October 25, 2014

Garden's Summer End

We're awaiting our first frost. No complaints about it's not being here yet, because that means we're still getting a few things from the garden; like tomatoes and peppers.


Also enough okra for an occasional sidedish.


Still harvesting black turtle beans. The plants are about played out but I'll continue to get a few more until frost kills them.


We just finished harvesting sweet potatoes the other day. Some of the Beauregards are huge.


These are from slips that I bought at the feed store. I planted them first. Some of you may recall the trouble I had making my own slips, until I figured out the culprit was our city water. The Vardamans were planted later and are not so big.


They are prettier than the Beauregards, but there aren't as many because I only planted one bed.

Zuchetta summer squash is maturing for next year's seed. Ditto for green beans.


And look what likes the lovely October weather!


I ought to have planted a fall garden by now, but have decided that the garden needs a major overhaul. I'm going to get everything harvested and then we're going to go at it. More on that later.

October 23, 2014

Working Smarter Not Harder With Pigs

Awhile back I told you about the pigs and the ground ivy. Also about what an amazing job they do as natural tillers of the soil. They have been hard at it.

Our pigs have done a lot toward eliminating the ground ivy.
Much of it is just lying loosely on the ground.

They haven't done a perfect job, but they've made better progress than we ever could have done. Results are pretty inconsistent, but what they do get, they really get. Apparently they are eating part of the root system because after it lies uprooted for awhile, it dies.

Pig killed ground ivy

As every gardener knows, tilling, plowing, hoeing, even had pulling of weeds isn't this efficient, because if some bit of root system is left behind, the weeds don't waste any time taking over again. The timing was perfect, however, because it is time to plant for winter pasture. Once Dan had the front porch torn down and the roof supported, we moved the pigs and goats out, got to work.

Raking up the pig-pulled ground ivy

The above attachment came with our walk-behind tractor. I would have thought it's a cultivator, but it was advertised as a rake. It was perfect for raking up what the pigs had turned up.  The chickens got this.

Ground ivy for chickens. Well, not the ivy, but they found stuff in the dirt!

Dan disced it too, and then I planted with a mix of orchard grass, ludino clover, chicory, and deer forage seed (contains things goats like: wheat, annual rye, oats, brassicas, clover). I added saved garden seeds such as peas, kale, radish, and parsnip, plus herb seeds I'd gathered from my herb garden: thyme, yarrow, echinacea, marjoram, and mint.

The camera lens makes it look much more expansive than it really is.

I planted the two ends of the field, where the ground ivy had completely taken over. I'm guessing it will take over again, but thanks to the pigs, we've been able to reclaim it for awhile.

This is one of two pasture areas we're working on. The other is the buck pasture, the one Dan plowed earlier this month.

As you can see, it's a lot more work without the pigs!

It's doing beautifully.


I had the deer forage seed first so I planted it first. The orchard grass is just beginning to sprout and grow.

Now we have to wait and pray for the right amount of rain to get things growing. This will be winter and spring forage for our goats. The orchard grass is a perennial and I'm hoping it will last for several years without being overrun with the ground ivy.

October 21, 2014

October 18, 2014

Technology as Taskmaster

"Nothing works around here," Dan told me when I called him into lunch. He was frustrated because the lawn mower wouldn't start, and neither would his pick-up truck. The homemade coulter on his walk-behind tractor wasn't working correctly, the blade on the sickle mower needs replacing, and the chainsaw chain needed sharpening. Then there's the ever increasing pile of "junk", including a broken down tiller and a backyard leaf mulcher we'd like to sell, except the pull cord pulled off. On top of that, our washer, dryer, and electric summer stove are all on their last legs, as is the drip coffee pot.

I am reading an interesting book. I won it in Carolyn's giveaway at Krazo Acres, Better Off: Flipping The Switch on Technology. Two People One Year Zero Wattsby Eric Brende. He and his wife rented a home in the middle of an Amish-like community in order to experience life without modern technology. The book is the story of their experiences, thoughts, observations, and what they learned. He makes several noteworthy points.

One is how technology, with its promise of making our lives easier and more leisurely by saving us time, money, and work, has so come to dominate our modern lifestyles, that we are completely dependent upon it. It dictates what we do, when we do, and how we do it. We are helpless without it. He gave the example of a new cash register. Employees could not sell simple products because they didn't know how to operate it. Finally someone figured out they could calculate tax with pen and paper, and make change by hand.

This example relates to another point he makes, that as technology increases, human knowledge and skill decrease. I can only nod my head in agreement. We humans think we are so smart and advanced because we have computers, smart phones, and the internet. Yet who among us, of our own skill and knowledge, can fix a computer when it crashes? Or build a computer from scratch? We have more information, but less knowledge and less ability.

I figured out a long time ago that my so-called time saving kitchen devices were often more trouble to get out, set up, use, and clean up, than I thought worth it. So much quicker and easier to use a simple hand tool. While I can't deny that our walk-behind tractor and sickle mower have been truly useful tools for getting work accomplished, I must also acknowledge that they require a lot of time, work, and money to maintain.

It is difficult to criticize technology without being accused of going backward, or of being an isolationist. I know other homesteaders can relate. Another point made in this book is that, in fact, it is technology which isolates people. Agrarianism necessitates working together and fosters a sense of true human relationship and community. The community must come together to accomplish meaningful work. Our technology has taught us to focus on machines rather than people: we talk to cell phones or computer screens rather than face to face with real people. Our get-togethers focus on a presentation of entertainment rather than one another or on accomplishing a goal.

Those statements are somewhat generalized, of course, as is my next one. That it seems many modern day folks view technology as an all or nothing entity: either we have to embrace it all, or we're seen as rejecting it all. Rejecting part of it is viewed as rejecting all of it. I don't understand this thinking. Aren't we humans intelligent enough to pick and choose the level of technology which suits our personal needs and lifestyle? If I want to be actively involved in the processes of meeting our basic needs, why does that make me backward?

The wheel was a technological innovation at one time, as was the horse drawn plow and the steam locomotive. Those of us who desire a more hands-on, less technologically complicated lifestyle do so because we do not want to be totally dependent upon it. We do not want to lose the knowledge and skills which enable us to be independent. We do not want to spend all our time and money maintaining machines. We do not want our lives to revolve around them. We do not want to serve the machines, we want them to serve us.

It seems that the more time our technology saves us, the more frantic modern life becomes. All around me I see folks in a hurry and irritated because they aren't getting there fast enough. I've realized that if I don't want to live this way, I must learn a different way of looking at life. I need different, simpler goals. I must learn to be content with "less" by focusing more on doing rather than having. It necessitates slowing down and not doing everything at a breakneck speed. My progress is slower, but if my goal is a simpler lifestyle, then that's how it should be.

I can't say I've mastered any of this, I'm a work in progress. It helps to not have television and especially television advertising in my face. It helps to just take it a day at a time. It helps to not have much money. And especially it helps to know like-minded people through the internet, which, in light of what I'm saying, seems an odd thing to say. But that goes back to what I've been trying to say along, that technology should be a tool rather than a taskmaster.

What do you think?

October 16, 2014

Jelly Summer

Violet Jelly
Jam or jelly? Mostly, I seem to make jam. Dan loves strawberry and we have tons of blueberries and figs, so these lend themselves well to pantry shelves loaded with pint jars of jam. I confess my favorite has always been jelly, especially muscadine. That's a fall thing, though, and this past summer I've been experimenting with flower jellies.

It started with that violet jelly I made last April. My daughter was visiting and was intrigued at the idea of making something so beautiful and edible from flowers. She started looking up flower jelly recipes and we ended up making quite a few different kinds.

Honeysuckle Jelly
The basic recipe is the same: to make an infusion of the selected flower and use the "tea" as the "juice" for the jelly. They all have lemon juice for the acidity, and so have a slightly tangy flavor, but each one has a delicate flavor in it's own right. The white clover and honeysuckle jellies taste like honey!

We used half-pint jars and ended up with nearly two dozen total. They make wonderful gifts!

Daylily Jelly
Once the garden harvest is done I will turn to making elderberry and my annual mixed fruit jelly. I've still got green beans, okra, and black turtle beans to harvest and preserve. Tomatoes and green peppers are down to just a few now and then for salads. Also still to harvest our my three beds of sweet potatoes. Then I can pull out the various fruits I've gathered and frozen, and get to work on jelly and jam making once again.

White Clover Jelly
I have about four gallons frozen elderberries, a handful of wild blackberries, two handfuls of sand cherries, and my red raspberry. :) Plenty of frozen blueberries too, which could contribute to the jelly making as well.

The only other thing I have in the freezer is a small amount of dandelion petals. I hoped to collect enough to make dandelion jelly as well, but didn't manage enough for this year. Maybe next year.

Rose Petal Jelly
Flower jellies will be on my list of annual jellies to make from now on. You can see how pretty they are and they certainly do taste good too.