Day 258 – laptops and plumbing

First off, the laptop and the plumbing are two separate things – although I would like to throw technology in the toilet at times. My laptop had been clunking along for awhile, then it got a little worse, but was still clunking along. This past week, it up and died. For a piece of technology […]

First off, the laptop and the plumbing are two separate things – although I would like to throw technology in the toilet at times.

My laptop had been clunking along for awhile, then it got a little worse, but was still clunking along. This past week, it up and died. For a piece of technology that was purchased in 2006, I’m told that this is a good long life. Off to our computer boneyard it goes, probably to be resucitated at a later date as a robot or something. We do have the “family computer” for me to use when the tablet or phone just won’t do the job. At this point, the only thing I really need it for is making presentations for my humanities class. I’ve figured out how to do everything else on the tablet. Yay, me.

It’s been a relatively calm week on the farm – it was too stinkin’ hot for a few days to do much of anything except stay inside and drink lots of water. So I got some studio time in – mostly glazing. I went to Cornell Studio Supply in Dayton for their “Clay Day” festivities. Nothing like a bunch of clay artists getting together for food, beverages and clay games. I was the left hand in a pair throwing contest, and made a 30 degree bowl – while blindfolded! Saw some friends, made some new friends, and generally had a good time.

My friend Erin (who owns Cornell Studio Supply) – she was part of the 13 pound challenge, which was to form the tallest/widest work from 13 pounds of clay.
2013-09-14 17.13.00

The highlight of the week came today – plumbing! Our kitchen sink has needed a new faucet for a while, so a trip to Menards netted a nice faucet/sprayer combo. That was about 4 months ago. I guess I needed time to work into it. Or something! My problem is I want/need a whole day for this stuff in case I screw it up and need to make trips somewhere to get, well, something to fix the mess.

As expected, it took awhile to complete – the cold water hose was cemented onto the threaded pipe under the sink (we have really hard water). Denny suggested the Dremel tool and diamond blade for some plastic wingnut demolition. It worked.

Here’s the remains of the wingnut, and the new faucet assembly:

2013-09-15 15.55.06

2013-09-15 14.53.09

Something I now know how to do, although it’s ok if I don’t have to do it for awhile!

Food for thought – we were discussing how people view animals and food. Example – at one of the farmer’s markets, a lady was very upset that the veg seller would be taking his unsold produce home at the end of the market and feeding it to his chickens. He and I weren’t quite sure why she was upset – the chicken eats the produce, gets big and strong, and is butchered for meat to feed the human. Seems like a pretty good cycle to me. Moving along to our own garden. We decided that we had canned enough tomatoes for our future needs, and have been picking tomatoes to eat fresh. This picture from last week shows that we still have a lot of tomatoes on the vine:
IMG_0361

And after the mini heat wave, they are going bad very quickly. What to do? Pull the vines and feed them to the chickens, who pull off the leaves and tomatoes for a nice feast. We humans will still get the benefit of the tomatoes down the road when we eat the chickens. So have the tomatoes (or the leftover produce of my farmer’s market friend) been wasted?

Day 258 – laptops and plumbing

First off, the laptop and the plumbing are two separate things – although I would like to throw technology in the toilet at times.

My laptop had been clunking along for awhile, then it got a little worse, but was still clunking along. This past week, it up and died. For a piece of technology that was purchased in 2006, I’m told that this is a good long life. Off to our computer boneyard it goes, probably to be resucitated at a later date as a robot or something. We do have the “family computer” for me to use when the tablet or phone just won’t do the job. At this point, the only thing I really need it for is making presentations for my humanities class. I’ve figured out how to do everything else on the tablet. Yay, me.

It’s been a relatively calm week on the farm – it was too stinkin’ hot for a few days to do much of anything except stay inside and drink lots of water. So I got some studio time in – mostly glazing. I went to Cornell Studio Supply in Dayton for their “Clay Day” festivities. Nothing like a bunch of clay artists getting together for food, beverages and clay games. I was the left hand in a pair throwing contest, and made a 30 degree bowl – while blindfolded! Saw some friends, made some new friends, and generally had a good time.

My friend Erin (who owns Cornell Studio Supply) – she was part of the 13 pound challenge, which was to form the tallest/widest work from 13 pounds of clay.
2013-09-14 17.13.00

The highlight of the week came today – plumbing! Our kitchen sink has needed a new faucet for a while, so a trip to Menards netted a nice faucet/sprayer combo. That was about 4 months ago. I guess I needed time to work into it. Or something! My problem is I want/need a whole day for this stuff in case I screw it up and need to make trips somewhere to get, well, something to fix the mess.

As expected, it took awhile to complete – the cold water hose was cemented onto the threaded pipe under the sink (we have really hard water). Denny suggested the Dremel tool and diamond blade for some plastic wingnut demolition. It worked.

Here’s the remains of the wingnut, and the new faucet assembly:

2013-09-15 15.55.06

2013-09-15 14.53.09

Something I now know how to do, although it’s ok if I don’t have to do it for awhile!

Food for thought – we were discussing how people view animals and food. Example – at one of the farmer’s markets, a lady was very upset that the veg seller would be taking his unsold produce home at the end of the market and feeding it to his chickens. He and I weren’t quite sure why she was upset – the chicken eats the produce, gets big and strong, and is butchered for meat to feed the human. Seems like a pretty good cycle to me. Moving along to our own garden. We decided that we had canned enough tomatoes for our future needs, and have been picking tomatoes to eat fresh. This picture from last week shows that we still have a lot of tomatoes on the vine:
IMG_0361

And after the mini heat wave, they are going bad very quickly. What to do? Pull the vines and feed them to the chickens, who pull off the leaves and tomatoes for a nice feast. We humans will still get the benefit of the tomatoes down the road when we eat the chickens. So have the tomatoes (or the leftover produce of my farmer’s market friend) been wasted?

Day 190 – vertical gardening

2013-07-09 20.34.40One of Denny’s cool gardening ideas.  This one is a two-person job.  Take one hog panel and 8 sturdy stakes (these are rebar).  Pound 4 of the stakes in a line, each one about a foot from the next.  Put the edge of the hog panel against the stakes and push the other end towards the stakes.  Your helper should be arching the panel as you move.  When the “loose” end is where you want it to be, hold the panel in place and drive in the other 4 stakes on the outside.  And you now have a temporary trellis for peas, cucumbers, pole beans, anything that climbs.  Take it down at the end of the season, store the materials in the garage/barn, pull it out again for next year.

We have 2 of these next to each other – 8 pickling cucumbers, and 4 Winter Luxury pumpkins.  The pumpkins are an experiment – I’ve read that you can make slings for the pumpkins to rest in as they grow – tie a strip of t-shirt to the panel and rest the pumpkin in the sling.  As it grows, it will fill in the sling, but not break the stem.  I also read that if you don’t sling the pumpkin, it will only grow to a certain size so the stem won’t be stressed or break.  Smart plants!

I also tried a new (for me) planting method – hilling.  You can see that there is a lot of grass here (we mowed the plot before starting work).  I dug traditional holes for some of the plants, but hilled the rest. Basically, you put the plant on the ground and build up a dirt mound around it.  The dirt kills the grass underneath and the plant grows just fine.  Keep the area around the plant free from grass/weeds, and you just did a lot less work for the same reward.

 

MENF 2011: Show me the money

Sometimes its easy to get lost in encouraging people to grow their own food and forget that this stuff still costs money. As idealistic as we may all want to be, at some point we have to pay the bills. It turns out paying the bills may not be as hard as you might think. […] Continue reading

Sometimes its easy to get lost in encouraging people to grow their own food and forget that this stuff still costs money. As idealistic as we may all want to be, at some point we have to pay the bills. It turns out paying the bills may not be as hard as you might think.

There are as many ways to make raising your own food pay for itself as there are people trying to do it, but I’ve noticed that most of the cash efforts seem to center around two kinds of things: greens and chickens.

First, the greens. Greens, sprouts, and salads have become the most common acknowledgement most people pay to trying to eat healthy. If you’ve noticed the lettuce display at your local grocer, you will have noticed people seem to be eating a lot of the stuff, and they seem to be willing to pay quite a bit for what they get. As an aspiring food grower, you can tap into that market, especially in the off-season.

The simplest way to grow such greens is to set up a simple greenhouse, hoop house, cold frame, or low hoop over a row of greens. One speaker I heard recently grows sprouts and microgreens on an Ikea bookcase fitted with cheap florescent lights from Lowes. While it is important to do your research and make sure you’re doing it right, growing greens can be simple and produce a good crop year around.

Of course, marketing such a product can be its own challenge, but that’s where due diligence comes in. Let’s face it, family and friends and word of mouth is the best way to sell your product. Local year around farmers markets and greenhouses are often looking for new sources of the products they sell, or you could sell them there yourself. Try getting your product into a local restaurant by giving them a sample of what you produce.

Second, we have chickens, and really poultry of just about any kind. Poultry flocks give food growers multiple benefits, but the one we’ll concentrate on here is the income from eggs and meat. Depending on your market, pastured chicken eggs can go for as much as $6 a dozen, and a flock of 12 birds can produce as much as 4 dozen eggs a week, though it’s sometimes a less. In addition, laying hens can pay for themselves twice, once in the eggs they produce and once again in the meat they produce later. Keeping a few roosters on hand can guarantee meat chickens as often as every 16 weeks depending on the variety you raise.

Granted, poultry has a higher start-up cost, and you may incur ongoing costs as a result of needing to buy feed, but I think in the long-run chickens are one of the simplest and most profitable undertakings any food grower can invest in.

There are many other ways you can make money from your food growing operation, limited only by your creativity and willingness to put out the effort. The key to these undertakings is to keep them as simple as possible and to remember that small steps are better than no steps at all. Don’t get impatient if things don’t happen right away and keep focused on the result instead of the work.

DLH

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