Chop Wood Carry Water Plant Seeds is a blog about Self-Sufficient Homesteading. How can we live by creating a sustainable bio-diverse world, instead of by consuming and destroying the only one we have? What kind of teaching have you got if you exclude nature?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Growing Potatoes in a Clover field

I bet you have never heard of this before :) growing potatoes in the White Clover field. What you see in this photo is our potato garden and its time to harvest them. I now it looks covered in "weeds" and one can only wonder how come potatoes can still grow so well in such condition, covered in weeds :) As you can see we have got a nice harvest from these 3 rows of potatoes and Im yet to harvest the rest today.
Most gardeners try to take the weeds away and just have bare naked soil so nothing can compete with the potatoes, right :) and of course I too remove all Thistles and other tall weeds as soon they get tall enough for me to pull them up. But White Clover is different and should not be looked at as a "weed" but as a Cover Material, a living cover material which not only suppresses other weeds but also binds extra Nitrogen via the bacteria living in their root system. Clover can bind atmospheric Nitrogen so once the Potatoes have taken nutrients the clover can be  plowed under which will replenish the nutrients for the next year and introduce much organic matter.

Here you can see how many potatoes we got from only one plant :) and they are not that small either :) When growing potatoes this way it is important to keep them in line because after cutting down the clover with scythe its not easy to see where the potato plants are so keeping them in perfect line help a lot.

Some might say "but how do you cover the potatoes with extra soil so they dont get green when exposed to light?" Well :) I don't do that :) With this method there is no much work. Clover does the work for you. As you can see in this last photo the clover has a root system growing on top of the soil creating a mat of roots which keep the potatoes under the soil not allowing them push them selves upwards :)
Another thing Clover does is shade the soil and by doing this it keeps the soil moist. It also aerate the top soil which introduces Oxygen for the beneficial bacteria creating nice soil structure :) Not to mention all the sugars released by the Clover roots feeding all sorts of micro-life. Such soil is a LIVING SOIL which you don't get is the soil is naked :)

Cover your soil people, with wood chips, straw, hey, grass clippings, living white clover (red clover gets too high so stay with white clover) Happy soil covering :)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Harvest season 2015

 The cucumbers are growing very well even though the weather was mostly coldish and rainy. The yellow vegetable is Zucchini which didnt grow that well this year because of the cold.
 The Leek is also growing extremely well and so are the Beets
 These are all the Pumpkins (and some Squash) we've got this year; very small they are and not that many. Pumpkins need hot Summer (maybe better luck next year)
We have started with preserving Cucumbers and soon with Beets. The Tomatoes in the greenhouse grew much better last year. Again because they like hot Summer, 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Rebuilding an old shed

When we bought this old farm from year 1827 we knew there will be lots of rebuilding. Last year we changed the roof on the house and this year we are focusing more on the out buildings. The shed which was closest to the road was in a very poor rotten stage so that is where we started.
First was to take off all the old rotten planks and to strengthen the structure. After that screwing on new planks.
Before painting it I first applied a good coat of oil.
 I have build 2 new doors which surprisingly fit well since Im not a skilled carpenter :)
Now its only left to place the rain gutters and paint the concrete base with black paint. Off to a new project ... 

Wood Chip Garden in full growth

 Our wood chip garden is flourishing big time :) Here you can see Beets, Chard, Lettuce and some Spinach going into seeds for the next year sowings.
 In the next photo one can see newly sown beets (second sowing) and sweet corn,
 Cucumbers are growing very well. The first 2 sowings were eaten by the slugs but after I applied the Iron Phosphate pellets (which are used in organic farming) the slug issue disappeared and now they are doing very well.
 Kale is doing great this year thanks to the insect net and the iron phosphate pellets. 
 Panoramic shot of our approx 400 square meter wood chip garden. Can you see any weeds? Exactly my point ;)
Leek is also growing well, still small but its getting there.
Beets and Carrots; fresh and organic and as local as it can get :)
Garlic is harvested and so are the onions :) 
We have planted many flowering plants for the bees this year all from Sunflowers, Phacelia, Borage, Calendula, Tagetes, White Clover and we have also left a huge part to grow wild.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Willow Farm is still alive

Yes I know, I havent been blogging lately :) sorry. I had much to do and blogging needed certain amount of energy which I didnt have at that time but now Im back again. Lots have happened since my last post.
 The wood chip garden is starting to green up nicely. It is totally planted now and now its just left to wait for the remaining seeds to sprout to life. The wood chips are very good at keeping weeds at bay. Some weeding is necessary but it takes little time.
 Sugar peas in the front, onions, coriander and carrots in the middle, garlic, spinach, radishes and lettuce at the back. The covered patch is the Kale.
Wood chips keep the soil moist even in the hottest of weather.
 We have got 10 new chicks :) I hope most are female for eggs, because landrace chicken are poor table hens since there is hardly any meat on them (trust me we tried to prepare one and there is almost nothing there. I don't know what to do if we get many makes ... :( Their father is a very aggressive cock and he already killed one of his sons last year (the one we prepared in the oven)
 Sheep shearing was extremely traumatic both for me and my friend David but also for the poor sheep. This was the first time we did this after watching shearing videos on you tube. The machine is heavy and very sharp and the sheep were not still. We managed to cut all but one sheep :( Not much but still there was some bleeding which we were not happy about. It took us 3 hours to shear 5 sheep :(
I managed to do the first one alone and after that one I was dead tired. I wouldn't be able to finish this without David's help. Thank you David!
Our bees are doing great despite all the pesticides used around this area. At this time there is a fair amount of forage in form of blooming trees and bushes. After the end of Jun the forage will decrease. But I have sown lots of bee friendly flowers like white clover, honey phacelia, borage, calendula, sunflowers and tagetes as well as pumpkins, squash and nasturtium.
Im not kidding when I say that there are too many fields around here covered in pesticides! This farmer sprayed the Canola field during a sunny day when bees were flying which is illegal in Denmark. I asked him nicely to spray after 9pm when its allowed to do so but he refused saying that he didnt do anything illegal and that he did so for the last 20 years without anyone complaining about bee issues. So I reported him to the officials and they will visit him soon. Its amazing and sad to have farmers which dont know the law :( 
And to finish this post with positive stuff :) My dear wife and I have begun harvesting Nettle leaves and Peppermint leaves for teas. So far we did one batch which is drying inside the house. Soon we will harvest some more. The plan is to have enough of it through out the whole winter.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Raised beds covered with wood chips

I have created several raised beds last year in a small area beside the chicken coop. I have filled them last year with aged horse manure. The manure has some saw dust in it so I thought it will be good enough to preserve moisture but this was not the case. We had a dry season last summer and even after watering it the water would not penetrate deep but rather it was soaked in the upper 1-2cm layer and this would dry up very fast. Wood chips behave differently; they let the water pass down into the deeper layers and then preserves the moisture for very long time (for weeks) even in a very hot and dry weather. Lesson leaned and now I'm covering all the beds with a 5-10 cm layer of aged wood chips.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

We have eggs again!

We've got 6 eggs today :) which is great really because we got none throughout the winter. It has begun! As soon I saw the first 2 eggs being laid last week I started feeding them more because egg production needs lots of protein. It seems like omelet will often be on our meny :) Nice!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Greenhouse beds covered in wood chips

Last year I had to water this new greenhouse of ours every week throughout the season because the soil/aged horse manure would dry extremely fast. In the summer of 2013 we had a small greenhouse in our summerhouse and I covered it with aged wood chips and even though that summer was very hot and dry I watered that greenhouse only 2 times in more than 3 month :) The wood chips sure are awesome in preserving the moisture. So I decided to cover this new greenhouse with wood chips to be ready for the coming season. I have already now started to water the beds so microbial and fungal activity can begun because plants need microbes and fungi and all sorts of soil dwelling critters to function and grow well and healthy.
The dark layer are the aged wood chips

Just a little update on the sheep; As you can see in my previous post I have expanded the sheep pasture a lot but for some reason they seem to be reluctant to go there and graze. They do however follow me there :) and then they graze but as soon they see the neighbors horses they run back to their old part of the field where their shed is. I guess this is good in a way because they do feel secure in that part. So I make sure to lead them every day to the new pasture filed so they get used to it and see that there is no harm there but tasty new grass only :) 
Beside fine mix of grasses I have also sown white clover all over this field. Cant wait to see my bees and all other pollinators having a lovely pesticide-free organic feast :) Clover pollen and honey are of great value for all pollinators but especially for honeybees, solitary bees and bumblebees.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Expanding the sheep pasture

After 3 days of hard work and hammering 102 wooden poles into the hard clay soil the sheep have got plenty of new forage space.
 In this photo above you can see the old pasture space behind the sheep which is literary over-grazed. Seeing that they are wiping out the grass I needed to act as soon as possible so they dont ruin that field which would then need re-sowing and that does cost money. The new filed is so lush in grass because we had a very mild winter and the sheep are not waiting for an invitation :) they are all over it!
Here is a panoramic shot showing the entire field at the back of our small forest. Now they have just under 1 hectare of forage space. This large field is also sown with white clover which will benefit my bees and all other pollinators. Clover grows much better if the grass is kept short, so it is important to have animals grazing over it otherwise the tall grass will over shadow the clover.

Sowing season 2015 has begun

The ordered seeds have arrived today :) happy days! It just feels great to be planning the kitchen garden again!
I didnt have to order all I need because I started collecting seeds from my own garden for the last 2 years. This year I  will be focusing on planting lots of flowers like Borage, Phacelia, Sunflowers, Tagetes, Calendula and Nasturtium for the bees. I will also have A LOT of pumpkins and squash to cover as much of the non-covered soil to suppress weeds and to make some food for us which we will also try selling locally. The plan this year is to focus mostly on what we actually like to eat and that is lots of carrots, beetroots, cucumbers both for making pickles and the long variation, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, onions and kale. All the rest like lettuce, spinach, radishes and mizuna will be sown little a time so we have it as long in the season as possible.
Chilli seeds are already in the window seal :) 
Mizuna seeds already started sprouting in the same spot they were growing last year inside the greenhouse. They seem to be self-seeding easily. I placed windows on top of them to keep them warmer. We will have some fresh salad in April (same as last year) :) 
I have built a small greenhouse within the greenhouse (if that makes sense). I need lots of warm/protected space to start early sowing of many vegetables and I just cant do it in the house. I will place a low energy heat lamp inside of this mini-greenhouse to keep it a bit warmer and to defend the seedlings in case of frosty nights. Lets see how this will work ...
I have also sown radishes and spinach in the greenhouse with extra protection. Last year they grew very well from the February sowing. This winter is mild as the last one so Im  counting on seeing some growth soon. The worst that can happen is they will not come up,  BUT :) if they do we will enjoy fresh salad end of April :)) so why not try! I dont hear people in Denmark sowing early inside their greenhouse, probably because most people are conservative and follow what most have done (or not done) before them. I was always a pioneer in all aspects which is sometimes great and sometimes not so great. It sure doesnt make you popular among conservative folks ;) They call people like  me "know-it-all", "hippy tree hugger", etc ... Well, well I will smile at them when I eat my first salad in April ;) 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Preparing the farm for incoming season

We had another mild winter. Last year was the same, only January was cold. Its time to prune the apple trees use the cut off branches as wood chips for our garden.
 I have begun to weed the raised beds. I used only well composted horse manure but was surprised last year with how many weeds started to grow in it. As soon I finish one bed the chicks sweep through it collecting all the exposed weed seeds. Thanks for the help ladies :)
Once the weeds are out I will cover these beds with aged wood chips which will help to suppress the weeds and will help to contain the moisture in hot weather.  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Farm animals

 It is a good idea to place some sort of flat structure where the chicks sleep and collect clean chicken manure. Its simple to scoop it and use it in the garden. I place into a bucket and add lots of water. Then I mix it well and spread it all over the kitchen garden
I read about people complaining how much their hens eat in the winter yet they dont give any eggs. I let mine roam free and find them often on the neighbors pile of horse manure, sifting through it with diligence :) I feed them only a bit extra in the morning and evening.
 Last summer I didnt have time to move all the straw bales from our field into the stable before the rain fell. Once wet I couldnt do much with them but to leave them where they are. This happened to be part of the new sheep field and Im glad now that I left them there. During rainy periods our clay soil gets very muddy and sheep dont like walking in mud all day. In this image you can clearly see the sheep resting on top of the straw bales. I see them often standing there, keeping their claws away from the mud which can otherwise cause claw infections. I will make sure from now on they always have some high ground to retreat to during muddy weather. You can also see in this photo that I have build a small corral connected to the shed. This really helps me a lot when catching he sheep for claw and wool clipping. Less stress for them and less stress for me :) 
 We simply LOVE our Muskovy Ducks :) They roam free around the farm and are always following after us. They have such great personality and I cant imagine life on a farm without them.