Friday, May 22, 2009

To Do List - Three Days Old


Wednesday morning we made our first list of the season.

This is front and back of last year's major projects. We also had sub lists, but Michael gets as much pleasure as I do on crossing them off, so we had fun.



I have always been a list person, and it might surprise you to know this is my first one, but honestly, I'VE BEEN TOO BUSY TO EVEN MAKE A LIST YET!

Things have slowed down enough that we can sit down, take a pencil and paper and casually write down what needs to be done that day.

It's usually a wish list, if all goes well. Keeps us motivated. We hit a few snags so this list actually to til today to finish.

Buy: Straw Bales, Fungicide, Sprayer

Plant: Corn (again), Pumpkins (again), Brassicas (changed my mind on filling in the missing ones. They are planted close enough already.

Prune Grapes (took 5 hours, not 2)
Tie Grapes
Talk to vineyard owner
Spray grapes with fungicide

Prune tame Blackberries
Tie Tame Blackberries
Fertilize Blackberries

Weed spray along fence lines

Check Cherry progress. (Oh no! Is that black rot?)
Check Gooseberries (doing well)

Strawberries: pick fruits, pinch runners, pull weeds

Pick up rocks (Lots of places, we just worked for 2 hours.)
Mow around house, garden, greenhouse and crop areas.
Take clippings to compost bin.

Build next potato bin level
Add straw to potato bins

Water garden.

So yesterday while we were house cleaning for income, Michael begins coming down with a bug. Yup, he's sick. So we took it easy today. I was tired of eating junk food because I'm too busy to find food, so I went on a refrigerator rampage. The whole thing got cleaned out. It's clean, I know what's in there, and I know where it is!

We were supposed to go clean an office and do our window washing job today, but Michael is too sick and it takes the both of us 4 hours to do it. So that will wait until Sunday when he's better.

We will also miss our usual Friday get together with friends, and we had another on Saturday to play music, but I suspect we'll be missing that as well.

It's very strange to be home. I'm going to wash my hair, I hope to cut Michael's hair, and we are going to - YES - clean up the house so we can really enjoy our day of rest which will begin at sundown tonight. (I realize most people don't consider housework relaxing, but to us, it's like a day off! LOL ) We might even make a trip to the grocery store to pick up a few essentials and some well-deserved ice cream.

Missing a cow and my ice cream maker...



Thursday, May 21, 2009

Did You See That? Me Either!


Whoosh! That was life, speeding by, leaving me spinning like those old cartoons.

We spent a half day today cleaning a large house for extra money. The owners are arriving in town today and wanted it ready for them. That will be helpful!

I did not pick up my camera and document much. We have been busy, but nothing seemed noteworthy, really. I suspect because I've about hit burnout from spring gardening madness and now it's getting a little tedious. I'm ready to move on now... THANKS!

There were a few things we took pics of. Here we are continuing to add on to the potato boxes. A lovely evening provided the backdrop, though I do wish we'd have been gnat free.




And Michael came back down from his project on the hill. He is not only clearing the hillside, but has decided to liven up the tree house by building another platform on a tree some distance away and creating a cable for a zip line.

Michael is currently over at the potato boxes when I snapped this picture of the tools of his trade.


So, we were replanting the corn. AGAIN! Michael was working on another hill for our Giant Pumpkin project, and he says, "Do you hear those bees?"

"No." Me standing to ease my aching back and swish the gnats away from my face.

"Do you hear the sound like wind down in the trees in the horse pasture?"

"No," says his rapidly-going-deaf mother.

After a few more exchanges we decide this could be a cool picture taking event, so off we scamper.

We found the swarm behind the blackberry pit near the round pen and took a lot of fun shots. Michael took most of the cool ones. He likes to play with the camera settings, I've just gotten to busy to care beyond point and shoot lately.

Here's where they were at...




It was at this point that I hoped beyond all reason I could get our old hive out and coax this new hive in, but upon running to the feed and tack room, I realized fully what I already knew. It needs work first. Another thing on our list...


Here they are clustering around the newly crowned queen.


Yes, I'm on my third planting of corn. I have one hill that behaved itself. Only one sprout didn't come up.


But most look more like this one. Only one sprout DID come up.


We have spent a couple of days in the vineyard. Pruning, tying up, and spraying with the most obnoxious chemical I have ever used. We have used Sevin for the bugs that are coming, and a fungicide for the Black Rot that has begun already. Needless to say, we won't be eating any grapes this year, but I hope to get the black rot under control enough to use a milder fungicide next year.


Here is the beginning of Black Rot, otherwise known as Mummy Berry.


More problems. Cane borers, or girdlers. Judicious pruning and hopefully Sevin will take care of that.


Honestly, grapes have taken up a lot of our last few days. We had to burn all the trimmings. That took gas to get the greenery up in flames.

I talked with a vineyard owner today. He invited us to come and see his operation and learn from him, so I hope we can do that in the next couple of weeks.

I know we've done other things, but my brain is currently going into shut down. So here is where I'll quit.




Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blackberry Winter


A term used to describe a brief period of cold weather that coincides with the time the blackberries are in bloom, (typically in early to mid May).

I think we dodged the frost, though.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Yay! We Are Finally Gaining Ground!


Today we actually had down time. We still have a lot of work to do, no question, but it's at the point now where the work can begin to be planned, rather than dragging us around like accidentally getting caught on a bumper and trying to keep your feet underneath you at 60 mph.

We got a lot of fertilizing and cultivating done. We planted most of the last of the herb seeds I'd not gotten to yet. We also straightened up the house a little bit, knowing we'd be gone much of the day tomorrow. I really hate coming home to a messy house.

I missed showing our first lettuce harvest about 4 days ago.


It's nice but we did not notice until putting it away in the house that the leaves were covered with tiny little green gnats. If I don't figure out how to wash them out of all those delicate little green leaves, we are going to be getting protein we didn't bargain on.


I also missed relating about our mint mishap. Isn't this beautiful? We worked so hard, getting in these newest beds of various herbs....

Not so fast. Michael accidentally grabbed a MINT flat instead of a nice tame, laid back Italian herb.


Here is what was SUPPOSED to go in! LOL


So we had to dig it all out again and plant in the other. We had been trying to decide where to put these mints for a long time. But finally, we just were ready to forget about them. We recycled most of the flats and just put a few in pots to keep them contained. We have common, lemon, spear, and peppermints here.


Back to today....

The birds have been eating our strawberries. This is the first one we got, and Michael shared it with me.


A sage we put in.


And though I had a packet of lavender seeds, even freezing them, I never tried to plant them, but chickened out and bought this at WalMart.


I don't think I had shown our upper crops yet. Here is one end of our asparagus bed. Impressive, right?


Well, here's the other end. LOL Not enough care. Perhaps this fall I can give it the manure and straw it deserves.


I'm really sad that my hardy figs died back to the ground again. That means no crop again this year. I did not think it was that cold, but apparently it was. I don't like dried figs much, but I love fresh. They will produce two crops, a spring and fall, but our season is not really long enough, so if you don't have fruit producing wood ready to go in the spring, you won't get a crop. These new branches will grow figs, but when frost hits, they'll still be green, small, and unripe.


You can bury them, but it's more work than I want to do right now. Here's some new growth.


Blackberry plants; The Good -



The bad -


And the ugly. Anyone know why leaves in only a few selected spots turn vivid yellow this way? I fertilized them, but I don't think that's the problem.


And Michael's friendly lizard.


Too many posts in one day! And I've picked up poison ivy again. Bummer.



Something New!


I was reading Tessa's blog entry that mentioned something called a paper pot maker. Intrigued, I did a little rooting around on the internet. I found that this could be a wonderful asset for inexpensive biodegradable pots that I could make in the evenings while relaxing and watching the news or something.

I was just about to order one, having found the best price, when I happened to run across one more page that mentioned a 'next generation' pot maker for even cheaper.

Doing a little research on that, at, I found a video demonstrating how they are used.

I think they are terrific! I would recommend that people buy one and try one.

But, if you are like me.... your mind goes one step further and asks, "How can I make one myself and save 20 bucks?

Another thing to add to my list. Buy the PVC parts, or even better, scrounge some up for free, and make them myself. I will check out the way they could fit together the next time I stop at the HIC.



A Curious Rooster Attack ~ What Do You Think?


We came home after being gone only a couple of hours yesterday, had lunch, relaxed a little, then went down to move more rocks around.

After we were almost done I suddenly noticed the rooster.

With no tail.

"What happened to that rooster's tail?" I asked Michael.
"I don't know!" he replied incredulously.

If you remember, the rooster has been kept separate from the girls to allow them to regrow feathers. So during the day he wanders free range while they are in the chicken yard. At night they are shut into the coop and he is let into the yard.

We began looking for clues. If there is missing feathers, you will likely find them somewhere! Here is the trail...












Whatever it was, he put up quite a fight!


Poor guy!


He's back inside the pen with the hens now. I don't want to lose him. I found NO tracks whatsoever. Only feathers. They are gone from his back, his tail, and his haunches.

What do you think; those hawks getting hungry enough to go for this tough, big rooster? Or the other neighbor and his evil pack of hunting dogs?



Sunday Worm Death


The first ramifications of our spraying were almost immediate. Underneath many of our plants, were dying earthworms. Not good.


I am very unhappy with this. However, the flea beetles are gone, for the time being.

The cucumbers are also greening up and growing, due to the slow release of the fish fertilizer. Seems to take almost a week for that stuff to work noticably.


Michael took this photo of the Indian corn. That seed is likely about 5 years old, but it pretty much ALL came up.


And we were off to church!



Saturday's Rest


Taking a day of rest on Saturday is a mixed blessing. It feels great, but I really have to battle my own desires to get out there and do all sorts of stuff. LOL

I let Michael sleep in til he woke up, which was 10:00 in the morning. He didn't like that, but he really needed it. He was really tired.

Then we had to go out and take care of the bugs that were raiding our garden and threatening to rob us of our work and food. I hate that we are leaving organic, but at this point, the larger goal is to be able to actually allow the garden to survive.

So Michael assembled the sprayer we'd purchased the night before.


And we pulled out the heavy artillery. AUGH! I can't believe I'm doing this! Not having steady income changes things.


And we unloaded the latest grass clippings into the compost bins. These bags heated up the interior of the van by 20 degrees warmer overnight.


Here are the latest boards for the potato bins. (They are still in the van, eh-hem.)


And we just relaxed a lot. We enjoyed a crock pot full of sausage and bean soup all day, with sourdough bread toast to go with it. We even watched a movie, the original Star Wars from 1976.

I still remember going to the theater and seeing that movie when I was in Jr. High. It was the first time I'd ever experienced standing in line to get a good seat, because it would be sold out. But we met friends there a couple of hours early. It was a big deal for us, as we lived rather simply in the country, so it made quite an impression.

In the evening we strolled around outside, me taking photos, Michael playing, and I took note of what needed to be done, what was going well, what was not.

The horses have just about lost all their winter coats.



The 15 melon hills we planted 3 weeks ago have been a big disappointment. Each hill got between 4 and 6 seeds each, so out of about 60 seeds... about 4 sprouted. We finally dug them up, I think it was Friday morning, and found the hulls - empty. I have no idea. No sign of bugs or critters, just looking like partially opened clam shells, completely empty. I am hoping this odd development is due to something simple like we just had a cooler spring than normal. But I cannot figure out why they are empty!


The pasty summer squash beds are perking up. It took about a week for the organic fish fertilizer, which only has a nitrogen rating of 5, to kick in and get them turning greener and growing. I guess even though this soil had turf composted in over the winter and a good bit of horse manure laying on the pasture, it still has not enough nitrogen. I'm really looking forward to planting green manures after the garden is done this autumn.


The brassicas are SUPREMELY happy here. They are doing well. I've only lost about 6 of them all together, to a vole I believe, so the harvest should be pretty good.


The eggplants... a wash. The seedlings all gone to flea beetles, the one large plant I bought, it's struggling a lot. I had tried an experiment as a last organic resort to save them, I made an oil spray with cayenne and garlic. It coated those beetles that got caught in it and I'm sure those died, but the plant is struggling from the oil, and the beetles who escaped hopped away to munch on my tomatoes.

Artichokes - a little slow in growth, but with fertilizer they should pick up. That will be today. No bug damage.

Peppers - again flea beetles. Some are doing better than others. We got them with fertilizer already so they should do better.

Tomatoes, seem to be pretty happy, but flea beetles going after them with almost all the energy they had for the eggplants. We fertilized them to give them a boost.

Sugar snap peas - doing great.


Giant pumpkins - they've sprouted about 4 I think.

My corn is giving me a pain. Again, we're waiting for our corn crop to be 4-6 inches high so we can plant beans. The Golden Bantam OP corn does fine,


but we only planted enough of that to have our own seed for reuse. The bulk is hybrid corn, Sensation, and the sprout rate on that is just sad!


Here is a close up comparison:


More rocks being hauled out, small goes to chicken fence, large set aside for landscaping:


This is the biggest rock we have to haul for the herb bed. Will probably have to split it somehow. I'm hoping it will break with a sledgehammer. That's my watch, set on the top of it to the right.


Some of what's left of the wild blackberries we have to continually mow down. This is an old attempt at a pond by the previous owners of the land. There are two of these on the place. Just a big hole, filled in with trees and bushes.


This may be a great wild blackberry year, if the rain keeps up.


This is a cool tunnel. It's cool temperature wise as well, when picking berries and eating them. You can hide from the gnats in here.


A pretty cardinal on the fence post.


Isn't Michael doing a great job clearing these back hills? Looks wonderful! That was his own idea, I'd not even have suggested it. I think he overheard me lamenting about them, and just decided to take care of the problem.


I love little surprise flowers. Especially since I have none planted of my own yet.


More blackberries. Michael hit more rocks mowing back here than we expected. We'll have to pick them up from here as well.


This needs to be sprayed to clear the overgrowth from covering the rocks, and the loose ones need to be picked up.


Mower blade killers....


And that's where strolling ended and work began. The filly came by and showed me some very naughty disrespect. I had no choice but to deal with her, in over-sized flip-flops and the dress I was wearing, and carrying my camera. I ran her, for a long time, until she changed her attitude and came to me, sides heaving, sweat pouring down, and hanging her head.

Then it was dark and we replanted the melon hills with no flashlights, in the rain. LOL

It was good to get in, have a bath and dinner, and go to bed!