Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

October 31, 2008

Answer I - How I got here...

Q: Hiya Paul, have been reading your blog for a while and yes I am curious as to how you came to the life that you now have. A little info would satisfy my curiosity :-)
Best wishes
Well Babs, here you go. (I'll get to the other questions in order if that's alright?) It's probably more information than you could ever have wanted, but it is a good intro to me and It's something that I'd like to have down in print for the future anyway. I hope you enjoy.

A: I have to admit first off, that while we do do a lot of things around our house that might/do raise some eyebrows when seen or mentioned; feeding my chickens first thing in the morning in my go to work casual dress clothes before I head out, making homemade cheese or yogurt, grinding wheat for flour etc. I don't really see ourselves our lives as all that different. We take our kids to a pretty normal school (Charter school though...LOVE IT!), I work at a normal 40/hr week job and we live in a very suburban area just north of Salt Lake City UT. But on the other hand, unlike our neighbors, we don't have dogs barking in our backyard, we have chickens clucking and announcing the arrival of fresh eggs, I come home from a full time job and work many days until the sun is down to accomplish the things at home that I feel are just as important to our family as my going to work outside the home. We are a little different, and evolving all the time. But that's the root of the question isn't it? How did we get where we are today?

I have to take most of the credit for initially steering our ship toward this harbor. I've always been a little bit different like that. Growing up in Southern California I had two great parents that really let me explore a lot. My dad taught me to use hand tools at a young age and my mom taught me to sew....err, fabric weld. We had a family bookshelf and I remember my favorite books being the Do-It-Yourself books by Time-Life or something like that. I've always had a passion for creating, doing, learning and experimenting. I wasn't a great student, but absorbed what I wanted. Around high-school, I started dreaming of building my own "RV". You know, the old hippy renovated school bus kind with the sweet barn wood walls and recycled everything. What can I say, there were a lot of them at the beach and I lived at the beach!

I've also had the opportunity to see much of the world and it's helped a great deal in shaping who I am. I was born in Sweden you see, and although I moved here as a baby, half of my family was still there. I took my first oversees flight by myself at 9 yrs to go visit family in Sweden, had the chance to travel Europe with my family as a 12 yr old (11 or 12...Mom, help me out here?) and went through checkpoint charlie in Berlin before the wall came down. After high school I studied art locally in San Diego but then had the opportunity to spend a semester studying (and I use that term loosely.) at the University of London, it was one of the greatest times of my life. A couple of years later I enlisted in the US ARMY. I needed some direction, and more than a little discipline. I got both in spades. I also got to spend two tours of duty in Saudi Arabia where I got to learn about the culture of the mid east in person. My last big adventure was almost ten years ago when my oldest son and I went to Singapore and Bali to visit my parents who were then living there. I bring up travel for one reason. Seeing other cultures, talking with people from different circumstances cannot help but shape a persons outlook on the world. I know it did mine.

Recently, if nearly ten years is recently, I met and fell in love with a woman that can only be described as my soul mate and while today we are living a pretty comfortable life, that wasn't always the case. When we met, we were both going through very messy divorces. It wasn't the best timing, but like I mentioned in my last post, it's hard to go wrong following your heart. The first few years we were together we were basically broke. We got help from others, did what we could, and just kept plugging along. We have known what it is to want, to be burdened with debt and to feel helpless. That is not a feeling either of us wants again.

A couple of years ago, we began a process of "cleaning house". Two of our sons had been diagnosed with asthma, and one had missed nearly three weeks of school from it. We didn't know where it had come from. No one on either side of their family tree had it and we didn't know what to do. We learned about how pathogens and chemicals in our homes and food were so common, and how many experts believed that they were a great deal of the reason for many children's illnesses. We made a decision to start small and added on over time as we learned things. We made changes to our home like removing carpet and sealing our walls will zero VOC paints. One thing lead to another and food was the next logical step in our evolution. I began to see what I believed, still believe, was a threat to our future food security in the industrialization of it and it's reliance on fossil fuels that are reaching their peak. I got to a point where I was getting depressed because I wanted so badly to move to a place with some land. To have a small but productive acreage where we could do more for ourselves but couldn't make it happen. It was then that I found the Path to Freedom site, and my eyes were open to a whole new world of possibilities. A~ and I began to change our focus toward producing as much sustainable, healthy and secure food sources as we could right here on our 1/4 acre property. We expanded the garden, worked towards making keeping hens legal in our town and have been actively encouraging others to do the same.

It's been a long strange trip, to quote "The Dead", but I couldn't be happier with how it's going so far. A~ and I often work side by side. We have a common goal and faith in our future. We feel secure in our ability to provide food for our family and live in a healthy home. Our oldest son, the one who missed so much school, has hardly missed a day in the last two years. He still has triggers, but it's controlled 90% without medication. The future looks like it'll be a interesting one...but that, is a topic for another post.
Till then.

October 30, 2008

Why even bother to plan

A~ and I were talking last night about where we see ourselves in ten years? What do we want to be doing and how do we see ourselves living at that point? It got me to thinking about how arrogant we can sometimes seems as people to assume we can plan how our lives will play out. For that matter, how do we even know that whatever plans we come up with will ever materialize? The world is so unstable right now, so much change pending. Why even bother to plan?

About a year and a half ago, A~ and I looked very seriously into securing for ourselves a home equity loan. It was one of those things that we thought about doing because there were some home renovation & upgrade things that we wanted to accomplish and like pretty much everyone else, we were experiencing that most American of all emotions, Impatience. We talked to our lender, gathered the specifics of rates, fees etc, and took a hard look at what we wanted to get done and what it would cost us? We made our lists, discussed it at great length and finally decided to proceed; but not without some, however small it might have been, sense of unease. We had always said that that was one thing we didn’t want to do. I went to the signing, talked with the “closer” and read everything that went across the desk for me to sign. It was then I found a small chunk of text, what could easily be classified as “fine print”, and stopped to ask questions. The text, in the indiscernible language of the legal profession, seemed to say that I would be charged a regular fee of, I believe $75.00, for any year that my average indebtedness fell below $20,000. What? “Excuse me, can you please explain this to me?” I asked the smiling woman in the huge gold bobble necklace and garish polyester pant suit that was persistently offering sodas and warm from the oven chocolate chip cookies. “Which part? Oh yes, that’s just a maintenance fee that we assess against the account for any periods that the average is below $20,000. It’s a pretty standard feature of this type of loan…” she replies assuringly. I try to process this through my admittedly limited legal filter and followed up, “So, if I take a small loan, and then pay it off in say, six months, then I’ll be charged $75.00 for basically not being in debt enough?” The long and the short of it came down to a yes; I would have basically been charged for the right to have the account open, or in other words for the right to borrow their money and pay them interest. Not for borrowing the money mind you, just for the right to potentially borrow it. I stopped right there, mid-signing, and told the now not quite so smiley woman that I was going to need to think it over through the weekend. By that evening we had already figured out that this was some kind of divine clue that we weren’t paying attention to our gut and were about to make a mistake. We listed this time and didn’t get the loan.

Today, in the tightening economics of the world, when our dollars are already being stretched as far as we “think” they can be stretched. (That limit will no doubt be tested further in the future.) Having an extra debt, or even the costs of a potential debt, added to it could or would be a deal breaker, the straw that broke the back. With the clarity of retrospect I realize that all of the things that we had thought we needed to be indebted for ended up coming to fruition anyway, only through other avenues. Was it already meant to happen and we merely clued into that through some strange metaphysical phenomenon? Were we rewarded Karmicly for  “making the right choice”? Who knows? Maybe it was just dumb luck, I believe in that. Either way we listened to our heart (in the long run) and were better off for it.

Back just a little further, a little over two years ago, I had thought about changing jobs. I interviewed with a couple of companies and got to a point where I was literally waiting to receive an offer from a company. I had interviewed my way through all the hoops that one must, and had done well I think. The day before I hoped to receive a call from them, Memorial Day ’06, I slammed hard at the skateboard park with my kids (Yes I said skateboard park. We are a skateboarding family like some are soccer families. I was ONLY 35  after all… it’s not like I was old or anything.) and broke both bones in my right arm, requiring two metal plates and 12 screws to be put in. This kind of freaked out the company that I had interviewed with and they said they had to wait to see how I healed and that they were concerned over potential future problems. The thing is, when I woke up from surgery, I found myself surrounded by everyone from work. I realized then, that they had come to be more than just people I worked with or for, they were friends and as much like family as I could imagine. Not long after the accident, I was back to work and contacted the company to let them know I was withdrawing my application and would be staying where I was. Today, I learned that that company is “right-sizing”. That’s down-sizing to you and me. I would most likely be sweating about whether I would be out of work or not right now had I not again listed to my heart.

So what’s the point of this whole history lesson? Nothing short of faith, that’s what. Faith that we’re doing the right things. Faith that we’ll be alright, faith that no matter what, we have friends and family who love us and whom we love and faith that if we follow our hearts and listen to that little voice inside we’ll find our way to the place where we’re meant to be. Sometimes I feel like a bit of an oddball; we do things differently in our home than most. But A~ and I have talked about everything we do, we’ve prayed for guidance and to be open to hearing the promptings around us and we have faith that we are on the right course. Take stock of your blessings whatever they are. Follow your heart and share yourself with others. It’s not a religion thing either, it’s a hope thing. As I said, I believe we are in a time of great change. I don’t know yet how great, but I do believe that the next ten years will deliver us to a much different place than we are in now and with that kind of change we’re liable to get a little anxious. Hope for a positive future can give us reason to continue at times that seem overwhelming, and faith in ourselves and those we chose to surround ourselves with can give us hope. Likewise, our caring and support can provide hope for others that may be in the middle of their own silent struggles.

I wish you all the best and want to thank you for letting me surround myself with you and for giving me a little hope today.



October 28, 2008

Taking a cue

I'm still trying to muscle (literally) through the work in the back yard to control the bindweed and get the garden expansion put in place while the weather is still holding up so their not really a lot of new stuff to write about on a daily basis.

I went through this same period last year around this time too. The garden work is mostly down to the mudane digging, pulling, and prepping. The harvests have been put up for the most part, still some beets expected, but not for a little while yet, and we're not yet snow bound so I haven't been spending too much time working in the house on new "experiments". So, in this short period of seasonal evolution, I thought I'd steal a cue from Phelan over at Homesteading Neophyte, and take suggestions or questions.

Do you have any questions you've been hoping I'd cover? Wondering about how I came to this way of life? Incredibly (and inexplicably) curious for more information about me? Now's the time to ask. If I don't know the answer I'll make something up...no, just kidding, I'll let you know I don't know, or find the information for you if I can. Either way, With the numbers of new readers I seemed to have garnered in the last few weeks, I thought this may be a good time to open the blog up to your questions.

I look forward to them!

October 27, 2008

Beating Bindweed

My arch nemesis... the absolute scourge of the garden in my opinion is bindweed. If you don't have it in your yard, count your blessings. Personally, I know no gardeners in Utah that have not at some point fought this beast! Here's a picture of a section of my garden beds that have lain empty for about a month and a half. You can see the bindweed right there in the middle of the picture.The other "weeds", dandelions or mallow, are nothing, I don't even stress them at this time of the year. Just a quick pull to keep them under control and forget about it.

We've been really making an effort over the last few years to move toward a more organic method of growing on our property. This season so far we've not used any herbicide or pesticide on our food-garden at all. (full disclosure: I did use a broad leaf weed killer once on the front yard lawn around midsummer.) What this means is that where we don't have the advantage of being able to simply spray and let the wonder of petro-chemicals kill the weeds, we need to instead supplement that with other "inputs". In other words, it takes time and effort.

Through trial and error, I've found the best way to get some control over bindweed is to take a little time to dig the ground up and remove as many of the roots as I can by hand. Last spring I did this to part of the garden, as well as the spring before. This year, with the addition of the new beds, I decided to go ahead and dig the big area that was behind the birdbath. It was really getting infested and needed a dig. You can see here a little of what I'm dealing with. Those roots go down from the top of the ground to easily 12-15 inches. I have been taking a shovel full at a time and turning it over into another pile, and hand sifting through it to remove the root remnants. It's a pain, but really it's the only way I know to safely remove this pest without dowsing the garden in chem's. This year I'm also taking an additional step. As I finish the beds, I'm going to layer the bottoms with some fairly heavy cardboard in hopes that as it takes a year or more to break down it will deter the very deep bindweed roots from coming up.

And there you go. My very hands on, totally organic method of waging war on my arch nemesis. Will it keep it at bay forever???? Doubt it. Will it give me a good season or two of relative peace? Yeah, probably, and every year I do it I will find less and less of it to pull. Then, one day, I'll finally have it totally eradicated, just in time to find a nice piece of land and move somewhere where I'll get to start all over!!

You gotta love being a farmer!

October 25, 2008

"Big weigh-in" Spring/Summer wrap-up

Do you see that? Maybe you can't quite make it out...I'll help you out, It says Spring / Summer garden 511.68 lbs!!! WE DID IT! A~ and I set out this year to grow for 500 lbs and as of yesterday, we not only met, but exceeded that goal. With the days being pretty warm here, and the nights getting around freezing, even the plastic tarping wasn't helping the tomatoes to ripen as well as I'd hoped. (Although the cherry tomatoes are actually still producing.) That said, I decided that it was probably a good time to get out and harvest what was effectively the final harvest from the Spring and Summer garden.
A few of the tom's are still green and some not quite ripe, but all will be enjoyed in their own time. I honestly wasn't sure that we were actually going to be able to make the goal, this being the first year that we had ever aspired to even weigh all of our harvests. A~ on the other hand has seemingly turned into a pro harvest estimator; she said all along that we'd make it and what do you know, here we are.

The best part is, we're not even done completely yet. There's probably another couple of pounds on the cherry tomato, and I have fall planted spinach, beets and kohlrabi yet to harvest. Hopefully the weather will hold for a little longer to let them all bulk up a bit, but if not I have to say A~ and I are both pretty happy that we've been able to meet our goal.

So, what's next? A~'s already talking not doubling but tripling it next year. Um, does she realize that that's 1500 lbs??? Who am I to argue... I'm just the labor. I will say that the backyard expansion is already nearly done and should be by the end of the weekend. The next thing on the list is relocating the chickens for next year and then tilling up our "parking area" on the front side-yard of the house. You didn't think we'd just sit back and be satisfied did you?

Have a great weekend all.

October 22, 2008

This and That

Oh where to start...
I seem to have misplaced my peace of mind somewhere. I don't mean to say that I am unhappy at all, I really am not. In fact, I am probably at one of the most happy parts of my life. I have a wonderful wife and good kids, a stable job with people I enjoy working with, I have found a great avenue to express myself and grow through my writing here and at other sites. And yet I don't truly feel at peace. I have to admit that much of the affairs of the world/U.S. such as the economy and the upcoming election are truly beginning to weigh on my mind. I think that's part of the reason that I have been a bit lacking in my post of late. I make a concerted effort, as many of you know, to maintain a certain level of positivity here. I have had enough negativity in my life in the past and truly desire to leave it in the past. For the most part I am successful. Even, I think, when I write about some of the issues that I believe we will all face in the future that will not be...pleasant, I try to keep my outlook as positive as I am capable of. I guess you could say I follow mom's old advice "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

The other thing happening is that I've been swamped. I've been trying to get a lot of end of year stuff, and things that need to get done before the ground freezes, completed in a timlely manner and it has just been sapping the energy out of me; we're planning to expand our approx 450 sq ft garden to nearly 1100 sq ft, a little more than doubling it! A~ and I have some great plans for next year, including trying to start participating in our local farmers market by selling some of our homegrown veggies. It's not only so that we can maybe make a little extra $ from our efforts, but we also want to offer a few different items from everyone else in the hopes of inspiring others to start looking outside the standard green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and jalapenoes that seem to be the only things offered there. It also goes along with my greater effort to try to get people producing more food for themselves at home here in my community.

In other news, we had a great family outing last night. All three boys are just at the early stages of learning to play violins/violas and are coming along great. They have in their heads though that their really not very "cool" instruments. Well last night we had the opportunity to go down to SLC and catch a concert from a band named Apocolyptica that is in effect a cello quartet. Here's the rub though... they are amplified and play old school heavy metal on them with a drummer backing them up! That's right Metallica on a cello! It was absolutely AMAZING! I've never seen anything like it. Even A~ who is not a real Metal fan enjoyed it. (I'm not even a big heavy metal listener anymore, though I was in my younger years.) The boys came home really excited to play their instruments having just had a new door opened to them. If your curious about what it sounded like you can check them out HERE. This is almost exactly what we saw last night. It may not be your "cup of tea" but it certainly does give the whole thinking outside the box idea a new spin. (Phelan if your reading, you have got to check it out, you'd love it!)

So anyway, things have been busy and showing not signs of slowing any time soon. how about you? Had a chance to check out my new "other home" online yet. If not, drop in a give it a read. Dropping in here from the new site? Welcome, I hope you'll keep coming by and I look forward to hearing from you.


October 20, 2008

Farmer in Chief - Update

Just heard that there will be an interview with Author Michael Pollan regarding his recently penned open letter to the president elect regarding our food as a national security issue. I’ll be tuning in and thought you might like to as well. Perhaps we can have some discussion on it later…

Check in to NPR’s Fresh Air for the streaming audio which should be available at approx 3:00 ET (US).



Weekend update

Finally, we had a weekend where I could get some stuff done around the house. It's been either raining or snowing the last two so not a lot of work has gotten done. I was able to get the "fallerizing" (Note: Similar to Winterizing, just the first installment.) done on the chicken coop.
What I did was to turn the coop perpendicular to the direction that it was facing. Now the side with the nesting box, which you can see sticking out in this picture, is pointing directly south. This will will allow the winter sun to shine directly on it, as well as allowing the entire roof to get sun throughout the day. It also helps me work with the natural weather patterns in my area where most of our cold winds and storms come from the south. The black pots stacked in front of the open area are filled with soil so they will heat up during the day and radiate that heat back out throughout the night. The last things I did, were to add the side rails to the open sides. This will allow me to give the birds a much deeper amount of bedding in the coop, and will cut down on the direct winds hitting the birds. I also slid the removable bottom of the hen house back in to keep it warmer inside during the winter. I will have to slide it out and clean it once a week or so over the winter, but it will keep the girls dry and warm so it's worth it.

I also was able to get a good start on the final part of our garden expansion for next year where we're "liberating" about 400 sq feet more of our backyard lawn. To begin with I had weed whacked the grass down very short a little over a month ago. I covered this with black plastic to try and kill off most of the grass, and lined up the rough fit of the concrete "urbanite" that I'll be using to construct the beds hardscaping.
Next step in the process called for me to break up the soil. I used a pitch fork for this and was able to pull up a chunk at a time and flip it over completely putting what was left of the grass roots upside down and buried. I did a little poking around to break up the big chunks of dirt, but very little. This I covered with thick cardboard that I scavenged from work, and made sure it went up the fence and under the stones.
I only got about a third of the bed finished today, but hope to have it done and filled by this weekend. I've been collecting a menagerie of compostables to fill it with too. I have coop litter with the obvious "amendments" that that comes with, also grass clippings, finished compost, leaves and straw. I'll finish it off with some finished compost in the spring when I see how much more it needs.
All in all, a very good, productive weekend. I'll keep you posted on the progress. Hope you all had a great one too!


October 19, 2008

building community

I have been meaning to mention this for the last couple of days, but I haven't had a chance to get online for the last couple of days.

Farm Mom, from Children of the Corn passed on to me a blog award the other day, and wrote such nice words about me, how could I let it go unmentioned. First off, thanks Angie, your words were so thoughtful.
From what I understand, this translates to "This blog invests and believes, the proximity" and by that meaning it invest and believes in the community and proximity that we can all create here online, and in our "real" communities. I am very happy to accept this as one of my goals for this year, was indeed to reach out more in both venues.

So, who to pass this to? Drum roll please............Rhonda from "Down-to-earth". I've been reading Rhondas blog for a long time, and love all that she writes about and does. This award I pass to her not only for the great information and inspiration that she passes on through her blog, not only for her work in her community center to help the less fortunate in her community, but also for her latest venture, the Simple, Green, Frugal blog that she has put together. She has managed to bring together bloggers that deal with similar issues from literally all around the world to share and collaborate in order to pass on ideas and build a community online. I am proud to call myself a member of that group of writers.

Thanks again Angie for the nod. These things usually go here to die, but this one was certainly worth a little attention. Hope you're all having a great weekend.


October 17, 2008

problem solved???

Maybe so. I'm not claiming the battle won or anything, but it just may be. Since receiving the shower of knowledge that I did the other day when I can to you for help, this is what we've been finding for the last few days. Nice, clean, uncracked eggs lain nicely in the new nesting boxes.
I still have things that need to be done, but the new boxes seem to have found favor with the chooks.

With any luck, this will have solved the problem. So, I just wanted to update you all and thank you again.


P.S. Just updated the Big Weigh in on the right side of the page...almost to our goal of 500 lbs for this year. Depending on the fall veggie harvest we may just make it...we'll see!

October 16, 2008

Farmer in Chief

I wanted to get this up in a timely manner, since I thought it was important to take note of. Many of us have read Michael Pollan’s work, so for the most part I think I can say that there is a good understanding that he is someone who has done a fair bit (underestimate?) of research into food system here in the U.S. He posted just the other day, in his NY Times column, an open letter to the future President elect of the United States. It is long, but concise, and certainly worth the read when you have time.



Dear Mr. President-Elect,

It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration - the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact - so easy to overlook these past few years - that the health of a nation's food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention.


Read the complete text HERE


October 14, 2008

Coop Mod

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the great feedback! I knew I could count on you all.

I got out tonight and was able to at least make a quick modification to the nesting box part of the coop. I really am inclined to think that that is at the root of the problem. It's one of those things that I have thought about many times. Like I said, I've never been very happy with it from the beginning but, since the chooks seemed to be doing well, and since we were getting eggs so regularly and consistently it just got pushed to the back burner. That, for the record, is the wrong thing to do!

This is the short term modification that I made to the boxes tonight. I basically just slapped a panel on the front of the box and then split the boxes in two with another piece and filled each side with some straw. That reminds me, anyone ever put sawdust into their nesting boxes? I have a very good source for course saw dust for free, and was wondering about useing it in the boxes? Anyway, tomorrow I'll get out and give a good powdering of D.E., something I've been planning on doing anyway once the weather was dry for a couple of days. I also have a couple of other things I need to do to prep them for the winter, so hopefully I can get them all done before more winter shows up.

I think this is a good time to mention, probably mostly for the benefit of newer folks to this way of living, that procrastination is the bane of not just the rural farmers life, but the urban homestead as well. When you endeavor to regain your connection to the land and to the food you eat, you really have decided to also be pretty connected to it's needs. You now have plants and animals that require your attention to thrive an do well, thus feeding you later. This is why we don't wait until later. At least that is why we TRY not to wait until later; we are still human after all and for the most part still learning.

So I've been reminded of the cons of my inaction when I know there is a problem. Now, I just hope I have caught the problem soon enough to fix it; I'll keep you all posted of course. Thanks again for all the great advice.
More tomorrow.

October 13, 2008

Chicken problems, any ideas?

I've got a bad girl or two. I don't know which one it is, or if it's all of them for that matter, but somehow my chickens discovered that they like eggs. Yep, that's right, they found out that those things that they keep making and I keep taking are actually pretty tasty.

So I'm going to my master resource...you all. What's a farmer to do? Any ideas on how to curtail this problem? Or for that matter any ideas on causes?
I've read, and believe, that it's not normal behavior for chickens to eat their eggs. Some of the possible causes I've found are too little calcium in their diets, poor living conditions, infrequent checking for eggs and inadequate nesting space. These all make sense to some degree. If a chicken is calcium deficient then yeah, they may realize that they can get it from the shells, if they are in poor living conditions then they may not develop their natural nesting instincts and the longer the eggs lay around, the more likely one is to get broken and the birds will have a chance to develop a "taste" for them.
Here's the thing. I feel like we've been pretty responsible in providing adequate housing for the birds, they get fed a 20% layer feed every day that is mixed with oyster shells for calcium (and grit) and we check the coop for eggs at least twice a day. So what's left... the nesting area. This is really the only area of the coop that I've not been completely happy with. I didn't build it as separate individual boxes, more like a separate open area that fits a couple of birds where they tend to lay their eggs, or did anyway. Lately I've been finding them all over the coop area. On the grate in the middle of the coop, on the ground and some in the nesting area. I also can't get them to keep any straw in the beds. Every time I put some in, they scratch at it, and spread it all over the place. So, that's where I guess I'll work to try to solve the problem in the short term.
I'm really interested in hearing from any of you that either have or are raising chickens with any experiences that you've had with this. A lot of the places that I researched said that this is a habit that can't be broken and that the birds have to be culled from the flock. I don't mind culling a bird that needs to be, but I don't want to blame them for something that I'm not doing correctly.
Thanks in advance.

October 12, 2008

A new adventure.

I've had a wonderful new offer from a good blog-friend of mine, Rhonda from Down-to-Earth, to participate in a new project that she's put together. It's called the Simple Green Frugal Co-op and she's brought together some wonderful writers that deal with moving towards a simpler, more sustainable life, through frugal choices and greener alternatives. I can't say how happy I am that she sought me out to participate. You'll find a link to the new blog in the side bar on the right.

It's actually a happy coincidence. I've been thinking a lot lately about writing more, not so much making more posts here, but further putting myself out into the world and sharing the things I've learned, and my perspectives on them. (How conceited am I right?) It's just that I feel like I'm in a good position to do so. For many reasons, A~ and I began down a path a couple of years back that has led us to making some major changes in the way we live. These are changes that have had,not only the benefit of fostering a more healthful and sustainable life for us and our kids, but has had the additional benefit of helping us to weather the changes to the world around us. Simplicity has brought us together more as a couple and a family, greening has helped us to reduce our consumption and our mark on the world and our frugality has helped us keep up with the sinking economy.

So where does that leave this blog? Just in the same place as it is right now. I'll still be posting here regularly, this is after all my original home on the blogoshpere. I've only been asked to contribute to the new site at least once every two weeks, and more likely it will be more like two or three. So for the most part, I'll be posting my day to day entries right here, just like always.

I do hope you'll drop on in over there however. I've read some of the bloggers before, and some are new to me, but from the looks of it, it should quickly become a weath of information and knowledge on the web. Thanks for your support with this everyone, and please be patient with me if some growing pains arise.


Well what do you know?

The weather forecast was right on the money?! We woke up this morning and guess what we found...SNOW. At first I looked out the window and told A~ it was only an inch or two max. Oops, good thing I'm not in the weather business. I took this picture at around 9 o'clock this morning when I went out to check on the chickens (They did great with the snow by the way.)
That's 5 1/4 inches. It kept up all day and on the news tonight, they said we ended up with 8 inches! More crazy weather. It's almost like...like the global weather patterns are all jacked up, changing even. Go figure? I took a little video this morning too, just to break up the monotony.

You'll have to forgive the audio on part of the video, it's a little faint. I just thought some of you would appreciate a look inside the A-frames to see how they're working. Which has been great I think. I took the video this morning at around 9 o'clock as well, and although the temperature
inside was only a little bit over 36 deg F it wasn't freezing, even though the sides of the A-frames were piled with all the snow that had slid off the sides all night.

In the afternoon I went out and checked temps again and, even with the snow that kept coming down all day, the temperature had come up to 59.6 F. The tomato plants were wilting a bit, but the tomatoes were slowly ripening. So far, so good, I guess I'll call the frames a success thus far. Anyone else having any experiences they'd care to share with keeping their harvest going? I'm always looking for new ideas.

Hope the fall is going well for all of you, or for my Southern hemisphere readers your spring. Till next time.


October 11, 2008

Fighting the freeze

First off, I'm sorry to billbillbillbill (Freedom Gardens member) for lagging on getting this post up. Life... it happens, you know?

Anyway, on we go. Those of us local to Utah have found, as have many of our fellow gardeners in the Northern Hemisphere, fall is upon us. And with that the first frost/freeze warnings of the year. We received our first one this week and from the looks of it, it should be a hard one. The forecast is even calling for the possibility of snow in the valley. Drastic steps must be taken!

As you can see, the majority of my garden was removed this week. It's always a hard part of the year for me, sort of a gardeners version of separation anxiety. The beans were done though, as were the cucumbers, but the carrots that were growing in the area under the cukes have been left to overwinter. The only things being kept in the summer garden to try and stretch the harvest of are the tomatoes.

The last few nights have really pushed the limits of what the tomato plants can handle. The night before last in particular. I thought that for any of you that may be new to vegetable gardening I would show you what the signs of too much cold are on your tomato plants.
See there on the left hand corner of that tomato, the almost translucent part of the fruit? That is frost bite. That part of the fruit has been damaged. It's not necessarily beyond hope, depending on the amount of frost bite that happened. Then in the picture on the right, you see the darkened and wilted tips of one of the new shoots coming up on the plant, it's been frost bitten as well. This won't kill the plant, but honestly that shoot will most likely die at this point. It's OK though, I'm gonna tell you what to do with it here in a minute anyway.
Here are a couple of the tomato plants that I have growing in my beds. The one on the top is my brandywine. It had a very slow summer, I learned that it was not very tolerant of our hot summers here, and now that I've finally set a good number of fruit on it by golly I'm not just giving up on it! The one on the bottom is my San Marzano. I'm keeping it going just for the sheer number of green tomatoes on it.

What I did to these to get them ready for my version of season extension, and which will resolve the frost bitten plant tip from the previous picture, is to prune them. I trimmed the heck out of all of these prior to covering them. This site illustrates tomato pruning very thoroughly so I'll just link to it and not reinvent the wheel. Essentially, the idea is to top the plants, and remove all new growth so as to allow the plant, which is already getting stressed from the cold, to focus on maturing the already set fruit and not to growing more foliage or new fruits.

After I pruned them, and cleaned up the ground around them, I covered them with a 4 mil. clear plastic cover, basically making a small A-frame greenhouse. Let me digress here for a second... I also placed a little garden addition in the beds a few days back that really helps moderate the micro-climates around the plants as well... black water bottles. All they are, are plastic 1 gallon water bottles that I filled with some tap water after painting them black. They will get warm throughout the day and then hold that heat and radiate it back out throughout the cold nights.

I place them right at the bottom of the plants in the path of the sun, and they will slowly radiate that heat back up all night. I took the thermometer picture yesterday afternoon at approx. 3:30 PM when the outside temps were around 50-51 deg F. The temp in the water container is almost 80 deg F. So...back to the A-frame.

Voila! There it is. I want to take a minute to make the statement that this is yet another great benefit of trellising in the home garden, I can't speak to their benefit enough. The trellis that I used this year to hold up the tomatoes is the top of this cover. It allows me to leave the cover over the plants and to be able to get inside to water or check the fruits without removing the whole cover. A very nice benefit.

Fall is beautiful, and it's an important time for both the garden and the gardener to slow down a little, catch their breath and get ready for the next year. If you're really motivated it is possible to harvest all year, although I'm not quite to that point myself yet, perhaps next year. There are a lot of really good ways available and I'm sure some products one could buy to do much the same, but either way if you're not quite ready to give up the battle against the freeze then put together a plan, give it your best shot and as always learn from the process.
Good luck all.
Stay tuned for some interesting and very cool news to come on the next post.

October 10, 2008

Watching the Sunset

Figuratively that is. We're expecting a major cold front to come through this weekend. Possibly even snow in the valleys. There won't be much even if it does come to that, but either way it'll be cold! So, like how the day winds down slowly and gradually the sun sets on the day so too has the garden, the summer garden that is, begun to slip into the horizon. It's not gone yet but it's fading for sure. I still have a bunch of tomatoes on the vines that I want to see how long I can keep in production, and there's a few chilies that are still not quite ripe, but those are all planted together so I'll be doing my best tomorrow to build them a sort of greenhouse/hoop house.

As for the fall garden, it's doing pretty well. The beets and spinach are plugging alone well, but I was hoping the kohlrabi would be doing a little better. Worst case, I guess I can always just eat the greens since they're edible too.

Not too much more to say than that. I hope to have a better post for you tomorrow.
Till then.

October 8, 2008

Quote of the day...& maybe a little hope.

Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future.
Charles F. Kettering (1876 - 1958)

It's been so long since I last posted a quote of the day, when I found this I had to put it up. It's a pretty simple thing isn't it? If you can imagine it, you can make it so. The only limit is what we can imagine. So what's the big deal about it?

I've found myself thinking a lot lately about the state of things around me and in our world. I mean of course I have right, the economy is tanking, politics has become little more than a dog and pony show and we face things like peak oil, GMO foods etc. etc. Of course I've been thinking about it; I know you have too. So think about what you imagine for the future. Think about the first thoughts that come to your mind. What is it? Do you picture a world of peace and prosperity? Healthy cities with a renewed connection to community and the land? New economies spurred to growth through the joining of necessity, creativity and common sense oversight? Maybe you do, I try to. However, more often than not lately, I find myself imagining a world with more wars over energy or to prop up a staggering economy, unhealthy cities where everyone looks out for themselves and worries about the neighbor cheating them, and a slowly fizzling economy struggling to hold onto it's once top place on the world stage like a too-old prom queen who refuses to grow up.

My point is if we can only imagine the worst, then that is in effect the limit of our hope for the future. How do you get somewhere you can't even imagine exists? But what if we imagine the former? Peace, community, prosperity; couldn't we make them real things? I'm tired of imagining the worst. I want more for my family, I want more for my city and I want more for myself. I want to see these things come to fruition. I will imagine the best for the world and I'll do my part when I can to nudge it on it's way. I hope you'll look at your imaginations of the future and see how you've allowed yourself to dream of the days to come. Picture the change you want to see. Believe that the change will come and expect it any day.

We owe it to ourselves.

October 6, 2008

I've got Leather Britches!

Yeah, and their green and kinda slowly getting wrinkly and...oh wait, you didn't think I meant like actual "leather britches" did you? No no no no no... that's just not something that anyone would want to see!

What I'm talking about is green bean leather britches. Strings of green snap beans that are dried to preserve them for later use. It's one of the oldest ways of preserving food, and one I'm excited to see how it works out. Here's what they look like in my cold storage downstairs.
When A~ was out in West Virginia she spent some time talking with her mom about the kind of things we are doing out here; growing, harvesting and preserving food for instance. As they talked, T~ (that's her mom...) reminded her of stringing leather britches when she was little. A~ said it was like a little door to her past opened up and she could totally remember it and couldn't believe she had never remembered it on her own. I was intrigued, having never heard of it, so of course with the glut of beans we've had this year I had to at least give it a try.

Here's a detail of how the beans have been strung up to dry. I started one with a darning needle and a strong but thin string (I used crochet string.) through a thick bean, tied the string around it and then proceeded to string the beans through the center onto the string.
It's a lot like stringing cranberries or popcorn for garland. After stringing about three feet of beans, I doubled the strings over and tied them together. These I hung over the old curtain rod downstairs to dry.

After I did a little research, I found out that this kind of preservation of beans is a very common and very traditional method of preserving the harvest in Appalachia. If you have a few minutes, this is a very interesting read about some of the ways leather britches are cooked and some of the history of the Appalachian cooking and methods. These are the kind of gems of knowledge that are out there in the world around us, but are hidden in plain sight for the most part. But, if we take the time to ask questions and share about the things that we're working on, and then actually listen to their answers, I think we'd be surprised how much useful and traditional information is out there for us.

I'm so thankful for the great Appalachian heritage that A~ brings to our home. We'll certainly think of it fondly while we're warmed by a hot bowl of vegetable soup with leather britches on a cold night this winter. Just one more way to preserve, extend and make the most of the harvest.

Till tomorrow.

100 Ft Diet and Harvest Keepers - Sauerkraut

At the beginning of September I wrote that I had decided to try my hand at making some homemade, very simple recipe, traditional Sauerkraut. That's it below, when I had just put it into the jar and crock. I only made a batch that called for 5 lbs of shredded cabbage and used some cabbage from our garden. Cabbage that was specifically planted with this idea in mind. Now I've never really been a huge sauerkraut eater; it's not something that we ate a lot of as I grew up, but I decided a few years back that it was something I wanted to "try again" and you know, I liked it. It wasn't something that I would get cravings for or anything but it was alright. So why make a concerted effort to grow cabbage, and make the stuff from scratch right? The answer is pretty simple actually. Because this is one of those foods that is easy to make, is very healthy, can be used as a condiment or as a main course dish and most importantly is a food that can be stored for long periods with simple methods making it a very good staple food to know how to make.
And now, a month and a week later, I have this. I jar with some slowly lacto-fermented cabbage, that when smelled is absolutely amazing! I now get why this stuff got to be so darned popular in the first place. The brine that developed around the cabbage is a slightly salty, almost kosher pickle tasting flavor and the cabbage itself still retains a lot of it's original texture, while being soft enough for us to know it's done. Here's a closeup.
I was worried about the liquid getting funky or moldy while it sat in the cold storage, but brine filled plastic bag that sealed the top off worked perfectly. That is absolutely the way to go by the way.

After we took the kraut out of the jar and started warming it over the stove, the smell of it was making our mouths water. Add a beer boiled brat, some steamed dill potatoes and popovers and you've got yourself a German dinner extraordinaire!
The best part of it all was that we only used a little more that 1/4 of what I made, and better yet, I harvested a 6 lb cabbage tonight that's going to make more of this tasty stuff for the winter.

If you've never tried it, and even if your not traditionally a Kraut lover, I encourage you to give this very simple recipe a try. I have to verify it, but I believe it was just 3 tbsp of salt (pickling preferably) to each five lbs of cabbage. I used the Salt Lake salt that I made a couple of months back. It worked great and helped to make this a totally local food product! You add the salt to the cabbage in a large bowl and mix it with your hands well, then pack in a crock or the largest jar you have (food safe buckets are also supposed to work well in place of large crocks.) and cover the top with either a weighted plate, or better yet, a large brine filled bag. Let it sit in a cool (60-70 deg F) room for a few weeks, cleaning the cover off regularly and voila! Sauerkraut. Or better yet, go to your library and rent "The joy of pickling" and check out the many different recipes that they have in it.
Good luck, and go make some Kraut!

October 3, 2008

I'm so sick and tired of this...

Really, I swear I am going to scream and begin to pull out my ha…. well, I don’t have much hair, but if I did I’d pull it out I swear! Ok, Ok, so what am I losing it about? This whole debate we just had over the $700 billion “bailout” or “rescue” or “economic life raft” that just passed. It’s not the fact that they debated it that’s bugged me, it’s HOW they debated it!

When I hear a politician interviewed from one side or the other, I don’t hear about the pro’s or con’s of the package; the merits versus the liabilities. What I kept hearing was this partisan crap about how “This was the result of poor regulation by the Republican administration”, or “In January 2005 the Republicans and John McCain warned about the need for more oversight and regulation of Fannie and Freddie and the Democrats killed it. It’s their fault.” I’m tired of it! What do I think caused this problem? To a great degree I agree that inaction and wrong decisions on both side of the isle allowed us to get to the point we are, but I don’t believe it caused it. That, I believe, came primarily from greed and complacency. And now we have a $700 billion, pork laden mess to reckon with and for our kids to pay off. Thanks guys... but is it all their fault?

We live in a society that for the large part espouses more and more, faster and faster and looks poorly on you if you can’t keep up. It’s true whether we like it or not. It’s no different from the root of many of the problems that face us today, I don’t think. Basically, greed and desire got the better of us as a nation. I mean who can blame us, we’re bombarded at nearly every corner by something that we need to have, and if we do manage to resist, our kids come home with all the stuff they need to have to "complete them". (At least in their eyes and the eyes of their peers.) So of course when companies start offering loans with all kinds of “perks” like no money down, no need for verifiable income, interest only ARM’s etc. a lot of us that are not economists and tend to trust the establishment at large are going to take advantage of it. Or better yet we can take the “equity” that we have in our now artificially inflated home prices and use that to get the new toy du jour that we need to have. Now we can have our cake, eat it, and pay for it over the next thirty (and sometimes even 50!) years with simple small installments. Oh yeah, but wait, wasn’t that kind of what happened just before the Great Depression? Paper money income, that is not to say actual FIAT currency but rather “investment” income from the stock market was so high that wall street and even the public at large felt it had reached a permanent plateau. Banks even began lending money to people to buy stocks at a rate of nearly two thirds the price of the stock. It was considered a totally safe practice. Sound familiar? So here we are, facing an economy that has basically forced the government to come to us with hat in hand, strike that…BAT in hand to scare us into approving this massive bail out that will possibly fix the problem in the very short term but opens a can of worms that could cause much more serious ones in the future.

So back to the crux of this problem. Who caused it? Who’ll save us from it? Well, I think that's going to rest pretty squarely on the shoulders of the same people that I just blamed for a majority cause in the problem... we the people. Oh sure, I totally agree that some serious regulatory oversight needs to be put in place, but I also think that we need to rethink a few of the things that have been driving us for the last 20 or so years. For many of us, a good majority of our adult lives. On the up-side, I think we're starting to get there. I hear more and more about people choosing to "live more simply", or making choices about what they consume, rather than just running on autopilot. It's a good thing. The more dialogue we can get started about this stuff, the more acceptable it will become and the more people will start paying attention.

As for the politics of the issue, well I'm sorry to say I've become a pretty big pessimist in the last couple of years. As of right now, I'm not voting for either of the candidates. I've seen no specific economic plans, short of more hand outs, from either of them, no energy plan other that to say they'll drill more and expand alternatives (A nice soundbite, but HOW? That's what I want to know.). Basically it just seems that both the candidates are leaving me with the old lesser of two evils choice, and I'm so sick and tired of that too! I am, my family is, my readers are, our nation is more important that the lesser of two evils.

Just my opinion...Care to share yours?

October 1, 2008

You're still here??

Or at least that's what the statcounter says.
Glad you hung in there. Everything gets a little out of kilter when A~'s not here, but as I said before, we survived. Tell you the truth, I'm just glad she decided to come back at all. I mean West Virginia is "Almost Heaven" after all.
This is one of her favorite places to visit when she's back there. She's got good taste dontcha think? I wish we could build us a little homestead up there. Oh well... Dreams huh?

Meanwhile, I was thinking that since I haven't posted anything, let alone a good update to the garden progress for the fall, that you might be interested in what's been going on. Oh yeah, and NOT going on this fall.
Beets are doing great! I figure I'll probably let these grow for another week or so, and then thin them for the greens. If you've not tried beet greens sauteed with some butter and garlic you are missing out. This has been the first year that I've grown them, and I've been really happy with them. They germinate well, grow quickly and are useful from their small leafy stage through their mature root form.
The other Rock-Star of spring/fall gardening is doing great too. Spinach! I planted a bunch more for the fall than I did in the spring. The idea being that, since spinach is so cold tolerant, I will be able to get good greens clear through Thanksgiving (that's the goal anyway.) and hopefully put some up for the winter until I can start again in the spring.
And finally, the Kohlrabi. This is the second planting of the year. Planted for a fall harvest. This is also the first year that we've grown this plant, but we all loved it! I don't know how it will do as fall gets on, as it's rated as the least cold tolerant of the brassicas, but hey, it's worth a try right? Besides, I have a few tricks I haven't pulled out yet too.

As for the NOT so goods, there are a few. Broccolli and carrots to name a few. My broccoli just never germinated, and the carrots...I think that some birds got to the sprouts. They were there and healthy one day, gone the next. I do have some back up's on those though. Remember I planted some under the cucumbers? I won't be storing tons of them or anything, but I should get a good ten pounds or so.

We're looking to have a slow weekend coming up. Rain and cold, snow in the mountains. I was hoping to get caught up on some yard work, but we'll see I guess.
Hope your weeks been great.
Til tomorrow.