprouts. The other dozen vegetable varieties will be planted with either home-grown seeds or leftover packets from last year where I ordered too much but know from experience the seeds will still sprout.

Now it's your turn to chime in. Which hybrid varieties do so well in your garden that you're willing to order the seeds every year?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Snowy quick hoop management
Snow-covered quick hoops

In years past, we've had some problems with quick hoops in the snow. Eliot Coleman recommends covering the hoops with clear plastic if you live in a snowy climate, and he's not wrong. Row-cover fabric can tear under heavy snow loads. And since the snow sticks rather than sliding off, the PVC hoops can bend and break as well.

Brushing off a quick hoop

If your snow doesn't come down in bucketloads all at once, though, it's pretty easy to just brush off the top of the fabric every three to five inches. Don't use a broom, though --- I tried that last year and it tore through the row-cover fabric. Gloves are soft enough to be safe as long as you're gentle.

Quick hoops dug out of the snow

9.4 inches of snow in the last week and no broken fabric or hoops yet. Success!

Joey git-annex devblog
day 358 bugfix release

Bugfix release of git-annex today. The release earlier this month had a bug that caused git annex sync --content to drop files that should be preferred content. So I had to rush out a fix after that bug was reported. (Some of the builds for the new release are still updating as I post this.)

In the past week I've been dealing with a blizzard. Snowed in for 6 days and counting. That has slightly back-burnered working on git-annex, and I've mostly been making enhancements that the DataLad project needs, along the lines of more commands supporting --batch and better --json output.

Joey chatter
melt damn you. meeeelt
Maggie also
Maggie’s Eternal Return, Monteverde

Hi! I am Maggie Hess.  A long time ago, Monteverde Costa Rica turned my existence into something else entirely - I became a Puravida Quaker, aware I want to live a meaningful life.

This spring I finally bit the bullet at the right time to return there.

I am going to Costa Rica no matter what.  I have purchased tickets.  Any little bit will help me.  If you send more, I might even come home!   (kidding)

I wrote this beneath here to give more context…  

Hold on to What you Love (Monteverde Costa Rica)

Marvin Rockwell was quoted to have said “I expect us to be around for many years after I’m gone.” I read that in an Al Jazeera article that spoke about changes in the Quaker community of Monteverde Costa Rica since its founding in 1951. Even if I wanted to go back and retouch exact pieces of my past there, I never could. But it is so good Rockwell can be part of a legacy.

This morning I am thinking about Monteverde, what it meant for me to go there an 18 year old youngster and how the words of the people touched and formed my heart.

I have said I want to return there many times before. I have spoken of going back, aimed my education towards becoming fit to teach there. But the Quaker Meeting is the heart of what it means to me.

January- early May 2001 I remember lessons that came through the silence at Meeting while I pretended to sleep and goofed off looking out the door frame at Quaker youth pretending to shoot one another with imagined guns. I’d laugh a bit but if you asked me even then if I wanted to be there, I would say yes with certainty. No one was dragging me to Meeting. That was for sure.

The values of my parents were always Quaker, simple, peace loving, war resisting, activist oriented, environmentally sustaining, deep in contemplation, putting these things long before money but somehow breaking even with their meager earnings. They worked hard to support us and we lived in a Conservative crusted part of the Southern Appalachians, and my parents were early people in groups like Appalachian Peace Education Center which sought bring education around peace issues in the early 80’s.

So when I found this patch of Quakers in Costa Rica in 2001, I guess it felt more like home to me than home did to a point. My sister was there to make it perfect, drawing plants on a rare Fellowship that afforded her travels. My life was so privileged because of her affording me time to be free right out of college, to run with the monkeys in the trees, and I spent more of my time in the forest than anywhere else because of her project and her severe dedication and work ethic. She made my life possible then, and I had come from a bump in my life, a health crisis actually that had taken me away from the setting of school bound protocol into a gap year. My sister helped me see the meaning in everything much more than I would have otherwise. So as she scrubbed the plastic bags and I for the first time thought about waste and want and overspending and her commitment to biology and the biome, I learned something fierce from just witnessing her too. Quaker or not.

But she also saw in me that I wanted to be one of these people who do not proselytize but live their good lives in a way that speaks. It took a lot for her to direct me to come to Meeting, but I owe that to her too. In fact, I guess because of a familial fear of dogmatic practices (especially Christianity) she, then an atheist, sat beside me in the most biodiverse place on this planet where she could have been out and about, protecting me from becoming too exuberant in my bipolar nature, or maybe also from the religion that I love. And I am glad for every bit of that. For I learn slow and unindoctrinated, and that is how I found my heart a Quaker in the spring of the year 2001 in Monteverde Costa Rica.

There were days the perseverance of the Quakers there impressed upon me. Determination seems a word that didn’t quite make the structured list of principles that some like to call Quaker SPICES, a modern addition to a creed-less religion. But determination is one of the song lyrics of a good old camp song I know (Peace Like a River). Maybe that is a hymn. Regardless, I remember that being one of the chords that struck me, how Lucky Guindon, in her 70s then hoofed up those mountains like nobody’s business. There was this walk-a-thon to raise money for the school, and Lucky’s son Benito passed both me and my spry sister around kilometer 11 of a 12 kilometer trek – on stilts. I was blown away, though I am not certain he did that all the way. Then there is the whole history in the community, plowing their own cow pastures, that is after moving whole schools and families to a whole new land so so far away. I mean they brought their own cattle in wagons, and when the wagons broke down, they pulled the mules through their own stubborn way – and I’m not sure who I mean.

The words in Meeting really nurtured me into who I am today. They came to me as sort of lessons. There was a story of a man who got one new thing and kept getting new things for his new things. This simplicity lesson always has been high on my list of important virtues, even when I fail at it. There was the story of More Love, someone talking about what the words of a hymn meant to them. “If you can’t love each other in daily communion how can you love God who you have not seen.” The lesson spoke to how we should all treat one another despite differences or circumstances. Again hard to always live by, but it touched deep into my developing mind. There was a story book about violence following violence, complete with a farm animal fight. I think I read that one when I was volunteering in the library. These lessons blended with my sister’s life stellar life commitments and the puravida lifestyle of the surrounding farmers and tour guides. Together I made in me a version of what Quaker means and it echoed deep into my soul.

Going home was not fun. This was mostly because of my declining mental health, ensuing emotional troubles and difficult time finding this stable dose of medicines that now keep me sane. Now I have an education and sanity (and an outbound and return ticket for another three month visit to Costa Rica. I am eager and committed to find the traces of the people who are still there. I hope they are sound in mind and body but I imagine many of them have much changed as I am no longer a lanky kid running up mountains.

I also hope they still sing all those songs that echo in my soul. I hope they remember me somehow. I guess I should bring a picture. But some things wander in the wind, like a child that I was friends with then named Abe who I imagine a young man now. His father was an American. Some things fade and that is ok, the jungle eats them up. I believe in the impermanence of things above all things. It is a lesson the harder parts of my life have taught me. I know what I cannot keep, what things only my heart may photograph to make impressions in my mind, one way to hold to what I love.                                                                                                                                                SELECT A REWARD LEVEL            Or, Donate a Different Amount                                                                                                    Sloths Are Good                                                                $100                                                                Donate this amount and receive an original print from shipped to you from Megan Martin, the great artist!!                                                                                            1 of 1 left                                                                                                                                                    Epiphites                                                                $15                                                                Donate this Amount and I will send you a poem from Costa Rica!!!  Be sure and send email address or mailing address.                                                                                                                                                11 Year Cycle                                                                $25                                                                Get a copy of my first professional  publication sent to your home.                                                                                            5 of 8 left                                                                                                                                                    Howler Monkey                                                                $120                                                                A date with my friend Bradley in Minnesota.                                                                                              1 of 1 left                                                                                                                                                    Artista deninos                                                                $50                                                                If you are the first to donate 50 dollars, you will get this beautiful original print “A Song of the Mountains” by Heather Dent, the talented children’s artist.                                                                                            1 of 1 left                                                                                                                                                    Rain                                                                $35                                                                A beautiful meditative scene photograph by Rachael Barnes.  Will be emailed to you!                                                                                                                    20        SHARES                                                                        Share                                        Tweet                Donate                COPY, PASTE & SHARE:                      What is GoFundMe?Fundraising made easy >> CONTACT LINK POSTER REPORT                        NO COMMENTS YET                                                    Please use Facebook to leave a comment below:            Continue            Nothing gets posted to your wall. 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Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
What will Artemesia's kids look like?

Blue-eyed goatIt's completely irrelevant to anything functional, but I started wondering what Artie's kid(s) will look like. It turns out that goat color genetics is pretty darn complicated. And since I only know what Artemesia, her mother, her father, and Monte look like, I'm stuck with guesses.

Eyes are the easy part. So-called blue eyes (which really look almost white on Artemesia) are dominant in goats. Artemesia is heterozygous in this trait and Monte is either heterozygous or homozygous, so 75% to 100% of her kids will have blue eyes.

Phaeomelanin goatIn terms of coat color, there are two proteins that determine color (while lack of either protein makes a white goat). Eumelanin can be black (like Artemesia's primary color), chocolate, or red, and phaeomelanin can be almost white, gold (like Artie's father and her mate), or all the way up to a dark reddish-brown.

There are various pattern possibilities that show where on the body the eumelanin and phaeomelanin turn up. It's likely that both Artie's father and Monte are heterozygous for Awt , which produces goats solid in the phaeomelanin color (gold in their case). In contrast, Artemesia and her mother have the At phenotype, which produces orange on the belly and on parts of the legs with a eumelanin-based color everywhere else. The recessive alleles carried by Artemesia's father and mate, though, are unknown.

Black and tan goat with white frostingWhat does this mean for Artemesia and Monte's kids? Since Artemesia can't be carrying the more dominant Awt (or she wouldn't be black), 50% of her kids will likely have her pattern (or the pattern of her father's father or one of her mate's parents). The other 50% will likely inherit Monte's solid, pale-gold coloration.

Finally, there's the issue of true white, which can be found on Artemesia's "frosted" muzzle and ears. This is a dominant trait, but I don't think Artemesia's mother had this phenotype and I'm pretty sure Monte doesn't, so our goat is heterozygous and will likely only pass the frosting on to 50% of her kids.

Mini-nubian kids

So, that's my analysis --- mostly blue eyes, half with pale-colored hair like Monte, the other half with who-knows-what darker pattern, and half with white frosting.

If you're not confused yet, go read the article I linked to above and I promise you will be 100% confused by the end. Then look at the photo above of Artemesia and her cousins and figure most of her kids will probably look at least a little bit like them. I guess that was the easy answer to my question....

Joey chatter
How has there not been a FWD: fwd: FWD: this is the last email you will ever receive ... or maybe it's just not gotten to me yet?
Joey chatter
Oh and if you'd clicked a little earlier, you'd have gotten to see the bit about the trash pickers next to the uranium mine..
Joey chatter
Of course he is.

Herzoathon continues tonight, with probably "Land of Silence and Darkness" and "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done"
Joey chatter
Ordered new piece and thank goodness for duct tape!
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Chicken tractors in winter
Chickens eating in the snow
"Do you actually have chickens in the tractor during the winter or do you have a non-portable chicken house where they reside until spring? If they're in a tractor, do you move them every day or periodically despite the snow, sleet, wind and gloom of night?"
--- NaYan

We have both a stationary coop and a chicken tractor. The former houses the majority of our birds, while the latter gets the mavericks who like to fly over fences and scratch in the garden. If we didn't have a tractor, these ladies wouldn't be back in the coop...they'd be in the pot.

I used to worry about tractored hens in the winter, but as long as you manage them carefully they don't seem to suffer at all from their more exposed conditions. Our lay rates are actually superior in the winter tractor despite having no lights, perhaps because the tractored hens eat about 40% more laying pellets than the coop birds do. (Other possibilities --- higher-laying hens are more likely to fly fences; tractored hens just don't have much to do other than lay eggs. It's hard to tease out the reasons on such a small scale.)

Shoveling a spot to move the chicken tractor

All of that said, tractoring chickens in the winter is a bit more work. If we had snow cover all winter, we wouldn't do it since there's be no point --- the tractor would just be a small stationary coop. Even in our zone 6 climate, we still have to change out waterers daily in freezing weather in the tractor rather than using a heated waterer, which adds to the daily work load. So, no, tractors aren't quite as easy as cooped up birds.

Pulling a chicken tractor

On the other hand, it's handy to be able to fertilize the garden directly with a tractor during the fallow season. As I mentioned earlier, it's nice to be able to ground bad birds slightly less permanently than if we ate them. And Lucy thinks it's particularly nice to get her daily dose of chicken manure when I move the tractor. (Yes, I move the tractor every day, unless it's snowing.)

Covering a chicken tractor

Just remember to put a tarp over the tractor before it snows rather than afterwards and you'll be all set. And if you're going to have to leave your tractor in one place for more than a few days, treat the hens to some leaf bedding. Oh, and do be sure to keep them on dry ground if at all possible.

Do all of those things and you'll have happy, healthy hens even in January.


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