Well, I had sworn not to grow potatoes again after the Blight Year of 2009 – my first year gardening. It wasn’t just blight that ruined that year’s potatoes (the tomatoes didn’t suffer too much). I also tried the potato tower method and it was Spudtacularly Disappointing.

But I love potatoes. I love them so, so much

Behold, Ladies and Gentlemen, is Brown Spot:

It’s a form of Potato Leaf Blight, caused by the fungus Alternaria alternata. Luckily it’s less aggressive than its cousin Alternaria solani (the Early Blight fungus). You can read more about it, and its difference from Early Blight, here.

I’m thinking it’s not Early Blight because of this:

Tubers affected by Early Blight don’t look like this at all. This looks like Black Pit, the tuber phase of Brown Spot. Don’t they just sound like two brothers, one kind of sweet, like a cudly dog, the other kinda mean, like a devil? Mm, I can’t find a picture of it through Google (this site says Brown Spot and Black Pit are less well known potato diseases), so I can’t say for sure.

Thus, in order to save the tubers and to rid my garden of these blight infected plants, I harvest most of my potatoes – all of them but the Keuka Gold were affected. In the end, seed potato to yield ratio-wise, I didn’t do as badly as my first year of potato growing. Some potatoes were even fully grown. These are the yields:

  • 14 lbs 10 oz of Dark Red Norland / seed potato to yield ratio: 5:15 = 1:3 – not too bad
  • 2 lb 12 oz  of Banana Fingerlings / 3:2.75  – Yikes!

So… Fingerlings were a bust, but the Dark Red Norland did okay. I have good hopes for the Keuka Gold, which had the best yield in 2009 and which held our loner – the roller coaster of heat and rain was hard on the plants, but no sign of this disease at least. I’ll harvest those once my present stash of potatoes is finished.

Anyways, I’ll be planting three beds with more green beans, new carrots and greens, maybe even some more cukes. And we’ll be eating lots of baby potatoes over the next couple of days. I have no objections to that.

Bon appetit!

On 15 July the Apiguard treatment was finished (the bees cleaned out the tray) and my friend, neighbor and fellow Transitioner Andrea helped me put the first honey super onto the hive.

These are the bees in the top box: great numbers and all looking healthy. Frames and frames heavy with honey. Eggs too!

Andrea felt very brave, but once she saw how docile the bees are she breathed more easily. It was very helpful having help on this one. I had treated the honey super frames – not drawn out, so no comb on it yet – with Honey Bee Healthy, a mix of volatile oils that they like, diluted in sugar water. This is to entice to come into “the upstairs food pantry”. This meant, however, that I couldn’t bring that box along and leave it there in the open while I did the inspection and scraped away the excess comb. It would have attracted the bees, my own and others, and other unwanted insects. So once I was ready Andrea went to get it from our screened porch for me.  Thank you!

When we were done and came back to the house Andrea, who was wearing the vest with attached veil, heard something buzzing inside her suit! It certainly sounded like a bee. I quickly helped her remove the vest.  I have had that “bee in my clothes”  experience: it’s quite enervating! But she was very calm. It turned out to be a giant drone – drones don’t sting. Strange, how it got there, that vest seems hermetically sealed…

It was certainly an unforgettable first bee experience for Andrea!

Harvest honey comb

It’s been a while since I put up a drawing of Amie’s. She’s still at it, still wants to be a “real artist” (funny, I just saw that that last update about her art was a little over a year ago).

It’s a self-portrait.

As you can see she’s working on neck, shoulders, elbows and knees (but in her portrait her legs aren’t bent). She started by drawing the head in the middle of the paper and I suggested she put it a bit higher up so she’d have more space for the body. She declined politely.

Three days and a swarm of people and the solar array is UP.

But not up and running, yet. We still need the town to inspect the electricity and the building, NSTAR to approve the interconnection, to install the monitoring system, someone to commission the system, and us to be trained in its operation and maintenance. Another week or so…

But in the meantime, here is the info for our system:


24 SANYO HIT Power Modules 100% of maximum power (Pmax) = 215.0 Watts / DC rate per panel 210 Watts / Total = 5040 Watts system

12 Enphase D380 module-direct inverters

Modules are placed in portrait orientation and racked as two rows of twelve modules each. Each row of modules is as a single string with six inverters, resulting in a total of two strings.

Production estimates

Estimated first year production in kWh: 4,735

This estimation takes into account historical weather data, the orientation of the south-facing roof and the tilt of the south-facing roof.

At this production rate, our solar fraction would be around 87% of our 2010 electrical consumption which translates to avoided utility costs of approximately $899 per year (this value is based on your current utility rate of $0.18 per kWh).

Value of solar energy harvested over project life: $ 50,922.89

Carbon Savings

Pounds of carbon saved in the first year: 7,103

Pounds saved over the project lifetime: 187,469

Cost (estimates, but close)

Base system cost: $ 35,558.00
Projected Commonwealth Solar rebate: $ 8,000.00
Invoice cost: $ 27,558.00
Federal Tax Credit (30% of remaining cost): $8,260
State Personal Tax Credit: 15% of remaining, up to $1000
Cost after installation: $18,290
minus yearly deductions beginning in year 1:
  • savings on our electricity bill per year: $900/year at our current utility rate of $0.18 per kWh > assuming prices don’t change, the system pays for itself in approx. 20 years
  • and we can sell 5 SRECS a year. At the moment SRECS are worth $520 each, but assuming the worst-case scenario with the lowest value per SREC at $285 each (so $1425/year), then the system is paid for in approx. 8 years.

And will declaim it!


Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.


Has anyone put this to song yet?

Two weeks ago I put a tray of Apiguard in the hive. The tray was close to empty today, so I’m leaving it in for a couple more days. The usual Spring treatment is two trays for a maximum of 6 weeks (altogether). But I was late starting the treatment as my bees took a long time building up their population. I don’t want to do the second treatment because it’s time for the honey supers to go on, and it’s not desirable to have all that thymol in the honey.

The colony has obviously grown and I’m happy with their size now. They’ve been building all these comb “towers” to fill up the extra space created by the rim board. I took all those off with my hive tool, because once I put on the supers the rim board needs to go. What a wonderful haul of clean wax. The bees were very mellow, didn’t mind me scraping off all that hard work or even shaking them off before I threw the comb into a jar.

I’ll go back in a few days to take out the Apiguard and put on the first honey super, with the queen excluder in between (don’t want bee grubs int he honey either).

Poem 2 in the 350 poem project was sent on its way on 5 June and must have arrived at its destination (or I wouldn’t post it here!). I’ve not received any poems back as yet, but it’s early days yet.

This poem too was sent on its way on the back of a stunning art work by Pinaki Das, a Calcutta artist.

And I am here

and the everflowing Now

is in me

wishing I would

let go of it

but I want to continue

the even keel

on the free rudder

stay with me

we’re going somewhere

John Root conducted an Edible Wild Plants Walk at the organic Lindentree Farm in nearby Lincoln yesterday evening and I was there. I learned that that weed, of which I pulled thousands from the old compost heap, is Lamb’s Quarters, that it is absolutely yummy and nutritious and grew itself for free and without my care or attention (but I already knew that). And I ate not a one. They all went into the (new) compost, though, so eventually I’ll eat them, but still.

The entertaining  and knowledgeable John Root introduces us to Jewelweed

Today I pulled several weeds from the strawberry patch. I spent some time with one of them, Botany in a Day, and Amie’s loupe and discovered it is a Mallow, probably Cheese Mallow (Malva rotundifolia). Here’s the distinctive funnel-shaped five-petaled flower with a column of stamens.

Mallows have 3 to 5 partially united sepals and often several bracts. This one has 5 sepals and 3 bracts (smaller sepal-like modified leaves):

My plants has these beautiful round leaves – hence my hunch that is is rotundi-folia:

The ovary of the Mallow matures as a capsule, or a “cheese”:

Matured flower next to immature flower:

The Mallow is mucilaginous or slimy when crushed and contains pectin. The marshmallow we roast over the fire used to be made from the roots and seeds of the Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis – which comes from Europe and which I purchased and have thriving in my herb garden) and our indigenous Malva can be used to make marshmallow too.

Because the Mallows are so slimy, they are a great external emollient and an internal demulcent and expectorant. Roots, leaves, flowers and seeds (cheeses) can be eaten and are rich in calcium and iron.