This month marks a number of new experiments and the completion of several projects. Thank goodness for longer daylight; there is a ton of stuff to do.
- The fruit trees in the food forest are blossoming just in time for the arrival of our bees. This year I’m hanging rocks on various branches to help guide their shapes for balance and fruit production. Feels quite zen when walking by them.
- The kids and I have been training the chickens to follow us using scratch corn in a shake can so they can weed in the food forest for us. We enclose the area in an extra strand of electronet to keep them out of areas we don’t want them (like the burgeoning garlic patch) and let them do their chicken thing on the soil.
- Finished building a pair of rocket stoves built with a good friend (and our kids). We used perlite and cement inside, so while heavy, they are still luggable for car camping and at-home no-electricity cooking. We’ll rely on our Biolite rocket stove for backpacking. The initial test burns worked well and we quickly learned what type of fuel works best.
- Starting a hugelkultur (“woody beds”) experiment with our potatoes this year. Same soil, same location, same seed potatoes, but will compare the trenching method versus a hugel method of burying wood debris at the core of a bed with straw and soil on top. Hugels retain water well and attract mycelium to make for very rich growing soil. Here’s a 10-second visual description of hugelkultur.
- I somehow messed up the recipe for soil blocks and had one grow light burn out unbeknownst to me while I was gone for a week of work travel. I came back to moldy soil blocks growing mushrooms rather than chili peppers and squash. Oops.
- The Biopod I purchased is not working. At first I failed to attract local Black Soldier Fly, and then when I stocked the unit with purchased BSF, they did not take. I’m sure this is user error rather than a flaw with the Biopod design, but I’ve not yet figured out what I’m doing wrong.
- Our new bees colonies are in, but we lost one immediately to an epic war with ants who showed up overnight en masse. Thankfully our local supplier had an extra package of bees which I installed after assisting the remaining bees in their righteous battle over the ants. Dug out the ants, *carefully* applied dichotomous earth, and left a bomb of boric acid + cat food for them to carry down to their queen. All three hives are now up and running.
Our heat (and sun) is leaving us too quickly for my taste. I find myself going outside every chance I get while taking work phone calls to enjoy the last days of our sunshine and mild weather.
Hoping we retain enough heat in the next few weeks for our chili peppers to ripen on the vine but they’re all huge so finishing them off inside would not be so bad.
This month’s learnings to share with both highlights and lowlights…
- An appreciation of true wealth (2-3 winter’s worth of good Douglas Fir stored) and true health (a year’s worth of garlic in storage).
- The entrepreneurial spirit I see in my son with his care and responsibility for our chickens and his egg business
- The joy on my daughter’s face as her toes wiggle out another huge potato. We had several 5 gallon buckets worth of gorgeous red-white-blue volunteer potatoes despite planting no new eyes this past year.
- New woodsheds were made by a local woodworker father-son crew and purchased via barter. Love barter deals!
- Steady supply of salad through the heat weeks where normally everything bolts. My wife’s brilliant idea was to create a new bed in the shade, and the lettuce transplants there did wonderfully!
- Almost blowing up myself and my house. Nicked the copper feed line for my generator’s propane tanks when trimming the bamboo surrounding it. One little spark from my shears before I got the tanks shut down would have been a disaster.
- Another failed corn year (four in a row!) after a promising start. Think my problem this year was lack of water. Will push out drip irrigation to the corn next year and tie into my timer system.
- Actually, it’s hard to think of many lowlights from this past month. It’s gorgeous and pleasant most every day outside this time of year and we’re not suffering from the droughts plaguing the rest of the country. Sunshine, blue skies, white clouds, gorgeous mountains, and deep healthy forests. It all goes a long way to erase work stress, crop failures, and any other problems. Feeling very grateful at this time of year as we head into Harvest Festivals and the celebration of this season’s bounty.
Using wikis and digital fabrication tools, Jakubowski is open-sourcing the 50 most-used farm machines that can be built cheaply from scratch.
TED Talks calls his Global Village Construction Set a “civilization starter kit.” At just $10K that could be shared among several micro-farmers and permaculture enthusiasts, I call it affordable.
While I like the idea of taking what was a waste product and making it useful, I’m less than impressed by the compressed sawdust logs I’ve purchased (seen here below our Go Bags).
Compared to regular seasoned firewood, they are more of a hassle to store (can’t be outside – absorb too much moisture from air), take much longer to light (even with a good hot kindling fire started), and don’t smell particularly pleasant (at least not compared to our aged doug fir).
I read many wonderful blog posts extolling their features, but I won’t be buying any more for next winter.
…are boycotting the TransCanada Crop pipeline, it’s time to take a look at that heinous crime yourself and get involved.
There is a brilliant woman named Dr. LuAn Johnson in Olympia, Washington who created the Map Your Neighborhood (MYN) program. It has the nine steps to complete immediately after a wide scale emergency such as a tornado or earthquake.
For our small town, we are adding a “Step 10″ series to various citizens’ nine step guidebook to bridge the gap between an individual set of neighbors and the larger community surrounding them. Steps 1-9 of Dr. Johnson’s MYN program ensure you, your loved ones, and your direct neighbors are cared for and secured. As we roll out our town-wide plans to connect our neighborhoods for both emergency preparedness and sustainability projects, the Step 10 series will shift the focus of specific individuals to securing entire neighborhoods and then the whole town (which happens to be an easily defined area – it’s an island).
Perhaps this list will be useful for your town as well. Here are a few examples of our Step 10 additions for citizens to pursue after they have finished their Steps 1-9. They will seek to travel (safely, short distances) to their neighborhood’s designated shelter:
- Ham radio operators to begin communication coordination
- Doctors, nurses, EMTs and CPR experts to to provide medical attention
- Mechanics and engineers to ensure all generators are safely up and running
- Members of the horse and bicycle communities to begin transportation duties (medical supplies, communication devices, etc) where roads are likely blocked by landslides and fallen trees
As we do further work on these Step 10 actions, we’ll document them on our main website, as well as excerpts here on this blog.
I have British friends who use this old catchphrase often and many times tongue-in-cheek. Which made me smile all the more when I saw the nearby graphic while reading one of my favorite blogs, Little Homestead in the City.
As we are ramping up our local efforts to build resilient neighborhoods on our island, it’s a good reminder to read about the history of victory gardens and related sustainability projects that our grandparents were quite familiar with, and that are becoming new again.
In her post Anais asks her readers their preparedness levels in these areas (at least one of which you’ll see we’ve not listed in our categories to the right – oops): Food, Water, Fuel Energy, Sanitation, Alternative Currency, Transportation, Communications, Medical & First Aid, Survival, Security.
I’ll prepare a future post regarding our sanitation plans in low or no power scenarios.
Love the folks over at Transition Voice, especially their post A Snarky Guide to Peak Oil.
Especially when they do it in just a handful of sentences. Seth Godin brilliantly summarizes the energy debate between nuclear versus oil versus coal while riffing on this interesting graphic.
Joel Salatin, the godfather of this blog says he’s just a grass farmer. Ha! he’s actually a farmer of a significant number of animals and crops, but his meaning is clear. He takes care of the grass in the fields, and everything else falls into place.
To date I’ve been using a variety of tools for grass management which include a lightweight electric mower for the proper lawn around the house, a serious gas-powered DR mower for the pasture (hiking paths, electronet chicken fence), an electric weed-eater for trimming, and more. In general, I’m completely dependent upon oil or electricity. Not good.
Enter the scythe. After just a few sessions trimming the lawn proper and prepping the pasture for a new installation of chicken electronet fencing, I’m already loving this thing. At $200 for a complete setup, that’s well below the price of any of my existing tools, which are noisy, smelly, and more dangerous than this giant blade.
When you’re using a scythe, you don’t need eye/ear protection. In fact, I did a work telephone meeting last week while using it. Just a slight (and pleasant) woosh sound while you are working. And it is significantly more time efficient when compared to the overall time of the power tools including gassing up, charging batteries, and annual maintenance. Just grab the scythe + whetstone and off you go.
I’ll be selling off our other power tools for grass maintenance this month.