I retired a year ago, and having moved here just a year before. I set out to make some friends, and I found a few good ones.
This year since March, of course, staying home had taken some getting used to. What an incredible blessing to have this land, this rural neighborhood, and a big garden to stay in. I still love seeing my friends, and I get out 2 or 3 times a week (mostly to physical therapy, and the post office). I no longer feel it’s necessary to go to the post office daily, or really, more than twice a week.
I can’t pretend to be approaching hermit status, but the pandemic has forced me into a quieter, more slow-moving life, and I’m grateful for that.
Anne Pratt wrote:Today's trapline: Don't put anything in the oven today without other things in the oven. Today, chicken, yams, and possibly oven fries. If I can't fill it, I'm not going to run it. 88 degrees F.
Nice! That certainly fits the philosophy.
But your post is making me hungry. Mind if your virtual neighbour stops in, tunes up your kitchen knives, and stays for supper?
Please! That knife offer is too good to pass up! I’ll put on more yams.
Oh yes, I’d forgotten about the Prime Directive (manure falling through)! I guess the main reasons for 1/2” hardware cloth are weasels and raccoon’s little fore paws. They have a nasty habit of pulling off their heads. The electric net probably helps a LOT.
I didn’t realize the roosts were already pretty high off the ground (likely due to their proximity to the floor). I suppose the other way to protect the hens from beneath would be a hardware cloth fence around the base, which would take a miracle of engineering given that this must roll over pasture in the daytime, but protect the hens at night.
I’m a little extra sensitive to the predator question. Since March we had a bear tear the door off the coop at night (got one of my four) and a coyote or fox take one from the edge of the woods in the daytime. With only two left we just got two more. And the coop has mega bolts on everything and we installed a long 2” x 4” bar across the door that goes in every night. Never had a predator all the first year. Mine free range in the daytime and (1) they love it and (2) they eat all the ticks. We aren’t willing to change that.
I realize there’s a solid wall when the door is closed, or nearly so. Depends on how cold the winters are, I suppose. They can’t have no ventilation, either, or the ammonia would make them sick. But not if the coop moves away from the poop!
I spent some time trying to figure out how critters would pull off their heads. I guess that the wire on the bottom is 1" X 1"? I think conventional wisdom is that half-inch, heavy gauge hardware cloth will protect them from almost anything, but I wouldn't use 1" x 1".
Heat is another interesting question. Insulating the ceiling seems pretty difficult and awkward. I would vote for shade, but then what's the point of a mobile coop if you have to move it to the shade?
But I love the design! It looks quite nice, seems like the hens would be comfortable, and could be weatherized a bit more for our cold winters (it just needs windbreak on the ends, I think). What are the dimensions?
Those bars across the floor are for the girls to roost on? Mine prefer to be elevated (instinct tells them it's safer). That would also be a big improvement in my book.
I have some vegetables that are really struggling, and my biggest comfrey was taking up too much space! I cut it down, and took the leaves and stems and tucked them under the wood chips. A good compromise for me. I like the idea of comfrey powder fertilizer!
I am confused about comfrey as a mulch. I'm a dedicated wood chip mulcher. I have laid comfrey cuttings atop the wood chips (as instructed somewhere) and I have a lot of trouble figuring out how the nutrients are supposed to get to the plants' roots. And the comfrey shrivels up, of course, and doesn't provide much in the way of sheltering the soil or blocking weed germination.
Is comfrey really just a soil amendment? That's the way it seems to me.
I agree with both bits of advice above. I would transition it even more carefully, though, leaving it in the pot and bringing it outside first in deep shade, then dappled shade, and giving it some sun as the days get cooler.
If it has never been outside in the winter, you might want to keep it potted this year, and put it next to the southern side of the house, garage, or barn. It just seems to me that a first winter after 4 years indoors will come as a shock. If others with more experience with figs and your climate disagree, though, listen to them!
I have many dead trees still standing. One, in plain view of our back yard, is a favorite spot for a pileated woodpecker and all of its kids. What a sound! I had no idea you could identify a woodpecker by the sound of the pecking, but since these are huge compared to a downy or hairy, the sound is quite different.
After the spring I am often impatient with the asparagus bed, as it is 1/6 of my garden (and before was 1/3), and still needs watering in the drought. But wow, it's delicious. I do plant annual flowers in there and some basil.
If you like rhubarb, it's a good one. Berry bushes? Strawberries. Living in Zone 5, I'm always amazed that greens and artichokes can be perennial. Wow.
My tip: pay attention to what really likes to grow in your area, and plant some of those. The USDA zone is a rough approximation that includes all sorts of different exposures, elevations, and soil types. In the Caucasian Mountain Spinach thread, we are collectively trying to figure out what works to get from germination to perennial plant! There are lots of mysterious failures.
I have hilarious lumpy multi-lobed potatoes from planting them over some not-quite-spongy-enough small logs! Remarkably, the plants really produced. Funny-looking, though. I wasn't even going to plant that bed as I knew it had very little actual soil, but I planted so much I was running out of room. I've harvested the funny potatoes, but the amaranth is still growing, tall, and producing those fancy seed heads.
I'm on board with most of these, except rhubarb. I've held the too-much-sugar theory myself for many years. I don't make jam or jelly for the same reason.
And this year I've expanded into wild foods! I, too, have been eating violets, dandelion (the flowers are sweet!), mallow, plantain, and of course all those berries that grow like weeds.
Also this year, I've been trying to grow more perennial vegetables. I have Caucasian Mountain Spinach seedlings, and tiny sea kale (crambe) plants. Regarding the latter, I've read that one can eat the shoots like asparagus, and (like asparagus) it used to be common to cover the early spring shoots with a cloche to keep them in the dark, blanching them. Then, the leaves are edible (and huge). I haven't tried these vegetables yet because they're still babies, in August! When it grows up, it has beautiful white flowers. It was grown as an ornamental for generations, but fell out of favor for some reason.
I tried to grow Good King Henry, but I didn't realize I had to cold-stratify them. That was the holdup with getting the Caucasian Mountain Spinach in the ground, too. Next year for the Good King!
I'm also "arranging" for self-seeding with ground cherries, cilantro, kale and asparagus. And I have discovered that the plants I am struggling to grow from seed are available from edibleacres.org. I'm putting together an order for next spring. Turkish rocket, Fuki, skirret, ramps . . . so many things to try.
We have been talking on the Aging Homesteader thread about accommodations to keep us home longer, and perennial (and self-seeding) vegetables are a part of my plan. I love gardening, and I'm not trying to get out of it! But having some food that doesn't require seed starting, transplanting, thinning, and all the rest seems brilliant.
I am gardening in Zone 5 (a, b, depending on where on my property), so I can't speak to your climate. But I applaud you on wanting perennial vegetables. It's something I've been working on this year, and finding challenging.
Sea Kale (crambe) is a beautiful plant, more at home in the ornamental than the vegetable garden. It has lovely white flowers. The shoots can be harvested like asparagus, and later the leaves are reportedly very good greens.
Speaking of asparagus, can you grow it down there? It's a little unruly later in the summer, but it has tall, lovely, very fine ferns.
I'm also working on Caucasian Mountain Spinach, which was imported to Sweden as an ornamental! It has pretty leaves and climbs a trellis beautifully. I'm struggling to get it started. There's a whole thread devoted to it!
Welcome, Andy! Glad to have you. I think this is an excellent idea. There is information around the internet about keeping your container plants outdoors in the winter (but as Greg said, it depends on your actual climate). Some people dig a hole for a container, or a trench for a bunch of them. Others insulate the containers with bales of hay. I'm sure there are better ideas out there, too.
I am thinking of planting a fig tree (here in Vermont/Zone 5). People put them in containers and store them in the garage. Our garage gets very, very cold, but of course it's sheltered from the wind and the tree itself is wrapped
I am an on-and-off library user. We have a tiny bit very beautiful library in my town. It has a large children’s area in the basement, gorgeous leather loveseats and ancient bookcases in the reading area, and a surprisingly good selection. Interlibrary loan is active.
During the pandemic the librarian has arranged for increased access to online material, including audio books and large databases.
The children’s story hour is only one of the kids’ activities offered. There is a summer “camp” for kids, weekly activities for the older kids, and de facto day care for kids with a gap between when the bus drops them off and when their parents can come and get them. It’s such a small town that this doesn’t raise any notable problems.
I’m going to increase my use of the library to preserve it! We shouldn’t allow technology to destroy a valuable resource, both for the intellectual material and for the community-building.
Sorry, my daughter is 31 and has a 2-year-old of her own!
There are some outstanding schools around here. The school population is quite small, so class sizes are small and the teachers are very engaged. I don't know how it is in other school districts; probably like everywhere, some are better than others.
Currently, due to the pandemic, various districts are handling things differently. But in normal times, there is a school where your children will attend.
I am farther from my daughter and family than I would like to be - it's over 3.5 hours. But it's certainly close enough for a weekend trip, and they come up here to see Grandma's chickens and nearby farms, as well as hiking and museums and other wonderful attractions. I just love it here.
I lived in nearby Massachusetts in a small city, and moved to rural Vermont. I think the most important factors are (1) proximity to family/loved ones/support network, (2) cost of living (weighed alongside your ambitions toward frugality, intent to grow your own food, and such), (3) climate, soil, privacy, and some less tangibles like the political climate.
My state has a high cost of living, a brutal climate, rocky but otherwise pretty good soil, and great communities. But, I have always loved Vermont. We vacationed here when I was a child, and I brought mine to vacation here in more recent years. It feels like home.
I have no experience in selling what I grow. <--- immediate disclaimer
Last week, when I harvested my garlic, I vowed that if I were ever to grow food for money, garlic would be part of it. So. Freaking. Easy!
In the past, I have looked into planting saffron crocus. The University of Vermont has done a study about whether it can be a profitable crop here in Zone 5.
I've read that microgreens can be profitable easily, even in the basement! I have discovered ground cherries, a relative of tomatillos that cost a FORTUNE at the coop (health food store) but grow like weeds and self-seed here. I harvest them literally out of my lawn.
Are you required to sell the products that the grant-maker wants, like providing certain foods to a specific market? Or can you grow what makes sense for you?
I get it, though. I'm 67. My joints and muscles won't put up with much more gardening than I'm already doing. Working in accommodations (there's a thread discussing aging homesteaders and we've talked about higher raised beds, a goal of mine). Did you want a high tunnel anyway?
I think this deserves some research - essentially a business plan. Do you have an existing market as part of the grant, or do you have to find buyers too? Check prices. Make estimates of how much you can grow, choosing the crops for profitability. Add a percentage for failed crops. Do you have enough water if there's a drought?
Choose a non-labor-intensive method (lasagna/wood chip/other) and estimate the cost needed for labor for the initial setup, planting, and harvest. This requires some hard work with a calculator and spreadsheets, I fear.
I just watched Paul's hugelculture microdocumentary (I "won" it on the kickstarter; not sure where you can find it) and they made a big, south-facing, horseshoe-shaped hugelculture raised (big) bed. In the cradle of the horseshoe shape, it would stay much warmer through the winter. They also used large rocks to absorb heat and give it back slowly overnight.
There are other techniques to creating microclimates. Up against the southern wall of your home, for example. The sun's heat will keep that wall warm, and the warmth of the home would lend some heat overnight, too. There are also a lot of articles about protecting a tree over the winter. I'm looking at fig trees with longing here in Zone 5!
I once grew an enormous flower garden on the site of a previous 5-vehicle commercial garage. I didn't want to plant food in it right away. (I bought the land with a deep hole where the foundation used to be. They claimed to have tested the soil but they weren't the most ethical people I've ever met. I made soil by dumping leaves there for a few years, so the soil was uncontaminated and fairly deep.)
I started trying a few plants - cherry tomatoes, lacinato kale, cucumber, and pepper. The property was in an area where many people walked on their way to the bike trail. The immigrants always asked me why I didn't plant food! (Permies!) Once, after explanation, someone asked me, "What's that gorgeous plant?" Answer: kale. Lacinato has a blue tint, is upright, and very handsome!
Once I saw a landscape designer's yard that had a huge rhubarb sitting all by itself in a nook near the edge of the trees. Everyone always asked her, "What's that gorgeous plant?" Away from a food garden, it was hard to recognize!
It has helped me to avoid starting "advice arguments." No reason to explain to everybody who suggests something unusable that you're not going to follow their advice. Just thank them. Or, thank them and mention that your sandy soil, pure clay, tropical location or whatever, prevents you from taking their otherwise helpful advice.
I often feel the need to explain, but I also hate stepping on peoples' toes or hurting their feelings. So the above advice is something I remind myself of every time I feel those toes beneath my feet.
I once wrote an article for (the very early) Mother Earth News! Then 35 years flew by, and . . .
I recently retired from my job, which involved a lot of sitting while driving, sitting while at the computer, and sitting in a courtroom waiting to testify. In the last year, I've spent my time gardening, wielding a pitchfork to move wood chips around, and generally climbing around my steep property. And in the off-hours, I'm at the physical therapist, in the Pilates class, or getting a massage. All of those years of sitting, followed by all this activity, brings on a whole lot of pain. I'm going to have a cart to move those wood chips soon, because hauling them up steep hills in a wheelbarrow seems like less of a good idea.
I bought a house with a first-floor bedroom and bath, and we built a big garage. I think this place will see me through, and I belong to the Aging in Place Committee in town. The new coop will be built to ergonomic standards! I might also start raising the raised beds - good idea, Jay!