Catching Rain

I am sitting in my comfortable recliner, some annoying cartoon on tv that my 3 year old is watching, the fire next to me roasty and toasty, and on the window panes the rain beats hard. The past week or so it has been half way decent weather out, but here in early spring with fresh new fruit trees in the ground, seeds planted in the garden, we need a rain. Which brings me to my topic of the day. Catching, and using rain to our benefit, not work against us, and here in western Oregon we get TONS of rain! Lets start off by first mentioning that in spring, rain is needed to help growing trees and shrubs establish root systems, and provide water for the growing plant to begin structural growth, bud development, and over all cell structure. With out the rain, plants would just wither away and die. Same for seeds planted in gardens or flowerbeds. The rain is needed to keep these seeds moist and germinate so they can sprout and grow up through the earth. One way of harnessing rain that some may not think of, is i store rain water. I have rain collection units around teh farm here, from 5-gallon buckets at the bottom of gutter down spouts, to rubber maid tubs catching rain off the wood shed roof. Why would I collect rain water you ask? Well, if I was in the city the use of rain water for plants would be super beneficial due to city water containing so much cholorine and flouride and such and would provide the plants with a more pure and nitrogen enriched source of water. However, we do have a well here on the farm, so the purity of the water is not an issue. Mostly i use the collected water for animals. The rabbits and the chickens both live off the collected rain water (except in the summer, then it is well water). Its also handy sometimes having some easily accesible water for washing off farm or garden tools, rinsing off eggs, washing off dirty hands what ever. Rain is our friend, not our enemy, and has a million uses. As the years progress I intend on expanding my rain catching system to something a little more substantial, but in the mean time what i have will have to work. Happy rain catching every one.

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Cuttin’ Kindlin’

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It was a bit chilly this morning so i made my way out to the wood shed for an arm load of wood and a handfull of kindling to get rid of the morning chill in the house. I saw my Kindling box was empty. An often occurance that I am sure many of you know. So i packed the wood into the house, then set off back outside for some morning twilight kindling chopping. Usually I will chop enough to fill my box, and stop there. The box is approx 2ft long x 1.5ft wide x 1.5ft tall. It holds enough kindling for a couple of weeks any ways. So If illed the boxy, grabbed and handful, and went back into the house and got a fire going. With the fire soon roaring and wood stacked into the stove and heat for the morning secured, I thought about my often occuring lack of kindling, and how much I really don’t care for chopping sticks in the freezing cold right before daylight. So I figured I should go out and chope a little more to play catch up. I filled the box to the brim, and still had some left over. I had an idea, and just kept on chopping. Once i had a small mountain of kindling all chopped and a couple of hours gone, I went to work tying bundles. Basically a bundle holds a few handfulls of kindling sticks (probably 2-3 days worth in each). Tied the bundles with extra pieces of string, crap rope, and bailing twine, just what ever cordage i had laying around the wood shed area. In all I chopped 15 bundles, on top of filling my box. My thought, is I stacked all the bundles into the wood pile, and will save them for next year’s use. The box I will use for this years. Next time my box gets empty, I will fill it and chope 15 more bundles. Doing the same process of storage. I figure that way it wont take but a few more cuttings, and i will have enough kindling for the whole winter next near.

Every year once fire building is all said and done, and we are into long hot summer days. I go to the wood shed, and throw every single stick of wood into the lawn. I then add and stack all the wood I cut during the winter to season into the back of the wood shed, stacking my way out. Once all of the wood I cut in the fall winter and spring are all stacked in there, then i restack all the dry wood I threw in the lawn from before. This gives me a good, and evenly dry/drying Cache of firewood. It is a bit of work, but like food or water storage, you gotta rotate. Any ways, this summer when i will be restacking all my wood, I will add these kindling bundles into the wood pile here and there every couple square feet. i am thinking this way, for next winter, when i go out to the shed to get wood for the day, i can grab an arm load of wood, grab a bundle, and all my fire needs will be met in one single trip, instead of one trip for wood, and another trip out in the eraly morning snow and/or rain to cut more kindling that I ran out of. So any ways, gonna give this idea a try, thought I would post and update the folks here on wordpress that fallow “Prepper Farming.”

Mulching and Wood Chip Day

As Spring continues here in the Pacific Northwest grass and weeds are starting to grow. I am seeing grass and weeds sprouting in our gravel driveway, and many other places around the farm that I will definately have to start spraying soon. I was thinking of this yesterday evening as i rolled myself a smoke, sat on the porch looking up the drive seeing all the scotchbroom turning dark green and healthy again. Darn stuff. I have about a 3 acre piece that is not fenced in yet, and goats and stock can’t be kept in there to keep the brush mowed down. So this particular piece of land, until i get it fenced, i have been keeping brush down by hand with herbicide, weed eaters, machette, and hand shears. Not very fun. And of coarse it has to be the brushiest, rockiest, most uneven piece of ground on the whole place where I can’t even take a mower into. Oh well. Any ways, was sitting on the porch last night, thinking about some fruit trees i have, some flower beds, and other things of that nature, and decided that with weather permitting I will make today mulch day. During the fall I save two large 100lbs feed bags (the white woven plastic strand kind). In one I pick up dead and fallen maple leaves and stuff it full. In the other I put wood shavings. The savings i get from cutting wood all year round. Sometimes when i have a big burly hunk of wood with knots every where I will just lay it on it’s side and use the chainsaw to split it into desired pieces. Yeah its more of a use of gas, but it saves having to beat and beat and beat on the darned thing, but also it gives me nice long wood shavings, which I use in around the place in lew of Bark Dust. Just a side note for folks, if you stand the block of wood upright and saw through it, the wood chips will be very fine, and powder like, if you lay it on its side and cut with the grain you will get those long strands I am talking about. Just a note.

Any ways, alot of fruit trees and flower beds (the ones that are planted already and sprouting up) will get a layer of crushed and crumbled broken up leaf bits (1/2 inch thick or so, maybe an inch) fallowed by an inch or more of wood shavings. Mulching helps retain moisture in the hot summer months, but it also help prevent grass and weeds poking up through. No it doesn’t totally stop them, but it does slow and impeede them. My only advice for others doing this, is I also take a soil ph tester with me as I do this. The wood shavings has potential of making the soil more acidic over time. each¬† year I test around the trees and beds, and ajust accordingly to what each species likes and needs. Happy gardening folks

Gardening Season

Well it is that time of year again. Early spring when things are starting to bud and days are getting nicer. Last week during a short dry spell i was able to get the garden all tilled up (Approx. 50ftx60ft). Also i have already planted a row of garlic (15ft) and 3 rows of bush peas each row approx. 15ft as well. When ever i plant seed into the ground and it cannot be visible for a while i use kindling sticks i chop about 16 inches long or so and string to mark the rows out (two sticks with a string end tied to each, then stick one stick in the ground at the beginning of the row, and the other stick in the ground at the end of the row) This little trick helps aid me visually for planting other rows, and getting the row spacing i like, and it also helps me in weeding and checking growth. Instead of my eyes wandering a large garden area, looking for what i hope is my vegetable seeds sprouting, all i have to do is look underneath the straight strung string, and see if sprouts are coming up in a straight line, and weed (hoe) out any other riff raff and weeds. I am also wanting to plant my onions here any time, but am waiting for another weather break and a good onion start sale to come up. Not in a huge hurry though, as I have plenty of time to get them in the ground. I planted a row of lettuce also next o the garlic. Still waiting for it to start coming up.

In other news, for Valentines day the wife and i decided to get each other fruit trees instead of chocolates and flowers. I bought her a Winsesap Apple, and she bought me a Bing Cherry. I think this will be a great tradition. We are looking forward to the orchard collection we end up with after ten years or so. So far our orchard includes a Halehaven Peach, a Plum (cant remember the kind off hand), a Lodi Apple, a Winesap Apple, a Red Delicious Apple, a Bing Cherry and two rootstock grafted trees which if successful will also add a Yellow delicious apple and a Fuji Apple.