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KC's 2020 Visions

 
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Posts: 569
Location: Central Texas
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With the arrival of the new year, I have been thinking about the goals I want to achieve over the next 12 months; and decided to journal my progress to look back on at the end of the year. For one, I hope it will help me to stay focused on each task, instead of getting sidetracked with the little things that keep me from actually completing anything. I also think it would be neat to see how my priorities change over the year as I continue to observe & experience things.
Ultimately, the main goal is to develop a system that is time & labor efficient by designing or redesigning the various components of the property to give it a better "flow." An example of this is the chickens, guineas, and pigeons are located in a different area than the geese, turkey and peafowl. This isn't time/energy efficient since I have to carry poultry feed, etc. across the farm, daily, when doing chores. Also, I'd like to expand my little market-stand nursery to hopefully bring in a bit more income, which would go back into my projects.

For now here are some of the tasks/goals I hope to complete:

*Consolidate all poultry in one area, with permanent/secure housing. Also, do separate coops for the layers & the bantams I use for brooding.

*Utilize as much of the biomass on the property as possible to reduce the need for outside inputs. Encourage more biomass to grow.

*Furthermore, use the biomass/OM to further improve the soil and reduce/eliminate the need for irrigation.

*Save $ on cat/dog food by using the rabbit & poultry culls as a base for a balanced, homemade diet (and also use more in my own diet).

*Develop new growing areas around the rabbit barn and pig/poultry yard to grow supplemental feed via forage/fodder/bedding. (The rabbit barn garden has already been started
https://permies.com/t/130581/permaculture-projects/Sunken-Raised-Hugel-Keyhole-Lasagna ).

*Use willow cuttings, Osage seedlings, and other things to make a living fence/hedge at the back of the land. Primarily, this is to block the view from the neighbor's pasture, but also to supply more forage material for the livestock and myself.

*Plant an average of, at least, one new tree pet month. Preferably useful species.

*Continue to expand my vermicomposting operation and begin selling starter kits with worms & castings/compost in the monthly market I attend.

*Develop a formula for my own sustainable & peat-free potting mix for the plants I sell at the market. (I suspect the worms, rabbits, and wood chips will have a big part in this).

*Save more seeds for the next year, from the best performers in the garden.

*Utilize microclimates to successfully "push the zone" with at least 2 plants.  

*Participate more in rabbit shows (and sell more stock at shows to pay for it) for, both leisure, and to help improve my social skills/anxiety.

*Better utilize the byproducts from the rabbits, such as getting better at spinning their wool, tanning pelts to use around the farm, maybe even preserve feet to sell as novelties at the market.

*Many more things I've recently thought of, but can't remember right now.

While it seems like an overwhelming list, I realize that some of these are "one time jobs," while others will need to progress in steps. I should also remember there are variables that may be out of my control, such as having my composting worms reproduce enough to be able to spare some for the starter kits I'd like to sell. Overall, this is just a brainstorm activity, to get my thoughts written out to see, and help me remember & prioritize. I'm sure, over the months, life will throw some obstacles in the picture, which may result in some changes to the goals but, for every one I get accomplished, I will save a little time/energy/money, which can go towards completing the next one.

I shall share updates as they occur, and (hopefully) remember to take photos to share.


 
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Just an fyi... guinea pigs have a higher meat to feed ratio then rabbits do if you're just using them for animal food that might be a way to use a lower grade of feed and still maintain a high level of protein produced per pound of feed. People in Peru keep them all the time for food they're basically a short legged rabbit.
 
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Kc,

It sounds like you have access to woodchips.  If you do, adding some mushroom spawn will go a very long ways towards making that potting soil you are after.  It takes its time but is very high quality and will give you quality potting soil for years.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Eric
 
Kc Simmons
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Location: Central Texas
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Richard Stromberg wrote:Just an fyi... guinea pigs have a higher meat to feed ratio then rabbits do if you're just using them for animal food that might be a way to use a lower grade of feed and still maintain a high level of protein produced per pound of feed. People in Peru keep them all the time for food they're basically a short legged rabbit.



Thanks for the suggestion! I actually used to raise cavies years ago, but found them to be extremely annoying and higher maintenance than the rabbits.
That's neat that they can be more efficient than rabbits. I raised the standard breeds instead of the cuy breed, and they were much less efficient due to the longer gestational period, slower growth, and the need for supplemental vitamin c.

I breed the rabbits for showing, which is my only "guilty pleasure" hobby. It tends to be a lot of work and expensive, but I try to make up for it by utilizing all of the byproducts and using my culls for dog/cat/pig food.
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American Fuzzy Lop
American Fuzzy Lop
 
Kc Simmons
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Location: Central Texas
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Eric Hanson wrote:Kc,

It sounds like you have access to woodchips.  If you do, adding some mushroom spawn will go a very long ways towards making that potting soil you are after.  It takes its time but is very high quality and will give you quality potting soil for years.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Eric



Mushroom compost may be in the future. I don't care to eat them, but I love them for their composting ability.
My wood chip delivery can be inconsistent, since I usually have to wait until the tree company is chipping in the area.
For mushroom cultivation, I'd like to find a species that grows well with manure as the food source, since I tend to have a steady supply of rabbit manure.
 
Kc Simmons
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Long post, but wanted to give a little background info on the property:
I'm in Zone 8 (on the a/b line), in Central Texas. Rainfall is estimated to be about 40 inches/year, but that's due to a few years of heavy spring rains, and the usual precip is probably closer to 30 inches (if that much). Most of the rain is in March-May, with June-November getting little to no rainfall.
As I've mentioned in past posts, my land used to be part of a huge pecan orchard about a hundred years ago. In the 1940's it was divided into several pieces and sold for residential use. My great grandparents bought a little over 5 acres & built a house at the front of the property, and there were probably around 20 pecan trees on the property. The 2 acres in the front has always been the homesite, so those trees have historically been well-tended, while the back half of the property was neglected for the most part and, for many years, was used as a junkyard for old cars & a dumping ground for old lawnmowers, etc from my aunt & uncle's lawnmower shop.  Over the years the back of the property became filled with wild grapevine, poison ivy, greenbriar, cedar elms, oaks, juniper/cedar, peppervine, chinaberries, and mimosas. Some of the pecan trees were choked out & killed (particularly by the grapevine), and the survivors were severely stunted, at around half the size & density of the trees at the front.  I inherited the house & half the land some years back, and offered my parents the house, as I was teaching in the city and couldn't live there at the time. Then I had a battle with lymphoma & some other issues, which kept me out of the farm life for a couple of years.
I moved back to my town & lived with the parents while I got my health & life in order. I also had the back half of the property cleaned up of the scrap & had it cleared of most of the growth (except the 4 remaining pecan trees, some mimosas & a few huge oaks). Of course, this killed the soil, leaving me with a top layer of fine sand that goes down several feet (hindsight is 20/20, right?). As my health improved I began to get back in my farming/gardening hobbies, and decided to set up my own homesite at the back of the land. While I would have preferred to find a bigger property, I felt it was best to keep it small with a couple of acres; just in case something happens with my health again and I can't keep up with the work.
I got the electric & water lines ran to the back of the property, put in a building for the rabbit barn, and then had a home built. It's similar to a modular home, but it's built to a site-built building code. Essentially, the main frame was built in various pieces off site, then brought here and put together with the rest of the structure being built on site. We had to have a foundation poured, but the home is up on a pier system. Of course, all of the construction & septic system to meet code requirements didn't help the already-dead soil but, once I was living here, I immediately began working to heal the earth here.
Sadly, I lost one of the pecan trees during the drought last summer, which I think was already stressed due to the soil disturbance from the foundation/septic system installed so close to the root system. That leaves me with 3 mature, yet stunted, pecan trees which are full of dead grape vines and scars from a long, tough life of neglect. One of my priorities is to hopefully extend their lives & promote growth by providing growing conditions for them to thrive. They probably will never reach the size & production of their siblings in the front, but if I can at least get them to thrive, I'll be happy.
Recently, I've been pulling up dead/dried weeds, and clearing the fence line where I'd like to eventually have a hedgerow, and using the cleared material to cover the ground under the driplines. Hopefully this will build some soil (most of the fallen leaves blew away since there wasn't anything to keep them under the tree). While it's not a thick layer that completely covers the ground, I'm hoping it'll at least get some OM in the ground to feed the trees and maximize the water retention for the trees to access. The actual "driplines" are very uneven, due to some big branches breaking off in the wind and die out from getting choked by vines. The canopies are also full of dead vines that I'm unable to reach or pull down, so I'm hoping they'll continue to fall out as they become more brittle. The trees actually did produce a small crop of pecans last fall, for the first time that I've seen, so maybe that's an indication of them doing better now that they have more sunlight and less competition.
Building the soil and promoting the health of the trees is one of my priorities, mainly for personal reasons. Nature is cruel, and anything that can survive a century deserves my respect and, (per Google) they are only 1/3 of the way through their potential lifespan. Since this has been their home for over 3 times as long as I've been alive, it's an honor to be their steward, and I want to help them live to see more stewards after I'm long dead & gone.

But, anyway, that's a little history, and summary of where I am, and where I want to go.
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Kc Simmons
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I must admit, the first week of the new year hasn't been my most productive. The past few days have found me down with a stomach bug, so most of my outside activity has been just the daily chores of animal care.
So far I've just been working on clearing the fence line and using the biomass to mulch the trees; as well as stuck some live stakes of willow & cottonwood in a few spots in hopes of getting roots going.
While it may not be very permie-ish of me; I've decided I really hate greenbrier (smilax). I know the shoots are edible, but they taste just as bad as they hurt. I'm still trying to get out splinters from thorns that went through my gloves and broke off in my hands a week ago.  
On a positive note, last fall I tossed out seeds of various cooking greens around a couple of smaller, buried hugels I made over the summer, and they've really done well. The kale and collards got hit hard by the unexpected freeze last November when they were still young, but the mustards & salad turnips haven't missed a beat (and the kale/collards are coming back strong). Besides lots of meals for me, they've also helped supplement the feed for the chickens, guineas, and geese.
Sweet peas, though, have been a disappointment. They also got knocked down by the early freeze and recovered, but haven't grown much. The ones around the hugels, with the greens, have put out some blossoms but no actual peas yet the ones in the annual garden/food forest area haven't done anything; yet those were the ones I applied inoculant to when I planted them. Lately I've just been snipping off the tops of the biggest ones and cook them with the other greens. I planted out some onion sets in late December, and they're starting to grow. I've only ever grown the cluster/bunching onions in the past, so I'm excited to see if I can get these to a good harvesting size. I use a lot of onions in the kitchen, so it would be nice if I can produce all/most of the onions I'll be using each year.
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Greens galore
Greens galore
 
Kc Simmons
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I tend to be good at killing comfrey whenever I try to divide & transplant it, so I made a "comfrey tractor" out of an old milk crate. I'm going to put it where I want to grow comfrey, then let the roots grow through the bottom, into the ground. Then, I should be able to move the tractor, and break the roots off in the spot. Theoretically, this should result in a new plant coming up from the broken roots. I think having more comfrey would be helpful towards my goals, since I can stack functions with it. Besides a source of mulch & soil mining, it's forage for the animals, and can possibly help reduce the number of undesirable weeds if I plant it in places where those weeds tend to take over. Especially Texas/giant ragweed, poke salad, and wild morning glory. Plus, it's topical healing ability should really come in handy with all of the bumps and bruises I tend to end up with.
I didn't get a picture, but I also tossed some alfalfa seed in the paths of my kitchen garden before it rained last weekend, and I see they're beginning to sprout. I didn't disturb the surface before broadcasting them, though, so no idea if they'll actually take root and grow.
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Comfrey tractor
Comfrey tractor
 
Kc Simmons
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Recently I went out and "stole" some bamboo from the roadside ditch across the road from one of my grandpa's farmlands.
Many years ago, when I was a kid growing up on the farm out there, the then-owner of the property across the road planted some bamboo on the edge of the driveway and the fence line. Now, around 20 years later, I don't know who owns the land, but no one lives there, and the bamboo has slowly spread outside of the fence and down into the ditch that runs alongside the road. A few weeks ago I was out at the farm gathering some willow stakes and checking for baby persimmon trees to go back for later, and I noticed the bamboo as I was leaving. Since it could be useful to have my own bamboo as a source of canes and biomass, I grabbed the shovel I keep in the back of the truck and strolled across the road to check it out. I don't have a clue if it's illegal or not (I assume not), but I dug up some stems and root pieces from a place closer to the road, where the county shredders mow. Most of the stuff I got is fairly small/thin, as it's probably been mowed down by the county all last year. I brought it home and planted some in a pot, and put the rest in a big bucket to see if it lives. Now, I just need to find somewhere on the farm to plant it where it can grow and spread, without going overboard and taking over.
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Stolen bamboo
Stolen bamboo
 
Kc Simmons
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This has been a bit of a weird fall & winter season for CenTex. In a "typical" year, we usually start getting a little rain in late September, and a small relief from the heat with temps going down to the low 90s until mid to late October when we see a few weeks of perfect, 80s. Then November-December tends to give us highs in the 50s-60s, with lows in the 30s, with just enough light frosts to keep us from growing many cold sensitive plants in the ground.
I live about 25-30 miles from the Zone 8 a/b line (on the "a" side of the line), so it varies each year on the minimum temp, but we almost always get around week of temps where it stays around freezing, with hard freezes at night.
This past year it seemed like summer lasted until the end of September, with temps staying around 100 until early October and none of the typical rain showers. Finally around the end of October we got about a week of the perfect fall weather combined with enough humidity to reach the dew point and provide some moisture. Then, out of nowhere, we got hit hard with that polar blast in early November, which caused temps to go from 85 to 25 in under 12 hours. I think that was a hell of a shock to many of my perennials, and I suspect killed some hardy things, like my lavender, Barbados cherry, lemon verbena, and some others. I also observed that the tree cover that was beneficial to the garden in the hot summer causes the garden to be a frost pocket during the winter.
After 4-5 days of freezing cold weather, we've had higher than average temps, with most days being 60-70s° highs (with some 80s thrown in), and nighttime lows in the high 30s-low 40s. Precipitation has been low, with a few, small showers that haven't really soaked everything; although, lately, we've finally gotten a couple of good storms that have actually produced enough water to get through my deep mulch areas. Most of the moisture has been due to dew, which the chickweed, henbit, and winter grass thrive on.
Since it hasn't gotten cold again, the mosquitoes, flies, and ants are still out in force. I've also noticed that I have several things starting to bud out, despite still having a good 6-8 weeks of winter left. I've seen that the giant ragweed is starting to come up, which usually happens in April, plus my apples and many of the oaks still haven't dropped all of their leaves.
Since January & February are our coldest months, I am concerned about things coming out of dormancy and getting damaged by a hard freeze; but I also understand that it happens some years. While I am LOVING these 70°+ days to work on things outside, I do hope we get the usual hard freeze, and that it lasts a week or so. Otherwise, I foresee the upcoming year having a plague of bugs to deal with.
I did breed several rabbits the last few days, so I can probably expect to see a hard freeze in about a month when the litters are due to be born, lol.
Anyway, I think I'm going to take advantage of one of the main perks of a job that lets me work from home, and get outside to enjoy the beautiful weather today and hopefully make progress on some projects.
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Weather
Weather
 
Kc Simmons
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Can't believe January is almost over! It's always encouraging to see the days are finally starting to get longer. I spent some time last weekend observing the gardens and preparing to "wake up" the kitchen garden.
Right now, my annual vegetable garden is connected to the perennial forest garden area, which is still in the early stages of development.
Each year I tend to do a different design for the annual garden; just based on what I feel like when I put it to bed in the previous fall/winter. Sometimes I do rows, sometimes I just mulch it all and, this year, I sectioned it into blocks. I'm thinking about doing a different "theme" in each section. So far I've come up with "salsa garden," three sisters, "salad bar," "homemade pickles," and something else I can't remember right now.
I am happy to see the alfalfa seeds I tossed in the paths have sprouted and seen to be growing, so I should have some biomass to chop for mulch after things are planted/started. I am kind of concerned that the 8 inches of wood chips applied to the blocks last fall are still a few inches deep. I worry it could cause problems when direct-seeding; so I applied some rabbit manure to the surface and kind of raked it in to (hopefully) allow it to break down a bit more in the next 3-4 weeks. I suppose if it's still pretty deep by planting/sowing time, I will just put some pockets of compost mixed with soil in the mulch and sow the seeds in that.
Now, I just have to decide what to plant (since it's time to get peppers, tomatoes, etc started in trays). I don't have a big seed budget this year, so will probably have to use a lot of the leftover seeds from last year, and maybe I can do a small order from one of the seed catalogs to try a few new things. Mainly I want to produce the things I consume the most, and some well-producing things to supplement the poultry & pig feed with.
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Kitchen garden blocks
Kitchen garden blocks
 
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I like the layout and the theme idea for the different growing blocks, very cool Kc!
 
Kc Simmons
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Steve Thorn wrote:I like the layout and the theme idea for the different growing blocks, very cool Kc!



Thank you, Steve. We shall see how it works.
Since I tend to underestimate germination rates, I can be a bit of a chronic "overseeder" when it comes to my early seed trays. I also try to succession plant certain things, so I almost always end up with a lot of excess plants, which I hate the thought of throwing away. That means I usually just stick them wherever I have an open spot, so the "themes" may end up being a jumbled mess by midsummer.

This year, though, I vow to not start too many tomato plants, and to not root any of the suckers that get pruned. Last year I ended up with more than 30 plants, and I don't even like tomatoes that much 🤦🏻‍♂️. Honestly, I would probably be fine with a couple of Roma plants for sauce and salsa, then one or two indeterminate plants for other uses.
While I do share excess produce with family, and sell some of the excess plants at the market; I'm essentially the only person who does the work of managing it all, I'm hoping to keep it small enough to not be overwhelming to keep up with. Hopefully the wood I buried last fall, paired with the deep mulch that's been breaking down all winter will reduce the need to water. The only well is on the opposite side of the property, and I learned quickly last summer that the municipal water isn't cheap.
 
Kc Simmons
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So, yesterday it rained ALL DAY. It was mostly slow and drizzly, but it was very much needed. We actually got enough rain for me to observe where it went once it had soaked the ground. Unfortunately, I'm losing a lot of water to my driveway, which slopes downhill to my parents' (at least it helps my mom's garden). Since they have the well, I need it to stay here.
I don't have the equipment, skills, or funds, yet, to do any major changes to the land layout, but I'm brainstorming ideas on how to keep more of it here. Some trenches from the lower area to the growing areas may help, particularly if there's a large amount of runoff. Also, I could convert some of the space alongside the driveway to a growing area for food, ornamentals, or biomass (the driveway is just dirt that I drive down once or twice a week).
Still, it was nice to be able to observe the water in action.

Then, yesterday, tragedy struck (at least to me). Since it was so wet, my neighbor finally got around to burning their old wood pile; which has previously been a source of hugel mass & other things to me, as I'd been given permission to use what I wanted from the pile.

Fortunately, I've been able to get a lot of the wood, the last several months (including a huge, rotting pecan trunk that is now a buried hugel). A lot of the remaining wood was still pretty green and, either, n eded to be moved when my dad had the tractor here, or I just couldn't get to it since it was under the big stuff.
But, ultimately, there's no sense in whining about it. I just remember that it's their choice to do as they wish, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to get the stuff I did (and will check out the pile for any char or wood remnants).
If all goes as planned, I'll be planting tons of new trees on my land, so will hopefully have plenty of wood to use without having to input as much.
 
Steve Thorn
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Kc Simmons wrote: I can be a bit of a chronic "overseeder"..



Me too, I like to throw a lot out and let the strongest survive!
 
Kc Simmons
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Picked up a few strawberry plants weekend before last, and decided to make a berry patch in the forest garden area. I only got 6 plants at the nursery, plus two I already had & moved from a container (all Chandler strawberries), so it's not a big patch, but it's a start. Plus I have a pack of Alpine strawberry seeds that I plan to try in a seed tray. In the middle of the bed is a tiny fig cutting I rooted last year, and will hopefully survive the winter. Will be getting some mulch on the bare soil soon.

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Strawberry patch
Strawberry patch
 
Kc Simmons
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Just a quick update for the end of January.
The weather has been gorgeous, with most days being in the 60-70s°
I've been doing some spring cleaning around the farm and making lots of observations of the property in this season to help me make good plans for the future. I finally got the old chain link dog kennel from the other side of the pasture, which I previously used to house various poultry. Considering it's over 20 years old, it didn't take the move well, so I have a lot of repairs to do before I can put some birds in it. But, at least it's in the barn yard, now so I can easily work on it.  
This week I was able to sow some carrots, radishes, spinach, and sweet peas in the garden, and have started seeds for others inside with seed trays.
I built a new compost heap, mostly for rabbit manure to age when I don't immediately need it for something else.
Perennials and trees are starting to push buds early due to the warm winter, and several of the roses are blooming.
I was so tempted to start planting out a bunch of the tree & bush seeds that have been in the bottom of the refrigerator since last summer, and are starting to sprout. Glad I didn't, though, because last night it just started to snow out of nowhere! I went to the laundry room to get a pair of slipper-socks around midnight and looked out the window to see these big-ass snowflakes swirling by. 😂
Today was still pretty cool (mid to upper 40s), but tomorrow looks like it's back to 65° and low-mid 70s this weekend.

I'll share more details about the seeds/varieties in a new post to the thread so I can refer back to it when I track the results.
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Snow
Snow
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Rose before snow
Rose before snow
 
Kc Simmons
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Hard to believe we're practically through the first quarter of 2020. Here in CenTex it appears as if spring has sprung (compared to the snow in the last update), with everything waking up & preparing for the growing season.
I figured I would break my quarterly update into a few posts, instead of a single book-length post in an effort to better organize my thoughts & not bore to death anyone who wants to read about it. Plus, my internet connection is so slow that the Permies server generally won't upload my new posts if I try to attach too many photos.

While I was previously doing well on time & prepping for the growing season, I've had a setback with my health that I discussed here:
https://permies.com/t/137625/productive-downtime/Spring-Fever-Bed-Rest

POULTRY:
I've been making progress on my goal of getting the poultry yard set up where all of the birds are housed in the same area to save time & energy on daily care. The plan was to have individual coops for the chickens, pigeons/doves, guineas, geese, and turkey/penhens. Unfortunately, the people in the area are irresponsible dog owners who feel their dogs have a right to go wherever they want to wreak havoc, and a group of dogs tore the door off one of the coops, decimating my chicken & guinea flocks. The only chicken survivor was my silkie rooster, and the guineas are down to 3 males & 2 hens. The rooster is bunking with the pigeons for now and the guineas with the turkey/penhens until I can get the time, energy, and funds to replace/rebuild better lodging before bringing in a few new laying pullets. When I do get more chickens, I'm thinking of only getting 3-4 hens for eggs, and modifying an old wild hog holding pen to use as a tractor system, since the dogs shouldn't be able to get in a pen built to keep wild hogs from getting out. For meat, I may get back into coturnix quail if I can find a good incubator, or a small enough bantam hen. In the past, I've had good results with housing coturnix with the pigeons/doves due to each population occupying a different level in the enclosure. Plus, I've never butchered a chicken, but it seems as if quail are much easier to dress out, not to mention make good portion sizes for a single guy, his dog, and herd of cats.
My poultry flock is currently like a feathered singles bar, which is unproductive on a homesteading platform. I only have a tom turkey, and need a hen. Both peafowl are hens, so I need a male. Turns out both my geese are girls, so I want to find a gander for them. The guinea ratio is 3m:2f, the rooster is alone, and my pet diamond dove doesn't have a mate.

PIGS:
Pigs are so messy when their paddock is too small. I have potbellies, with my original pair being intended for meat & as waste disposals. Currently, I have the original pair still at my parents, and their offspring 1m:1f at my house in a temporary paddock. I've already turned the little boar into a little barrow (which was an interesting event, but I did it by myself). Currently I'm working on a larger area under some oaks in the barnyard for the pigs since the spring rains have made their current pens gross, unsanitary environments that I'm ashamed of. Since that would allow them to access all of the fallen acorns, it would save me time/work from having to rake them up; as well as money on pig feed. I'm also planning to plant some mulberries, peach seedlings, callery/wild pears ,berries (goji, beautyberry, blackberry, etc) and any other extra edibles I propagate along the fence line to allow fruit to, either drop in the paddock, or be easy to cut back with pruners & toss over the fence.
What I'd like to do is have the adult sow slaughtered for meat & lard, then grow the little gilt out as a replacement breeder. I'd also continue to grow out the little barrow and (hopefully) have him ready for slaughter by the time the gilt is old enough to be bred & deliver the litter. Then I could either repeat the process by saving a gilt & boar from the litter, or just keep the sow for another round and only keep a little boar or 2 for future meat (once I see what kind of yield a potbelly will provide). Challenge- find a good slaughter house and pay to have it done. While I'm usually all for hands-on experience in producing my food, I fear this is one that I'll need a professional for, simply because I lack knowledge, skills & assistance with butchering and dressing out pigs.

Will share more in a bit.

 
Kc Simmons
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Kc Simmons wrote:*Plant an average of, at least, one new tree pet month. Preferably useful species.


Technically complete. I believe I'm up to 38 planted, plus a ton of seeds sown and growing. Several cuttings are still being rooted and planted. Tree planting season is typically over by early May, but I'll pick up again in late Sept or Oct when it cools down a bit.

Kc Simmons wrote:*Utilize microclimates to successfully "push the zone" with at least 2 plants.  


Done! I used the western side of the barn as a heat sink, along with piles of rocks and hugs of water to successfully winter a lemon tree and a cotton plant, as well as some bedding begonias, 2 spider plants and some other ornamentals. Only other assistance was tossing mulch on the begonias and other small things during the few nights under 30°F. The lemon tree even got covered in the random snow storm, and only suffered some burn on the newest growth.


 
Kc Simmons
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*Utilize as much of the biomass on the property as possible to reduce the need for outside inputs. Encourage more biomass to grow.



Since my budget didn't allow for many food tree/shrub purchases this spring, I've been propagating support species all over the place. Lots of mimosas, elephant ears, cannas, comfrey, the bamboo I took from the ditch last year, and some giant reed grass I pulled from the side of the road this year. Alfalfa is growing in my garden paths, for mulch, and I've been chopping/dropping a bunch of the volunteer sunflowers & tomatoes coming up in the garden in the places I need to plant other things.
I have several bags of pecan & oak leaves bagged up to use over the growing season, and am still raking up some in the areas where the chickweed & crabgrass haven't devoured every leaf they can. Once the ragweed growth starts hitting it's stride, I should be able to chop them several times before they begin to flower. Oddly, though, I haven't had a lot of pokeweed come up this year, which I was planning to use for a mineral- rich chop drop mulch.

*Furthermore, use the biomass/OM to further improve the soil and reduce/eliminate the need for irrigation.


This has been harder than I thought it would be. While the weeds & clumping grasses are growing like crazy, it's been impossible to chop batches for mulch or compost without something being full of seeds. .  My compost pile is hot when I dump rabbit manure on it, but I don't think it's consistent or hot enough. I've been using available biomass for mulching, composting greens, sheet mulching future beds, and as livestock litter. Right now, it's hard for me to physically go out and chop big bunches of green stuff, but I have been doing what I can, and will pick back up when I heal more. I just hope I don't regret it next fall when I get a solid carpet of winter chickweed and grasses everywhere.

 
Kc Simmons
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I missed out on picking radishes because of the surgery, so many of them are starting to bloom. For now I've just left them for pollinators & cut some for mulch. Once they get done I'll probably use the tops for mulch and the bottoms for animal food.
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Kc Simmons
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Can't remember if I mentioned it in this thread, but I got a ton of seed potatoes on sale this year, so potatoes are growing all over the place. I wanted to try different methods and different places to see what grows best where. I filled up the keyhole and the newest hugel mound in hopes of building soil, and also one section of the garden that can be used for a summer/fall crop once the potatoes are done. Then there's just randomly places potato plants coming up in odd places throughout the forest garden and annual garden, including some I forgot I even planted. No idea how they'll yield, but at least I'm making progress on soil building.
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Keyhole potatoes
Keyhole potatoes
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Hugel Potatoes
Hugel Potatoes
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Garden Bed Potatoes
Garden Bed Potatoes
 
Kc Simmons
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Got the new pig pen finished last weekend, and the two little potbellies moved. It's a huge relief to have them out of the small, muddy nursery pen they'd outgrown. I put a few handfuls of red wigglers & some forest duff in the small pen to start composting the muck.
It should have been done a month ago, but the surgery has me behind with everything on my to-do list.

(From the photo, they obviously were not pleased with me catching them & moving them, lol).
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Pig Butts
Pig Butts
 
Kc Simmons
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Update with some recent observations:

*Summer seems to have come a month early, as we've already been getting temps in the mid 90s the last couple of weeks. I ended up having to water yesterday due to things getting too dry in direct sun and the wind was a bit strong. I think/hope this won't need to happen often, as most of the plants/transplants are still pretty young with shallow root systems, plus I plan to add another few inches of mulch to the surface once they're a bit taller.

*Pest pressure hasn't been terrible, except for the snails. I've found a total of 4 potato bugs + 1 larvae, so maybe the lizards & frogs are taking care of them, plus I see lots of ladybugs on the plants in the evening, so they may be feasting on the eggs & larvae. About 4 days ago the cabbage beetles showed up by the hundreds although, for now, they have only been seen on brassicas that have bolted. No idea what predators they have. Yesterday I collected some and put them in the brooder with the baby ducks I got a couple of weeks ago (for future snail/slug control), and the ducks avoided them after one or two got hit with the stink when trying to eat them. I've also had a couple of potato plants shrivel up and die in the hugel mound. Since the tops looked fine before they died, I can only assume there's a gopher, or other rodent burrowing in the mound, or the fire ant colony I've been fighting has expanded to the root zones of those plants.

*Speaking of potatoes, they have been growing well and most are wrapping up the bloom cycle. I think I need to add more mulch around the base of the plants (again) because they're so tall that the wind blows the stalks over.

*In addition to buying the 5 baby ducks a couple of weeks ago, I also picked up 3 turkey poults last week. Hopefully there's at least one hen for my lonely, adult tom. I figured I will keep any that turn out to be hens, and the gobblers will go in the freezer. Now I just need to find a gander and a peacock for the 2 geese and 2 Peahens (which have all been giving eggs for eating/baking. Also need to get 3-4 pullets for eggs and still want to get back in the coturnix quail for meat.

*I've been trying my hand at fermenting in the kitchen. I started with a sweet sourdough starter that originally was a friendship bread recipe. I've also added a starter I'm keeping more sour/tangy. That way I can use have different starters to use in sweet or savory recipes. A couple of days ago I started some fruit vinegar ferments to see if I can make my own raw vinegar, instead of buying raw ACV, which I use in the rabbitry watering system. There's currently a quart jar of tomato and a larger canister consisting of peaches, strawberries, and some kiwi scraps I had saved. The art of fermentation is still new to me, so these are all experiments.

*I've also tried fermenting pig feed, which seems to be going well (after only 5 days). I've been adding some of the sourdough starter discard to the mix of commercial pellets & grain, which has definitely resulted in an active colony of yeasts. The commercial pellets turn it into a "slop," but the pigs seem to love it. Next I plan to do poultry grains. I've noticed my poultry and pigeons/doves don't eat the cracked corn in the mix I buy, so I hope fermenting will make it more appealing to them and reduce the amount of waste.

That's about it for now. Will share more soon, and get some photos of the different projects.
 
Kc Simmons
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Strawberries have been productive. The tiny or damaged ones have been saved for a batch of vinegar, and the rest are being eaten or frozen to try and make a small batch of homemade wine, which will be a learning experience.
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Kc Simmons
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Since one of my goals is to better utilize my show rabbit hobby into my permaculture system, I'm planning some experiments with some culls to see if I can influence the taste of the meat. As mentioned in another thread, the past few times I've prepared rabbit meat I've found they had a very strong taste and smell; not like a rotted smell, but more like an overwhelming earthy-grass smell.
I brainstormed some ideas for why they were so unappealing, and came up with a few possible reasons.
1. I left them to age in the refrigerator too long before freezing and they began to spoil, but not actually rotting.
2. The various antibiotics/medications I've had to take for my health problems have influenced my senses of smell and taste. This has happened before with other types of food.
3. The rabbits I cooked may have been older bucks, resulting in a "taint," due to the hormones. Since one of my breeds is a dwarf breed, I often grow them out longer than the typical fryer age of commercial breeds.
4. Something in the formula of the pellets that make up the bulk of the diet.

My plans for testing these theories are:
1. Develop a "rabbit tractor" to allow the culls to have access to a forage-based diet for a few weeks or more before dispatch.
2. Freeze immediately, and allow time for rigor after thawing.
3. Try to keep track of bucks/does and their ages when packaging.
4. Test different brines. My usual is a bowl of iced salt water with a splash of ACV in the water.

Typically, I just dispatch and toss them to the pigs or the dog & cats. The way I see it, I'm saving on buying food for them, so it's not a waste of resources. As mentioned in the other thread, however, my recent lab work showed my protein level is extremely low compared to the normal range. Rabbit meat is said to have one of the highest amounts of digestible protein of different livestock, so it only makes sense to use the resource of protein that I, seriously, have more than I can ever eat (and is constantly increasing in numbers). Now that I've gotten back into raising Californians, a commercial breed, I think I will start using the Cal fryers for my meat, and use the smaller, fancy breed to supplement the diet of the pigs, dog, and cats.

Will update after I test my theories.

 
Kc Simmons
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Since the ducks have outgrown the tote I was brooding them in inside, I have moved them to the rabbit barn and have them in a solid bottom cage (which they're now outgrowing). While I have a light on them still, it's just a regular bulb, and may be LED, or whichever kind doesn't put out much heat. I've been thinking about putting them in a pen inside the goose run to allow everyone to get acquainted. My concern is they still haven't started getting real feathers yet, despite seemingly staying warm, and even doing fine when I put them out in a day cage on the grass to allow foraging. Yesterday I tried to put one in there with the geese to observe, and found the geese got very excited and defensive towards me when they heard the duckling cheeping. Since one goose just came off a nest of unfertilized eggs, and the other is still laying, I suspect the broody instincts are still coming out to an extent. Especially since both of them ran to the spot where I collect the egg every day, as if they expected to find a gosling there. The brown goose did kind of bite the duckling once, but it seemed to be more from curiosity than aggression, as the duckling was running around calling for the others.
From this observation, I definitely think it will be possible to integrate the ducklings into the goose pen, but I will definitely keep them separate inside the pen to allow them to become familiar with each other through the wire. I also think I could have gotten away with slipping the ducklings into the nest that the brown one was setting on when I first got them, and she probably would have raised them for me (but I wanted to hand raise them to make them easier to work with in the future).
So, the plan for now is to put the ducklings in a cage inside the goose pen during the day, and bring them in the barn at night until they feather out more or the nights get warmer. I honestly think the geese would be fine adopting them now, but I feel the babies are too old to imprint, so they're going to be intimidated by the attempt to mother them.
This is my first experience with ducks, so I'm learning as I go. Since the geese were hatched here and raised by me, it was a lot easier to get them established in the pen, especially since they were the only waterfowl I had, so they had a pen to themselves. Hopefully, as long as I keep the babies safe, they can all become one flock in the future, and if I ever get a gander, the chance of him being aggressive will be lowered if he's introduced to an established flock. *fingers crossed*
 
Kc Simmons
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Apparently I underestimated the geese and their desire to be mothers. When I cleaned the ducklings' brooder cage today, I decided to put them in another cage, and put that cage in the goose pen. The geese immediately responded to the cheeps, and got defensive towards me; including lots of hissing, which they haven't done towards me before. It took the geese about a half hour to convince the ducks to ditch me as a "mother" and go to them instead. I decided to let them out of the cage to see what would happen and they immediately ran to their new moms, who ushered them away while making threatening remarks to me; although they didn't actually come at me, which I guess is because I'm their "mom" (dad, or whatever) and they know where the food comes from .

Despite never being around any other poultry, it didn't take long for the instincts to kick in, and for them to get their ducks in a row

I guess I'll keep watching them for the day and decide if I want to give the care responsibilities to the geese full time, or if I need to gather them up for the night.

Edit to add: can anyone identify the breeds of any of the poultry in the pictures? I am guessing the ducklings are Campbells, though I first thought Cayuga, as they were deep black as babies and just lightened up the last few days. One day I shall have Muscovies, but I have to actually find some first.
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Got their ducks in a row
Got their ducks in a row
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Natural moms?
Natural moms?
IMG_20200509_150502772_HDR.jpg
Attempting to intimate me
Attempting to intimidate me
 
Kc Simmons
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I just can't help but feel a little giddy when things start growing in spring. As the winter/cool season crops are wrapping up, I'm starting to harvest a few handfuls of beans every couple of days. This probably excites me more than it should, but my beans have historically produced little to no yield, likely due to pest pressure and dirt instead of soil. Last year they all got what I suspect was mosaic virus, as the aphids were like a plague. This year I haven't seen many (if any) of the crinkled leaves, but I have seen thousands of ladybugs and their larvae all over the place, gorging on aphids and probably potato bug larvae (as I only saw 2 or 3 potato bugs and haven't seen any others since the ladybugs started breeding in the potato beds).
For varieties, I did a mixture of bush beans, bought as a "blend" (purple, gold, and various greens). I picked several pods from them today, and I will probably start soaking another batch to plant soon, since I am thinking I read they are determinate, and should be succession planted. This is the first year I planted scarlet runner beans, and have fallen in love with them. Not only were they the first ones up and going, but they're also a beautiful sight when in full bloom.
So, I'm not sure when to actually harvest the beans, though (since I've never had anything to harvest in the past). Today I picked young/small pods, with the biggest being around the same diameter as a pencil, and the majority being smaller than that. From my understanding, these should be cooked as green beans. Then, when I want dry beans, I need to wait until they get dry before picking (which will also be the seeds to save for next year). I also don't know which varieties are best for different purposes (I think I read the runners are fine for green beans and dry beans). It may be worth making an individual post with my bean questions.

Anyway I have rambled enough about my excitement for beans (LOL).
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Awesome runner beans
Awesome runner beans
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Today's yield
Today's yield
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Pretty purple beans
Pretty purple beans
 
Kc Simmons
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I have a love-hate relationship with pineapple guava. I love it because it's beautiful when in full bloom, and is just an attractive shrub all year round. The fruit, though small, is tasty. The plants are also pretty hardy, being tolerant of the summer heat and dryness, as well as the few, especially cold days we get in winter.

I hate it because, no matter what I do, I am unable to propagate it via cloning. I've tried to take all kinds of cuttings in all kinds of temps, substrates, humidity, etc, and have a 0% success rate in probably 1000 trials.

My mom has two mature specimens, which I currently have air layers on (applied in March with no results yet). Last fall I saved some fruit and let them ferment/rot in a cup of water all winter, but the tiny seeds are hard to separate from the pulp, so I only got a few down, with the plan to do a little at a time (since that was the same time I was starting veggie transplants in seed trays). Then, unfortunately, the whole surgery/hospital thing happened. While I was in the hospital during quarantine, my mom decided to clean my house and sanitize everything for when I came home... AND SHE THREW OUT MY CUP OF ROTTING FRUIT/SEEDS!!! Of course I wasn't really upset, considering her good intentions, but she was a little upset since she wants me to successfully propagate so she can have more of them

Ultimately, though, despite the loss of 90%+ of the seeds, I currently have TWO seedlings that are alive and growing, from the first group of seeds down. These seedlings have been treated of the royalty by me, with the best care in their containers of the best soil... Just because they are my best shot at having my own pineapple guava in my forest garden.

I went down to check out my mom's gardens a few days ago (because she has amazing soil, so her plants are always amazing), and it looks like I should have another chance to rot fruit in water this winter, as her pineapple guavas are COVERED in blooms, which the hummingbirds are going crazy for. Hopefully there's plenty of pollination/flower sex going on, which will provide me with some fruit to eat, and some seeds to grow 🤞
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Pineapple Guava Blooms
Pineapple Guava Blooms
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The seedlings
The seedlings
 
Kc Simmons
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Onions have been a success this year. The sets I planted in February have hit a growth spurt in the bulbs the last couple of weeks, with many pushing up above the soil. Right now, most of them are about the size of the grocery store onions that come in those plastic mesh bags. They haven't started blooming yet, and the tops aren't leaning, so hopefully they'll grow even more before harvesting. If nothing happens, this crop should keep me stocked for the year, as long as I can keep them stored without rotting (and will probably chop & freeze a lot). There's also the cluster onions, which have been constantly blooming, and attracting lots of helpful bugs. I divided the largest bunch, as it was crowding out some other things, so maybe the divisions will take and start reproducing.
If the annual onion patch doesn't cover the next year's worth of onions, the clusters should help make up the difference; meaning one more thing I won't have to depend on the grocery store to supply.
Since I think there's a couple packs of onion seeds in my seed library, I may try starting some in a seed tray to grow out this summer and possibly have my own sets ready to plant in winter for my own sets for next year's supply.
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Onions growing
Onions growing
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Hand for scale
Hand for scale
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Bunching and blooms
Bunching and blooms
 
Kc Simmons
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"WEEDS & BUGS" is the headline for the month of May it seems. While there was a balance of predators & prey the last few months, it seems like the ladybugs are starting to go on summer break, and they have been my biggest ally in pest control this growing season. Fortunately, I have seen a lot of spiders, toads, baby frog-lets, a couple of dekays brown snakes, and a single assassin bug, so I hope they'll help get the huge aphid population, the harlequin beetles, the grasshoppers, and other pests who have decided to forego social distancing and "dine in at the buffet." The "typical" stink bugs have made their appearance, then the squash bugs made their debut a couple of days after I transplanted the squash and zucchini plants; and almost everything I've read says they don't really have any predators. I know birds tend to have a different sense of taste, so maybe all the mocking birds out here will help, but I tried giving harlequin beetles (which I read were a type of stink bug) to the ducks, and they refused to eat them. Snails & slugs are still feasting nightly, and I was wondering if the frogs and toads might help control them since they prefer to live in the same conditions as the slime-balls. Anyone know if they will? When I ordered a batch of the "fly exterminators" (parasitic wasps) from Nature's Good Guys, a few weeks ago, I saw on their website where they have a type of snail that eats other snails. Later, I saw a snail in the garden that resembled the ones on the website, but I didn't have the phone with me to take a picture and compare, so I left it where it was just in case it was the same thing.
Right now, the only active measures I've taken to control the pests has been sprinkling some DE on the squash bugs I've found, squishing their eggs, and squishing the giant snails & slugs I come across; and that's probably the most I will do. Besides losing some small transplants to the slime-balls, there's only been one other casualty, which is a winter squash volunteer that got hit by a borer (which usually aren't a problem here). Since the harlequin bugs have about finished off the bolted brassicas, they've been moving to the potato plants; which are close to being done, anyway, due to the recent heatwave.
The only other wildlife interaction of significance is that an armadillo has been coming to the garden at night. While I do appreciate his diligence in cleaning the buried grubs from the garden, he's not very cautious about any of the plants that may be between him and a grub. I go out in the mornings and find plants that are tossed several feet from the place they were growing, so I just stick them back in the lovely holes the armadillo has left behind. I think the only one that has died was a bolted cilantro plant, just because I missed it in the morning review, so it spent a few hours drying in the sun before I found it.

For now, I plan to just keep observing and hope nature helps get a good balance in place, before the pests destroy too much.
Will do the "WEEDS" part in a bit.
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Assassin Bug
Assassin Bug
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Baby potato bugs- yuck
Baby potato bugs- yuck
 
Kc Simmons
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One of my 2020 goals has been to produce my own mulch/biomass, and to best utilize the biomass which is naturally growing on the land (weeds). Unfortunately, this has been more difficult than anticipated, due to my body still recovering from surgery & moving slower than usual. I've been trying to pull/chop a bit of giant ragweed in the evenings, but the black eyed susans, bee balm, lambsquarters, and the other good mulch prospects have begun to flower, so I could foresee it coming back to haunt me if I were to use them and they continued to develop & release seeds.
While wood chips are my preferred mulch, I quickly used up the small amount I was able to get last autumn. My dad gets his morning coffee at the same place as the tree trimming crew, and asked them a few times if they could bring more out over the winter months, and they agreed, but they never followed through.  Good example of why one should try to be independent of outside resources; although I will gladly use the resources from the waste stream if I have access to them.
Anyway, to get back on track, I got lucky last week when my dad called one morning to tell me there were two trucks on their way to dump. Turned out it was 3 trucks, which was a glorious sight. The chips appear to be a mix of elm & mulberry, with some other things mixed in, as well as some logs, which will be great for hugels or bed borders. You could also send tell the chipper blades were in need of sharpening, as the wood was more shredded than chipped, but I'm not picky and they'll still suppress weeds and good bedding/litter for the poultry. Then, that evening two of the trucks came back to dump. Since I tend to think better in the evening than in the morning, I realized it would be convenient to have a pile right beside the garden where the bermuda keeps sneaking in & it would be easier for me to fill & dump my buckets, instead of having to walk back & forth to the pile by the fence line. I also pulled some of the best onions from one of the gardens to send home with them, along with the promise (or bribe? ) of more produce as things ripen, as a token of thanks for more chips in the future.
This morning I looked out the window and saw where they came back and dropped 3 more loads. These chips were the finely chopped, small pieces that everyone seems to prefer, so will be great to mix with some rabbit manure and add to the mulch in the annual garden.
While I know this isn't really in line with my goal to produce all of my mulch on-site, I admit it's kind of a relief to know I have it there, by the garden, instead of spending the time, energy, and strength to make multiple trips across an acre to cut/pull weeds and carry them to the closest garden; then going back for more armfuls. In my mind the chips should: 1) Serve as a temporary solution until my body is back to 90-100% strength & stamina, and 2) Allow the current mulch/support species in the garden to get more established & push more growth, as well as give me time to plant even more support species for biomass production.
That's enough rambling for the night.
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Pile by the garden
Pile by the garden
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Big pile on fence line
Big pile on fence line
 
Kc Simmons
gardener
Posts: 569
Location: Central Texas
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hugelkultur forest garden trees rabbit greening the desert homestead
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Well, we're halfway through the year and I can't help but feel like I haven't made nearly enough progress on my goals I should've. I've been overwhelmingly busy with just the daily chores, which has hindered my progress on projects. Just documenting so I can remember next year, and not try to take on too much, then feel the same way next summer. Also going to break up the updates into separate posts, by subject.
First, it's gotten really hot and dry earlier than usual this year. The tree company has continued to bring loads of chips, with the current count being around 14 or 15. I haven't gotten to lay out any of the chips, as I was hoping for one of the heavy rains that we often see in May. So, even though I have 4-5 inches of chips on the gardens, I'm still having to water the annuals every few days, because they didn't get to establish a root system before the rains stopped and the 100°+ days arrived. Since there's no way I can afford to water them all summer, I'm just trying to get a yield from them before I leave them to fend for themselves. Because it takes so long to water the gardens and the animals, I haven't had time to spread chips after watering due to it getting dark by the time I get done. *sigh* Fortunately, most of the perennials/trees planted last year haven't needed any water, yet, nor have the volunteer tomatoes, sunflowers, and herbs that came up this spring.
Yields:
Onions (golden)- great yield. Most are softball size or larger.
Potatoes- yields were awesome in all the beds but had to cull half or more due to pest damage in the tubers and then another 10-15% are damaged, but usable. I think I waited too long to harvest them. Reds had the most damage, then golds, and least of all were russets.
Beans- Runner beans were the top beans March-April, but they've slowed down in the heat, and the yard-long beans have moved to the top spot in production. Bush beans planted in early spring have been consistent, but recently appear to be infected with spider mites. Not really crazy about the taste of the yard-long beans, but wondering if I could breed to a better taste?
Corn- has been okay. Some of the ears are good, but the plants are trying to make more ears that never get developed. May try for a second crop with one of the "early" varieties to see if I can get a fall crop.
Zucchin-i has began to produce (gray striped variety). No major pest pressure after I applied DE to the early squash bugs. Yellow summer squash is still growing.
Cukes- the "lemon" variety is climbing all over the place and is covered in blooms, but still waiting for fruit. The "bush" cukes aren't really bushes, but the vines are okay creeping along the ground and have started producing.
Strawberries- about finished with fruiting and are now shooting a ton of runners out (many will need to be moved this fall/winter).
Tomatoes- are full of green fruit and the black cherry tomatoes are the first to get ripe (and are all volunteers from last year). Even the full sized volunteers are ripening faster than the transplants.
Peppers- are struggling the most with the heat/dryness, but were some of the last things transplanted. Banana peppers are doing the best.
Eggplants- are doing well and blooming.
Okra- is starting to produce.
Sugar sorghum- doing great and starting to bloom. Have no idea what/when to harvest it.
Radishes- those which didn't get harvested are on their 3rd set of blooms.
Volunteer sunflowers- one is probably over 12 ft tall and the others are getting there. They are covered with the "sharpshooter" bugs that have plagued the garden.
Tomatillos- are sprawling everywhere and starting to make fruit.
Ground cherries- covered in fruit, have been picking the yellow ones as I find them.
Orach- covered by the runner beans, lemon cukes, and tomatillos. Some of them are still alive under there.
Asparagus- is blooming, but I think the bloomers are all purchased plants, and the seedlings haven't bloomed so probably no viable seeds this year.
Luffa- have only transplanted a few and need to get the rest planted out asap.
Greens- one cabbage is still going and some broccoli and cauliflower that got eaten down by harlequin bugs and have recovered but not produced anything. Chard and curly kale are still going strong but I have been harvesting for the geese since they're probably bitter from the heat.
Still need to plant some pumpkins and winter squash, but I should have time before the first frost date.

I think that's almost everything. Might take me a bit to get all of the pictures uploaded since my internet signal isn't very strong.
Will share more soon, but now need to start on chores so I can get everything done before it gets too late.



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Wood chip piles
Wood chip piles
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More chips
More chips
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Garden
Garden
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Cotton getting covered by runners and cukes
Cotton getting covered by runners and cukes
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Asparagus bed with ground cherries and cannas
Asparagus bed with ground cherries and cannas
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Mass of tomatoes I never tied to the teepee
Mass of tomatoes I never tied to the teepee
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There's some orach hiding somewhere under there
There's some orach under there
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Sunflowers shading apple & peach trees
Sunflowers shading apple & peach trees
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Curly kale in full sun
Curly kale in full sun
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Bush cukes (with DE) aren't very bushy
Bush cukes (with DE) aren
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Eggplants, dragon tail radish, cosmos
Eggplants, dragon tail radish, cosmos
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Sharpshooters on sunflower
Sharpshooters on sunflower
 
Kc Simmons
gardener
Posts: 569
Location: Central Texas
211
hugelkultur forest garden trees rabbit greening the desert homestead
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Poultry Updates:
I originally decided to hold off on getting more chickens after the neighborhood dogs took out the flock, but some recent bartering has resulted in me acquiring a new silkie hen, 4 silkie chicks, and a half dozen hatching eggs (which the silkie hen brooded), resulting in 4 Easter egger X chicks (hopefully future laying hens). Additionally, (can't remember if I already mentioned it), I got 3 turkey poults at one of the feed stores in the spring. Then, on a road trip to Kansas I stopped for the night in Oklahoma, at a friend's, and she sent me home with some turkey eggs, which resulted in 4 more poults hatching.
Also, the friend that gave me the chicken eggs sent me home with her pair of geese (which have made a nest with 5 eggs that they're beginning to brood).
So, it looks like I will be working on more poultry enclosures soon, until I can get the materials to make a fenced poultry yard. This morning my dad brought the tractor to my house and moved some of the wood chips to the poultry area, which I will begin to use as a deep litter until the winter and will then put the soiled chips on the garden and add more to the coops.
The 3 older poults are already in a coop, and the 4 younger ones are with the 4 silkie chicks in the brooder still. The hen with the chicks is in an old hutch in the rabbit barn until I can get them set up with a space where the rat snakes can't get them. I'm hoping to come up with a "tractor" for the silkies, and use them in the gardens outside of the growing seasons to help clear up some of the numerous pests that hide in the mulch. Since silkies are also typically good setters, I hope to use them as "natural incubators" in the future.
The geese have been interesting, to say the least. For some reason, I didn't remember that geese prefer to be in pairs (despite reading about their care when got the first two). I guess I was thinking about ducks when I assumed that one gander would service multiple geese. So, possibly I will still have the same issue as before, with my original girls being without an opposite-gendered mate. 😔 I was advised by a goose breeder that it might be possible to develop a bond between the quad if I can integrate them appropriately.
Currently I have them divided into two groups- the original 2 with the ducklings they adopted, and the new pair with their nest. They can see & interact with each other, but not actually access each other due to there being some "disagreements" when I tried to combine the groups. Once breeding season is over and I get the ducklings out of the picture, I'm supposed to do a "divide and conquer" tactic by mixing up the pairs and keeping them out of sight and earshot of each other. Already being acquainted with one another, and no one being involved with a nest or babies should allow everyone to develop a bond with the new partner (but won't totally forget the previous partner. Then, the two new pairs can slowly be introduced to each other. She (the goose breeder) said this will usually work for younger birds (which mine still are). By the next breeding season they should, at least, be familiar with each other enough to not get defensive towards the others over the nests.... As for whether the gander will mate with the others; that will just depend on the birds, themselves. Honestly, I won't worry about it too much, as long as everyone is healthy and happy.

So that's a rundown of the current poultry status.
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Little Goblets
Little Goblets
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Hen & chicks
Hen & chicks
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Gaggle
Ducks
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Gaggle
Gaggle
 
Kc Simmons
gardener
Posts: 569
Location: Central Texas
211
hugelkultur forest garden trees rabbit greening the desert homestead
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It was somewhat of a productive weekend. Yesterday, my dad brought the tractor down here and I was able to run the shredder over the yard and fields, which is nice since the vegetation was almost knee-high, and the sticker burrs were out in full force. After shredding I went through and collected some clippings from the grassy areas, which I gave to the poultry since much of it was Bermuda and I don't want to risk it sprouting in the compost or the garden!
Today, as mentioned in the last post, he moved some wood chips to the back for me to put in the poultry and pig pens as a deep litter. Now I just need to get my buckets and move it in the coops for the birds, but he was able to dump it over the fence into the pig pen, so I'm leaving it to them to spread it out. I moved the hen & chicks, plus the older chicks/poults out to a small, portable pen, which will work well for them until they are big enough for the main enclosure. While feeding/watering everything I realized I really need to cull some rabbits asap, before the current litters are ready to be divided into individual cages. It's just a matter of finding the time to do them all at once and when the heat (and flies) aren't too bad. Also noticed the pigeon flock is getting too large and needs to be thinned out quite a bit. Since my pigeons aren't a utility breed and aren't "exhibition quality," they don't really serve much of a purpose. This bothers me, but I've had this line of birds for so long it would also bother me to cull them all, so I keep them, and just reduce the number when the loft gets too full. They aren't big enough to be worth dressing out for my food, but they provide the pigs with some protein and I'd like to start feeding them to the dog & cats to save on their food and give them some healthy protein.

Came in early this evening and prepped the sweet corn harvest for freezing and snapped some green beans which I'll blanch & freeze tomorrow. Gathered several peppers from the garden, as well as a handful of ground cherries, which I haven't figured out what to do with yet.
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Deep litter for the pigs to spread out.
Deep litter for the pigs to spread out.
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Hen wondering where these big babies came from
Hen wondering where these big babies came from
 
Kc Simmons
gardener
Posts: 569
Location: Central Texas
211
hugelkultur forest garden trees rabbit greening the desert homestead
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After doing some googling, it seems my ducks are Khaki Campbells. From what I can tell, 2 or 3 of them are probably drakes (maybe all 4) *sigh*.
If that's the case, then I'll probably be asking for advice on slaughtering and dressing out in the fall. I haven't butchered poultry since I was in high school (chickens & turkeys) and, even then, my job was to pluck so no idea how to clean them.
Most of my butchering experience is with rabbits, which are easy (just skin and filet); but I've read enough accounts in the forums to know that too many drakes isn't good for the hens.
IMG_20200619_203624918.jpg
Ducks
Ducks
 
Kc Simmons
gardener
Posts: 569
Location: Central Texas
211
hugelkultur forest garden trees rabbit greening the desert homestead
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It seems we may get some relief from the hot and dry weather, per the Google. Fingers crossed the rain comes through and gives everything a deep soaking. 🤞
I expect the humidity will be so high that it'll be like trying to breathe with a plastic bag over your head, but maybe I can get a few more inches of mulch on the garden and trap some of that rain in the soil.
We shall see how it plays out! :D
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Weekly forecast
Weekly forecast
 
Kc Simmons
gardener
Posts: 569
Location: Central Texas
211
hugelkultur forest garden trees rabbit greening the desert homestead
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Well, it did rain a couple of days last week, for about a half hour each day. Still, any precipitation is good, and I didn't have to water the container plants for a few days.
While the temps were lower (high 80s to low 90s), the heat index was pretty high (over 100°) and the humidity was treacherous. Still, I was able to get some things done and caught up, such as transplanting the herbs and veggies that never got put out in the spring. They may end up being stunted, but at least they are roots in the ground. I also (finally) put out some pumpkin seeds. I planted a variety of sugar sweet pumpkin, Cherokee Bush, and Lady Godiva. Since the spider mites and the heat have about done in my bush beans (that have been producing since spring), I am also soaking a batch of mixed bush bean seeds to plant out this evening and will be letting the old plants go.

The rain did seem to help get some things ready to harvest. The bush cukes have been giving me 3-4 fruits every day or 2, so I gathered a few days' worth and attempted my first batch of fermented pickles on Tuesday or Wednesday, using Jill Prairie's recipe. They've been bubbling up for a few days, so I moved them into the refrigerator last night and will be trying them out soon. I picked 2 small wild grape leaves and a bay leaf to include in the jar, so I hope they'll be crunchy!
I've also been blanching and freezing green beans a few times a week from the bush beans and yard-long beans.
The kale & chard had a ton of new growth that actually hadn't been nibbled on by the bugs, so I picked a couple buckets full and blanched/froze a few quart bags of greens. I suppose they might be a wee-bit bitter due to the heat, but they just looked so good, and I love a pot of boiled greens, so I went ahead and harvested the newest leaves and gave the largest/oldest leaves to the geese (who were happy for the treat).
The grey zucchini has been doing an excellent job of producing, so I shredded up a bunch of them and bagged it up to give some to my mom, who uses it in cooking/baking. I'm not a big fan of zucchini, but I like to grate it finely and add it to ground meat in recipes, and used some for spaghetti sauce one evening.
Okra has produced a few pods, with more blooms on the plants. Yellow squash plants are finally beginning to make fruit, and I should be able to harvest the first few within a couple of days. I have one eggplant that has a baby fruit on it, and the others are blooming. Vine peach plants have some unripe fruit, but haven't seen any lemon cucumbers yet. Cowpeas/BEPs have some pods that I think will be ready to pick pretty soon (first time growing them). The second batch of black eyed peas I broadcasted over the empty potato areas have come up, and I finally got the luffa gourd plants transplanted. Some of the sweet potato slips have taken off, while many others shriveled up in the sun. I still have more to plant out, but am trying to figure out where to put them. Banana peppers are still going strong and I've started to get some bell peppers and jalapenos from the seedlings I started in February. Also, I'm starting to get tomatoes finally. The volunteer black cherries and yellow pear have been getting ripe first, as well as a volunteer slicer that came up by the rabbit barn. The transplants have a lot of green tomatoes on them, but I've only harvested a few. I've been saving them up, blanching and peeling them to freeze until I get enough for a batch of salsa. I've picked a few tomatillos, which will also go in the salsa. I'm loving how productive the ground cherries are (Aunt Molly's). Every evening I come in with a handful or two, which I'm saving up for some homemade deserts. Since all of the fruit trees are still young, I only got one peach this year. The strawberry plants have slowed down, but have a ton of runners that I'll need to move this fall/winter because there's nowhere near enough room in the designated bed for them all. Sweet corn harvest wasn't great, but I ended up with a couple of gallon freezer bags full. I may plant a second crop to see if I can get another harvest before fall.
So that's the update on the garden.
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The single peach
The single peach
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Some peas
Some peas
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Vine peaches
Vine peaches
 
Kc Simmons
gardener
Posts: 569
Location: Central Texas
211
hugelkultur forest garden trees rabbit greening the desert homestead
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My first batch of fermented pickles turned out pretty good. They are satisfactorily crunchy, but I wish they were a wee bit more sour.
Since there's a lot of cukes going in the veggie drawer of the fridge, I'd like to try to make another batch that's more sour. Anyone have a recommended on how to increase the tang factor?
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First ever lacto fermented pickles
First ever lacto fermented pickles
 
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