Humble Garden

ReSkilling for future food independence

Archive for May, 2008

Make your (garden) bed

Posted by Nika On May - 30 - 2008

Humble Garden 2008: planting and rigging the irrigation

I mentioned previously that I was going to use landscaping fabric to keep down weeds and manage water loss. I am ALMOST done with the planting and transplanting.

Humble Garden 2008: planting and rigging the irrigation

I thought I would share what the beds look like now. I am putting in a weeping hose system that I have cut to length. Its not done yet as I need to get some regular 1/2 inch tubing to span the gap between the beds.

Humble Garden 2008: planting and rigging the irrigation

My going back to work full time resulted in our indoor started plants being VERY meek. The other day, when we were shopping at the farm supply store in Spencer, MA called Klems, I bought some of their conventionally grown plants for transplant. Such is life.

Humble Garden 2008: planting and rigging the irrigation

The process is: I lay out the soaker hose, I cut holes where I want the plants, I dig out the soil, plant the little guys deep (in the case of the tomatoes), cover, and then water in.

Humble Garden 2008: planting and rigging the irrigation

Some weeds grow under the brown paper fabric but not many and they are not hard to pull.

Our carrots are growing as are our beets. I will be finishing the main beds this weekend and then the squash (to be allowed to vine throughout the blueberry patch behind the main bed area).

I will write soon about the latest additions to our animal menagerie. I can say that we are closer to my personal dream of getting the jersey cow .. cant wait to make butter and cream! Pigs will come after that.

Humble Garden 2008: planting and rigging the irrigation

Chicken Tractor

Posted by Nika On May - 23 - 2008

making baskets

(KD and plastic egg)

Two weekends ago we got a few things done that I will share here. It was a sunny day on saturday so KD, Q, and I sat in the sun (tho a bit chilly) and started making hay-based baskets. Above you can see KD playing with one in progress, great place for an egg.

making baskets


These wont last long but it was nice to sit in the sun and play with it. Above you can see KD holding the egg basket with the unfinished rope hanging off to the side.

making baskets

(Such a cutie)

new nest boxes, found parts

(Nest box frame)

I grabbed some garden stakes and such and cobbled together the nest box frame above. Darn chickens love to roost on it and lay eggs UNDER it.

building the chicken tractor

(Making a chicken tractor)

Ed and Q took some other left over used garden lumber stuff and made a chicken tractor. Didnt take them very long. This is just one for our backyard. If you want to do this for the field then it needs to also have a covered section for when it rains, chickens dont like rain much. (neither do goats!)

chicken tractor

(Eating clover)

Chickens, eating clover and grass, in the tractor. Hawks flew overhead but never tested the tractor. Nice to be able to control the grass and then get even more beautiful eggs!

Caprine Capers

Posted by Nika On May - 21 - 2008

KD giving the kids hugs

(KD hugging Maize)

Our goats now have a much more substantial fence and area to roam in. I estimate that they have about 20,000 square feet for their pen. Their area is filled with wild blueberry bushes (which we are awash in).

We have also adopted 5 more kids bringing the total goat herd size up to 8. This is sort of scary to me but its something the family seemed to want. Deep Breaths. Why scary? We have to feed these girls and then I will have to be the midwife sometime next spring. I have midwifed cats and dogs in the past but goats kidding out twins, yikes.

Gonna have to read up.

Torte - Grand Dame

(Torte, the Grand Dame of the herd)

Torte is our only milking doe at the moment but she has a really good output right now (over a gallon a day).

A few more goats


Sometimes Torte will headbutt twerpy kids who get in her way but she is very calm and patient. Sometimes, they will all break into a leapy gallop and fly from one far flung end of the pen to another.

Goats eating leaves

(Goats eat leaves)

The kids and doe will walk about, nibble leaves, branches, bushes.

Goats: millet


This kid is called Millet.

All the kids have grain names, including:

  • Wheat
  • Millet
  • Amaranth
  • Maize
  • Oat
  • Spelt
  • Rye

Some of them are Torte’s babies, some come from a goat called “America”, some from another goat called “Midnight”.

Kids nursing

(Feeding chaos)

Feeding 7 kids is chaos incarnate. Ed, Q and KD have to corral and manage the various kids and Torte (who wants to get in on whatever is happening) so that each kid is fed for certain.

Q and KD managing the kids for who gets fed next

(Controlling kids)

Kids nursing

(Kids close up)

They are noisy kids but every single one of them is as sweet as they can be!

Kids nursing

(Kids nursing)

Breaking out the seeds

Posted by Nika On May - 18 - 2008

Humble Garden 2008: before planting

(before planting, all fabric is down)

This year, owning to the fact that I am back at work full time, I am pre-empting weeds and hopefully watering issues by laying down landscaping fabric before planting the beds.

Humble Garden: transplants

(indoor starts)

Once the fabric is down I then go back and use an eXacto knife to cut open little windows through which I plant the seeds.

8x8 bed

(8’x8′ bed)

Perhaps there is a better way to do this but one advantage to doing this (at least it seems that way right now) is that I can write on the fabric with a sharpie what was planted where.

As with any idea, I may be cursing the day I put this stuff down in the fall. For now, it seems like a good idea.

The sweet onions are already peeking out.

onions peaking up

(Onion greens)

Our spearmint, marjoram, and parsley came back really vigorously early this spring. I dug up the marjoram and parsley and transplanted them all to one end of a bed and they didnt seem to mind it one bit!

spearmint, majoram, parsley

(Overwintered herbs)

I am going to be doing the same with the tomatoes. In the case of the tomatoes though I will also be putting down some red plastic and then hang some strips of mylar (to flutter vertically amongst the tomato vines) to discourage aphids. I read on the web (can’t remember where now) that foil upsets the aphids. I am going to guess that it seems like the sun has come out UNDER the leaves and so they move away from the sunny under-leaves to find that the other side of the leaf is also sunny and then they are encouraged to move on. Last year the only plants that I had aphid issues with was corn (and HOW).

This year, any aphid-phylic plant will get mylar streamers. (I will leave one or two plants mylar-free to be my scientific null control)

I have only just begun to plant the beds.. it’s a long process and when I get home at night, I can never seem to summon the strength to get a whole lot done :-/.

Must butch it up!

for the vines

(Pup tent for climbing vines)

for the vines

(Used chicken wire and recycled cedar sticks)

Another thing I need to get done ASAP is build the netting “pup tents” for the vining crops (which have yet to be planted as well).

Garden Project: the map for the first two beds

(Written map I used to plot out plantings, later put it into electronic form, see below)

Once I can get a few minutes (hours) free, I will do up my planting diagrams for this year and then post them here.

Garden Project: Bed 5 map

(Electronic copy for one of the beds with crop details)

I will also be doing some more video of the 2008 Humble Garden over time to show how things progress. Looking back at last year’s I realize how much a gift to myself it was to record that beauteous riot!

I apologize for my cheesy voice over :-)

The end of OUR oil

Posted by Nika On May - 6 - 2008

More garden & wood shed progress

So, as you likely know, we live in the North East USA (MA) where oil is usually used to heat in the winter. We have always heated with our wood stove but used the oil heat-on-demand heater to make hot water (showers, dishwasher, etc). Because we are careful with our oil use we go through a 250 gal oil tank in a year.

That oil ran out this morning.

Traditionally, oil companies deliver oil on a subscription service here. They automatically deliver oil and then bill you.

We called our oil guy today and learned the following:

  • He is about to declare bankruptcy
  • He owes over $600,000 USD due to inventory and customers bailing out on their back debt
  • Other oil companies in our area are in the same condition
  • They too are on the verge of bankruptcy
  • No company in our region will take any credit
  • All deliveries must be paid in full upfront before delivery or COD
  • Our tank will cost $1050 to fill

Yep, our tank will cost $1050 USD to fill.

Lets see.

Can we afford even this one tank of diesel?

  • I am driving our gas guzzling mini-van because my car is dead
  • my commute is over 400 miles a week
  • We do not have the money to buy even a cheap junker car
  • With the cost of gas and the cost of basic food stuffs we honestly do not make it from one paycheck to another
  • The garden can not feed us yet, we are not even out of frost season yet so its all potential and not even sprouting yet

To dig out of this hole will require money we do not have. We are not likely to be alone in this one.

News Flash – Oil is pegging over $122/barrel today.

Right now? I can’t see the end of this path.

I will be going home from work tonight to cobble together a solar shower – my hide can not take ice cold well water showers!

Is the price of oil still academic to you?

How are you feeling the pain these days?

About Me

We are a family of 5, including Nika, Ed, Q (14), KD (7), and Baby Oh (4). We garden 1024 square feet of raised beds plus assorted permacultural plantings. We also have 13 LaMancha dairy goats, 40 chickens, and one guard llama.



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