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Permanent Agriculture

October 19, 2014

or being the Laziest Gardener on the block

Greetings, dear Reader and welcome back to the plains of Northeast Indiana. This morning we got our first hard frost, so thank goodness the squash were gathered and brought inside last night.  We still have some dry beans outside, waiting to be shucked.  They should be fine.

As we get older, we get “less motivated”.  Or as MIlton says, lazier.

And that is why the latest video from permaculturist Geoff Lawton was of such interest.  Geoff Lawton at produces some of the best “lazy gardener” videos Milton has viewed.  His latest, titled a Canadian Urban Garden, visits a Calgary, Alberta, Canada couple who claim to grow 100% of their own vegetables.  On an ordinary, city lot, with a growing season that spans May to September, this couple has implemented what might be considered an auto-grow system.

Watch and Learn

If you visit Geoff’s site, and you should, you will be asked to provide your e-mail address.  Clickety-click and then you can begin watching his videos.  And they are stunning.  The Canadian adventure shows a rocket-stove heated greenhouse, that extends the Calgary growing season to … (wait) …

(any guesses from Readerland?)…

(a place that regularly gets down to -40 Celsius)…

Would you believe year round?

These folks harvest all their rainwater.  Heat with passive solar.  Grow all their own vegeys.  And grow some of their food that is essentially labor free.  Now that is interesting to old Milton.  And if you are getting older, and lazier, then it ought to be of interest to you too.  Have a peek.

And thank Milton in the comments, below.

Rippen ‘Em Out

October 3, 2014

Goodbye Tomato Plants!

So the Bippus evenings have been consistently down in the fifties (and even forties, yikes!).  Milton’s tomatoes really don’t like cool evenings, they much prefer temps in the eighties.  So even though there are plenty of yellow, orange, orangish-red tomatoes on the vines, they just were not ripening like they do in the summer.  Milton exhibited great patience while estimating when he could collect a full bushel of ripe tomatoes.

On the second of October, the call was made.

Nothing Goes to Waste when you keep Chickens

So there was Old Milton with a bushel basket and a five gallon pail out in the tomater patch.  While patience is a virtue, it also leads to spoiled vegeys.  Many of the red tomaters had black spots, bird pecks, worm holes and other *imperfections*.  Not a problem.  Those imperfect tomatoes went into the five gallon pail which was then dumped into the chicken pen.  They LIKE the extra protein provided by WORMS, PICNIC BEETLES,  GRUBS, and those other non-descript insect critters.  And they get all the green tomatoes, too.

Seed Saving, Anyone?

Some of the nicer tomato specimens were set aside for seed collecting.  Milton basically cuts the tomato into fourths, scrapes the seed *glob* into a small jar, and fills the jar with water.

Tomato Seeds in the Gel Packs

Tomato Seeds in the Gel Packs

Then labels the jar as to the type of seed in it.  Later, he pours off the top with the floater seeds and the water.  The last little bit is poured out onto a paper towel, capturing the seeds. This process is repeated until all the seed-gel is gone.  The seeds are then dried in the sun (keep the birdies away!) and packed away to be stored in the freezer.

All the plants are ripped up, one at a time, and all the tomatoes stripped off the vine.  All in all, Milton got a nearly full bushel for makin sauce with.

And so the kitchen, for the last time in 2014, has that wonderful, condensing tomato sauce aroma.

Last of the Broccoli

September 19, 2014

Patient Broccoli Growers Rewarded



So there is a pile of pulled broccoli plants about six feet high on the grass.  Many of those plants have pretty yellow flowers, and bees buzzing around them.  We managed to harvest a pound of so of individual broccoles  (ah made that word up my own self), before pulling the plants.  We will have one last meal and then that’s it.


Actually it was the honey bees that kept Old Uncle Milton from yanking the plants long ago.  Probably the most honey bees seen around here all summer, and they were all over those yellow flowers!  The bees have had such a hard time of it of late, Milton just couldn’t deprive them of their just desserts.


One thing some folks probably don’t know about growing broccoli is after that first giant head has been harvested, if one is patient, many individual side branches will produce their own version of a broccole. (Heh).  It is a little more work to harvest these, but if one likes their vegeys fresh, THAT is the way to go.  Old Milton stretches the limits of patience, and waits for the tertiary broccoles to form.  And we eat those too!  And won’t those be good, all slathered in butter?

The Therapeutic Value of a Hoe

July 8, 2014

or, How a Hoe is Like a Canoe Paddle

So the field corn has been replanted, after the geese were freeranged and got into the field corn patch and devoured it.  The replanted fied corn patch is up about six inches, and the weeds and grass are starting to catch up to the corn, and we all know what THAT means.

Corn doesn’t like competition.  Better get rid of the weeks, fast.

Milton was out there with hoe in hand.  He is a big fan of Tai Chi, so he was taking some liberties with the swinging of the hoe.  And then he got to philosophizing:

“You know, a hoe is a lot like a canoe paddle.  It takes two hands to use it.  It is best if one sweeps it through its intended media (he means dirt). The key to success with either of them thar tools is fi-nesse.”

Of course, as Milton said fie ness- he was tippy-toeing on his left foot, and duckwalking clumsily to avoid stepping on a delicate corn stalk, nearly falling over in the meanwhile.

“Ayup, says he, by sweeping the hoe, and making these most subtle of wrist movements, the clearing of all non-corn plants from the rows, accurately, can be accomplished, while also creating loose mounds of top soil”, which he neatly hilled against the now lonely corn plants.  Milton can be a bit of a show-off, if anyone will hang around him long enough to give him a chance.

“Ya gotta be careful to hill up these corn rows, Milton continued.  The wind round here (near Bippus, Indiana) can get powerful strong.  It’ll lay these rows flat, if’n they ain’t hilled properly.”  We had noticed one stalk of his sweet corn, the taller first planting over North of his house, had been blown over, just as he described.

“Ya know, swingin a hoe is kinda therra-pewtic for me,” Milton continued.  “When I ain’t jaw jackin, and I’m out here alone just a hoeing along, I kinda forget about everything else that is going on in the world.  Kinda like when we were up there on the Pere Marquette River, that’s in Michigan, you know, and there are hunnerts of curves and bends and low hanging branches.  A fella just ain’t got no time to be thinkin bout nuthin else.”

And there I left him to his therapy, alone with his thoughts;  treading lightly, swinging gently, removing the weeds, amongst his corn.

Fooling Mother Nature?

June 10, 2014

Can one fool Mother Nature?

So we went away for a weekend, and had some adventures in southwest Michigan.  On returning, Old Milton went out to check on the outdoor poultries,  and Oh, What a Surprise!

A Baby!

African Goose,Pekin Duck, and baby Chinese Goose

African Goose,Pekin Duck, and baby Chinese Goose

We have some waterfowl.

All the Waterfowl

All the Waterfowl

In order of age, oldest to youngest are …a male African Goose, a female White Pekin duck, and a pair of White Chinese Geese.  So when the girls started laying eggs, we separated the two “pairs”.  We ate the duck eggs as they appeared, carefully replacing the duck eggs with goose eggs.  She continued to set on the nest.  And set.  And set.

The unofficial count was 23 days.


And then, the white duck hatched out a baby.  A BABY GOOSE.  We had fooled Mother Nature!


The white goose is not a good setter, but the white duck was.  Now she is the proud mama, leading her adopted baby all around.  And the gray goose is a jealous foster parent.  He does not like anyone getting near to the new baby.


It is interesting that the duck’s instinct to set on the nest even though she had not been bred was so strong.  And the goose has fertilized eggs, but is only a nominal setter.


April 3, 2014

Planting Potatoes

Yesterday Milton planted seed potatoes. 

In a raised bed that had been prepped by burning off the last years growth, and then picked over, and forked, rather than rototilled. Forked a second time in the perpendicular, and then picked over again by Milton and his Little Princess.  This particular raised bed, being the third one from the east, had a preponderance of wild carrots. Yes, those wild carrots- they look like white carrots, they smell like orange carrots, and they taste…


Well, we ain’t too sure what they exactly taste like.  But Milton found it interesting that NATURE took time to grow Queen Anne’s Lace, i.e. wild carrots, EXACTLY in the raised bed that needed its heavier clay content broken up.  You see, dear reader, the other two raised beds, the two to the east, that have peas planted in them, have a much loftier, loam soil content.  The other two raised beds to the east, had almost no wild carrots.  NATURE decided they didn’t need deep root crops.

Regardless, the third raised bed got its seed potatoes planted in it.  After the burning, and weeding, and forking this way and that, and the second weeding, and the raking to bust clods and level out the bed.   And they were loosely laid in the ground, just in time.  In the night, the rains started.  And the rains have continued.  Those neatly forked beds have settled about an inch from where they were yesterday, and the fields beyond have small lakes formed on them, where the water has puddled waiting to be drained off.  That batch of potatoes is settling in, and Milton will be watching to see them poke up out of the ground.

Of Robins and Sandhill Cranes

February 23, 2014

Of Robins

So we had a bit of a reprieve from the super-deep freeze known as winter(the Polar Vortexes) in the Greater Bippus Area.  Three days (in a row!) where the mercury rose above the freezing point of water.  Rain, thunderstorms and high wind combined with the frozen soil to cause surface flooding.  Field flooding- where the wind pushes water out of a field and over and across the roads that cross the rural areas.

So naturally, Uncle Milton was out back walking and looking, wondering why some parts of some fields are snow free while others are drifted to depths higher than the top of his rubber boots.  Why some snow would support his weight, and other snow, usually the really deep stuff, let him sink right in.  And the wildlife.  And in one snow cleared area were some larger songbirds, who traveled – HOP,HOP, HOP,PAUSE across the exposed soil, HOP,HOP,HOP,PAUSE then a peck at the ground.  As he moved in closer, faintly, as he had left his glasses in the house, faintly he spied the orange-ish breast of the robin.  Actually a flock of robins.  Seven that he could count in the clear although he suspects there may have been more.

What a treat THAT was clearly a month before the official arrival of spring to see robins out back, doing their thing.

Feeding Time

On the walk back in the outdoor poultry, geese and a duck, signaled that they would appreciate some snack time attention, and having some shell corn in his pocket, Milton went to them and opened the gate.  The geese were so happy that they rushed him!  HONK, HONK, HONKETY HONK!  Milton doled out the shell corn, a few pieces at a time;  leading the geese out of the pen and onto the snow free area where winter grass showed through.

Now it is important to know that the geese and duck have had a had time of it this winter.  They have not had a swim for a long, long time, and the snow drifts in their world have been tremendous.  But they did seem to enjoy getting a little bit of green after such a long time with only store-bought food.  So they took advantage of their freedom and the break in the weather, and grazed a little.


About this time, Ole Milton heard a familiar, yet unusual call (like above) from the sky to the west.  Hearing it, but not really believing it, he looked up to see a small flock of Sandhill Cranes flying north.  They announced themselves properly- signalling as they proceeded- and Milton ran to get Wifey, so she could share in the unusual early spotting.  Of course by the time Wifey got to the scene, she could neither see nor hear the cranes, although Milton did his best to point out the movement of the flock, a mile or more to the north.

Milton and Missus Milton both wished them well, knowing that they may have a hard time of getting food.  And a couple hours later the snow began to fall again.  Being that both robins and sandhills  feed on critters that live under the surface, we hope that they know what they’re doing.  Or maybe their weather forecasting is better than ours.


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