Archive for April, 2012

arbor and gate-BLOG

arbor and gate

Livestock panels, sometimes known as cattle panels or hog panels, have many uses in the garden.  They are 16’ long and 36”(hog)-52” high.  The spacing between the heavy wires in the ones I have is 6”x8”.  Some panels have closer spacing near the bottom.  I first learned about them as animal fencing, but they prove quite handy to have in the garden.  Although the panel itself can flex, it is a strong fencing that does not need tightening. 

In the picture you can see my garden gate and grape arbor, both made from the panels.  To bend a panel into the arbor shape, lay it on the ground and have someone hold one end or anchor it in some way.  Pick up the other end and walk toward the first end.  It’s that easy.  We needed more height in the arbor than the 16’ panel would provide, so we put it on top of two rows of bricks on each side.  Rebar is  inserted into the ground through holes in the bricks.  The panel is wired to the part of the rebar sticking up from the ground.  You can find these panels at farm supply stores.  You can find rebar at home building supply stores in the area where they display cement blocks.  To see how this arbor looks when the grapes are in full production, go to my March 6, 2012 post On Growing All Your Own Food.

bolt cutters and hacksaw-BLOG

bolt cutters and hacksaw

The panels can be cut with bolt cutters or a hacksaw.  I cut one to make my gate.  I have wired ½” hardware cloth to the lower half of the gate to keep rabbits out.  An earlier attempt at rabbit control was to weave bamboo through the spaces.  If I have enough bamboo strips there, it works. However, I need to keep after it.  When I came across the hardware cloth, I went with it.  There is no hinge or latch here.  The gate fits between the arbor and fencepost on the hinge side.  On the latch side it just leans against the regular fence.  We have plans for putting new posts in that garden entrance and this gate, put up several years ago, was only meant to be temporary.      

I also use the panels as a trellis for garden crops, particularly tomatoes.  I put a fence post on each end and one in the middle.  Baling twine often serves to hold it to the posts.  The panel goes down the middle of my 4’ wide bed and the tomatoes, planted at the base, are just woven through the spaces as they grow.  In that wide bed there is still space on the sides for carrots, basil, parsley, or just heavy mulch.  Tomatoes can do without a trellis as sturdy as a livestock panel and I also use old field fencing to trellis tomatoes.  The panels, however, present a neater appearance.  These trellises stay in the garden all year.  In the fall, when I’m planting cover crops, I move them to where they are needed the next year and set them up.  I can do this because I have no need to till the beds before planting tomatoes, or whatever it is that the trellis will be supporting.  I just cut the cover crop with a sickle and let it lie as mulch or remove the biomass to the compost pile.  The bed is ready for the next crop with the trellis already in place.


greenhouse from livestock panels

These panels are great for making structures, like small greenhouses.  The photo shows the greenhouse our daughter Betsy made for her Arkansas garden.  You can also see it in Betsy’s segment of Develop a Sustainable Vegetable Garden Plan.  She built a wood frame for the base and used wood to frame a door on one end and a vent window on the other.  You could use the panels against the side of a building as a lean-to structure and build something taller.

Of course, you could actually use these panels for their intended purpose, controlling livestock.  They make good temporary or permanent pens.  Beware of using them with young goats developing horns.  The goats might get their heads stuck.  Once the goats and their horns grow enough, that’s not a problem.  If that does happen, don’t panic.  Cut the fence with bolt cutters or a hacksaw, preferably with the bolt cutters.  You can mend it by using wire to close up the space.  I have a leftover spool of aluminum electric fence wire that I cut and use as twistees to hold the fence to metal posts.  Baling twine works, as does plastic zip-ties.  The panels are good barriers for most dogs, goats, cattle, pigs, etc.  Chickens, however, can slip through, as well as other small critters, such as skunks, rabbits, and opposums.  You can add chicken wire or other fencing to the panels to keep out the smaller creatures. 

goats clearing the way-BLOG

goats clearing the way

Betsy and her husband, Chris,  are using livestock panels as movable fencing with their goats to clear a future fenceline.  They gradually move the pens down an overgrown area on the side of a field.  Sometimes the panels are tied to trees and they are flexible enough to curve around obstacles, if necessary.  Betsy and Chris use as few posts as they can get away with, since they have to move them regularly.  The ends are put together with clips, similar to carabiners.  Besides just connecting the ends, the clips can act as hinges, or as latches if that’s where they decide they need a gate to be.  You can see the great job the goats are doing clearing the brush by the trees.  Goats love eating brush better than grass.  This is a great use of both the goats and the fence panels.  

Getting these 16’ fence panels home from your farm supply store might pose a problem.  I’ve used a pick-up truck with an 8’ bed, putting one end inside the tailgate, extending the panel over the truck cab, and tying the other end to the front bumper.  I wasn’t going far.  If you do that, protect the top of the truck with a piece of cardboard or old blanket.  If you buy enough, you could have them delivered.  If you are going to cut them into shorter lengths anyway, you could do it right there and make getting them home easier.

Some of you reading this may have already been using these fence panels on your homesteads and have plenty of ideas and uses of your own.  If you would like to share them, I welcome your comments.  If you are using these panels for the first time, good luck, have a good time, and let us know how it goes.

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swt potatoesX3, kale, cowpeas--BLOG

sweet potatoes, kale, and cowpeas

Once again, I decided to observe Homegrown Fridays, eating only what I’ve grown on the Fridays in Lent.  Anything you see in bold followed by * is listed on the Recipes page of this blog (click on the recipe tab at the top).  This year was more of a challenge because of other commitments.  I started two weeks early so I could get in seven Fridays and even at that, two of the Fridays were actually Thursdays.  I finished early so that I could be off on another adventure.  If you’re reading this the first week in April, 2012, I’m at Tillers International in Michigan finding out more of what they do there while my husband is taking a class in timber framing.

The delicious dinner you see in the photo was one of my meals.  It consisted of kale harvested fresh from the garden, Arkansas Razorback cowpeas, and three varieties of sweet potatoes–Ginseng, Beauregard, and purple.  When I have no “homegrown only” restrictions, I would probably put butter on the cowpeas and sweet potatoes and vinegar on the kale.  I enjoyed the natural flavors of that food without butter and vinegar. 

polenta with tomato sauce--BLOG

polenta with tomato sauce

I had dried a variety of things in my solar food dryers last summer and had looked forward to using them for Homegrown Fridays this year.  I made a soup using as many of them as I could*.  Dinner one Friday was polenta topped with tomato sauce*.  Cooked Mississippi Silver cowpeas accompanied that meal.  Polenta is just another name for cornmeal mush that has been cooked a little longer and let set to thicken.  I cooked it in a crockpot the day before, then put it in the refrigerator.  At dinnertime I put tomato sauce over it and heated it in the oven.  When I cooked the cornmeal and water for polenta, I added dried onions.  I froze some, which made an easy lunch to heat up on another busy Homegrown Friday.

I was fortunate to have peanuts this year and made peanut butter for the first time in my GrainMaker  mill.  I had better luck grinding raw peanuts than grinding roasted peanuts to make peanut butter.  I made it twice and, although I’m sure I’d get better at it with practice, it’s a whole lot easier, and less cleanup, to just eat the peanuts as they are.  The folks in Biosphere 2 grew peanuts with the intent to press them for oil, but decided to just eat them as a snack.  Peanuts were one of their main sources of fat.  Their two year experiment with eight people living in a completely sealed environment and producing all their food is documented in the book Eating In: From the Field to the Kitchen in Biosphere 2 by Sally Silverstone.  I made peanut butter to have with carrots from the garden.  That day I also made sorghum crackers.  Recalling a recipe for greens in peanut sauce from the cookbook Simply in Season, I made a version of that with my dried collards.  I put peanut butter with the dried collards and water while it cooked.  We ate it as a vegetable for dinner, but I liked it better as a sandwich filling for a meal another day.  It would have made a good dip.  

bean burgers and sorghum breadsticks--BLOG

bean burgers and sorghum breadsticks

I made “bean burgers” for the first time.  It’s something that’s long been on my “to-do” list.  I used cooked cowpeas, reconstituted dried onion and dried sweet pepper, and minced garlic.  The cowpeas were boiled until really soft.  I mashed everything together and made it into patties that I topped with tomato sauce and baked.  Breadsticks made with sorghum flour were served with that.  

One day lunch was home-canned green beans cooked with dried cabbage and onions.  Sorghum patties (made like corn patties*) rounded out that meal.  A couple lunches were sweet potatoes, peanuts, and raisins.  Peanuts, raisins, and popcorn were great to have among my choices of homegrown food.  Last summer I dried grapes for raisins by cutting the grapes in half and drying them in the solar dryers.  The seedless grapes were best for that.  Popcorn was popped in a pan with no oil for a snack some days.  Just be ready to shake the pan a lot to prevent burning.  When limiting your diet like this, it is good to plan for something quick to eat if you are really hungry and you still have to plan dinner.  Peanuts, raisins, and popcorn filled that need nicely and could be taken along if I had to be gone somewhere. 

cornmeal mush with hazelnuts and honey--BLOG

Bloody Butcher cornmeal mush with hazelnuts and honey

Breakfast was the easiest meal and always the same.  I had cornmeal mush made with my Bloody Butcher Corn.  I sweetened it with honey from my bees and added hazelnuts, which were great.  You can read about my hazelnut harvest in my last post.  My black walnut trees seem to bear alternate years and didn’t drop nuts in 2011. The staples in this homegrown diet are cornmeal, sweet potatoes, cowpeas, and greens.  I had sorghum and wheat for additional flour and the dried vegetables were much appreciated, especially tomatoes and onions.  I had some naturally fermented sour pickles and garlic that I chopped up and added to cowpeas for lunch one day.  Herbs, dried and fresh, add diversity to the flavors.  I was happy to harvest fresh celery leaves in the garden.  The parsley I used was dried.  Eating this way makes you really appreciate each additional flavor and texture.  You might be interested in reading about  my 2011 Homegrown Friday experiences.

I drank water or herb tea.  Currently my herb tea blend consists of spearmint, bee balm, lemon balm, and basil.  On these Homegrown Fridays my husband and I often opened a bottle of mead made from our honey and grapes or elderberries.  We feel very fortunate to have such bounty from our garden.  At the same time, we are mindful of those in the world who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  We hope that our work here will help towards the understanding of what it would take to feed others.  The learning is in the doing.  I hope some of you will try a Homegrown Friday or two at any time of the year.  It is definitely an experience.  

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