Rebecca Wooldridge

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since Sep 12, 2016
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chicken forest garden hugelkultur
Western Oregon (Willamette Valley), 8a/8b
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Recent posts by Rebecca Wooldridge

I'll second alpaca fleece for knit winter hats! My favorite is a lightweight but warm beanie, my ears are never cold and it doesn't make me itch like sheep's wool does. It's also remarkably rain proof for a knit beanie. I bought it around 8 years ago and have used it every winter since, it still holds its shape and keeps me warm and dry. And I can fit my hair up in it if I want, which is always a plus.

In the summer depending on what I'm doing, I have a vented cloth hat with a cord... Boonie? Tenpenny? I'm not exactly sure what it's called but I can crush it, get it wet, and carry stuff in it. I also have a roll up sun hat that looks like it's made of straw but is actually synthetic, uv resistant and breathable. I use it more when I'm out and about and can roll it up quite small and keep it in my bag so it's always handy if I need it. And lastly, baseball caps. I dislike that they don't cover my ears well but they do have a hole for a ponytail unlike a lot of other hats.

I didn't make any of these, they were all either purchased or given to me. I don't think I've ever bought a baseball cap but somehow I have acquired several!
10 months ago
Like others in this thread, I really like bulbs around trees - a tightly spaced perimeter ring of garlic, walking onions, daffodil, or even better, Siberian iris, are fairly effective at keeping grass back, and especially effective against those rhizominous spreading grasses like the evil bermuda. Comfrey is always good. A community garden I was at had yarrow growing thickly under all of the more mature cherry trees, it seemed able to out compete the grass and come back year after year. If you want some running vines, perhaps nasturtium, grape, or mashua. In a drier, sunnier spot I might opt for some drought tolerant wildflowers like lupines and Mediterranean herbs. I always find catnip does nicely under trees and is a bit less likely to take over the garden than mint.

I like to put a ring of bulbs around where the drip line of the tree is, or where I think it will be, then mulch/cardboard thickly within that ring to eliminate grass, leaving about six inches or a foot around the trunk of new trees to allow moisture to get in to the earth around it's roots. Then in that mulched area within the ring, as the grass is removed and snuffed out I replace it with things like comfrey, yerrow, wildflowers, herbs, whatever I've got. I generally go for things that are edible, good forage for the chickens, resilient to being mowed down, are perennial or a self-sowing annual, or provide some benefit like attracting pollinators or fixing nutrients. I figure a diversity of things is always better than just one thing, but if you've got to manage a larger orchard I could see the benefits to keeping it simple.
10 months ago
Our household has has a lot of changes lately and a stricter budget is something I have been wanting to implement. One for myself, but I would like to the rest of the household on board as well. My partner is fairly frugal and money-wise, but he likes to keep track of it all mostly in his head... I admit this is the way I'm used to doing it too. We don't make a lot but we are fairly frugal with what we do make, so it all generally works out, but I would really like to get some numbers in a spreadsheet or something and actually track our expenses carefully, and save more efficiently. We're still young but we're not getting any younger, and we've got big goals for our little farm. At least I do.

In the months going forward I will track my spending and figure out our average budget. Does anyone have a method they recommend?
From there I can adjust what needs adjusting and put my money to better use.

I think my initial categories would break down into:

Groceries - we spend a good amount here. After all, we are filthy millennials who like out avocado toast. At least we can stay busy by killing applebees and probably cutting back on the pre-made foods we by and using more raw ingredients. I already do this a lot but we do get lazy at times. I wonder if this category should contain our "going out" money or if that should fall under extras?
Gas - fairly inflexible expense, we already use it as sparingly as we can most of the time. This number is going to be larger because my partner commutes.
Bills - Internet, phone, taxes, netflix....doesn't change a lot, could go down a little.
Farm & house fund - Big one that varies a lot month to month. Should probably be broken down into more categories....
Savings & emergency fund - a minimum of $50 a month but often more.
Extras - this one is going to be a place to cut back, I can sense it.

Even without the exact numbers, I can already see places where I could cut back or shift priorities in order to save up more quickly.
11 months ago
What better time than the middle of winter to post some pictures of the more verdant, lush seasons?

An older picture of one of my favorite places, the Alsea river:

Pacific Rhododendron

Oregon grape blossoms with a bunch of insect friends

11 months ago
I really don't understand why they molt just as the cold is starting either, maybe because that's a bad time to be reproducing so they can put the energy elsewhere?

Our gold  laced wyandottes are basically done molting now, and the silvers are just starting ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
11 months ago
This year, in many ways, I bit off more than I can chew. It was a learning experience for sure.

Our garden was small, consisting of two beds in sort of a squarish parenthesis shape [] with a narrow path in between and a wider area in the middle for maneuvering a wheelbarrow. I want my gardens to be of a size and scale that's manageable for harvesting. I like the idea of interesting shapes woven into the landscape, incorporating paths, hugel mounds and swales, to create lots of little micro-climates in a visually interesting, tapestry sort of effect. This shape worked nicely for my intended purposes.

We made one of the two beds a buried wood bed, and the other was a more traditional double-dug bed. Both got equal helpings of compost. The traditional bed was more productive than the buried wood bed this year, but I'm hoping to see what it can do once it really gets going in a year or two. We put a lot of old oak logs in there along with some brush trimmings and the ancient stuff we dug out of the old donkey/chicken pen.

Both beds got zero protection from deer, chickens, and other critters. This was another experiment - we plan on a fenced garden area area, but other things demanded our time/resources first and we do not yet have a deer fence. I'm hoping to get one in before next spring if all goes well. So this year allowed me to see at least what kinds of things can thrive outside the deer fence in the future.

My most successful plants were Joseph Lofthouses' Sprawling Groundcherries, which I will be saving the seeds from and planting more again next year. We only grew a couple of plants this year, but they did so well and were a novelty to everyone so we are really keen to get enough of the berries next year to make a batch of jam or jelly. My zinnias from Baker Creek were outstanding and are still growing strong. I got a bunch of herbs for free from my mom's garden, or cheaply from discount racks at the farm store, most of which are doing very well and I'm hoping will overwinter. The munstead lavender has grown almost twice as large as anything else, which surprised me, as I am used to thinking of it as a fairly slow going plant. My squash were growing really well until deer ate them one night, leaves, vines and all. Tomatoes struggled to grow and put on a crop all season and I only got a few small fruit, but my mom reported a lot of success with some extra seedlings I gave her, as did my co-worker. I know my mom planted hers against an east facing wall in a very well-nurtured bed. To be honest I didn't expect much from these in a first year garden made in what used to be a grass field, and our long wet spring didn't help matters much. Yellow onions did pretty well until the chickens discovered that if they scratched the bulbs up out of the soil, the patch was a great place to find bugs. Peppers were devoured by the deer, aside from the jalapenos, which still struggled somewhat. I got a small harvest from those. Hopefully this year is a benchmark to be surpassed rather easily in future years, as far as the garden goes. I especially want to investigate some of those things that supposedly repel deer, for plantings around and outside our fences.

There were no apples on the old apple trees this year, and no "wild" plums on any of our perimeter fence trees or any around this area from what I can tell. This neighborhood used to be a plum orchard back in the early part of the century and there are many, many seedling plums lining the ditches and roadsides here, but I never spotted any fruit this year. Our neighbor told me that last summer he saw a guy pull a truck in to the edge of our field and fill buckets of plums from one tree. I wonder if he is talking out of his ass, if we had a really off year, or if it's a bit of both. Maybe our wet, cold spring and/or droughtish summer affected them. I saw plenty of blossoms but not very many bees, if I can recall. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly beneficial plants around our property is something I want to do anyway, but this makes me wonder if it is more necessary than I first thought. Our trees also look rather strange and are certainly old, neglected and overcrowded. My plum tree questions probably deserve their own thread.

We managed to get a half-basket full of hazeulnuts - maybe a pund and a half in shell - from both the standing filbert tree and the coppiced clumps. Leaving out vessels for the squirrels to store them like Joseph Lofthouse's method didn't work for us, our squirrels seem to prefer burying the nuts in our fluffy leafy mould to anywhere else and the scrub jays are also very industrious at pecking holes in the nuts, dropping them onto boulders from trees and getting the meat out. It took us practice to figure out which nuts were good and which were empty, withered hollow shells but by the end of the season I'd say we were pretty skilled at grabbing up about 80% good nuts and 20% duds. Our nut meats were not as impressive as some that were gathered from some trees growing alongside a local park, but those were in a wetter spot. I would like to propagate some seedlings of those trees to increase my plantings. I think if the trees were scattered in mixed guilds, or far from the house, or where the nuts can fall into tall/thick ground cover, like some of the hazels on our property, we would be far less efficient at gathering them, so I would like to extend the row near our house and mulch around them, and then introduce perhaps some very specific other plants so that gathering the nuts is still easy for us.

The walnut English and black walnuts gave a good crop, but I can't eat more than one or two without my mouth starting to hurt, so I don't gather them.

Right now is all about mulch. I'm gathering as many fallen leaves as I can for the garden, and layering with rabbit manure, chicken coop sweepings and chop and drop.

Our chickens working the garden.
1 year ago
Rock gardens and rain gardens and the like can be ideal around structures. Not only does it help keep fire at bay but done correctly, it can help direct water where you want it and away from your building foundations, etc. And they can look really lovely too.

1 year ago
You've got a really inspiring set-up going there, Kelly! Thanks for sharing what you're doing, I've only just now read through it but there is a lot of good stuff going on.

You mentioned raising your rabbits colony-style and I was wondering what your set up is like, and if you would you mind sharing a bit more detail of your rabbit tractors? We're getting ready to build some tractors of our own for next spring and I've been checking out what other people are doing as a starting point for our design. Do you use them solely for growing out litters, or do you keep the rabbits in some sort of tractor on grass all the time? What are you feeding them? I've researched colony raising meat rabbits but so far I haven't come across a lot of examples of it being pulled off. All of your animals seem to be in very good condition so I'm really curious about how you're doing it!

Also, could you tell or show a little more about how you process and package your birds entirely on your own farm? What kind of regulations do you have to meet there to do that, and how have you set up to do that on the small scale?
1 year ago
I can't believe it's been 7 months since I posted here. Where has the time gone??

Aside from working a lot of hours at our paying jobs this summer, we actually managed to get quite a lot done. It was not as much as I had hoped, but now that we are coming up on the one-year mark of having lived here, I can appreciate how much we have accomplished, too.
I will do a more detailed post - or a couple - about some of the things we have done this year and what we've got in store. For now, I'll try to respond to those who've commented here since the last time I checked on this thread. I really should try to post more regular updates!

Jo, what an interesting project! The Willamette valley is a large, fertile, open river valley with lots of stands of timber in the foothills and open meadows as well as oak Savannah and wetland/riparian floodplains. It's been known historically for rich volcanic soil that's good for agriculture, and our region is famous for christmas trees, wine grapes and hazelnuts. Those seem to be the main cash crops I see in large number here, although quite a lot of things grow well. There are also large commercial farms for berries, squash, corn, cabbage, mint, grass seed, hay, and other crops as well as livestock, but many things seem to grow well here. Properties are up for sale pretty often and the real estate market is decent for buying or selling, and the more rural you are, the cheaper prices for buying tend to be. The Willamette Valley is the most densely populated side of Oregon, but there is isolation to be found, lots of smaller towns with lots of space between them, especially if you go up into the mountain foothills. On the whole it is much less populated than the East Coast, if that is what you meant? But the western half of the state is more verdant and more populated than the eastern half, which suffers from the rain shadow effect of our mountains and has a much more midwestern climate and sparse population. Take a look at this picture of North America by night, it gives you a pretty good idea of where people are concentrated - NASA North America 2016

Christian, our place isn't really open or ready for outside visitors yet, outside of family and friends. My parents and partner are more adamant on this, and I respect their feelings about it. I don't know if it will be in the near future but I hope you and your cat are enjoying Portland!

Loxley, thank you for the link to Siskiyou Seeds! I have stumbled upon them in my own research and seed hunting, but it is always good to hear an endorsement, and I had not seen that video before. His pond system and stream restoration work is inspiring!

Autumn, I hope you have had luck finding good homes for your goats! If you're still looking, I am interested. I'll drop you a PM.
1 year ago
Your white flower looks like it could be chickweed (stellaria media), an early spring edible. If so it should have five petals, each bisected so it looks like there are ten petals.