As Long As You Have A Garden

Monday, 15 December 2014

A Gift From The Sea

You may have heard about the torrential rain and high winds we've experienced on the coast. Our meadow was covered in water and the highway was awash but we suffered no serious disruption to our lives. Once the system passed we decided to see if  any seaweed had been tossed up on the beach. Not only did we find seaweed but the most beautiful leaf mulch washed from the hills. It was already well broken down, a rich, aromatic mixture of organic materials. It had piled up in drifts on the land side of large logs which line the beach. It hadn't picked up a lot of sand or grit and was relatively dry from the few hours of sunshine we had post storm.

We took five buckets, one of seaweed and four of the mulch. Seaweed is superlative for adding minerals to the soil. I don't like to take too much although currently it is not over harvested. I won't be harvesting any from Christmas onward as kelp is the repository for herring eggs and an important element in the marine food chain.

Tomorrow it will be spread on the garden as part of my soil building programme.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

I've Lost My Carrots

Are you the kind of person who thinks things through? Predicts the outcome of an action based on the known variables? Not me, more of a just do it and see what happens kind of gal. Which explains why I can't find my carrots.

With all the care I put into growing my root vegetables, I thought I would go the extra distance and cover everything with straw.

All I had to do was poke around in the straw and follow the green carrot top down to the root-until we had a week of frost-and the green bits shrivelled up and fell off.  Now I try to guess where they are based on the position of the last one pulled up and paw around in the bitterly cold, wet straw until I feel something solid. I'm pretty sure this isn't the standard technique. I might have to study up on  root cellars.

I might as well tell you about the broad beans while I'm at it. I planted them with visions of tender beans early next summer. No need to put a marker in, right? Then I got all fired up about soil building and enthusiastically layered seaweed and compost and leaves and straw on all the "empty" beds. Now those beans are ten inches below the surface! Nothing for it but to wait and see what happens.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Homesteading Workshop Day 2

Topics for Day 2 of the Homesteading Course were water management, thermal greenhouses, bokashi and biochar. 

Water management

First up was a visit to an urban farm to see their system of berms and basins to retain run off water. 

Probably hard to see in this picture but the water is diverted, from an area where it was pooling, into a slightly graded bed built over a basin filled with branches and compost. The point is to keep the water where you want it and allow for slow absorption.

Thermal Greenhouse

Not much to see here either as I was so busy talking I forgot to take interior pictures.

All reused windows, locally milled fir lumber from a couple of trees taken down nearby, salvaged insulation and finishing materials. The design includes a partial green roof, water collection and storage for thermal mass, planting beds, composting beneath a seeding table, space for a future chicken roost. Having a water barrel for heat retention is the main factor in keeping the greenhouse warm after the sun goes down. Thermal mass heat storage.


Here we are making our own bokashi bran. We took two large bags home which basically sets us up for our own system. The only other thing needed is a 5lb bucket. Bokashi is an anaerobic composting system, using fermentation, to break down meat and dairy products. 

The science behind bokashi is complicated and to my mind a little vague. Our instructor recommends it as a good way to compost waste destined for the garbage. He also uses the bran in his regular compost for heat build up and speeding up the breakdown of materials.  He claims the results are dramatic. I'm about to rebuild my compost pile so I will add the bokashi bran and observe the results.
Bokashi info.


My new pet project!

Everyone made their own biochar burner.

Biochar is a product made when organic solids are slow-burned in the absence of oxygen in a contained system. Biochar is made like charcoal, but is made sustainably from biowaste products (herbaceous or woody crop residues, non-salvageable timber, brush and animal manure), and is applied to soil for two benefits: long-term carbon storage and as a soil amendment. It is predicted that at least 50% of the carbon in any piece of waste turned into biochar becomes stable, locking away that carbon into the soil for possibly hundreds of years. 

terra preta showing small pieces of  charcoal
I find the history of biochar fascinating. It stems from ancient "Terra Preta" (dark earth) soils found in the Amazon. These pockets of soil are widely believed to have been amended or mulched with charcoal waste from pre-Columbian Indian hearths thousands of years ago. Research in the 1900s and early 2000s showed that Terra Preta soils have higher nutrient availability, higher cation exchange capacity, greater water retention, and greater porosity/aeration than the neighboring native soil, resulting in improved crop growth. (Information from Utah State University)

Find instructions for making your own burner here 

I can't stress enough how valuable I found this workshop. I will be putting into practise almost everything I learned (except eating the bunnies). When new workshops become available I will advertise them on this site. For out of towners I'm looking into providing accommodation at a reasonable rate.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Homesteading Part One

Let me see if I can remember enough about the Homesteading Course to write a post.

not me-homesteadmaniawebsite
I didn't know about the uniform until I showed up.