Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

The Ultimate Garden Deer Fence!

When we moved here everyone told us that to have a garden and fruit trees, we HAVE to put up fencing to keep the deer out.  After a lot of research and talking with other gardeners, we decided to put up 5 ft. wire fencing around the entire perimeter of our garden with electric fence extending another 3 feet above that. The berry bushes outside the garden only have 2 strands of electric fencing about 3 feet tall and surprisingly the deer don't jump it.  I am happy to report that after 2 growing seasons, we have not had ANY deer damage.

We use a 30 mile solar electric charger.  This charger is awesome!  It has always kept a charge and you can hear a slight audible click so you know when it's pulsing.  A few times we have woke up in the middle of the night because a slug slimed its way between the charger housing and the terminal which shorted out the charger.  (This sounds bad, but really the slug was fried on the electric wire while the charger ticked on - though it did take Jon a few midnight runs out to the garden to see what was going on.).  We disconnect the solar charger in the winter and store it inside.

Using zip ties, fiberglass poles were attached to the fence posts and extended another 3 feet above the regular wire fence.  Two strings of electric fencing were attached to the fiberglass posts.  

We put in 3, 8 foot grounding rods for the charger.  In hindsight we could have probably used just one.  A word of advice when putting these in, make sure they are in a location that won't be in your way!

In the foreground of the picture you can see the deer damage on the blackberry canes outside the electric fence and the untouched canes on the inside of the fence.

The Case of the Disappearing Honey!

We've had quite the year keeping honeybees and already had to combine the two hives on August 25th.  I fed them immediately after introducing the two colonies and checked for new brood.  Everything looked fine by the end of September and I fed them right up to when the fall nectar flow began.  By the beginning of October, the hive was a good weight and I left them alone.  This past weekend I decided to heft the hive and was thinking of feeding them since the weather was warm Veteran's Day weekend.  Come to find out, the hive was light as a feather!!!  Jon and I suited up and went into the hive to find maybe one frame 1/3 full of nectar, a few cells of pollen, and no brood.  The queen was still alive and moving around.  What's interesting about this scenario is that this is the exact thing that happened to one of the hives before we combined them in August...they were completely robbed of all their honey stores!

I think this is a bit odd considering the hive was a good winter weight less than 2 months ago and they were busy during the nectar flow.  I think the hive had been robbed out by another hive...perhaps one in the woods or from another beekeeper's hives 1 mile away?  This May during swarm season, Jon and I were gone for 2 weeks and we suspected that one hive swarmed so perhaps they found an old tree and got established?  The yellow jackets have also been up by the hive a lot the past few weeks and I squish them when I can, but in hindsight, I should have reduced the hive entrance to discourage robbing.  Whatever the reason, we're not happy because there really is no way to save this hive.  In a month or so I'll gather up the empty boxes and store them for next year.

Cheap and Easy Leaf Mulch

Last spring in my post about fruit trees I wrote about mulch and how well the chickens shred the leaves and fertilize it into mulch.  This fall we have been raking leaves from all over the yard and storing them for use throughout the winter so we can get a head start on the mulch and have it ready early spring.  The chickens benefit greatly from these leaves because they have something to scratch when the days are cold and they are cooped-up indoors; and the outdoor run doesn't get muddy from the wet weather.  The leaves also add a layer of insulation in the coop and outdoor run which I think keep bugs closer to the surface for them to hunt.

The process is fairly simple, I first spread two old bed sheets on the ground and rake leaves onto them. 

I had to convince Paul that there would be an even bigger leaf pile up by the barn.

Together Jon and I carried the leaves to the barn. 

After all the hauling we took a break to play in the leaves!

Some new leaves were added to the outdoor run and the rest were left in a pile to be added throughout the winter.  Before fall ends, the pile will reach the bottom of the coop window.

Time for the chickens to go to work and shred the leaves while at the same time fertilizing it with their poop!

How to Shell Black Walnuts

This fall the walnut tree dropped really large nuts with hulls that were really easy to remove.  This is our third year harvesting walnuts and each year I learn a little bit more about the process.  Most people put the walnuts on their driveway and drive over them to remove the hulls.  We have a gravel driveway leading up to a cement driveway and I really don't want the cement stained so I just step on the nut wearing old shoes and the hull slides right off.  If the hull is hard and doesn't separate from the shell, I toss it in the woods because the nut isn't fully mature.

I also don't keep any nuts that have these white worms hiding under the hulls.  These nuts are usually bad. 

After the hulls are removed I put them in cardboard boxes in partial sun.  Every couple of hours I shake the box until all the nuts are dry.  The two boxes on the right are butternuts...given to us by some friends. 

Jon and Paul found a unique way to remove the hulls this year...hitting them with a baseball bat!  Our son likes to go find them in the yard afterwards.  If you use this method, make sure to check your nuts.  If they get cracked, open them immediately because they will not store well if air gets inside the shell.

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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