Pleasant Surprises
In My Field

Dateline: 25 June 2015

My Field is an ocean of tall weeds!

June is a month of limitations for me. It is the busiest month for my Planet Whizbang mail order business. Which means I'm working from early morning, into the night, making sure that orders are processed, packaged, and promptly shipped. 

There is precious little time for much else, and anything else (like working in my garden, or writing this blog) must be done at odd moments of the day, when I deliberately take a few minutes to refocus. By the end of the month (right about now) I'm nearing burn out.

So, last Sunday (a no-mail day), in the morning, I fired up Leyland (my tractor) and headed down to my field. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know I bought me a field, with some woods, a few years back. Paid cash, earned from selling chicken plucker books and chicken plucker parts over the course of ten years. Land ownership was a dream come true. 

The land adjoins my 1.5 acre homestead plot. But, due to the topography (a deep, wooded gully), my field is only accessible by driving down the road aways, around the corner, and down another road aways. Which means it is not exactly convenient to get to.

My field is about 10 acres in size. And, though I'm delighted to own a field, I'm kind of at a loss to know exactly what to do with it. If it had some fence and some cows, it would make a fine pasture. That would be nice, but I don't feel like I'm near enough to the land to properly tend the cattle. A good portion of the land could be an enlarged garden or a berry patch. But, again, it's not convenient to get there and tend to it like would be needed. I have planted a small apple orchard on the land and it doesn't get the attention it deserves.

The way I see it, I need to live in this field if I'm going to properly take care of it. I know from experience on our 1.5 acres that having a garden real near the house means it is a whole lot easier to take care of. Same goes for having critters. 

So Marlene and I keep thinking about the prospect of building a house in the field. But that's an expensive proposition. The other possibility is that I first build a much-needed barn/building for my Planet Whizbang business. Then maybe the house could come later. But, to complicate matters, a good section of the lower part of the field is wet. Real wet. As in, water continually flowing over the ground wet.

The water comes from a spring on the neighbor's property. It has been diverted underground via drain pipes (aka, drain tile) for decades, but the pipes are inadequate for the flow and the area has been a recurring problem.

It is a perfect situation for making a pond. But I don't have the money to spare for such an extravagance. 

I've been told that there is government money (aka, "grants") available for building ponds (and fences too), and I know neighbors who have tapped into such money. But I don't think it's right for me to take tax dollars to improve my land. Wouldn't that be a violation of the 8th Commandment? (thou shalt not steal).  No thanks.

So, my plan is to someday hire someone with a bulldozer to create an open drain ditch from the source of water at the property line, down through the field to an existing gully. With the amount of water that flows over the land, it would amount to creating a man-made stream. I'll make it deep enough that the field around it can be drained into it. And wide enough that the sides slope down gently to the water. Once that's done, and the field is dry, I can then think about a Planet Whizbang barn, and even a house.

The only problem is my lack of financial resources. I reckon I have enough savings to have the earthwork done, but then I'll have to work and wait a few more years to save enough for the barn. Projects like this take time (a lifetime) when you have to work for your money, and are paying as you go.

In the meantime, my field is getting overgrown with weeds. It has been three years since I cut it with Leland and my sickle bar mower. Brambles are growing, and there are little sumac trees here and there. The field needs to be cut low. I have a person with a brush hog lined up to mow it all down (except the real wet area).

And that's what brought me to my field last Sunday morning. I needed to flag the wet spots so the brush hogger could steer clear and not get stuck.

In the process of pounding posts and putting up strips of florescent tape, I checked on my little apple orchard half way up the field (above the water problems), and I was very surprised to find actual apples on some of my trees!

(click the picture to see a larger view)

I did not expect apples to be on the trees for a couple more years. Altogether, there are ten apples on four of the trees. They are beautiful apples too!

Then along the edge of my field (close to the woods) I was delighted to discover an abundance of perfectly ripe wild strawberries.



I spent some time picking and eating strawberries. 

Another pleasant surprise was an oak tree whip I planted a couple years ago. It was thriving...


I planted a lot of little tree seedlings, most of them maple trees, and most of them have either died or are barely hanging on, but that oak tree is living the good life. 

Seeing as that tree has managed to do so well, it's kind of special to me, and I suppose it always will be. I look forward to seeing it grow much bigger. 

(Note to self... plant more trees)

It was a nice morning. A very nice morning. And I enjoyed myself thoroughly, out there in my field. But I lost track of time. 

I don't wear a watch and I don't have a cell phone. When me and Leyland got home, Marlene came out to inform me that we had missed church. Did I forget? No, I didn't forget. I actually thought I was getting back in plenty of time to make it to church. 

I suggested to Marlene that we could go back up into the field and pick some strawberries. And that's what we did.










Redeeming The Dirt Conference
2015

Dateline: 24 June 2015



Back in 2013 Noah Sanders went to Zimbabwe (I blogged about it HERE) to learn about the Christian-agrarian ministry, Foundations For Farming. The combination of spiritual and agricultural principles taught by Foundations For Farming have brought sustainable hope and sustenance to the beleaguered people of Zimbabwe. Are these same principles of life and agriculture equally applicable to beleaguered Americans?

Noah thinks so (and I do too). 

With that in mind, last year Noah hosted a Redeeming The Dirt Conference in Rockford, Alabama. The objective being to introduce the Foundations For Farming principles to this country. This year he is continuing the outreach with a 2015 Redeeming The Dirt Conference (click the link for full details).

If I lived anywhere near Alabama, I would get to this event.

One more thing...

Back in 2013 I posted a link to a YouTube video of a man from Foundations For Farming talking about the basic agricultural principles of the ministry. The video ends with him praising the beauty of God's creation, as found in a sunflower. His words are powerfully compelling to me. Check out my blog post here: Acknowledging God in His Creation.





Beauty...
And A Beast

Dateline: 23 June 2015


I took the above picture in my garden yesterday morning. If you click on it, you will see a nice close-up of some potato leaves. They are verdant, velvety, and simply beautiful. The hideous-looking larvae provides quite a contrast; it's a beastly little potato leaf destroyer. If I did not kill it, and others like it, they would destroy my plants, and I would have no potatoes.

I think there is a spiritual metaphor in this picture.





My New E-Mail

Dateline: 21 June 2015

Mail delivery, as it once was
(click for larger view)

I have had the same e-mail address, through a local company, for at least ten years. I would still have it if the company did not notify me last month that they were going out of business. 

I had to scramble to get a new e-mail, change my e-mail information with different businesses (Amazon, PayPal, Ebay, etc.), and then try to find every business-related web page with my e-mail on it in order to update it. 

Having the correct e-mail address on your web pages is particularly important when you have a mail order business that depends nearly 100% on the internet.

All of this has been a hassle, but I'm pretty much transitioned over (though I'm sure I've missed some changes on my web sites).

If you need to reach me, my new e-mail is: herrick@planetwhizbang.com. The old e-mail of hckimball@bci.net no longer works.

Thank you.





Toe Bug Patrol
or
"It's Okay To Be Dooty"

Dateline: 20 June 2015


Futureman went back to Ohio today. He was here for two weeks, and we went on toe bug patrol in the garden every day. Toe bugs are more commonly known as potato bugs. Futureman doesn't do very well  with three syllables yet.

On our first foray into the garden, Futureman got some earth on his hands and arm. He seemed overly concerned about getting "dooty." 

"I dooty, Boppy." he said. Over an over. 

"I dooty, Boppy. I dooty, Boppy."

And I said. "Don't be such a city slicker. It's okay to be dooty. Dooty is good." 

To which he invariably replied..."Why?"

And I said, "Cuz Boppy says so."

FYI... Dooty is "dirty" and Boppy is me.

(I thought I wanted to be called Grampie, which is the term I used for my grandfathers, but Grampie isn't easy to say at three years old, so it's Boppy, and I'm kind of liking it.)   

There were not a lot of toe bugs to be found on our daily patrols, but we always found a few. Sometimes Futureman would spy a toe bug, but most of the time I would see them first. Whatever the case, it was his job to dispatch the critters.




I showed Futureman how to set a toe bug on plastic mulch and smoosh it with his foot...




At first, he would stomp his foot repeatedly, and completely miss the toe bug every time. So we worked on that. Instead of stomping, he would place his toe on the bug and give it a twist or slide it, which is a very effective technique for killing a toe bug.

After a couple days I thought Futureman might be better at smooshing toe bugs with a rock. The first time he smooshed a toe bug with a rock, he said, "Yukky." Rock-Smooshing toe bugs is also a very effective technique (sorry, no picture).

So now, Futureman has gone back to where being dooty is frowned upon, and Boppy is on toe bug patrol all by himself.












A Different Perspective
On Wise Investing
(Garden Infrastructure)

Dateline: 17 June 2015

Fabric-mulched potato hills in my garden.


I’m persuaded that we as a nation are currently in the early stages of of an era of epic wealth destruction and confiscation. For more and more people the American dream of working hard and getting ahead is giving way to the American nightmare of working hard (if a job can be found) to pay off debt while barely keeping the taxes and bills paid—or not keeping them paid. 

Those who have good-paying jobs or an earned life savings are becoming a minority, and are increasingly seen by the corrupt political class as targets for even more vampiric taxation. 

The old rules for wise investing apply less and less. Those who actually have a little money ahead, and want to invest it, so as to earn a return, are hard pressed to find safe and secure investment options. 

With these emerging realities in mind, I believe one of the wisest investments anyone can make is in what I’ll call Garden Infrastructure. Let me explain…

A dictionary definition of the word “infrastructure” is as follows:

The basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, and power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.

My definition of “garden infrastructure” would be:

The basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., land, tools, fertilizer) needed for the operation of a productive personal garden.

No matter how bad the economy gets, no matter how much wealth destruction and confiscation happens, if you invest your money now in garden infrastructure, you essentially “lock in” profitable returns for years to come.

No, you aren’t necessarily going to get a financial return (in the conventional sense) for your investment, but conventional monetary returns don't mean a whole lot in an era of wealth destruction (and the social/political upheaval that will likely attend this era). 

The concept of investing in garden infrastructure is surely unconventional. Precious few moderns will take the idea seriously,  but it is pretty much the safest and surest investment a person or family can make.

Even in the unlikely event that impending worldwide economic problems are resolved, and the conventional investment paradigms do not fail, garden infrastructure is still one of the best investments a person can make. Think about this….

If you work a job to earn money to purchase your food at a store, and you are in a 30% income tax bracket, you have to earn $140 to buy $98 worth of food ($42 of the $140 would go to the government). 

That being the case, you might be further ahead if you worked less at a job and more at growing your own food. Unless, of course, the government figures out a way to tax people on the value of any food they produce for themselves.

I have been investing in garden infrastructure for years, but this year I’m increasing my investment in the following areas… 

1.  I have invested in soil amendments to last me for several years. Specifically, I’ve bought several bags of kelp meal and humates. I invested in a soil analysis and mineralization of my garden a few years ago. These new soil amendments (along with compost and biochar that I produce) are all I figure I’ll need for a long time.

2.  As readers of this blog know, I started using using black plastic and black plastic fabric as a mulch in my garden last year. These materials are helping me to have a more productive garden, and I have bought more of the material this year. 

3.  I’ve come to the conclusion that a soil blocker is the most intelligent way to get most seeds started, before transplanting them into the garden. With that in mind, I am in the process of purchasing enough ingredients to make my own soil-block mix for several years. I’m also making and using self-watering trays for the soil blocks. I hope to blog about this in the future, but there is plenty of soil-block information on the internet, and Eliot Coleman’s books cover the subject well.

4.  After procrastinating for years, I am planning to finally to put up a small, movable, unheated greenhouse this year. It will be for the purpose or growing greens through the winter, for starting plants in the spring, and for growing tomatoes in the summer. I will be writing about this subject as it develops.

5.  I hope to get a ramial chip maker (wood chipper) later this year. I have an abundance of scrub brush on my land that needs to be chipped up and put to good use.

These are just some examples of garden infrastructure. Other examples of garden infrastructure investments would be fencing, trellis supports, Row-cover materials, tools, and how-to books. Even bluebird nesting boxes could be classified as garden infrastructure.

I know that many (if not most) people who read this blog are investing in their own garden infrastructure. So I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. But, for the record, I just want to make it clear that I think garden infrastructure is one of the best investments there is.

As always, I welcome your comments and insights about this subject.