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.



Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bring It On, Babe!


OK, we have a taker.

The competition is officially ON! Who will grow the biggest pumpkin?

Michael and I have officially parted with half a package of giant pumpkin seeds to some lovable, but feisty comrades in gardening.

Who will be crowned victorious this autumn?

We, on this side of the patch, have started with an advantage. We had previously chosen the best looking seeds in the package, unaware that the competition was forthcoming.

They, on the other side of the patch, have a tractor....



OK, we can beat this thing. First - off to do finely detailed scientific research of the utmost impressiveness on how to grow great, big, fat, heavy, pumpkins.

Seems Farmer Boy and his dad milk fed theirs... need that cow!

We laughed, we played, we sewed with friends, we ate chocolate.

~~ Other farm happenings: IT WAS SUNNY AND 75 DEGREES!

We mowed.
We fertilized.
We picked up grass clippings.
We added them to grass storage area.
We squished flea beetles.
We pulled t-posts from old fence line above greenhouse.
We drove those posts back in, but in the garden for tomatoes and cukes.
We gathered more rocks.
We dumped rocks along chicken yard fence again.
We stared at the potato boxes again, wishing for more time to put dirt in again.

I'm sensing a pattern these days...



Monday, May 11, 2009

Dr. Eggplant and Mr. Cultivation


A beautiful day! No sun, but the drizzle stopped this morning, I got a call from one of my sons, and we had a really nice visit here at the farm with lovely friends.

Today was to be a day of catch up work and, I suppose it was, in a way. Except the only thing we caught up on was cultivation and more cultivation.

The steady precipitation we've gotten over the last few weeks has managed to occur on pretty much every block of time we had available to do much work outside, so cultivating has not been steady.

When you can keep up on it, it goes quickly, but if your weeds have taken root, you have to go deeper and you run into rocks and you have to clear them out, and you break cultivators.

Fairly early this morning I was going around the corn hills...



...and the old wood just snapped. We toyed with the idea of buying a powered cultivator, but that was when we thought it might be 50 dollars. Upon looking them up online, we discovered they were several hundred dollars. So off we went to the home improvement center to buy a replacement handle, an additional cultivator so Michael and I could work together when needed, and a little spiky thing that fits between plants so we don't have to get on our hands and knees to work there.

Here is a tip on how to replace a handle on your garden tools. You place the metal working piece into the hole at the end of the pole, then pound in with a hammer until the metal cuff is bent out and fits snugly. Don't bend your tool, use some sort of metal implement such as a big screwdriver or something to lay between the tines and pound on that with the hammer.


The eggplants are about done in by those flea beetles. I looked for large plants in town, but they were almost 4 dollars each. That, along with all the labor to grow them, puts the price per fruit pretty darn high, in my opinion. I bought new seeds instead, but the same will happen again. So I purchased ONE eggplant...


... and put in under a jar to see if the flea beetles would find it. They did not, at least all this first day. I can't leave the jar there on warm or sunny days, it will be baked eggplant way too soon. But I hope my wee brain comes up with some sort of brilliant idea to protect them.


I don't buy a lot of eggplant, but I have a garden, and I'm going to grow them! Because that's what gardens are for.

I can smell the Parmesan, Italian seasonings, and bread crumbs in the oven already.