I traveled to the little town of North, South Carolina, and turned right onto Highway 178. After crossing a tea-colored stream, I went through a gate into my friend’s property. An 18-acre lake lay about a half mile into the property and it was a mild spring day. I loaded up a Jon boat with 150 pounds of fish feed and pushed off to fill fish feeders, and to survey the lake for early weeds. The lake water was also light tea-colored; acidic, tannin-colored water is common to the central part of South Carolina. The lake was fed by a swamp to the east, separated by a beaver dam, and then the lake fed the stream, which travels to Edisto River.
The lake was completely calm, and I paddled up a channel that ran along the shore. I slowed and let boat drift to a stop. Leaning over the boat and turning it so the light was still good, I could see about 3 feet into the water with my polarized glasses. There was a Christmas tree sunken under the boat. The needles were long gone but all the small branches were still intact. The whole tree was decorated with 1-inch fish ornaments. Young bluegill had taken up residence in this structure I installed in January. It was a great nursery habitat. Structure refers to three-dimensional habitat for fish to enjoy in a pond or lake. This occurs naturally in the form of aquatic plants, rock outcroppings, shelves that provide rapid changes in depth, and submerged trees. Fish populations benefit from increased habitat in the form of structure.
One of the pond management things you can do this fall to help your fish is to add three-dimensional habitat, especially if you have a bass-bluegill pond. Bass and bluegill are actually both part of the sunfish family and one of their attributes is that they like to stay near some sort of structure. It makes them comfortable. When you are trying to culture bass and bluegill in a balanced system, the bass should control the large number of small bluegill. Keeping them in close contact with one another is key. Structure does this. It also concentrates the fish population so that you know where to go when you would like to catch a few.
Each year, I would cruise the neighborhoods and pick up curbside Christmas trees in January. With the trees piled high on my trailer, I looked like a Grinch that didn’t arrive on time to ruin Christmas. Using Christmas trees for structure is a common recommendation when reading pond and lake management guides. Something you learn when trying to launch them: the trees float, and it takes more weight than you think to sink them.
There are several tried-and-true types of structure and you can use your imagination to make more. A good place to start is the weight: 5-gallon buckets and 20 pounds of concrete mix. Then you can add any type of structure that will make good three-dimensional habitat.
• Vinyl siding that has been cut into small strips and bent in different directions
• Bamboo trees 4-8 feet tall
• Polyethylene irrigation piping pipe –used or new
• Other recycled material- piles of broken concrete, tires, pallets
After construction is complete, launch the structures in depths appropriate for their size, keeping in mind that deep areas may not have enough oxygen to support fish during the summer.
You can also cut small unwanted trees along the pond bank and allow them to fall in the water; some people like to leave 18-inch tall section of the tree stump as a hinge so that it does not float away. In addition to making good fish structure, this partially submerged tree trunk will be a habitat for turtles.
Liming is another fall activity. This involves adding agricultural lime, calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate to the pond. The calcium and magnesium components raise the hardness, while the carbonate component supplies alkalinity. Hardness increases the successful hatching of fish eggs and the survival of small fry. Crawfish and other crustaceans that your fish will use for a food source will benefit from hardness as well. The alkalinity reduces the daily variations in pH, giving your fish a more consistent environment. It also promotes healthy chemistry in your pond mud and helps to cycle nutrients.
Naturally-occurring hardness and alkalinity can vary greatly depending on your soil type, water source and geology. Lime is inexpensive; however, applying it is a challenge. Brace yourself: You will typically need one to two tons per surface acre.
How do you know if you need to lime? You can use pool testing strips or aquarium testing strips to get a general idea of the hardness and alkalinity in your water. Your county’s cooperative extension service system will usually have a testing service as well. A level of 100 parts per million (ppm) on both alkalinity and hardness indicates that your pond has adequate lime. 20 ppm would indicate a definite improvement with a lime application.
Lime can be applied by shoveling off a platform constructed over the front of your boat. It can also be sprayed in or washed in from the edge with a pump. One to two tons per acre is a lot of heavy material. Be safe with respect to your back, and also take care not to load too much on a boat and tip it over.
Pond plants are dying back for the season this time of year and developing thatch along the shoreline. Thatch varies among different plants. Pickerel rush and cattails are native plants but do produce a lot of thatch that dies in the fall. If left alone, thatch falls in the pond, and creates sludge and structure for the aquatic plants to grow on next year, creeping further into your pond and slowly filling it in. Unless that’s your goal, it should be removed or thinned. A brush ax and pitch fork are commonly used. The “Pond Shark” is a great tool specifically for managing shoreline vegetation on your pond. I have used it and it works.
Erosion can affect pond health long-term and erosion control is a timely project for the fall. Patching up edges of your pond that have been damaged by livestock, geese or simple weathering is a good idea. Simple application of a winter rye grass or other cool season ground cover can be effective. Reinforcement products made from coconut fiber, jute, straw mat, or other fibers that are wildlife friendly can be installed and staked in to control erosion and make for more successful grass stands. Addressing developing erosion early can prevent silt and mud from washing into your pond where it will affect the volume and water quality over time.
And you thought you were just going to relax and enjoy the pond this fall?
Next time I will talk with you about cage culture of fish.
Is it just us, or did the holidays come out of nowhere this year? No worries. We’ve got you covered with the HOMEGROWN Holiday Gift Guide, featuring a bushel of ideas that don’t require rush shipping or deep pockets. In true HOMEGROWN fashion, you can find what you need to make most of the presents below at your local winter farmers market—or maybe even in your own pantry or closet—because the most meaningful gifts come from our hearts and our hands. We’re also including a few stocking stuffers under $20, because even the most industrious elves need a break sometimes.
1. Got a t-shirt? A needle and thread? You’ve got what you need to craft Cynthia’s head-turning tote bag. It’s perfect for hauling kale—or whatever 2014’s veggie of the year turns out to be.
2. One potato, two potato, three potato, four. Give Grandma a gift that she couldn’t love more: notecards personalized using homemade potato stamps. (Bonus: Once you’re done crafting, your tools can go in the compost pile.)
3. Remember those friends who couldn’t stop raving about your backyard honey last summer? Chances are they’ll go gaga for Charlyn’s homemade beeswax candles. Learn how to make your own votives and light up a loved one’s winter nights.
4. Decking the halls with boughs of holly smells awfully good, but Maryanne’s coffee filter wreath has a longer lifespan and a smaller price tag than store-bought greenery. Plus, it’s equally appropriate for indoor winter wonderlands and springtime bridal showers.
5. Can’t you just picture a few of these babies wrapped up and tied with a bow? Nope, they’re not candy. They’re seedballs, one way to show those neglected patches of ground some love, and they’re as much fun to make and give as they are to toss.
6. So simple, it’s genius: homemade crackers, the perfect complement to all those jams and jellies and spreads in your giftee’s pantry. Get tips in Kari’s 101.
7. In the Southwest, this time of year means delicious tamales. Learn how to make your own to give away—or, better yet, round up a few friends for a tamalada and let everyone take home his or her handiwork.
8. We’re past the window of opportunity for steeping a batch of homemade Kahlúa before Christmas (where did the year go?), but you’ve still got time to make mead using Penny’s Finnish recipe.
9. Have a family member who can’t make it home for Christmas? Nothing says love like a big plate of noodles. Make your own pasta following’s Jannine’s instructions then mail the results to anyone in need of a care package.
10. Calling all candymakers: Looking for a tidbit beyond the usual peppermint bark/orange peel/peanut brittle triad? Give Jackie’s apple cider caramels a spin of the whisk.
11. Paine’s miniature log cabins are crafted in Maine and burn incense made from balsam fir harvested by local woodsmen. Plus, they smell like winter itself for only $10.
12. You know what’s none of your giftee’s beeswax? Disposable plastic wrap. Ugh. Delight the thrifty and the eco-friendly alike with Beeswrap ($15–$19), a greener alternative.
13. If springtime feels too far away, give your favorite sweet tooth something to look forward to: her very own maple spile ($3.25) and a plan to go tree tapping.
14. Or maybe your sweetheart would rather fast forward to summer? Feed his garden daydreams with a 100-count bag of tomato trellis clips ($9.15) for the tamest plants ever.
15. Got another gardener in the family? Help her prepare her soil with a stash of biochar ($12) made from oak and tomato stakes on Pennsylvania’s Happy Cat Farm.
Want more ideas? You can find additional gift how-tos in Weeknight Wonders, updated weekdays through Christmas Eve. And just a note to you, our HOMEGROWN family: May your giving be heartfelt and your holidays be bright, and may your season be filled with delight!
This post originally appeared on HOMEGROWN.org.
PHOTOS BY (SEEDBALLS) SARADENT.CA, COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS ON FLICKR; (CABIN) WICKERFURNITURE, COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS ON FLICKR; (BEESWRAP) MARISA/FOOD IN JARS, COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS ON FLICKR; (SPILE) CHIOT’S RUN, COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS ON FLICKR; (TOMATO CLIPS) COURTESY OF JOHNNY’S SELECTED SEEDS; (BIOCHAR) COURTESY OF HAPPY CAT FARM; ALL OTHER PHOTOS AS CREDITED WITHIN LINKS
Despite a few days of rain and some temperatures creeping towards forty degrees, it is certainly getting colder, overall. Winter’s perennial arrival is unfolding. To accompany this change of season, Ryan and I find ourselves fielding questions from friends and acquaintances alike.
“How is the cabin?”
“You must be burning a lot of wood?”
“Were you warm enough last night?”
“Was the cabin cold this morning?”
We are touched by friends’ concern, and flattered that our well-being is at the forefront of their wintertime thoughts. Such questions are certainly valid, as we both have spent past seasons living in colder and less-heated abodes. However, we are pleased to assert that our cabin is: warm!
Our chinking improvements of this past September – mortaring between the logs with a mix of sand, sawdust, lime, and mortar mix – have yielded wonderful results. The difference from last winter, when the cabin was chinked with a rubberized caulk and oakum, is tremendous. While our woodpile is shrinking, the wood is disappearing slowly, gradually – and yet we’re more comfortable than ever before.
But what do we mean by warmth? It’s true that the cabin temperature fluctuates, as would anyone’s residence that is heated exclusively with wood, but not uncomfortably so. With a fire in the morning and evenings, it is still pleasantly warm late in the afternoon. Overnight, the cabin holds the heat such that the blankets with which we start the evening are still sufficient come morning.
Indeed, after cooking our evening meal on the stovetop, we’re often down to our long johns and t-shirts, basking in a heat wave. The loft is a toasty resting spot, and certainly stays warm long after the first floor has begun to cool. We no longer need to huddle around the stove come morning, nor do we stuff ourselves like Michelin men into layers of sweaters. Contrary to many inquiries, we do not see our breath when we first awake.
Most grateful for the improvements is Mica, who is relieved that we have finally made a proper canine habitat. He no longer has to accept the challenges of our unusual choices. We still look to him and say: “We’re only starting this fire for you, Mica …”
… but we relish the warmth as well.
Start planning your spring plantings now! Contact Beth via email@example.com to design your herb garden, vegetable plantings, or small orchard.
You know what song I think is great? “Small Town” by John Cougar Mellencamp.
I’ve always loved this song, even in 1985 when it came out and I was living in suburbia. I wasn’t “born in a small town” but “I’ll probably die in a small town.” And it’s a great town. Or a village to be more precise.
We’ve lived here 15 years now and it’s taken that long for me to really start feeling that it’s “my town.” This comes from shopping here, and shipping parcels from the post office, and doing workshops, and playing hockey, and being on committees, and helping out at special events and generally inflicting myself on the village as often as I possibly can.
Saturday was an awesome day for me in my small town. I took a CPR/AED workshop put on by the firefighters. I didn’t know what an AED was, so I looked it up on Wikipedia and it discovered that it is an “automated external defibrillator” and can be used when someone has a myocardial infarction … you know, a heart attack. When the instructor asked if anyone knew the correct term for a heart attack, well, let’s just say I looked like a genius. I used to watch the TV series, “ER” so I was familiar with the term. And I was also familiar with the use of a defibrillator when they jam those pads on a patient and yell “CLEAR!!!” and hit them with 50,000 Volts or whatever it is and the patient convulses back to life. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed to discover that the modern automated units are small, subtle, talk you through the process and use way less voltage. You still have to keep your hands off the person, but if you forget to remove your hands it sounds like the experience is more like touching an electric fence than a high voltage transmission line. Like all good country folk I am quite familiar with the jolt of an electric fence, even though I should never admit it publicly.
There were about 30 people in the class and I was pretty excited to discover that I knew the majority of them … they were all friends, business people, people from happy hockey, and half the staff of the grocery store. It was a fun morning and I was happy to take CPR again. I took it 30 years ago and as I recall it was pretty complicated … a lot of counting up ribs and stuff. Now it’s just start compressions, 100 a minute, 30 then 2 breaths. We also learned about how to handle choking which was good since I don’t think I’d ever learned the Heimlich maneuver.
Along with the instructor there were 5 or 6 volunteer firefighters there. They gave up their Saturday morning to help members of their community get up to speed on CPR. In a small town this is a good skill for everyone to have. We are 25 to 30 minutes away from the nearest ambulance … on a good day. Then you’ve got the drive back down to the hospital. As I learned the best place to have a heart attack is NOT in our rural village. Unless you’ve got someone around who can grab one of the AEDs located around the community and start CPR.
This is the trade off of living far from a big urban center, but you have this other great thing happening; people volunteering to make the community a better place. Our volunteer firefighters take hundreds of hours of training to get up to speed on all the equipment and first aid. Then they keep their skills up to date by training all year.
Then they work for a living, and respond to emergency calls in their spare time.
City fire fighters are extremely well paid in Canada. They are exposed to hazardous chemicals and dangerous conditions, so this compensation is warranted. And then there are the volunteer fighters in my community who do it for free. And yes, it’s mostly guys and guys like to drive around in big red trucks with flashing lights and use big hoses to blast fire with water. I get that.
But it is dangerous and I think there’s just way more to it. And I don’t envy anyone who responds to the carnage of a car wreck.
Nope, there’s something pretty awesome about volunteer fighters. Something way above and beyond driving shiny trucks in the parade. It’s just one of an infinite number of things that makes living in a small town such an amazing thing.
My friend Tim from the video store was there. He is also a volunteer firefighter so he showed me the trucks and different size hoses they use depending on the fire. And as expected, he was happy to make me the butt of some well-deserved razzing. Tim also took these photos. The Tamworth Volunteer Fire Department is really awesome.
After my awesome CPR training on Saturday, I’m cautioning anyone that comes to my place over the holidays and accidentally falls asleep on the couch after a big meal that there’s a pretty good chance they will wake up to find me doing chest compressions on them. Apparently I was giggling and talking at the back of the class when they were explaining exactly when you should start performing CPR.
Have you ever had a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) share? If you have, you can relate to our situation in fall 2012.
We had just gotten our first CSA share in years, and, well, let’s just say that the pumpkins were booming. We had pumpkin coming out our ears. And we still have pumpkin in our freezer from that time, and the pumpkins are rolling in again.
In other words, we need to use up some major pumpkin. There are, of course, plenty of ways we can do that. The most obvious usage is in food, like my pumpkin lasagna, but I can come up with something more creative than that. Which is how I came to paint my face orange with pumpkin and honey.
Pumpkin, you see, can also be used in skincare. In fact, according to the website I found this pumpkin/honey recipe on, it does wonders for your skin. We needed to use our pumpkin up, and this recipe, unlike so many others, only had two ingredients. It could also be made entirely locally: the other recipes I found all involved sugar, cinnamon, coconut milk, etc.
I used last year’s pumpkin and this year’s honey to make a pumpkin face mask, then used my fingers to paint it on. It was slippery and c-c-cold due to the fact that the frozen pumpkin hadn’t thawed as much as I’d thought it had. When I smeared it on my lips, it tasted like the honey in it.
Then, as the recipe required, I set the timer on the oven to twenty minutes and went to wait with orange slime drying on my face. Twenty minutes passed. Gobbets of pumpkin slid down to my chin. The mask began to dry, so that every movement of my face felt like it stretched my skin tighter over my fles. Finally the timer went off. When I tried to wash my face the mask didn’t come off so much as liquefy, but I got most of it. (I found some in my hair later.) Then it was time to test the results. Pressing my fingers against my cheeks found that they felt firmer and, I don’t know, somehow more structured than they had before. They continued to be so some twenty-six hours later. And I still have at least one more evening’s worth of pumpkin in the fridge, just waiting to be used.
Pumpkin Honey Face Mask
We found this recipe here.
¼ cup pumpkin
1 Tbs honey
Combine in small bowl. Apply liberally to face during the evening. Wait 20 minutes, then wash off.
I had fed and watered the goats and was now collecting eggs from the chickens when I heard a rattle. It sounded like the doorknob to the back door of the barn. Suddenly, the door was flung wide open and in came eight goats. Before I could get out of the chicken pen, the goats everywhere in the barn. Belle flipped open the grain bin and was merrily munching on sweet feed. The rest of the goats were stationed along the hay bale stacks and were pulling mouthfuls of hay out of the hay bales.
When faced with so many goats being naughty the only thing you can do is take a deep breath and start moving goats out of the barn one at a time. They’re not like sheep where if you tell them to go someplace and drive them, they’ll generally go. So wrangling goats can be a bit crazy. I pulled the closest goats off the hay and pushed them out the back door. I went down the line, pulling determined goats off the hay and out of the feed until they were all back in the goat pen. Then, I closed my eyes and took several calming breaths.
I had caught them before any real damage had been done. Besides eating up all the food for the winter, (you don’t think a goat wouldn’t do that?) a goat can literally die from eating too much food. After overeating, a goat can get bloat, which can kill her. The rumen is the part of the goat’s digestive system that can bloat. Goats with bloat look huge on their left side where the rumen is and are obviously in pain. They kick at their rumen and grind their teeth (not to be confused with the natural act of ruminating).
Trick to Avoid Goat Bloat
The trick is to feed them baking soda along with vegetable oil and anti-gas medicine. Dosing goats are oh so joyful because inevitably the goat doesn’t want to be dosed, and you end up in a tussle. Wear your ratty clothes and have a handler present. You can give pills via the mouth (called boluses, for those who were curious) and you can feed liquids (drench) through either a drenching gun or use a big syringe and squirt it in their mouths. Expect to be covered in whatever you drench with. Yuck.
The better way is to prevent your goats from getting into the feed, so you don’t have this problem. That means not only goat feed, but chicken feed, horse feed, or whatever else. No matter how clever you think you are at containing their feed, go the extra mile and really keep them from it. Lock doors and look for ways to get in or out. Goats are clever and can climb. Boy, can they climb! There are photos of feral goats on literal toe-holds on cliffs and on tops of trees. I’ve heard of one person whose goats actual climbed scaffolding to get out of the barn from the open top window. They analyze your defenses and take advantage of them.
In my first blog post I talked about Annie, one of my first goats, whom the owner traded for 4 chickens because she was a bit of an escape artist. The truth is all goats are capable of being escape artists, and if you’re not willing to give them a good solid barrier, you’ll have goat mayhem.
I suspect it was Annie who opened the barn door with her horns.
My solution was simple. I locked the backdoor. When I told my husband about the goat escape the next day, he suggested we put a bar on the door to prevent any further openings.
Yep, that'll probably work.
I was thrilled by the turnout for our comfrey giveaway, so we're giving away another outside-the-box chicken feed on our blog this week. Click here for a chance to win 100+ peace silkworm eggs, which can turn into tasty caterpillars for your flock.
While I'm on the topic of alternative chicken feeds, I thought I'd toss out a few other ideas you may not have heard of. Chances are you've considered growing plants like corn and sunflowers for your flock, but how about ... worms? Or black soldier flies? Or Japanese beetles?
Back in the vegetable kingdom, many books sing the praises of raising duckweed for your flock, but our spoiled chickens turned up their noses (or should that be beaks?). We're in the early stages of experimenting with tree fruits, and so far persimmons and mulberries both seem to have potential in the chicken pasture.
And then there are the crazy ideas I want to research in more depth this winter. Like trapping or raising crawdads for our chickens. Or maybe growing snails, slugs, or grasshoppers. I'd be curious to hear your suggestions on the topic.