Monday, November 30, 2009

Sorry to be MIA for so long -- both of us were unemployed and running out of funds, as well as holidays and getting prepared to be in a First Friday trunk show with my wares led to lack of updates. Sorry about that!

But anyway. I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving! My relatives graciously allowed us to come to their house and they had even prepared an organic turkey, which I thought was fantastic.

I have decided that the front bedroom that we currently don't use is going to be an inside greenhouse, since we can't afford a real one yet. I just need to figure out what types of plants, and preferably food-bearing ones, that we can grow indoors. And then start making temporary planters and the like until we can afford to make real ones.

I think it will be really nice to have a room in the house producing its own oxygen! I'm tempted to make it be my new "office" once everything gets going a little.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Silly Goose Tricks

So, Lena and I went out to put the geese in the mini-barn for the night, and they weren't in the pen. And not honking. I started to assume the worst, that either a predator had found them or that they had somehow escaped and wandered off, or Santa Claus came and burgled them, y'know, all the logical conclusions.

Turned out, they had put themselves into the mini-barn for the night.

Geese are awesome.

Cute Video

Someone showed me a video today about a family living in a suburb of LA who manage to have a mini-farm in their 1/5th acre yard. The news announcer is a bit annoying, goading viewers to wonder if this suburban farm is odd or not, but the actual family is awesome and inspiring.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Birds

It was so nice outside today, that I just sat out near the birdfeeders for about an hour and took some photos. It's definitely not my goal to continue having plastic birdfeeders full of storebought birdseed forever, but I like to make wildlife feel welcome and so for right now these will do.

I took a ton of photos, but here's a few highlights.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Vermiculture and Vermicompost 101

Most people are familiar with the concept of composting, where you basically throw all your vegetable waste, grass clippings, paper products and whatnot into a compost bin and let it all slowly decompose back into fertile soil. Composting is hugely important in a sustainable garden.

But there's another method of composting that is starting to catch on: vermiculture, or vermicomposting. Essentially, it's keeping pet worms. The worms eat the organic matter and digest it much more quickly than microorganisms alone will, and turn it into extremely fertile soil. Keeping worms can be a little on the gross side, but it's so beneficial and so easy to do.

When I was first researching this concept, I kept seeing products for sale like the "Wormtopia" kit, for $175 (!!) which I personally think overcomplicates the matter. I've never used one, so I could be wrong, but at that price, I decided that a big plastic $10 bin would suffice instead.

I cut a few holes in it for ventilation (visible under the lip of the lid), and filled it about halfway with semi-damp newspapers, dead leaves from the yard, and some yard dirt (to include some microorganisms). The trick is to make sure everything is slightly moist. You don't want to drown the little guys, but you don't want to dehydrate them either. Worms also seem to prefer a temperature range from about 60-70°ish F, so you probably want to keep them inside, in a dark basement corner or garage where it won't get too cold. Under the sink or in a closet would work too.

I put my bin in the basement.

There is one type of worm which seems to be most recommended for vermiculturing, since they eat a lot, proliferate quickly, and don't get too stressed out when you poke around in their world. They're called Red Worms, and they're NOT the kind you can dig up in your backyard. Now, these worms can cost upwards of $50 a pound, so maybe experimentation with normal worms might be worth a shot. Let me know if you try! I lucked out and my neighbors gave me some of theirs for free. Take that, capitalism.

So now I've got a plastic bin with some various types of biodegradable bedding, and a bunch of free fancy worms wiggling around.  Time to feed them and put them to work! Over the course of a week, I just collect all my plant-based kitchen waste into a small bin. I include bread, pasta, veggie waste, spoiled fruits, coffee grounds, whatever. Anything big should be cut up into little chunks first to make more surface area for little worm mouths. And you probably shouldn't put any meat or dairy products in there, unless you want your bin to be stank.

Once a week, I take my scraps bin downstairs, dig a little hole in the corner of the bin, and dump everything in there. Then I cover the food back up with the bedding or soil, close the bin, and walk away.

This is what went in my bin today. I'll take another photo in a week. Supposedly, you can harvest the dirt once every three to six months, depending on your particular setup. You're basically looking for rich, dark soil that smells like fresh dirt. You might also find some brown liquid at the bottom of the bin, which I've heard referred to as "worm tea" and which is also a fantastic liquid fertilizer for the garden or houseplants.

Totally renewable and completely organic. And a lot easier than trying to turn a giant pile of compost.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Internet is a Liar

First of all, Happy Halloween everyone!

Now back to the geese :)

Lena and Brown Goose having a conversation

So, as it turns out, the Internet is a Liar. In all the research we did about geese, the internet maintained that domestic geese basically are too heavy to fly very far, and therefore only needed a three foot high fence. I don't know about other geese, but White Goose apparently doesn't pay much attention to what the Internet says, as she easily flies right over that fence. Repeatedly. And then honks loudly to be let back in. She's like a cat in goose form, I swear.

Anyway, so we went out and extended the fence to be four feet high, hoping that the added height would keep her in her pen. (As a sidenote: I really don't mind per se when she's out of the pen, all she does is wander around the meadow. But I don't want to chance her getting into the road or being attacked by a predator, so it's for her own safety that we want her in the pen.) We spent two hours making the fence higher, only to finally finish, sit back, and watch her fly right back over it. Brat.

So White Goose got her wings clipped. I had wanted to avoid this, but it turned out to be much less difficult to do than I had thought. Clipping the wings doesn't hurt the bird at all if done correctly, it's basically just like cutting your hair. Except then you can't fly anymore afterwards. We just gently snipped off her ten big flight feathers, which she sat very patiently for, not struggling or stressing at all.

And now she stays nicely in her pen, safe and sound.

Friday, October 30, 2009

So, we've been in Indiana for about three weeks now, setting up house and getting settled in.

As our first foray into the world of mini farming, we decided to focus on getting a few farm animals established. I would have preferred trying to get a garden going first, but since it's late October and we don't have a greenhouse yet (I want to make one SO BAD), it's just not good timing right now. But establishing a small number of animals on the property will be beneficial when we are ready to start the garden, since animals make free fertilizer!

So after much research, we decided to get a single pair of geese. Geese are supposedly one of the easier types of poultry to raise, as they tend to be very weather hardy, disease resistant, good foragers, and self-protective.

We spent a day or two preparing a site on our property to house the birds. We picked the area directly behind one of our outbuildings (an older wooden garage), so that their free-range pen can be easily linked to the garage (which we now call the mini barn) to give them shelter from the elements, predators, etc. Most of their pen is essentially open grassy meadow, bordering on the edge of our forest to give them shade in the summer and let them play in the scrub. They have a little swimming pool, and we built them an outdoor shelter as well as giving them open access to the mini barn. We also put up a three-foot high fence, as per the internet's recommendation.

Then we brought home a pair of geese! We've had them three days now and already the experience has been invaluable. They teach us as we go. We have one white goose, of the Embden variety, and one brown gander which is a Chinese Brown. The white goose looks pretty typical of what you think a goose would look like, but the brown goose is really interesting looking, with wild-ancestor type coloration and a strange knob above his beak that I have no idea what it's for.