Thursday, April 17, 2014

04/17/14

The Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC was this past weekend. We decided to attend this event rather than the one as Seven Springs this year. I'll try to get a blog entry up in a few days detailing the experience.

I spent the yesterday evening and night visiting a friend who is house-sitting an off-grid cabin in the next county over. It was a good experience, and I hope to spend more time there over the coming weeks. I found that I didn't miss the lack of electricity at all, although I realize that its much easier to spend a single night without electricity than live that way every day. I need to build my own off-grid cabin that I can visit anytime I want.

I plan to get outside this evening and work on some tasks that I've fallen behind on. It'll be nice to get back into the swing of things, assuming the weather cooperates. We had a heavy frost this morning, and just a couple of days ago we actually had snow. Its back into the 70s today, though, which is where I wish it would stay.

Friday, April 4, 2014

04/04/14

I have yet again been away for much too long. With the weather improving, things are starting to happen around here, which is great. Things are also extremely busy at work right now, though, which isn't leaving me a lot of time for doing updates. I need to do a better job of finding time, though.

Most of my free time in the evenings and on weekends is still being spent cleaning up the trees that we cut at the garden. That is going well, and I now have the existing garden cleared and will next move to the area we plan to plant this year.

We've also done our first spring planting of the year. On Wednesday we planted onions, including some onion sets I picked up at a farm supply store, and two varieties that Andrea started from seed. We plan to add some transplants next week, if the weather permits.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kentucky Green Living Fair - 2014

This past weekend Andrea and I attended the Kentucky Green Living Fair in Somerset, KY. The fair is organized by Sustainable Kentucky, and is in just its second year. We attended the fair last year as well, and I'm pleased to see that it grown.. With 18 workshops, approximately 60 vendors, live music throughout the day, and more than 1,800 attendees I think its safe to say that the fair was a huge success.

My focus for the fair was, of course, attending workshops. I did, however, attend fewer than normal. This was partly due to the fact that I had already previously attended some of the workshops, either at last years fair, or heard the instructor speak on a similar topic at another event. Still, I attended four workshops, one of which lasted nearly two hours.

One complaint I had last year was that there was not enough time for the workshops. By the time one workshop ended, there was already a line outside the door of people waiting to get in for the next. This was not a problem this year. I suspect it was due to several factors, including larger classrooms, the fact that the entire event was inside, and hour long slots for the workshops to allow time in between.

Workshops

Forest Gardening and Ecological Design - Micah Wiles of Cedar Creek Farm

I had attended a workshop on Forest Gardening at the 2012 Mother Earth News Fair, so had some idea of what to expect. Unfortunately I think that many of those attending were expecting something different, and several ended up leaving before the workshop ended. At one point there were only fifteen people left, although this number kept changing as people would leave and different people would enter. It was distracting for those of us who stayed the entire time, and I'm sure had to be for the instructor as well.

I really enjoyed the workshop. The instructor was very knowledgeable in the subject. I learned several things, but more importantly, I now have more of an interest in learning more. I'm sure that forest gardening will be going onto my list of subjects to research further.


Winter Gardening - Cathy Reymeyer of Mother of a Hubbard

I've attended workshop in the past on winter gardening and/or season extension, but have never really been that interested. I had not originally plan to attend this workshop, but did so at the urging of a friend who was planning to attend. In hindsight I'm glad that I did.

Winter gardening is obviously a popular subject, as the workshop was held in, what I believe was, the largest of the classrooms, and was still packed, with people standing at the back of the room. The information given about building a low-cost low-tunnel will definitely be useful. Perhaps what I most enjoyed, though, was that the instructor took the time to really explain some key concepts, such as the reason behind increased sugar production of plants for cold tolerance.


Growing Our Own Food & Farm Financing - Michelle Howell & Rona Roberts

I really wasn't sure what to expect from this workshop. I was hoping it would be filled with practical information, but I was unfortunately disappointed. Instead, the focus was on the slow money movement, as it can apply to homesteading, gardening, etc. This was explained through several real life examples. I ended up enjoying the workshop, much more than I would have expected,though,  and may do some additional research into the slow money movement.


Composting Toilets - Micah Wiles of Cedar Creek Farm

I was beyond excited when I saw that a workshop on composting toilets was on the schedule. This is something I have been interested in for quite some time, and actually intend to experiment with this year.

When the workshop began the instructor explained that he was not an expert on the subject, but does use a composting toilet at home. He has an outhouse which is used for most of the year, but also uses a basic bucket toilet during the winter months to avoid braving the cold to get to the outhouse.

Most of the focus of the workshop was on using a bucket toilet, with some discussion of designs that could allow for an inside toilet with outside collection, as well as ideas for urine separation. Commercial composting toilets were not discussed in detail, which was fine with me, since I plan to begin with the bucket system anyway.

I didn't really learn much from this workshop that I didn't already know. A couple of books, The Humanure Handbook and Holy Shit were recommended, both of which I've read. It was still nice, though, to hear a first hand account from someone who is currently using a bucket toilet. It was also nice to see that there is sufficient demand for information on the topic that a workshop was offered at the fair. This makes me hopeful that composting toilet use may become more common.


I didn't actually spend much time browsing the vendors at the fair this year. I spent one of my breaks looking for food and eating lunch. My later, longer, break was primarily spent talking with Dan Adams from Earthineer. He had requested some time with me to discuss some ideas for the site, and I'm always more than happy to spend my time doing that. My last workshop ended before time for the fair to close, but Andrea was also finished, so we left early and had dinner with friends, who were also attending the fair.

Andrea did spend more time looking at the vendors, and picked up a few items. She also helped out at the booth where the Field to Fork Festival was being promoted. She did attend a couple of workshops, one on Medicinal Teas and another on Permaculture in Practice, as well as participating in a seed swap.

All in all it was a wonderful day. I was very happy to see so many people come out to the fair. I hope it is a sign of increasing interest in sustainability in the area. I'm already looking forward to next year's event, even though the 2014 event season is just getting underway. With the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC coming up in April, and then the Field to Fork Festival in May it is shaping up to be a spring filled with learning opportunities.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

03/13/14

I've not accomplished as much as I would have liked since this weekend, but I've gotten a bit done.

Monday evening I went out after work and spent a couple of hours working up the downed trees over at the garden. I made more progress than expected, so was pleased with that. I didn't get to work on it Tuesday or Wednesday either one, though. On Tuesday we had to go to Richmond after work for the Field to Fork planning committee meeting. Then, on Wednesday I worked in the office, plus the weather turned cold and rainy. I did get out for a few minutes after work this evening, but managed to fall and hurt my wrist a bit, so came back inside. I'm sure it'll be fine by tomorrow.

Monday, March 10, 2014

03/10/14

I had a productive weekend, which is definitely a nice change of pace.

In preparation for the weekend I took the RTV tire that has been going flat to the repair shop in town. Strangely the couldn't find a leak, but I had told them it was leaking around the rim so he went ahead and cleaned it and replaced the valve stem. He ended up not even charging anything, since he didn't find a problem. That's service you only get with small, local businesses.

Andrea also stopped at a hardware store in London and picked up a new chainsaw for me. I had been planning to get one for a while, and decided now was the time. I went with the Echo CS-400, which seemed like the best fit for my  needs.

On Saturday my Dad came down to help me cut some trees. The original plan was to just cut the trees in the way of the garden expansion, as well as some of those casting shade on the garden and the black walnuts close by. It went quicker than expected, though, so we went ahead and cute every tree within the actual garden area. I'm left with a huge mess to clean up, but it is going to be a big improvement once its all done.

I spent yesterday working on the cleanup. I'm stacking the logs so they can season, in hopes of using them for a cordwood construction project down the road. So the cleanup consists of trimming off the branches, piling them up to be chipped later, then moving and stacking the logs. Andrea helped me after lunch, and we managed to get about fifteen logs stacked. I suspect most of my free time during the month of March, when the weather permits, will be spent trying to finish up that project.

It seems a little strange to me to cut down so many trees, since I've been looking at potential house sites with an eye towards not having to cut anything except the smallest of trees. Most of those in the garden were over-crowded, though, so had grown incredibly tall, without putting on much trunk size. That's one thing that should make them great for cordwood, because they are tall, straight, and relatively slender.

Monday, March 3, 2014

03/03/14

I am both surprised and disappointed to see that it has been nearly a month since I last wrote an update. Not a lot has happened in that, time though, really. I was sick for a week, with what I assume was the flu, even though I never went to the doctor. Other than that, I've attended a few meetings, including a couple more Field to Fork planning committee meetings, as well as one to discuss the Earthineer Marketplace and bartering system, which is going to enter beta testing soon.

We did have some nice weather this weekend, and I hoped it was going to mark the beginning of Spring's arrival. I got out on Saturday and worked in and around the garden, spreading mulch on the garlic beds and between the rows, as well as turning the compost pile. I was happily surprised to see how well the compost has broken day. After that I spent some time exploring the woods, and just enjoying the nice weather. I located a large Sycamore tree by the creek that I was previously unaware of, which I was very happy to find. Large and/or old trees always fascinate me.

The weather turned to rain yesterday, and to snow last night and today. I went out at lunch to around five inches of snow, which I think is the most we've had all year, possibly since we moved here. I decided to get the four-wheeler out, and enjoyed speeding through the fresh snow and sliding around turns. Afterwards I played with the dogs a bit, before going in to warm up and eat. Its nice just getting out and having fun occassionally. I certainly need to do it more often.

Monday, February 10, 2014

02/10/14

We attended the 2014 Southeastern Kentucky Beekeeping School event this weekend. We attended the Eastern Kentucky event last year, so decided to mix it up and do the Southeastern one this time around. The drive should have taken about an hour and forty-five minutes. It snowed Saturday morning, however, and the roads hadn't been treated when we left around 6:15 AM. It ended up taking us close to two and a half hours to get there. I considered turning and going back home at one point, after nearly losing control of the truck on a four-lane highway, but we were more than halfway there, so I figured the drive back home would be worse than continuing.

The event itself was very informative. I attended workshops on Natural Beekeeping, Forage Crops for Bees, Queen Rearing, and Races of Bees. The workshops gave me a renewed interest in beekeeping. I was especially pleased with the Races of Bees workshop, because it helped me to understand more about the diversity of European Honeybee available, and how to determine which might be the best fit for us.

After the workshops ended we met a friend in Somerset before heading home. Its always nice when we can work in seeing someone we don't see often with attending workshops.