Lorinne, thank you so much. My little Chihuahua, age 20, is declining. He is going blind and deaf and his sense of smell seems to be failing, as well. I have felt guilty for wanting to end it because of his incontinence - I clean up multiple times a day.
His sole joy is lying in the sun on the porch. I expect he may die peacefully at home soon, but your post (particularly about joy) makes me think I should consider euthanasia now regardless of his incontinence.
He can’t frolic outside any more because he can’t see well enough. Even last week he sometimes still did that. So little joy. It might be time.
I’ve seen people “train” summer squash to climb, sort of. But it’s not natural at all. I have butternut and turban (buttercup) both climbing on trellises this summer. I have saved some mesh bags (like onions and potatoes come in) to support them if they get big enough to need it.
I doubt they will. First frost expected this weekend, and they aren’t even close.
Any solar warmth you can add to the coop would be a plus, as would insulation. But don’t shut off the ventilation. They could be in danger from a buildup of ammonia inside the coop. Not that you were planning to make it airtight, just posting a general warning.
If you go the way of nipples, only use horizontal nipples. The vertical ones can freeze up.
I have a small (2 gallon?) heated waterer. It’s thermostatically controlled. It was a lifesaver from having to go break the ice repeatedly. They don’t love drinking from those nipples, but they do it. Mine also get mash made with warm water in the morning, and this is a big favorite. They also eat snow!
It’s hard to add anything to what Jay has advised! It’s hard to raise your chickens from afar. There are several ways to get them all in before closing the door at night, but not if you are off site.
Having a light inside the coop that goes off after the door closes, as Jay advises, is a good method. They’re attracted to the light, can see their way in, and as long as it goes off before they go to sleep, it shouldn’t disrupt them.
Can you shut the barn doors and make it harder for them to go elsewhere?
Many people will tell you that landscape cloth does let the roots through! I think it would work. Just don't use it for its intended use. It keeps weeds down for a year or so, then the falling leaves, mulch, and whatnot join with weed seeds to grow on top of it. Pulling that whole mess up requires serious strength! So at least for crabgrass, creeping Charlie, and dandelions the answer is yes, the roots will go through!
I don't know much about air pruning, but I'm sure someone will be along who has experience with it.
I think it's going to be essential to stay dry. Wet and cold is a disaster. And have a contact, someone who (when they don't hear from you when you are supposed to check in) will send the rescue folks. Cell phone service is likely to be quite hit-or-miss; you might want to consider a satellite phone.
Getting around in the snow/ice of winter is so much harder. Snowshoes and microspikes are important. You're in for broken bones if you're traveling on ice without cleats. Yaktrax are great for around town on ice, but in the woods you need to step it up a bit. As others have mentioned, keeping warm will require more calories. And hot food makes a huge difference.
I'm jealous. I wish I had done this, when I was younger. Not so likely now.
Knowing nothing about the land in your part of the world, I can only suggest that you plant native species and give them an extra boost. Maybe amend a small patch, water it (not too much) and give your favorite natives a chance to catch hold. Maybe they will build a fertile or even a water-harboring spot and take hold and spread.
This post reminds me of the homestead
Featured in Gaia’s Garden, where the family carefully directed their water and created an amazing, lush, shady, beautiful homestead right in the middle of the desert!
Researchers have pondered this question, and looked into what is likely to happen in a major disaster. They look to what people do in disasters of smaller scale.
People have a tendency to band together, help each other, and promote community in disasters. Of course there will be outliers - there are always people who feel outside of their community. The television, movies, and even "Lord of the Flies" teach us that it's every [wo]man for himself. That's not how it tends to work out.
Cam Lee wrote:
The logistics are the hard part. Living in an urban area, I’m wondering how to go about this kind of intentional neighborliness. Knocking on doors doesn’t seem quite the same when we’re all living I apartments and triplexes. Plus with covid-19, I’m not keen to organise an in-person block party. Still brainstorming things to start with in these times... any suggestions welcome :) how do you plan to (intentionally) make those connections?
While they can sometimes be superficial, lame, or mean, local virtual networks or Facebook pages can be a good way to begin connecting during Covid. One option is nextdoor.com, which sorts people by neighborhood. In Vermont, we have a statewide set of neighborhood emailing lists, frontporchforum.com.
These are exciting organizations that set up spreadsheets with needs requested by members. Such things as dog-walking during an illness, dropping off a grocery order, and the like have been lifesavers during major lockdowns, and have built networks of caring in urban as well as other neighborhoods.
At 67, I'm joining in the chorus of elders discussing "the rheumatism," that gets worse in the cold, "liniment," for the rheumatism, you see, and proximity of first-class medical care. I've discovered that despite my attempts to keep healthy and fit, I'm slowing down and needing to lift less heavy loads, and having more appointments for physical therapy.
My back-to-the-land dreams at 62 are different than the ones I had at 22. We purposely bought a house with a first-floor bedroom and bathroom. I moved to Vermont because I love it here and always wanted to move back. I'm not truly homesteading, and I've never lived off grid. I'm a permaculture gardener and chicken keeper, and we heat with wood, but otherwise living a somewhat conventional life in the country.
It is so hard to imagine ourselves as less energetic, more frail, and more frightened of falling/getting a deadly virus than we were 10 years ago. But it does happen. Make sure you have an exit plan.
In my experience, asparagus spreads slowly. I'm growing a variety called Jersey Knight, I think. It hasn't spread yet! except to add a stem or two, in two years.
I like to put garlic around the outsides of my raised beds. It does get in the way a little bit, but it repels a number of pests. Deer repellent that you buy in the store has a lot of garlic in it.
A trellis on the stump will shade some of your bed. It isn't until late in the summer that my beans, squash, and cucumbers are thick enough on their trellises to create real shade. The carrots, kale, and tomatoes that catch a bit of shade don't mind it in August.
Your first garden won't be perfect. Hooray! Worry less!
And look around at photos here of gardens. Some are aesthetically divine, others are more of a Jackson Pollock jungle. If you ask for advice, you’ll get frank advice, but shaming is not allowed here. So if you have a question that should be illustrated, add photos!
We were all new once. Not something to be embarrassed about!
When I was eradicating some very persistent poison ivy with smothering, I asked a friend for advice. "Cover it with black plastic for two summers (and the intervening winter etc.)." I was stunned, but then knowing how many times PI has come back after being sprayed, dug, apparently smothered, etc., it turned out to be good advice.
This sounds (unsurprisingly) like my husband and chicken math. He was kicking and screaming before I brought home 4 chicks, begrudgingly built a coop, and complained incessantly. We lost two (including his favorite) this spring. I recently bought (with his great encouragement) two new pullets! I can tell he thinks about letting our oft-broody Buff Orpington hatch out some eggs, and she has been somewhat appeased by getting to mother the 7-week-old pullets. The question turns on getting meat birds (I think he can't quite handle "no attachment), or building a new coop that's bigger, and how heartbreaking future losses will be. But he is definitely hooked!
My experience with poison ivy prompts me to say, yes! mulch the hell out of it. And probably lay down cardboard before you do so. Always wear gardening gloves and wash often.
Perhaps you are not as allergic to poison ivy as I am!
Also from my own experience: yes, plant garlic! I can't seem to plant enough. I vowed to myself during harvesting this year that if I were ever going to grow a crop for cash, it would be garlic. SO EASY! (Though I'm sure there are issues I haven't encountered yet.)
I noticed that Edible Acres has a sale on their plants (including perennial vegetables) beginning after Labor Day. Maybe perennial vegetables aren't appropriate on your friend's property - that's for you and your friend to figure out, I suppose.
The coop is attached to our house (strange, I know, but it works well) so surrounding it with the electric netting or other fence is a bit awkward. We have additional reinforcement (bolts instead of screws, additional lumber to strengthen access points, motion sensor alarms, and an actual bar for the door, like in ancient fortresses) and the bear hasn't come back.
And now I only let them stay out when I'm home, and trying to make as much noise and presence as I can.
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.