Dry gardening potatoes

This year we are going to try dry gardening potatoes. Actually we’re going to dry garden quite a few things, but we had some serious water-related issues with our last potato crop that we are trying to avoid.


After prepping the beds we spaced the seed potatoes 18 inches apart instead of the traditional 12 inches. The rows are 5 foot apart on center.

Planting potatoes

I think Sidney has been enjoying getting to play in the garden. We keep bringing her out with us (when we aren’t sneaking out there to work during her naps) in the hopes she will get the gardening bug when she is older. I’ve already mentally prepped Lee that there might be a few plant losses this summer caused by curiosity.

Practicing gardening

This year we planted 2.3 lbs of German Butterball, 0.6 lbs of Purple Peruvian, 0.8 lbs of All Blue, and 3.8 lbs of Red Lasoda for a total of 66 row feet of potatoes. Our local seed company claims that normal yield is 10x the original planting weight. We’ve always done better than that, but perhaps it will be true when dry gardening.

Plant labels

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Prepping for a garden

Let the fun begin…

Playing in the dirt

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Drywall finishing in the office

Lee’s office drywall was completed late last year and we are pleased with how it turned out. It was a nice simple room to practice drywall finishing and we learned some important lessons for next time: don’t try to repatch faint burn-out spots from oversanding, worry less about the first coat on corners and seams, and spread the mud thicker on walls. By the end of the process Lee was much faster and more confident.

The walls have a smooth finish except for a light texture from the paint roller. We applied a level 4 drywall finish, and then skim coated everything with mud and sanded out the tool marks. The idea was to produce a smooth wall that’s not perfectly flat, much like an old plaster finish. It’s still very flat though, so I’m not sure if you can tell. The ceiling has a Sante Fe finish (sometimes called skip trowel). This was probably the most stressful part of the whole experience for Lee as it’s a bit of an art form and he couldn’t find any good YouTube examples of the technique.

Ceiling light

The wall color looked like an nice Arts & Crafts sage green in the foot-square test sample we painted, but turned out much brighter when applied to a whole room. Still, it’s been pretty amazing having a room where the light switch turns on a light and all the outlets work.

Walls and ceiling

We talked about repainting, and maybe we will eventually, but the green color is cheerful and has grown on us. An important skill in the world of DIY is knowing when to let perfection take the day off. A 1/8″ mistake isn’t the end of the world in framing, but can be ugly in trim work. Drywall finishing seems to be the extreme test of this skill. Looking back, it’s clear that at every stage we put too much effort into producing a flawless surface when the next step would have easily covered up the imperfections. Here’s hoping for a much faster round two when we start on the upstairs rooms.

Posted in Renovation | 5 Comments

Returning to our perches

On March 11th, our turkey vultures returned. I say “our vultures” only because they choose to spend the summer in the tall trees near our house. They may well look down upon us from their perches as “our local two leggers” … or perhaps “those keepers of strange flightless birds and even stranger waking hours.” Regardless, the vultures are a welcomed seasonal fixture at Farm Folly, a reminder that warmer weather has finally arrived and we can venture outside once more.

Turkey vultures return

Ironically, we really don’t know when they leave. Summer gives way to the rains of fall and at some point we are splitting wood in the cold drizzle and realize that it’s been weeks since we’ve heard the quiet murmur of their large wings. This year it appears that they took much of our motivation with them. The winter is always a hard time to blog. The pleasant ritual of daily woodstove fires in November becomes a tedious March battle fought with damp materials. The cold and dark seep into your veins and bleed off your momentum. I know we don’t have much to complain about compared to other areas (Svalbard?), but this season has been particularly rough. December set records for cold and February brought an ice storm that cut off power to tens of thousands. The rainy mild weather that typifies most Oregon winters was strangely absent.

The other problem with blogging is that we haven’t felt much like homesteaders lately. We didn’t grow a garden last year or raise a new batch of chicks. The last quart of canned tomatoes was consumed months ago and our meat comes from a local butcher shop. We’ve always kept the focus of the site intentionally specific–nature, gardening, livestock, home improvement–but this means that time spent pursing a variety of other interests doesn’t translate to the blog. In the last year we’ve pushed the culinary limits of cheap hot plates, dabbled in foreign languages, and focused on one really big project, but homesteading?

Humulus lupulus

New hop shoots are pushing their way to the surface and the Toulouse geese are violently drowning each other for love. Everywhere there are signs of spring and we feel compelled to go outside and plant things. We’ve been making plans for the garden, baby chicks, fences, finished drywall and more. I know it’s been a quiet couple of years on the blog, but we still love this medium for connecting people around common interests. We still have ideas to try and stories to share. There will be successes and failures and the occasional outbreak of silliness. Nothing has changed, and everything is different.

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Lee and I woke up this morning to a chilly 14 degrees and icicles hanging off our roof.

Row of icicles

Lee finds it embarrassing because it means our house is still badly insulated. I find it exciting because it means our house is better insulated than before. In past years we wouldn’t even get a snow blanket on the roof because the heat was escaping so fast.

Snow on roof

I haven’t seen icicles like this since my grandma’s house as a kid. She had an old house built from the remains of a sawmill. I don’t think they insulated houses back when hers was built.

Pretty icicles

I better enjoy these while I can because after the blown in insulation is installed I probably won’t see them again.

Icicle hanging down

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Concrete slab

Lee prepped a new site for a concrete slab. Our old well pressure tank is leaning like the old mailbox. Each year it gets a little worse and Lee dreads another winter. It’s also completely exposed to the elements.

Gravel prep

This is the first time Lee has worked with concrete. He wasn’t thrilled with the outcome but it will do. He followed the instructions on the bag in regards to how much water to mix with the crete. It came out too thick and was hard to settle. The two bags where he accidentally put in an extra quart of water turned out much smoother and nicer.

Concrete slab

Long term, this pad will be inside a utility building. Until then, we are building a little 4 foot high insulated cover to protect the well hardware. We finished the frame, but then the weather turned nasty and the plumbing, siding, and insulation are on hold.

Water tank cover framing

Posted in Farm Structures | 4 Comments

Snow geese

It snowed here and the geese don’t seem at all phased by the white stuff. They continue to live up to their contrary nature and refuse to spend any time under cover.

Waiting around

In fact, I saw them bathing in the snow like it was water from their wading pool.


Lee boiled some water to break up the ice in their pool. They use it like an enormous waterer when they aren’t bathing in it.

Thawing the water

I think in this picture they are saying, “Give us our **** food, we don’t care about the lousy water!!!”

Cold feet

The picture below is geese munching their grain pellets of course.

Geese eating

This is the loser goose. He isn’t allowed to eat with the rest of them. The top male wants all the lovely ladies to himself. This goose thinks he’s a jerk.

Goose eating

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Cold winter days

It’s cold here! How’s the weather where you are at?

Icy bamboo leaves

Old hops bines

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Mushroom cluster

Each year we get more mushrooms in this spot. It’s where a Hazel nut tree was taken out several years ago. If only it was a group of chanterelle mushrooms instead…


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The Battle of Port Orford

Back in 2009 we had two trees removed from the front of our house. Ever since then, we have been walking around one of the stumps to get to where we park the car. In early 2012, I decided to dig that stump out. I would work on it off and on as the mood struck me. As the hole grew larger, it became much more exciting to walk to the car in the dark as you had to avoid the pits and dirt piles. What can I say? I like to keep things interesting with half finished projects.

Coming down

Needless to say, my stump digging plans came to an abrupt end. Lee finally got tired of the shallow pit mine in our front yard and declared war on the stump. It took less than a week, working an hour each evening. He iterated between digging, chopping roots with a Pulanski, chainsawing for a few minutes until the blade dulled, sharpening the chainsaw, and angrily pounding the stump with an maul. The stump slowly came out in 5 large sections.


We are going to let the other stump by the house rot out. It doesn’t bother us and digging out stumps is madness. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. We’ve had lots of people tell us about stump grinders. Yes, stump grinders are a thing, but they don’t completely remove the stump and we didn’t want the walk path planned for this space to settle as the wood under it rotted.

One stump in many pieces

Posted in Cleanup | 4 Comments