November 3, 2015 – Broken perlcrete. The J tube is encased in lightweight concrete made from Portland cement and perlite. This had cured for 4 or 5 days but the forms kept it from gaining any strength so when the forms were stripped, the stuff crumbled especially at the bottom which we see here. I’ll patch and use it (after it sits a good long while.)

The trench full of water. All the rain we have had this fall has brought the water table up to within a few inches of the soil surface. Needless to say, this will not do for a heater tube so I’ll be shifting gears. I’ve been curious about hugelculture which is essentially burying wood which rots and imrpoves the aeration and microganism content of the soil. Sooooo..I dug two more trenches, one on either side of the original and another pit next to the one you see here and filled them all with wood chips to about 4 inches from the top of the soil.

December 17, 2015 – The trenches full, the weeds pulled and the greenhouse planted. Here there are beets, onions, carrots and broccoli.

The corner of the greenhouse. Here there is arugula, spinach, chard, radishes and turnip greens. What am I leaving out?

Some volunteer tomatoes I rescued just before the frost a couple of months ago. Nice to have a little color and they taste like tomatoes.

Bob Painter showed me how this old mill comes apart – something I had been puzzling over since I got the thing 4 years ago. It’s cold and rainy (Dec 28, 2015) so we are going to take a look at the guts of this beast.

The first step was to remove the 6 horizontal bolts you see lying in the lower left corner and the top of the pillow block bearing for the main shaft.

Next, the shims under the bedstone section are removed. They are the cedar shingles you see lying on the floor. First jacked up one side and removed the shims. Then the other.

Removing the shims produced two results: A space appeared between the runner section and the bedstone section of the mill and

A small gap appeared below the main shaft and between it and the lower part of the pillow block. This should give just enough space to raise the bedstone section enough to slide it forward. The mill altogether weighs 1200 pounds. I figure the bedstone section with the concrete casing for the stone weighs half of that so I’m waiting to move it until Bob can help.

The mill ready to be spread apart. That is a transmission jack under the bedstone section.

The mill apart with some pretty massive cleaning done. The stones are fine – could use some roughening – but note the termite damage in the lower left corner of the traveller section.

Corresponding damage in the lower right corner of the bedstone section.

More damage to the upper right bedstone. My notion is to replace all the wood with some native walnut. I have some I cut from my neighbor at home a couple of years ago and Paul has some. Then sand blast all the metal and clearcoat. So cool.

February 5, 2016 – The radishes coming on. If you look closely, you can see a couple of shy mushrooms that joined the crowd.

Mud art.

Added a mulch border from the leftover wood chips. To me it makes the greenhouse look like it is emerging from the earth.

Rosemary. This plant has been in bloom for a year!!!!??????!!!!!

The herbs are starting to show themselves. The fat leaves are a Red Kuri squash that I’m going to try indoors.

The greenhouse crops coming along – very slowly. Yes, the temperature is low still, the germination has been spotty. I am compelled to accept reluctantly that the soil here is very poor. There is just about zero organic matter, for example. So I have brought in a pick up load of compost from the city which is what you see on top of the soil. Once these crops are harvested, I will till this in and add another load.

Feb 27, 2016

The bees got a little ahead of the beekeeper. Before I could acquire, assemble and install a new hive body and frames, the bees started to build their own version of a hive. I’ve wanted to separate this from the standard issue hive body below so I could examine the bees and treat them for mites. Today was the day. I showed up with a saw to cut between the hive bodies, my bee bonnet, hive tool, etc., etc..

The semi-naturalized hive removed. There was not a bee to be found anywhere. One dead bee only. They vanished. They were there a few days ago when we had a warm spell but acting strangely. Every bee entering the hive was mobbed. I thought the hive was being defended against robbers but there were no corpses.

Damaged frames from the lower hive body. Notice the holes. Some critter got in there and ate the brood. And why is the comb discolored? There was no critter to be found when I opened the hive.

Later – I noticed some scratches and a slight depression at the entrance. A mouse had been in there. Probably since before I put the mouseguard on in the Fall. The discoloration is natural, it turns out, for brood comb.

The natural comb with honey in it.

March 14, 2016 – Very foggy this AM then turned lovely.

My mouseproofer and ventilating hive. The 2×4 will be used to close up the usual entrance at the bottom of the hive. Doubtful a mouse would chew through that. Not impossible, just doubtful. The opening is 3/8″ holes in gutter metal. The hive body will rest on a screened bottom board. The cork can be removed in warm weather to aid ventilation. The mice can only get in (and survive unstung) when it is cold and the girls are clustered in the center of the hive.


Mar. 17, 2016

Peach blossoms popping out. Bees are already on the job. We are expecting three nights of near 30 degree weather. The peach experts at Washington State say that, depending on the stage of blossom formation, it will take a temp in the 20’s to damage them. I guess we’ll see. Stay tuned for an update in a few days.

Relocated the antique grain drill (now a landmark.) Notice the wheat field in the background. It’s getting off to a great start.

By the way, the peach blossoms “seem” to have survived the frosts. We’ll have to see if they set any fruit.

The new, improved Bee Palace – up off the ground. In nature the hive would probably be much higher than this but I need to be able to open it and check. The girls seem to love it. The first day was cold and rainy but they were out foraging anyway. I thought mabe I got some Carniolans which have a rep for foraging in the cold but I’m now pretty sure these are Italians even though some look dark and gray. Besides the improved elevation, I included some comb from last year’s hive that I tied to some frames with string. Can’t wait to open the hive in a week or so to see what they did with it.

The girls at work. I’ve seen them come into the hive loaded with dark yellow/orange pollen. Not sure if it comes from the tooth of the lion but maybe. There are some very fragrant Russian Olives about 1/2 mile away that they could be visiting.

Apr. 22, 2016

The black stuff in the pile and on the rows is compost from the city – $12.90/cubic yard. Pretty good deal and not a bad model for sustainability in the near term – waste from the city comes to the country and is used to grow food (possibily for the city).

The wood stove arrives. This will go in the outdoor kitchen next to the oven and make my tomato sauce for me.

Right in the center, you can see the reason for this picture. It is the 28th of April, and the wheat is forming heads already.  The wheat is coloring up.  Some is still green, some in the milk stage and some doughy.