"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Friday, October 28, 2011

Next Year's Firewood

This past May we had a tree fall on our house, we were standing right there as it happened...kind of scary. Lucky for us insurance more than covered the repair cost and I was able to fix the roof myself. So this week we took out seven large trees, two of which were totally dead and the other four had dead tops, as a preventative measure. Guess that takes care of next year's firewood...and then some. This will spare us and our poor old truck the challenge of driving winding mountain roads next spring in our annual trek for firewood. Always nice to be one step ahead of the game.

The tree I'm cutting on in this photo is a Grand Fir, Native Americans used the inner bark of this tree for treating colds and fever...interesting.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Potting Up Celery & Little Willie

Still frost free and our celery is potted up. In a another week or so it will be transferred to the root cellar for the winter, providing us with tasty stalks and leaves throughout the snowy months. Each pot contains 3-4 plants, 1/3 of whose foliage, preferably the less than desirable ones, are removed to compensate for root disturbance during the potting procedure. Only healthy plants that show no sign of bolting (sending up a round central stalk) to seed are chosen for winter storage. Most plants will not only survive the winter in our root cellar where they will continue producing, albeit somewhat more pale in comparison to the ones produced under sunlight, but can be planted back out into the garden in early spring for more fresh greens and eventually seed from chosen plants.

A new variety that we grew this year called Crisp & Tender, thanks to the seedy generosity of the kind soul at Kabun-Malay Kadazan girls blog, was a big hit with us. Unfortunately, we did not place it in the most ideal location as it was the last batch of celery planted this past spring and wound up in a slightly drier and shady location at the end of the row under a fir tree. Even so, the plants provided us with a plethora of slender and surprisingly dark green flavorful stalks...for sure we will be growing this variety again next season. We also grew Ventura, Giant Red, Utah, and a leaf celery called Parcel.

Sweet & Tender celery, all the way from Australia, thrived in our cool shady garden.

Also, meet Willie! This newest member of our family was found in the bushes almost two months ago. Hungry and emaciated the poor little guy took to us without complaint...he was so small. Little Willie has grown a lot, he likes to take dust baths with the chickens, greatly annoy the other cats, play in the garden, eat, eat some more, and sit on my lap while I am on the computer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Michael Pilarski - Forest Gardens

Michael Pilarski is a wellspring of knowledge when it comes to creating edible forest gardens.

See more of Michael Pilarski at -




Thursday, October 13, 2011

Harvesting Beets & Greens

Beets were harvested this week and we were quite pleased with the results, about 70% of them filled out nicely, the rest were either damaged by mice or too small to bother with. Pictured in the cooler are some of the better looking greens that were set aside to be blanched and frozen. Interestingly, your average beet is supposed to take 55-80 days from the time it germinates to maturity, mine normally take between 90 and 120 days. The above beets were planted in mid-May and just recently reached a harvestable size.

The mice damage was my own fault, I should have been paying better attention and either hilled dirt around the roots in early September or set out mouse traps as this is often an issue we face in the fall. Near as I can tell the mice will not dig for roots and only snack on the parts remaining above the soil which makes beets, and sometimes carrots, an irresistible target for them. Gonna have to have a little chat with those cats about earning their keep...one of them even lives in our greenhouse during the summer and has apparently not been doing as good a job at rodent control as I had thought.

After harvesting, the tops are trimmed leaving about an inch of stem remaining, keeping some of the stem intact helps to keep them from spoiling. They are then placed into totes and coolers, layered in ever so slightly damp sandy soil, and stored in our root cellar. Beets are one of our longest storing root crops, some remaining in excellent eating condition for well over a year. This year's crop included Detroit Dark Red, Crosby's Egyptian, Lutz, Cylindria, Crapaudine, Boltardy, a few golden beets whose name slips me, and a new to us variety called Red Cloud (hybrid) that performed extremely well this year...wish I would have grown a few more of those.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Harvest Season Is Upon Us

All in all the garden has been good to us this year, recent harvests have yielded fairly decent amounts of food for winter storage. My little helper and I were blessed with over 400 lbs of potatoes from five rows totalling 160' in length, this is about a hundred pounds less than I had hoped for but more than enough to see us through the cold months...I just won't be sharing any with the chickens as had originally been planned. Next year we will plant more potatoes.

We track the weight of our tomatoes, potatoes, and onions to help us evaluate production, that coupled with the fact that since these crops are gathered in five gallon buckets it is just too easy not to.

Numerous different potato varieties were planted this season and all but one, Butterfinger , did well. Most of our spuds were small to medium in size...not a lot of big ones this time around. Pictured below are Russian Banana and Red Thumb. Russian Banana normally produces more potatoes per plant than any other variety we grow.

This year's potatoes were planted fairly intensively and yielded around 6-8 tubers per plant. They were planted 12" deep and I did not "hill them up" at all this summer. Because we have chosen to keep our aisle ways so very narrow, practically disappearing by mid-summer, it is difficult for me to hill up potatoes so I have found that deep planting makes up for this in our garden.

In 2012 I hope to experiment with more of a dryland farming technique with some of our potato crop that involves depending upon using only natural occurring rain water, wide spacing, and dirt/dust mulch to help with water retention. This will be done in an area separate from our main garden, we have a 3 acre field that is not cost effective to irrigate and need to start putting it to good use with something besides knapweed. For quite some time now one of my concerns has been that we are far too dependent upon irrigation and I would like to learn more about growing crops with less water and potatoes would seem to be a great dryland crop to experiment with. A fellow blogger , in a somewhat similar climate, has had great success with this type of farming and it would seem to be a much more sustainable manner in which to grow crops allowing us to shed some of our dependence on water pumped to us via electric power.

Our spring planted garlic experiment turned out all right, the cloves are a little on the small side but so is/was most everything else this year. We planted our garlic in the early spring because in previous winters too much snow cover has allowed voles unhindered access to a smorgasbord of fall planted bulbs and too little snow, coupled with lots of rain, has sometimes led to rotten garlic. I think I'll give the spring planting a try again next season and then decide which period of planting works best for us.

2011 was our best harvest ever with a couple hundred pounds of nice sized onions. We grew Stuttgarter, Yellow of Parma, Varsity, Jaune Paille Des Vertus, Utah, and a few Candy onions. I tried growing Walla Walla Sweets from starts again but they all shriveled up and died... probably due to our cold rainy spring weather. This will be the last time I will bother with that particular variety as they have rarely turned out for me.

The tomatoes did better than I had originally expected and should allow for a good amount of canned sauce which we will continue working on as they slowly finish ripening on our porch. Our 2011 tomato crop weighed in at close to 300 lbs, which is almost half of what we produced last year.

Our goal is to get an average yield of 5-10 lbs per plant, some will provide many more fruits some less. We grow a variety called De Tiganesti that provided nearly 20 lbs per plant whereas our Black Krim and Coastal Pride varieties only shared 4-5 tomatoes per plant with us...but their flavor more than made up for the lack of productivity.

We were very pleased with our peppers, especially considering the long cold spring we experienced, and have been freezing and eating them fresh since mid July. I picked the last few of them yesterday and will store them in the below bins until we use them up, if the weather remains cool they should keep just fine for a month or so.

The Grandson was more than happy to help pick apples, some of our trees are finally starting to produce decent amounts of fruit. The tree the boy is picking from is a Cortland. We are using these for storage and picked many pounds of mixed wild apples that were canned up as sauce.

These Spitzenberg apples have become one of my favorites for fresh eating. We were delighted to get around 40 lbs off this 6-7 year old tree.

Next up we will be harvesting beets, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, endive, celery, and so on.
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