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Farm For All - A Journal Of Sorts

 
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Mathew Trotter wrote:
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.



When I first came here I made a small garden about 20 x 30 feet and I didn't have any fences. There was a giant patch of thistles across the road. I put on my gloves and harvested them for mulch between the rows. An unexpected result was less damage from the rabbits so I went and got more thistles and piled them all around the perimeter. Over a few years I ended up exterminating that thistle patch. Maybe they could help with the rodents in your garden? I'm not sure what kind of thistle those were but they were large plants that make a purple flower.
 
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Nancy Reading wrote: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.



Things grow well through the rainy season... September-ish through May-ish, depending on the year. Things grow just fine through the winter, you just have to pick species and varieties that can handle the cold... though the last two seasons have been especially mild. It's rare that we drop below 20ish Fahrenheit (-6ish Celsius.) The coldest I've witnessed here in my lifetime was around -14 Celsius. That was a freak winter. One of the local seed suppliers actually has a turnip that's a result of the 5% or so if their crop that survived that year. We get snow once or twice a year, but we skip years. It's probably as common, or more common, that we get freezing rain. And I find that it's the constant freezing and thawing that plants tend to struggle with more than outright cold. This is the first year that I'm trying mustard over winter, but all of the brassicas do well. Cabbages don't tend to head up until spring unless you can start them mid-summer-ish. My lettuce handles the cold just fine... I lost maybe 25% the first year, but what survived passed on its cold hardiness.

Things certainly slow down as the days get shorter, but if you can get things to a good eating size before growth slows to a crawl, pretty much everything gets through the winter just fine. Granted, there aren't really a lot of high-calorie things that can be grown this time of year. I haven't done much work with parsnips, but they're one of the few things that should work this time of year and provide more than 300 calories/pound. Salsify/scorzonera are also in that club. You can produce a lot of biomass, but most of the calories are coming from animal products and whatever grains/legumes/tubers/nuts/fruits/etc. you grew over the summer (if you can get stuff through the drought.)

It's way easier this time of year and moving into the colder months, though. There's no shortage of moisture. Most of the pests and diseases die, migrate, or hibernate for the winter. Few new weeds will germinate in the cold. Everything tastes sweeter (because sugar is a natural antifreeze.) Probably the only bad thing about it is that you have to go out in the rain to harvest (or carefully plan your harvests around the rain.)

So yeah. Most of the critters should be gone or holed up for the winter soon. There are always exceptions, like deer, but they usually maintain a respectable distance unless they're desperate.
 
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It does sound like our winter is very similar to yours (give or take a bit of daylight due to lattitude) Our temperatures are very similar, just light frosts occasionally for about three months, although penetrating -12 Celsius every 5 years or so. Constant wet, yes. It may be that the extra light is a benefit for you growing things. I would say that growth slows right down here.
I agree that the wet also puts me off harvesting. We've still got a reasonable amount of daylight at the moment (pretty dark from 6.30pm to 7.30 am, changing by an hour tonight) but goes to only about 7 hours in midwinter. One of the reasons I'm less keen on roots is it all gets so muddy when harvesting, although they survive in the soil fine (except for really tender stuff like oca, as I found last year).
You may have posted this already but.. do you sow roots in later summer to grow, go dormant and regrow in spring, or sow in spring to go dormant in the dry and then regrow in autumn? I'm just trying to work out how we can learn from each other here. Our summer remains cool (rarely above 15 Celsius) and wet; spring being the dry period when we can have between the end of March and End of June fairly dry, sometimes very little or no rain, so summer is still our best growing season. Apart from the dark, the other problem in the winter is wind, which gives an additional windchill and destroys soft leaves (lashing sleet is not pleasant).
 
Mathew Trotter
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Mark Reed wrote:
When I first came here I made a small garden about 20 x 30 feet and I didn't have any fences. There was a giant patch of thistles across the road. I put on my gloves and harvested them for mulch between the rows. An unexpected result was less damage from the rabbits so I went and got more thistles and piled them all around the perimeter. Over a few years I ended up exterminating that thistle patch. Maybe they could help with the rodents in your garden? I'm not sure what kind of thistle those were but they were large plants that make a purple flower.



I was definitely using the thistles as a defensive mulch through the dry season. I don't know if they were were especially effective... thistles are ubiquitous, so I think most of the wildlife has figured out how to work around them. Now that we're in the set season they don't stay rigid and sharp... they disintegrate into a soggy mess.

Thoroughly dried blackberry canes might be more effective this time of year, the only problem being that they're just as effective against the humans managing the space as they are the wildlife.

Bad smells and tastes are generally effective against mammals, but it's challenging to get anything to stick around in the rain.

There's an old native saying... possibly Hidatsa in origin... something about planting for the worm, the crow, the thief, the neighbor, and the self, or something to that effect. Ultimately, I think quantity is a better solution than any fancy tricks... I'm just in that nebulous state where I can't quite grow the quantity that I'd like to get.
 
Mathew Trotter
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I have a variety of mustard that I didn't know I had. Must've also been from the sprouting mix I inherited from my friend. It blended in with the turnips so well that it's only now that it's getting larger leaves with clearly identifiable wavy leaf margins that they're starting to stand out. I don't know that I like the flavor as much as my red mustard, but it does seem to have thicker and thus probably hardier leaves.
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Mathew Trotter
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Nancy Reading wrote:It does sound like our winter is very similar to yours (give or take a bit of daylight due to lattitude) Our temperatures are very similar, just light frosts occasionally for about three months, although penetrating -12 Celsius every 5 years or so. Constant wet, yes. It may be that the extra light is a benefit for you growing things. I would say that growth slows right down here...



I have a couple of local planting calendars that I use as a jumping off point for when to plant things, though I'm leaning more and more towards throwing seeds on the ground throughout the year and letting them sort themselves out. I'll see if I can remember to post the calendars when I have them in front of me

I'm far from a master of when and how to grow root crops. I'm finding that without irrigation, spring planted carrots reach a certain point and then go into stasis while they wait out the drought and then get up to a good eating size for fall/winter. The stuff that gets planted as the fall rains return doesn't really size up until we get into spring. There's kind of a mixed bag there. Obviously they want to flower, though I tend to remove any that flower excessively early. Some of them also tend towards getting woody when they go to flower, but I found that was a relatively small percentage... I just cut into them with a knife and if I get any resistance, that one goes to the chickens. Overall, I've found that the majority hold well in the ground throughout the season. A few split or get attacked by pests. Those are the one's I exclude from my breeding program.

Mud is definitely a nightmare with roots and did discourage me from eating them on many an occasion. A good stiff brush and a bucket of water does a decent job, though it's certainly not a quick or pleasant task. I'd get the majority of the mud off that way and then peel them and rinse in fresh water. Much better, now that we have running water, is to set the sprayer on the hose to the "jet" setting and that allows you to blast the mud off pretty quick and allows you to return all the nutrients and other good stuff to the garden.

The plus side is that roots/tubers tend to improve soil quickly, so mud tends to be less of an issue in successive seasons. I can't believe how clean the turnips are coming out this year.
 
Mark Reed
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Mathew Trotter wrote:

Mark Reed wrote:
There's an old native saying... possibly Hidatsa in origin... something about planting for the worm, the crow, the thief, the neighbor, and the self, or something to that effect. Ultimately, I think quantity is a better solution than any fancy tricks... I'm just in that nebulous state where I can't quite grow the quantity that I'd like to get.



The worm, the crow, the thief, the neighbor and the self with get nothing at all if the rabbit, the squirrel, the coon and the deer aren't first fenced out, trapped or shot dead.  What did the Hidatsa do about that?

 
Mathew Trotter
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Barn cat status achieved. More pics after he's acclimated.
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