Saturday, October 27, 2012

A quick, delicious breakfast

It's almost too simple to call a recipe.  I have been making this dish with many variations for the last couple of years.  It only takes about 5 minutes (not including harvest) and is a great way to eat some fresh garden veggies.  I call it

Scrambled Eggs and Veggies


I have made this with Asparagus, Broccoli, and it is shown here with Kale, though I am sure there are numerous other great options.  I do think that it is best to keep it simple, and work with one vegetable in a batch.  Basically I just chop and saute the veggies until they are slightly wilted, then add the eggs and scramble.  Being from Wisconsin, I usually throw a little shredded cheese on top as well.  The whole process takes about 5 minutes.
The seasoning options are endless.  Some of my favorites are simple, with just a touch of salt, pepper, and cheese, or spicy, with hot sauce and butter.
It's delicious, nutritious, and something we can make almost entirely from the garden.  Using the cast iron makes cleanup a breeze.  If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be growing and eating kale, I would have thought you were insane, unless you fed me this first!  I wouldn't exactly call it gourmet, but for two people who work full time and never seem to have enough time to take care of ourselves, it works really well.

Some good combinations:

Swiss Chard and Mushrooms
Saute mushrooms for 2 min then add chopped chard

when chard is slightly wilted add eggs salt and pepper
Scramble, add cheese when finished




Symphytum officinale



Common names: 

Comfrey, Bone knit, Knit bone


Perennial herbaceous plant, growing 3' to 5' tall
Deep tap root


Comfrey is easily propagated through root cuttings.  People who  try to eliminate comfrey by tilling end up with a field of comfrey, it is best eliminated by smothering.  Gophers and squirrels like to harvest and bury pieces of root, spreading the herb.

Thrives in full sun, tolerates partial shade.
USDA Hardiness Zone 4-9

Seed Saving:

Permaculture uses:

Medicinal herb, applied topically or as bruised leaf or salve to treat broken bones, bruises, tissue damage.
Dynamic accumulator; Nitrogen, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Silicon [source: Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway]
Fermented for liquid fertilizer
Forage on limited basis
Chop and drop mulch up to 5 times a season





Wikipedia, Comfrey

TC permaculture, Comfrey



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Greenhouse concept

I think I have come up with a greenhouse that I could realistically put together next season and have ready for the Winter of 2013.  The main functions would be to house our flock, grow some winter greens, and do seed starts in the Spring. 


It starts with a basic framework of treated 2x4 lumber. 

The frame supports untreated walls that can be made from any 2x lumber in 2' intervals, making the bulk of the needed materials easy to salvage, as well as easy to replace when it rots out.  I am thinking I will use stakes to keep the bottom from bowing out.

This gives me 2 16'x4' raised beds that are 10' apart.  The treated lumber is never in contact with the growing medium.


Once the beds are filled, 4 cattle panels are arched between the beds.  This is the warm weather setup, which I plan to use as raised bed gardens with annual vining plants growing over the archway.  So I won't have a useless greenhouse taking up space during the hot summer months.

When the weather turns I will cover the whole thing with plastic sheeting and install end walls made out of 2x2s with sheeting stapled to both sides.

There will also be doors along the inside allowing us access to the beds, but keeping the chickens out.



So that's pretty much it.  The wall boards for the beds can be taken out making it easy to shovel the contents out from any side.  That way they can double as compost or vermicompost bins if desired.  I am hoping that keeping the chickens inside and using the deep litter method will produce enough heat to make the greenhouse work.  I plan to place it in front of our barn, which has tall, light colored walls.  This should block the cold North winds and reflect a lot of light to the north side of the greenhouse.  The design is somewhat modular in that it can easily be scaled longer or shorter in 4' increments (the width of 1 cattle panel).  I know that I am going to have to play around with the ventilation a bit, and I might have to spring for that "bubble wrap" type greenhouse sheathing that has trapped air cells providing some insulation value.  But I am thinking that the 3' think earth walls will keep the chickens nice and cozy on those cold winter nights.

What say ye Internet?  Is this a crack pot plan or what?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Whats in bloom- October 2012

Notice the title isn't "What should be in bloom"  With the freaky weather we have had lately I have decided to do a monthly posting of what is actually blooming right here and now.

Yellow Chrysanthemum (Mums)
Harlequin Marigold
Not really sure what this is but it has pretty little flowers and is growing wild all over the wooded hill north of us.

There are a bunch of others that already bloomed this season.  They are not fully in bloom but are taking advantage of the unusually warm wet fall we are having by throwing out just a few blossoms.




Friday, October 19, 2012

Updated Food Forest Design

I love it when things come together in a synergistic way.  I am so happy I started this blog right now, as writing seems to help focus my thoughts.  I have to give some credit to Toby Hemenway, since I am currently reading his book Gaia's Garden.  The section on patterns definitely changed my view on things, and I am borrowing somewhat from the natural fractal shape found in leaf veins and rivers and such.  But it was while writing my last bit on Food Forest design that this design popped into my head.  Specifically it was while typing the word "trapezoid" that got me literally thinking outside the box.  I realized that I could achieve my basic goals of having straight fence runs while using much more interesting shapes and increasing edge space.

I like this design better for numerous reasons.  I am having a much easier time visualizing earthworks for water harvesting without making the paths too rugged.  We still get 7 forest gardens that can each be encircled by a 164' section of movable electric poultry netting, but the edges are much longer than in my first drawing.  The shape allows one to use the paths to get around the gardens much more efficiently, and the shapes offer a lot more interesting design opportunities.  It also incorporates the existing fire pit in a more fluid way.
Thanks for reading, I welcome constructive comments and suggestions.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hugelkultur in a Swale with Lasagna on top Rain garden

Click on images to view larger 

The front bed of our house needed a major revamping.  It was completely overgrown with grass, alfalfa, and field bindweed among other things.  We pulled out some over sized burning bushes, which left the terrain uneven.  The soil is heavy with clay and has lots of rocks.  To make matters worse, the base of the ill advised concrete porch that some genius poured up against the foundation of our 160 year old house was uncovered and even undermined at points.
The design I came up with is an amalgamation of several techniques I have either tried or read about.  The goals are to collect and store water in the bed while diverting it away from the house.  We also want to smother the weeds and build a healthy productive bed, that eventually will be a mixed garden of flowers herbs and vegetables.

If you can read my scrawl, this drawing gives a cross section of the design.

I used a string level to even the grade on top, near the porch, and I cut a curvy but level swale into the ground.  I tamped and filled the slope up to the porch to a nice even grade away from the porch with the clay I dug.   All the decent looking black dirt I pulled out went to the other side of the house into a small terrace where Nikki's serviceberry is now.




I got the rough level from the string.  Spraying a little water over everything helped with compacting the slope.  The water pooled in the swale revealing the low spots.  Once it dried again, it was easy to see where I needed to scrape out soil to get a perfectly level bottom.




Nikki is weeding the hens and chicks while I install the kill layer.


It's Hugelkultur time!

Our neighbor gave us some old burlap sacks that I cut open and layed out in the swale so the logs wouldn't puncture the wet cardboard and newspaper.  The burlap formed nicely to the swale edge.  The open part at this end overflows onto a flat part of the driveway that I'm hoping will be effective as a level spillway.



No need for a gym membership when you've got a shovel and a wheel barrow! 

After the logs were in place I covered everything with some slightly aged wood chips. Above that the layers are just compost from bins I started this spring. They were only half broken down, but had heated up nicely when I first filled the bins.  The bulk of the material is just wood chips mixed with coffee grounds, so I plan to cut leaf mulch from dynamic accumulators such as comfrey and yarrow after planting this Spring.  This should help add minor nutrients that may be lacking from my compost.

I set large stones with flat tops on top of the swale edge and filled in on either side of them with compost leaving the flats exposed for stepping stones.

I finally tuck pointed the porch foundation, so I can finish the West side of the bed.

Here it is after a little grading, a layer of cardboard, some logs, and layers of mulch and compost.

A little crumbles and some Gardeners Delight cherry tomatoes was all it took to convince the chickens to till the mulch and fertilize for me!

One of my goals for next Spring is to install some Rain barrels over by the remaining burning bush that can be used to irrigate this area, as well as the 2'x6' box next to it.

In the early Spring we will get a pickup load of mushroom compost from River Valley Ranch and top off the bed.  Then its ready for planting.

This is my first attempt at several different design ideas, so wish me luck! 

I'm calling it my Hugelkultur in a Swale with Lasagna on top Rain Garden.  The neighbors probably think I'm crazy, and it's entirely possible that they are right.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chicken update 10/13/12

At 11 weeks old, the flock is growing and still doing really well.  We sent 6 hens, 2 of each variety to Nikki's Aunt's farm to help bolster her laying flock, as well as to relieve the crowded feeling the pen was getting now that the birds are bigger.  We currently have 20 birds, including 3 roosters.


We feed them and move the pen first thing in the morning.  When I get home from work, they are lined up, ready for some action.  I let them out When I'm working outside and can keep an eye on them.  It reminds me of little kids running out to recess when I let them loose in the afternoon.  We have still been fortunate enough not to lose any to predation, but we have had some close calls lately.
Two days ago, the flock was out running around while Nikki and I were taking care of some yard work.  I happen to be walking up toward the house, when I saw a bird in my periphery.  I suddenly realized that it was a large hawk, wings swept back, diving toward the chickens.  I shouted like a crazy man, and the chickens scattered.  The raptor veered off behind the garage out of sight.  Heart pounding, I ran around the corner just in time to see it leap off the ground from next to the garage door and off to the North.

The very next day was much more traumatic.  Once again, the flock was roaming free while I took some pictures in the lasagna gardens.  I head a squawking commotion and ran up to see a large Red Tail hawk, wings flapping, circling around the big pine tree about 8 feet off the ground.  The hawk screeched defiantly as I bellowed my best angry cave man impression and waved my arms in the air.  The determined hawk flew up and stopped about 6 feet in front of my face and screeched again; then faster than I could think, it pivoted and flew 20 feet over to a small pine where half a dozen hens and the gold rooster were hiding.  I hollered and ran toward it, and it flew away.

The chickens were totally freaked out.  I spent the next 45 minutes or so collecting the silent birds and putting them back in the pen.  On of the araucanas was so riled up that I couldn't catch her.  She ran from the little pine tree to the big one and circled the trunk away from me until I gave up.  She didn't come back to the hoop coop until sundown.  As I put the rest of them in the pen they ran and hid behind the brooder and wouldn't even come out to eat some fresh crumbles.

So we still have all the birds (knock on wood) but I am really anxious to get some more tree and shrub cover for them.  And as the attacks are happening just when the leaves are dropping, I am seeing the value of including some coniferous cover in the food forests.

The temps are starting to drop, and I need to construct a heated version of out water bucket very soon.  Will also be insulating the hoop coop with straw bales and parking it for Winter.  We will be switching over to the deep litter method for the season, and begin a rotating paddock system in the Spring.