Category Archives: Permaculture

Just to let you know

A couple posts today… this first is just to let folks know that I WILL get back to permaculture/homestead related writing at some point! But the simple reality is that in the winter there’s not a whole lot going on in that area. At the moment my day-to-day routine consists primarily of reading, occasional freelance web work, starting fires and keeping them going, tending to critters, and getting the telescope out on clear nights. As we get closer to spring I’ll update a bit on the garden and food forest plans.

Pondering the Future

Specifically my personal future and also thinking a bit about this blog. I’ve obviously not been very consistent with updates. Honestly, I put some of the blame for that on Facebook. I’m sure I am not the only one who spends too much time there. While it is great for sharing I thing the downside is that much of that sharing is just reposting. I am also leery of so much content being under one roof so to speak.

So, still here. With the crazy heat and drought of this past summer my garden suffered as did the many trees and bushes I put in over the past four years. That said, almost all of my perennials survived even if they didn’t thrive. Luckily the veggie garden was, by chance, smaller. The climate future looks increasingly scary for those of us that want to eat food, wink wink.

As for my project here, it will continue for the time being though I struggle to remain enthusiastic with the annual veggies. Something about three months of intense drought and heat seems to make my garden time outside a bit less enjoyable. Our well is shallow which means I either need to haul water from the lake or invest several thousand into a new well. Climate change is ugly.

So, I’m thinking that it is time to add in a new element of activity which reflects a new interest (actually a childhood/life interest that has been sitting in a corner of my mind): astronomy! Well, science in general, but astronomy especially. While I have no intention of abandoning the permaculture work I think having another primary activity is a good thing and in the winter when growing is out I’ll have something very interesting to explore, namely, our universe.

Which brings me back to one my thoughts on the blog. I’ve not been consistent in writing about my permaculture/homestead efforts but do think I might be more consistent in reporting on my astronomical explorations as it is the sort of interest that lends itself to data collection and reporting. Should I do that here as a supplement to my other interests or do I start an astronomy based blog? Actually, I think I just sorted it out as I write. I’ll keep it here but will not just add in my astronomical observations but will also add in other science related material.

Actually, and don’t laugh, but I have this vision of humanity (or myself?) that connects to a few episodes/films from Star Trek that have always stuck with me. In particular, those which seem to showcase small, egalitarian villages in which science seems to not only co-exist with daily life, but informs a deeper and greater understanding of the relationship between humans and nature and the larger universe. Contrast this to our modern manifestation which seems to have largely become a tool for corporate profit with little regard to ethics. A great example would be GMOs and modern industrial agriculture as it might compare to a decentralized permaculture-based system informed by local and thoughtful observation.

One outlook, the modern corporate/capitalist/industrial, uses science primarily as a tool for the accumulation of wealth. The other uses science as a method for deepening our understanding of the natural world around us not just for technological development, but for the sake of understanding. In this second outlook the ethics of use would be an important part of the overall process and would include all sorts of new questions and concerns in any sort of possible application of scientific knowledge. In fact, one might say that the second view represents a kind of democratization of applied science.

Wow. I didn’t expect to take this post in this direction but it is interesting and it is something I’ve thought about off and on over the years so, yeah, I’ll be back to this at some point. Another area that I’d like to explore is science literacy and critical thought. There has been a long trend in the U.S. which seems to be gaining a bit of steam when, in fact, it should be losing steam and that is the movement against science. Such a movement can only happen when there is a lack of communication of knowledge. When people are ignorant of established scientific knowledge and the basic method which serves as its foundation there is room for manipulation.

So, you can expect that I’ll be spending some time discussing not just science but specifically science literacy. I’m not a trained scientist but I think I know enough to discuss some issues as a citizen. Specifically I’m likely to dig into the entwined relationship of politics, religion and global capitalism have been used to undermine science literacy to further their capacity as control agents: social, political, economic, ecological… everything from the genetics of corn to humans, from crowd control to the “entertainment” that comes out of the glowing screens in living rooms. Science and technology can be used in many ways for many different and often opposing agendas. I think that will be some interesting exploration.

There is also some real life stuff I’m hoping to make happen that reflects all of this, specifically a few ideas for how I might further science literacy here in rural Missouri where it is greatly needed. I’ll share that as well.

Four years at the Homestead

It has been almost 4 years to the day since we began work here at the lake. In fact my first post was made on May 5, 2008 just after completion of our outhouse! It has been an amazing four years and we have come a long way. We built my cabin by mid May 2008 and I moved in on the 24th though the cabin wasn’t finished until the end of the summer. That first summer was spent cleaning up damage from a tornado that happened two years earlier, putting in 12 fruit trees, and the first garden. Because we had not hooked up the electricity I spent the first couple of months hauling water from the lake for the fruit trees and the young garden. In the late fall we hold in another cabin.

The following spring we built the chicken coop greenhouse and in early summer we built the kids’ cabin. The garden was expanded and more fruit trees were planted. The chickens arrived!! I also began work on the native wildflower Garden in front of my cabin. By the fall of 2009 I had begun to design and implement the various food forests. In addition to the fruit trees I added currants, gooseberries, paw paws, and a fairly large blueberry patch.

In May 2010 we added onto my cabin with a covered front porch and I finished my rain barrel installation. It was another hot, dry summer and I struggled to keep my garden alive. In the fall I began construction of my hugelculture beds. Another big fall project was trenching in our water line from the well house to our two main cabins. We also added onto our well house with a shower house and sleeping loft. Kerry and Greg’s cabin was redesigned and the interior nearly finished.

2011 was a summer of refinements and revisions. We finished the interior of the shower house and out house. The interior if Kerry and Greg’s cabin was finally finished as well. This was a laid-back summer, we swam a lot and I tried to keep the garden alive! The hugelculture beds performed fantastically.

That about sums it up. It has been a fantastic four years and this place is now my home, sweet home. I am looking forward to many more years here!

 

More Chickens!

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For some reason I never blogged it but back in April I’d gotten 5 new chicks to add to my flock of aging hens. I’ve only been getting 3-4 eggs a day so thought it was time to add in some new ones. In the past three months I’ve also lost some from the old flock, Boots the rooster was killed by some critter or maybe Chip (the original rooster) back in March. Then in July, the friendliest hen of the bunch, Waffle, died suddenly. In mid-August another hen died. All the others have been fairly healthy as far as I can tell. I sure hate to see them die.

Today, I decided to go ahead and let the new chicks mingle in with the older flock and so far it’s been smooth sailing. I expect a bit of conflict but at 5 months the new girls are every bit as big as the older hens and should be able to take care of themselves. They’ll figure out their new pecking order before too long.

Oh, they are Columbian Wyandotte, a very pretty breed, mostly white feathers but with a bit of black around the neck and tail that date back to 1893. Here’s a shot from May with my niece Emma holding one in my cabin. I’d raised the Guineas back in the summer of 2009 but this is my first batch of chickens to raise. All the others had been raised by Kerry, Greg and the kids.

Based on my experience thus far it looks like I’ll be adding 3-5 new hens each year to replace hens that have stopped laying and/or hens that have died. I think though that I’m pretty happy with this sized flock, which is 15 chickens and 2 guineas. Seems about perfect.

Small is Beautiful!

Hugelculture Beds doing great!

I decided last year that I’d be shrinking the garden down to the area around my cabin and I can say that, as of right now, that was a great decision!  I’ve got more kale, lettuce and spinach than I was ever able to grow in the big garden thanks to these fantastic hugelculture beds! The work involved in getting them set-up and planted was substantially less even with hauling all the wood and the productivity of these beds is off the charts. I’m probably getting twice as much in a space a quarter the size.  There’s zero loss to rabbits thanks to the raised beds and the fact that they are so close to the cabin which means  I can keep a better eye on them.  I harvested a bunch of lettuce today and planted tomatoes, eggplant and peppers in those spots.  Salad everyday? Check! Kale cooked in butter with eggs and potatoes four times a week? Check!

Food Forest!

The food forests around the cabin are also doing really well. The plum-based guild out front is becoming a really nice example of what can be achieved with the guild model. A plum surrounded by comfrey, sage, thyme, lemon balm, yarrow, currant and gooseberry. I had a couple open spots so I put in a couple sweet potatoes and an eggplant today. The pawpaw guilds behind my cabin had some open spots so I planted sweet potatoes and will be putting a couple eggplant, peppers and tomatoes out there too.

IMG_6433.jpgThose guilds already  had rhubarb, strawberry, purple coneflower, yarrow, oregano, and self-heal. There are also volunteer pumpkins, potatoes back there and in the swale bed of comfrey and rhubarb I put in onions, tomatoes, and eggplant. I’ve got as much food planted as last year, all within 60 feet of my garden!

Last, but not least, the native wildflowers have all bloomed and look great: columbine, bee balm, jacob’s ladder, wild geranium, purple coneflower with a few others to bloom soon.

Plenty of rain around here!

Hugelculture bed going strong!

In about 10 days we’ve had over 20 inches of rain fall, 2 inches a day average! It’s wet around here as you can guess. The geese are happy campers but the rest of us are ready for some dry time! Looks like most of the next 6 days is set to be sunny but two days have a chance of rain. Ugh. Both of our lake spillways have been running all out for the past 10 days, our bridge and lower road are washed out pretty bad. The other night I realized 2 of our kayaks were left to close to the water and when it came up they went out. I realized this when I woke up at 3:15 in the morning. So I ended up in the last kayak at 3:30 going across the lake with a flashlight in my mouth trying to find them. You don’t want a pair of kayaks clogging up your spillway or the culverts under a bridge that is already washing out! Didn’t find them but at least verified that they were not in the spillway. Found them the next morning at first light, one washed up on shore and the other in some brush by the dam. Close call. So, kayaking at 3:30 in the morning, 45 degrees with a bit of drizzel? Not recommended! And that was after spending 2 sessions in the lake Saturday and Sunday inspecting for leaks. Our dam has held up very well for the past 20 years and has weathered this recent storm like a real champ! We do have to do a bit of routine maintenance to take care of though. Dams need to be kept clear of trees but covered with grass or some sort of ground cover to protect the clay.

Food Forest

The hugelculture beds are coming along fantastically! Lots of kale, lettuce, spinach and chard in full swing with eggplant, peppers and tomatoes ready to go in once we get past this last cold snap. They handled all the rain really well and my plants are not at all water logged thanks to the elevation. Not only that but those buried logs must be full of water which will help keep the soil moist for many weeks to come. The food forests are all coming along, most notably the one just out my front door is really filling in perfectly with plum, currant, comfrey, lemon balm, yarrow and sage. All the blueberries have come up looking great too.

Our last construction project is nearly finished. The shower house is almost done with only the last bit of plumbing to do. The walls, shower, sink are all in and it’s painted. We still have to paint the outside and then finish the upstairs loft where Jake/other guests can sleep. The red cabin is finally totally finished on the inside with a little kitchen sink and cabinets. There’s a bit more to do in terms of an outside roof to keep the door dry and an extension on the back side covered area so that the full length of the backside is covered. After that we should be done for a while with construction stuff! Will be nice to spend more time relaxing rather than filling the weekends with constant work. There’s still maintenance to do of course but it will be nice to not have air compressors, nail guns and saws constantly running in the background.

Early spring garden and cabin

Oh, and an animal update. I’ve had the pleasant tweet tweet of 5 chicks in my cabin for the past 3 weeks! They are growing up fast and so cute with their first feathers in. Petunia is definitely pregnant and will be having her first fawn in the next 30 or so days. She’s been around most days for a bit of corn. The two canada geese have also been hanging out by the font porch every day as well, a nice addition! In fact I’m looking at them both right now as they lounge around in my front yard. I love their personalities, mannerisms, and constant vocalizations.

Greening up fast!

Hugelculture Bed

It’s been a couple weeks since I posted about planting the hugelculture beds. They’re a carpet of green: lettuce, spinach, chard, radishes, onions and kale. Another week or two and I should be harvesting lots of salads!  It will be interesting to see how well they produce, especially once I start adding in the bigger plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and squash. The tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are doing great in the greenhouse with another batch started a week ago. The rhubarb is about ready for a first harvest and the comfrey already has flowers!Spring rhubarb! The food forests are also coming alive with fruit trees taking off as well as all of the perennial herbs: oregano, lemon balm, sage, thyme, yarrow, purple coneflowers, feverfew, and tansy. The blueberries, currants, serviceberries, gooseberries and pawpaws are also awake and growing rapidly. Last but not least, the hardy kiwi vines have really taken off and look great.

All of my native perennial wildflowers are also coming up and doing well a year after transplanting. Orange coneflowers, bloodroot, jacob’s ladder, geranium, primrose, columbine, bee balm, cardinal flower and blue lobelia.

Last, I’m not a big fan of grass but late last summer we trenched in our water line from the well to the two cabins and the grass never reestablished so I’ve had LOTS of mud around here. We seeded it with a mix of grass, red and white clover, all of which is starting to rally take off. I’ll be glad to be rid of all the mud!