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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Discuss!

Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments, emails, and Facebook notes about our one-year anniversary.  We’re going for two!

 

Quick Mentions

 

I’ve had a lot of fun reading your comments lately.  Red Icculus, love the different perspective you bring here.  Deb G, Risa B, and Katecontinued, I love the kindness you bring.  And all of your gardens!  Ian, and any of you – please feel free to start any challenge at any time.  You don’t need a blog, you don’t need to do it all at once either – just work toward it.  And if any of you would like to add an extra bit of spice to your personal challenge (Ruchi) please do – by all means!  Challenges are a way to push us all a bit harder, and put a little fun into it on the way.  Augment as you will!


And last, I want to give Melanie and Tricia virtual hugs – both have had terrible gardening woes.  If anyone has any advice for them, I’m sure they would be all ears.  Tricia has found lead contamination and Melanie has found low light and mysterious critters…!

 

Discuss!


Well, last time I went out of town for pleasure.  This time I’m going out of town for work.  I’ll be working all weekend long, so I may be able to check into the blog occasionally to read your comments, but I won’t have time to post.


So… let’s converse again!  It was interesting for me last time, but let’s pick it up a bit.   Any questions or thoughts you have are fair game (as long as they are constructive and respectful of course!).  Here are some conversation starters…


Last week there were a few unanswered questions:


1. Has anyone had good experience growing peanuts or grains at a backyard level?  (This is a combined question from Deb G and Maureen.)


2. How do you keep people focused and communicating when you are community building?  Can anyone share some things they’ve tried?


and

 

Long, Fat, GIGANTIC Worm!


3. Check out this crazy worm I found in the garden!  How long do you think it is?  (Hint:  I do not have baby-sized hands.  Click the image to enlarge it.)  And here’s a harder question:  how old do you think it is?


Thanks for participating – I look forward to learning from you all!


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28 comments to Discuss!

  • Thanks Mel for the virtual hug.

    I’m not going to let this lead stop me gardening – but it will be slowing things down fro a while. Any advice fom anyone who gardens despite lead contamination would be great. I’ll be top dressing the yard and using raised garden beds…

  • Happy anniversary!

    Lead is nothing to fool around with. :( There are books on how to container garden productively — everything from pole beans to potatoes.

    Good lookin’ worm you got there! Looks to me to be a nightcrawler, and I have heard they can live to be about fifteen years old, though the current wikipedia on that limits them to age 8 on the outside.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lumbricus_terrestris

    These critters love to lie half out of their holes at night in cool weather with damp soils. As soils dry over the summer they go deep, and then you don’t see them until the fall usually.

    On rainy nights that are not too close to freezing, you can hunt for them with a flashlight with red plastic film over the lens — they barely react to red light, but white light sends them underground VERY fast, as in zoop!! Children the world over do this in order to sell them as bait — they are very popular for panfish, bass, and even trout. They are the commercially-raised worms in the bait containers sold in sporting goods departments such as at Bi-Mart locally, and these I think are actually shipped from Canada. High bait miles!

    Under my compost I see mainly red worms, and we have a translucent gray variety that likes the garden. The nightcrawlers are fewer and more evenly distributed, liking forest litter quite as much as the garden, I think. Though they are fond of associating with shady plants, such as rhubarb and tomato.

  • Jena

    I’m not planning to try growing peanuts here due to our cold weather. Plus, when I did research the idea awhile back I read that you need quite a few plants. Since my garden space is somewhat limited I don’t think peanuts would be a very efficient use of space. Instead, I’m planning to buy peanuts from our local elevator when they are available in the fall. I inquired last year and was told that the peanuts are shipped up from Georgia. We have cut back on our food miles in a lot of other areas and I’m okay with peanuts from that far away. The elevator has them available in large quantities so I can buy enough to make peanut butter and use in our granola bars.

    Does anyone have a recipe for canning peanut butter?
    I’ll search for one again now that I’m thinking about it but last time I looked there were some recipes that said “you can can this” but nothing that gave instructions.

    As far as growing grains, has anyone read Small-Scale Grain Raising? I’ve thought about buying it since I can’t get it through the libary.

    I am lucky enough to have a source of flour about a mile down the road. They grow all the grain organically right there and ground it with their own mill. The only problem is that after using up my first 25 pound bag I still haven’t made a decent loaf of bread with it. I’ve tried all the “best whole grain sandwich bread” recipes I can find but they are all either tough or they fall. I’ve had the best luck with a King Arthur recipe but it rises too tall in my bread maker and doesn’t rise enough in the oven. Does anyone have a tried and true recipe for a good bread made with local, whole grain flour?

    I guess I’ve put up more questions than I’ve answered. It is going to be a long night so I’d love some feedback!

  • Jena, have you tried using the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book to troubleshoot your breads? They have recipes in there, but the reason I bought the book was because it really got into applied theory. Not that I’ve used it yet – homemade bread is on the list of food security skills, but it’s not at the top of the list yet :-) And if you find details on the peanut butter, I want to hear! I’m not as interested in making my own either at this point, but I can seriously reduce the footprint of our high peanut butter consumption if I buy a 25lb bucket of it and fill my own jars, or alternatively fill my own jars at the grocery store and can them for storage at home.

  • I think that earthworm is a Night crawler, obvious a himaylayan variety, one that feeds on large plants, small dogs and peoples hands!

    As for peanuts- I have never tried nor heard of anyone trying to grow them here in sunny washington, but anything is possible.

    Jena- I have never heard of a recipe for cnning peanut butter- but it must be doable. I looked on google and of course found numerous responses for using peanut butter as a hair rinse, and something title Put peanut butter in your can- no idea what that was and wasn’t interested in finding out.
    I make my own peanut butter, from time to time- usually one jar lasts a good month in the fridge. So depending on how long your peanuts last I wouldn’t can it- just make it by the jar and store the peanuts!

  • Thank you for the shout out by name. Although I am fiscally on par with Ron Paul, I believe you and I are on the same level as far as being self-sufficient in the garden.

    That worm is awesome. I do all the composting at my house and we have never had one that size. We have cut our garbage consumption in half with worms and composting. Although recycling is a money-sink as far as investments based on the price of commodities, the reduced cost and ability to reuse as fertilizer has made vermicomposting totally worth it for my family.

  • Jena

    Christina – That is too funny that you suggested that book, after being on here I wandered over the amazon.com and stumbled upon that book. I just requested it from the library. It sounds awesome – I’m glad to hear you like it!

    Rob – LMAO about putting PB in your can… that is a little scary! Lol. Yeah, it must be possible. I just think if I could can it I could avoid repeating the whole process every month and that would be great. If I get enough peanuts maybe I’ll just experiment with it. Thanks for looking.

  • I do the same as Rob-I store the peanuts and make the peanut butter as I want it.

    Small scale grain raising is on my “to get” list next month, not available yet at my library. I’ve read other books by Gene Logsdon and really enjoyed them so I think it’s going to be a good use of my allowance.

    That worm is incredible!

    Community building- I keep thinking about “the talking stick.” If you have the stick it’s your turn to talk until you pass it on. Doesn’t always work well. :)

  • Holy Worm Castings! I want a garden full of those.

  • I don’t think anyone grows peanuts or grains around here. Perhaps people grew grains in the past, but I’ve looked on Local Harvest and found nothing. It’s been King Arthur for us.

    I have a question: anyone know of a good deterrant for black snakes? We had a five foot one in our flower garden last week, and even though my husband killed it I’m still nervous about seeing another one. They’ve always been a problem in this part of town. I’m hoping once the hayfields around us are mowed that will keep them from slithering into our gardens. But I’d love to hear some other ideas!!!

  • I grew peanuts about 35 years ago. I live in the central valley of CA, where it is dry and the soil is, for the most part, sandy loam. Peanuts grow up and out, like a low umbrella. It flowers, and when the flower is fertilized, a runner grows from it down to the ground. The runner pushes itself into the soil and grows a peanut. Each flower is capable of producing one peanut (depending on peanut type, each pod will contain from 1-3 nuts). You would need fairly loose soil, I don’t think a clay soil would work. If you have a lot of rain, you might try building the soil up in a flat mound so the water could drain. You can always give it a try and see what happens! The peanuts that I grew I bought at the market–they were sold as “raw peanuts”.

  • Happy anniversary! Congratulations on your first year of blogging!

  • Happy Anniversary, Melinda, and a big hug. What a surprise to read my name. Abbie, are you sure you want to kill black snakes? My understanding is that they kill rats and mice. I live along the coast and think that is a valuable benefit. Also, they are supposed to be pretty bashful, so noise in advance of you entering the garden should make them scurry (slither?). I think snakes are creepy, but love them like spiders because they take their jobs seriously.

  • As much as I dislike snakes, I have to agree about letting them be if they won’t hurt you. My mother likes her snakes for slug patrol.

  • Sweet worm!

    I own a copy of small scale grain raising, its an excellent book, but be warned, you are not going to get enough from a hundred feet of garden to make anything meaningful. That goes for pretty much everything but sweet corn. I say 100 feet because that the average size plot around my area.

    1000 square feet might give you enough for a loaf of bread a week if I recall correctly.

    Try potatoes, you can make flour from those (I haven’t yet though) and they are about the most space efficient source of calories out there.

  • Sorry ladies, but YES I’m sure that I wanted that snake killed!!! They get into houses here. I know people who have found them in their basements, garages, under a couch, in trash cans. Even a woman who, after no sleep and with a baby on her hip, picked one up in her bathroom thinking it was her husband’s belt on the floor. They’re nasty and I’m not ready to have one in the house. And I’ve never had a mouse problem around here. I don’t want to kill snakes… I just don’t want to see them, that’s why I asked for deterrants! Eek!

    My uncle’s out mowing the hayfield now, so hopefully that will keep them all away. I’m not against little snakes, just these huge black snakes.

  • ForexInsals

    good work, will back soon, great site congratulation!

  • ForexStigree

    I’d just like to thank you for taking the time to create this internet website. It has been extremely helpful

  • I get it Abbie, believe me. My first year planting seedlings we had rats in the area – breeding in an empty trailer. They wiped out all of my young plants in one area and started in another. I read like crazy to find out what natural predators there were and . . . well, you guessed it, black snake. I got hold of myself and realized if I introduced a new player to the eco-mix I’d really cause havoc and a whole new kind of terror to the trailer park. BTW, the rat population went sharply down when someone moved in and fixed up the vacant trailer. The cats and the possums further balanced nature. Didn’t mean to be pushy sounding or ignoring your question. I still don’t know deterrents except lots and lots of people around. No critters like us much (and can’t say I blame them).

  • We have so many garter snakes the gardening is almost like rolling on snakeskin skates. They seem to have put a real dent in the supply of snails and slugs, so we talk nicely to them (not they they can hear us). On a mountain just to our west, about two miles off, are a few rattlers, but no one has seen them here on this part of the valley floor for about a hundred years, so we don’t think much about snake trouble — very different from when I lived in Georgia, I assure you.

    On the other hand, coyotes, foxes, deer, hawks, and even a cougar have been known to impact our plans for the place — and especially the ubiquitous raccoons. Of them all, the raccoons, who really love their roast duck and fried chicken, so to speak, are the only ones we’ve had to actually fight. A .22 is a necessary tool, along with the skill to use it, if you have small stock here. We’ve also built up the pen, where all the poultry go in at night, with a complete roof-over of chicken wire.

    On another scale are the spiders and wasps — they can seem inconvenient to try to get along with, but we do try, because they seem to really hold down the swarms of flies that attend upon organic homesteading.

    I’ve learned to move very slowly, with relaxation exercises and calm thoughts, when painting along the roof line, so as not to disturb the “neighbors.” It does seem to work — panic for a moment, and all the wasps go into defensive mode on the spot — they can smell the change, apparently. By encouraging them to nest all over, we think we are helping even the balance of predator/pest around here. I only go after them if they are really inconvenient, such as nesting in the mailbox (a bad idea they had, this year).

    We never take down the cobwebs in the barn, or in the porches, for the same reason. Our orb-weaver spiders are much more fond of both flies and mosquitoes than we are. I have a little less tolerance for the wolf spiders when they move indoors, though. 0o0o! I vividly dreamed once that a really big one was crossing my face, and in the dream I bravely grabbed it and suffocated it under the pillow. When I awoke in the morning I remembered the dream and picked up my pillow … shriek city!!!! I’m a bit wobbly even now, remembering that, a couple of decades later.

  • Rob

    Let it be said I hate snakes. some around here call me Fat Broad after the B.C. comicstrip character because I have the same reaction that she does BAM BAM BAM. LOL Abbie get a kitty- kitty will solve your snake problem, by solving any other vermin you may have and not know about,
    -Rob “Keep that *&^%$Snake away from me” J98168

  • Some of those “pest” animals really are a problem, aren’t they? I’ve been trying to decide what to do with a paper wasp nest I have. If they are out of the way enough I usually leave them, but this nest is in one of my fruit trees and is right along a walk way. I’ve intended to do something about it for about a month now, but keep thinking maybe not…. Yellow Jackets are another story, no mercy cause I always end up getting stung when they are around (much more aggressive type of bee)!

  • Yellow jackets are highly efficient pest-eating carnivores, but agreed; can’t really coexist with them close to the house. When I find a high traffic hole in the ground anywhere near my own areas of activity, I wait until night and invert a glass bowl over it. The problem is solved within a couple of days; though it’s not a kindly thing to do and bothers me, being swarmed with all those stingers is a bit too much to risk.

  • Question for y’all: the vines on my pumpkins don’t seem as lush as they were originally, and the pumpkins are all going orange (small sugar variety). Is a die-back of the vines normal, or should I be concerned there’s a problem? There doesn’t seem to be anything in particular happening in the way of discoloration, etc., but it just doesn’t look like it did originally, all jungle-like… TIA!

  • I have grown some rye on a tiny scale. The first year was a bit of an accident; I’d planted it as green manure and let it go to seed.

    It’s very easy to thresh; we just just the stalks with garden clippers, threw them in a big tub, and stomped on them. After taking the straw out by hand (it comes out in big clumps), we threw double handfuls into a mesh strainer and a big flat basket. Shake it back and forth, and more straw floats to the top. Skim it off, and then winnow the grain by tossing it into the air and blowing (or use a fan to blow). The chaff goes away and the seeds fall back into your basket. We ended up with about 2 lb of grain in maybe an hour, but most of that time was spent wondering about the process. :) I’m harvesting this year’s crop this coming weekend, and I expect to get much more grain in the same amount of time. I should probably take some pictures of this, huh? :)

    FWIW, Gene Logsdon’s new version of “Small-Scale Grain Raising” is worth a read, but isn’t all that useful for someone trying to grow one bushel (65 lb) of wheat (which he says can be done in a patch 10′x109′). His instructions generally include “ask a local farmer to harvest your field with a combine.”

    Emily

  • bbjenae

    This summer my Grandmother and I grew a wonderful garden. She likes tomatoes, so half of our patch is filled with green tomatoes and the other half is cabbage.We have found that “pest” are a problem for us, but my Grandma doesn’t want to use any chemicals in her garden,what should we do?

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