Fruit & Nut Tree and Shrub Walk-Around July 2016

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I did a walk-around the yard to record in pictures and words how the fruit and nut trees and shrubs are doing. It should be noted that since planting these trees and shrubs, and watering them in,  almost nothing has been done.  The Peaches and Pears were planted June 5/6, and the Plums on June 27, 2016.

O'Henry Peach Tree - Primal Woods

O’Henry Peach

The O’Henry Peach is doing quite well, this is the eastern most peach in the front yard, immediately adjacent to where I cut down the Star Magnolia. I did find what appeared to be either a Mason or Potters Wasp on the O’Henry. Slight damage from leaf eaters of some sort, and lots of new leaf growth; the plant looks healthy. <That is a Mullein, aka Velvet Plant, at the corner of the house (upper left of image), identified by our friend Kerry.>

 

 

 

 

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Garden Improvements 2016

Rough plan view of garden and improvements, more or less to scale

We installed the garden in year two on the site, that would have been 2014.  Basically that involved designating a space, installing the five 4 foot by 8 foot raised beds, on contour, and filling those beds with topsoil.  The soil profile on the home-site is 2 inches of topsoil, atop five feet of clay, almost clean enough to throw pots with straight out of the ground, resting on sand, almost as fine as powdered sugar.  In short, it is not great soil as-is for a vegetable garden.  This year so far, we have added about 4 cu. ft. of compost to each of the raised beds; call that a wheel barrow full in each.  Now though, we are getting a bit more ambitious.

There are a few reasons why we are getting more ambitious, and why we are perhaps a little impatient in making our garden more productive.  First of all, our diet has changed pretty radically over the course of the past two years, for reasons I may go into in detail in a later post, but for now suffice it to say that it is for health-related reasons.  This past year we have got a better handle on what we put in our mouths, and we want to grow more of that food ourselves, organically.  Secondly, in partnership with a friend, we are going to raise a few meat chickens this summer and into fall; if allowed, chickens can be hell on a garden. Read more

Life’s Work

It seems like it has been forever since I posted, or was it yesterday?  To say that we have been caught up in something of a whirlwind is probably an understatement.  Just 4 days after my last post, on 24 September 2015, my now former employer made a public release, “BUILDING FOR A STRONGER FUTURE, CATERPILLAR ANNOUNCES RESTRUCTURING AND COST REDUCTION PLANS.”  Some of us have felt that tightening in the gut that follows showing up at the job only to find out that your badge does not work!  Typically the cause has nothing to do with an end to employment, rather it is a system malfunction of some sort, or you kept your badge to close to your cell phone, or another of the innumerable and perfectly innocuous possible causes.  Am I a part of the “stronger future,”  or am I a part of “cost reduction?”  Warranted or no, the guts tighten up a bit until the matter is resolved, or at least understood.  So it was on the morning of 24 September. Read more

Lessons from A Beginner in the Field

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Or the woods, as the case may be.  It was an interesting sit between two big beech trees yesterday.  First, well before light still, I heard a branch come crashing down, I think it landed less than 10 feet behind me and a bit to my left. (Later investigation showed it to be less than 6 feet, the branch 4 inches in diameter.)  I instinctively moved, quickly, to the right around the trunk of the tree my back was against.  Scary.  Widow-maker.  Lesson Learned:  In your scouting for a location from which to hunt, check for widow-makers, be that a ground or tree stand location.  The chances of being hit are small, the consequences large.
I was sitting with my back against the tree to the left
Then, after first light, I heard what sounded like baseballs dropping through the canopy, dropping through the leaves and branches, and hitting the ground with heavy, distinctive thuds.  “That would hurt,” I said to myself!  I actually thought seriously about getting one of those hard hat shells that goes under a baseball cap, and Geri mentioned the same when I told her the story later.  I thought this was interesting because I did not hear any of it before sunrise, then, I heard maybe 10 or 20 fall over the course of 30 minutes or so, then nothing.  It had rained an inch the day before and into early hours, and an inch and a half the day before that.  There was a lot of water in the canopy, and under the trees it seemed like it was still raining as I sat.  At the time I believed that they might be black walnuts, that was all I could think of that made any sense, and I saw a relatively dark trunk (compared to the dominant sugar maples and beeches) maybe 20-25 yards in front of me; they are called black walnut trees for a reason.  I also looked this over during my “later investigation,” and sho’ nuf, there was a big black walnut tree and walnuts littering the forest floor.  Lesson Learned: Do not set your dumb ass under mature black walnut trees in the fall!

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Starcraft 11 ‘ 6″ Boat Refurbishment – Part I, Seats

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After turning it right-side up, just before towing it
This is part one of a multi-part effort to return this boat to life.  It was last licensed in 1999, I found it upside down in about a foot of water.  No telling how long it had been there.  I was able to float it out; there is a lot to be said for aluminum.  One seat, and the wood on both sides of the transom, were almost completely rotted away, the wood on the two remaining seats was heavily damaged.  There is a lot of work to do, and, I will start with the seats.
I had already removed the seats from the boat, and we power washed the boat and seat boxes yesterday at the local car wash.

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A Calling

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This post is along the same lines as my first, from back in February of 2014, titled “Spring 2013: In the Beginning…”  Focused on introspection, what’s going on inside, as opposed to the “how” of this or that.  Like all of us, consciously or not, I have been on something of a personal development journey, and the past 6 years or so, with Geri’s huge impact on my life, the speed of development has increased dramatically, and we have been on the journey together.  <Now some might say, “what personal development?”  Ha!  Well, if that is you, I will just remind you that there is this blind spot we all have, called “what I don’t know that I don’t know.”  And in this case you should thank God for that!>  As we have eliminated a lot of the noise from our lives, attracted the positive and eliminated the negative, systematically, and with intention, we have been able to feel and hear ourselves with increased sensitivity, it seems to me.  The most recent example of this for me, was Facebook.  It just had to stop, so for those of you wondering about my silence, there you have it.  The homestead Facebook page is still being maintained, but I have not been on my personal page in several weeks.  It has made a huge difference; I have a lot more stillness in my life.  That is not saying anything bad about Facebook, and there are certainly great aspects of the experience, which I miss, but for me it became just another addiction, and I invested more time and energy in it than I should have.  The point is, after eliminating a lot of modern day distractions, TV being the first several years ago, the resulting quiet is gorgeous.  In the space left behind is the work, and a state of more heightened awareness of ourselves is a key benefit of “doing the work,” as Geri likes to say, on ourselves and our relationships. Read more

Of Birds, Bees and Apple Trees

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It has been an active spring season on the homestead, and this post is the resulting “grab bag” of topics.  Last year I had made a commitment to myself to put up a couple of nest boxes, in hopes of convincing a pair of tree nesting ducks to stay, as opposed to passing through on migration as they did last year.  Perhaps it was a bit too late, but I did in fact build and install two nest boxes.

Everything I purchased for the project is pictured (L); 12 feet of 1 in. x 10 in. cedar board, cut in half at the lumber yard, a roll 25 foot roll of 2 foot wide aluminum flashing, and a box of 50 stainless steel deck screws; the instructions are from Ducks Unlimited.  In the second picture (R) the boards have been cut to length using the Skillsaw.  Not pictured are a few roofing nails for attaching the flashing to the tree, two big nails for mounting the box, and some 1/2 in. hardware cloth, all of which I had on hand.

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Top 7 Messages from The Land Ethic Reclaimed MOOC

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Perhaps as I did, you might ask, “what is a MOOC?”  According to Oxford Dictionaries [1]:

Pronunciation: /mook/
Definition of MOOC in English:NOUN
A course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people:  ‘anyone who decides to take a MOOC simply logs on to the website and signs up‘ORIGIN
early 21st century: from massive open online course, probably influenced by MMOG and MMORPG.

My homepage in the Coursera iPad app

I believe I owe a debt of gratitude to Mary C., and the Van-Kal Permaculture Facebook page, for the lead to this treasure trove.  I am sure there are other sources, but this particular course was offered through Coursera, so I signed up on-line and also downloaded the app for my iPad.   There are many course offerings from a large number of prestigious institutions, accessible by browsing or searching the course catalog. Read more

Forest Products: Hard Maple Flooring

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American hophornbeam for fencing

I have posted on more than one occasion, regarding the felling of trees, bucking and splitting to produce wood fuel, and chipping to produce mulch.  There is also American hophornbeam (aka ironwood, see under “Trees” on the Plants & Animals page) growing on the homestead, which makes great fence posts; I have perhaps 15 to 20 such posts air drying now.  Hophornbeam can also be used to make long bows and re-curve bows, which I intend to attempt in the future.  Of course maple syrup is another  forest product, and one we intend to expand our production of in the spring of 2015.  And the list goes on.

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A Jackie Clay-Atkinson Homesteading Seminar, Summer 2014

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Earlier this year, I had decided to give my wife for her birthday, the gift of attending a Jackie Clay-Atkinson seminar.  For those of you who might not know of Jackie, I submit the following from the Backwoods Home Magazine entry on Wikipedia, “Jackie Clay-Atkinson, an independent off-grid homesteader in northern Minnesota, writes articles on all aspects of self-sufficient living, from growing herbs to butchering elk. In addition, her “Ask Jackie” column answers questions from readers on many topics, with emphasis on home skills like safely preserving foods. She brings similar topics to her Backwoods Home blog.”  To find a list of Jackie’s articles at Backwoods Home Magazine, click on this link.  At first I had not planned to attend the 3-day seminar, but as time passed, and the date approached, I finally decided to see if there was room left in the seminar for me.  Fortunately there was, and in a effort to make it more than a purely educational endeavor, I decided to rent an RV and make a vacation of it.  Geri loved the idea of the RV, and on Thursday the 5th of June we headed for the far north of Minnesota, and the homestead of Jackie and her husband Will, just 90 miles from the Canadian border.

The trip was 12 hours more or less, with occasional stops for rest and to refuel.  On the drive, we listened to the audio-book Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, by Michael Pollan. Audio-books, and podcasts, are both good ways of putting your daily commute, or a long drive, to productive or entertaining use; this book by Pollan was both entertaining and educational.  Pollan has written several other books, the most well know of which might be, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals; you can check out Michael’s author’s page on Amazon at this link.  If you are in need of a laugh, listen to A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson, though you will be laughing so hard you may not want to be operating heavy equipment at the time!

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