Monday, October 29, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
Fridays are devoted to topics about nutrition
The USDA recommends 2.5 cups for women in the 30-51 age range and 3 cups for men per day. So 2.5-3 cups per day of vegetables. And that's for people who exercise less than 30 minutes per day. Most of us, I think. I know when I was working an ofice job, the most exercise I got was walking to my car - maybe 10 minutes per day.
Being super-analytical, I want to know whta they mean by a cup. Straight from the USDA themselves,
In general, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as 1 cup from the vegetable group.
Then there is a handy chart for you to look at that describes what a cup is for various vegetables. You can get there from this link: http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/vegetables_counts.html
The interesting thing about the new food pyramid is that it is customizable depending on your activity level, age and weight. Go to www.mypyramid.gov and click on MyPyramid Plan to go through a "wizard" to help you plan out what you as an individual should eat.
You can build a pyramid plan for each family member if you would like. This seems to be a lot of time to me. And it can be, but if you have no idea what you should be eating and how much, it may be well worth your effort to find out.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
- Keep your post hole diggers clean and sharp to cut through the clay-shale mix we call a subsoil.
- It is better to attach your fence on the inside of the pen because when the goats rub against it, it doesn't bow out so bad.
- Check out the lay of the ground under your bottom wire. If there is more than a four inch gap, this will become a chicken escape route.
- Goats can jump anything under four foot tall.
- Goats and chickens can mix, but whatever flimsy thing you built for the chickens will not stand up to play time with a goat.
- Make sure your gates swing into the pen so if you forget to latch them, the goats still can't get out.
- Make sure your gate latch requires motion along several planes to unhook so the goats can't open it.
- A car and a fence stretcher make things a whole lot easier and tighter when putting up a fence.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
My grandparents called it reusing as in
Buy it new
Wear it out
Make it do
My parents called it recycling
And the latest version is re-purposing.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
How about Japanese Honeysuckle? This plant is a mid-canopy forest edge dweller. Japanese honeysuckle is very like the native honeysuckle but much more invasive. Of course, it is silly, you say. It's not from around here.
The best way but also the most laborious way is to pull out your invasives, root and all. Do it like voting in Ohio - early and often. Actually, you want to start attacking the plant after its winter root stores are expended on spring growth. In the fall, the roots have stored energy from the summer growing season. Unless you have been hacking away at the foliage all summer, you probably don't want to mess with it until the spring. There are naturally, some things you will need to remember when you do go after it.
If you pull this sucker up, get the whole root or as much as possible. It will come back from even the smallest segments. Not only does it bloom and produce seeds, but it is also a runner and produces offshoots and suckers as it grows. Another name for this type of plant would be a colonizer. Do NOT put this puppy in you compost pile. Colonizer - remember. Let it dry up in a place it can't root and burn it in you annual bonfire, or bag it and drop it off. I prefer the bonfire method, because I am not adding to the landfill issue. Reason #2: I can use the ashes to supplement the soil or to cover the ice in the winter.
One way to tell the difference between Japanses Honeysuckle and the native species is to look at where the leaves join the stem. In a native honeysuckle, the leaves actually form one unit from the stem, where the leaves on a Japanese honeysuckle would be opposite distinct leaves. Check carefully before you pull, because some of the native honeysuckles can be quite rare. If you're not sure what you have, you can contact your local extension office or leave it until someone more knowledgeable can help you identify the mystery honeysuckle.
This weed will change the composition of your understory including what birds you see. It prefers full sun but is often found in partial shade. Go get rid of it. ASAP. You'll be glad you did.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I have often heard women complain about adding weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas becasue of the constant supply of food during the holidays. In truth, most people will add an average of 15-20 lbs of holiday weight. This probably explains why the most common New Year's Resolution is to lose weight, usually 15-20 pounds. I don't think we should get bent out of shape over what we naturally are drawn to eat in the winter. I believe we crave certain foods that can help us depending on the season. I would think that you would not want to lose the weight until about March or whenever your leafy greens come out. I am not the only one. Check out these links:
The summary is that it is healthier to eat what is in season. It takes a little work to adjust our habits of just getting any old thing to eat. It will also take a little extra effort to adjust our food preparation habits. In oding so, you can avoid or lessen things like Seasonal Affective Disorder, hypertension, sluggishness, etc.
If you decide to try seasonal eating or are already doing so or aren't sure how to get started, post a comment below and let's get a discussion started that can benefit us all.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Okay, enough begging. I'll tell you what I know. Straw works well. Brown, woody stems from perennials work best in the spring after they've wintered over. Wood mulch or wood chips from a shredder can be used.
Make sure you rake up as many of your own leaves as you can. If you can shred them before using them, then you will have speedier results when everything else is equal. If you don't have enough, you could borrow your neighbor's or your whole street's leaves. On your way to or from work, take the road less travelled and go through neighborhoods where people like to bag up their leaves. Go ahead. Pick those bags up from the curb. The garbage men will thank you.
If you use straw for anything, like mulch, to grow potatoes, or for autumn hayrides, hang onto it. Keep it somewhat dry or let it dry out. Or you could volunteer to take your neighbor's chicken laying box straw. Last resort, you could buy a square bale of straw from a variety of places. The last option works well if you do not have too much to put into your compost pile. Make sure the straw you are using doesn't have nasties in it like Bermuda grass.
Some perennial stalks to use could from day lilies, cannas, cone flower, bear's breeches, coral bells or sedum. Of course they are many options in this category. You are not actually completely confined to perennials. You could also use corn stalks and sunflower stalks left over from the winter. You would probably prefer to shred or cut them up first. Plan ahead and be sustainable. When you plan your flower beds, make sure to include taller perennials with stems and brown matter you can use. As you do your fall or spring cleaning in your flower beds, set the brown stuff aside in its own pile for later use.
As you trim and prune your trees and bushes in the spring, you can take the wood and shred it. A shredder for branches no bigger than two inches in diameter should be sufficient for what you need. Be frugal in your purchase, as well. There is no need to purchase the biggest, baddest Tool Time super-mega-horsepower shredder for this. A good used one will do. Shred right into your brown bin.
A little pre-planning and ingenuity will go a long way toward good soil when it is time to mulch. You want to use compost before anything else. A healthy plant means less disease, less pests and more fruit. Good Luck!
Monday, October 15, 2007
To paraphrase Julius Caesar, " All of Cheatham County is divided into three parts." Three quite littered parts.
The high schools in the county serve to illustrate the divisions. The northern part is served by Sycamore High School, the central by Cheatham Central and the southern end by Harpeth High School. A distinct feature of our county is the two rivers, several large notable creeks and numerous small tributaries. Cheatham County is crossed by the Harpeth and Cumberland Rivers. Two notable large creeks are Sam's Creek which used to a be a resort area and Sycamore Creek. Coming up from the Davidson County line on River Road we have Pond Creek, Sam's Creek and Brush Creek.
You would think that with all this water surrounding us, we would have a fairly wet farm. Not so. Mule Shoe Farm is located just off the flood plain in the limestone hills which are also a feature of the county. While we have numerous wet weather springs and seepage from the hills, we don't actually have much of a water supply. Many wells in the hills have dried up or were not much use in the first place having either very hard water or sulphur water.
This means that the main water supplies for the county come from the Harpeth and Cumberland Rivers and Sycamore Creek. As I noted last week, there is lots of trash all over the county which often makes it way down the various banks to the rivers and streams. Another matter for consideration is the large number of sink holes in our area. In the past, people quite often would throw their trash in sinkholes and down hillsides. Now we have dumps to hold our trash.
It is still a concern that there is so much trash laying about. Recently the county picked up trash along my road. That was maybe two weeks ago. Today as we about our errands fro the day, my daughter made up a little diversion of saying litter each time she saw trash by the side of the road. Need I say, she talked the ENTIRE trip. Litter, litter litter litter litter litter, etc. for 20 minutes. Yikes!
This trash will eventually make its way into our water - our DRINKING water. That's it. Clean Sweep Week starts on October 22, 2007. Use that week to make an extra effort to clean up your trash and better yet, don't throw it on the ground in the first place. All during clean sweep week, you will be able to take all sorts of trash to the dump without paying the dumping fee. Take advantage of this opportunity to improve our county's greatest resource by starting to pick up your trash this week. Also remember to securely fasten and tarp your loads on the way to the dump. That way the trash won't distribute itself along the road on the way to the dump.
Remember Operation Clean Sweep starts on October 22 and runs through October 27.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
A regular composting routine is essential to organic gardening. You do not want to spend hours of effort handpicking pests from plants or spraying plants with various organic anti-pest remedies. You want to build success into the equation from the very beginning. From the bottom, up. As you tend a garden, you realize that you often have lots of vegetative matter and nothing to do with it. Maybe it's weeds. Maybe it's straw. Maybe it's the leaves you raked of the ground from last fall. All of these things go towards composting.
Now is the time to start. As you rake your leaves up this fall, you need to find a spot for them to stay. Leaves are the secret ingredient, the magic potion of the whole affair. You can pile them up loose and cover them with a tarp. You can buy a special purpose compost bin or tumbler. Or you can build a quick conatinment system byt driving 4 metal t-posts in the ground about 3-4 feet from each other. Then you attach fencing material that doesn't have openings more than 4". Chain link, poultry net. Garden fence. Whatever. T-post clips are relatively inexpensive or you can recycle some wire coat hangers if you have a pair of wire cutters and pliers for twisting.
Optimally the pile should be a 3 or 4 foot cube in contruction size. This is approximate because as you know, piles don't come in cubic dimensions usually. At least at my house they don't. Also make sure the pile is not in the shade. When you walk up to it in the middle of winter and the pile is steaming, you know you are on the right track.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Monday, October 8, 2007
Since the debris is being stored in the flood plain, the arrangement may impact water quality in Ashland City and surrounding areas. Read more about it and post your comments here:
I include throwing cigarettes in the littering issue. Those filters do not decompose, people. Not to mention the fire hazard a lit cigarette is. We're in a drought. Do you remember that we're in a drought? We have a 16"+ deficit in rain fall this year. All these lovely woods can go up in a split second. Keep the trash in your car until you can dispose of it properly. When you're not driving down the road.
We live in a lovely place. God's own country. A beautiful, natural and mostly wild part of Middle Tennessee. Let's not continue to mess it up. Let your representatives know that you care about where you live.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
I have been a bit under the weather, so I did not publish anything yesterday. Stay tuned for next Wednesday's installment on composting.
Now on to chickens. I think I really like these funky little two-leggeds. First of all, there's a whole lot more going on with them then one would suspect. They make over 50 different calls and sounds. Each one has a purpose. There is also a lot of nonverbal communication between birds.
Last week I mentioned that George the rooster spends much of his time looking for food and when he finds it he gives a low call to the hens. They come running to where he is standing and start pecking the ground. He stays there with them looking up and around his surroundings. He does not eat until the hens have had whatever they want and start to wander off.
Houdini Hen has a peculiar call when she is getting ready to leave the fence. It is a very loud one that she repeats as she walks the fence looking for an opening. It is as if she is telling everyone that she is attempting to leave. It is one note, no syllables. It is almost likea smoke alarm in it's frequency and intensity although not its pitch.
If I am near and the hens want something, like water or food, they crowd together repeatedly squawking. Actually, it's not just me, but anyone who walks into their general area looking like they carry a container of food or water.
The hens seem to pick out the red containers better than clear, green or blue containers. They also crowd the fence when I drive the car down the driveway toward the pen and slow down. I have on several occassions stopped the car to deliver water, feed or correct a problem in the pen. It is clear to me that the chickens associate both our vehicles with something they want.
Chicken management books stress talking or singing to your chickens and letting them know you are coming their way either by whistling, singing or calling to them. These would be those books discussing chickens more as backyard pets than commodities. But the chickens can see you coming, usually before you pay much attention to them. They will recognize what you are about and respond accordingly.
Two other things, I've noticed tounch on their eyesight. I have noticed that if I place their food passively and unobtrusively on the ground, it takes them a while to notice it. If I toss their pellets to the ground so they spread and bounce a bit, the chickens rush to them and start eating almost immediately. It appears that movement is key to their perception.
When I get ready to catch one or another of them, how they act depends on where they are. In the ten foot square pen, they will crouch down when I go to pick them up. In the larger more exposed grazing area which is 50 foot square, they will run away when I go to pick them up. Not so fast now as they did when I first put them in there. But they still run.
If you have chickens, hang out with them for a little while after you place their food. Once they settle down, you will notice all different kinds of "talking" between them. These various sounds can tell you what's going on with them even when you can't exactly see them.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
We see them all the time and don't even know it. They look a lot like sumac, but don't turn red in the fall. They grow quickly and can take over native trees in a very short period of time. And guess what? They are hard to get rid of. Another Exotic Invasive. This one is called Ailantheus or Tree of Heaven. You can even order it from some nursery catalogs. No. Don't do it. If you really want some, I'll give you plenty, but your neighbors might not be very pleased.
This tree is very commonly seen along the highway and will colonize recently cleared places. It's leaves look very much like sumac. Its rapid growth and spread can be attributed to a couple factors.
Ailantheus can spread through seed or through suckers. The suckering is it's secret to rapid establishment. When cut, the stump will send up suckers almost immediately. That way if the plant doesn't get a chance to seed, it will still spread.
If you start to cut it or dig it out, you will immediately notice a rather pungent not so pleasant odor. This is also a secret to success. The scent that repels you, repels the local plants as well and prevents other native trees from establishing themselves. Sumac does not smell the same.
Ailantheus also grows quickly, often reaching 10-20 feet within a year or two. Once the weather gets moderately warm, it's growing. Its height shades out other slower growing and not as tall species. This is one of the ways you can tell it from sumac. Sumacs tend to branch closely to the ground, while alantheus will often have a cluster of leaves and small branches at the very top of the tree. There will not be any lower branches. The tree's energy is put into gaining height. This is one of the reasons for its name.
Alantheus trees are native to southeast Asia and do not seem to have natural predators here in the southeastern United States. I did notice this year that the freeze in April, did them in quite nicely and it took them quite a while to recover. Eventually they did, but their growth was not as exuberant as it was last year.
To get rid of these pests, you will have to cut and dig them out. You can spray them with a strong chemical if that's your thing, but then you have the chemical hanging around to deter native plants. I think that watching the weather and cutting them back right before a cold snap in the spring will be the best way to slow their growth. Then if you can put in some more vigorous native species, like sumac, you can limit the Tree of Heaven that year. Like most invasives, it will take sustained effort over a number of years on your part to eradicate. And that is even if you use chemicals. Be patient and persistent, just like an exotic invasive. Only you belong here.
Monday, October 1, 2007
Did you ever wonder how you could find who has a farm locally? Do you have something to sell or a notice you want everyone to know about? Have you had trouble trying to figure out how to get your message out to folks in Cheatham County? Well, you're in luck because now all of us here in this county can use a nifty new bulletin board website to post announcements, have discussions, find items for sale or post your sellables.
Let's give a big welcome to www.cheathamchatter.com put together by Jim Day of Timbertop Farm with the excellent assistance of his oldest son, who by the way has an uncommon acting ability and is a talented writer, as well.
Cheatham Chatter is a bulletin board. In ancient computer times, a Bulletin Board existed as a dial-up number were you could download short messages and upload you own text only messages. I remember as a teenager that having a phone number and password to a bulletin board was a hotter ticket than any black market commodity. Now, bulletin boards have progressed quite a bit thanks to Internet access for all, but the concept is still the same. It is a terrific way to post messages and news.
I test-drove it and it is a nice simple friendly way to get news out. First you must register. You type in a username and password of your choice and when you've submitted your registration, the system zaps you an email lickety-split. You will be prompted to agree to a user agreement during this process.
Open the email and authenticate your password. Now you are ready to post. I found the posting form easy to use and very self-explanatory. It looks a bit like Word. I did not see any ability to post pictures per se, but I'll bet that with some bona fide actual looking for this function, it would be there. Once you click the post button, your text is forwarded for review before posting. I posted a bit about Mule Shoe Farm under Local Foods.
What are you waiting for? Go see it. Now - ish at www.cheathamchatter.com