Another Illinois 'stead

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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby mannytheseacow » Sat Apr 13, 2013 3:42 pm

Thanks for including this Loly, those are very informative. My mom used to beer batter and deepfry little dandelion flower fritters when I was a kid... mmmm, I miss those days. I pick the leaves when they're young and use them in salads, but they can get bitter when they're older. As for bees, you/they hit the nail on the head; I've noticed a lot of value for the bees. Dandelion honey is kind of strong, so I like to time my honey collection around the big flow of dandelion nectar and let the girls put it away for feeding their brood and winter storage. I collected it once for myself and I've still got a jar of it laying around. It taints everything I add it to, bread, cookies, tea, mead, etc. I'll use it up one of these days. I thought about feeding it back to the girls late fall, maybe this year...
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby Lollykoko » Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:04 pm

I've never knowingly had dandelion honey, but can imagine that it would be intense.

I don't have a problem with dandelions in my yard. As in, there are dandelions in my yard and it doesn't bother me at all. :lol: But I might consider trying that dandelion wine recipe, just to get rid of the flowers before they go to seed.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby GrahamB » Sun Apr 14, 2013 11:41 am

Lolly I can recommend dandelion wine. Both me and my ex father in law used to make a batch each year and it never lasted very long. As kids we used to enjoy dandelion and burdock. It was a popular summer beverage (non- alcoholic). A few years ago, we made some dandelion coffee. It was a little bitter, but would do if coffee supplies ever ran out.
I have a distinct lack of dandelions on our property, but the sports field at school is covered in them. I might have to go pick some and see if I can collect some seeds.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby mannytheseacow » Mon Apr 22, 2013 3:43 am

I've had a busy few weeks here on my little plot. I've been tossing around the idea of having chickens again and was even thinking of a couple of pigs, too. But the finances have to work out. I ran into an old friend with a problem: she has too many chickens. We settled on trading a quart of honey for 25 birds of mixed breeds, all of laying age. This sounds very fair to me, and considering I still have my old waterer and feeding troughs, not to mention that spring is finally here in the midwest, this sounds like a wise pursuit. As for the pigs... I'm living in the woods so ideally if I'm going to do it I'd like to get something that will forage well in the woodlands like a mangalitsa, but noone near me is raising mangalitsas. I can probably find something, though... Iowa is the hog capital of the world so there's still a good variety of breeds available to get me a couple feeders for this year. Anyway, so I've taken a 1/4 acre and fenced it in. I managed to find everything I needed for the fence as salvage items around my network of people. About 16 wooden posts, 50 steel posts, an old electric fence charger that still works... all I had to shell out was for 2 spools of wire, some staples, and the little plastic electric fence insulators. A couple hard days of work later and I've got a swine-proof pasture paddock fit for two little future sausages for about $100 bucks. Putting fence posts in these rocky bluff-top soils is less than desirable, but it can be done.

Add to that, I planted another 25 sugar maples around my place in amongst the spaces between the old grandfather oaks, hickories, hackberrys, and elms. As much as I love gooseberry pie, the gooseberries are out of control; tearing at your pantlegs and catching on your forearms. It's still pretty chilly around here, but the green leaves are starting to poke out on the gooseberries and raspberries. Some greens are able to be foraged: there's young dandelion, nettle poking out, green onion tops, young lamb's quarters, plantain, garlic mustard, chickweed, winter cress and watercress. The bees are swarming around the early spring flowers like bloodroot and dutchman's breeches... Oh how nice this time of year is.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby mannytheseacow » Tue May 07, 2013 12:28 am

I had a busy weekend around the house here. We're finally getting some warmer temperatures and things are greening up nicely. I took a section of yard and roughed up about 600 sq. ft. of soil and planted some native warm season prairie seed in it. The mix has over 70 different species of grasses and forbs that are native to my area. It's referred to as a "pollinator mix" which has at least 3 species of plants in bloom throughout the growing season. Good for the birds and the bees, of course, and healthy pollinators make healthy gardens.

I also got a bit of a work done on some raised garden beds. I've got very rocky soils here on steep slopes. I built some 2' high retaining walls out of old railroad ties (I know the preservatives aren't the greatest but it's all I could find) on the slope and made some terraces about 4 ft. wide and 20 ft. long, with 2ft. walking paths in between them. Filling them, I'm going with a hugel-type idea: I filled the bottoms with small logs, sticks, and some wood chip mulch. On top of that I'm emptying about 7 years worth of compost from my compost pile. On top of that is going to go straw. I've got a source for seaweed that's harvested from a nearby lake, so I'm going to pile about 2 inches of that on top of the straw and then top it up with about another foot of black dirt. Lot's of shoveling, that's all I got to say. Hopefully it's productive for years to come.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Tue May 07, 2013 1:24 pm

That sounds like a Great project Manny, keep up the good work. It is a lot of shoveling now, but it will produce results for many years to come. When you garden always thing long term. ;)
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby mannytheseacow » Sun May 26, 2013 2:26 pm

It's hard getting on this computer this time of year with so much outside work to do and the nice weather finally here. I have a couple of projects that I've been working on that I wanted to share...

Still working on the hugel beds. I need about 4 more loads of dirt, but it's till too early to plant most veggies here so I've got a couple of weeks on this yet.

I took down some hackberry logs to get milled last weekend. Image
It's a portable mill but it's easier to mill at the owner's place than my steep ground. I haven't figured the actual board feet that I got out of this but I got two nice stacks of wood about 4' high filled with 1 1/4" thick boards 8 - 10 ft. long and mixed widths, and a 17' long 3"x5" beam.
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I already have too much walnut, but I wanted the hackberry so that I had something different to work with, I needed the beam, and have been thinning my pig pasture.

Hackberry has a great wildlife value, though I'm not sure if the pigs will eat the berries in the fall. I imagine they will. Either way, it's a really pretty wood. Kinda looks like hickory. This started as a project of diversifying my pig pasture to provide more crop trees with more diversity. Following the adage of no more than 10% of a species, 20% of a genus, and 30% of a family. I've got a lot of white and red oaks, and black walnut, and too much hackberry. I'm going to be adding apple and pear in a sunnier part of the pasture and incorporating shagbark and pignut hickory, pecan, and hazelnuts. I'd like to find some of those hardy blight resistant chestnuts, too, if anyone has a good source. I know I saw something on this forum about them... gotta look into that.

Also built this new pig feeder:
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I got the idea from a university of something or other website. It's basically scrap 2x12's at 90* angles, with some plywood on the ends and some small holes drilled to provide drainage. I really like it because it has cut the feed waste down to nothing.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby matt walker » Sun May 26, 2013 5:31 pm

Beautiful boards Manny, I love the way you keep the live edge intact.
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby mannytheseacow » Tue Jun 25, 2013 3:33 am

It's been raining like crazy around here. My mushrooms logs are getting a good bloom on. Time to fire up the solar dehydrator....
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Re: Another Illinois 'stead

Postby Lollykoko » Tue Jun 25, 2013 8:57 pm

It looks like a nice harvest, Manny. I like having dehydrated mushrooms on hand.
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