Kate Muller

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since May 29, 2014
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New Hampshire
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Recent posts by Kate Muller

More benefits of our pond.  
Another benefit of the pond is the reduction of mosquitoes.  We thought we would have a bigger problem with them with the addition of the pond.  Since we built in lots of shallow areas for plants and other aquatic life the mosquito larvae have too much competition to thrive.  

My husband added a shallow gravel filled area with some bigger stones you can sit on with your feet in the water.  This area of the pond is an absolute favorite of children and dogs to play in.  

2 days ago
In my area wide mouth canning lids are running between $4.99 and $5.99 a 12 pack.  
Wide mouth  quart canning jars are $15.00 to $19.00 a 12 pk.  

I have been squirreling lids and jars for years.  My mother in law loves shopping at yard sales and thrift stores so and she picks up jars for me when she finds them cheap enough.  I do miss the days when you could find sales, clearance, and coupons for canning jars and lid.  I once scored boxes of regular sized ball lids for $.17 a box when our local Lowes discontinued them.  

I recently bought bulk packages of lids through Lehmans.com   They are US made and heavier duty than Ball canning lids.  While not the cheapest they do come in large bulk packs if you are looking to stock up.  
3 days ago
We put a natural swimming pond in the middle of front yard garden.  We are on a deep well for the house and we recently installed  a shallow well high up on our hill side.  The pond has a large shallow area that is full of pea gravel and aquatic plants that hosts 4 to 5 of frogs and toads.

Benefits of our current pond.  
A plunge pool to cool off in the heat of the summer.
The gutters of our house are hooked up to it so we don't have water pooling around our foundation during major rain events.  
We built a patio space next to it so we can chill out while watching the frogs, fish, birds, and dragonflies use the pond.
The frogs, toads, birds and dragonflies dramatically reduce the insect damage to my  veggie and fruit plants.  This work force is amazing and I want to add another pond to the backyard to get the same benefit.    
The pond over flow waters a swale and swale berm full of fruit trees and shrubs.  
I use the pond water for irrigation for the plants near the pond which reduces well water use.
I have a water source to use in a power outage.  While it would need to be treated to make it safe to drink it is a nice back up to flush toilets and such when the power is out.
My cat loves drinking out of the pond. He also loves all the critters the garden and pond provide for him to chase.  
You can grow edible fish in the pond.  We will be adding a second pond to our back yard and want to stock it with at least native catfish.
If you have a fire the fire department can use that water to help put it out.
It can help create season extending micro climates to keep slightly warmer loving plants alive over the winter. Our pond berm is one of the last places to get frost damage in the fall.  

3 days ago

Greg Payton wrote:I've come up with some thoughts. Thanks everyone!

I'm not super pleased with this yet, I feel like things are off.

Some thoughts I have:
• Not super pleased with the bedroom and bed position - they need a queen size bed or double twin XL. I have a queen in there right now since it's a little smaller than double twin XL beds.
• Not sure about the "living room" space. We have two couches already that I'd like to use and a lift recliner we have had for years that I've shoved together on the left there to create some visiting space. I don't know where to stick the television except on the wall or maybe to install two that have synchronized video feed for watching from both sides or with heads turned. Watching westerns and movies together as a family are important to them. I am guessing maybe there will just be a TV on the side for the lift chair to see clearly.
• I tried to pre-plan for a wheelchair requirement or needing some additional space to navigate. You can see this in the kitchen and with the 3' walk passage through the kitchen and beside the lift chair. I also put it in the bedroom area to show some passage through between the bed and the accordion door, but only a walker can fit on the right side of the bed.
• I don't know if the bathroom really works well. It's kinda cramped and not laid out well enough it seems according to some of the retirement/assisted living layouts, but close.
• Not sure what I can do with the extra space in bath or what kind of shower that accommodates a seat might be sized like.
• I couldn't squeeze in another half bath. Not end of world, but not great.
• No good dining area. I really would like 4-8 people to be able to dine in here comfortably since that is about the size they are used to entertaining.
• Coat closet could go maybe, but I would have to figure out some other way to store coats and winter clothing and boots. I probably will build a shed/shelter onto the outside of the door at some point as a "mud room" and extra, but can't do that for another year at least depending on society's endurance.
• I don't see any way to put a ramp up into the interior door into the main house which is the door on the middle bottom of the wall beside the kitchen area and bathroom. Probably ok, but it would sure be useful.
• I think accordion doors are critical here to eliminate the swinging doors.

• UGH- I forgot a laundry area!!! 😿

Thoughts or improvements (or complete changes) on this are welcome:

For wheelchair access you are going to need 60" minimum to be able to turn around.  They do not turn on a dime since they only have  castor wheels on the front.   Your pathways will need to be 48" wide to accommodate  a wheel chair and make life easier with cane or walker.

Use a smaller stackable washer and dryer unit.  They are easier to use than full sized stacking units.

Are the accordion doors easy to use one handed left or right.  Moving the bathroom between the bedroom and living spaces could allow for the only interior door to be bathroom door.  
3 days ago
I come from a family with a lot of physical limitations and I have some thoughts on design choices to make aging in pace easier.

Bathroom suggestions.  
Look up ADA bathroom designs to get ideas for the configuration.  The shower needs to be big enough to easily fit a shower chair and possibly a walker at the same time.  They will need 60" by 60" turn around space in the bathroom  and  space next to the toilet to transfer from the chair. While your parents may not need that space now it will make a huge difference if they are ever injured, have a joint replaced, recover from a stroke or other aliments one is more likely to have when they are older.  Retrofitting an ADA bathroom is very expensive so I would make the space and build it to handle a wheel chair now.  

Make the shower floor level with the floor so and next to the toilet so it can be a roll in shower and double as space for a wheel chair to turn around and have room to transfer from the chair to the toilet.  Use a shower curtain over a door design to save space and increase mobility tool options.  Install a shower head on a hose.  This makes using a shower chair far easier.  Set it up so the person shower can easily reach it while sitting or standing.  I find  free standing shower chair is easier to use than a fixed location bench.

Go with a tall toilet with and allow space for grab rails.  
Ideally the sink could be used while standing or sitting and go with leaver style faucet handles.  

I would look into having an open space under the sink so one can sit on a stool while using the sink.  
freezer on the bottom refrigerators are must if you are in a wheel chair.  
Pull out cabinet shelves or drawers are easier than deep shelved cabinets or high up shelving.  
Having smaller  and lower pull out counter that can be used for food prep while sitting down is extremely useful.  It will allow them to keep cooking even if they can't stand for long periods of time.  This makes a huge difference on those bad days.

Built in drawers under furniture like the bed will help maximize storage.  Adding as much lower height storage as possible.  Spend the extra time and money to source easy to use with limited mobility hardware for door, drawer pulls,  draw slides, handles, and light switches.  These little details make a huge difference when your dexterity is not what it used to be.  

Entrance ways should be ramps with smooth transitions through doorways.   This makes using canes, forearm crutches, walkers and wheel chairs  far easier.  

Can you make and outdoor entertainment space for them to use in good weather?  We added this to our garden space and it makes having gatherings far easier than buying a bigger house.  

Could folding chairs and drop leaf tables be used instead of lots of couches for visitors?  

3 days ago
Here are some spring updates.  

We added a second chicken coop and upgraded the covered part of the run.  The covered run is covered in left over plastic from our greenhouse project.  This is where we have the food a water for the birds. It main function is to give them a dry place to hang out in bad weather.

We also have been clearing out the vines and invasive over grown stuff so we can add a food forest to the back yard.  

This area is now sprouting cover crops.  We still need to add fencing so we can plant in the fall or next spring.  

One day this pit will be another garden pond.  We have too much going on this year to work on it but it the end location for a drainage ditch we are adding along our driveway.  

The greenhouse.
My husband built me these beautiful raised beds and it is amazing.  I am a very spoiled gardener.

We added a partial shade garden to an unused part of the front yard.  

There are Paw Paws, currents, jostaberries, apples, peaches, and apricots planted in it so far.  I need to add more to it but the annual garden is keeping me a little  too  busy.

Mu husband did a major wedding and pruning of the raspberry patch.  It is doing so much better and we should have a good harvest this year.

The asparagus patch is  still very much a mess.  If we can keep the larger weeds at bay all season I will be happy.

The garlic is doing amazingly well.   At the time of this posting I just harvested all the scrapes.  I make and freeze a large batch of pesto and dehydrate the rest.   I love garlic scapes.  

We added another asparagus patch and planted strawberries along with the asparagus.  

I need to take more pictures of the other projects we are working on.  It is a busy year and I am hoping to be better about documenting it.

1 month ago
I should have been a little more careful in what I was wishing for. Now that we are into our 9th growing season our permaculture farm is really starting to thrive an flourish.  I am discovering when the diverse mix of perennial and annual crops gets to the point where they are producing enough that you no longer need to  buy fruits, veggies, and herbs from outside suppliers like farm markets and super markets. This is great and has been our long term goal.  Of course in a cold wet climate with a short growing season you only get about 5 months of the year to get the food you need for the other 7 months.  

Now that my spring producing plants are established and cranking out enough food to carry me through the year if I can get it preserved.  Of course the addition of the green house had been an amazing addition for extending the season of fresh veggies which has added an additional layer of work and complexity.   I am finding the work load of food preservation this early in the season to be a surprising amount of work since I am still working on getting the spring planting in.  

So am working on finding the balance to make all of this work.  I will need to since we are also working on add a food forest to the back yard. So far we have done most of the earthworks, water catchment, and planted cover crops.  This summer fencing, more cover crops,  and dealing with the invasive unwanted plants will keep us busy.  The plan is to add the trees and shrubs next spring.  

In the mean time I need to take more photos.

1 month ago
You know your a Permie when your father in law wants to talk about national politics and what he and I are doing in response to it.  I explain that my strategy involves the following:
Keeping an eye on local politics in hopes of not getting more regulations and higher property taxes.
Volunteering in my community and teaching interested friends how to garden.
Working on projects with my neighbors and becoming better friends with them.
Converting more of my yard into food producing plants with the plan to share the excess production with friends, family, and neighbors.  
Buying as much as I can from local farms in the area to reduce my needs on food that depends on long supply chains.
Cooking and preserving more home grown food make use of all our food production.
Making homestead improvements that reduce energy needs and lower our daily cost of living including solar, more water catchment, and fencing.
All of this improves my quality of life and increases my resilience no matter what happens inside the DC beltway.  

What really makes me a permie is that  my father in law got it and had an Ah-Ha moment right then and there.  He finally gets why we are living this way. We not only like gardening, its health benefits, and the fresh food but also makes us more resilient  while navigating the current chaotic and potentially difficult times.  

1 month ago
I have a bunch of physical limitations so I am all about the right tool to make the job easier so I can keep doing all the things.  

We have a short growing season and a long cold winter so harvest  and preservation season is a 2.5 month marathon.
14 cup Cuisinart food processor  Saves time, my hands, and the parts go in the dishwasher

Immersion blender canning tomato sauce.  Paired with a very large heirloom oxheart tomato that has very few seeds and soft tender skins makes canning 50 to 112 quarts of tomato based products easier.

2 dehydrators

The dishwasher.  I can hand wash everything but during the fall harvest season I spend 45  minutes or more a day just hand washing everything.

An adjustable height table that I can stand or sit at to do food prep.  

5 to 6 gallon stock pots, 13 quart mixing bowls, and a giant colander to with them.
Fermenting lids and glass weights for wide mouth canning jars.  They are the easiest way I have found to ferment foods and 1/2 gallon canning jars are a convent size for our house hold for fermented foods.

I love my washing machine.  It sucks to hand wash your clothes when you have lots of damage to the joints in your hands.

Roomba.  It is a luxury that I only got because because it saves me energy so I can do more valuable things with my limited functionality.

Automatic chicken coop door. This makes having laying hens so simple.

A network of garden hoses with splitters and high quality shut off values  all over the 1/4 acre garden so I never have to drag a hoes more than 25' during the growing season.  We just added a hand dug well high up on the property to make watering even easier.

Meadow Creature broadfork  is great for the garden beds, removing good sized rocks and unwanted shrub root balls.

Small folding stool that I use to garden on when working in my raised beds with wide woodchipped mulched pathways.  I have a fainting problem so I can work far longer sitting down than I can standing up.  


3 months ago
What kind of woods are you looking at?  If it has recently been logged and there isn't much high quality trees left I would design the site to improve access, water retention, and create a zone one space for your calorie dense annual food crops.  

If you manage to acquire a site that has not recently been torn up by logging I would do what my aunt and uncle did. They bought wooded lot to build a passive solar home on in the 1980s.  It had 7 acres of woods and they hired an arborist to come through and teach they about the trees they had.  The trees were marked in different colored paint to signify if they we diseased, damaged and should come down or if it was a rare tree and should be cared for long term.  They high graded the wood lot and designed the house to only need a cord or 2 to heat it over the winter. The floor joists and much of the lumber for the house came from the house site.
30 years later the trees are more impressive than ever.  

We only have a couple of acres  and we live on the  border of suburban and rural living.  Right now we are working clearing the back half of our property of the low value trees and doing some earthworks so we can plant a food forest.    It is a rather steep hill so some terraces, swales and walking paths need to be built.  I will be planting it in cover crops, annual flowers, and extra vegetable seeds I have this year.  Some of this will be and the rest cut down for mulch.   Next spring we will be planting all the long term trees and  shrubs.  Since it will still be sunny to dappled sun for a few years. I will be using the space the trees don't need yet for flowers, herbs, veggies, and seed saving crops.  

Some of the yard between the house and the soon to be food forest will be made into raised beds for zone 2 type annual plants like winter squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, parsnips, and celeriac.  We currently have most of our annual veggies and fruit production in the front yard.  
The food forest will mostly be nut trees with mostly native fruits as understory trees.  The shrub layer will have lots of fruits and hazelnuts.  I expect these shrubs to eventually die out as the canopy fills in but I want the production in the mean time.   While the hill is sunny I will by growing annual and perennial plants in the space in between the rows of trees.  

Our friends who have 200 acres of woods an hour away from me in a rural area have a very different approach their farm.  They primarily raise animals on food waste from restaurants, supermarkets, breweries, and diary processing companies.  They use pigs to clear out brambles and other low value shrubs and plants in their heavily forested farm.  They use electric fencing to keep the animals where they want them.  Once the pigs have cleared out the under brush they go in an remove the less valuable trees to create savannah style pastures for cows, turkeys, chickens, and the recently added sheep to their pastures.  All these animals are rotationally grassed spring through fall.   All the nuts and fruits that fall from the trees they have kept feed the animals in the fall.

3 months ago