Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Day in the Spring-Rush Life


Every spring is a bit of a rush, everything begins happening at once. This spring has been especially busy. In addition to starting the garden, we've had so many things in need of repair due to years of neglect, we also do not know what the future is going to bring for us, so we are trying to get some bigger projects done, such as building a greenhouse, to help us with our food production.

You might think this is normal for us, but we usually have more time. The key to not slaving your life away on a farm is to plan well, and do your projects in such a way as to eliminate maintenance as much as possible. I happened to marry someone who believed in just getting a job done as quickly as you can, and hang what happens later. So a lot of careful planning went kaput!

So we are scrambling trying to get things done. But as soon as the garden is completely in, the work will slow to a manageable level and we can relax a bit more, have quiet evenings and grill our dinner as we watch the sunset, and relax a lot more, especially in the heat of the day.

Until that time, we are grateful for the cooler weather we've been having. Very mild. Yesterday was mostly cloudy and in the 70's. Perfect for outdoor work. Here are some scenes...

How old is this stuff anyway? I'm trying to frugally use what we have from years ago when I was really working the land here.


Here are the T-posts we finally had time to remove for re-use in the garden. The horses are now officially OUT of the crop area. Since I was not allowed to spend money on the crops, I had moved the fence up there so at least the grass could be eaten. The place was essentially one big horse pasture. LOL


This is the one garden box we put in last year. It was intended to be short term, so we just bought some very inexpensive wood and filled it with half sawdust and half cow manure from the neighbor's barn and sawmill. It was too rich for planting last year, but has broken down nicely. We still need to plant lettuce there.


We used some leftover mix from the pile near that box, added some red clay from right next to the house. (It will not grow anything, but I figure must have GREAT mineral content.)...


I dug up a few shovels full of forest topsoil, while Michael gathered a few forks of grass cuttings and we mixed this unique concoction up for our potato boxes.



We are way behind on this project. The plants are growing very quickly and we still need to gather more wood for the sides. Finding soil is a challenge to me. It needs good soil, but good topsoil is hard to come by on this property and if I take it from somewhere, I am just robbing Peter to pay Paul.



And After. With the mix being nice and light, we were able to just sprinkle shovels full over the tops, working it around the stems with our fingers. I forgot, I need to water them. They need to be good and wet.


My goal has always been to grow organically. But it can take a lot of work. Once a pest finds you, you have to use all your wiles and all kinds of tricks to combat them. Starting from scratch in this spot, having it be such a large garden and being unprepared for them as I would have liked, I may use sprays if I can't keep them from devouring my produce. I was, at one time, going to go for organic certification of my land. But now, it's all about feeding us, not knowing what could happen.

So, I am still trying to foil the flea beetles. They have found and are beginning to eat the large eggplant after eating all 10 of my seedlings. The jar kept most of them off, one or two had gotten in there from the soil, but you can't keep your plants under glass, it was mostly just a learning experience for me on how the beetles find your plants. They are supposed to be attracted to white. These are cut up milk cartons smeared with petroleum jelly.


And the only ones you see on here are the ones I purposefully flicked there when finding the plant covered with them.


The vanishing brussel sprouts. A vole, I think. It's gotten quite a few of my plants. I was hoping the fishy smell from my fertilizer might make it go away. This is the kind of stuff that keeps you busy when you think you are going to be doing something else...


On the right, the carefully planted row of carrot seeds Michael worked on. See them? Yeah, there's a couple. LOL On the left, the packet that got knocked over.


Radish babies!


Getting shoes on for more work. We are doing a block schedule of horticulture for this semester. And math. LOL You can never stop doing math.


Michael, collecting rocks we've picked out of the garden soil to go line the chicken yard fence.


We also spent most of the morning mowing. All the area around the house, the crops, and then any areas those horses don't eat down. If we don't, the scrub trees come up and later we have to go down and chop them. It's just easier to mow everything down when it's small.

We went to plant more of our herb seedlings, but the ground was getting too hard again, so we watered and are going to plant in the morning.


We did a lot of weeding as we mowed. The blackberry row is looking OK. It still needs more manure. They are really heavy feeders. These blackberries were expensive and have not had much care over the last 5 years. One of these, properly cared for can give you 20 gallons of the biggest, sweetest blackberries you ever ate. I'm going to beat those Japanese beetles this year if it kills me.


Here are some coming up in the row. I should probably take them out.


And this one is a little spindly because it's also sharing with another heavy feeder, an asparagus plant. The birds love the bright red asparagus seeds from our bed and we find new plants at many fence posts and tree branches.


We planted over 100 grape vines, about 35 different varieties. The whole thing is a long story that I won't drag out. But they were going to be intensively pruned as I'd read about in one type of grape culturing book. So they are planted quite closely. Because of neglect, quite a few have died. That's OK because at this point I don't have the luxury of spending all that time intensively pruning. Here is one end of the vineyard...


And the other end...


Looking uphill, the vineyard sits low. We did a lot of weeding, mowing and tying up here as well. Much left to do.


Our hardy kiwi arbor. The fruits are remarkable. I hope to get some one day. LOL


It's looking a bit saggy though. I built it out of red cedar trunks harvested from this land, and purchased vinyl lath with a 2x4 top.


Blooms! But is it male or female? Only one produces fruit and needs another. I suspect another fruitless year. I need to replace the ones that died on the other side of the arbor before I get fruit, I'm guessing.


Uh-oh. Need to root out some poison ivy that has found a spot under the arbor.


Our bush cherries are filled out.


Evidence! We will get some cherries this year! As the bushes were planted in a frost pocket, we don't often get them.


Now we are just enjoying the perfect evening. It feels so great to have accomplished things that needed doing, and then enjoy the beauty we live in.

Hunting rabbits at the sinkholes...


Playing in the water...



Some of the gooseberries. Will be time to make gooseberry pie soon.


These strawberry plants only went in a couple of months ago, so they are a little small, but they are still trying to contribute to the season. Mostly everbearers, and a few June bearers.


OK - this one is going to kill itself trying!


This will be the first strawberry to eat. :)


Time for well-deserved play. It was deliciously windy all day and, as everyone knows, jumping is way more fun in the wind.


Fat and sleek horses.


I missed the gorgeous light this morning on those wildflowers. Drat!


Why is it that the volunteers spring up quickly, deep green, healthy and strong...


And the squash I labored intensely over for two months and spent money on seeds and pots for, look like they have malaria?


But don't the sugar snap peas looks amazing? They are covered with blooms. Can't wait to stand in the field and eat my veggies.


I'm going in. It's almost chore time.


Our list is getting shorter. At least until we add to it. ;) Michael came up with some ideas yesterday he wants to do as well.




  1. Oh my goodness you are busy! I have the same problems with my kiwi...lots of vines, few fruit. Blackberries grow wild around here and I can't imagine planting them on purpose. They are one of our top pests, next to slugs and elk!!! I love the pics with the kiddo on the trampoline, what fun! Kim

  2. Hi Kim!

    We mow down our wild blackberries as well, we have too many of them. I try to keep a few here and there, but the problem with them is that every year, when the time comes for much needed rain, we dry up, and get no crop from them. So we are left with only brambles in the way.

    These blackberries are thornless and don't become weeds. The berries are big, juicy and sweet, rather than small dry and tart as the wild ones can be often.

  3. Good morning Faith. I am glad you posted on my site because I added you to my list of blogs to follow. I haven't read your blog back to the beginning but I plan to the first all day rain I get. I have to tell you this though, that I am so very impressed with Michael and I am glad you are blessed with such a wonderful worker. Does it ever amaze you at how much you can get done when you have someone like that who is on the same page? Your garden is HUGE! I wish I had time for one that size. i will get there though.
    1 thing that you wrote...on the potatos. You wrote that you must fill the towers with good dirt. That is kind of wrong. research it but the dirt on the bottom must be really good and rich, but as you fill it in, it can be simply sand or straw. Potatos get their nutrients from the very bottom not the middle. It just can't be clay as you fill it in it has to be soft and well draining.

    And oh my gosh your beautiful grapes and blackberries. I am so excited for you.
    Also I am not sure if it will help but tobacco tea is a good non toxic insectacide. It kills bugs by giving them diareah. It may control flea beatles.

    I am proud of you. Keep doing what you are doing. I hope Michael will also keep doing what he is doing. I read your intro and am sorry that anyone would give up what you have but I am glad you have this land and are working it.

  4. Sweethearts Mom,

    Thank you for the potato box tip. I did not know that!

    I had heard you can grow them in straw, but wasn't sure how to apply that in this situation. I will check that out for sure.

    Tobacco tea.... hmmmmm. Wonder where I could get a hold of some of that. There used to be tobacco allotments everywhere around here, but most have gone away in the last 10 years.

    Yes, Michael is truly a gift. We really appreciate our time together. Children are the greatest blessings. Are those four cuties your G-kids?


  5. If you have somewhere to go buy a bag of old fashioned chewing tobacco...yep the kind the old cowboys used to keep in the cheeks and spit into the spitoon...take a hand full and put it into at large container with a lid. glass is best. and steep it like tea. when done filter and put it in the spray bottle mixed 50/50 with water.

    you are adding boards to the sides of the potato boxes area't you? as you add the next set of 4 boards just fill up the box with straw up to the top couple of leaves. and as the potato plant catches up keep doing the same. experiment with dirt in one box and straw in the next and see which one produces more.

  6. wow oh! you have a lot going it just you and the little man doing it all? i am sure you will be rewarded. i read a bunch of your previous your horses just stay around or are the fenced? what part of the country do you live in?
    hope you are able to reap a wonderful harvest from all that you have planted.

  7. Hi Marmee!

    Yup, just Michael and I now. My DH has left us, and my three adult children are not here. But we have a lot of fun and we are like-minded on most everything, so we have a great time with our plans.

    Yes, the horses are in a fenced area. But we have only 5.65 acres and we need them for grass eating. We use electric fencing for a lot of the front and we can move it around where we like.

    We are in East TN.

    I'm really glad you came by!



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