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The chickens were the focus of the 2014 project. The basic box was up at the end of 2013. It needed to be trimmed out and painted. Work is underway late April.


Black locust fenceposts went in after the windows were finished and the door was hung.

Chicken house May 2014

Below is the completed compound with POW-camp-style fence additions on the outside along the deer fence. I was not altogether confident that I could keep predators out. But so far, so good.

ChickHouse June10

I got five Aracauna chicks from my friends Ed Bruske and Lane Green at Spydog Farm about seven miles away. Here they are in their new house on Day 1. The place is nice and clean. It won’t stay that way for long. Aren’t they cute! I named them: Gladys, Mabel, Pearl, Edna, and Solange.

Chickens Day 1

Here are the girls toward the end of July. I kept them inside their compound for the first month. Among other things, I was concerned about how Scooter the cat would treat them.

Chicks July 1

In August, they were getting bigger, and looked like they could stand up for themselves. So I let them start ranging through the orchard. They had developed a gang mentality so I thought they would intimidate Scooter by sheer numbers,


These were the very first eggs the girls produced. Yes, they are blue-green, characteristic of the Araucana breed, though occasionally now I get some that are buff and some that are bluer or greener.

Eggs 3

Scooter has developed into a chickenherder. They show each other a lot of mutual respect. I’m much more concerned about Death-From-Above — hawks, owls, and eagles, all of them pretty abundant around here. Bald Eagles have especially been coming back strong and they nest in the Battenkill River corridor about a quarter-mile from the house. So far, no strikes. Sad to say, though, in October Solange died after flying into the plate glass window of my office sliding door. RIP. Four girls remain.


The fruit trees continues to come along in their third year. Only two Northern Spys and one Japanese pear produced fruits, and I pinched back twice as many as actually set, to save the young tree some energy.

Orchard Aug 2014

The garden seemed to be pretty much up-and-running for the 2014 season, but interesting problems developed. After two years of being relatively left alone by pests, a lot of my crops were getting hit hard. Peas were chawed down to the nubbin. Ditto some of the kale, collards, salad greens. I suspect chipmunks or voles. In June I very laboriously attached an inner screen of chickenwire along all the individual bays of the picket fence, with a 12-inch apron coming out along the outside edge. Maybe I should have used the material called hardware cloth, with the little quarter-inch square openings, but that would have cost four times as much. I continued to have trouble all summer and fall. Some of it was insect and disease damage. My fava beans got hit by some blackish crud. All nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants) did well. Onions were a failure; they just didn’t get much bigger than the “sets” I planted in May. Had a decent crop of potatoes. Tons of cucumbers. They really kept coming. Lots of raspberries and strawberries. I tried growing tomatoes and peppers in the hoop house through the summer, to see what supercharged heat would do for them. They produced prodigiously, but the plants got super-leggy.

Garden aerial

One thing I did early in the spring was to run some buried hoses from porch faucet, under the porch, and then about 8 inches underground into the garden. Also over to the hoop house so the hose wouldn’t be just laying on the grass all the time. It worked really well and wasn’t too difficult. In the fall, I blew out the lines with an air compressor.

Hose buried

The garden hose stores up neatly inside the fence — yay….

Hose on fence

On  July evening, everything is coming along nicely.

Garden dusk

Here’s the scene in October. Many of the beds are already cleaned out for the season.


October in the orchard. There are five new plum trees (hard to see) going down to chicken house. The red vine is Virginia Creeper.

Orchard fall

The end of another lovely, satisfying season… this is the chicken house in early November. The moon is rising.


Winter comes on early. Waking up to a morning dusting a week before Christmas.  Not much to worry about, right?

Chicken house in snow

Disaster Strikes!

One night before Christmas, an icy snowstorm struck the upper Hudson Valley. Imagine my shock to look out the window and see this. Totally my bad. The fact was, I had a set of 4 x 4 braces for the roof ridge made up from the previous year all ready to pop in….and I just forgot. Duh…. I heard the forecast but it just didn’t register, or prompt me to go get those braces out of the shed and pop them in. What a bummer….The damage seemed pretty total.

Hoop collapse2

I mean, what do you think?

However, once the ice that was hammocked up in the center melted, and I poked a drain hole or two in the very strong plastic, and all that weight came off, I was able to get in and brace up the center ridge pole and kind of return the thing to at least a semblance of its correct shape. Further examination suggests I can patch together the broken ridge pole and the three broken hoops (the rest are okay). I’ll know in May sometime. Might also have to replace the main plastic cover, but it is designed to be changed out pretty easily. That’d cost about $150. Notice, I lost a nice winter lettuce crop.  Advice welcome….

Hoop collapse3

Eventually, I got the ridge support posts back in and propped up the structure back into its normal shape. You can see the posts in there if you look closely. But I will have to patch in a lot of new pieces of Sched-40 PVC pipe and new connectors this spring. I kinda think it can be done.

Hoop House propped up

Snow on snow on snow…. This is how winter developed. By February the entrenchments were several feet deep. The chickens seemed to do very well. They roosted up in the rafters of their house, and I’d asked Alexandria Gene for spray foam insulation and installed it with a mylar finish, so I think their own body heat keep things pretty tolerable. Each hen supposedly generated 10 watts.

Chickhse Snow_Feb24

The girls got used to circulating back and forth from their house to the sheltered spot under the back deck where my office walk-out is. Usually they move in a group, but sometimes they make the long lonely walk solo. I don’t know if this is Gladys, Edna, Mabel, or Pearl

Lone chickie

Apart from salvaging the hoop house, the big project for 2015 is to reconfigure the garden beds. I’m disenchanted with the raised beds and grass paths. I’m going consolidate some of the beds and lay down wood chips in the paths. I will eliminate some of the paths altogether. Also will make the perennial beds  a little bigger

About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

48 Responses to “The Garden, Third Year, 2014”

  1. sdmbadger March 8, 2015 at 4:39 pm #

    Wow. The garden looks fantastic!! I think its great you’ve decided to lead by example….and your example is very impressive.

  2. Rachel March 8, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

    Your greenhouse roof is not designed to handle heavy snow loads because sheet plastic doesn’t have the strength to hold the snow and you do not have a steep-angled, peaked roof to allow the snow to slide off. I recommend modifying the Quonset hut style to allow for an angle at the top, allowing the slow to slide off. If you don’t want to alter the greenhouse itself, you could build an A-line shelter to go over the top of the greenhouse, similar to a rain canopy over a tent, during the snow season. This would reduce the amount of sunlight entering the greenhouse due to an extra layer of plastic for the light to go through. That’s why it should be removable and only used in the winter.
    I think removing the grass pathways from between your beds is a good idea. Maintaining grass around the edge of the beds requires constant maintenance to keep the grass stolons from entering your planting space so reducing the grass-bed edge will reduce your workload. I think that lawngrass is the worst weed I have in my garden.
    Regarding the various bugs, smuts and mildews attacking your plants, I recommend consulting with local horticultural experts such as your county extension agent, master gardeners, etc. These entities subscribe to a particular philosophy of gardening, so I recommend seeking out experts who are organic gardeners or permaculturists, in order to get a variety of opinions, or at least a second opinion.

    • pintada March 23, 2015 at 6:22 pm #

      “I think that lawngrass is the worst weed I have in my garden.”

      I agree completely. Grass (not in a pasture) is just one of the worst parts of modern society.

  3. eafinct March 8, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

    I hope you are planting a few native nut trees too — good protein. I really admire you for doing this. Not easy as we get older.

    • James Howard Kunstler March 9, 2015 at 10:00 am #

      Yes, I’ve planted some supposedly blight-free American chestnuts and five hazelnuts.

  4. JimM March 8, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

    Great update! I’m impressed with all you’ve done, Jim, seeing that you’re doing this on your own and recovering from the health problems stemming from your implant… very impressive work!

    And I agree with eafinct, nut trees/bushes would be a great addition if you haven’t planted any yet. Hazelnuts would be something that’d start producing in a few years and wouldn’t take up much space – you can get some varieties that remain really compact and bushy.

    Looking forward to next year’s update. Take care and happy homesteading!

  5. Daphne DeMuir March 9, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    After monkeying around with home made hoop houses for a couple of years I got tired of the drama. This tear I put rubber made tubs and little garbage cans over my swiss chard. This has worked in past years. It’s gradually getting warmer here in Illinois. We’ll soon see how the chard fared.

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  6. jcrowell March 9, 2015 at 10:53 am #

    Jim, for onion sets online, try these guys:
    I’ve been buying from them several years now, plus their website is full of good advice.

  7. timjoe March 9, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    in what way did the raised beds disappoint you?

  8. Ghung March 9, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    Looking great, Jim. I could have warned you about using PVC framing for your hoop house; I know from experience they don’t hold up to snow and wind loads. Steel framing (electrical “EMT” or chain-link fence tubing) is money well spent.

    For an even more resilient structure, contact your local window contractor who replaces patio doors. They may sell you the old glass panels cheap, and the older ones don’t have the anti-UV coatings, etc., that reduce insolation. If you can get early double-paned panels, they can be cut apart into two single-paned panels, or left as is for better insulation. I have quite a collection of old patio doors awaiting my next project.

    As Rachel mentioned, above, a more angled shape (in greenhouse lingo; “Gothic”) is more resilient. Just some suggestions.

    BTW, your Federal government (FSA – Farm Services Administration) has a program giving funds to folks who want to get ‘high-tunnel’ greenhouses using monies from tobacco settlements and fines from electrical industry polluters (acid rain fucking up your soil; all that). Not sure if it’s only in certain states. They are going to pay the full costs of installing a 70’x32′ high-tunnel on our homestead. If I do the construction myself, I’ll have funds left over for irrigation, etc. These are 3 season greenhouses, and they’ll pay $4.31 per square foot up to 2172 sq. ft. (leave it up to your govt. to come up with numbers like that). The only requirement is that the site gets inspected by your county agent, before and after, and that you grow something every year for 4 years (doesn’t have to be for sale, and doesn’t have to be food). Some of your crop problems may be due to too much moisture causing wilt and mold. These structures help solve those issues; gives you more control. Helps reduce pests as well. They’ll fund smaller units. Again, not sure if these are available in all states, but your readers can check with their local FSA. Not very many hoops to jump through on this one (NPI). Micro-loans are available, since you have to put money up front and get reimbursed. “Farmtek” has a program working with buyers. We found a better deal locally.

    BTW2: Your ‘chicks’ would probably be more correctly called “pullets” in chicken talk. Get used to losing/replacing a few; part of being a chicken man. Peace!

  9. BioWebScape March 9, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    Dear Jim,

    Thanks for sharing. Great job. Hope your health is holding out. I wonder if elderberries grow in your area?

    There were just to many deaths in my family this year, never seemed to get as much done as I had planned, then a chicken arrived from God. Arrived on a Sunday, right after we buried an aunt, no one in the area keeps chickens, but I do now. Brown eggs. She loves to dig for grubs and has about eaten anything edible to her. We spread a strawbale out in the old beds in the back, and she’s more tilling than I had the energy to do. I’ll fence off a section to put in some summer plants as soon as I don’t need mud boots to get around back there.

    Keep up the Good work, again thanks for sharing.


  10. ban john March 10, 2015 at 1:05 am #

    Here is a link to a plan for a hoop house from the New Mexico Extension Service http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_circulars/cr-606/welcome.html – cost is about $1/ft sq. for a 12×40 hoop house. very sturdy – uses 2 inch 20 foot long hoops. Perhaps your local extension service has a similar plan for your area.

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  11. barbisbest March 12, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    Holy great gardens. No advice about hoop houses. But, grass clippings are great for natural weed control. Bard Rock chickens tolerate cold regions well. The colonists had them. Aracaunas are good, too. With their eggs and some apples, you can make an apple pan dowdy with a little cinnamon. It’s simple and delicious.

  12. barbisbest March 12, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    For those of you who have chickens, don’t forget to sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth around the inside perimeter of the chicken house after you clean it out. You could also put it around the outside of the chicken house. This will keep mites off your chickens, and will help to keep them healthy. They can eat DE and it won’t harm them, but deadly to bugs. I’m not sure if you can use it in the garden on vegetables, but I know it’s harmless to humans. You can get a bag of DE at most farm centers, etc. Gotta go, roosters crowing, his babes need fed again. Keeping a constant supply of food to chickens will make them lay more.

  13. barbisbest March 13, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    Sounds like a real insect problem, sorry that. Rotate the placing of the vegetables every year. Try not to keep them in one location. Keeps the bugs on their toes, and it helps. You probably know that, but some people don’t. Sad to hear about Solange.

    Thank you JHK for setting a good example for folks. Peace out.

  14. Neoagrarian March 13, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

    Splendid Job, Jim! May I suggest, regarding the onion failure, that you try your hand at starting from seed? ‘Round about now is still a good time to do it in your zone. I used to have the same problem with purchased ‘sets’. Problem with them is that their provenance is often dubious and they are living tissue after all. I’ve come to conclude that relying on sets is a bit of a lottery. Once I discovered starting alliums from seed, I’ve never turned back. Over at Fedco Seeds in Maine they have a couple of top-notch storage varieties that I can vouch for because I’ve been growing them for years and now produce my own seeds. The variety names are Dakota Tears and Rossa di Milano – both O.P. (non-hybrid) varieties. You’re sure to love ’em!
    Once again – lovely job on your little Eden!

  15. Being There March 14, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. It’s all trial and error, but for the most part it’s pretty impressive—but then again its easy to impress a NYC dweller where backyard farming is concerned.

    Thanks for the practical lessons–we may all have to learn this in the not to distant future!

    BTW the Chickies are beautiful.

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  16. Lkat March 15, 2015 at 5:08 pm #

    Your garden is so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes! What a pleasure to see. . . . one hint re your greenhouse. . . .as we all know, plastic is the hardened turds from the devil’s behind. I tried a plastic hoophouse–constant headache not to mention the unaesthetic popping of the plastic in the least breeze. . . .I moved on to what is called a hotbox or a cold frame. . . .dig in some of your lovely chicken litter and your cold frame will become a hotbox. . . .give it a try. . .cheap, (if you can scavenge a discarded window–)easy to make, easy to move–I guarantee you will come to adore your hotbox.

  17. Ellen March 16, 2015 at 10:02 am #

    Cheapest & easiest way to do a hoophouse is using bent cattle or hog panels instead of bent hoops. Cover them with as good greenhouse plastic as you can afford. We have one that attaches to our coop via an enclosed wooden ramp. Provides a nice warm yard for chickens in the winter. You can grow some worms in there for forage if you keep it a bit moist.

    As for your disease problems – your soil is probably worn out in those beds. Have you read Steve Solmon’s The Intelligent Gardener? Highly recommend it. Get your soil tested and then remineralize it. Also, you may have to use some cover crops and let some of your beds rest from growing vegetables. Steve moderates a wonderful Yahoo user group called Soil and health. He will personally offer advice.

    But it is a lovely sight for sure. Good for you.

    Cheers and good wishes for 2015 – Ellen Anderson

  18. Robert Haugland March 16, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    When you plant onions in the Northern areas of the country, they should be “long day” onions. Many onion sets that you find out there are short day onions, which are fine for California or Georgia, but not New York. Short day onion sets will do exactly what yours did. The onion plant responds to day length.

    As soon as the day length is 10 or more hours, a short-day onion starts forming a bulb. If the top of the plant hasn’t had enough time to grow big enough to pull in the energy to store in the bulb, the resulting bulb will be small. In areas where day length never goes over 14 hours, long-day onions will never form a bulb.There are many long day onion varieties to choose from and most seed companies have some. Here is a map that shows where to grow different day length onions:

  19. Richo March 17, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

    Hi James.

    I have over 60 years of large scale gardening experience, and consult with our local community gardens. Let me offer some thoughts on your garden.

    The first thing that strikes me is the tremendous waste of space inside your fenced garden. It looks like you are actually growing on a fourth or fifth of the actual space. This is very wasteful.

    I would recommend you dismantle your raised beds and make the whole enclosed area one big garden to begin with. The simplest way would be to have a direct in the ground garden if your soil quality would permit it. The surrounding grass and trees look lush enough. So go around and dig a few holes, and if you have dark topsoil for about 10 in. down you should be good to go. If you need additional topsoil imported, then take the disassembled beds and make one perimeter all around the whole garden, and bring in several dumptrucks of the best soil you can find.

    Dealing with the grass will be your biggest problem. If it is not a rizominous grass then repeated tilling should kill it. If it is rizominous, you have a problem. It will take at least a year to kill everything.

    Then once you have one big garden, do not put permanent paths in. They will just get in the way of tillage.

    I highly recommend you plant everything in beds, not rows. Make them 2-3 feet wide, enough that you can reach into from each side. Between beds, make your temporary paths as narrow as possible so as not to waste space. Simply mark out your beds, then walk back and forth alongside the beds a few time, and you have your path.

    Within your beds plant as densely as you possibly can. You want the whole bed completely covered with plants. Once you get to mid summer, you should not be able to look down and see any soil in the beds. This is called self mulching.

    Each plant will have its own spacing. Carrots for example can be planted two inches apart in each direction. Beets, onions etc. 4 inches, and so on. The best way to get an even spacing in each direction is to make little mini rows crosswise in you beds at the recommended spacing. Seed these rows with your normal technique, and you will have automatically spaced them apart the recommended spacing in one direction. Then when you do your thinning, you will only have to thin down each row to leave them in the recommended spacing in the other direction. The result is a plant every X inches in each direction covering the entire bed. It is important for good sized veggies that each plant has its own space.

    This technique enables one to get the maximum production per square ft. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but if you are serious about getting significant and substantial amounts of food, then something like this is the way you need to go. I get hundreds of pounds of easily stored root crops, and this year from Dixondale farms out of ten bundles of their onions I got 300 to 400 pounds of onions. They are still in storage, nice and firm.

    I also highly recommend you do all your soil preparation work, adding amendments, etc in the fall. Then just till everything in, paths and all, and you will be all set to plant in the spring. Saves a bunch of time.

    One other thing, about compost. I have tried every imaginable kind, and the best is composted tree bark. It stays around for a few years and really helps the soil tilth. You can buy it in bags, or in bulk from sawmills, as they have to debark all their logs before running them through the saws, and they have mountains of it.

    Hope this gives you some ideas and is not too overwhelming. I will try to send you some pictures of my beds to your email. Good luck.

    • Neoagrarian March 30, 2015 at 11:30 am #

      Excellent advice, Richo! I second every bit of it! Have at it, Jim!

  20. mook March 18, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    Jim, Your garden is wonderful. I am inquiring about those chickens in their bare feet however. My wife won’t leave ours out when there is snow on the ground. She says they will get freeze damaged. Any and all comments and facts would be appreciated. Thanks, Mook.

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  21. Lindy1933 March 23, 2015 at 5:08 pm #

    Good show Jim:

    I did our garden, like you, as kind of a show place with boxed beds, hoop house, etc. I am about to go with a plan similar to Richo’s above to get more plants into our garden area. For one thing it will permit some mechanical tilling and at 82 I am about ‘shoveled out’.

    Funny: My wife is a bird person and when I suggested chickens she said, “Be prepared to take care of them their entire life and when they retire they go to a chicken rest home. And if they need a hip replacement, they will get it.” We don’t have chickens.

    Cheers Lindy

  22. barbisbest March 26, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    Virginia Creeper. Damnable invasive species.

  23. gustafson.robert.22 March 28, 2015 at 4:04 pm #


  24. Mark March 29, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

    Regarding your pest problem, you will have to positively ID the critters eating your plants and such. It sounds like you might have voles and/or rabbits. If it turns out you have a vole problem, I have sympathy for you. They can be voracious and persistant. I suggest first getting to know the life history of your pests so that you can figure out the best physical barriers to use and how to make your garden less attractive to them.

  25. tomdbq March 30, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

    James, I strongly recommend that you grow your onions indoors from seed about February 1st if you want big bulbs and long storage. Transplant the sets out early and not too deep. With seed you have a real choice of variety. You can easily find out what varieties are best for your area. Grow all your onion family from seed. Leeks are some of the easiest to grow and can give you fresh harvest up to Thanksgiving in your area, then you pull everything for storage (although they don’t store like onions. Egyptian walking onions will be up shortly after frost leaves and will give you onion green and small bulb in early spring and very late in fall. One can make French onion soup with onion bulbs, leeks, or nothing but green onion tops (if not woody). Supermarkets have come to define what food is, and the resulting recipe books have come to assume that food comes from supermarkets. An older cookbook about European peasant cooking written by someone with formal training who, in the 1950’s, spent some years living among peasants in a small Spanish village (out of necessity) taught me that historically people ate what ever the hell they had and could cook in one pot (or two); and they figured out how to make it as tasty as they were able. The concept of lab-like measured recipes is somewhat recent, and is filled with hidden assumptions. Here in Mexico many people can’t afford books and measuring equipment.

    Your grass walkways are a hard-to-trim yard problem. Go wood chips from a tree trimmer (usually free). 16″ pathways between 36″ to 42″ beds (depending on your comfortable reach) will be easier to maintain and give more growing space.

    In Mexico rural people do not know about the vast variety of vegetable cultivars. Some people in the USA have maintained the self-reliant tradition of a full range of gardening varieties, and the seed catalogs are full of these various cultivars. Lower literacy and traditional practices in Mexico is a drag on the broad knowledge necessary for self-reliant living. So one family grows cabbage, another corn, a third might do spinach…and they sell their harvest to marketers for cash to buy their food at the markets. The weather here makes food preservation and self-reliance seem unnecessary, as everything is available in town mercados daily. Another limitation is that there is only one kind of tomato (plum), one kind of carrot, or potato….etc. available. On the other hand the total range of fruits, vegetables, and other edible things is much broader than those in the USA. (ie grasshoppers, chicken feet, heads, stomachs, intestines, cow’s feet, cacti varieties, seeds, weeds, worms, and so forth.) The definition of “what is food” is much broader here than in the USA. Some seeming useless cacti are as productive and beneficial and Al Capp’s schmoos, serving a broad range of uses. However, Mexicans are clammy about sharing information (competition) in their lines of experience; thus there are few people with general knowledge. This is giving Big Ag an advantage.

    You might try beefing up both ends of your greenhouse with wood structure, enough so that you could mount a ridge pole (2×4 or 2×6) on top of the hoops and put a supporting post in the middle during the snow season. This could give you some of the peak effect of the cathedral style without scrapping what you have. Growing all ones own bedding plants from seed gives one the opportunity to grow varieties that will do better in your area, hopefully be more nutritious, and avoid importing plant diseases from Tennessee and the south along with the commercial bedding plants that arrive every spring. The fantastic Russian black tomatoes varieties are a case in point – nothing compares in taste and nutrition. You won’t believe what they taste like in January dried.

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  26. tomdbq March 30, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

    I see that Richo has some very good general advice. I would suggest that if you go that way, you mine your own topsoil. To prepare you wood chip walk paths, dig down to the bottom of your topsoil and through it onto your growing areas, then fill the trenches with your wood chips to make a soft walking path. These chip paths will hold more water in rainy times and might give you growing areas some water back in drier times. AND you are never in mud.

    I’ve come to think that a few academic generations of lack of barnyard experience contributed to the centrifically wound-up abstraction of modern economists…..this also would apply to their political enablers. I’ve come to think that the Chinese Cultural Revolution with its policy of disgracing and sending many intellectuals into the countryside for retraining may have been less crazy than it appeared to be at the time. Imagine a workforce of Wall Street specialists doing manual terracing the Colorado Rockies to create an Inca-style series of growing beds for micro-climate agronomy experiments. We would benefit twice: once from their absence, and secondly, from the terraces = a win-win as they always say.

    • Richo April 5, 2015 at 4:08 pm #


      I can see why you might recommend wood chip paths in certain situations, but in a big annual vegetable garden I personally would not go that route. The main reason is for ease of fall tillage and incorporation. If you have permanent wood chip paths between each bed, then each individual bed will have to be worked individually.

      If you go with temporary paths, then in the fall the whole garden area can be worked as one. It will save a lot of work and time. Perhaps in a very dry climate there might be some merit to the wood chip path idea, but in New York, a very wet climate, water is probably not a great concern. Plus he probably has his own well. If mud is a concern, you can always throw down some quickly decomposing mulch that you can till in in the fall.

      The main thing we older folk need to optimize is convenience. The biggest limiting factor for most of us is our time and energy.

    • James Howard Kunstler April 6, 2015 at 9:51 am #

      Love the idea of wall street execs, TBTF bankers, and academic economists doing manual terracing in the Rockies! Let’s make it happen!

  27. ozone April 6, 2015 at 11:41 am #

    Very nice indeed!
    I’m also looking to raise a small gang of chickens, but I’m inquiring into bulletproof designs of housing. (I’m a “worst-case” contingency planner; don’t want to have a chicken massa-cree by weasel that occurred across the way from us. Once the fortress is constructed to our satisfaction, we can start on the chicken-raising that our neighbor has exhaustively researched.)

    On vegetable crops, I use a modified raised-bed technique. I use hemlock logs as the bordering parameters (totaling about 3 1/2 ft. wide). Then, I dig down 18-20 inches (from *top* of log) and screen the diggings through 1/2 inch hardware cloth. (I think you have already built a screener that would work fine.) I use the smaller rocks for my driveway and discard the larger. I refill the resulting hole with half well-rotted manure and half the screened “soil”, shoveled in layers to reduce mixing energy . (After removing the [larger] stones, I’m left with about half the volume! Ha. Ain’t glacial till just swell?)

    The most important thing about this technique is that *no more tilling need be done*! Just add more material on top in the form of “grass” clipping mulch (green-colored weeds that are our “lawn”), wood ash and chopped-up leaves. The most I ever “till” to get the previous fall’s rotted toppings mixed in is about 2-3 inches; a stiff leaf rake does the job fast and easy. I also mulch with clippings when young plants either show themselves, or I stick ’em in… absolutely minimal weeding!

    Of course, I’m very conscientious about rotating different vegetables, but I leave the soil biota alone for the most part. I just give them with lowest-end-of-the-food-chain provisions (plant material bacteria and fungus munch on) and leave them to their amazing devices. Going on 8 years of prolific vegetables with this technique. (Sure, I have my struggles with viral and fungal disease, but most of this stuff is kept under better control with MORE critter diversity in the soil, not less.)

    Tripp Tibbets recommended a book that outlines this stunning little universe and its interactions that was more than revelatory.
    “Teaming with Microbes” (2nd edition). I’m sure you’ll be as surprised/enlightened as I was.

    All the Bestest continuing forward and thanks for the great reads!

    • 41259mike April 13, 2015 at 11:57 am #

      Looks like the east coast did get the snow. West coast is snow free and very dry. Looking at the snowtel maps from thje weather channel really are quite shocking. Your garden and orchard are coming along… nice flat land. How’s the soil?

      • 41259mike April 13, 2015 at 11:59 am #

        Looks like the east coast did get the snow. West coast is snow free and very dry. Looking at the snowtel maps from the weather channel are quite shocking. Your garden and orchard are coming along… nice flat land. How’s the soil?

  28. barbisbest May 1, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    Israel Salad

    2 tomatoes, chopped
    2 cucumbers, chopped
    1/2 red onion or 2 green
    onions, chopped
    1 zucchini, chopped
    2 T.olive oil
    1 T. lemon juice
    salt and pepper to taste

    Here’s to an abundant harvest

    For those of you living in the sub-tropics, Virginia and parts south, figs do well in this clime. They don’t take much care but must be covered in colder months. People north, they can be planted in pots, but then must be taken indoors in chilly weather. Figs have been grown in yards for millenia.

    Respectfully submitted 1- May 2015.

    • spuds May 26, 2015 at 2:39 am #

      For that collapse problem…I ran a 2×6 for a ridgepole,attached to the wooden end frames that are securely set in cement.Also ran my main hoops on 24 inch centers.It laughs at the snow.
      Love your garden,what a nice job you have done,BEE-U-TEE-FULL!

  29. spuds May 26, 2015 at 3:00 am #

    Jim,I used 1.5 inch PVC conduit.I tried to email a link to show you,but dont see an email.You can delete the link if inappropriate but here is what I did building an aquaponic hoop house as I built it that I filed over at Old Pharmer Phils’ site,Im spuds on his board.
    Believe me,snow is NO problem,at least wasnt my first year.It just mostly rolls off,and used a plastic rake to get off top on snow days.My hoop house is very strong,I just put together all the best ideas I saw on net.


  30. spuds May 26, 2015 at 3:09 am #

    For the mold/fungus if you are a natural gardener Im using colloidal silver.Friend made me a generator,and I spray it on plants.Very safe as far as I know,and it just knocks the socks off of mold and fungus on your greenhouse plants.If interested I can send you a link to a thread I did on it using in hoop house,dont know if you have the time or interest in pursuing it.
    But I swear,it really works well.Amazed me.

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  31. Illoura February 21, 2016 at 11:56 am #

    Your place makes a lot of pretty pictures!
    I just wanted to share something that helped with the bird predators: fishing line.
    I’ve used it with good success -no losses from eagles, or hawks.
    It will be easier for you with your set-up than it was for me (I had a huge yard for 30 chickens).
    Basically screw eye-hooks into the eves of your coops’ roof – maybe every 3′ or 4′. One end tied to the eye-screws, the other end tied to the fence/fenceposts. Even if it’s like an orb-weaver’s web, sorta fanning out, it’s fine. (Note: you want the line to stay above your head, lol, or it gets ‘fun’ to walk around in that yard…)
    Apparently the predator birds won’t fly into a zone where they can’t be sure of an easy exit. The clear line is nearly invisible, but it CAN be detected, if not exactly ‘seen’ by them – it makes it sort of tricky for them to plan a swoop-and-fly maneuver, so they just won’t risk it. Also, it doesn’t hurt the effect to tie ribbon to the lines in order for YOU to see it better.
    If you don’t like that idea, consider that your coop itself is off the ground enough to give the chickens a quick place to run to. If they have warning.
    If I were (and I plan to) free-range my next flock & let them help clean up garden areas… I would attempt to build them a moveable enclosure (‘chicken tractor’ of sorts). Then no worries!
    Good luck with your birds and next years’ garden- can’t wait to see it!

  32. fredluis01 January 28, 2020 at 7:46 pm #

    Great garden, I love the vegetables and the flowers in your garden! http://www.fortworthtileinstallation.com


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