Homestead Crafts Series: Intro

24 01 2012

I’ve come to realize that I have a duty to learn permaculture gardening techniques. I owe it to this piece of land we live on/off of to treat it with respect, and to leave it better than we found it. Part of treating this place with respect is to rid it of invasive species like Himalayan blackberry, the bane of just about anyone with open land in the maritime Northwest. The berries are delicious, but the canes are a monster to deal with if you so much as turn your back on them for even one season.

Lucky for us, goats LOVE blackberries. Well, the leaves actually. I was under the impression before we got goats that they “eat anything.” Sure, they seem to have iron stomachs, but my goats are quite picky eaters. They love blackberry, as long as it is young leaves, tender tips of fresh canes and shoots, and unripe berries. They want nothing to do with the old, tough, woody canes that are left over after picking the choice bits off.

So I am left  to remove the leftover vines with a set of hand pruners (I’m upgrading to a machete or a sickle this year), a pair of leather gloves and a box of band-aids. And then what do I do once I have a big pile of thorny trouble? I have tried making giant piles of old thorny canes in places I don’t want the goats to go, but that keeps me from venturing in those places as well, and it only lasts so long before the goats decide they can just carefully walk over the pile. In goat world, the grass is always greener on the side of whatever you don’t want them crossing.

I’ve tried cutting the canes into pieces small enough to break down relatively fast in the compost, but this takes a lot of time that I would rather be spending doing PRODUCTIVE things. Regardless of the time of year, there are only so many daylight hours in a day, and I don’t want to waste them cutting things into smaller things.

So after a little research and some help from Echo’s amazing google-fu (seriously, where does she find half this stuff?) I have come up with several creative uses for blackberry canes that I hope to blog about with pictures of the finished products in the near future. I may even post some photo-tutorials after I teach a few classes.

I am so excited about this! I have been having a real hard time thinking up solutions to some of my most vexing problems here on the farm. Money is so tight that even finding free supplies on freecycle doesn’t guarantee a solution to my problem: I still need to use gas and drive the car to get things. So the more I can produce, create and reuse with what we already have at our disposal to solve problems, the further what little money we do have goes when I can’t avoid spending it.

 





January on the Farm

15 01 2012

Companion planting guide

January sure did start out warm here, and pretty much the rest of North America from what I gather. It’s hard to argue against the Global Warming theory when it is so much warmer than previous winters.

Mr. Ewe and I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to get some last minute work done outside. No, the goat barn still doesn’t have a permanent roof, but a bill board-sized tarp seems to be doing the job fairly well, even if it is tacky. But we got all the old dirty hay shoveled out of the the pen (20 wheelbarrow loads worth) and spread it out in the garden where one of my new beds will be going in this spring. We then brought in 20 wheelbarrows loads worth of fruit tree wood chips we had delivered for free from a local tree service company. Then we cleaned out the barn (another 12 wheelbarrow loads!) and put that in the back of the orchard next to the potato tires for our next batch of seed potatoes, as well as for cob mixing and building experiments later this Spring.

I got the chicken coop cleaned out and replaced one of the roost-ladders I had made last summer (that cracked when one of the goats decided to make herself comfortable in the chicken coop) with a couple apple branches the goats had graciously stripped of bark. So now the chicken coop looks pimp. The barn is sweet because Mr. Ewe finally made a hay-bale feeder so we can feed one whole bale at a time, so we put that in there alongside an 8’x2′ pallet/goat bed and they seem to be pretty damn happy lately. They don’t hang out by the gate all day waiting for human hand-outs which I love.

The only problem I have with all of this is that the goats are never hungry anymore. You wouldn’t think that’s a problem, but I can’t let un-hungry goats out of the pen and expect them to just stay in the field and eat. Nope, they are wicked little beasts when they are feeling mischievous.  A week and a half ago, I let them out to forage back in the woods. Nelly took one look at me and took off through the front yard, down the driveway, up around the house, back down the driveway all the way to the road, down the road to the neighbors driveway, down the neighbors driveway to the back of our property and then they all squeezed through a previously unknown hole in the fence and right into our raspberry patch, taking all 6 of the other goats with her. Now this whole time, I am chasing after them waving my shiny aluminum goat-stick and Bean is strapped to my chest in her moby wrap. You should have seen the look on the driver’s faces when we stopped traffic to take a stroll down the road to the neighbor’s place.

What all of this amounts to is that I am done letting the goats out of their pen unless I have a mobile pen to move them to, and I do it one goat at a time. They know I am weak now that I can’t chase after them. They sniff Bean, they aren’t stupid, they know what a baby is. They know a new mom is the slowest member of a herd, and Nelly is challenging my herd queen status while I am slower than her. Just wait, once she kids this spring, she and her daughter from last year are outta here. I will probably sell them off as quick as I can as a starter herd. Good riddance.

Still no word from my buck’s previous owner regarding his registration. I’m really screwed without that, as my entire crop of next year’s kids were supposed to be registered via him. I can only hope she will eventually reply to my emails, and that it all works out.

One more reason those damn goats need a mobile pen is because we are expanding the garden this year. Last year I just got here too late, and had too much else going on, so I just used the one little bed that was full of weeds. I was so miserable with morning sickness I just didn’t give a damn. We got a decent little crop of peas and strawberries, but with a baby that will be eating solids this summer, I want her first foods to be home grown.

Now that I am feeling slightly closer to a more normal version of myself, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about my garden layout. I am planning on expanding by two more raised beds this spring for a total of three. I am planning on turning all of them into covered rows probably for a majority of the year. I am thinking I will just plan that this summer will be as cool and rainy as last year so I plant the proper things.

In order to maximize diversity in my limited space I’ve been doing quite a bit of research into companion planting, and I just picked up TheOne Straw Revolution from the library. Now I just have to find enough time to read, plan and plant a garden. Right now there is only one thing growing, about 100 cloves of garlic.

I can’t even begin to stress how important I think growing a garden is. I’ve really only had three seasons of actual gardening time in my entire life, so I am quite a novice still. But I would rather try growing 100 things and fail at 99 of them, then to not try at all and be at the mercy of the current food supply. Every time I fail in the garden, I learn something to not do next time, and I get better. My goal is to someday be able to produce all of our food ourselves.

I take my job as mother, wife, and living, breathing member of this planet very seriously, and I think knowing how to care for my people and being able to feed them is a big part of that job.

Our power went out this morning, and it was great to realize it wasn’t that big of a deal. We had a fire going, a kettle on the fire place, all the roommates gathered to hang out by the fire. There was nothing upsetting or panicky about not having the energy system turned off, and even once the power came back on, there was no real rush to go back to our electronic gadgets.

There is going to come a day in my lifetime where that is a more common occurrence than not, whether by my own personal design, or a larger collapse of the system. I like a life less electronic. Yes, I understand the irony of the fact that I am typing and you are reading this on a computer. But I can survive without the interwebs, it is not my lifeline to reality, nor is it my reality.





Bagels

14 12 2008

I made bagels today. :-p

Making the holes...

Making the holes...

Resting

Resting

Boiling

Boiling

Seasoned, ready to bake

Seasoned, ready to bake

Fresh from the oven

Fresh from the oven

Up close

Up close

Perfect, chewy, delicious.

Perfect, chewy, delicious.








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