Saturday, May 26, 2012

Heart of Texas Green Expo

I've been asked to give an Intro to Permaculture talk at Bastrop's First Heart of Texas Green Expo on June 8 and 9, 2012. Got to the website and check it out. My talk is currently scheduled for Saturday, June 9 at 11 A.M., but check the schedule and make sure. It should be a good weekend, lots of exhibitors and entertainment!  Cat Dancing and I will also be vending with our art, flutes, and bee hives.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

First Spring at EarthSong Retreat!

Here we are, end of May, 2012. The aircard is renewed and it's time to post an update and some pictures of what's going on here at EarthSong Retreat. 

As you can see above, the wildflowers have been in full swing for some time now. Below is another shot of that field. The bees are loving it!
The stick you might see standing near the middle of this shot indicates the location of the new mulberry tree that is planted there. That field also has an escarpment black cherry, a paw-paw, and a couple of comfrey plants. This is a sort of narrow patch of land between a small tree belt and the larger field where our new orchard is located. 

Speaking of the orchard, above are two shots of the new hugelkulture swales in progress. Swales are berms or ridges made along a contour line. They slow down water flow and let it soak in to the soil gradually. Water in the soil is down where the plants need it, and doesn't evaporate so quickly. The swale above is near the high end of the orchard. A ditch is dug, limbs, sticks, logs are placed in the ditch. Dirt is thrown back onto the stack. The woody matter adds organic matter back to the soil. sequesters carbon, adds water retaining material, and allows you to make a somewhat higher berm with less soil. Plus, it gives us a nifty way to dispose of limbs and trees that died last year. The main idea, though, is to keep the water here where we can use it and not let it run off.

While we're on the orchard subject, the nearly ripe peach on the left is on one of our new trees we recently planted in the orchard. The picture on the right is a grafting experiment I am doing. A cutting from the tree on the left has been grafted to the tree on the right. As you can see, that tree also has a peach. 

This tree was a volunteer, arising from the roots of an old, dead tree on the property. Usually, that doesn't necessarily produce a very good tree. Root stock is most often a more "native" strain of fruit that is hardy but perhaps doesn't make the best fruit. However, we had a lot of these volunteers, so they were free. Regardless of the fruit, they will have blossoms, and that means it's good for the bees. Therefore, I separated a lot of the volunteers so they had more room to grow, replanting a few in different spots. Those transplants seem to be doing well. We'll see what happens in the fruit department. Like the one above, several have set fruit. Worst case scenario, I'll have sturdy trees to graft onto! The volunteers are scattered around the rest of the property, many near the beehives. 

The pecan, apple, peach, pear, and persimmon trees we've planted in the orchard area are doing well also.

At right is another addition. One of several fig transplants I rooted and set out. I'm not a huge fig fan myself, but several in my family are. They are also pretty easy to root from cuttings and grow.

At left is the array of bathtubs that will make up our greywater/wetland setup eventually. I'll post more pictures as that develops. I was set on getting three tubs and it seemed to take forever to obtain that last one!
Not too visible behind the tubs are new grape vines planted along the fence to the left, and berry vines along the fence across the back. This fence runs down the back yard. A long wicking bed garden will run there as well to make use of the treated greywater.

The same backyard hosts our solar clothes dryer, also known as a clothesline. This was constructed by Michael and Silas. 

I've mentioned our hens before. The adopted rooster that we had got nabbed by something one night. The hens are carrying on without him. One of the hens also died mysteriously on the nest one day. The other twelve are fine and doing their chicken thing. Here they are starting the day. I let them out of their coop (remember the coop?) into the pen as soon as I get up. Around noon I release them to roam the rest of the property.  I feel this minimizes their laying elsewhere since they seem to do the majority of their laying in the morning. We're averaging about 5 eggs a day from the twelve, so it's possible one or two are still sneaking off somewhere. Oh well, keeping them penned is NOT the agenda. 

One of the hens became broody and got argumentative when we came to collect the eggs. The rooster being gone, the eggs were no longer fertile. We got six fertile eggs from a friend for her to incubate. The required time for hatching passed and no chicks! We went to our nearby feed store and bought five baby chicks to place under her. Between that morning and dusk when we put the chicks in, three of the eggs hatched. So, we now have 8 baby chicks. Here is the brood all snug in the brood house. Since then, the mama got rambunctious and I put her back with the other hens. No more broody, and the chicks are doing well. The new chicks are a mixed bag including Rhode Island Red (my pick) and Americauna. We're figuring that at least one will be a rooster, too. I didn't intend to have a rooster, but that other one adopted us and we sort of missed him after he left. I named him Lord Popinjay. He'd walk me to the pen and we'd talk while I let the hens out.

The current manifestation of the garden is coming along as well. At left is one of the two 6x4 "square foot garden" raised beds. Visible are squash, broccoli and beans. The squash is HUGE after our rains! There is still room in the beds to add plants. The picture on the right shows a pair of "three sisters" tire gardens. They have sweet corn, beans, and squash planted in them. Looking good as well, although the corn in the farthest one hasn't come up. Re-planting that.

Here to the left is another tire garden, this one with strawberries. We've already picked a few from it. Sweet!

I'm still making beehives for sale, and planning to build a few top-bar hives as well.