Our First Pullet Egg

Our first pullet egg arrived on July 24th delivered by one of our Leghorns.

So half of our crew have started producing, and we have moved on to the laying mash. So far they are enjoying the free-range experience, dining on bugs, flax seeds, and various veggies.

wtrWe also erected our garden watering crane. Having a round garden called for some contraption that allowed the hose to be free of snagging and ripping out squash and getting caught on other various garden items.

It was constructed with (2) 10′ steel fence posts, slid into a buried larger pole so it will turn, and half-inch pipe toward the back for supports. I added a section of white flex hose to keep the garden hose from kinking. All in all, it works pretty good, and the Missus is happy about not taking out any tomatoes during the watering process.

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Back to Eden

We were recently told about a great little film called, “Back to Eden“.  It had such a strong impact on us that we really encourage you to watch it if you have any interest in Scripture,  low impact and low effort gardening.

Earlier, we had decided to ask our neighbors to bulldoze our front lawn into terraces.  We kept putting it off and putting it off, and last week we decided to put it off until Spring.  The problem was that we had noticed that every time we tore up the native grass, the bare earth looked so sad and dry and almost immediately thistles, and only thistles, would grow in the bare patch.  Then we would begin a battle to kill the thistles, who through no fault of their own, were growing in the bare patch we had created.

Then we watched the film.  The way that they reveal the growing process in nature and how it can be applied to your garden left us sitting for a while with our jaws open in astonishment and delight.  So simple.  So obvious.  So natural.  So we’re going to do it.  No bulldozers.  No bare earth.  Just natural goodness.

Really, we can’t spoil it by giving it away.  Please, just watch it.

Summer eclectic

Summer is in full swing here at the homestead. Here are some photos of what we’ve been up to lately.

First Layer of papercrete on the earthbag dome

It was a battle to get the first base layer up during all of the rain we had a few weeks ago, but we managed to finish, and learned a lot for when we apply the second layer at the end of July.

Our PVC skylights finally have a glass cover on them.

The Garden of Eatin’

Our garden as a whole is 85% completed, and 95% planted. This season’s garden is five times bigger than last season.

Here are some of the kids who have made an appearance so far.

The tomatoes are off to a good start.

Our onions are happy campers.

Potatoes are starting up.

The walking onions are strutting their stuff.

The horseradish is growing like gang-busters.

There will be more of what we planted as they come up.. stay tuned.

And the greenhouse has three varieties of cucumbers… Parisian Pickling, Cucumber Delikatess, and Suyo Long. We also have some Zucchini, Crimson Sweet Watermelon,  Valencia Winter Melon, and Kazakh Melons.

Planting Siberian Pea-shrubs

We also planted 300 Siberian Pea-shrub seeds along our road, and around 300 seeds in a bed to grow for root stocks that will be replanted next Spring around the property.

Outdoor Shower

We also put together our outdoor shower. This year we built it out of pallets We still have to install the glass windows at the top, and we’ll be adding pine shakes to the interior and exterior with our froe, and some spiffy floor tiles.

We connected two five gallon buckets and spray painted them black to heat up better in the sun.

We cut a hole in one of the bucket lids and inserted a section of garden hose in it with the connector on the ground for easier access to the garden hose.

The makeshift shower head which works really great.

DIY Solar Night Light

And… made a sconce out of a wire hanger to hold a pair of solar garden lights to add a night light inside… simple and functional.

More to come later.

Earthbag Building Update #4

Back in town for the day to run some errands and replenish provisions. We had another 40 cubic yards of lava rock delivered on Monday. The delivery was easier this time than last October’s delivery, and we were able to have them place it closer to the work area this time.

The vegetables are flourishing. The green house is thriving…

Our tomatoes are starting to come into their own.

This tommy is about the size of a tennis ball.

And we’ll have plenty of Cherry Tomatoes.

We thought the Squash plant wasn’t going to produce… but she surprised us.

It was very tasty!

The outdoor garden is also producing a good crop, given the little time we’ve had during building to really tend to it as much as we would have liked to.

Our onion bulbs are about as big as a handball at the moment.

Our Beets.

One variety of lettuce… don’t remember which one.

Another variety of lettuce… we’ll mark them better next season.

Our potatoes are doing great. Here is our first Yukon Gold.

I think we also had a Russet mixed into our seed potatoes.

The dome is taking shape. We have all of the window forms installed except for the bedroom, and an additional window for the kitchen area. More photos of that to follow in the next post.

DIY Green House

We completed building our green house last weekend. We started on April 17th and worked on it for four continuous weekends. We are very pleased with the way it turned out. We opted for a modest size of 12′ x 16′.

When we build our next green house, there are a few things we will do differently. (1) Level the ground before we build. (2) Reinforce the base frame corners and pay more attention to the tendency of the PVC pipes to work their way outward by using re-bar as anchor stakes to strengthen each pipe, and keep the outward pressure off of the frame. (3) Always pre-plan your excess dirt pile. Dirt always seems to triple in size after you dig it out. (We speak from experience)

Things we did right the first time… (1) Bracing the PVC pipes with 1″ x 2″ wood strips on the top and sides of the frame. (2) Digging out the beds before we put the plastic on.

Things we may wish we had done differently… (1) Having the ability to lift the plastic on the sides to allow for more air flow on really hot days. (We’ll update you on this at the end of the summer)

Here are some photos we took during the building process.

We used 2″ x  6″ for the base frame, and 1″ PVC pipes.

We secured the PVC pipes with 2 Two-Hole Straps on each pipe. (I only took a photo of the first set of straps) At this stage we should have used re-bar as anchor stakes to strengthen each pipe. There was a big wind storm during the following week which caused the pipes to flex so much that it broke the screws that were holding the base frame together. So we had to nail the frame back together, and added scraps of 1″ x 6″ wooden joining plates on the ends for added strength.

We painted the base frame and started our plumb lines for the doors and windows. We then discovered just how much of a slant the ground was, (more than a one foot difference across the 12 foot width of the green house) so our options were… (1) dig a trench on the side and back to level it out. (2) build up one side with rocks (and hope the mice wouldn’t discover a way inside) (3) leave it as it was and live with a green house that looked like it should be in the Flintstones. We opted for digging a trench.

Once the structure was level we began building the end framing with 2″ x 3″.

Next we built the door and window frames out of scrap 1″ x 6″ and screwed them into place.

After we painted the door and window frames, and dug out the beds, we rolled our plastic over the top and secured the plastic on the ends with strips of lathe on the outside and inside of the green house. We also built a 4′ t-post fence fence around it to discourage any curious deer.

Here are the raised beds built with scrap 1″ x 6″. We also left some space in the back for storage of garden tools, and a sprouting station.

Both doors and all four windows are permanently screened. We made a rolling plastic cover for both doors for summer, and we’ll replace these with a removable plastic covered frame for the winter.