Monday, September 18, 2017

I was a guest on Deigo Footer's Permaculture Voices Podcast!

You may listen here.

I enjoy listening to podcasts about gardening, farming, and homeschooling.  I don't want to have on the TV to watch the news, as was my habit before the children became old enough to notice, while I cook supper or do chores around the house because I want them to play, or to at least not be terrified by all the crazy things going on in the world.  I also enjoy listening to podcasts in the car when the children aren't with me.  I educate myself through the efforts of people trying to do things in which I am interested.

So I foundDeigo Footer's Permaculture Voices Podcast, in which he talks about farming as well as about life in general.  I have raised two batches of meat birds for our own consumption, and I am interested in raising more.  He did a podcast on pastured poultry and I was interested in the amount of money a farmer could earn raising birds on pasture, and commented on the podcast.  I told him a bit about my experiences raising chickens, and he invited me to be a guest on the podcast on an episode about small-scale poultry raisers.  So here   it is.

Currently, I have 14 chickens and 5 chicks for eggs.  I am definitely not making anything off the eggs I do have; the eggs are the most expensive ones I have ever eaten!  But chickens are fun.

We live on five acres of land, where about 1 acre is relatively flat and cleared and the rest is in hilly woods, but we plan to start building a home on more land soon.  There is a former pasture of about three acres on this property, and the layout of the land is more conducive to moving chicken tractors.

I'm interested in doing something like this but it would be lighter and easier to move since my children and I would be doing the work.  I will be taking the birds to a local slaughterhouse for processing.  Here is a post about the first time I raised meat birds.

It would be a great part-time job for my children to earn some money and to understand the value of real work.  And it would be fun for me too.  (I know that sounds crazy, but as I told a friend, I really enjoy chickens.)

So here is my debut into podcasting.  I am first, so you can hear me without listening to the entire hour and 40 minutes unless you want to.  I enjoyed listening to everyone and learned a lot.  I say "Ummm" too much, I think....

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Weeds, weeds, weeds!

The weeds have gotten ahead of me this summer.  We have been busy with traveling and taking my children to camps, and keeping up with the toddler precludes vanishing to the garden for hours.  He does enjoy playing in the garden and my older children and husband do watch him for me occasionally.

The main problem (and blessing) I've had this summer has been the rain.  I think I am in something of a microclimate because the weather data I can find from the airport that's about 45 minutes away from here indicates that our rainfall is slightly below normal.  All I can say is that our lawn is a beautiful, soft, swath of green that hasn't been watered at all this year, and the crabgrass is two feet tall in places inside the garden.  The tomatoes and okra did poorly, and mildew has been a problem on the beans.

Here is the partially weeded asparagus bed.

A close-up of unweeded portion of the back of the bed.

Below is a picture of the asparagus bed after I spent two hours weeding it.  Later in the day, I hoed it lightly and fertilized it.  I'll put down some straw to mulch the bed after the weeds in the upper layer of the soil have had time to sprout and I have hoed them down.  

Because I do not have time to pull out all the weeds by hand (if I did, I would not have allowed the garden to become so terribly full of weeds), I have used tarps, black plastic, and whatever else I can find to kill the weeds by covering them and preventing them from seeing the sun.  The dead grass on the right has been covered by a tarp; the grass on the left is enjoying summer.
This is my bed of collards.  I set the plants out as transplants after I repeatedly lightly hoed or tilled the soil to kill the weeds in the upper layer of the soil.  Killing weeds that have barely sprouted is easy.  Organic farmers use the stale seed bed method of planting seeds.  To have a "stale" bed, farmers repeatedly shallowly till the surface of the soil, which kills many seedlings while they are tiny and easy to kill.  Depending on the climate and the time of year, farmers also cover the beds to encourage seeds to sprout so they can be killed.

I have no trouble encouraging seeds to sprout, so I go over the bed with my Earthway Wheel Hoe
to kill the weeds that sprout.  This tool is basically a hoe attached to a wheel, and it's so easy to use that a child, as long as he or she is tall enough to see over the handlebars, could operate it.  You must have relatively rock and weed-free soil, though.  It won't cut through rocks or heavy weed roots.  It works perfectly to eliminate baby seedlings, though, as long as the soil is dry.  If the soil is moist, or rain is expected, weeds will re-sprout.
I try to run over the beds and pathways with this tool, or with any hoe or weeding implement, on the mornings of days when rain is not expected and the afternoon temperatures will rise into the 90s.  Sometimes I run a rake back over the beds to eliminate re-sprouting of the weeds.

After a pleasant morning's work in the garden, I removed three or four wheelbarrow loads of weeds and their seeds.  I do not put them into the compost heap because the seeds would probably sprout eventually.  Instead, I put them in this heap in the edge of the woods where the tree canopy and root system deprives the seeds of the water, nutrients, and light they need to survive.

I have now mulched the asparagus bed with straw, which I hope will hold back the weeds until next year.  I should have mulched the bed last fall, but the obligations of children and other things kept me busy.  I also applied some organic fertilizer to the beds rather heavily in hopes of restoring the nutrients sucked off by all this crabgrass.  

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Baby chicks are enjoying some (well supervised) freedom in the unused cold frame

I have a covering to deter hawk attacks, and I visit them every ten minutes or so while they are outside (which is not long, because they will become chilled) to make sure snakes aren't after them, but they understood dirt and its functions immediately,without the example of a mother hen, and began scratching and dust-bathing as soon as they could.  Here's a video of them having fun.