Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Reading - The Benefit of a Volunteer Garden

One of the best parts about the on going. year after year garden in my opinion are the volunteer plants. I have gotten to the point of weeding religiously through the month of June and if I spot a plant I recognize as not a weed I pretty much just let it go. However after about June I get so tired of weeding and the plants are usually so well established I just kinda blow off weeding.

A Big reason for this is because the bees are usually kicking into high gear then and require a lot more work but the heat also keeps me from caring if the weeds grow or not. The constant grass mowing gets old and endless weeding on top of everything just keeps getting pushed back.

Who cares? It doesn't seem to effect my production levels much as my plants are already way ahead of the new weeds. The little side benefit is I get all kinds of volunteers I hadn't counted on too.

This evening's pickings are all from volunteer plants I didn't put in myself this year. Another five gallon bucket full of Cowpeas in their shell and a box of Tomatoes that have all grown in the Watermelon patch that was killed off by the Squash bugs. I started off picking the Cowpeas and then mixed in with their dried pods I begin noticing Orange/Yellow Tomatoes. I had just been complaining about the fact that I forgot to plant any Orange or Yellows this year because I really like them and surprise I got some anyway.

The truth is I have added more than one good variety of plant to my line up simply because it fit so well that it became a permanent feature all on it's own.

That bucket of Cowpeas is a prime example of volunteers that defied the odds, and my ignorance, to become a regular garden planting. The first time I put them in was 2011 and I wasn't all that impressed with their yield. The thing is they kept coming back and then I noticed they also seemed to prefer being planted much closer together than recommended.

Once a volunteer keeps coming back I certainly take notice because in my opinion a plant that likes the location well enough to constantly reproduce on it's own is the type of plant you want to get very familiar with.

How many tales of off grid, long term survival have I read about that included a bad growing year followed by glorious volunteers the next year that saved the day? I can think of a few off the top of my head and the first that comes to mind was that Fundamentalist Russian Family that moved off into the forest and had no outside contact for decades.

Volunteer plants can save your life and put you back into the garden business once again even in a total off grid situation.

The down side to volunteers? Well now I have another box of Tomatoes to prep, dice and find a place to store em. What a pain :)

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sweet Potato Gurus Needed

This is the first year I ever tried to grow Sweet Potatoes and so I am looking for advice on how to harvest them and save some for slips for next year.

I almost didn't get these plants past Spring as the rabbits ate the H%$ll out of em and I thought had killed em all but luckily they came back. Believe it or not there is actually an 8x4 foot raised bed under that mass of Sweet Potato leaves.

So my questions to all you Sweet Potato growing experts out there are.

When should I start thinking about harvesting the potato goodies that I just know lie in wait for me under those vines?

The information I been reading suggests right before a frost but that may not be until the end of October around here.

What's the best way to save a few slips until next year?

The info I read suggest the potatoes themselves only store about 6 months or so. If that's the case should I cut and store slips differently or store a whole potato until next year?

Yes I am a Sweet Potato Newb and other than JuGM (I think it was her) once writing a post that almost made me want to date a Sweet Potato I have no prior experience with growing these things only eating them around Thanksgiving time.

Any input is appreciated!!!

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Edible Hedge Experiment

Two borders of the house and barn area of the Small-Hold sit alongside a county maintained gravel road and a State Maintained blacktop road. One thing I have always liked about our location is the line of sight view we have. In every direction we have a minimum of at least a half mile or so of open ground, at least until the Corn get's up above head height anyway.

Of course this is a double edged sword. It means we are pretty exposed for all to see as well. A set up like this is common North of where we are located and kinda comes with the territory of large agricultural areas but it becomes much more rare South of us as you enter the Ozark highlands. The plus side to this arrangement however is all around us the land closes back in and becomes a series of rugged ridge lines,  creek beds and hardwood gulleys that are not easily traversed on foot. Basically to enter the open areas locally any group of people would easily be funneled into a few points of access which means while we maybe exposed it isn't hard to figure out which avenue of approach those on foot would be forced to make.

The other big disadvantage of the open borders we have is that they are situated under power lines. I hate powerlines. It seems like everywhere the government has put a road the electric company has seen fit to demand, and get easement right of way and build a damned power line. In order to avoid what they consider their right if you have road frontage you almost have to choose between a house and a tree really. While I know we all love electricity and I certainly like the loads of wood chips the tree trimmers bring me from cleaning out these power lines they are a real pain when it comes to strengthening your borders.

I tried a number of things over the years but nothing really satisfied the power companies. I say companies because I actually have two different ones to deal with here. One on my side of the road and a different company that provides service to the other side but runs it's lines on our side.

I grew small hedges that were not suppose to grow more than 8 foot in height. They didn't believe me and poisoned them.

I grew a large hedge that did moderately well. It was actually a form of Elm tree that proved resistant to their poisons and grew fast enough that when they came by and cut it within a year it was a nice hedge once again. It also had the advantage of being large enough to burn as firewood if I caught them cutting it and asked em to leave me the large logs. The trouble is over the years this hedge has been loosing ground very slowly to the cutting, poisoning and Elm disease we have in the region.

Then about five years ago I had an epiphany. Actually while I was trying to push through a gulley that had become filled with Wild Plum I realized it was as impenetrable as any hedge I had ever seen. I also knew that trying to get rid of these trees is a real pain unless you get em down enough to constantly mow over them to keep them from coming back.

So I started transplanting Wild Plum seedlings along the half of the hedge that had been killed off over the years by the power line crews. The picture at the top is the part of a section almost 30 yards long I got established and have been letting it grow. It's well over 12 foot tall in some places and almost impossible for a man to push through without making a lot of noise and a good bit of cussing.

The best part about this is that this entire section was cut completely down to the ground only about 3 years ago. It grew back to a hedge within the first year after being cut completely and is already producing fruit within 3 years.

The power line guys come around every seven years like clockwork and cut the lines out completely. Sometimes you can actually talk them into just shearing off the tops but since you never know for sure when they will come by that's an iffy proposition. The poison spraying guys come by twice a year but this little belt of Wild Plum has proven more than resistant to their sprayers and the belt is now thick enough that they only get the side facing the road. This hedge also cuts down on gravel dust as well and gives me a nice batch of Wild Plums to pick from the inside.

One of the local Prepping partners has even used these Plums to make preserves and stuff with although I never have. I have eaten them raw and they are actually very sweet but as things progress around here I am finding I am getting much more produce of various kinds than the Wife and I can harvest each year so I am happy to let my local partners have all they want.

It's taken years but so far this type of natural hedge has proven all I hoped it would be. Resilient enough to withstand the cuttings and poisonings. Thick enough and fast growing enough to act as a hedge and the added benefit of producing much needed fruit within only 3 years of being totally cut down.

Oh.. Ya... And the Bees LOVE the early Spring Blooms!!!

There is nothing I can do about the power companies sending their crews through. I could abandon the  right of way completely but I would lose a lot of ground in doing that. At least I know that this type of hedge can bounce back from their devastation within only a few short years though. After planting these trees I had to wait for them to come by and attack them then wait to see how they bounced back but after all these years I think I finally found the perfect fit for a hedgerow under these conditions.

And I am pretty sure this hedge will be here long after the crews stop coming.

Keep Prepping Everyone !!!!!

Tractor Time : I'm Back

Made a 12 hour run yesterday and I have been playing catch up all morning. Then had one of the local prepper friends come by to raid my Apple tree since it's pretty obvious I am not going to get them harvested this year now.

The tractor girls have all been lounging around taking the last few days off but they are now in for a big surprise.

Time to put em back to work. More to come tonight I hope after we get all the backlog in chores finished and caught up.

As usual click for a larger image.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More Beans, Wax, Sheep and Vines

Picked another two 5 gallon buckets full of dried beans, still in the pods of course. I will start removing them from their shells once all the end of season work is finished. I have kinda gotten into the habit of sitting down and turning on a movie and just de-shelling beans one bucket at a time well into Winter.

It's amazing that all the work I put into growing and harvesting the pole beans yields maybe nine or ten dollars worth of grocery store beans. The true pay off for this labor of love isn't in saving money though it's in having a working knowledge of just what is needed when the time comes. I doubt many can really wrap their heads around just how much time and effort would go into growing and storing all the beans you would need to survive until the next harvest season. So far my average is still sitting at about 1200 plants per person for a year's supply. That's a a lot of beans and anyone who thinks they will be able to pop down to the local small town store and continue to buy em so cheap is just simply delusional.

As you can see in the picture above and below I have been running the solar wax melter non-stop during this heat wave. I have filled my little wax pot full tot he brim and have six extra baggies full of filtered wax for the Winter.

Haven't completely decided what project I am going to attempt with this batch yet. The list is long. I know I have a bunch of new frames to coat with it and maybe a couple of candles to try but after that it's still undecided.

The Cutting Crew has almost eaten the pasture section completely down to nothing. There is still some decent grazing they can do behind the barn but they saved me quite a few gallons of gas this Summer not to mention a fair amount of feed. In fact the entire thing worked so well I am considering expanding it next year and allowing them more access into other areas after I provide some nice fencing to protect my fruit trees.

With a little creative fencing I might be able to get the actual mowing down to a fraction of what I have been doing. The only downside I have seen so far is that some of these ewes have gotten so fat I may have to put em on a diet before I introduce em back to their rams. A couple of these ladies have fat rolls showing through their wool.

The puny little sticks that I planted claiming to be grape vines have really taken off since the winds died down and this one in particular has grown to the top of it's trellis. Pruning is definitely in order for them once Winter hits. If they grow any more I may even start seeing grapes off of em by next year.

Finally my last two new hives are showing some nice orientation flights each afternoon and are about ready for a second brood box each to help em get through Winter. If I get the new brood chambers on within the next couple of days the Goldenrod flow should really give em a chance to get them built out in comb before the cold temps start coming.

Looks like I am going to be needing to buy a few more sheets of foam insulation to cover all my new hives too.

With the grass turning brown and the beans getting harvested the daily duties are actually beginning to shrink into manageable numbers once again. Instead of 100 things to do each day I now have only 50 and can almost get em all done. Another day of picking Pole beans and then I will move on to the Cowpeas and the remaining Tomatoes, then it will be time to start mowing the garden under and give it a good Fall till.

It's been a pretty good year in production across the board and I am actually starting to look forward to some cooler temps and slower demands. I know I am way behind on building new hive boxes and such anyway. Of course wood cutting is now once again close and I am not looking forward to that.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Still Harvesting and I am about done with Blogger

Luckily I have come out from my lethargic lack of motivation the last couple of days and actually been getting some other stuff done besides cutting Tomatoes every night. Blogger has been driving me crazy lately too. It seems I can make a new post and it takes it forever to begin showing up at linked sites. Sometimes taking a day or more and often not showing up at all if I make another post. I have tried all different settings and even asked on their help forums and nothing seems to work.

I did a post earlier today and after over 6 hours it still hasn't shown up anywhere. I find this happens more on Mondays and Tuesdays than any other times during the week but can be a problem ont he other days as well.

Oh well at least it's free I guess.

The dried Bean harvest is in full swing now. I got the first seed crop for each of the four varieties I grew this year put away so the rest is FOOD!!!

So far I have been working my way in from the back trellis and averaging about a full five gallon bucket of dried pods per trellis this year. Actually I think overall the pole beans produced less than average this year but the breeding experiment continues.

Bush beans and Cowpeas produced like gang busters but I have not begun picking the Cowpeas yet although several of them are ready. All in good time, the Pole beans come first and then once all the dried pods are picked I will begin shelling em and putting them in their storage containers for use all Winter. I can also get a more accurate production average per plant then as well. Some of the Pole beans are actually still producing new pods but this latest heat wave has carried them into the almost finished state for picking.

I used to pick the pods green and then dry the beans out in my solar box or the oven but a couple of years ago I decided to try growing them the same way they are done commercially and just letting them dry in the pods. It works great and I have stored some dried beans for years without any spoilage this way. After I shell em I just put them in canning jars the size I need for cooking and then soak em the day before I need em. It has worked beautifully so far.

The last of the Onions have been pulled, dried out and stored. I thought about putting in another bed full and I still might. I still have the third row of Potatoes blooming now and a bed of Sweet Potatoes do harvest once we get a cold snap I guess. I haven't been down to check on the Pumpkins in a while to see how they are doing so I need to do that soon.

This heat wave we been getting has sure slowed things down though and the grass is starting to turn brown while several of the early trees are now dropping their leaves.

Fall is just around the corner.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!

Mental Disorders and the Decline

Rev. Paul over at Way Up North has a post up showing a group of teens walking down the street all talking on their cell phones and asking the question Sheeple or Zombie?

While I commented that I often wonder if the loss of cell phone towers wouldn't prove as bad as the loss of EBT cards his post reminded me of another topic I been mulling over for a few months now. I am not sure I have sufficiently thought the topic out enough to do it justice but I will try.

We have become a society full of every type of mental disorder one can think of. Sometimes I feel that perhaps it's a scam and really as a society we are no different mentally than we were even 100's of years ago. It's just promoted more today. Makes me wonder if what we are seeing with all these mood enhancing drugs and mental health workers isn't just a move for money by those who benefit. Then sometimes I look around and realize in today's world there are just so many more mental traps for people to fall into that perhaps it isn't so much a scam after all.

I imagine that a post collapse world will not be an easy place for those with mental problems to live. It certainly isn't going to be easy for normal people but it's going to be far worse for those with behavior or social issues as well.

While an expert could write volumes about all the various mental disorders out there I personally seem to observe one particular type over and over again. Kinda a type of Autophobia that seems to be getting more and more prevalent as technology grows. A need to be constantly talking and visiting with others.

I couldn't tell you how many Ex Coworkers I observed being walked out and fired over the years because they couldn't leave their cell phones alone for even three hours. Mostly Women I will admit but a lot of Men as well. It was like being alone with their own thoughts for even a  few hours  was worse than  being unemployed or starving to death. Admittedly the job in question was loud and repetitious so their will power broke down much faster than if they were able to do something interesting but still if they couldn't make it two or three hours then I imagine in a survival situation they would drive themselves crazy in only a few short days.

It wouldn't be just cell phones and the internet. Without plentiful fuel supplies people would be stuck and most of them unable to walk even a  few miles for company.

Let's face it the post collapse world is going to become a much lonelier place than it is now. Might be best to deal with it and figure it out before the time comes.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Receding Tide of the Mega-Cities

For the last several decades cheap fuel allowed the constant expansion of mega cities throughout the world but the sprawl was more noticeable here in the United States namely due to the added incentive of White Flight as some have termed it and the housing bubble that allowed flipping to take place. It manifested itself in the form of suburbs more than direct expansion of the cities themselves. Since I had some in-laws with a direct connection to the government employment nipple who lived in the St. Louis area I was in a position to directly witness this phenomenon of suburban expansion first hand.

In the space of less than 15 years they had moved from the far Western edge of what is now Florrisant finally ending up in the little town of Marthasville which is some 40 miles or more away from Saint Louis and up until the late 90's was just a small speck on the map before the road graders began leveling it and dividing the farmland into lots. About every two or three years like clockwork they would move a bit further out and they certainly were not alone, thousands followed in their wake.

Behind this wave of suburban sprawl came the businesses. Strip malls, outlet centers, golf courses, you name it. I would say in one form or another St. Louis spread it's reach a good 60 miles to the West.

Sitting on the edge of what I call the high tide mark of this sprawl was a large outlet mall just South of I-70 on the Western edge of Warrenton.

during the early 2000's the huge parking lot was always full of cars. The stores were bustling and most spaces were filled. Not to say there wasn't some turnaround because there was. Seems like every time you would go by there one store would be out of business but another soon took it's place. There were about 50 stores in this mall during it's hay day.

Not so anymore however. While the traffic around St. Louis is noticeably lessened the last few years this Mall has suffered horribly. Changing ownership and finally going into receivership. When I drove past this weekend I counted less than three store fronts occupied out of the entire property and they were not name brand outlet stores.

Over the last three years or so I have read more than a few articles putting the blame in one place or another for the decline of this mall. Many of the businesses that were there of course went under nationwide which gives those with an interest in this location a shred of hope that it isn't just this one mall but the truth passes them by daily on I-70.

People are not traveling that far any longer.

Just as the businesses followed the housing as the wave washed across the land the housing will now follow the businesses as it recedes back.

Last I heard the now Ex in-laws even followed as well building a new house in St. Peters which is much closer to down town St. Louis than their last residence. Just as I witness out here the houses in close are selling much faster than the one's way out and as time passes this lag is making a difference.

I wonder how long it will be before we start seeing obviously abandoned houses to go along with these abandoned strip malls?

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!