Monthly Archives: May 2013

That’s just my bucket of Comfrey Tea

When asked by my granddaughter, Lexi, “what died in here!” what do you think my answer was? Last month I made FPE (fermented plant extract) with some of my comfrey, my post Comfrey Fermentation outlined the procedure. The result was a greenish liquids that smelled a bit like canned green beans with a slight alcoholic edge. This month I decided to try making just straight comfrey tea. Not the kind you drink but basically broken down (rotted) comfrey leaves.

Comfrey Plant ready to be harvested

Comfrey Plant ready to be harvested

This past Monday I went around to all of my comfrey plants and cut out all of the flower stalks then pulled off about half of the leaves from each plant.ComfreyI ended up with a good 5 gallon bucket of comfrey which I then firmly compressed by liberal application of my foot, I stood one-legged in the bucket.Comfrey3After filling with water to the level of the compressed leaves I added a second bucket with holes drilled in the bottom. Comfrey5 Comfrey4This bucket was then weighted down with a large brick. Not much happened the first day, I had read that due to its low fiber content comfrey breaks down amazingly fast, so I was wondering when something was gonna happen. When I checked on it yesterday (day 2) there was a couple of inches of oily looking brownish muck in the upper bucket but no smell that I noticed. Everything I had read also talked about the stink and I was thinking “yeah right” then I kicked the bucket a bit. Oh Lordy!!!! what a vile disgusting reek emanated from the tiny drops that landed on my hand! I ain’t talking anaerobic compost pile stink, Lexi hit the nail on the head. This stuff smells like DEATH! Now I’m kinda scared to load it up in the backpack sprayer and dose my orchard with it, the cops might come over looking for dead bodies. I’m thinking this stuff is gonna be a soil drench application possibly followed by a lacto spray to try to neutralize the stench before the neighbors call the authorities.

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Monty Chill Who?

Tuey and I just got back from an adventure to the Washington DC area. Why is it that schools feel the need to force Elementary and Junior High students to go to amazing places that 90% don’t give a shit about? DC was packed with bored students and frustrated Teachers/Chaperones who obviously did not want to be there. Yes there were some that you could tell were truly absorbing the history that surrounded them but they were a very small minority. Enough ranting, On to my post about Karen and I’s awesome herb garden tour at Monticello!

MonticelloWe joined a group of 15 or so mostly local herb enthusiasts for a 2 1/2 hour tour of Thomas Jefferson’s herb garden bright and early Saturday morning. Originally we wanted to do a behind the scenes type tour but it was sold out, I noticed this herb tour on their special events section and Tuey thought we should give it a go. Something different you know. MarshmallowWhile everyone else was taking up close shots of herb specimens and taking detailed notes about what Monticello’s gardeners think he might have used them for I found other things to occupy me. Tuey at MonticelloKaren was obviously intrigued by the garden and watching her intrigued me. LadybugsThis example of insect fornication also intrigued Tuey enough to call me over to get a shot with the I-Phone. Tuey tooIt was truly a beautiful morning and the information was fascinating but it came through fairly quickly that Jefferson was more of an intellectual and a gadget guy and not a man of the land. Earlier in the week we visited Mt. Vernon and there it was obvious that Washington was a man intrigued by agriculture but that wasn’t the case, at least for me, at Monticello.Tormented TueyThis look on Tuey’s face is the result of the lady with the glasses repeatedly asking for the correct spelling of exotic herbs like thyme and rosemary.Swing SetI really liked this setup because it is exactly what I am doing with my tomatoes albeit with an old swing set frame in my case. SalveThe final part of the class was making a salve. Pot MarigoldThis was the main ingredient, pot marigold. While I discovered a lot of ideas in the gardens, it was this part I got the most out of. A couple of the women in the group were amateur herbalists and one was even studying to practice professionally, talking to them I realized that the Korean Natural farming techniques I am doing in my orchard/garden are really just being a herbalist for my plants/soil. While they are much more precise with their methods we found that we were all trying to do the same thing, making chemicals or compounds within plants into a readily available and usable source for the patient. It even turned out that there were two plants/herbs that both Herbalists and practitioners of Korean Natural Farming looked upon as necessities in our herbal toolkit! Stinging Nettles and Comfrey, one Lady even had a jug of Stinging Nettle Tea and they all agreed that all the cautions about Comfrey and liver toxicity is just another example of the FDA performing unrealistic studies. All in all Tuey and I both enjoyed our excursion to Jefferson’s house but I think all of those East Coast Wiccans kinda disturbed my Sweety’s chi. Karen

 

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Why did the goat climb the tree?

 Why did the goat climb the tree? Because Gooey loves Shanda! That’s why. My sweety, Karen, is so upset because her sweet little baby goat, Gooey, has decided that our Daughter in Law, Shanda, is her momma and will do anything for her. Gooey moved up to The Fruity Chicken a little over a month ago and Shanda jumped in to bottle feed her when Tuey couldn’t make it up the hill. Little by little Gooey started patterning on Shanda and now while she is still excited to see Tuey she goes bonkers when Shanda comes around and follows her everywhere. How much you wanna bet that there’s another goat baby in The Fruity Chickens herd? Our goal is to move up the hill this summer and I can see my Sweety deciding Gooey needs a “friend” soon after that.

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Mulching for Max

Gardening in the harsh desert climate of Las Vegas really brings to the forefront the necessity of utilizing every drop of moisture as efficiently as possible. The Fruity Chicken orchard/garden utilizes several techniques to help maximize this utilization. My baseline moisture is supplied by a sub-surface irrigation system over the entire area whose primary source of water is greywater from laundry. This system does have a supplemental input of fresh water of approximately 35 gallons every other day during the height of the summer which I estimate to be about 1/3 of the total input. This freshwater input tapers down to 35 gallons a week in the fall and 35 gallons a month through the winter months. My orchard/garden area is currently 20′ x 40′, due to the 6″ to 12″ layer of mulch over the general area the soil stays reasonably moist year round. On the the other hand my raised beds are above this moisture source necessitating a drip system to keep seedlings and shallow rooted veggies thriving.

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The drip system in my main 4’x12′ beds is 3 laterals running the length of the bed with .9 GPH emitters spaced @ 12″ intervals, this system runs 1 hour a day early in the morning applying roughly 35 gallons a day. Up to this point in the season this system has thoroughly watered those beds and resulted in enough seepage coming out of the downhill end to keep the comfrey planted there to scavenge nutrients flourishing. With the recent increase in heat the moist area has been noticeably receding, rather than increasing the run time on the drip system I have been focusing on mulching to reduce loss through evaporation. In the picture above the green mulch that was planted initially can be seen, this is primarily red wheat which has really exceeded my expectations.

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That green mulch gets cut down about every other week and laid between the crop plantings. Now that the heat is coming on that mulch just isn’t enough so I have started supplementing it with straw.

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My experience with trying to mulch with straw hasn’t been positive but this time appears to be different. In the past I had done things the traditional way, spreading straw over the whole bed then pulling that mulch aside to do my plantings. This method always resulted in straw blown around everywhere except where it was needed, due to already being used to cutting and placing small amounts of green mulch I just kinda kept up the same process. Rather than throwing down a big ole flake off the bale I have been sitting down next to my beds with a pile of straw, picking up a handful, tearing it in half and then sorta weaving in between the established plants. This method has resulted in the mulch being where it is really needed and staying in place, a side benefit is that I am spending quality time up close and personal with my garden. Pests get spotted sooner and so far have been able to be controlled by manual means rather than using chemicals. Additionally it is right in my face when a plant is struggling a bit allowing me to either adjust my spray mixture or do some spot amendments such as a leaf or two of comfrey smushed up and pushed under the mulch for a bit of boost.

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Narrow Crotches and Slime

My Mulberries are trying to be bushes when they are supposed to be trees, so this week I performed corrective surgery and amputated the extra trunk on each of my two largest trees.Mulberry #1 Mulberry Tree #1

Two different views of the first Mulberry Tree I planted in my orchard last spring. In the lower picture you can clearly see where I cut out the second leader.

Mulberry #2 Mulberry Tree #2

This Mulberry was planted mid-summer of 2012 and has done very well, again in the lower picture you can see where the second leader was removed. All 4 of the Mulberry trees I have are Pakistani Mulberries. I probably harvested 4 quarts of long, dark, very sweet fruit from the trees pictured above. There is still fruit on all 4 of my trees that look like they should be ripening over the next couple of weeks. We are really looking forward to next years production seeing as how even after cutting half of the tree off they are still over double the size they were last fall.

Butter Lettuce Bok Choy

Fodder production has been highly variable lately due to low germination rates and slime. I think the heat is finally interfering with my setup (we officially hit 100 F for the first time this year monday) and I am pretty sure my sweety Karen wouldn’t tolerate my dripping trays inside the house so it’s back to alternative foraging from my favorite oriental restaurant. The manager is super cool and even personally delivered this batch of greens for my gals. Fermenting though is really cooking in this heat, cranking out a good sour-smelling mash in 2 days easy. The flock is swelling again and I really do need to cull but aint quite ready yet…. I’ll get there though. Maybe when it officially hits 110 f for the first time this year?  Nahhhh probably not.

 

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A Duck!

My sister Lorri probably remembers which uncle it was that always asked this question. All I remember was that according to my Grandmother the answer given by all severely inebriated people was “because one foot is both alike”

Pastries and Other Great Vegetables

Max asked:
Why is a duck?

Max, to be honest, I have no idea what you mean by that question. I’ll give it a shot, though. I practically never walk away from a challenge.

To start with a basic interpretation of your question, I’ll say that a duck is, in most cases, because he is not naught. This, however, is a common answer that even a pre-schooler could provide. Let’s go for a more in-depth analysis of your question. To do so, we shall switch to the plural and refer to our good avian as “ducks.”

Indeed.Therefore, why are ducks? This is a much more complex and is, in fact, an extremely challenging question. Ducks have many purposes, not all of them yet known. At least one of the purposes, as demonstrated by Sir Bedemir and King Arthur, is to use ducks as counter balances on scales (particularly useful when…

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Nests

Ajax, the African Sulcata tortoise finally moved up to the Clayton house.

Ajax enjoying some of Gooey's hay

Ajax enjoying some of Gooey’s hay

He dug right in to Gooey’s hay and then started exploring.Ajax

About 30 minutes after being turned loose Ajax had made it to the far side of the property.Ajax

It is amazing how fast these tortoises grow, Ajax is somewhere around 5 years old and is over 50 lbs. already! In the 2 years he had been at our other house he has totally excavated the entire back yard to an average depth of 18″ and dug one tunnel that extends at least 15′.

Gooey's Nest

Originally Gooey fell in love with her igloo dog goat house, but lately she has decided she likes breakfast (and all other meals) in bed. Rather than go the bother of taking hay into her house she just relocated to sleeping in the feed bin.

Bees Nest

I have been wanting bees but not like this! There is a hive inside the blockwall of the Clayton house and apparently they decided to swarm. Their first stop was the oleanders over the fence at The Fruity Chicken. My sweety, Karen, was a bit freaked out that we were all going to be assassinated by “killer” bees. That wasn’t to be though, by monday morning they had moved on for parts unknown.

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Mulch ado about nuffin

Things have progressed in the garden to that slight lull in activity between preparing, planting, and harvesting. There is still plenty to do like my bi-weekly spraying regime and weeding, but luckily it is not as hectic as before. In between setting the tub in the guest bathroom at the Clayton house today I mulched raised bed #2.

Mulch06 Mulch07 Mulch08

Comfrey leaves being laid out

Comfrey leaves being laid out

This bed has a bit of nitrogen deficiency problem

This bed has a bit of nitrogen deficiency problem

Comfrey is high in nitrogen and breaks down rapidly, I am hoping this layer of leaves will help boost the fertility in this bed.

Straw Mulch

Comfrey plants can be seen in the foreground of this picture. They are on the downslope end of this bed in order to scavenge any nutrients that leach down.

Comfrey plants, seen in the foreground of this picture, are on the downslope end of this bed to scavenge any nutrients that leach down.

It hit 101* F today! The straw will help keep the soil temps down a bit along with minimizing evaporation.

Isn't this Tomcot Apricot a beauty?

Isn’t this Tomcot Apricot a beauty?

This is Karen's latest foster baby...Tribeca

This is Karen’s latest foster baby…Tribeca

My sweety Karen’s latest foster baby is Tribeca, a cute little kitten with a severely mangled paw that will necessitate amputation of her leg when she gets a bit older.

YummyCammy & Tribeca

Tribeca is socializing well and has a large following on The Humane Societies FB page already, so finding her a good forever home shouldn’t be a problem .

Gooey's new mineral block

Gooey’s new mineral block

Gooey the Mountain Goat

Goats have special mineral needs and now that Gooey is down to one bottle a day I went out and got her a mineral block. Like everything else in her world though the block is just another obstacle to climb!

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