After a month of consistently, sometimes brutally freezing temperatures, we had a thaw today. It reached 40 degrees! I dumped all indoor plans and got suited up – necessary because the snow is still above my knees, and up to my waist in certain places. I slipped into the trusty muck boots and the thick gloves, but skipped the hat after a while, for the sun beat hard and warm, and there was no wind.

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First up: a trip to the compost bin. We had been collecting our food scraps in buckets on the porch – which is fine as long as they’re frozen, but not so good when they defrost. I plowed my way over there, then dug out the top of the bin. In the image I’m standing on top of the snow. The black rim behind me is my Earth Machine. Looking down into it afforded a new point of view. 2 five gallon buckets of food scraps went in. I didn’t close up the bin just yet.
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Next up, the coop. I took the picture above standing on top of the snow again. Those first layers really pack down. The heat in the deep bedding that worked so well last year could not keep up with the bitter cold, so all the chicken poop sat piled up in stalacmites, frozen. I opened the back of the coop, hacked away at the mess, collected four 5 gallon buckets. These too had to be dragged to the compost pile. Then I had to play some heavy tetris with chairs and tables and bikes and the lawn mower in my shed, all to get to the bag with clean wood shavings. But the hens can be happy with their clean coop. They’re laying about three eggs a day now. Thank you, Ladies! As soon as I can conceivable get to the snowed-in hay, I’ll spread it over the muck and mud in your run!
Here’s some of our fire wood:
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It’ll be for spring.

Homeschooling is going even better than I had expected. We are sticking to a strict schedule in the mornings, with a steady core curriculum in math and language arts. In the afternoons we do Latin and, after that, we launch into our history/science module. I’d say the last one is our favorite along with logic, Latin and word roots. This is the pile of books accumulating in the subjects we’ve chosen for our science/history module:
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Yes, I know. But Amie and I both agreed we couldn’t start “History” with written history, or with the first humans, or the first life, or even the formation of our planet and so… we began with the Big Bang. And obviously we can’t do history apart from science. So: wonderful stuff!

Our first home school field trip was to the NOFA Mass Winter Conference. During lunch Amie went shopping at the stalls, all by herself. She had $5. After chatting with each farmer and herbalist and activist and whatnot, she got some fancy lip balm. We also bought bumper stickers. This one is her favorite and ended up on her cello case:

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On Friday we had our next field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, which has a great homeschool program. I got to walk the halls for an hour and a half, and located this poster:

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Soon we’ll have to open those seed catalogs and start planning the garden. At the NOFA conference I picked up a lot of information on trace minerals. We went with a group and divvied up the workshops among us. Next week we meet to discuss the many gardens now in play: our personal gardens (about four, some of them quite large), three large Community Garden Plots, and some School Gardens as well. These come with town-wide compost systems that take in scraps from the schools’ lunchrooms, pounds and pounds of coffee grounds from a local coffee shop, and now, also, kitchen scraps from the local Whole Foods. Lastly, the surplus goes to Food Pantries and shelters in the neighborhood.

I’ve not had time to write much here, but please stay tuned!

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It’s geology! Layer after layer of compost.

This pile had gone cold. I lifted up the Earth Machine, which you can see in the background. I love the design of the Earth Machine: as it tapers up, it’s easy to lift off while keeping the shape, making it easy to fork up. It took two heaped wheelbarrows, because it had compacted so much (cause of its going cold), to move to an open compost bin in the back.  The top stuff, which had just been added, ended up at the bottom and so I’m fairly confident the critter won’t even know there’s raw egg and some meat in there.

Just for my own satisfaction (sanity?), a reckoning of the elements in place or about to be in place here at Robin Hill Gardens:

  1. Veg gardens, all grown from seed (reasonable harvests, gardener needs more experience)
  2. Hoop house (12′x20′)
  3. Solar PV array (5.1 Kw – supplies 100% of electricity)
  4. Medicinal herb garden (minimal, needs more attention)
  5. Cherry tree, nut and berry bushes, 2 kiwis (none of them producing as yet)
  6. Apiary (3 hives) - coming up: 150 lbs (?) of honey
  7. Avian dinosaurs (4 pullets) - coming up: eggs!
  8. Rainwater catchment (5×60 gallons) - coming up: two 275 gallon toters
  9. Compost (3 bins 4x4x4 and 2 Earth Machines and sundry leaf and wood chip piles)
  10. Garlic house for curing garlic (Amie’s play set house: works great!)
  11. Solar clothes dryer
  12. Member of a CSA (carpooled too)
  13. Reasonable number in the 90% Reduction/Riot for Austerity
  14. Firewood – wood grown on property – for three winters
  15. coming up: homemade honey extractor
  16. coming up: homemade solar oven / beeswax melter
  17. wishing for: solar hot water (involves thermal collector and new water tank, possibly electrical on demand)
  18. wishing for: high efficiency replacement for one car
  19. wishing for: trailer for other car (“work horse”)
  20. wishing for: more fruit trees
And, in the immediate vicinity:
  1. Transition Wayland
  2. Solarize Wayland
  3. BEElieve Beekeepers Club
  4. Wayland Green Team
  5. and other friends working on our town’s resilience

There, I feel better.

 

Sorry to be so absent. It will get worse.  We are traveling to India on the 10th – will be back  on New Year’s Day. That is the plan. Thing is, our passports are still at the Indian Consulate without any explanation, or response to our emails, and no one ever answers the phone. If they don’t arrive today, we’ll have to travel to NYC to get some resolution. A huge hassle! And then, if we can’t make it, tons of money will be wasted, but mostly, we won’t get to see my husband’s family, and Amie’s great-grandmother will be extremely sad. It is too stressful…

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What I do when I get stressed is I go out into the garden. I checked on the lettuce and spinach int he hot box: they’re all doing well. I moved some more pumpkins into the Earth Machine in the hoop house and topped it off with shredded leaves (the aroma!). Then I peeked under the row cover to see what’s growing. A photo-essay.

I shredded a leaf pile today, the one in the back. Here I am dropping leaves into the shredder (best Freecycle ever!), which you can’t even see for the pile.  There are more piles, some even larger, on the property, and of course still lots of leaves not in piles (yet?). As you can see from my previous post, we have lots of trees, a mix of pine, beach and oak. Plus I let my neighbors dump their leaves on part of the front garden. I think I’ll let that pile compress on its own.

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This work makes you sweaty, tired, dusty and stink of gasoline fumes (which some like but that’s not me). Yet it is also very satisfying to see that huge pile of mostly air reduced to this compressed, moist, lovely smelling mound of biomass.

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Meanwhile, at the bottom of the hill, more pumpkin orphans were being dropped off, bringing the total to 36! I didn’t have the wherewithal to weigh each (any) of them, so I’m not sure of the tonnage, but I am sure of the neighbors’ enthusiasm for this project. I keep saying: Ah, the last pumpkins, but they keep on appearing under my mailbox.

I joined the a team of parent and teacher volunteers who are working to make the school system in our town greener. We’re working on getting the recycling going. Especially lunch time is a problem, a big black hole that apparently eats only trash.

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I’m still baking, only not as much – a bread every three days. Though in this picture it looks like it was forged in the fires of Mount Doom, Bread No.13 turned out very nicely, with the perfect moisture and crumb.

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The rains let up and I got the chance to plant the hot box, in 54 F weather! I hadn’t until now because the temperature o the soil registered 82F until a week ago. What a long  burn that was! Now it’s at 73F, perfect. In went a Winter Lettuce Mix and some Rainbow Chard. Let’s see how they do. I need to locate the sensor that attaches via a cable to my digital  thermometer. This cable is just long enough to reach from the hot box to the bathroom window.