We currently have 6 sheep and 13 chickens. We feed and water them a few times a day. It is always fun to watch!
Herb Garden February 17 2017
I checked on my herb garden today. I found more green than I expected!
I planted these lavender plants last Summer. They grew so much! It looks like the winter Chamomile. It is still so green!
did not bother them one bit. They still smell good! The best variety to grown in MN is
Cilantro. One of my favorites. It still tastes good! Thyme. Still smells and tastes great! Permaculture island
Bird feeder Dummy
This was an experiment which hasn't yet proven to be successful, but is still very much in the process. The goal is to train the wild birds to eat out of our hands while we sit on our deck. The method is simple. We made two dummies; one that looks like John and one that looks like Clare. We dressed the dummies up, printed and laminated images of John's and Clare's faces to put on the dummies heads, and put the dummies on the deck. Then we doused the dummies and the railings with bird seed. At first there was nothing. But eventually we had lots of birds eating on the deck and hopping all over the dummies. Now we just have to pick a time either replace the dummies, or join them. I think the important thing is to do it when it's really cold out. The birds are much more bold then. The problem is that it's much less comfortable then. We'll keep updating on the progress of the bird feeder dummy.
You know talking about the weather has come to represent the lack of meaningful conversation in our culture, but I find there's a really good reason people talk about the weather a lot. It's the reason I'm going to talk about it right now: It rained. And it rained the perfect amount at the perfect time. It was the difference between figuring out how to water a half acre of bone dry soil, and sitting back and letting the sky do it for me. What a wonderful thing.
The garden is coming along quite well. I have a method that I use which was inspired by Eliot Coleman. I plant on rows of hilled up soil and grow clover in between. In these pictures when you see black dirt with rows of green, it's probably that I either haven't planted that row or it hasn't germinated yet. The row of green is the clover in between the rows. There are a few reasons for doing this and I'm finding new reasons every season. My attitude is that weeds are going to happen. If I tried to have a completely weed free garden I would go crazy. So the idea is to start your plants with an advantage over the weeds and then spend the summer maintaining that advantage. If you do this you can get the plants to do a lot of the work for you. The biggest way that I give my plants the advantage is by planting my own "weed." This is what the clover is for. Clover is an aggressive plant that will compete well with weeds. It's a legume so it fixes nitrogen and is great for building the soil. By planting my own "weed" I've already eliminated half of the work. So you might be wondering how I keep the clover from competing with the crops. Good question. I use a weed wacker. Sure there are times when I need to get a hoe out or even hand weed, but for the most part I can keep the crops well ahead of the clover just by cutting it on a regular basis. This accomplishes another task which is mulching the plants. The clippings fly off to the side and land at the base of the crop plants keeping in moisture, fertilizing, and acting as a weed barrier all at the same time.
This year we did some experimenting with yurt frames. I built a greenhouse out of a yurt inspired structure called a bjurt, and I'm using an old wooden yurt frame to house my leafy greens. I'd like to grow green beans up the side of the lattice walls and turn it into a green bean house. Our broccoli is forming heads and will be ready to pick next week for sure if not sooner. And our cherry tomatoes have little clusters on them. I'm going to experiment with root pruning this year. You can basically shock a tomato plant into ripening early by pruning the roots. I'll see if we can get some ripe tomatoes by the end of June. That would be a record for me!
This was sort of an experiment. We wanted to make a greenhouse that was very portable, very reusable, and very durable. We've played around with yurts before in the past and they seem like such a perfect design, but they're so much work. Luckily for us someone already came up with a new design called a bjurt.
This guy redesigned the yurt to be completely collapsible like one of those canopies at the Farmers' Market. I thought that would be a perfect greenhouse. It's very wind resistant since it's designed after a yurt. BTW for those of you who don't know what a yurt is, it's a traditional Mongolian dwelling used by the nomads. Genghis Khan used one. It's a beautiful structure. All of the walls fold up. The roof poles come down and you can pack a whole house on a trailer and head across the steppe. It's kind of like an Asian Teepee except quite a bit better. Anyway, they are extremely wind resistant since they don't have any corners. The traditional ones are all round. So the wind just sort of blows over it and actually pushes down a little bit kind of like how a race car is designed. It's the same shape all the way around so it doesn't matter which way the wind is blowing. It vents air really well through a hole in the top. We have ours fitted with a heat sensitive lid which opens and closes automatically depending on the temperature.
So we got one and put plastic on it and set it up. Right now we have all of our hot weather crops in there soaking up the sun.
When that storm came through a few days ago there was a tornado about 10 miles south of us that touched down. I was pretty concerned about the greenhouse so I went out and checked it just after the storm blew over to make sure it was ok. The picture on top with the sunset is how it looked. Everything was just fine.
This would be great for anyone who lives in town but has a big garden outside of town and they want to set up a green house that's pretty low maintenance. I go out every few days to check on it but it keeps a pretty good temperature by itself. And for water I keep a big container full in the middle on a table and just siphon out to drip lines. It would be great to be able to collect rain water for watering.
My favorite thing by far about this is how small it becomes when you take it apart. All you have to do is remove the vertical and horizontal wall poles and the whole thing just folds up into a nice tight little bundle.
Here is a picture of a tomato plant in a soil block. A soil block is just what it sounds like; a block of soil. The reason we plant this way is for a smoother transplant. We find that when we grow seedlings in little containers the roots get all wound up. When they grow to the edge of the container they just start circling the inside and form a big clump of roots. With soil blocks the roots grow to the edge of the soil block and meet with the air. This causes them to stop growing outward and develop more root shoots rather than longer ones. Then when we do put them in the ground, all of the roots that grew to the edge of the block just start right back up again and continue into the soil. It's easy to loose a couple of weeks worth of growing to a bad transplant. We've found that using soil blocks can eliminate any transplant shock if it is done right. The trick is using the right recipe for the blocks though. If they are too hard the plants wont grow, if they are too soft they fall apart. We use about a 2:1 ratio of peat moss to compost plus some other ingredients. That seems to work pretty well. It's basically a slight variation of Eliot Coleman's formula.
Spring is in the air, and in the house! Starting plants is always fun. We have broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers, lavender, and collards. We are trying a new variety of Tomato this year. It's called the Cherokee purple. It has won numerous awards for taste across the country. It's an heirloom variety that was supposedly developed by horticulturists in the Cherokee tribe way back in the day. For us so far they have been great germinaters and are doing well under the lights. We'll be starting herbs soon and I'll be experimenting more with potpourri and tea making. I'm very excited about that. I hope my little lavender plants will work out for me. I've had a hard time growing lavender in the past. There is really only one variety that can handle the winters around here, it's called munstead. So far they are looking pretty good. When they first come up they look just like basil.
We are in the process of transforming our yard into our little piece of heaven. Last week we had a wonderful surprise. Our yellow lady slippers survived the winter. Last summer a friend had a plant in his yard and he had cut the tree down that was shading it so it started to die from too much sun. So we dug it up and planted it under our maples but with such a dry fall last year it withered up and looked dead. Well, I guess it wasn't. This year we have three shoots coming up. I can't wait to see if they bloom.