Seasons Change

No, I’m not talking about Spring to Summer, but wet to dry, or in this case wet to moist. It’s June, and there’s still some water falling occasionally, but evaporation has caught up with precipitation and left many of the plants getting thirsty.

I’ve started to water plants, and plan to start pumping water from the middle pond up to the lower greenhouse. This will leave the thousand gallon cistern (almost full) to be a backup for when the pond gets too low to pump.  I do expect to have plenty of water for the garden and new plantings right through till fall, but keeping the lower goldfish pond full may become a challenge.

Water is no longer overflowing naturally from the middle pond, so the fish pond is already 8 inches low. Last year was a fiasco of loose connections and haphazard attempts to fill the fish pond so this year one of the goals will be to make sure water goes directly to the fish pond from the middle pond when/if it becomes necessary to fill it a bit.

Water here is always a crap shoot, too much/ too little and no way to know in advance what the next season will bring. It is always possible we could get a good strong soaking rain that refills everything, but likely for the next couple months we will be lucky if it waters the plants occasionally.

I also have 4 new trees to plant, dwarf Granny Smith apple, Kiefer Pear, and two different pecans. I know where the pear can go, and have plans for the apple, but the pecans will need considerable space on the north side,  of zone 1 and accessibility there is difficult. Cleaning out a path for the backhoe I discovered one of the locations already has hickory tees growing which I intend to leave there, so the next step is thought and observation locating an alternate space that will accommodate these massive trees.

Oh well, it keeps me busy.

Remember, if you’re not having fun, you’ve got the design wrong.

Spring in full Swing

Here we are approaching the last frost (assuming there might still be one or two left) and I am just barely ready to start planting.

A few nominal efforts to weed the strawberries, and I am more convinced than ever to start replanting them using a sheet mulch and fresh weed free soil on top, as if it were a brand new garden.

It is time to seriously consider the next backhoe rental or purchase, and also time to get really busy clearing the path for swale development.

The goldfish managed to survive in the main goldfish pond in greatly reduced numbers. perhaps losing as many as two thirds of their numbers.

In the upper pond their are about 5 of the 25 catfish I stocked last year. To bew honest however I’m surprised any fish survived in the green yellow mud puddle the upper pond had dwindled down to by the end of the summer.

The real issue with fish survival I believe was the lack of rain through the fall. To be sure the heron took a toll during the summer, but the main killer was simply the climate.

This year there will be several new gardens starting in different places, and some of the planting sites from last year will be developed further and become more productive, but the main focus will still be the ongoing water main frame development.

I continue to read and reread the masters, Geoff Lawton and Bill Mollison for hints as to how to proceed, and at present continue to return to the idea that the main frame is a priority in the macro sense, while the close in gardens are the priority in the micro development.

I have started to put in some more perennials blueberry, yellow raspberry, mulberry, etc trying to over stack my plantings with diversity.  The kitchen garden structure also got a fair amount of attention this winter with clearing out some of the remaining trees and briars.

I purchased my first thornless blackberry plant which will be going in at the bottom of the garden and I’m anxious to see how well the native blackberry presence indicates success with the more productive cultivars.

So many different projects call for attention, with so many aspects of ongoing development depending on the water main frame and how well it does its job. I’m fairly confident, but as with so many things, the key will be patience and timing.


Yes, Ok, it’s Officially Winter

And it has been for a couple weeks now. When the first killing frost is in the low 20s(F) you know it’s time to start bringing in firewood and get the wood stove ready.

I rarely run my batch-rocket hybrid, and fact is it is still under development. The first “door” was a glass pot lid, but likely was the soda lime or borosilicate which are really not geared for the intense heat of a rocket.

I found out recently that the Visions cookware is actually pryoceram which is good to much higher temps and has greater thermal shock resistance, so I have impressed a shallow visions fry pan into service as my new door.

I also lined the top of the batch box with the ceramic fiber blanket material which allows the fire to heat up more quickly. The other major modification was to rig up a fan to help the exhaust at startup. This has effectively eliminated all smoke in the room which was a major problem only partially shared with my J tube RMH.

We’ve had some pretty high winds that have forced me to do a little more on the roof in terms of fastening everything down, and, of course I was forced to harvest all the tender plants in the garden. i did a vinegar pickle out of much of the pepper crop, and have some drying, as well as some more to slice and pickle.

The sweet potatoes yielded quite well also, although they are really still mostly an experimental crop for me. The biggest problem is to keep the leaves away from the deer and rabbits. As well as they did, I see next summer having many more areas planted, and perhaps some new varieties, although the purple ones are definitely coming back next year.

Even though nights are pretty routinely in the 20s now, the days are often quite nice, with a light sweatshirt or even just a t shirt at times being all that’s necessary. The fish in the garden pond are still out in force, especially when I feed them, but the gold fish pond is frequently iced over now and only barely melts by afternoon, since it has more shade and tends to be colder overall.

The dams will probably need ongoing attention, or at least some backhoe work to reinforce and raise them a bit, or else I will probably be worrying with them in early spring to moderate the flows and keep manageable levels, and there is still quite a lot of tree cutting to do.

I’m debating on whether to continue on with my older model battery chain saw, buy the newer version of the 18 volt model, or go ahead and get the 40 volt one.

My current system works well since I have a charger that uses 12 volts to charge the 18 volt batteries, the 40 volt system will require an inverter.

And to be clear about the issues, inverters are one of  the most troublesome parts of a system. They can blow out in lightning strikes, or just plain self destruct from overloads, failed fuses, or continuous labor. Anything that can bypass the use of an inverter, or really any sort of phase change from production to use of the electricity is worth looking at. Even just storing energy involves loss of a certain amount of production from various “frictions” between the PV, the controller and the battery.

So upgrading to a 40v system really is a big deal requiring an extra set of batteries for the tools and even extra pv panels to provide for the extra energy consumption.