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Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

 
pioneer
Posts: 527
Location: Oregon 8b
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Nancy Reading wrote:Considering how far north we are (57.4 degrees), we are (at the moment) very mild here, it rarely goes below freezing in winter for any length of time, although every few years we will get a couple weeks where it goes down to -10 deg C or so overnight.  Very wet and windy compared to you there though by the sound of it. We get rain at any time of year, Spring is our dryest time which is nice to get out and do things in, and things never really dry out in winter so roots tend to rot which kills the plants more than the cold as such.



This is actually our wet season, it just happens to be that our wet season is getting more concentrated and our dry season is getting longer. We get 30-40ish inches of rain, it's just mostly between October and April-ish. I'd say for most things, from purchased seeds, I get maybe 10% loss to rot. 10% isn't shabby no matter the cause. And it means future generations are rot resistant.

The meadow turf, on the other hand, is a tougher thing to deal with. For the most part, broadcasting seeds into the weeds is working well, but not much can compete with grass in areas where it's gotten a chance to establish.

I'm finding that a rabbit tractor is doing an exceptional job of clearing a fence line (though, all the fertility from the rabbit poop is probably going to create a growth explosion.) The Maritime Gardener also made an excellent case for using Ruth Stout-style potatoes as a way to clear a patch for future gardening endeavors.

But yes. I will certainly check out what you're working on. Going to try to make use of my remaining daylight, so remind me if you haven't heard anything by morning, your time. The whole ADHD thing. I'll forget that I was going to do something if it's not right in front of my face.
 
Mathew Trotter
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There hasn't been much to show off in the garden. Things grow slowly this time of year. And with 3+ separate showings, there's quite a bit of variation in the age of the plants. The space has mostly been dominated by turnips and daikonβ€”other things have been there, but too small yet to be recognizable. More and more things are starting to get true leaves and become recognizable. I'm seeing more and more mustard and kale. More carrots are showing up, and I found my first cilantro the other day. Beets also seem to be present in healthy numbers. There are small green things which might be the start of lettuce, though they're still a bit small to be positively identified. True to the research, some of the best looking plants are the ones that are most crowded (so long as they're crowded by dissimilar plants.) Could still be a while before I know what a lot of this stuff is.

The turnip I posted the other day was one of the ones that survived the drought. The one pictured here, that's just starting to bulb up, is from the fresh planting. I didn't get a picture of the drought survivor while I was out, but it's starting to put on new leaves. The thing that makes me nervous about things like turnips is that there isn't a lot of good information about breeding for flavor. With things like carrots that are being regularly bred for flavor, there's definitely information out there about how to handle the roots. You just cut off the bottom third or half to taste and then replant the top with no or minimal greens. I assumed a similar approach could be taken with turnips, but their size and shape makes it awkward. How much can you cut off and still have it regrow? Do you need to treat the cut end in any way to keep it from just rotting in the ground? For many things it's recommended to store them in a high humidity location until the cut end heals before replanting. I ended up eating the bottom half of the turnip, storing in a container overnight with the lid cracked so it would start humid but still be able to breathe, and then I replanted the next morning. So far it seems to be chugging along without issues, but we'll see if it has the vitality to make it to seed production. I've got my fingers crossed.
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pollinator
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Location: SE Indiana
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Mathew Trotter wrote:
I'm finding that a rabbit tractor is doing an exceptional job of clearing a fence line (though, all the fertility from the rabbit poop is probably going to create a growth explosion.) The Maritime Gardener also made an excellent case for using Ruth Stout-style potatoes as a way to clear a patch for future gardening endeavors.



If your not opposed to ravaging one spot to benefit another you might try raking the poop and any bits of soil and stuff that might come with it and using it other places. I did that a lot when I had chickens. I occasionally used a hoe to scrape off the top 1/2  inch or so of soil from inside the chicken pasture and spread it in my garden beds.

I have an interesting area where a long time ago I mined sod and top soil to bury in the garden, leaving little behind except packed clay.  I just left it like that and it's now been thickly colonized by some annual weed with white flowers, it's in bloom right now and the bees love it. The weed isn't the only thing though there are also little cedar trees, blackberries, goji berries and of all things garlic. I must have pitched some extra bulbils over there at some point, A bird must have made the effort with the goji berries. .
 
Mathew Trotter
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Location: Oregon 8b
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Mark Reed wrote:
If your not opposed to ravaging one spot to benefit another you might try raking the poop and any bits of soil and stuff that might come with it and using it other places. I did that a lot when I had chickens. I occasionally used a hoe to scrape off the top 1/2  inch or so of soil from inside the chicken pasture and spread it in my garden beds.



Oh yeah. I've been trying to get most of it raked into the "pasture" that they're clearing the fence line for. It's not enough to try to gather it for the garden. That'll be after I have them out of the tractor and into a proper colony set up. And falling that, I might be running a rabbit tractor more regularly to keep the fence cleared.
 
Mathew Trotter
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Location: Oregon 8b
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It's amazing how what was my zone 1 and got daily attention shifted dramatically as my plan and techniques evolved. To be fair, my zone 1 was only my zone 1 because the landowner piled up and flattened what passed for topsoil when they excavated to build the barn. But, since I've shifted my attention towards animals, and that's the only spot on the property that can reasonably be fenced in and accessed by said animals, it could no longer function as a garden. Now it's lucky if I even make it through once a week. It's usually to disappointment. Things that survived the drought ultimately succumbing to wildlife.

Today's stroll brought with it since surprises. Radishes are still flowering like crazy, and parsley has taken off now that rain and cooler weather has returned. The growth of my volunteer mustard continues to explode, and I'll be able to make significant use of baby mustard in no time (I love the heat of this variety when raw; it's unfortunate that all of its charm disappears the second you cook it.) Carrots are just sprouting up (or regrowing) from seeds planted in the spring of 2020, or possibly from seed that dropped before I got out to collect it (though, they're suspiciously large for anything that's sprouted since the rains hit.) The carrots planted in spring are recognizably carrots now. Scorzonera is suddenly the unsung hero of the garden. Plants that I'd hoped to collect seeds from this year died back to the ground in the drought but are now reemerging, and the seeds that I planted in spring are finally taking off in a serious way. Not many beets survived the drought, and wildlife has pummeled many of the remaining plants, but a handful press on. I also think I found what might be the only parsnip that made it through the drought (there are a few other things which could be parsnip sprouts, but I think they're probably just weeds... won't know until they're bigger.) There are a few broccoli which have survived, though in sad shape due to constant predation. It's unlikely that they'll survive the winter and live long enough to produce seed, but we'll see.

I did dig around at the base of one of the sunchokes to check their progress and pulled up one tuber. It seems like the yield will be small based on how much I had to dig around to find a single tuber, but it's more than nothing. I'll leave them in the ground until the garlic and favas sprout, and then I'll interplant them into that section of the garden so I can give them some irrigation next year and increase the yield, the goal being that they'll fill in that space once the favas and garlic are harvested.

I keep finding madrone berries that birds are dropping in the garden, but none of the trees I've looked at are fruiting. I'm going to hike around a bit more, but I imagine they're coming from a neighboring property. I don't know if the fruit is actually worthwhile to eat... I find the related Arbutus unedo/strawberry tree to have highly variable fruit that seems to depend greatly on the soil they're growing in. It's usually acceptable at best and terrible at worst, but it would at least be something I could harvest from the property if indeed I find them. Maybe dried they'd be better? I haven't been able to find much info on people using the fruit.

Literally as I was sitting in the barn writing this, a tree frog hopped by. He was covered in diatomaceous earth and peppermint oil that was intended to keep rodents out. Apparently didn't deter him, but I'm sure it couldn't get great on amphibian skin. Got him cleaned up, with much protestation, but as soon as I went to release him in the garden he decided that he was found of the little container with water that I had him in. I've only seen two or three of these guys since moving out here. Used to find them all the time as a kid. The invasive bullfrogs are tough on them in addition to all the other challenges they face in our changing climate.
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Baby mustard
Baby mustard
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Parsley
Parsley
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Madrone fruit
Madrone fruit
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Scorzonera reemerging
Scorzonera reemerging
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Sunchoke
Sunchoke
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Froggy friend
Froggy friend
 
Mathew Trotter
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Posts: 527
Location: Oregon 8b
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I kinda expected the Bielefelder's to be slow to hit their maximum size. Honestly haven't been paying too much attention to their size until I saw one next to one of the old laying hens and realized he was finally noticeably bigger than she was. Was able to catch one and confirm that he's gained a pound and a half in the past month. Looking forward to seeing how they develop over the next couple of months. They are going to be an absolutely massive bird.
 
Mathew Trotter
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It's been a stormy couple of days and power was out briefly. There's finally a break in the rain. The main path through the garden is finally turning into a muddy mess from the constant rain and foot traffic. Since there isn't much I can do with the soil this water logged, I'm taking the time to spread a bit of wood chips over the main path to eliminate the mud. My supply of wood chips is limited, so this is likely a one time application, after which I'll likely start using the weeds from the garden as the primary mulch.

Here's video. It's not especially exciting, but it does show just how green this area has gotten in the past 2-3 months. Granted, most of what you can actually see in this video is grass and thistles, since this is the end of the garden I haven't weeded yet. The grasses are actually getting thick enough in some spots that I may have to set up the rabbit tractor at some point to knock them back down to something actual vegetables can compete with.

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CVi7C5ElEn5/?utm_medium=copy_link

The other thing I've been working on with the break in the rain is filling in a section of one of the ditches that the landowner arbitrarily dug, at great expense, to drain away all the water we need ahead of the worst drought we've ever seen. The actual cutout is about 2 feet deep now that it's started to erode, but it's about a 4 foot drop from the spot I took the picture from. It literally dissects the property and makes it impossible to get to the top half of the property any way other than on foot, and even on foot it's challenging. This is my quick (or not so quick?) and dirty way of creating a walking path across this monstrosity. It doesn't have the finesse of a Bill Zeedyk design, in which you'd key in the structure by cutting in perpendicular to the ditch and carefully stacking rocks so the water can't just move around the structure and wash out the soil on either side. And that may be an issue that I have to contend with at some point in the future. At this stage, though, I'm just trying to create a stable base that can hold up to foot traffic using wood and stone, the idea being that as the wood rots it will act as a kind of mortar and stabilize the stone. This is just to the west of the garden, so the idea is to slowly fill the rest of the ditch back in with spent stalks and such from the garden in much the same way that Amazonian civilization created terra preta through a kind of pit composting (obviously hoping to also include lots of biochar and fired clay into the mix.) Over time it will build back up to the original level and I'll be able to expand the garden further westward. Of course, I want something more stable than what is essentially 4 feet of topsoil to walk on, hence concentrating the stones where the original path crosses the ditch. With luck, the building up of organic matter throughout the ditch further stabilizes the stone, making a more time-consuming design unnecessary. Or it will all fail with time. But I expect it to be usable for some time at least, and I don't expect any eventual repair work to justify over-engineering things from the start. If the past two years has taught me anything, it's the kind of large scale designs that would be more typical on a piece of land this size, but which require a massive input of labor upfront, just don't work when you're a lone person. You can't sacrifice short term needs for long-term goals, and you can't invest energy into projects where most of your effort will erode before you have an opportunity to capitalize on them in any meaningful way. Good enough has to be good enough sometimes, and more work shouldn't be done unless there's a significant labor savings to be realized in perpetuity. In this case, just having the path is the time saver. Over-engineering it from the start is more work than any repairs are likely to take.

Ultimately the clay subsoil is still shaped into a channel designed to take water away, and it will still do that, though hopefully a giant pile of organic matter can soak up a great deal of the water that passes through. Long-term, if long-term is even still in the cards, I'll need to come up with strategies to keep that organic matter from washing out, and perhaps some kind of catch for the soil that does wash out.

In other news, the garlic is starting to sprout. Just barely. I only found a few cloves that are just starting to pop out, but it's at least starting. No sign of favas yet.
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Creating a walking path across the ditch
Creating a walking path across the ditch
 
Mathew Trotter
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Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and live amongst the world's great stonesmiths (you know, real masters of stoneβ€”beyond stone aged people and mere masons.)

I've seen this video before, but damn if it doesn't always make me want to go out and start building things out of big rocks.



And this one...

 
Mathew Trotter
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The timeline for cats has moved up. Woke up to mice having gotten onto a shelf 4 feet up and and devoured a 5 pound bag of rice. That's after already destroying a water heater. Apparently this is the push that the landowner needed to realize that cats aren't optional out in the boons, and that they're throwing money away by allowing mice to run rampant. Was going to get cats through a local barn cat program, since that's certainly more economical, but there's no saying if or when cats would be available in our area. Instead, found a promising cat through the humane society that's listed as a good mouser (which I've literally never seen listed in one of the profiles before.) With the pandemic, everything requires appointments now, but with luck the landowner will be bringing her home tonight. It's literally double the cost of the barn cat program, which hurts even though it's not my money, but certainly it'll be easier than dealing with feral cats. We'll see how it goes.
 
Mathew Trotter
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Ugh. Well, the favas are actually starting to sprout. And some asshole is eating them all. I'm guessing it's a combination of birds and rodents, since in some cases the seed has clearly been eaten, but in others the sprout was eaten and the seed left. Birds were hovering and getting territorial while I was out working, and based on that I threw row covers over the area with emerging seedlings. If it's rodents that are causing the majority of the problem, then row covers might be a deadly mistake, providing said rodents with protection from aerial predators. Even if the cat does come home tonight, rodents will have done their damage before she's able to go outside. We're supposed to get a couple of genuinely sunny days, and that might be a good opportunity to apply another round of nettle tea, though I anticipate that it would wash away before the favas were big enough to tolerate being nibbled on. I don't know what the actual damage is yet. There are lots of spots where I can't tell if something's been digging around or if I just didn't fill in the holes where I planted the seeds very well. I might plant a little more after I see what the damage is, but I don't want to dip into my reserves if I don't have to. I mean, I'd love to believe that I'm selecting for bird/rodent resistance, but realistically I think it's just luck of the draw (though, they don't seem to like the skins of the beans, so there might be something to select for in that regard.)

It really is just fractals of history repeating itself. Like my ancestors, I'm happy to share, but it'd be great if that wasn't taken as an invitation to commit genocide. πŸ™„

In better news, growth on the pre-existing veggies really feels like it exploded overnight. It helps that more and more brassicas are getting their true leaves and are finally recognizable. Some of the kale is getting massive and it was genuinely indistinguishable only a few days ago. I'm seeing more and more dill popping up. Not sure it'll do much as we move into cooler weather, but it'll certainly make for a nice snack while it lasts. I'm seeing a lot more cress as well. There's new stuff continuing to sprout as well, and still plenty that isn't big enough to be distinguishable yet, but the stuff that is is really starting to look gorgeous.

I'm accidentally running a bit of an experiment that I hadn't consciously intended to. I started pulling thistles at one end of the garden and dropping them as mulch, figuring anything that didn't survive the root disturbance qualified as part of my thinning for that area. The next area I pulled the thistles but did not drop them as mulch there, but rather in the front of the "terrace" instead. My concern was that they were a little too effective as mulch and were smothering an excessive number of the smaller seedlings. Then the final area is everything that hasn't been weeded yet. Some patches of thistle have really started to senesce, while others look relatively healthy.

Without any kind of measurement, my gut feeling is that the first area (weeded and mulched) has the best final plant spacing but also has the lowest plant diversity... Only the toughest species would have been able to survive that treatment, and so they represent the bulk of what's left. A new round of germination is taking place now, so it'll be interesting to see how things even out.

The second area (weeded but not mulched) definitely has more plant diversity and a plant density that leaves me plenty of options for making selections, whereas in%1 the previous area it feels like I'm doing less selection and more just getting stuck with whatever survived. I'd say the weeded and mulched section has the largest average size per plant, but it doesn't have the largest overall plants, and just visually, the weeded and not mulched area just looks healthier as a whole and on a plant by plant basis

Which leaves the non-weeded area. This area has the best plant diversity of all (even excluding the weeds), and in the areas where the thistles are senescing, this is where I'm seeing the largest individual plants and what, by my estimation, is the fastest rate of growth. It's super crowded, but that seems to be having minimal impact. Part of that is likely just from the lack of root disturbance, but some of the best looking plants exist in some of the densest but most diverse clumps of plants, just like the research suggests would happen.

Of course, it's still too early to call one genuinely better than the others, but so far I'm leaning towards not weeding as the winner, and if not, then at least close enough that the reduction in labor makes up for whatever I'm losing in the process. I'm curious to see how things work out as the season progresses.

The final picture is the one plant that keeps cropping up and I can't place at all. I've been leaning heavily towards something in the apiaceae family, but it's not carrots, parsley, or cilantro. I've thought that maybe it was the edible chrysanthemum I included in my mix, since that's one I'm not super familiar with. As they get bigger, I'm less sure of that. There are some California poppies with a similar phenotype (though more dainty and frilly leaves seem most common.) I've nibbled a bit of leaf and haven't gotten a particularly strong flavor. Google suggested that it was a particular species of buttercup whose leaves are dissimilar to other species of buttercups, and does share a striking resemblance, but doesn't appear to be native or naturalized here. If anyone thinks they know what it is, I'm all ears. Otherwise I'm just going to have to keep watching it and see how it develops over time.

There were definitely lots of things in my mix that I haven't seen clear signs of yet. Lots of maybes, but nothing big enough to be certain about yet. At this point I'm still mostly just observing and not intervening, hoping that some of the things I haven't ID'd are there and will present themselves in time.


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Fava skins, presumably left behind by a rodent
Fava skins, presumably left behind by a rodent
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Thus far surviving
Thus far surviving
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Also surviving
Also surviving
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And one of the aforementioned garlic sprouts
And one of the aforementioned garlic sprouts
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Greenery
Greenery
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GREENERY
GREENERY
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GREEEEEENERY
GREEEEEENERY
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What is this???
What is this???
 
Mathew Trotter
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Location: Oregon 8b
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Lepidium sativum. Cress. It's cress. I'm like 99% sure. It's not the same species of cress that I'm used to seeing, but the microgreens mix that I included did contain a generic "cress" and this must be that. Maybe there was more than one species of cress in that mix, since I'm definitely seeing so much of the stuff that's naturalized here that I assumed that was the cress that I planted. It also didn't taste especially peppery, but I was also just barely nibbling on it in case it ended up being something toxic.

One more mystery solved.

https://www.westcoastseeds.com/products/peppergrass-curly-cress
 
master gardener
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Wow, that stonehenge video was great - not seen it before.
Nice to see things growing - so you get most growth spring and autumn, between the dry and cold seasons?
Hopefully the critters will leave you some beans!  I had the same problem a couple years ago with my broad (fava) beans, the crows had almost every one as it germinated. I think I got two survivors out of the whole seed packet, and those didn't make it to maturity. Yes, if only they knew the meaning of sharing it wouldn't matter.
 
There were millions of the little blood suckers. But thanks to this tiny ad, I wasn't bitten once.
Permaculture Voices 1, 2 and 3 - all 117 hours of video!
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