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July 2014
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Dealing With Unpredictable Weather!

I was in a bad mood last night.

I had learned a few days before that the temperature was going to drop near frost levels and I didn’t prepare. Needless to say I had a challenge last night finding and covering the tomatoes and peppers in the middle of a pretty good downpour.

Everyone out this way is tired of winter and the unpredictable weather. I have a philosophy when it comes to weather and that is that its always unpredictable.

But many people let the unpredictability rob them of certain experiences. I constantly get flack for setting out tomatoes in late March. The old – I only put out tomatoes after tax day speech from old timers. The old timers have a point but if they were to put out tomatoes today then they’d see frost tonight.

I personally would rather put out 1/3 to 1/2 of my started plants early and protect what I can in the event of any frost than wait a few more weeks for fresh garden tomatoes. Its a gamble and a risk that each person has to take on his/her own.

When it comes to covering I don’t really put a huge amount of effort into it. I try to get 90% plus of the plants I can. I use a combination of clear plastic as well as buckets, barrel halves, old plastic bags. Basically I use something that will protect the plant from frost but not so opaque as to block out all light.

This seems to work pretty well. I’m sure the plants are a little stunted but in the long run I seem to get tomatoes earlier from the earlier plants.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Letting the Land Lead

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how there’s a lotĀ of forcing going on when people start working with their land. Land is not always good for everything. Sometimes it needs transformation and sometimes it simply needs what it can sustain.

I’m of the school of thought that I call Letting the Land Lead. As in the land and its features are inherently good for a set of things. Call it permaculture or whatever you will but this should be pretty basic to most people. Maybe I should call it square peg in square hole theory. What fits is what works best and is easiest.

Anybody that came to my property would quickly see that I love mushrooms. Seriously there are logs stacked everywhere. I’m running out of freezer space. But they might assume I don’t love potatoes because I don’t grow them much. Or that I’m not fond of beef because, hey, where’s my cow?

The truth is that the land is not good for cattle. Its too small and there is little pasture. Its not real good for potatoes either. The silt and clay pack about 6 inches down into some sort of pseudo-concrete. I know this so why fight it.

Now there are places where I can clear some woods and create pasture. And my gardens where I’ve dumped manure and compost will be good for growing potatoes. But its about work and yield. It will take a lot of work and the yield may never equal that.

I’ve got plenty of trees, plenty of shade and plenty of water. Conditions good for mushrooms.

Status Update

I didn’t realize it had been nearly a year since I last posted until I came here to jog my memory about one of my exploits. Wow. I went from posting a podcast every other day to nothing for close to a year. But it was a good year and except for the worst winter in forever we got a lot done. So I realized at least for me I needed to have a status update on Serendipity Farm and everything that has happened.

I feel like the elephant in the room everytime I talk about my blog is when I will start podcasting again. Podcasting is a cruel b**tch that has broken my heart for the last time. I think the final straw was during the Midwest Sustainable Conference that Darby, Rick and I put on. I was talking to a guy and I told him I had a podcast. Basically I was begging him to listen. His response was: I’m a one podcast kind of guy.

And that, folks, sums up what I’ve been fighting against. I’ll do a post on being a diverse individual and gardener later. No this guy wasn’t the guy that killed the podcast. Don’t go thank him yet! I just realized that I’m a better writer than talker. An introvert probably should not have a podcast.

So with the elephant out of the way…

I’ve planted so much stuff! I’m really losing count of everything that’s been planted on the farm. Autumn Olives, (Real) olives, almonds, chestnuts, pawpaws, peach, apple, prickly pear, pomes, mulberry, grapes, raspberries, blackberries. And that’s just a sampling of the perenial stuff.

Secondly, production is starting to finally come up on the farm. We had copious harvests of shiitakes this year. I’ve got reishi, lion’s mane and oysters in as well. Just waiting for the rest to take off. I tried to count the rabbits I’ve harvested this year and I really just lost count. There have been so many. We haven’t made it through nearly 1/3 of what we canned last year.

Fermentation is awesome! My mom didn’t know what to buy me for Christmas and my wife suggested a fermenting crock. I’ve never had so much fun with a container! To date we have fermented sauerkraut, garlic, kim-chi and curtido. I didn’t know about curtido but an outfit called Fermenti catered the Midwest Sustainable Conference and they put this delicious relish on a sandwhich. My wife requested I try to make it. Wow. It blew me away. Recipe coming soon.

The insect activity at the end of the year was fantastic. We actually had another round of tomato hornworms come through. Fortunately the parasitic wasps came right afterward. I got tons of great photos for my entomology class. Speaking of which. I am now officially two semesters away from my degree in biology.

I lost “Joe” to Austin, TX this year. He moved, taking away my helper, fellow braintrust member and friend. What a selfish jerk! I’m looking for and think I found a new fellow collaborator though.

That’s it in a nutshell. So much more to say but I think its probably best if I focus on specific topics as they come up. Hopefully I’ll get to post more frequently than I was able to podcast.

How Much Food Can a Small Homestead Produce?


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