Walden Effect

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Updated: 5 days 3 hours ago

Celeste fig 5 year update

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 17:55

It's been a year and a half since our Celeste Fig got too cold and died back.

If we think of something better for this spot it might get pulled up.

Time-lapse family photos

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 11:30

Mom came over Thursday with some old family photos, of which this is my very favorite. My great grandfather (lower left) was apparently a prep school boy in 1891. As the youngest in his house, Mom informed me that Prince Henry (yes, that was his first name; no, he wasn't a prince) was made to run errands for everyone else. So maybe the pout isn't feigned?

Fast forward ahead forty-odd years and the pouting school boy's daughter was adventuring in Panama. You can jump forty more years into the future to see the canoer's daughter (my mom) in this post. And then check out most of this blog to see the next generation (me) nearly forty years after that. How time flies when you're having fun!

Berry break time

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 18:04

Anna likes to clear her head from long hours of writing with berry picking.

It takes her somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes to pick a nice size bowl.

When to harvest hardy kiwis

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 11:30

Look who's getting bigger by the minute! Our Ananasnaya hardy kiwi has at least a dozen clusters of fruits this year for the first time ever and they're plumping up nicely. So I headed to the internet to look up when the fruits will be ready to harvest.

The answer is that we may run into the same trouble on the harvest end as we did on the flowering end --- frosts. Depending on the source, I've seen reports of hardy kiwis ripening anywhere between July and November, but you definitely have to bring them in before hard freezes hit.

To find out if your hardy kiwis are ripe enough to pick, cut one open and look inside. If the seeds are black, the fruits are ready to pick even if the flesh is green and hard. These kiwis can be stored in the fridge for a couple of months then taken out to ripen at room temperature a few days before you want to try them out.

Alternatively (if there's time), you can let the hardy kiwi fruits ripen on the vine. Vine-ripe fruits will become soft and most will blush red. If picked at this stage, though, you'll have to eat them up quickly because they won't last long in storage. Sounds like such a hardship! I can hardly wait....

Edgar and Aurora hoof trimming

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 20:58

Trimming Aurora's hooves is easy as long as Edgar is occupied with treats.

Edgar requires me to hold him down while he's being trimmed.

Raspberry patch expiration date

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 11:01

I never thought of raspberry patches as coming with an expiration date, but last year I realized that all good things must come to an end.

Our everbearing red raspberries started as a single freebie thrown in by Raintree in 2007 when we ordered several fruit trees. Now, a full decade later, that singleton has expanded into two patches on our own farm plus several in the gardens of family and friends...but the original planting is finally starting to lag. In the photo at the top of this post, the dividing line between the summer-bearing raspberries (begun as one plant three years ago, background) and the ever-bearing raspberries (ten years old, foreground) is startlingly clear.

Luckily, the solution is neither difficult nor expensive. This fall, we'll buy another single plant of an ever-bearing variety (or maybe several if I'm feeling like a spendthrift) and we'll be rolling in spring and fall berries in no time. So despite their expiration dates, ever-bearing raspberries continue to make the cut as one of our easiest and most dependable fruits.

Roll out nest tray question

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 20:12

What about the design should change to prevent hens getting to the eggs?

Thanks for the question Kaat.

It might be possible to glue an extension to the tray to keep eggs out of reach?

We go back and forth about deleting the two or more hens who are eating eggs.

Celebrating the summer solstice

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 10:53

The Summer Solstice --- the longest day of the year --- will be tomorrow...and, as usual, I can't think of a really adequate way to celebrate. I always love the idea of jumping over a bonfire...then the reality of sunset falling near my bedtime when it's still hot out kicks in. Maybe I need to learn a sun dance or practice some sun salutations instead?

What's your favorite way to celebrate the solstice?

A basket of Huckleberry

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 21:03

Huckleberry has decided baskets are a whole lot better than boxes.

Bribing goats during hoof trimming

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 11:31

The trick to a smooth goat hoof-trimming session is high quality bribes. Since neither Aurora nor Edgar is pregnant or lactating, they're currently getting no concentrates. So a bowl full of homegrown sorghum and field corn once a month definitely gets their attention.

For best results, leave the sorghum on the stalk so it takes longer to scarf down. Spoiled goats may or may not decide that corn on the cob is worth the hassle....

Beech Mountain writer's retreat

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 11:08

There are as many kinds of writers' retreats as there are writers, and when I started researching I considered just about every option. But, in the end, I decided to keep it simple --- find a hotel room within two hours' drive that's close to some natural area I want to explore. Beech Mountain, North Carolina, topped the list both literally and metaphorically. After all, the highest incorporated town east of the Mississippi is so cool in the summer  months that no one even installs air conditioning. What's not to like?

My condo at Pinnacle Inn was quiet and tranquil...although my rural-accustomed eyes would have preferred the streetlights to be quenched at night. Other than that, though, the location was quite a treat, and I split my days between pounding out chapters about werewolves and hiking stunning trails (the latter of which I'll tell you more about in tomorrow's post).

In the online circles I frequent, I'm a bit of a slow writer, publishing only four novels per year. And up on the mountain, I realized that if I changed my daily routine, I could easily double or triple that output. It's just so easy to write when nothing distracts you from the fictional world you're spinning within your own mind, when a hike in the middle of the day helps plot threads weave more closely together and when there are no husbands or animals or gardens to feed and enjoy.

On the other hand, I missed my husband and animals and gardens like the dickens, and the very best moment of the retreat was when I hiked back into our farm to greet Mark with a hug. I'm pretty sure I'll line up more writers' retreats in the future, both for the productivity boost and for the mental clarity that comes from four-mile hikes combined with 4,000-word days. But I wouldn't want to live there --- I prefer to merely visit.

Updating the primitive chicken tractor

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 19:16

This PVC frame will be a new chicken tractor to replace the primitive chicken tractor we are still using.

Rain barrel corner mounting

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 19:07

4 eye bolts with a cable and a turnbuckle was what it took to mount this rain barrel.

Total cost was under 10 dollars.

Chicken waterer longevity

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 19:17

This Avian Aqua Miser has being going strong for 8 years and counting.

The lid is a little discolored from sitting out in the sun.

In the Winter we usually leave one out overnight and swap it with a fresh one and take the frozen one in to thaw out for the next day.

PVC chicken feeder trouble

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 19:09

There is another problem with the PVC chicken feeder.

When the chickens eat it does not gravity feed like it should.

I think I'm going to have to eliminate the angle and maybe modify the bottom.

Writer's retreat

Sun, 06/04/2017 - 10:56

I thought you might enjoy two of my newest hand-made bowls in action. As usual, they're imperfect...but still beautiful and functional.

The real purpose of this post, though, is to let you know I'm going on a writer's retreat this afternoon and won't be back at on the blog until Thursday. Mark's holding down the fort while I'm gone, so you'll still get your daily homesteading episode in the evening, and I'll share lots of photos of my 5,000-feet-above-sea-level retreat when I return. I'm looking forward to lots of writing and hiking time, and I hope your week is as inspiring as I expect mine to be!

Goat training

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 19:17

Learning Anna's goat routine was easy once Edgar stopped being afraid of me.

Night clouds

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 11:12

I went outside the other night just as day was turning into night and caught these huge clouds shining against darkened trees.

I suspect the clouds must have been catching reflections of the recently vanished sun. Or maybe the half moon was bright enough to give them that pillowy glow? Whatever the reason, I had to rush back inside for the camera so I could share the beauty.

I definitely need to remember to go outside more often during the gloaming!

Rain barrel metal mounting stand

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 19:15

This old section of an antenna pole is just barely big enough for a rain barrel.

Two ratchet straps will keep it from moving side to side.

June garden check in

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 10:53

By the beginning of June, the shape of the rest of the garden year is beginning to ossify. In a perfect world, the gardener was smart enough to plant only what she could easily manage, so spring crops are in full production while summer crops are growing quickly beneath their mostly weed-free mulch.

This year, I'm quite pleased with the state of my active beds. In contrast, I was starting to get sick at this time last year, and I let large swathes of the garden run away from me. The result is still being felt twelve months later when perennials (primarily strawberries and asparagus) produce at rates a quarter to half of normal while as much of a third of previously cultivated ground currently lies weedily fallow.

Luckily, solutions are simple. I'm slowly solarizing the troubled spots, then will plant them in buckwheat to bring the areas back into production a bit richer than I found them. Meanwhile, extra weeding jobs on the perennials will do the same for our beloved strawberries and asparagus. Slowly but surely, the effects of being an overzealous gardener with an underzealous energy level will disappear into our rear-view mirror as our previously problematic garden comes back to life.