garden boxes in early november

the annual garden area is our current food source as the food forest develops into production. despite dry summers, raise beds allow for gopher protection and keep the winter plantings out of the swamp like conditions that winter rains create. over time as the soil and plantings up-slope from the annual garden improves and works to hold more water the raised beds will give way to mounds and paths.

the ground cherries this summer were very prolific, where as the year before they were a no show. clearing the beds for fall plantings produced several buckets of fruit. These I tossed into the food forest for self seeding as a ground cover and food source. and although the chicken don’t seem too interested in the plants and fruit, their scratching the earth will likely keep the number of plants to a minimum. the bed is now full of garlic and fava beans.

no frost yet.

Posted in annual crops, Food Forest

frost date

it’s april 5th and there is frost on the ground. good thing I’m so late in building the beds and putting out seed. the predicted date is May twelfth for 2014. thirdly-seven days to go. soil temps and row covers will be the rule.

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Posted in annual crops, Climate

2 days of rain and 19 bee corpuses

i hop-scotch out to the top bar hive this morning before heading into the office. it was drizzly and cold and the ground was mushy. the cloud cover had come right down to the grown. as I leaned over the hay bales near the entrance I saw dead bee bodies on the porch. only three were small; worker bees likely. which makes the others likely to be drones. one body was still white! i found a stick and pushed the bodies around, rolling them over to check their wings. most had deformed wings. their coloring, or lack there of, looked familiar. i had notice similar colors in the grave yard below the  entrance in weeks pasted.

so the bees are still fighting off DWV by culling baby bees before or as they hatch and throwing them out of the hive. with the drizzle they would not fly out with the bodies, just leave them on the porch until a dry time and then push them over. i’m still researching option for treatment or other ways to assist the girls. with a forecast of a week of wet weather, I’m focused on food supplies.

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Posted in Bees

new blue berries

before I left for work  I popped out to check on the new blue berries. surrounded by a makeshift deer fence they seem to be enjoying the rain. three could produce berries this year. but I’m ahead of myself.

last year, towards the end of spring we built a garden box that was one foot deep, four and quarter feet wide and eighteen feet long with gopher wire attached to the bottom. and placed it at the edge of the orchard in view of the kitchen window. it’s my first garden box on the site and I’d plan to fill it with blue berry bushes. but first came the soil. working with no budget I had to make my own.

blueberrybeds2013i started with a layer of wood chips to help hold water and then, over the next year I layered in green wast with pine needles, kitchen compost, fall leaves and lama poop with bedding. i turned it all this weekend with the help of a girlfriend. i’ll tell you… it looks fabulous! the soil is teaming with life and is almost black. one earthworm was ten inches long. my girlfriend also gifted me four blue berries plants and I picked up a few more from grocery outlet. seven in all; two south moons, two pink lemonades, and three something else. on Monday night I popped them out of their pots and into the ground, without disturbing the root ball, before the rains came on Tuesday night. i’ll need to mulch with pine needles this weekend to keep the weeds down because blue berries don’t like their roots disturbed by weed pulling.

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Posted in perennial crops

rain barrels and wood chips and raised beds

 weekend report 12/52

on Saturday I drove an hour and a half to take a rain barrel making class, connect with like-minded individuals and get a free rain barrel. it was sponsored the Watershed Program of the Butte Environmental Council, an educating and advocating  group for land, air, and water in Northern California. The weather was beautiful, the people were great and I developed a few new ideas on how and where to use rain barrels. and I brought home my first rain barrel.

east of the house is a sunny, open area that will become the annual crop site. it’s lumpy and grassy and puddles in the rainy season. the gophers tunnel a lot and construct mounds all summer long. the plan is to cover the area with wood chips and then install raised beds with gopher wire on top of the wood chips. there are a few concepts going on here. first, the traditional garden beds will provide a yield while the food forest is being developed and I’ll be able to propagate and collect seeds from plants that work well in  this ecosystem to use in that food forest. second, the wood chips/raised bed is a modified hugleculture. the chips under the boxes hold water for the plants in the raised beds. by the time the chip decompose the soil should be improved enough to hold its own water. the raised beds keep spring and winter crops out of the puddles. after the boxes are installed the paths will be dug out to create modified swells and back filling with more wood chips. as the water is slowed higher on the property this area should become more traverse-able in winter.

that being said, I headed out to the free chip dump zone at the edge of town and brought back 28 cubic yards of chips. i was so excited to see this project move forward i forgot to put down the cardboard. this happens when i work by myself. i get caught in the moment and forget my own plan. tis the life of the weekend worrier.

with the first haul of wood chips I started the raised boxes; collecting the wood from my stash and cutting it to size for the first box. next is to assemble.

when my dad came over on Sunday afternoon we worked the chipper; chipping the woody parts of the green waste I’ve been getting and adding it to my haul. we’ve come to the conclusion that despite the huge pile of woody parts, there will not be enough chips to fill the area. i see many trips for wood chips in my future.


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Posted in annual crops, Climate, Food Forest, Hugleculture, water harvesting

the bees need room!!


i scrambled home at lunch to work in the top bar hive; or at least move the follower board so the girls would have more room before the weather turned. the temperatures have been lovely during work hours and dangerously cool during my time off. i didn’t want to open the hive until the air was a balmy 65 degrees. last weekend was perfect but I was at my PDC class both days. i can see lots of activity in the three bar space I left for the bees last fall thru the observation window.  the girls  have built out two additional bars and have started on the last one. they have a tendency to build from the north to the south end of the bar so the observation window always shows more comb then is really there.

the daughter came along to assist. we decided to through a pad over the bars above the brood nest as a precaution. we found a small ant’s nest in the gabled roof but didn’t inspect much further than that. i removed the feed jar and then the follower board. boy! was it pretty inside. we gave the girls four more bars, replaced the new follower board and closed up the hive. all seemed well when I looked after work.

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Posted in Bees

the weekend warrior finds a weekend PDC

i’m excited! Cathe’ Fish, a local permacultureist and master gardener, is offering a Permaculture Design Course that I can attend. i needed the timing, the price and the local to be just about perfect in order to pull off a course like this. when I’ve completed all 72 hours of study and hands on experience I’ll have a certificate to practice and teach this wonderful philosophy for living and working on earth. this weekend will be our first meeting.

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Posted in Permaculture

real frost

7:02 am –  this morning was the first real frost of the season. the deck was white with it. the orchard grass sparkled in the early morning sunlight. the branches and logs in the future huglekulture twinkled, mocking me for yet another undone project. i could just make out the stacked hay bails around the hive in the shadow of the fence line. i wanted to run out and see the bees. to make sure they were OK. i’d just returned from my early morning workout and I was freezing. how could they not be.

but bees have a hive mentality. they are a family of thousands. plenty of little hot bodies to keep the cluster warm. i need not worry.

but I do.

{today I’m a worker bee. doing my 8 to 5 at a desk. but someday it’ll be different}

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Posted in ramdom thoughts

the green waste adventure

i’ve finally made contacted with some local landscape maintenance companies; two of them! there brush prunings, grass clippings, leaf rackings and the likes will be arriving at my house in the next week. the plan is to mulch the orchard and future food forest to keep the grass from needing to be mowed, hold water and improve the soil. my father has been collecting cardboard boxes for months; has flatten them and located them under an old tire in the orchard. sheet mulching will commence when the green waste gets here.

Posted in Uncategorized

when bees arrive

the big event of april

the bees arrived on Sunday the 14th. the hardware store ordered them for me along with everyone else. they arrived on a flat bed truck from a town about 3 hours away. i picked them up in the afternoon. one small, screened crate with a hum. they were healthy and I’d say happy but I don’t yet know what a ‘happy’ bee sounds like. they were calm. cluster round the queen and sucking juice from the can. i put them in a large cardboard box, closed the flaps and placed it in the back of my jeep. we had a 3 minute drive ahead of us and I didn’t want them blustered by wind. i left them on the floor of the garage until installation time.

hive loading

the entire household was fascinated by this event. all came out to participate and watch. big JR was suited as he had a childhood trauma to overcome. little JR was not and didn’t seemed concerned. i followed instructions and suited up. the bees hummed along in their crate on a milk crate in front of the hive.

after opening the hive and removing about 10 bars i placed the follower board at position 13. i planned on leaving 12 bars for the bees to work on.  i left bars on the back half of the hive as a work surface. i proceeded as most bee loading videos instruct you almost without incidence. slam the crate on the ground. pry the can out of the crate. remove the queen cage. check her health. add the marshmallow. hang the cage from the third bar. dump the crate of bees into the hive. close up hive. seems easy enough.

Posted in Bees
Did this last month