Bees, Chickens, Ducks, Gardening

Adventures in Urban Farming, bee keeping, and FOUL! Join us as we learn to grow and nuture!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Re-awaking my need to blog!!!

WOW, I am back, with a fierce sense of sharing my adventure spirit with others! 
The ground is starting to freeze, the air is chilled, and life wants to go dormant.
I am fighting the dormant urge, wanting to cuddle up and check out to restore my spirit.
BUT, alas, it is the time to re-group, research, and organize for the future ahead!
I sound so put together, don't I. Very easy to create that spirit on paper, but putting all my thoughts, and visions into action is the part of this journey I want to share. I feel if I connect with "like minds", I can motivate myself through the spirit of community. 
I have recently re-connected with my sister, and we were observing how we missed our "gab-sessions";  it is such an instrinsic part of our nature. We need connection with others, the exchange of information, frustration and then dream visions. 
SO, I want to invite you formally to my site, to be with me, us; who ever shows up to share. Let's move forward together, and find ways to create and fulfill our dreams, what ever they might be. Welcome!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dropping in...

About a week ago now we had an unexpected event at the farm.  My wife and daughter were outside near the garden and I was getting prepped for my "garden expansion project" planned for the following day.  I happened to be heading into the barn (on an especially windy day) when I heard a crack!  I immediately yelled "CARA!!!" and saw her head appear near the door of our house.  We both had time to look towards one of our huge silver maple trees on the property and saw an enormous branch fall to earth.  It was one of the most shocking experiences that I have encountered.  There was absolutely no time to react.  Had Cara been under the tree, by the time she would have looked up...I hate to even think of it.  By the grace of God no one was hurt.

Measuring 52 feet long and with a 5 ft circumference at the base, this was a monster!  It crushed a small 12 ft tree and a bench, landed about 5 feet from our van, and ended up straddling a huge dead stump that I was trying to figure out what to do with. 

As I mentioned earlier it was a windy day, but I was sure this tree had seen it's fair share of wind over the years. It got me wondering, "What caused it shear off?" I started to looking at the trunk and it became fairly apparent.  I felt the wood that was scattered about from the trunk itself, and sure enough, it was extremely dry. What I noticed ON the tree, was something that I had pointed out to the kids a few weeks earlier...mushrooms.  I thought they looked appetizing, but had no way to reach them.  In retrospect, I believe that they were a sign of structural degeneration within the branch itself.  Now, this is all hindsight, but there must have been a leak, pretty major one to allow enough water to leach out of the branch to nourish this grouping of mushrooms.

I see that there is a white fungus growing on the inside of the branch, and assume that this is either the cause, or the result of this lack of water traveling up into the branch.  I'll have to do some research and see what I come up with.  The upper section of the branch was just fine, still plenty of "wet" wood and green growth.  So.....hmmmmmm????

Needless to say, my plans to expand the garden were scrapped for my new, unexpected, project.  I have three chainsaws.  An old electric chainsaw, a newer Husqvarna, and a Stihl 290 Farmboss.  I mainly used the Stihl to cut the majority of the branches, but did use the Husqvarna for some of the smaller cutting.  

With the wet wood though, it was dulling both of my chains FAST!  So, I cut up as much as I could, and after failing to find a replacement chain with large teeth, I ended up calling someone to remove the last 20 feet of branch PLUS the old stump upon which it fell!  Two birds with one stone!  

I guess the reason for this post is to caution everyone to be vigilant about your trees.  My mom called it a "widow maker," and boy is there truth to that.  The tree service came out and identified some more tree branches (if not the whole tree) that should be trimmed back.  All it takes is one gust, a heavy snow, or can never tell.  I guarantee that from this day forth, I will be calling a tree service the first sign of fungus growth!!!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Harvesting Black Walnuts

So, autumn is upon us and so are a bunch of falling walnuts! I had the kids help me collect a bunch about a month ago. As they sat in this bowl we continued on with life, but they wrinkled and became more and more hardened. After a few weeks I noticed that they disappeared.  I do believe that Cara was tired of looking at the distinctly unaesthetic skin.

To be honest, I let them sit around for so long because what little I could find on the internet about harvesting them seemed rather messy, laborious and time consuming.  Being determined to eat some of OUR walnuts this winter, set me to task (that and watching squirrels run off with fallen nuts..."Damn you, furry minions of hell!")

After mowing our lawn I started to pick up as many nuts as I could, the boys soon joined in and we had an old five gallon bucket filled over half way up.  I had read on another site that the fleshy green meat that is surrounding the nut tends to stain anything it comes in contact with and to don old clothes and such.  Plus the site recommend having a wire brush, and that 25 nuts per hour was to be expected.  Alas, I ended up doing it "my way" as Frankie S. used to croon.  I think they look pretty darn good too!

We started by splaying them out on the driveway (gravel).  Next we crushed them with our heels.  A little step and twist seemed to do the trick (although my eldest son liked the jump and attack tactic).  We were left with a myriad of empty green husks and different shades of walnuts. [ I should mention that some of the squirrels had tried to eat through a husk or two, and these sometimes appeared to be rotten. We still wanted to see what they looked like when opened though...they are BLACK walnuts after all, maybe it was nothing.] We discarded the really black looking nuts and collected the partially black and all remaining nuts into the five gallon bucket for stage #2.

Cara had recently removed the last of our drying onions from a screen that she had found laying around. So I had the boys grab that, and we dumped our walnuts (with a healthy amount of meat clinging to their nuts...insert joke here...) and rubbed them into the gravel with our hands and feet. [It was about this point that I noticed the "brown stain" really taking hold on my fingers.  I had neglected to use gloves when picking up the nuts from the showed.  So the boys went into the barn and got some latex gloves for themselves and I got a pair of leather ones for me.] We didn't apply too much pressure for fear that we might break them, but enough to scrub some meat off. Then we collected the nuts and began to rub them on the screen, not individually, but maybe 5-8 at a a time.  We did this for maybe 20 seconds for each batch and then dropped them into the bucket yet again.

Don't forget that I am winging it here.  I don't exactly how to get from point A (the green fleshy husked nut) to point B (the tasty little morsel of food) except through a more labor intensive route that I was unwilling to take.  I decided that we should try to remove the remaining meat off the nut through friction, and wash off some of the gravel/dust in the process.  I had the boys load clean looking gravel into the bucket, added some water and agitated the whole lot by twisting the handle back and forth while suspending the bucket a few inches off the ground.  I emptied the brackish water and repeated the process two more times.

I must say, they turned out to be pretty clean!  So, we laid them out on a table to dry overnight and then collected them into a plastic bowl to store in our basement (a cool dry place is what I had read) for 6-8 weeks.  So that is where we are now.  I hope to try them out in mid-November sometime, and when I do...I will be sure to keep you posted.  Until then...enjoy the fall...

Checking back in: our first batch has been sitting for 2 weeks, and should be ready to eat within the month. Brandon felt the ladies of the house needed to experience the Black Walnut harvest, so he set us to task on a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon!
After several hours, and my 8 year old needing several pep talks to finish the task, here is a solid pointer!
Wear latex gloves under work/garden gloves:

Here is hoping the end is worth the effort!

Update 7 October 2011:

I have been looking at a few videos on YouTube and have seen some interesting ones regarding black walnuts.  One guy up in Canada uses a hammer, concrete and wire snips to get to the walnut meat inside, saying that the black walnut "nut" is so thick it will break a normal nut cracker.  He also started to mention the chemical that is found in the husk, leaves and especially the ROOTS of the tree: JUGLONE.  Wanting to know more I found a site that explains how juglone can affect a garden, or plants near it.  How one should not use the husk as compost, or any other part of the tree.  I found it all to be very illuminating and thought that I would share.  Happy Harvesting!!!  Here is the link:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Well our blog is up...not really running though.

Here it is!  After farting around for 3 hours (most of it trying to upload a photo), I am going to write this and head to bed!  (Sigh) Our first blog post.  YAHOO!!!!!