Last Two Weeks at the Institute — Jun. 17–30, 2018

Summer is here: high temperatures, thunder storms, and prolific growth. Weeding and infrastructure were the focus these last two weeks. As we’re working to establish new beds, the weed pressure is pretty strong, but each week we are able to put down cardboard sheets and mulch to smother unwanted growth. The chicken coop needed permanent walls after the raccoon attack a few weeks ago.

The tool library officially opened the weekend before last and we had a workshop for folks to build Aldo Leopold benches.

Research Projects

Participants in our potato study continue to send in data for their plots. At my plots, the potatoes are nearly to the top of the towers and the rest of the plots are looking strong.

A month ago we installed bees for our mite-resistance-breeding project. They continue to thrive and I added extra boxes on top to give them room to expand. They’ll be split this coming week or next.


The garden continues to develop with the strong growing conditions. We should start to get tomatoes soon as the peas wrap up their growth. Cucumbers are coming in — after three failed direct sowings, I had to break down and buy already started cucumber starts from a local greenhouse (Pleasant Prairie). It is so late we cleaned them out of cucumber starts, which were really at the end of their rope in starter pots.

We were able to put up a few pounds of mustard greens for the winter. This week we’ll do a full post on how we cleaned, blanched, chilled, drained, and froze these greens for later use.

We have also created chicken coop walls. First we put up “wattle,” which is wood similar to lathe under plaster: small, flat pieces of wood woven between upright posts. Then we attached metal fencing to this to deter would-be predators from chewing through the organic wall. This is all covered by a combination of clay, straw, sand, and hydrated lime to create a rough plaster. This has to dry for about a month before more formal plaster and whitewash. Slowly but surely this project comes together.

And then it’s raspberry season. Our plot was overrun with wild “black cap” raspberries. Instead of just killing all the plants, I’ve made a concerted effort to dig them out and transplant them to one area of our yard. I need to wear a thick work shirt and gloves to do it, but it is worth the trouble for the two-week season when we haul in quarts of these things and dry and jam them for the winter (and eat plenty fresh, too).

Raspberry patch.


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