Why no cat? Well, we have a cat. It just hasn't done any mousing for us. We've locked him in the shed, he works his way through the shed, sits and watches the mice for a while, and then asks to come back out.
We even caught a mouse, and put him in a 4'x2'x2' cattle feeder with wood chips in the bottom. (The chickens were sleeping there, in the house, at night--to recover from injuries from the rooster. We put the mouse in after letting the chickens out.) The sides were tall enough that the mouse couldn't get out. We put our cat, named Tiger, in there with the mouse and watched for over a half an hour as they played "cat and mouse." Eventually, the mouse learned that he could run towards Tiger anytime Tiger pounced. Thus, Tiger would pounce and land with his hind quarters on the mouse. He'd look left, right, confused, not finding the mouse. Finally, Tiger would pick himself up and the mouse would run out from under him. After a half an hour, one of the hens wanted to come back into the house to lay an egg. She knocked at the door, I let her in. She pecked at Tiger, and Tiger was out of there in a flash. She pecked at the mouse: once, twice, and then the mouse didn't move again.
We did this again later, with another mouse. After close to an hour, Tiger came back to me meyowling. When I went to check on the mouse, it wasn't there anymore. My only guess is that the mouse jumped on Tiger, and then jumped from Tiger to get out of the feeder.
Bottom line: we have a cat. It's been fun and amusing to watch him try to do his cat thing with mice, but so far nothing significant has happened, save for lots of laughter on our part at watching him.
P.S. He seems to do a much better job jumping on and pouncing at the laser pointer ....
Actually, it's not that the mice are getting into the storage container, it's more that we can't seem to keep the floor clean. The feed is kept in a metal garbage can with a tight lid. They're not getting into that. They're getting into the scraps that spill onto the floor every time we scoop some up to put into a transfer container.
I like the idea of the PVC pipe with a trap in it. I think I might have just that length lying around to try. It'd also keep the cat out of it, so I wouldn't have to worry about killing or injuring a cat while trying to get a mouse.
+1 for varietal differences. Our Seedless Reliance grape vine set a wonderfully huge crop, and it was destroyed by black rot this year. (We've had some wet weather, at exactly the wrong time.) However, a Mars grape vine that I planted last year has several clusters turning color with no sign of black rot at all. Is this because the Mars vine is growing in a welded wire fence? Because that was the fence protecting the garden? Because the chickens were on the other side of that fence? The Cawtawba vine growing in a chain-link fence looks to have some black rot on it. It's growing right next to beans in one garden, but has no chickens near it. Is that because Mars is less susceptible to black rot than Cawtawba, Cayuga, or Reliance?
I don't know, but I'm still looking for the answer. I'll keep you posted.
We seem to have a problem with mice and our chickens. The mice like to stay in the shed where we keep the chicken feed and the straw for the chicken coop. It seems like a perfect environment for them.
My problem is that I don't want them there.
We also have a dog house converted into a turkey coop for baby turkeys, together with an outdoor run. Every time we move that converted doghouse, however, we find a fresh family of mice underneath.
I don't really want them there either, although I suppose if I knew how long a mouse brood cycle was, I might know to move the coop whenever the baby mice were available--they do make good chicken treats.
We've found a black snake on the property - I figure that's a good start.
We've found that if you keep a metal trash can with a handful of feed in the bottom, that it will then act as a live mouse trap. The chickens relish the mice as treats, although getting the mouse to the chickens without letting him get away has been ... only somewhat successful.
Alder Burns wrote:Better than cereal boxes...go out and find the hugest cardboard boxes you can find. Try mattress and furniture store dumpsters.
You're right, mattress boxes would cover more ground. I was assuming that the garden was already in existence and growing. Huge cardboard boxes would kill what's already there. Smaller boxes might allow you to work around small and existing plants.
I'll admit, the first time we tried the cardboard, we used only a light coating of straw. When the Virginia winds came along, the cardboard flew away and into the garden fence. We needed to redo that cardboard many times before we were finally successful. Hence, I strongly recommend a thick layer of mulch on top of the cardboard to keep it in place. That has actually worked for us.
Of course, if you didn't have the garden (yet), you could use animals to clear the ground. I am told that goats prefer poison ivy to other plants they might eat and seek it out to eat it first. Where we live, nearer suburbia, we can't keep goats and our full chicken and turkey flock.
Poison ivy in the garden? Ouch, what a pain. We've got plenty of it here, but I've been blessed not to find any in our garden.
Here's what I would do here if we had that problem:
1. First, we collect all of our grass clippings to use as a mulch. With a two acre property, we can cover stuff pretty thickly with this mulch. It seems to work fine on many weeds, but it does seem to specifically encourage wire grass growth within the grass mulch. (Wire grass grows in wood chip mulches too ...)
2. We also eat a lot of cereal in our house. Those cereal boxes are biodegradable, and you can place them on your soil before the grass clippings. I've used pizza boxes and newspaper as well, with good effect. The weed barrier plastic cloths are a total waste--I used one once and ever regretted it afterwards. In one garden, we used cardboard followed by grass clippings and another we used newspaper and grass clippings. By the end of the season, you could see that the cardboard was definitely superior, and had kept the weeds down better. (That was our pepper bed.)
3. If the weed barrier plus thick mulch doesn't work, then you are going to have to do it the hard way: pull up the poison ivy by hand. (Yuck!!!) I've actually done this. Usually, I only do it once a season or so, and regret it immediately. If I had to do this, I would wear long sleeves, pants, and fabric gloves. Don't wear leather gloves. Everything you wear will need to be sent to the washing machine and you will need to wash up with soap and (cold?) water thoroughly as soon as you are done.
4.We have also discussed using cinder blocks as weed blocks. I don't know if it would work for poison ivy.
There's also Solomon's method of using a sharp hoe, and just getting out there and weeding with the hoe a lot.
Please let us know what you choose to do, and how it works out for you.
Here's a fascinating observation: I visited an individual in the DC area who kept a large grape vine. His grape vine grew along the edge of his property on a fence. At one point, the vine grew underneath the roof of the woodshed, and then kept going on the other side. When I asked, he confirmed that none of the grapes that grew under the roof of the open woodshed had black rot on them, whereas the rest of the vine struggled with black rot.
Does that mean you could build a "roof" over your grape vines to keep them from getting wet in the rain, and that if you did so you wouldn't have any problems with black rot?
Sheryl Napier wrote:
What exactly is meant by growing them 1.5 meters off the ground. Are the first leaves 1.5 off the ground or are they in a pot up on some sort of stand 1.5 off the ground?
My green grapes (who knows what variety) are totally being ruined this year. Do I prune the whole thing back, just let it run it's course or...?
I have 2 muscadines planted that are not having any black rot problem. Can they get it or will they be ok as they are adapted to the south. I live in the south east corner of Virginia.
Here's what I mean: Normally, they tell you to put the bottom wire of the trellis about three feet off of the ground. Suppose you instead put that bottom wire up higher, say four to five feet? In all other respects, the grape is grown the same: they are planted eight feet apart, in rows that are eight feet apart, planted in the ground, etc.
My answer, "That's what the farmer wants to know." In other words, I don't like it when my neighbor's come talking to me about my chickens having crossed the road to the other side, and I'd like to keep them from doing it. If I knew why, then I could keep them from crossing the road.
Another farmer's answer, "Because the bugs were better on the other side."
From our experience? "Because he was following the turkey."
But what about the cow? "It was the chickens day off."
Why didn't the skeleton cross with the rest? "He didn't have the guts."
On a more serious note, the chickens like hiding underneath the elderberries too ... there's just not nearly as much shade underneath our young elderberry bushes as there is underneath the raspberries.
Our land/yard is quite open. We recently increased our chicken run area to include our small raspberry patch, and much to my surprise and delight I discovered that the chickens just love working the raspberry patch for me. They've created dust bath areas underneath the raspberry canes--thus keeping the canes weeded, they run under the raspberries to hide from predators (me included), and they've really enjoyed the shade that the raspberries have provided for them from the hot Virginia summer sun.
My only fear is that, when the raspberries become ripe, the chickens will eat them and leave none for me. Perhaps they'll just keep the bugs off the canes? We've had quite a few raspberries with worms on them in the past years.
Do anyone know if chickens will pick raspberries that are above their heads? Or will we still get our usually abundant harvest?
Good points. Admittedly, I am very naive on these topics.
Can I afford going to court? Perhaps this must be budgeted and added into the total cost of ownership for the property. I really like the property, though, it seems to have everything I want at a very reasonable and affordable price.
How important is deeded access to the property? I'm considering a piece of property that doesn't have a written easement guaranteeing access to the land, but the realtor swears that the easement would hold in court despite the lack of a written agreement. This has held up others who have wished to purchase the property through the bank, 'cause the bank has refused to grant a mortgage to a piece of land that doesn't have a written easement allowing access. The problem, in this case, is that the old codger (a.k.a. kind gentleman ...) who owns the access to the land doesn't believe in written access guarantees, but is willing to verbally promise it.
We are talking crushed comb here. It's not on frames (it never was). It's no longer connected to top bars. It has been crushed. I can put it in front of the beehive. I can melt it down. The one thing I cannot do is to put it back in the hive readilyl.
At the same time, I too would be curious to know if the bees would use the wax.
I must still be missing something ... why would the bodies of dead bees need to be near the hive if the hive died from a virus? Isn't that sort of like saying that polio isn't a virus because you don't blow your nose? Shouldn't you expect different viruses to have different symptoms? If that's the case, why can't one symptom of a virus be that the bees get confused and don't return to their hive?
I hear what you are saying (okay, I'm reading it), but I'm still struggling to see the cause and effect for it. Why would the dead bees have to be on the ground nearby in the case of a virus? This isn't making sense to me yet.
I am not an entomologist, so please explain your comment: how is it that mites might not weaken a colony enough to catch a virus, where the action of the virus was to confuse the bees so that they would be unable to return to their hive? What renders this scenario either impossible or unlikely?
But ... I'm not talking about nicely refined wax here. The crushed honeycomb that I have is still sticky from all of the honey and still filled with ... other non-dissoluble items from the hive.
Would you suggest that I boil it down like I would wax? What about the value of the sweetness in the honey that never drained it's way through the filter? Any particular means you would suggest for extracting the comb from what's left of the honey?
This is my first year rendering honey. <Applause> My marvellous liquid gold has a completely different flavour that what I have ever experienced from the supermarket--it has overtones of "peach" within it that I wasn't expecting. <Ooh, aah! Cheers for backyard beekeepers!> I think I'll call this "orchard honey," 'cause it's definitely not "clover honey" despite the amount of white clover that we have in our yard.
My problem is, what do I now do with the comb that I crushed in order to release the honey? Should I spread it out in front of the hive for the bees to clean up? Bury it? Feed it to my worms? My chickens?
Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks,
This was peer reviewed? What I got from the article was that, due to an insufficient separation of the control group from the pesticide group, it was impossible to actually draw conclusions. That's shoddy science. Other articles, dated about a year back, had clearer conclusions regarding the effects of neonicotinoids on bees. (Not good.)
Other possible explanations of CCD remain: a combination of mites and a virus was a recent one I head from the chemical beekeepers.
Sadly, I'm still waiting for proof and consensus on this issue. Until the pesticide manufacturers and users are convinced, we still get to suffer the effects.
Chickens under black locusts? We planted two black locust trees last year. The chickens were allowed routine access under the one and not under the other. Come winter time, the one the chickens didn't go near had several holes from what I can only assume are black locust beetles. (I never saw the beetles.) There were no insect holes in the black locust tree that the chickens had grazed under. Were they there for the leaves? The protection from predators from above? Or were those beetles too much of a juicy morsel to ignore? My guess is they loved the beetles.
I should also mention that, at one time, we tried to put netting over the top of the chicken run. It never worked, but got tangled up in the nearby black locust. That netting might have also kept the beetles out--I just don't know.
Of course, my next question is whether or not this beetle protection will continue as the black locust trees grow taller.
I've been searching for numbers on chicken stocking myself. The numbers I've been given include a maximum of 50 chickens that can be kept per acre before beginning to destroy the land. I'm certain this number is land dependent, but let's use it for a moment. Imagine 50 chickens per acre, and one chicken dinner each night: now you need seven acres. Further, if one acre can provide the grains for 100 chickens, you are now looking at 10-11 acres. Then, if you add in any vegetable acres you might have you get up to 12 acres.
This doesn't include pasture for goats, although they might be able to share with the chickens. Neither does it include a wood lot for heating wood (about 1 acre / cord).
I am in a similar situation, although somewhat on the fence still -- I will "retire" from the military later this summer. My dream is to buy some acreage and get started. That retirement paycheck could go a long way, it just won't go all the way and that's probably a good thing (it'll keep me working).
I'm always looking for the most difficult challenges in life, so I figured I'd tackle the "no-spray" fruit idea. That is, how can one raise apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, kiwis, raspberries, blueberries, elderberries, and currants without any sprays? No, I don't mean just without the nasty sprays, but literally without any sprays.
My original market was going to be a pick your own, but as I've gotten in to the details I might need to move to something more subscriber based and/or side of the road-stand based.
I've also discovered that I would have a second product to market as well, assuming I'm successful: the know-how of how to do it. I think there's more than one or two people on this web site who would be glad to purchase a book, or pay to hear a speaker discuss his experiences raising no-spray fruits. Even if the seminar consisted of nothing but the experiences of one farmer with a well-defined experiment, there'd be some cash in hearing the result. (Perhaps the cash would be from other farmers/permies wishing to fund further experiments ...) My biggest risk here is whether or not it truly can be done. My great strength is a good understanding of experimental theory which will help to lay out any tests that need to be done to determine what would work. My hope is that, even before I have a valuable product from a no-spray farm, I will have enough to eat from this same no-spray farm. That is, if 90% of the crop is destroyed, then I'm hoping my family and I will be comfortable on the other 10%--just without much of a profit made in the meantime.
Like what you've got, it's a vision.
Please keep us all posted--have you taken the first step of your vision yet? How has it worked out? Your initial experiences would be of value to me as I ponder what I might expect.
Although this year's course is just about finished (we present our designs tomorrow), and I've enjoyed my time and learned much, the school representative assures me that they will offer it again next year.
My other recommendation to any beginner would be to avoid any debt like the plague. In my humble opinion, even USDA loans aren't worth it. Just my two cents, though ...
James Miller published a book titled, "Ten Acres Enough", where he describes a farming practice similar to your row based concept that he used in the mid 1800's. It's a fascinating read, as he goes through and lists his expenses and profits for his first three years. He also places a really solid emphasis on manure. If you google it, you should be able to find a copy on line.
Danette Cross wrote:This sounds trite, so sorry for that, but what are you good at?
I think Danette hit it square on the head: If every homesteader worked at the same occupation for cash, no one would buy the product. From what I've seen, the options are as varied as the people that do them. What works for you?
It doesn't sound like a bad plan, but ... gosh, there's so much more to plants that doesn't fit into a nice, evenly spaced grid such as you describe. Some plants/trees will want more than 25 feet of space, some less. Some will work well together, some not so much.
From my standpoint, I personally wouldn't be willing to risk my entire life's fortune on a plan with so few details. But ... that's just my humble opinion.
Every now and again this discussion comes up on permies. It is a very reasonable and logical question to ask, and the discussion is important.
The last time I remember reading responses to questions similar to yours, it took some time for the answer to come back: those that are making money at permaculture tend not to be reading the forums 24/7. It may take a couple of days for them to chime in. However, there are several permies that share their experiences on the forums and do make a reasonable profit.
As for me, No, I am not making a profit at permaculture. At best, I am only a newbie, and at worst I am just sitting on the fence as you are: on the outside looking in. I am trying to put together my own business case analysis before convincing myself and my family to jump ship from the rat race, leave town, and buy some acres where agriculture activities are not considered nuisances.
There are some key aspects to the business case to consider:
- I live in an expensive house, in an expensive area, near a large city. Moving to the country (with cash, not loans) would cut my largest expense (housing) out of the budget--if I could find a reasonable place I could afford.
- My next biggest expense is at the grocery store and the dairy farmer who keeps our family filled with wholesome local milk. My wife and I have seven little ones, ranging from 14 (big stomach), to 2 (eats like a bird). Organic food is expensive. Chemically raised food is scary. If I could only raise food for my own family, that would eliminate my second greatest expense.
- My third largest expense is taxes. Anything I can make for myself, such as food that doesn't get counted by the tax man, almost doubles its value.
- As expensive as it is where I live, it costs to commute to my job. This cost is in both time (10 hrs per week), miles on the car, and gas in addition to the fact that I'm not making any money during that time.
- Power, heating and air conditioning make up the next largest expense. If I could, via wood heating, vines over the windows, and/or solar somethings, cut my power and gas bills, then my living expenses have just gone way down.
At this point, how much money do I need to make to be "comfortable"?
Thanks for the comment on Lavender. I'd looked it up before, but can't seem to remember why I rejected it. I'll take a new look at it again.
Growing grapes 1.5 meters off the ground is an easy test to try. It will cost me a year to try it, but nothing more, so it's worth a try.
Lavender won't cost much either--I've got two lavender plants we started from seed growing in the window of my daughter's room. It's too cold to plant them today, besides--the chickens are doing some heavy soil work in the vineyard at this time anyway.
Looking up black rot at the library, I learned that it needs 2-3 days of wet weather in order to infect vines. (The article dates back to 1978--I'm not sure if any views of this have changed over time.) It also said that black rot was common East of the Rocky Mountains in the US. This leaves me wondering how relevant experiences are from the pacific northwest, or even Serbia, even though I welcome any and all thoughts in this matter. Here on the East Coast, black rot also infects ivy and virginia creeper. A history book I found recounts how black rot killed the budding commercial grape industry here in Virginia following the American civil war, until someone discovered a cure: antifungal sprays. I also note that this same commercial industry included acres upon acres of grapes grown in a monoculture.
Please keep the ideas coming. With your help, we might be able to solve this puzzle yet.
I have wondered about going to agriculture school myself. Does it help or hurt? From what I read of the "modern" understanding of plants, disease, and livestock, I worry that the real knowledge was lost years ago.
One of the lessons of permaculture I have enjoyed pondering is that every element should support multiple functions, and that every function should be supported by multiple elements. Taking this philosophy to buildings has lead me to the design of what I call a "great room."
A "great room" is a workshop, a gathering place, a dining room, a sales shop, a large office, a weekend dance hall, a community theatre, and more. The predominant feature of such a great room is that it has a section that is basically big and rectangular--what you do with it is up to you. Once you start from this definition, you start to see "great rooms" all over the place: fellowship halls at churches, our own kitchen/family room combination, and more.
When designing a great room, I noted a couple requirements:
- It must have an attached kitchen
- It must have an attached bathroom
- A pantry is important to the kitchen, as is a nearby cellar
- A coat closet and other storage closet are useful to the great room itself.
We're still working out things like dimensions (25'x50' or so), lighting (sunlight, where possible), heating (Rumford, RMH, water heater, etc.), cooking (brick oven, rocket stove), plumbing, cooling, etc., but I at least like the idea from the basics of a large room that supports multiple purposes. You could even go further: a greenhouse placed just lower and to the south of the great room could be used to provide food as well as solar heat to the room, while creating a place for the septic system to feed into.
The point is: how much utility can you get out of one building project, especially since each building project tends to be quite costly and to take many years to accomplish.
For me, it was a couple of things. First was the bill for compost to start a vegetable garden (~$450). Second was planting several fruit trees with a real sense of pride, and then discovering all of the chemicals traditionally used to care for such fruit trees. Third was the cost of fencing to keep the deer out of the trees. At this point, my pocket book was hurting: my purpose in planting was to cut down on food costs, not to pay more money. Then I read sections of Gaia's garden on Amazon, including the section on keeping the deer away from the house and the section on greening up Sante Fe, NM. I have become more and more hooked since then.
Indeed, watching the chickens today as they go about fertilizing the garden over wintertime is a whole lot more entertaining than that first year of digging the soil up, turning it over, and spreading money (compost) into the soil. I enjoy sitting back and watching life happen. Gosh, we even put a caught mouse in our chick brooder this morning with our young kitten to try to teach her to be a better mouser. Although she never caught or ate the mouse, good fun was had by all--except the mouse--as our kitten chased the mouse all over the brooder for the next 45 minutes. When one of our older hen's wanted in to lay an egg in the brooder (no chicks now, no problem yet ...) she kicked out the cat and killed the mouse. Fun for all (except the now dead mouse). At least now I know that even if I break even on the chickens, I won't need the TV for entertainment, I'll come out ahead in garden fertility, and I won't need to spray my fruit trees with insecticides. Those chickens are tastier than the supermarket variety too ...
From my own experience, deer will browse raspberries and elderberries. That said, they haven't done enough damage to either our raspberry plot or any of our elderberry bushes to warrant fencing them. Blueberries, on the other hand, may need more fencing--although even without fencing our blueberries are still alive and well.
I found a volunteer mulberry at the edge of the garden. It was growing right next to and around/within a weed that was in fully flower. Every time I shook the weed, my clothes would become covered in a yellow pollen and I would sneeze. The mulberry was quite healthy, though. Once I removed the weed, the deer then came and stripped it--there wasn't a green leaf left on it! I think the weed was hiding the mulberry from the deer. The mulberry still seemed to recover well, so we'll see if it grows this summer.
Another mulberry, this time one I planted, hardly grew at all until I fenced it. I guess the foliage is just a touch too tasty for the deer to pass by. At any rate, now that it's been fenced it has recovered from ground level to perhaps about 2 feet tall.
From reading in deer books, the best advice and counsel I might give is Your Mileage Might Vary.
I have a similar list, but I didn't make it myself. Martin Crawford publishes one in his Creating a Forest Garden book that I have been referencing. Indeed, the plant data offered in that book probably consumes nearly a half of the volume. Admittedly, it's not all my climate and I'm not certain of where to get all the plants listed there, but he has more plants listed in his reference list than I can get a practical grip on. However, this is only part of the puzzle of a lego method to permaculture design. Just having the database doesn't answer the question of what to put next to what, what polycultures to try, how far apart to try various different items, what the mixture ratios should be for nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous producing plants, and so forth. (The rest of the volume develops those principles.) It's not an end all, but it is the one formal list I have been working from.