Home greets me with sun-ripened tomatoes and solar power. So sweet..
hypothesis I often see put forth by the permaculture community is that
you can use weeds to discover imbalances in your soil. When I finally tracked down the best book on the subject, though, I was disappointed.
Since then, I've come to my own conclusions --- problematic weeds are
an indicator of issues with your management strategy, not necessarily of
problems with the ground underfoot.
Since I tweak my gardening techniques every year, it's no surprise that our worst weeds change with the times. This year's doozy is a plant that I used to consider barely noticeable --- ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea), which is pictured above. My mother enjoys this plant in her garden for its bee-friendly spring flowers, its pleasant aroma, and the way it quickly covers the ground. Unfortunately, ground ivy wreaks havoc with the mulched areas since it quickly grows amid straw and makes you lose most of your mulch when you rip it out.
Why is ground ivy suddenly a big problem for us? I only see the weed in the shadier parts of my garden, and primarily during wet years, making me think that there's something about cool, wet conditions that gives ground ivy a foothold over the grass that's supposed to be colonizing the garden aisles. I can't do anything about the weather, but I can change a management technique that I think has been giving the ground ivy a foothold in the front garden aisles --- weedeating. Until this summer, Mark was in charge of cutting our "lawn," and he generally opted to weedeat the front garden rather than mow it since the aisles aren't very linear. However, close cutting can promote ground ivy over grass, especially in shady areas. Time to commit to mowing instead of whacking the front garden grass!
When I first identified
our second troublesome weed of 2014, the book I looked it up in gave it
the appellation "devil's racehorse." I haven't been able to track
down the source of that name, and now call the weed by its more common
names (quickweed, shaggy soldier, Galinsoga quadriradiata).
But the colorful name that originally made me scratch my head makes so
much sense now that I garden --- quickweed will take over a garden
While ground ivy is the bane of my existence in the shady front garden, quickweed makes its annoying presence known in the sunny mule garden. I made the mistake about three years ago of letting a single plant go to seed in a garden bed there, and the result has been nearly endless handweeding of every crop I've grown in that spot thereafter. The solution here is pretty simple --- whatever you do, don't let quickweed go to seed in your garden!
Have you learned from your garden weeds? If so, which ones taught you memorable lessons?
Get on the front page of hacker news for no apparent reason, then head down to Phoenix for lunch, and then pop over to my mom's house.
So far, gorgeous views of Mt Hood (?), Ranier, and flew over the grand canyon.
What's the best way to store
a year's worth of harvested onions?
We like to use old citrus bags and sort out the damaged ones to be used first.
folks will tell you to leave a grafted apple alone for its first year
of life. The goal is for it to grow straight and tall, into a
one-year-old whip that is hopefully four feet tall (for an apple on MM111).
That makes a lot of sense if you want a tree to achieve its full height potential, but what if you plan to use high-density methods to fit more apples into a smaller space? As our grafted trees surpassed waist height, it occurred to me that if I want branching to begin relatively close to the ground, I might as well break the apical dominance now rather than waiting until this winter to begin pruning. The photo to the left shows what happens a couple of weeks after snipping the top off one of the whips --- new branches begin to form in the leaf axils of the top three leaves or so.
What next? The
photos above show an apple on MM111 rootstock that is several years
older, and also several weeks further along in its top-snipping
adventure. As you can see, I've tied down all but one of the new
branches so the tree will once again enjoy apical dominance while
turning the horizontal twigs into scaffolds. On a vigorous tree
like this one, I've managed to snip the top off the tree twice this year
(if I recall correctly), building two whorls of scaffolds in one
I doubt our little grafted trees will put out much more growth this summer, but hopefully they'll sink at least a little energy into the new branches. If all goes as planned, when I transplant them to their new homes this winter, they'll be a bit further along than the typical one-year-old whip.
Watching a guy walk his pig in the PSU park. Hello portland..
We didn't get the snake
today, but now we're ready.
If you need to do a lot of animal grabbing then maybe the deluxe critter catcher for 140 dollars could be justified, but threading the right size rope through a PVC pipe is a lot cheaper.
We didn't get the snake
today, but now we're ready.
If you need to do a lot of animal grabbing then maybe the deluxe critter catcher for 140 dollars could be justified, but threading the right size rope through a PVC pipe is a lot cheaper.
A few weeks ago, we noticed a drastic decline in the number of eggs coming out of our coop. As day length decreases, it's normal to notice fewer eggs,
but a hen's lay usually drops off gradually rather than all at
once. Added to the mystery, some days our egg haul was back to
normal, followed by a series of days with only one or two eggs in the
nest box. What was going on?
Mark solved the mystery when he found a black rat snake sunning itself outside the coop in the middle of August. For a while, we gathered eggs earlier in the day, and the snake seemed to have moved on, but numbers once again declined this past week. Sure enough, this time Mark caught the snake in the act, its body swollen around an egg.
Black rat snakes are completely non-poisonous, and from my days as a naturalist, I know most are actually pretty friendly too. But I still didn't feel comfortable just picking up the snake (which I planned to relocate to the other side of the hill). Instead, I tried pushing the snake into a bucket, then I ended up chasing it across the coop where the reptile kept trying to slither out holes which no longer fit its body due to the addition of the egg lump. Eventually, the snake regurgitated its egg and disappeared into the weeds...just as Mark appeared with a homemade tool to make snake handling easier. Stay tuned for Mark's post on that topic later (and, maybe, a successful catch this afternoon?).
my laptop bag is full of meats #DebConf #PSU #Portland
Thanks for the comments on using a
miter saw blade with a weed trimmer.
Most people are like my neighbor and report problems with it binding up when cutting small trees which could be a result of not keeping the blade exactly even during a cut.
Maybe in the future Stihl will invent some sort of LED indicator you could look at and know which way to tilt the blade to make the most level cut.
Breakfast of espresso and enormous Oregon blackberries at the farmer's market. Loving that I've been here long enough to go to it twice. Also feeling I've been away from home a loong time.
While we refer to our
"lawn" only in parentheses since the grass is full of dandelions,
clover, and whatnot and never gets fertilized (except with the chicken tractor), I do occasionally feel guilty about the grassy areas. Granted, on our farm, grassy garden aisles make sense,
but most like-minded people think all lawns are evil. However, as
I mowed Thursday, I started wondering whether the carbon dioxide coming
from our mower might not be offset by the carbon being sequestered in
the soil as grass blades and roots turn into humus.
Sure enough, independent scientists (in addition to the lawn-care "scientists" you might expect to feel this way) report that lawns do act as carbon sinks. A minimal input lawn like ours that only gets mowed with no other treatment sequesters about 147 pounds of carbon per lawn per year (after you subtract out the carbon released by the mower). The abstract I read didn't mention lawn size, but I'm assuming they're using the American average of a fifth of an acre, which matches up with another study that reports each acre of lawn sequesters a net of 760 pounds of carbon per year.
Of course, cover crops will put the puny carbon sequestration powers of a lawn to shame. Sorghum-sudangrass will pump a massive 10,565 pounds of carbon per acre into the soil, and oilseed radishes don't do so bad either at 3,200 pounds of carbon per acre. In fact, a 120-year-old northeastern woodland only clocks in around the carbon sequestration powers of oilseed radishes, and you can still grow tomatoes in the oilseed-radish ground during the summer.
Which is all a very long way of saying --- if you're considering making a patio or leaving that area as lawn, go for the lawn. But if you really want to sequester carbon fast, plant some cover crops.
Linus Torvalds at DebConf.. this is going to be kinda weird I think.
10 minute demo with 1 intentional haskell type error, 5 lines of code entered, 1 docker container provisioned, one change to my dns server provisioned.
Will be demoing propellor in half an hour, live stream at http://timvideos.us/room338
Our neighbor mentioned that
he uses a miter saw blade on his weed trimmer.
The arbor hole is the same diameter as the Ninja brush blade. Make sure the teeth point to the left to take advantage of the cutting teeth.
I only tried it on some rag weed and it was like a hot knife cutting through butter. Our neighbor reported when he tried it the blade would bind up on even medium sized trees. I think we don't need the little bit of extra cutting power for such a huge leap in danger.
It will run on amd64 or arm. I don't think on i386, because I put the amd64 qemu in it.
I appreciated all of the thoughtful comments on my scarlet runner bean post
last weekend! Several of you correctly pointed out that the
species is actually a perennial, although the distinction won't make
much of a difference for most of us since (like tomatoes) scarlet runner
beans are perennials that act like annuals in temperate climates.
On the other hand, that reminder did point out that not only the green
beans, shelled beans, and flowers, but also the tubers of scarlet runner
beans are edible.
However, what I wanted to share today is a downside I just discovered of my beautiful bean planting. Unfortunately, scarlet runner beans seem to make awesome nurseries for Mexican bean beetles, as you can tell from the holey leaves in the photo above (and from the larva that was hiding in a photo in my previous post, repeated to the left). We use the ultra-simple bean-beetle control method of succession planting bush beans (explained in more depth in The Naturally Bug-Free Garden), but adding scarlet runner beans to the mix means that this year's beetle population exploded and quickly colonized my bush bean plants. Good thing I'd already frozen several gallons of the staple crop because the plants will probably soon bite the dust.... I might try scarlet runner beans again, but this piece of data suggests I should keep my for-food beans far away from my for-beauty beans in the future.
On a semi-related note, our experimental fava beans have come up! The seedlings look more like peas than like beans, which is probably because fava beans are really a vetch. We hope to experiment with eating both the fava bean seeds and the scarlet runner bean seeds at lima bean stage...even though I don't think I've ever eaten lima beans before in my life. For those of you who are more experienced --- what kind of introductory recipe would you recommend?
Forgot to mention, image by Aigars Mahinovs who must have held his DSLR out really far!
What a beautiful day we had. And, how lucky I am to have a waterfall not far from home that can be compared to Multnomah in exquisiteness of experience, if not sheer height.
When is the best time to pick
We pick them once a week this time of year after they turn black.
They make yummy sprouts for greening up tuna salad during the Winter months.
week, the world seems to be chock full of soldier beetles.
Specifically, these goldenrod leatherwings are in a mating frenzy --- I
counted half a dozen on just a few echinacea flowers on Wednesday
With nearly 500 species of soldier beetles in the U.S., gardeners aren't likely to learn them all by name. But I'm pretty sure all of the soldier beetles are either innocuous or beneficial (although some of their larvae are minor problems on fall fruits).
The beneficial species
are handy because the larvae eat slugs and snails while the adults
consume aphids. Other species (like the goldenrod leatherwing)
seem to fixate on nectar instead, but the world can't have too many
(Yes, this post is just an excuse to share pretty bug photos. What can I say --- they're cute!)
Our neighbor with a tractor
has agreed to help us get the truck unstuck.
Today we just looked it over and developed a plan.
With any luck it will continue to dry up and make things a little easier.
August is probably the
tastiest time of the year on our farm. This week, we've enjoyed
the first lettuce and red peppers, and the fall round of red raspberries
are starting to be nearly as copious as the blueberries we've been
enjoying for weeks. Three cups of berries per day make perfect desserts.
We're still eating tomatoes and cucumbers and watermelons (although they're starting to decline), and have plenty of summer squash, green beans, and Swiss chard that will continue to go the distance. We're nearly at the end of our spring cabbage and carrots (which currently live in the crisper drawer of the fridge), but fall crops are all growing like gangbusters and promise to replace the spring round soon. In fact, I saw the first pea flower Monday!
What am I watching with an eagle eye? Our fig bushes! Last year, the first fig ripened up at the very beginning of September, and I'm looking forward to tasting the first few Celeste figs (along with bowlsful of Chicago Hardy) later this year.
What are you enjoying and looking forward to seeing soon in your own garden?
I installed a firewood guide
on our steel
crate garden wagon today.
The small and medium slots will help us cut up all the fallen limbs we have.
I'd like to be able to
tell you "I only needed two sticks of wood to scramble our breakfast
eggs," but the truth is that this first iteration of rocket-stove
cookery was a learning experience. What I mostly learned is that
damp wood doesn't fly in rocket stoves --- I didn't really get the fire
blazing until I tracked down the piece of kindling in the middle of the
photo above, which had been sitting in our woodshed for a couple of
years and was bone dry. The sticks that have been drying on the
porch for a week mostly smoldered instead of burning.
Perhaps because I only ended up using one dry piece of wood, the temperature in the skillet on top of the rocket stove never got warmer than what equates to about medium on our electric range. That's fine for scrambling eggs, and would be great for things like soups, but for my next experiment I look forward to trying out the skirt that fits around a pot to increase the stove's efficiency by 25%. I also want to get a more solid handle on exactly how much wood the rocket stove consumes, although I have to say that I'm already impressed in that regard.
What was the biggest
surprise about making breakfast on the rocket stove? How much I
enjoyed the fire therapy! Usually, I get a little cranky during
power outages due to internet deprivation, but a dose of fire first
thing in the morning instead set me singing happily as I weeded the
garden. Of course, it doesn't hurt that our Cyberpower Battery Backup combined with my laptop battery means I can enjoy about an hour and a half of blogging time even while the grid is down.
In case you're curious, everything in the freezer stayed frozen during the outage, despite highs that nearly reached 90. If the juice had stayed off for more than 24 hours, though, we would have topped off the cold with our generator.
when I feel stupid
A lot of my posts this week have pictures, but they are not showing up on the family blogs page. If you click on the title of a post, you'll see the picture.
(This is because of issues with pump2rss.com. I need to find a better rss feed.)
Managed to escape DebConf's gravitational pull for a few hours; wandered down to Pioneer Square and watched ballet in the park over a salad.
But it's hard to escape.. Stopped for an expresso on the way back and in no time the conversation jumped from indiginous Brazilian music to haskell on powerpc. Then on the way back to my room I had an intense mind-meld of a conversation about the best battery choice for our respective solar powered dwellings.
.. And that was a relaxed 1.5 hour gap in the DebConf schedule. Got back just in time for the ledger BoF (double-entry accounting for geeks).
Five years ago we hauled
a freezer twice this size with the golf cart.
That was during a rare dry spell. The golf cart wouldn't have made it on a day like today and I think we maxed out our ATV carrying capacity with this 7 cubic foot IDYLIS.
A 10 percent discount for veterans along with free delivery made this a sweet deal.
sorry about kicking down your door.. a bit of a bad habit
Yeoj died on level one. Killed by a Chris's apostrophe golumn.
Inventory: A +2 ring of armhf power (worn on left hand).
Attributes: You used no wishes. You were devoutly libre software.
sometimes I forget too much
to share the laughing willow
of abundance that is me
I went camping this weekend in a beautiful natural and human landscape to represent the work I’ve done against hydrofracking in an anti climate change movement I am somewhat familiar with called rising tide. I am thinking a lot about pilgrimage and my life actions as broadly being a pilgrimage and my involvement with these people reminded me the environmental world badly needs human intervention and a changed way of consuming to survive. I felt a bit out of place in the group as I always do in groups. At one point I even felt I needed to defend the Tea Party people because I believe anyone can be taught and brought to better ways and I heard a shunning of sorts of people who might actually even make up a large percent of my home town.
I guess my point as an “activist” or among activists is that I like to bridge the gap between people groups who believe in climate change and those who don’t. That is very necessary work. In the next hundred years the sea level will rise so incredibly much regardless of what we do and we all must prepare for what is to come.
I am not personally good at the nonviolent civil disobedience tactics generally used by Rising Tide but I think it was still good for me to go. I am a contact for them in Bristol.
In my beliefs a pilgrimage can be many things. For me I use the word because I think it is accurate. But don't be confused. I wasn't bringing much to the group I think. I mostly just sponged up thoughts for my future use.
The biggest lesson for me though when I am among radical activists is that the situation of climate change is real and looming. So increasing my influence of others environmental decision making really does matter.
I am very grateful for the willingness of the organizers to give me the scholarship they offered. I now also feel I owe them money.
The bees haven't managed
to do any extra comb-building this week, as evidenced by a photo up
through the bottom of the daughter hive. Sure, there are scads of
flowers available at the moment, but bees can't fly when it's raining
every day. Luckily, both of our colonies have socked away so much honey that they could probably coast until winter if they had to.
Honey is on my mind because this is the time of year to start thinking about the hives' winter survival. But survival through the cold months doesn't just mean honey stores. Varroa mites can be a huge drain on a hive's resources in the winter, and the populations sometimes balloon in late summer and early fall. So I like to do a mite check in August, another in September, and one more in October just to make sure the colonies are on track. Our two hives passed with flying colors during this first round --- the daughter hive dropped two mites per day while the mother hive dropped 1.3 mites per day, far below the worrisome threshold.
What will we do if mite levels rise over time? We already use a lot of the methods of varroa-mite treatment/prevention listed here. Last year, we tried out treating bees with powdered sugar as well, but I don't think I'd do that again --- it could be just a coincidence, but the hive dosed with sugar is the only one where I've ever had a colony abscond in the fall. Instead, I might try the rhubarb trick that an old-timer recently shared with me. Better yet, here's hoping our hygenic bees will groom off so many varroa mites that I won't have to do anything at all.
The XKCD display box and router converts the internet wifi into a local ethernet.
Right next to it is a mini-network consisting my my freedombox, running as an access point, and bridging via ethernet to the the git-annex-logoed OLimeX computer.
I was using this today to get a clean Debian installed on the Lime (it came with a messy debian preinstalled), and investigate what needs to be done to support it in d-i. https://lists.debian.org/debian-arm/2014/08/msg00219.html
I was surprised I managed to get the kernel, filesystem, and even u-boot replaced. Mostly because I don't have a serial cable for this box, so the only access was over wifi-to-ethernet, and via looking at the microsd card after it booted! Only 2 twice did it fail to boot at all, luckily.
(Biella at her talk last night.)
We recently decided our front
porch would be a good place for a small ceiling fan.
How do you install a ceiling fan on a slanted roof?
Level the ceiling fan mounting kit at the opposite angle before securing it.
I'm intrigued by the potential of the scarlet runner beans I'm growing for the first time this year. I planted them for quick shade along the south face of the trailer
while the perennial vines get established, but I was soon taken by the
way the orange-red flowers attract hummingbirds (plus bumblebees,
butterflies, and other insects). And now I'm wondering whether
biomass production might not really be scarlet runner beans' primary
"Those plants are like annual kudzu!" I told Mark at lunch yesterday, and he asked me why I was being so mean to the beans. But, the truth is, I was paying them a compliment. If the species wasn't the scourge of the South, kudzu would have a lot going for it from a permaculture perspective due to its ability to fix nitrogen, to thrive in poor soil, and to grow extremely quickly. Scarlet runner beans seem to share many of the same traits, as you can see by comparing the two photos above --- the top picture was taken this weekend while the second photo is from only seven weeks earlier. Since scarlet runner beans are annuals instead of perennials, they can put out this crazy amount of weekly growth with much less risk of the beans taking over the world.
Since our soil is getting
richer by the year, meaning we can grow more food in less space, I've
been tossing around ideas for what to do with the freed up growing
room. One big goal is to grow more of our own compost and
mulch. To that end, I'm experimenting with some plants that I
wouldn't quite call cover crops since they don't out-compete weeds, but which might mix together to make a prime compost pile.
The photo above shows this summer's experiment of sunflowers and sorghum, with oilseed radish planted around the roots of the left-hand bed for weed control. Perhaps the relatively woody stems of sunflowers will combine with the high-nitrogen vines of scarlet runner beans to create good compost? As a lazy gardener, I'd love it if the compost could be made in place --- just toss the plant carcasses on top of a garden bed in the fall and let them rot into compost by spring while shading out weeds in the process.
It seems like I've always got exciting cover crop experiments in the works. That's the sign of a geeky gardener --- she's drawn to the buckwheat being grown for soil improvement before she takes a look at your tomatoes.
Excellent and free DebConf coffee cart is dannngerous to my so far not complete caffeine addiction.
I've looked at a lot of
chicken cam set ups over the years and have not been impressed with any
until I found Terry Golson's HenCam.com.
What's it take to keep 4 live streaming cameras going in a barnyard environment? Terry's husband does an excellent job explaining the not so easy IT details that make such a project possible.
They've also got goats to keep their flock of over a dozen chickens entertained.
Beautiful morning wandering around the Portland farmer's market, located right out front of DebConf.
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