I lost it somewhere in the middle of August. There was too much to do for Solarize Massachusetts, for Transition Wayland. So I lost the garden. The plants kept on growing, but so did the weeds and the pests. I stopped watering the tomatoes and peppers in the hoop house altogether. We never managed to put that irrigation in and they were already so stressed out from spotty watering that they were no longer worth the effort. I also didn’t start Fall vegetable seedlings, and so have nothing to transplant into the hoop house now. The hoop house needs some work as well: doors, to begin with, and a new tightening and fastening of the plastic.

I don’t mind much. I sacrificed it for something very worthwhile and productive. Next season!

But, now my parents are here and they’re helping me put the garden to bed, in style. We bought four big straw bales, enough for all the beds.

Then we sourced some fresh horse manure from our neighbor. The first trip, with two wheelbarrows, the three of us did on foot. It’s a five-minute downhill walk with empty barrows, a fifteen-minute, uphill one with full ones. We were looking at four more such trips and decided that the use of fossil fuels was justified. The back of my station wagon holds four smallish barrows.

Here’s our stash of manure, waiting for more beds to be cleared of plants and weeds. In most beds we work it lightly into the top layer, but in two beds, as an experiment, we’re digging it in.

Pulling all those plants means harvesting them, and here is our last or next-to-last harvest: last leeks, chard, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumber, zucchini,  eggplants, physalis berries. The eggs we just pulled from the nest boxes, so I stuck ’em in there.

What does it mean when someone tells you “It can be done”? Does it mean anything more or different from “it can’t be done”? (*)

When you hear someone say “it can be done,” you should immediately ask “and are we doing it?” That will accomplish two things.

If the answer is yes, you’ve confirmed that it can be done. Good, we can all feel good about ourselves.

If the answer is no, then you know what your work is, and then the one you’ve been asking, knows what her work is.


(*) Only think of Obama’s “Yes, We Can”. Well? Did we?

Yesterday was an animal day.

First, I checked on Hive 3 and finally undid the mistake I made over a month ago. Back then  I pulled a deep frame out of that hive’s brood box to give to a friend, bees, brood, eggs, honey and pollen and all, whose hive was in trouble. I pulled the frame but neglected to immediately insert a new one. A week later the result was clear: the bees had filled up that space with a huge burr comb, filled with brood, etc.  At the time I discovered this, I was harvesting honey and the colony was already pretty upset with me, so I didn’t go in to fix it. Then I was too busy, or it was too hot to go into the hive.

Today I did it and the bees were surprising okay with it. I felt bad about pulling out so much wax and so much brood, and then having to shake all the bees taking care of the brood off into the hive. But on the other hand I got to see how infested the brood was with varroa mites: a real eye-opener and skin-crawler! I’ll do a mite fall count and treat with formic acid, which will also kill any tracheal mites present in the box.

All those brown spots on the brood (mostly drones) are varroa mites. They prefer capped over brood but also live on working bees.

In the evening we had our BEElieve meeting on Fall Hive Management, and I brought the pictured burr comb for people to see. Integrated Pest Management was number one on the agenda.

Tete-a-tete in the coop: “Has she lain that egg yet?” – “Poor thing, she can’t, what with her and that camera!  A girl needs her privacy!”

In the afternoon I gave the coop its first serious clean-out since building it. With rake and broom I pulled all the bedding from the coop, then scrubbed down the walls and floor with a rough brush and a solution of vinegar, dish soap and water. Let it dry out and put in fresh pine shavings. The newly used egg boxes got special attention.

I also dug all the bedding out of the first run, down to the clay soil, and refreshed with new pine shavings. I think I’ll want to start switching to shredded leaves or dried grass in that part of the chicken house. Those shavings cost a bundle and they retain the humidity from the rain too much. I also scrubbed down the plank and platform that lead up to the coop door, and soaked the waterer and the feeder in more vinegar.

It took me a good two hours to do all this. I wore a mask because the dust was unbelievable. No signs of mites or live or any kind of creepy crawly here!

This morning Amie and I were so thrilled when we opened the nest box. There, on the bare plank (I hadn’t put any bedding down yet), was the cutest egg you’ve ever soon, a tiny pullet egg.

We couldn’t tell which of the four ladies laid this egg, but Pecky was the one who protested the loudest when we took it away.

After Amie came back from school we found two more: one in the corner of the run and one in the nest box again (now divided and cozy with wood shavings), later in the evening. I think one of  the earlier ones must have been from yesterday, but the other two… We probably have two pullets laying now.

These eggs are so small (here they are next to a store-bought Large brown egg) and fabled to be very rich and delicious. Tomorrow I’ll made an omelet for myself and a boiled egg for Amie. And they’re here right on time.  Next week my parents are visiting and my dad loves eggs, has them every day.

What a great gift! Thank you, ladies!

TO DO before Winter in the so-called “Ladies’ Garden”.

  1.  clear weeds, brambles
  2. put in path from house to woodpile (to the right , not in picture) and stake
  3. make bed for strawberries
  4. transplant strawberries from front bed to here
  5. reinforce coop roof for snow load
  6. finishing touches to coop
  7. buck, split and stack more wood
  8. collect and stash kindling

The ladies, they love water mellon. They ate the rind!

This is the Riot for the month of August of 2012 for the three of us plus my parents-and sister-in-law. My summary of our first three years is here. Edson fixed the calculator: all go tither to crunch those numbers!

Gasoline.  Calculated per person. DH and SIL have been driving into Boston every day for work and that is inflating our gasoline usage.

13.15 gallons per person

32 % of the US National Average

Electricity. This is reckoned per household, not per person. We cook on an electric stove. According to our solar meter, we produced 5673 kWh since the system was turned on, and 615  kWh this last month (you can follow our solar harvest live here). We owed NStar nothing but how much we consumed is a mystery: the NSTAR billing software apparently cannot handle negatives. So we used less than

615 kWh per household

34% of the US National Average

Heating Oil and Warm Water. This too is calculated for the entire household, not per person, and since our numbers have doubled, our consumption has obviously gone up, but not by twice as much, which is good news. Bad news is that this is ONLY for hot water, since obviously we’ve not needed  the heating to be on. We’re looking into an electric on-demand heater with perhaps a solar thermal unit…

9.75  gallons of oil

15.8% of the US National Average

Trash. After recycling and composting this usually comes down to mainly food wrappers.

6 lbs. pp per month

4.4% of the US National Average

Water. This is calculated per person. Unfortunately this is again a higher average than usual.

660 gallons pp.

22 % of the US National Average


After three months of having at least 6 people in the house – at peak times 9 – a general exodus is taking place and we will be down to just Amie and I for a couple of weeks. Hopefully there won’t be a repeat of last year’s storm and week-long power-outage!