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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Frost Protection

I sure can waste time.

Maybe it's because I work long hard hours to bring home the bacon, but I can really chill and do a lot of nothing at all when I know there's work to be done on the weekends.  Yesterday I wanted to get outside and start getting stuff covered up before the frost hits, Friday being the average first frost date for my area.  We are having a mild autumn so far, but I don't want to push my luck.

So when I finally got outside, I managed to get some lettuce seedlings moved and the hoop house up for them.  This bed is approximately four feet across, so the hoops are only maybe three and a half feet high.  The ends were cut to fit and clipped on with PVC clips, and then the top floats.  I should have one more board across the top just to make it easier to manage the sides when I'm working the box, but it'll hold for now.

I never did get to the hardware store, though; I'll have to do that on the way home from work tomorrow.

As a note, the latest issue (December 2013/January2014) of The Mother Earth News has an article by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman on building a movable hoop house that looks the biz; check it out (instructions here).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

New Varmint

Tomorrow I have a trip to the hardware store planned.  I have to get some two-by-fours and fence hangers to prop up the roof on Hensdeep anyway but at one point today I was coming back from giving the girls some lovely tidbits (slugs, I think) and I saw something crawling back under the fence from the herbs and hops bed. It moved very slowly because it was seriously s-q-u-e-e-e-e-e-zing itself back under the fence so I had time to notice its brindled coat, its long, rat-like tail, and its very bizarre hind foot.  It was pretty darn big, too. We've had problems with rats (Steve's executed six so far and has the trap set for tonight as well) but this was the size of a small dog. It was heftier than a cat. I stood there a minute and thought about it.  It wasn't an opossum; wrong color. It wasn't a beaver; wrong tail.  It wasn't a raccoon; wrong tail again. Definitely not a skunk.  I couldn't see over the fence, so I ran around to Larry's yard and looked over his back fence into our neighbor's yard.  I got a good look at it but nope; I definitely didn't know what it was.  So later when I looked it up (I love Google Images) this is what I discovered:

Credit: Conservation Management Institute
It was a nutria.  So, naturally I had to go look into nutria, because I don't know anything about them, other than their fur makes a good lining for a rain coat.  Nutria are from South America and were imported into Louisiana for fur farming in the 1930s, where naturally, they got out.  According to the USGS, this is where they live now:

How they got out of wet Louisiana and all the way up to the wet Pacific North West without really getting as established anywhere else is a good mystery.

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, nutria are really bad about burrowing into hillsides which can damage roadbeds if they're dug in the right place.  I was unhappy to read that the next destructive habit listed is crop depredation, and they'll go after corn, sugar and table beets, wheat, oats, barley, melons, and a whole bunch of different garden vegetables.  I don't need lose any of my winter veg, but the next thing that I read is that nutria will girdle fruit, nut, deciduous and forest trees, and ornamental shrubs. They'll pretty much girdle indiscriminately.  But guess what? According to ODFW, nutria are unprotected!  In fact, they are an invasive species and are classified as an unprotected Non-game Wildlife and may be shot or trapped, but not relocated.  No license is needed for a landowner to control nutria on her property, and since I have numerous fruit and nut trees I don't want girdled, I am also buying a trap.  A gun would be a lot faster but I don't have a gun, and I couldn't shoot it within the city limits anyway.  So trap it is.

Not exactly what I planned on doing with my Sunday, but you do what you gotta do.  For all the wildlife we get in our back yard, we may as well be living in the country.  I paid the property tax bill this week as well, and between the uncontrolled wildlife and our uncontrollable city council, living in the country is looking better and better all the time.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Householding Update, 10 November 2013

We had an egg laid today.  This would be unremarkable save for the fact that we haven't had a egg laid since the middle of September when the girls started their molt. In fact, just yesterday we rigged something to keep the girls out of the nest box. Well, just one of the girls- Tommie. She stopped spending her days in the nest box when the days grew cooler, but she was still nesting at night in it, which means that she was fouling it.  Pretty badly, actually.  I was considering stewing her, but decided that it would probably make more sense to just figure out how to keep her out of the nest box.  She has no idea how close she came. 

At any rate, today while we were making the last of the new beds by the deck Steve noticed Her Ladyship (Buffy is definitely Gallina Numero Uno) moving sedately up the ramp.  We watched her for a few moments and wondered aloud if she were thinking about laying an egg.  Steve went over to the coop and put his ear down by the box and was able to hear her moving about.  Then we remembered that he'd removed all the soiled hay from the box and there was nothing to cushion an egg if there was one.  I ran to the garage for several handfuls of hay and then ran back to the coop and stuffed them into the box once she got up after we opened the door on her.  We went back to our chore and maybe fifteen minutes later we were rewarded with an I-just-laid-an-egg cackle and song. So yeah!! We're back in home grown eggs.  Since we don't believe in providing artificial light, we'll have to be happy with what we get- we're not eating eggs for breakfast- Steve has taken to eating canned chili for breakfast, and I'm eating oatmeal.  Eggs in the winter are ingredients for other things.

 Among other things we managed to get done this weekend was wrapping up the citrus.  I pruned them first- the lemon has a great many fruits on it, but I'm not holding my breath again.  The last time we had fruits on the lemon all they did was fall off the tree prematurely. The lime has one solitary lime on it the size of almost a lime, but it's one more lime than we got last year, so it was wrapped up with the tree.  When I planted them in their pots I drove a large stake through the center of the root ball along the stem.  I'll never tie the tree to it-- the stake is strictly for clamping a goodish length of Agribon around the tree to keep off the frost and freezes.  I kept them this way last winter and they fared very well.  The last thing we did was drag them as close to the house as we could to help keep them as warm as possible.

This is the last of the three beds that I wanted to create from the five beds that were here.  I needed more space between them so instead of five three-foot wide beds with a two-foot path between them, I have three odd-sized beds with three-foot paths between them.  I have to find soil to finish filling in the last bed, which I think I'm going to scavenge from other beds in the yard, one of which is the compost pile.  Those beds are going away anyway because I want to site the outdoor oven there.

 This is my winter bed for this year.  It's doing well so far.  I have my own kale variety at the far end.  I'm looking forward to the first frost to see how well it handles it.  Next to that is the red cabbage I started late this summer; then a row of Caracas carrots (I just love this variety) then I've a row of pak choi seedlings; then two rows of collards which are small but doing great; then in the corner you can't see are lettuce seedlings.  Between this bed and the frozen green beans I put up, we are pretty well set for veg this winter.  We'll see how well it lasts.   We've been doing pretty well lately for getting more of our meals from the yard.  Yesterday morning for breakfast we had zucchini/potato latkes, applesauce, and sausage for breakfast: the zucchini, garlic, and applesauce came from the yard.  Last night we had bean soup and corn bread: the dried beans, onions and garlic came from the yard- the hambone was leftover from last year's holiday ham from work.  This morning was leftover cornbread, applesauce and bacon; this evening was New England boiled dinner: the leek and carrots came from my yard, the cabbage from my neighbor's. I told Steve that starting this January, I want to keep detailed records of what we're eating so that I can get a sense of how many pounds of what types of things we're eating.  I just know that with concerted effort, I could be getting a larger percentage of food from the garden; I just have to get better at planning and staying on top of succession sowing, as well as harvesting.

And speaking of harvesting, to go with tonight's corned beef, I pulled a couple of small chunks of horseradish out of the ground and grated them up. I've read that horseradish is at its most potent straight out of the ground and that the longer it languishes in the refrigerator, the less sharp it will be. I think I can attest to its pungency, alright. After peeling it, I first grated it on the Japanese horseradish grater that I've had for years, but on which I've never grated horseradish.  It is the bomb for grating garlic and ginger, however, and that's what I've been using it for to date. I think its floundery little face is pretty cute, but it's too cute for putting much of a dent in a chunk of horseradish.  So I got out the box grater, and finally used a side of the box grater that so far has not seen a lot of action, as in any.  I've seriously never used that side of the grater before.  But now I know what it's for.  Grating horseradish is a lot like grating a particularly pungent onion, which is to say that it hurts. A lot.  But it's worth it. Once it was grated all I needed to do was add a pinch of salt and some white vinegar and the next thing you know I have a pungent condiment.  It is just as creamy as the commercial stuff and a lot hotter.  A lot hotter.

So that's what we've been up to, among other, not-so homesteady, householdy things.  What have you been up to?