Friday, April 30, 2010

My iPad Guilt




So, I finally have internet access at the cabin thanks to a new iPad. On the one hand I'm happy to have easy access again. I like going into town to get online as it usually fits with my schedule of errands and meetings but it also means I go in more than I should. I've probably been going in 2-3 times a week in recent months rather than the 1-2 times that is really necessary. Having the iPad means that when I do go in I will be able to spend that time talking to folks and developing better relationships rather than staring at my laptop trying to get everything done that I need to get done. It also means I can go back to my 1-2 times a trip frequency. So, I'll save gas in that sense but lets face it, an iPad or any other computing device is a lot of embodied energy. I look at the oil spill in the gulf coast and know that that is a result of my driving and my consumption. Sure I drive less than most and make a real effort to minimize my consumption but I still consume.

Yes I think this is a fantastically cool device. I can now easily update my blog, check email and update my clients' websites all from home. But it is a bittersweet enjoyment I'm getting today. I know that I could have done without this device.

And let me just go on the record as saying that not only should we not be expanding drilling in the gulf, we should start cutting back on production in the gulf altogether. Yes we'll have less oil. GOOD. It is well past the time that we should be cutting back our consumption drastically. Getting in a vehicle without thought and need should have been a thing of history... should never have been a thing in the first place. Our consumption generally should always be questioned whether it is a trip in an automobile or the purchase of an iPad or any kind of purchase at all.

Location:Unnamed Rd,Fredericktown,United States

Monday, April 26, 2010

Visiting Adventurers!

Travelers!!This past Friday I was in town distributing the annual reports and map brochures for the Fredericktown Revitalization Initiative and I came across a couple of traveling folks talking to Bill in front of the library. It was kinda funny how quickly I knew that these were "my people" even from across the square. Living at deCleyre for 5 years and before that at the "Anarchy Farm" I've come to quickly recognize the young nomads that travel the country. We hosted hundreds of them during my time at deCleyre and they are almost always a joy to have around. Nothing goes better with a good dinner than tales from the gravel back roads, woodland encampments and railroad yards.

Garth and Sarah are currently walking west from Illinois. They document their travels at their website Pursuing Nothing though are currently having problems updating as many public libraries have lots of filtering and random glitches that can make the process difficult. They may not be updating from the road anytime soon but they have lots of fantastic stories already posted that could keep a reader busy for many days. They've also got a fantastic photo archive documenting their journeys. Keep in mind that they are not hitching, they are walking.

I always love the reminder from such folk that life can be lived as an adventure!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Swarms and Other Homestead News

BLanterns at Sunsetees
Just a few days after my last post my bees swarmed! Luckily Greg was down that weekend and was able to retrieve the cluster from a cedar. We moved them into the honey super that I had on hand and then moved the super of bees several hundred yards from the original hive. All seemed well till the next day when they swarmed again while I was gone. When I came out to inspect the new hive the air was full of bees and they were in the process of flying away. There was nothing I could do but watch. The only thing I could have done differently (that I'm aware of) was to enclose the bottom entrance of the hive more completely as I've read many people do when creating a new hive from a swarm. The problem with that was we were so hot last week I was afraid to close it more than 80%.

So, that was a bummer. I still have the original hive which is still a very nice, healthy hive and I've got the honey super on. Still waiting on the two I ordered to arrive. My hope is that I'll still get a good harvest of 2-3 honey supers. I'll be picking up another couple of deep hive bodies and hope we'll be able to successfully split the hive next year via a caught swarm or pre-swarm split.
Chicken Coop in the Spring
Garden
The garden is slowly waking up. The onions, sugar snap peas and potatoes are looking good. The lettuce, spinach and a few other cool weather greens are slowly getting there. I think the week of crazy warm/hot weather did not do them well. I watered a good bit this past weekend as we've not had rain for over two weeks. The tomato seedlings in the greenhouse are looking pretty good. I'm eager to sow the fence borders of flowers like cosmos, zinias and a few perennial herbs such as feverfew but I was waiting for the past few days as we had some pretty chill night time temps. The rhubarb seedlings came up great and were just transplanted to pots. I'll likely sell or give a few of those away as I have far more than I need. Strawberries, blueberries, currants and gooseberries are all doing great. Two of the hardy kiwis look fantastic and two died for some reason, no clue why. I've lost three fruit trees also not sure why. One was a bit flooded, the other two I don't know. The comfrey seeds are coming up now. I planted 30 or so and will be transplanting them out around the fruit trees.

I've been nurturing the original forage area used by the chickens last summer. It is now full of red and white clover, yarrow, self-heal, and comfrey just to name a few. It is well on the way to being a lush polyculture of nutrient accumulating plants that will provide a food source for the chickens as well as our pollinating insects.
Rain Barrels
Water Harvesting
I finally finished off my rain barrel system. Five barrels behind the cabin will collect up to 275 gallons of water! There's another barrel to collect water from the greenhouse roof. I may paint them at some point but plan to try growing ground nut or some other food producing vine first. They're not real pretty to look at so I want to do something to pretty it up a bit, growing food on them would probably be the best choice. Some folks were wondering if this was for drinking water and the answer is no. I'll use it mostly for the garden in the area right around the cabin. Also for washing my hands or for the critters to drink. It is fairly clean though and I probably could drink it if need be. I filter it at the inlet with a screen. There's probably a bit of minute grit from trees and wind making it in. I suppose worst case scenario is a bit of bird or critter droppings from the roof and I do have the wood burning stove so the first few rains of spring probably contain some sort of smoke/soot type contaminates. If I were going to drink it I would run it through some sort of filter and would feel pretty safe with it. The barrels previous use was food grade flavorings with the exception of one that had concentrated hydrogen peroxide. They've all been very well cleaned.
Kids' Cabin
One last bit of news, the kids' cabin is finally finished! Greg came down this past weekend and finished off the soffits, trimmed, caulked and painted. They'll likely repaint the trim with a different color but for now it all has at least two coats and is safe from the weather.


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Monday, April 05, 2010

Happy Bees and other news

Waiting for spring!I finally did a bee hive inspection yesterday and have good news to report: a very full hive! In fact, I've gone ahead and ordered two more honey supers for a total of three. I'm in an ideal pollen situation surrounded by autumn olives, red buds, and dogwoods just to name a few of the flowering trees and bushes. I've also got an amazing variety of perennial wildflowers, white and red clover, and grasses. The nectar flow should be fantastic. If I remember correctly a small honey super, when full, contains around 30 lbs of honey so if the girls fill all three that would be 90 lbs!! I'm hoping I don't have to deal with a hive split/swarm just yet as that would knock down production a bit. It will happen sooner or later though.

The chickens and guineas are all doing great and enjoying the warmer weather and time outside free ranging all day. I'm very happy with the chicken situation. They've got lots of space and a fantastic diversity of foliage/insects to browse on. I've got more fencing scattered about than I'd like but as long as I want them to free range and also keep my young plants alive it is a necessity. They are relentless in their scratching and so the mulch is always a mess but I've accepted it as a good tradeoff for happy healthy chickens. It's also lots of turned and manured mulch/soil which is a great thing.

The earthworm population in and around the garden seems to have really boomed since year one of the garden. Any time I have occasion to dig I uncover far, far more than I remember seeing in the spring of 2008. Very cool and I have little doubt the result of all of the cardboard/straw/woodchip layer mulching.

Planted in the garden: a huge bed of potatoes, onions, lettuce, radish, kale, chard, spinach and more. Tomato seedlings look great though the peppers never came up so I started more. The fence row of sugar peas are doing starting to really take off. I'm about to start several trays of seeds: feverfew, comfrey, hyysop, and marshmallow. Also about to direct seed calendula, cosmos, zinnias and marigolds. Very soon will be time to put in basil, melons and squash.

The only real negative is Petunia the deer. She's very skinny which is understandable coming off a winter with no acorn or nut crop. But what really worries me is what I saw yesterday. She seemed to be a moving just a bit strangely so I started having a look at her. Her legs seemed fine but when I looked up under her tail (warning, this gets very gross) a mass of ticks all around her anus. I mean a MASS. My guess is at least 1.5 inches out in every direction from the outer perimeter of her anus. They were completely covering her bum with no skin showing. 60? 100? Maybe more. It must be terribly painful for her to poop and my guess is that the skin underneath that mass is a terrible mess. Is that normal for wild deer? You'd really have to see this to believe it. I had no idea ticks could be so thick. Pardon the language but this was really FUCKING gross. So, I'm a bit worried about her. I don't think there's much I can do. I'd pull them off if she'd let me but I tried repeatedly to no avail. They'll just have to fall off.

Homesteading with critters is mostly a wonderful experience and one I'd not want to give up having had a taste of it. That said, it has its gross and difficult moments.

Hopefully my next update will bring news of my rain barrel system finally plumbed up and ready to collect rain. I'll be jumping up from one 55 gallon barrel to five for a total of 275 galons. The current barrel will move back to the greenhouse for collection there for a grand total of 330 gallons. I'd like to add more but that should suffice for this summer.


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