Mary Beth Alexander

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since Oct 13, 2017
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fungi pig solar
My son bought this "farm" in June 2017. His father is there with him, and soon I will be moving up from FL. This is their old "stomping grounds", and I did live there in the early '70's.
This property has not been "farmed" for at least 10 years, though it was a small beef operation for many years - has about 60 acres of unkempt pasture, some woods, and a small year-round stream that flows into the Black River.
The land is level, but gradually sloping to the North.
He is busy re-habbing the house - some costly surprises there, of course. Has the solar batteries on-line and working, but the panel array was stalled by too much rain to install the concrete posts - same with floor for pole barn. Much has been accomplished in October, and all concrete should be completed by Halloween.
I am an accomplished gardener - there is a very large old plot - but he didn't have time to amend it in any way, and I've never gardened in zone 4!
He has begun to pull small trees from the pasture, but we also plan to rotational-graze pigs next year to do a lot of pasture-improvement for us. We are not planning on a beef or dairy operation, except for personal use.
Very interested in top-bar bee hives; market-gardening; mushrooms for sale; dual-purpose chickens - selling meat, not eggs; pigs and turkeys for sale; brewing - he's experienced - and hops cultivation for sale; hoop-house/greenhouse; fruit trees; grapes.
PERMACULTURE is our chosen way to go!
Douglas County, WI zone 4a 105 acres
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Recent posts by Mary Beth Alexander

Running the risk of being labeled "Typhoid Mary" or Debbie Downer ... but I completely DON'T GET this exercise of "pex/pep".
Am VERY thankful for so many of you willing to share your experiences and expertise AND questions! That's what I selfishly need as a NB permie and homesteader. Looking forward to soon being able to contribute to this community, which has already helped me so much.
I'm guessing that pex/pep is supposed to encourage people to try new things/branch out/become educated/etc - ALL GOOD. We already know that, as "permies" we are trying to recreate/relearn lost knowledge to put to use in the 21st century.
But, I'm concerned that this will become a "social-media game" with unverifiable results; potential "shaming"; and wasted time for "reportage" to the moderators.
I'm looking forward to reading about your successes and failures within the proper threads - PLEASE put your ZONE in your profile or post!
FOR EXAMPLE, If you have "spare time" (lucky you) - I hope that you would share photos of the toxic/non-toxic mushrooms you found.
THANK YOU to everyone here - the contribution, volunteerism, and sense of community is outstanding! I'm very grateful and am wishing all of us the best.

6 days ago
Hi, Mike. Finally going to be moving up to the N. WI, Douglas County farm in a few months. Love Edible Acres and Justin Rhoades. Our awful clay ground needs LOTS of help!
Was planning to free-range layers and CornishX, starting in our orchard with a "chick-saw" for overnight safety.
After the meat birds are butchered, I was hoping to be able to overwinter a small movable coop for 8-10 layers, place it under a movable hoop house to slide along a future raised bed in the garden area.
Leaves are NO PROBLEM! Got about 60 bags in 2 weeks while visiting last October - had to pass up much more because I wasn't able to use the pickup.
My question is about predators. We've got coyotes, etc - some say wolves! Very rural surround to our 105 acres.
Even if the chooks were safe overnight in a little coop, wouldn't the coyotes,etc try to tear thru the plastic hoop house or dig under? I was hoping to be able to move that hoop house along as the birds worked their magic.
Very little "woman/man-power" is going to be available on our place, LOL. Trying to be as efficient and safe as possible. Looking forward to hearing any advice from the permie "hive-mind"!
1 week ago
Keeping worms alive in WI winter without heat??? Haven't yet built the bin, but we really have no place to keep it warm, and I want worms for my chooks during the winter. We've got a an unheated barn and sheets of 4"-thick foam left from the house build. Could we insulate somehow? Appreciate any suggestions from other cold-climate folks.
2 weeks ago
Very timely discussion for me - seems like I will finally be moving up to WI in the Spring - planning "starter" garden on our new place, which has been uninhabited for 3 years . When I visited in mid-October, the voles had already girdled EVERY new (May/2018) fruit tree because my house-building son hadn't been able to keep weeds away, and his roaming German shepherd was lessening their natural predation. When I replace those trees, I'm using 1/4" hardware cloth for individual barriers on each tree. But I'm having nightmares about the potential vole damage to my garden. They were practically running over my feet when I was in the orchard! I've heard that the little b....stards will actually pull carrots, etc down into tunnels to eat! Gardening work is already going to be hard enough for 67-year-old me - DO NOT want to share.
The rabbit/woodchuck/deer fence will be created sometime later in the Summer, and the dog might be help, but it seems that these tiny critters are problems above and below ground. We can't build the permanent fence with  hardware-cloth down into the ground until we are done with the tractor in there. Even so, we'll still have a gate area, and they can get in no matter how tight we can make the clearance.
I'm planning raised/lasagna-type beds on our heavy clay soil. Though the beds will likely be permanent, they will not have permanent structure this year.
Sooo, what is my permanent plan? Will it help to keep my paths clear - do I need to insert hardware-cloth along my bed edges - do I need to get a Terrier or barn cats or let my chooks in there regularly???
I DO realize that a multi-faceted approach is best, and I'm looking forward to hearing all your experiences/suggestions - especially for the northern Midwest, zone 4. TYVM, and best regards to all for productive 2019!

1 month ago
Thanks all for advice! The problem is as mentioned: long-term, un-tilled ground - very heavy clay. We have ended up with the 100 acres that was not suitable for haying/planting - only ever used for grazing with uneven surface and at least 3 smallish watercourses. The "coulters"/disks are very shallow - this old pasture has at least 6-inch deep root structure. This piece of equipment is nearly brand-new with instruction books, and there is much better/not clay land within driving distance. We have a big tractor capable of pulling it. Hoping for more suggestions on how to use it, or it will be for sale in Douglas County, WI.
5 months ago
TY, Travis - it does look brand-new, tho this is a stock photo. My son is concerned that the "coulters"are not deep? enough for our clay soil. Also, I'm not sure we got "seed-plates" with it. I'm trying to convince him that it's not a "boat-anchor" - still looking for advice on how to use it.
5 months ago
Before we actually purchased our land! - my son got this piece of equipment in a package deal with a small combine. We have 100 acres of sorta lumpy, heavy clay, grazing land, but he wants to plant small sections of grain for beer and fodder - Zone 4. He now believes this thing is for "turf" planting. All info and suggestions gratefully accepted!
5 months ago
Thanks, Redhawk, for info and encouragement! Seems like we're on a good course in Zone 4. This current arrangement of ten (2017 wet-harvested) bales in 2 rows was just an accident due to them being delivered so late in the season - July of 2018. Because of house-build, decided not to try to use tractor-grapple to toss them with manure - over and over, etc.
They are in the area chosen for the permanent garden - I do understand that they will be improving our clay from the bottom up - I plan to use them for planting the garden Spring 2019.
Bought a cheap copy of Joel Karsten book on "Straw-Bale Gardening" SBG. Because we're using hay bales and have already introduced manure - his "sterile-soil" practice is not happening.
We've got 2 perforated PVC pipes in each bale down to about 3/4's way and have introduced blood-meal slurry through those. Crazy rain until recently - may need to add H2O this week after we've just spread a layer of manure and red wigglers.
1. Is this likely to get "hot" with a rough frost date of mid-Sept? And a Spring frost date of mid-April? Will we actually get an advantage from composition heat?
2. We have NO good soil to introduce into planting holes or seed-bed. We did buy "top-soil" for orchard planting, but it was very sandy and very iffy provenance. We can get 1-yr-old manure/black dirt for $100/ton, but that seems too rich iIMHO - never mind cost.
3. I got your msg about mycorhizae. I have a well-mixed group. Guessing they should be applied to tomatoes, potatoes (nicintomide family), peppers and okra.
4. We have mild slope to the South - was thinking to plant tomatoes at that end with trellis. Should I poke them into lower side of bale - will they get enough nutrients and not be too high for harvest?
5. Irish potatoes - really want a major harvest of these! SBG book suggests planting them 12-inches under lettuce, radish, early cole crops - what do you think?
VERY grateful for your input! and commitment to this deep resource for new "permies". Looking forward to hearing any and all advice - hoping my queries help others - wishing best success to all, Mary Beth
5 months ago
Todd Parr, how are those round hay bales working out? We got ten 2017 HAY bales in late June 2018 and laid them down on their sides, all together. My son poked pvc into them to introduce water before it started raining like crazy, and he also used those pipes to introduce blood meal AMAP. We have HORRIBLE clay and have been very delayed on the house-build - no time for much garden prep.
I just told him to throw our composted manure on the top - few inches or so - red wigglers are coming on Wednesday - I know it's late for zone 4. We also have a sack of those "mycorhizae" and could add some of them. Anybody can jump in here and let me know if this is likely to be a good garden area in Spring 2019! I expect I might have a weed problem from hay, rather than straw. But I'm prepared to mulch with a layer of newspaper and then wood chips. Thank you to all for any advice/experience and best wishes to all, Mary Beth.    
5 months ago