Sunday, April 16, 2017

Blooming April!

 Our pasture is awash in the glow of buttercups and the aroma of clover. It's wonderful to stroll through them on the way to the garden.
 Because of his hand injury, Adam will be slow to get it all mowed again, but honestly -- he was allowing it to grow a bit so we could enjoy this show!
The doggies love it too.

 I took some of these irises to church this morning in an arrangement.
 These geraniums are from a friend's porch. Isn't the variegated variety breathtaking?
 Adam brought me some carnations the other day just because he's a sweetie.
 Then I made this arrangement for church, all items from our yard.
Knock-out roses, two kinds of iris, English ivy, fern fronds, and some eucalyptus.
Oh -- by the way -- yes, my eucalyptus tree did die :( However, as some of you suggested, it is sending up new sprouts from the base, so it's not really dead. It's just mostly dead (haha!). I will leave it until winter and see how alive it still is. But the brown branches with their circular leaves are so wonderful aromatic! I will save them all, regardless.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ninety-five and Counting ...

That's right -- 95 tomato plants so far in individual pots.
 I'm running out of small pots.
Adam offered to sift his homemade potting mix, removing the twigs, pine straw, pecans, and pine cones. Now I have this luscious stuff to pot with:
 And it's absolutely free. Better than store-bought potting mix. I'm tickled!!
In addition to the Ninety-five, I have this flat of Brandywine and Mini-Orange tomatoes, sprouting nicely. What shall I do with ALL these tomato plants?
 I refuse to get myself into the pickle of last year: tucking leggy tomato plants along fence rows and in random available spots in the garden. It was a nightmare of tomatoes! This year I shall choose my favorite 65 plants, and I shall sell or give away the rest with nary a pang! I can't keep them all!
This is my biggest tomato plant thus far, supposedly a Beefsteak variety. Three of them look quite strange. They smell like tomato plants, and their structure is like a tomato.

But their leaves are large and smooth, almost like a bean leaf. What's up with that? (I just google-hunted and discovered that some tomatoes have what's called a "potato-leaf," a smooth-edged leaf. Potato-leaf tomatoes are always heirlooms, not hybrids. Cool!)
Elsewhere in the garden, the peas are coming along a treat, as they say across the pond.

And the radishes are just beginning to show some swollen root. We'll be eating them soon.
Adam's potatoes are doing great! This year I suspect potatoes will be a big success after our "learning opportunities" of last year, haha!
long potato row -- as they grow up, Adam covers their stems
 We revised our greenhouse window. The temperature-controlled device that opened it automatically wasn't working well; it only opened it about a foot. Since the opening was at the bottom, it didn't efficiently release heat, which rises. So Adam changed the window, putting the hinge at the bottom.

He rigged up a rope that I can easily pull from inside the greenhouse, lowering or raising the window just as I like. I loop it around a screw to hold it.
And since its open at the top, it does a better job of letting the heat out. Plus, it can lay all the way down on the ground! Sometimes the homemade option is a lot better!
Do you remember the two pepper plants we dug out of the garden last fall and kept on the front porch/greenhouse all winter? Bless them, we put them back in the garden, leafless and pathetic except for their drying-up red peppers, still hanging on tenaciously.
I thought, "Well, they're dead." But I do like to give plants a chance if I can. Then I noticed this:
One of them's coming back! Yippee! Not that I eat hot peppers, haha! But I enjoy seeing plants demonstrate the zeal for life that all God's creation seems to have.
Our strawberries have not come up at all, and we're wondering if the whole bed died.
Our horseradish is amazing.
The asparagus is gorgeous.
The chickens continue to thrive. Little Snow is slowly insinuating herself into the flock.
The bees are fine, but the swarm Adam caught did not stay. They often do that. Bees have their own preferences, like us all, and will find a home they like.
That's it from the farm! I hope your April is humming along nicely.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

More Bees, More Blooms, More Tomatoes!

 On my way to the garden this morning, Adam warned me away. "We've got a bee swarm," he said. It's in that cedar tree he's bending next to.
So I puttered in the herb garden for a while, and he encouraged the swarm into a hive box.
 I thought it was quite clever of him to put it in a wheelbarrow, so he can move it easily when he needs to.
 He had his bee gear ready, and he wore his head gear/netting this time, but no other protection. He was not stung.
 This tree. What can I say? It's simply stunning. When I stand beneath it and look up, I wish I could lie on soft fescue grass and gaze into its blooms for days on end. Minus the electrical wires ... and the plastic ring around the base.
 Its bark is shiny silver.

 The wind has been strong these two days and its blooms have fallen like snow.
 They blend with the brown, tired camellia petals on the ground, which have bloomed since January.
Adam dislikes wisteria, a vine that climbs and strangles trees. But it's so beautiful!! We have it in our pine trees.
 Its blooms resemble a cluster of grapes.
 My Painted Lady fern is happy.
 My Artemisia is doing very well.
 And hooray!! My earliest hostas are UP!
 I realize I'm afflicted with a common gardener's malady. I have Tomato Seedling Addiction. Right now, I have 62 small tomato plants transferred into their larger pots. I'm not even half-way done yet.
They generally all look like that.
So once again, we will have over 100 tomato plants. We don't want to be overrun as we were last year, so I plan to give away lots of plants. Lots.
And because I used Adam's homemade compost for my potting soil (which is wonderful stuff, btw), and because we threw literally hundreds of rotting tomatoes into the compost last summer/fall during the height of the season ... and because those seeds were then transferred into my potting soil ... I can't absolutely guarantee that the tomato plants I have growing so healthily are TRULY the variety I think they are. I may have put two Brandywine seeds into that little cell of potting soil, but who knows if there was a tiny Chocolate Cherry seed hiding in there too? Argh. Live and learn. Next year Adam will bake his compost and kill off any residual seeds that might corrupt the potting soil.
So ... this will be the year of the mystery tomato plants!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Life on the Funny Farm

 Apple trees are blooming!

 For several hours this morning I monitored the third "play date" for all my chickens, trying to integrate the new white pullet into the flock.
 So far, so good. The first time, they did chase and harass her a bit, especially my two Ameracaunas (a roo and a hen). They must be a meaner breed. Honestly I think Punkin is just plain neurotic.
Here's Little Snow, as I call her:
 So sweet, so docile. During the play date yesterday, Bernie was letting her know he was Boss! She skeedaddled into the coop and hit behind a nesting box.
 Poor thing! So stressy. Today they are more laid back, not fighting ... but their behavior is quite bizarre! Everybody except Snow was inside the coop -- even with the orchard available! -- and they were squawking and putting up a fussin'! Finally I went in there to find out what the matter was. All three hens were standing there, looking at The Favorite Nesting Spot. Every little flock has a favorite spot to lay an egg. And who was in the favorite spot? And who was clogging up the works and making the hens mad? Bernie! That's who! Sitting there on a couple of their eggs, no doubt, pretending to be a girl, haha! I think he was just escaping the stress of trying to wrangle all those females and their hormones.
 Adam trimmed another 1/3 out of the big pear tree. He took all the straight water sprouts and started making a pretty wattle fence for the peas in the garden. I adore the rustic, peasant look of a wattle fence.
Meanwhile in the greenhouse, things are progressing. Here's my work area:
 Today I began transferring tomato seedlings from their first cells into small pots. Such an exciting time!
 I did 19 plants.
Adam has not felt well the last few days. He's very, very achy and sore, probably from arthritis. He hurts all over. I reminded him of his ache-mantra: "Motion is Lotion." He came out and turned ... or "fluffed," as he says ... his compost, with help from three pups. He loves the company of dogs.
I also have hostas up, and sedum and ferns and cilantro and masses of oregano. The Scuppernong grapevines have begun to leaf out too.
In the veggie patch we have these things up: potatoes, spinach, lots of peas, lettuces, radishes, and Swiss chard. Asparagus continues to do well. That's it from the farm!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Over the Farm Gate

 How I do love being at home on the farm! Every minute I'm here, I'm more tranquil, and as I read this morning, "A tranquil heart is life to the body." That's in Proverbs, but it's also real life. How many of us would be so much healthier if we just got the stress out of our lives?
Little Snow is still living in her isolation coop, not because she needs it, but because those other nasty chickens won't be nice to her and let her into their flock! I sat out there on Tuesday for hours, refereeing the squawks and clucking and chasing and pecking. I do not feel she is safe with them yet.
 I may wait until she's about 20 weeks. As a White Leghorn, she'll be bigger than all the other hens and better able to give them a run for their money. Here are the two meanies. Punkin and Bernie:
 I took extra nibbles back there to keep them happy and distracted, but it didn't work.
 I also restricted them to the old chicken yard, barring the orchard to them, so I could keep the contact more controlled. It bothered them to no end that they couldn't get into that orchard! You'd have thought the world had come to and end.
Meanwhile, in the barn office, the dogs were naughty.
 They've now destroyed the bottom cushion to their sleeping chair too. Adam removed the poor chair (which is really a nice piece of furniture) before they gnawed the legs off. Maybe I can find replacement cushions? Wishful thinking!
And over in the greenhouse, the tomato seedlings are struggling along.
 They aren't very big. We've had some cold snaps and the greenhouse isn't as warm as they'd like it those nights. Like tonight: 38 degrees. Brr!
 Plenty of cells are empty. Of course, I don't really want 150 tomato plants like last year!
 Here's the culprit: the heater Adam rigged up. Twice on really cold nights it blew out early. I'm amazed my tomatoes survived at all! I had them covered with plastic tops, which is probably why they did.
 So last night Adam resorted to what we used last winter, an electric heater.
 But that electric heater needs to be plugged in, and the electricity is in the barn. Of course, last winter we didn't have Ned, AKA The Great Chewer of All Things. Please note previous photo of chair. Running an extension cord from the barn to the greenhouse ran the risk of having it gnawed to pieces and shocking the dog. Thankfully, Adam was able to string the cord among the trees like so many Christmas lights!
 It worked!
Our peas are still trying.
 Our radishes are coming along.
 The one really happy plant is our horseradish. It's sending up new plants all over the bed.
 Our spinach is doing great! This is the second planting. The first planting, with the seeds encased in the white tape, did not come up at all.
 This long row is full of seed potatoes. They are not up yet. But I'm hopeful for better potato results this year!
 We also have some tiny lettuces up, and our asparagus continues to thrive. All in all, a good garden beginning.
I'm picking dandelions to infuse in oils to make my summer insect-repellent lotion bars. Must think ahead and start early!
 Aren't they happy?
I made a batch of lavender soap today. Most of it will be sold in bulk to a local store that (hopefully) will begin selling my soaps. Yippee!
Adam continues to work on his books -- both making them, binding them, and writing in them. He's enjoying it thoroughly.
Aren't they impressive?
Life on the farm is rather chilly right now. I do hate summer heat, but I'm no fan of winter cold either. But somehow, both spring and fall seem to pass in mere moments, leaving us wallowing in the extremes. I'm not sure what kind of weather heaven will have, but I hope it's more like spring and fall!