Straw Bale Gardening Update

Today (before the rain started) I cleaned out the small chicken coop and spread the litter in a layer about 2 inches deep on the top of our new “straw bale raised beds”. Now that it has rained my hope is that the chicken litter will fertilize the bales the help get them ready for planting.

I also finally got a chance to put “Big Ben”, the new wheelbarrow, to work.


Next Experiment: “straw bale” gardening

This year our gardening experiment is going to be “straw bale” gardening I think – provided, of course, we can get some straw bales. We have been “reading up” on the process and it sounds like it would work well as an adjunct to our regular “lasagna gardening” technique.

Here’s a link to a story about how to get started.

Here is a picture that illustrate different ways of building these beds:Check out this How To demonstration. This video is six parts…be sure to watch them all. It is very thorough.

I was also curious if bales could be conditioned without chemical fertilizers. Another site I found said to use manure tea during the initial watering phase.

As usual we’ll try to keep updates posted on this project.

New “tool”

This thing can really hold a lot!

My loving wife bought me a new “tool” – a large, two wheeled wheel barrow. I’ve been wanting one of these for some time as I often have to move large loads of garden materials etc. around the property. The old, one wheeled wheelbarrow was about wore out, the bearings in the wheel were shot, and sometimes I find it hard to keep the thing upright. Today I put the new one together in preparation for the gardening season.

We also cleaned a little of the gravel out of the yard – the snowblower works great, but when I was first learning to use it I was throwing a little more gravel than I would have liked.

I started to weed and clean up the lillies and peonies in preparation for their early growth. I’m hoping to get them mulched before they get too big thi

Fruit trees are pruned and sprayed.

One thing we try to avoid here at Big Oak Ridge is the use of chemicals. However, we’ve found through experience that one place you pretty much have to use chemicals is on the fruit trees.

I don’t know if this is because the pests and diseases have become worse over time, or the root stock has become weaker; but we’ve never been able to successfully defend our fruit crop without resorting to some type of fruit tree spray.

So, today was the day. I’m attempting to prune the fruit trees myself, which I fear may end up killing them anyway, but I also gave them their first spray-down today.

We also pruned the blueberry bushes.

Next up: starting some more seedlings.

Weather is finally breaking…

We’ve had several above freezing days here – but we still have significant piles of snow in the front of the house, thanks to the extremely tall, dense stand of pines across the road that keep the front of the property in shade. It’s kind of interesting; as you drive down the road you can look up ahead and see that the frontage at Big Oak Ridge is still covered in snow while everything else is “snow free.”

The seedlings in the planting rack are doing well and we’ll soon be working in the gardens, orchard, and chicken coops.

Always an experiment…

I’ve been doing a bit of experimenting this year:

Tried starting my seedlings in cups (see previous post) instead of flats. I was not impressed with the ease of using pots and the health of the plants…so…I replanted my cruciferous veggies in the flats this weekend. I think I will do the vines in cups but not the tiny ones I have.

I made some blueberry bread…used wheat bread dough and rolled it (like for cinnamon rolls)…I crushed the blueberries into paste in my little food processor and smeared them on the bread and rolled it up.  It needed a bit more cinnamon and possibly a loaf pan to keep it from spreading…but it was yummy.

I made a second batch of yogurt and added a tsp. of Knox gelatin to the heating milk…it was awesome!! Thick and sweet like Greek yogurt…it didn’t need a sweetener, we just sliced strawberries over the top of it.

Today I am trying a raw sauerkraut recipe. It is made in a quart jar on the counter and uses the whey from my yogurt. It should take three days to ferment. I’ll keep you posted.

Still thinking about the 100 Mile Challenge but that is a serious commitment and requires tons of research and effort. I’ve quit buying grapes from Chile and peppers from mexico

Working on “the vision”

We are endeavoring to fufill the “vision” for Big Oak Ridge, and pieces are slowly starting to come together.

Here’s one item we have a “plan” for:

Visting orphans and widows in their distress.

We recently sponsored a child through Compassion International. We have the opportunity, potentially, to help this child through his entire educational process to adulthood.

Additionally, we’ve realized that we can start working on this part of the “extended great commission” with our own family. We have plenty of older relatives who would enjoy a visit or a little looking after so we’ll start there and work our way out.

Paula and I are once again endeavoring to start daily devotions together. We have pursued this seemingly “easy” goal throughout our married life, but it seems we can never be consistent with it due to jobs, obligations, etc. Hopefully this time we can make it the priority it needs to be and maintain it.

I keep reviewing our “mission statement” and wondering how we can fufill the “extended great commission” that we say we are pursuing. Right now it feels like we have so many irons in the fire, and so many demands on our time; but I know that even in our present circumstances God is training and equipping us, and I trust that we will be able to accomplish all that God has for us to accomplish.

One encouraging thing, to me, is that the vision hasn’t changed much in 30+ years. When I go back and review it, and look at where we’ve been and where we’re at, we’re still pursuing the same things. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness, we’ve taken the long way around, but we’re really still “on course.” I take comfort in that.

March 7, 2011

Oster Mixer

The model FPSTSM5102 Oster Stand Mixer.

Today we made noodles, Blueberry bread, regular bread, and yogurt. I got to use the new mixer for the first time. It’s an Oster Stand Mixer. “Not a KitchenAid”, as we’ve found, but seems worthy of most of our tasks for now. It was almost $80.00 less than the KitchenAid, but sometimes you get what you pay for.

March 6, 2011

Last night we had a dinner party for the old home group. Had a nice time catching up with each other.

The last few days  have been mild and rainy but this morning we woke up to another couple inches of snow. I’m ready to be done with this now!

The 100 Mile Challenge, Garden Preparation

Paula read a book, Animal Vegetable Miracle, in which the author discusses the 100 mile challenge – eat only foods produced within a 100 mile radius of your home. I think we’re going to try this.

Last night Paula bought a large stand mixer with dough hooks – something she’s been wanting for a while. After shopping many brands she chose an Oster model FPSTSM5102. Seemed like the most “bang for the buck.” They were on sale at WalMart for 89.95, but there was one on the shelf with a label on it that listed the product and model and had a price of 79.95, so we saved an additional $10.00. She also is researching a yogurt maker.

It’s time to start preparing for the garden already. We’re going to invite some friends over for dinner who do “seed saving”. My goal for this year is to get our chickens, and our vegetables, to reproduce themselves in a sustainable fashion.