cold frame issuu

I happened to notice that this PDF was no longer on my blog. This was created several years ago when I first had read Eliot Coleman’s book and decided that if he could grow vegetables in Maine in the winter that I could do it here in VA. I think that WordPress has upgraded their ability to handle an ISSUU document so I am pleased that it is not just a link anymore. I know that several folks have asked for this document and now I can direct them here.

 

Olla Pots…

IMG_0840A couple of years ago, a friend gave me a ton of clay. Literally, a ton of clay. We know that because as Herb was unloading it out of the truck, he was doing a calculation in his head and it was more than we should’ve carried in our little truck. The repair bill later was proof of that. But the clay is piled up under a tarp in the back of our lot and I need to start working through the pile and using this clay.

Last year, I went through the clay and made an inventory of what was there and now, looking at the list, there is a low fire terra cotta. It fires to cone 2, which is low for what I normally work in. So, I was looking at a video this morning from a homesteading family. The Dervaes Family in California who are harvesting 3 tons of food on 1/10th of an acre of land. It is pretty amazing what they have done. So, it occurred to me that I could make some irrigation pots like these from that terra cotta clay. They are called Olla pots and they are a way to conserve water, which I am all about.

Olla pots have been in use for many centuries and are buried in the garden. The idea is that the terra cotta clay weeps the water into the ground and allows the plants to take in the water that they need, at the roots, where they need it the most. According to Wikipedia, it is a very efficient method because very little water is lost to evaporation because the water is stored underground. You can also see how to make your own Olla pots here at this awesome site Global Buckets whose goal is about growing food in 5 gallon buckets. Another good site that shows how they are used is Walden Labs. And here is a great illustration of how the pot works in the ground at this Permaculture link.Old-Pot-Technology.slideshow

This will be a way to use up the clay and give me a new item to make and to help with the Community garden

This is what an Olla Pot looks like...

This is what an Olla Pot looks like…

or my own garden with water usage during times of drought.

Now to find the clay in the pile of clay and get some water added to it so that I can start the process of making a batch of these pots.

September in New England…

Many of you know my long time friend Claudia Altemus, from Berea College. She was my maid of honor in my wedding and we have reconnected. Sometimes, we  feel as if we were connected at the hip because we share so many things in common. Claudia is an avid gardener, both by necessity and also, just because she loves it and feels that more of us should be making the effort to make ourselves more sustainable and use our own resources rather than rely so heavily on mass production of foods and products. I share these views and asked Claudia if she would contribute a segment to my blog. She agreed, but only if she could write it as if she were writing me a letter. What a lovely idea, don’t you think? So I dressed the wording up to make it even more special and am happy to share the first in a series of posts by Claudia for you to read today. We want to make this a regular sharing of ideas about nature, environmental issues and homesteading but, today her letter is about the asters and the butterflies in her garden as Fall is arriving in New England.

Enjoy and Thank You, Claudia, for a wonderful addition to the blog.

Do You Save Your Seeds?

Last week I received my seeds from Johnny’s Select Seeds for the winter greens that I have planted in my cold frames for the past 2 years. I only spent about $20 for the seeds that I purchased for this year. With money a bit tight, I ordered a few of the varieties that I have gotten in the past, but I have also learned that I only really need a few packs to get the frames planted for the winter season so I probably had been wasting money in the past.

A few weeks ago, I started prepping the cold frame beds. Herb turned our compost bin and we put our sifter, which is a stand we built out of scrap wood that has carpenter’s cloth wire screen on top of it, and sifted compost into the empty beds. I turned to soil in each bed and mixed in the fresh compost. This added some fresh nutrients and red worms to the beds so that the plants will have a good start with soft soil.

The zinnias that I used for the flower arrangements at John and Erin’s wedding in July were in these garden beds and were just beautiful but I needed the space for my winter greens. I decided to save those zinnia seeds so that next year I don’t have to purchase those seeds. I pulled out the plants and cut the blossoms and put them in a box to allow them to dry out for a week or two. In the past, when I have saved seeds, I use an office sized envelope, lick and seal the flap and then cut it in half. This gives you a packet for your seeds. Often, a charity will send me a “free gift” of address labels to get me to send a donation to them and I save those labels and found those to be a perfect way to seal the envelopes filled with the seeds and then I use a sharpie and label the pack with the seed name and the date. The seeds are then stored in a cool place ready for next year.

Some additional great resources for you to get info from:

Water Usage…

 

 

 

My oldest son was home for a visit back in April. They moved to Seattle last November after their October wedding. They love Seattle and I am hoping to see their new home this summer when I take a trip there myself. The story that my son told that I thought was fun about their new home, other than Seattle being an incredibly “green” city, was that his new bride had embraced this green-ness by competing against the other residents in their apartment building with overall water usage. The funny part of this is that the other residence weren’t aware they were in a contest. Thomas and Bell live in a building that houses about six apartments that all share a garage like space on the bottom level for their cars etc. Each apartment’s water meter is also in this garage and as they would come into the garage, Belle would look at each apartment’s numbers on their perspective meters. She was trying to gauge how much water they were using in comparison to her neighbors. When she realized that the numbers didn’t reset at the beginning of the month, she kind of gave up because it would mean that she would have to set up a spread sheet and do a daily check of the numbers to see if they were ahead or behind. I just got a kick out of this story and the competitiveness of my new daughter-in-law.

Belle came to visit this week and I brought up this story and we laughed about it. She then said that I would be disappointed with how she washed dishes after I shared how I had noticed other people’s dish washing habits. I’m now wondering how this trend has come about and if people even think about their water usage in terms of what is going to save them the most. The way I look at it, every drop that comes out of my faucet is paid for by me and I want to make that money count with every drop. So, I thought I would share how I try and conserve water in my house and see if I can get any of you to help all of us to save even more water.

This trend that I spoke of to Belle, and which she confessed to doing, is washing dishes with the faucet running the entire time, no stopper in the sink and a continual stream of water going down the drain. I have witnessed this on many occasions, mainly with my kid’s generation.

When I was growing up, you would clean out the sink, and add the stopper and then fill the sink with your hot dish water and soap. Your companion sink, either to the right or left, depending on how your set up is, is filled with hot rinse water. As you wash your dishes you then dunk them into the hot rinse water and stack them into a dish drainer. NO additional running water. I would estimate that you probably are using about 3 gallons of water total. Two for the washing and maybe a gallon for the rinse.

In times of drought here in Virginia, I have used a plastic dish pan in the sink to wash the dishes in and rinse the dish above that dish pan of wash water capturing ALL the water and then that water in used to put on the garden in the evening to help keep a plant alive during those dry spells. I believe this is probably the best way to truly salvage all the water and not let any of it go down the drain.

I’m told that using the dishwasher is absolutely the best solution because it uses the water in the most efficient way. However, I see people washing their dishes in the running water method BEFORE they then load them into the dishwasher. While most dishwashers, mine does, should be able to handle the dirty dish without even rinsing off the foodstuff, I understand that some don’t and the dishes may need a little help before they go into the dishwasher but I believe that you could probably get away with a good scraping with a rubber spatula into the compost or trash instead of involving any water at all. I worked at a YWCA camp one year in college and each table had a rubber spatula that the kids were required to “squeegee” their plate before stacking them up, eliminating the extra pre-washing before loading them into the commercial dishwasher in the kitchen area.

I use a lot of water conservation techniques in my pottery too. I have a dishtub in the utility sink in our basement and try at all costs to avoid any of my chemicals going down the drain. That dish pan gets really full of waste water and maybe gets dumped out into my grass once a month. That same water is used to wash out brushes, containers, glaze buckets and even rinsing off my hands before I finish for the day.

Drinking Water Brochure Outside

Drinking Water Brochure Inside

 

This topic could obviously be a completely new post due to all the chemicals that get flushed down the drain daily and end up in our watersheds.

My hope is that you will share your dishwashing techniques with me and help others to think more about their water usage and maybe even get into the competitive spirit of my sweet daughter-in-law, who is having fun trying to save the planet in her small way in Seattle. Good luck Belle and I hope you can figure out a way to get your neighbors involved in your game! I really love the spirit of this idea!

Fairy Land…

There is a wonderful stream here in Tom’s Brook where I gather moss and such for my terrariums and for moss gardens. Herb walks by this stream every now and again and saw this tree and several stumps that he thought would make a great staging area for the items that I am making for the fairies. This morning we loaded up all the gear and a few of the items and drove to the spot and set the fairies up with a village under the tree. I think it really works well and should stay green most of the summer for future photo shoots. Enjoy the photos and happy day after St. Paddy’s Day.