Leigh Tate

author & gardener
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since Oct 16, 2019
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goat cat forest garden foraging chicken food preservation medical herbs writing solar wood heat homestead
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My dream has always been to live close to the land. My goal is simpler, sustainable, more self-reliant living. In 2009 my husband and I bought a neglected 1920s-built bungalow on 5 acres, which we've gradually built into our homestead.
Southeastern U.S. - Zone 7b
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Recent posts by Leigh Tate

Mike Barkley wrote:The point being ... no one is an island. A little cooperation with friends & neighbors make the task easier for everyone involved.

Douglas Alpenstock wrote:I would only add the small observation that Earth herself, this ball of rock with a skin of seething life, is not a closed system either. We depend on our co-planet moon as a pendulum that regulates our rotation, and a fickle ball of thermonuclear gas that keeps us warm and may fry our clever inventions when, you know, the star(s) align. So, to my mind, any subsystem of this big system is fated to be un-closed by definition.

I think these are really, really important points! Twelve years ago, my husband and I started out all starry eyed, thinking that it was simply a matter of replacing all aspects of our modern lifestyle with more natural ways and means. Self-sufficiency (then) meant we were going to do it all ourselves. It didn't take long to realize that there simply isn't enough time and energy to do it all ourselves. Now, I would say that any measure of success requires learning how to simplify our lifestyle and be content with whatever basics we can manage. That being said, we humans are social beings. Folk who prefer isolation is the exception rather than the norm. My idea now is that we are better off being co-dependent on a small community, rather than dependent on a large industrialized system.

Douglas Alpenstock wrote:But that doesn't stop us from trying. :-)

I agree with this too. By being a goal, we have something to work toward, and I say some progress is better than none.

One thing I realized early on, was that the only things we took to the landfill were from items we had purchased: plastic packaging, disposable use, damaged, broken, etc. Some things can definitely be re-used, glass peanut butter jars, for example. But most of it has to be discarded. But! Everything we produce on the homestead, stays on the homestead because it has a use. So, for us, working toward closing our systems means buying less and making do more.
11 hours ago
Working toward closing the food system for my husband and me has been a long-time goal. But it's taken a lot of experimentation and the addition of livestock and appropriate tools. Our goats and chickens supply the manure, and the addition of a heavy-duty PTO-powered chipper to chip branches from our woodlot supplies the woodchips. Our compost piles are in the chicken yard, and all kitchen and garden scraps go into them along with woodchips. This is the compost I use on the garden. Woodchips and leaves are my mulch. Dirty barn straw goes onto the polyculture pasture, where we grow things that we can eat too, like brassicas. I won't call these completely closed systems, however, because we still have to buy gasoline to operate the chipper. And even though our goats are primarily pasture and garden fed and we grow some of our own hay, I still by a small amount of grain for feed and also minerals.

I save my own seed, which I consider part of our closed system, but I still enjoy purchasing garden seed for experimenting, plus various forage plant seeds because we are still building diversity in our pasture. We're also incorporating more perennials in our food growing. Most of what I buy from the grocery store isn't what I consider a necessity, except perhaps salt. Our other "necessities" could actually be done without, such as coffee and sweeteners (still working on keeping honeybees). I buy coconut and olive oil, but we can make our own butter and lard. Vinegar, I could make for myself, but I don't at this time.

I don't think I could put a percentage on how much of our diet is homegrown. Breakfast is usually 95-98% homegrown, other meals less so. If we needed to, we could feed ourselves just on what we grow, but I'll add that food adjustments take time to get used to. In the meantime, I don't mind the additional variety in our diet.

EDIT to add that "low input" is somewhat relevant! If we aren't purchasing inputs, then we're putting a lot of our own time and energy into acquiring and preparing them!
1 day ago
Maddy, welcome to Permies! Sounds like you have a good possibility on your horizon. And it sounds like you have a good plan. All very exciting! It's really great that you can help your mom and start learning useful skills. Who knows, when she sees permaculture in action, your mom may come to appreciate it! Do keep us posted on your progress. And if you have questions, someone here will likely have help and encouragement.
1 day ago
Hi Gregg, I'm so glad you took the time to introduce yourself. Your plans are great! It sounds like you have a lot to contribute to a like-minded community.
1 day ago
I've used solar electric fence chargers for the past several years and have decided it's time to switch to a DC set-up. My issues with solar chargers is that they have too small a solar panel and too small a built-in battery, so charger unit longevity hasn't been that great. Add to that the number of cloudy days I get, and well, it's just time to try something better for my rotational grazing needs.

I have a portable solar charging station with which I'll recharge the battery for my new set-up. My question is regarding the kind of battery. I always see car batteries being used, but wouldn't deep cycle batteries be better considering the number of discharges and recharges the battery will go through? Or are car batteries preferred because the cranking amps supply the kick needed to make the fence effective?
4 days ago
It never occurred to me to be interested in weaving baskets. But here I am, and I have to admit it was fun.

My locally sourced material was kudzu from our woods.

I pulled the vines off the trees and the girls trimmed the leaves for me.

My pile of kudzu vines, ready to weave.

Ribs of the basket tied and secure.

Getting a weaving rhythm going.

Finished basket, side view.

Finished basket, top measurement.

It's a little wonky, but it's serviceable, and I learned a lot!

4 days ago
Here is a photo record for this BB of my daily check on my goats and their quarters.

Water bucket needs cleaning and filling.

It tends to get slimy on the bottom, so it gets a daily wiping out.

Clean water bucket with fresh water.

Hay feeder needs tidying up and filling.

Goats were inside all day yesterday due to heavy rain, so they need fresh bedding.

I use deep litter bedding, so a daily chore is to top it off with wasted hay from the hay feeder wasted hay tray.

A fresh layer of bedding.

Filling with oat hay (a goat favorite).

Hay feeder cleaned out and freshly filled.

Last item to check is grain feeders.

I rely primarily on forage and hay to feed my goats. I only use grain as a supplement, which I offer twice a day and only as much as they need to keep good condition.

I check condition by feeling their hips, ribs, and shoulders.

I'm looking to feel bones but with a little layer of padding. If I can't feel their skeletal structure, then they're fat and I'm feeding too much. If they feel bony, I increase the amount of grain.

Feeders get wiped out twice a day.

Feeders are clean and Ellie's hoping I'll fill them, but she'll have to make do with hay until evening chore time.

So everything looks good, with no safety issues at present. Hopefully, it will stop raining so the goats can go out to graze today.

1 week ago

s. lowe wrote:

Leigh Tate wrote: My two big no-nos are weeds with seeds and wiregrass (invasive Bermuda grass). Those things never go into the compost.

What do you do with those things? What does anyone do with those noxious invasive rhizomes?

I let the wiregrass dry in the sun and then use it to mulch pathways. As long as I'm sure it's dead! Non-noxious weeds with seeds often end up in their own piles in the chicken yard. The chickens love to scratch through them and so far they seem to take care of it. Noxious weeds such as horse nettle are can be allowed to dry and burned.

Currently I live in a rental that comes.with bi weekly yard waste that goes to the municipal.compost operation. I throw all my bind weed and Himalayan blackberry cuttings in there.

I've thought about doing that, but I worry that my problems will just be ground up and hauled off in somebody else's compost to become their problem too.  

Theoretically(?), a good compost pile is supposed to generate enough heat to kill weed seeds, but I've never been able to accomplish that.
1 week ago
This is a good question. I've known folks who say anything goes, to others who are really particular.

My compost piles are in my chicken yard, so I ignore some of the precautions, such as no meat and dairy scraps. The chickens polish these off before we leave the yard, so there's none left for rodants. Some things do take longer to decompose, but these are usually tossed back into the new pile because that's easier for me, rather than trying to maintain separate piles. Any kitchen and garden scraps that are edible to our livestock are fed directly to them, instead of going into the compost. My two big no-nos are weeds with seeds and wiregrass (invasive Bermuda grass). Those things never go into the compost.
1 week ago