Rebecca Gray

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since Oct 14, 2014
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Recent posts by Rebecca Gray

I'm at 8500 ft in the Rockies. After a mini tornado ate my new Amazon greenhouse this spring, the chipmunks ate everything else.  I'm really serious about a sturdy greenhouse that will help me grow with a longer than 2 month season.
2 weeks ago
When I was in college (50 years ago) I worked for a woman who almost never kept leftovers.  I had always kept little bits of food left over and they always spoiled and then I threw them out.  This lady, a single mother with 4 kids, skipped the "put it in the fridge until it spoils, then throw it out" step that my family had always used.  When the meal was over, if there wasn't enough for a second meal, she would take the small servings of veggies, meat, broth, etc. and skip the fridge entirely.  She kept a gallon jar in the freezer.  That 1/2 cup of peas or beans, cup of roast, slice of ham, cup of gravy, etc. went into the soup jar.  She made the most delicious soup when that jar was full.  This idea for veggie broth reminded me of that.  The mix of so many flavors is fantastic.
1 year ago
I have a large pond that won't hold water.  I have very sandy soil.  I had the dam cored when it was built (important and I may have missed any posts dealing with coring a dam).  The 80 year old man with the bull dozer said there was a vein of sand that might keep it from holding water.  He dug 3 other ponds for me which have held perfectly, so it's the sand that's the issue.  He suggested a number of things  to fix it.  Bentonite of course, but the old time way was to pen a herd of goats or sheep in the pond and feed them there for a month or two.  There is an implement that they use to build roads etc. called a sheep's foot.  It has multiple little pegs on the outside of a heavy drum which sometimes can be filled with water.  They roll it back and forth repeatedly over the area to be compacted.  It still won't make a difference on pure sand, it needs some clay to really plug it.  The manure and rotting hay from the actual living sheep as well as their pointy little feet plug the porous sand area.  The old timers also say about adding material "Sand on clay is money thrown away. Clay on sand is money in the hand".   So the compacting method you are using is time honored. I guess now I need to get a herd of goats.  I'm going to try this.  Question:  When you say build this micro pond "at the foot" of the hugelkultur bed, is that uphill or down hill from it?
1 year ago
pep
There are a bunch of videos on Youtube by "The Townsends".  The gentleman does all sorts of recipes from the 16, 17, and 1800s.  The kitchen they use has a hearth that is waist high, modeled after a German hearth of the period.  It's about as tall as a modern range would be.  They also have an oven built into the wall, but that wouldn't heat the house, so would only be good for a summer kitchen.  I know many people would have an iron stove to cook on, but if you didn't, this setup would be vastly superior to crouching over a ground level cooking fire.  It is also really charming looking.  


2 years ago
Tiny predatory wasps!  No poison, no nasty sticky traps, nothing to put on the animals every day, just let nature do this.  I had 8 horses within 100 ft of the house in the middle of Kansas.  They were on a 1/2 acre, and belonged to my nephew who never cleaned up the manure (another story).  I found a website that sells tiny predatory wasps.  Some of the feed lots in Western Kansas use them. They are smaller than a gnat and can't hurt you or the animals.  They lay their eggs in fly maggots, which are in the manure, and the wasp larva kills the fly before it hatches.  I couldn't believe how fabulously this works!!!  It took 2 months before I looked out and the horses weren't even swishing their tails.  You need to put them out on manure and repeat it every 3 or 4 months.  I don't know if they fly away in between, but I didn't care, it worked so well.  Before this, I had flies all over the white siding on the house leaving spots and all over the windows and animals.  The chickens and guineas couldn't keep up (BTW throw the fly cocoons out after the birds go to bed or they will eat your wasps).  The wasps are so tiny, they are way, way too tiny to hurt you or your animals.  About the size of a comma in this post.  I guarantee you will use them forever if you try them.  Don't use insecticide on the manure at the same time or you will kill the wasps.  I got them from Spalding Labs, but they are on Amazon from many vendors. Check the Spalding web site's video. I will never use anything else. They are not free, but they are magic!
2 years ago
I have huge granite cliffs overlooking meadows that have springs scattered up the valley. The hills/mountains around can be high desert.  I live at 8,500 ft and temperatures can drop to 30 or 40 below in some winters.  Almost anything I grow, other than the native aspens and evergreens, is pushing the zone.  USDA says it is zone 4, HA!  It is 2 or 3 unless we have a mild winter. I have the best luck with plants that grow in other areas that also have really cold winters, but different moisture levels.  I also have to have a hoop house or season extender to get produce from my garden.  Being very selective on the plants I consider helps.  I.e., some of the Canadian roses will do well here, few of the others will make it.
2 years ago

On a trip to Bhutan 8 years ago, (North of India and next door to Nepal) we saw them making paper from the inner bark of mulberry trees.  It made a really beautiful rough paper, pretty enough to use as wrapping paper.  They strip it from the trees in long pieces, then soak the inner bark and mashed it out flat.  It makes long slimy pieces that they smooth out on screens and weight to dry as flat as possible.  So if you have lots of mulberry trees, that is a possibility.  
Keep in mind that all our domestic rabbits are descended from European hares.  Our wild jack rabbits and cotton tails are North American rabbits.  They will cross breed, but you will have a barren "mule" type litter of bunnies.  I.e., one generation but none beyond that.  There is just enough genetic difference to make them infertile.  However, if you catch a white or black and white rabbit in your yard, it is probably a domestic rabbit that escaped and became feral. The gray bunnies you saw could be either native or escaped rabbits, hard to tell without a picture.  Of course, either one will strip your garden bare.  And if you only want to raise them for meat, not breeding, you could catch them and fatten them.  Just a heads up, our native N American rabbits usually don't tame down at all and may bite you when you reach into the cage (voice of experience).  Never underestimate a few hundred years of domestication.  It really makes a difference.
2 years ago
I live in the Rockies at 8500 ft.  I have heard that it takes ash from hard wood to make lye water for homemade lye soap.  I only have aspen and pine, I will have to buy oak or maple hardwood.  Maybe the kind of wood has a lot to do with the caustic properties of the ash.
2 years ago
I've used good garden soil that I sterilized on the charcoal grill. First attempt was in the oven. Bad idea, unless you want your entire house to smell like roasted dirt. The same soil, wrapped tightly on foil and cooked on a covered grill will kill any fungus, weed seeds, or bugs. Good aged compost usually doesn't need to be sterilized.
2 years ago