Last Two Weeks at the Institute — May 6–19, 2018

IMG_20180519_092205440.jpgSpring is our busiest season and the last two weeks were typical: planting the garden, building infrastructure, and working on research projects. It’s a busy time for other animals, such as the robin who decided to build a nest on a cross brace in the chicken coop frame — right over the entrance, so the mama bird chirps angrily and flies off every time I come to the coop.

Research Projects

Potatoes are in the ground for the potato study. Four of the six plantings have been done, and we’ve been covered by a regional paper in a recent story you can read here. Each planting takes about 1.5–2 hours and have taken place in Soldier’s Grove, Madison, Cooksville, and Albion.

We’ll be getting bees next week for the breeding project, so between now and then, a whole bunch of hives need to be built. In the mean time, I’ve turned my shed into a bienenhaus, inspired by the Swiss bee house I profiled last year (part I, part II).


The apple grafts we made a few weeks ago have taken and started to grow. The buds on most of the grafts have swelled and opened to show leaves. Soon the potted ones will be planted out along the fence line. The grafts on the living tree will replace existing limbs, which are ornamental and bear no fruit.

We’re also making no-till beds. This means our garden beds don’t have to be laboriously turned over. Instead, various things are used to smother the existing vegetation. Cardboard and newspaper are used under straw and wood chips to kill the undergrowth, while holes are punched in the “sheet mulch” and seeds for garden crops are sown. We were given the remnants of a pool cover, which works to solarize the vegetation underneath: it acts like a greenhouse and raises the temperature so high that it bakes the plants below.

We also got to eat fiddlehead ferns, which are only able to be eaten during a short window. They have a flavor like asparagus, but more subtle. We also have garlic mustard making its presence known all over the yard, so we’re frantically pulling out this creeping invasive.



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