Monday, May 22, 2017

Everything's Growing But My Bank Balance

Adam just walked in from the garden and said, "You know that wild grapevine on the back garden fence? It's loaded with grapes!"
The back fence is out of control. I don't know what large shrub is under the grapevine, but it's growing on top of it in the sun, as vines love to do. Little clusters of grapes are All Over It. Adam's back there now, whacking off some to produce better grapes. I imagine the birds will find them too.
We've had no success with our grapevines in the "orchard" because they don't get enough sun.
We put some of our Wando peas on a trellis of 4" welded wire, and they are standing upright and beautiful.
They're easy to harvest. But we ran out of that welded wire and thought we'd make some wattle fencing, remember? This is what inadequate wattle fencing will do to your peas:
Next year it's welded wire all the way. We've still harvested bags of peas so far and have a long way to go. A good year for peas. You pick them when they look fat and plump like a sausage but haven't started drying out yet.
Some of my tomato plants have early blight. See it? We pulled about ten beautiful, full plants right out of the bed and threw them on the burn pile :(
The trellising system thus far is excellent for tomatoes.

Can you see how the cord curls around the main tomato stem? It's easy then to gently wrap it around a little more every day or two as the plant grows.
I had a few random volunteer tomato plants in pots. They nearly died when we went on vacation. I put them into the beds where I'd ripped out the sickly tomato plants. They're so short the cords don't reach them yet!
My two rows of bush bean plants are coming up nicely, much better than last year. I probably have them way too close together, but I overplanted because last year I had such bad luck with their germination.
 I'll plant more beans in stages so they don't all come in at the same time.
Here are two volunteer cucumber plants that sprouted in Adam's compost
 Several of these early volunteers already have baby cukes starting on them. They will go in beds later.
 A volunteer tomato and cuke are in one compost pile,
and a volunteer cuke and watermelon are in another.

 These are perhaps my healthiest volunteer tomatoes -- three plants that sprouted up from the chicken poop compost pile intended to enrich the asparagus. I wrapped a piece of leftover fence around them for support.
 I guess that chicken poop's not going anywhere for a while!
And speaking of watermelons, Adam filled two more tire planters in the garden and I planted watermelon seeds in there. What do you bet the volunteer watermelon does better? Yep.
 And Adam's willow tree sprig is doing fine in a bigger pot. He will put it in the ground soon.
 In the greenhouse (which is a true hot house these days), I'm starting herbs. I want to start herbs from seed and sell the plants at the farmers' market. Nobody does this, and I think there's a need for it. And unlike cut herbs, the plants only improve week to week. I don't like selling "perishable" items at the market. Any herbs that don't sell I'll simply put in my own herb garden if it gets too big. Below are basil, thyme, tarragon, parsley, and sage, waiting to be born in their little earthen nurseries.
 Many friends responded to my plea for pots!! I really needed the small pots -- the next stage up from the starter cells. I prefer plastic pots; the paper ones leach water away from the little plants' roots.
 There's an issue with little plastic pots. I challenge you to try to find them for sale at WalMart, Lowe's, or your local farm or hardware store. I'm referring to what I wanted: a pack of about ten 2" pots -- plastic ones. I looked and looked. Adam said (as Adam often says), "Let's check online." And we could've bought them online for 30 cents per pot! That's just too much to pay for a very small plastic pot! And if I'm selling my herb plants, that adds quite a bit to the cost per plant.
One day I was roaming in a favorite store, Dollar Tree. Everything in there really is just $1.00. And look what I found!
A pack of twelve little plastic pots -- perfect! -- for $1.00! So I bought 12 packs, of course. Items appear and disappear forever at those dollar stores. Those 144 pots, plus all the donations from friends, will give me pots for years :)
So far I have basil and some early dill to sell.
I think I have a bit of a green thumb when it comes to starting plants, plus I do enjoy it so much. If I could make any money doing that, I would be a happy woman.
Because ... I decided a few months ago to stop working at my part-time afternoon job at an afterschool program for children. It's a lovely place, and I will miss it, but physically it is so taxing. I'm on concrete/asphalt, very active, for 3 hours straight, and it's hard on my bad veins. It wears me out every day and makes me non-productive in the evenings. Even though I don't go to work until about 2:30, it dominates my day from lunch onward. I will still substitute there some, but not every single day. I only have 13 days left! Then I will be a free woman to focus my attentions on my soap/lotion/yard business, and on increasing the productivity of the farm in small ways like selling herbs. So ... here's to new enterprises!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday on the Farm

 We've had such glorious weather! Cool, low humidity, breezy -- just absolutely perfect! After church Adam took his nice long nap, and I tootled in the greenhouse. On the way back across the pasture, I slowed and then stopped, wanting to absorb all the beauty of the pecan giants stretching into the sky.
I was pushing the wheelbarrow. Then Julia came along with dogs.

Remember volunteer tomatoes? They're everywhere. However ... one spot on the farm you'd never expect to find a volunteer tomato plant is the burn pile. Right? Yep ... there it is!

Yes, indeed. That's a tomato! How in the world?
Adam's tomato trellising is stupendous.
 Below is the second tomato bed. He just put up the posts with the cable strung along their tops.
 Here's a close-up of my tallest tomato, a beefsteak. Its cord is already well-wound around its stem. I think this method will work famously!
 And a couple of my beefsteak plants are already setting fruit.
 I have peas!! These are the Wando variety.

Around the little outbuilding Adam has been clearing the brush and weed trees. One tree had already fallen over, so he cut it off, leaving part of the leaning stump. It's right next to a pretty-shaped dwarf apple of some sort.
apple on the left, other tree on the right.
 Anyway, the stump sprouted green branches. I looked at it today and realized it's a willow tree!
 We're quite fond of willows. The friend who recently gave me two chickens also gave Adam a willow twig to put into some good soil, hoping for a new tree. The twig did take, and we have a tiny willow tree back in the greenhouse, which is lovely.
Adam plans to put it into a nice damp part of the pasture, as willows like soggy feet. But now we have a huge supply of green, supple willow branches! I'd love to learn to make willow baskets. Adam has plans for the willow too, I think involving wattle and daub construction. And we are now so much further on the way to that itty-bitty dream :) Ain't life grand? I'm looking at a ragged, fallen tree one afternoon, and tada!! I discover a gem I'd been wanting.
Oh - one more thing. Today Adam put up shade cloth on one end of the front porch for the summer.
 He ordered it online. From the outside, it's quite dark and gives more privacy while still allowing air circulation, but at a fraction of the cost of screen.
 But from the inside it's not dark at all.

Isn't that interesting? We're very pleased with it. We've saved the plastic sheeting and Adam will put it back up next winter. The wiggle-wire and channel remains on the house, and both the plastic and the shade cloth are attached using it. It's a great system. The only drawback is his having to fight off the rose bushes while he climbed the ladder, poor fellow! I heard him muttering, 
"I hate rose bushes!"

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


 The pots above were supposed to house new fig tree cuttings. Only one of the fig cuttings shows any sign of life at all. But the pots are chock full of tomato plants.
They're volunteers. The tomato seeds must've been in the potting soil Adam made, left from last year. Who knows what kinds of tomatoes they are? They're mystery tomatoes!
Below you see a particularly weedy part of the garden. The area with posts around it is Adam's "humanure" location. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about that one! But in front of it is another pile of something ... grass cuttings? Dunno.
 And in that  pile? More volunteers. At least three tomato plants (again, from last year) are thriving there. In fact, the volunteer tomatoes, which grew from seed in the garden as soon as nature allowed, are further along and hardier than the tomato plants I grew from seed.
 I still have 75 -- yes, 75!! -- tomato plants in the greenhouse. They desperately need HOMES! I have no more bed space for them. I've sold some at the farmers' market. But I think I'll take lots of them to church and to work and give them away. Ugh! Too many!
 I'm growing a bit of basil and dill from seed. We'll need the basil all summer, and I'll overwinter it again. Adam uses the dill to make his pickles he loves so.
At last we put the new lambs' ears into their big planter.
 They've already grown so much; soon they will fill this planter. Another planter is by the driveway now and has a lavender plant in it! I've killed all my lavender over the years, so I'll let you know how this one fares. The other two tire planters are in the veggie garden. They will hold melons.
I've put all the tomato plants into my beds that I'm going to. I took about 20 plants to work today and gave them all away! My little 2nd graders were so happy to take a plant or two home :) I'll do the same tomorrow; hopefully some of my co-workers will get them this time! And I'll sell them at the market on Saturday. But they must go away!!!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Falling Behind!

When your husband (AKA, Mr. Muscle on the farm) injures himself, farm work quickly overwhelms, and we fall behind. Not only am I behind in my blogging, I'm behind in my many duties around the farm! Weeds are taking over, Radishes are not pulled. Potatoes are not covered. Tomatoes seem to be taking over the world.
Peas. They are high.
 Pea production has begun. I don't want to pick any early; I want them fully-developed, so I can freeze bags of whole peas for the summer and fall.
Wando peas
These are just a few of our many potato plants.
 Spinach is bolting. Lettuce is looking puny, but the soil in that part of the bed was not prepared as well as it might have been. Below is a Brandywine potato-leaf tomato plant. I seem to have a million of them. (Just kidding.) But I do have a lot! They all need homes, and they must NOT find a home in our yard!
Seriously -- I put about 56 tomato plants in beds in our garden, and that is ALL that I want or need. I refuse to do as I did last year, plunking random tomato plants in any available spots next to a fence, only to have them consumed by weeds and die slow deaths. These are gorgeous heirloom plants. If you want one for free -- or a few, or however many -- please stop by and take them home!
If you look carefully in this photo, you will see bunnies. Can you find them? After I saw them, they both ran away. I hope the dogs don't find them!
 Adam is still leaving our clover and buttercups in the pasture, although he's mowing paths for us to walk easily. He wants the clover to go to seed and become thicker each year. It's so pretty and good for the bees.
 Here's our first tomato bed. The lines hanging down to each plant are recommended by Peter, who worked at a small organic farm last summer; this is the method they used. And it really works. See the one cord going straight down? It's longer and already is twining around the plant below. Or perhaps I should say the plant is twining around the cord.
 Some of you will recall my eucalyptus tree. I think it is most assuredly dead. However, I'll leave it for this season to see if anything happens. But ...
 ... below, at its base, lots of new growth has appeared!
 I'm relieved. I may have a eucalyptus bush instead of a tree, but that's okay.
And the dead branches are so beautiful and aromatic.
 Let's tour the herb garden, shall we? The thyme is blooming and the dill has reseeded from last year.

The bushy plant below on the left is tarragon, which returned from last year. I'd read that it should overwinter here fine, and it did! On the right you see just part of the conquering oregano that is taking over the entire herb bed. It is a low plant, so I'm letting it do its thing ... for now.

Most of this below is cilantro. I wanted lots of it, and I do have a lot.
 This is lemon balm, which also overwintered well. And on the right is lemon verbena. It survived in a pot on the front porch all winter.  

I'm sad to say that my little bay tree (above) must've died over the winter. I was so hopeful!
I may try again and keep it in a pot on the porch.
My overwintered basil is still alive in the herb bed, but on its last legs.
Roses are blooming. This one is beside the front porch.
Together Adam and I took down the plastic sheeting on the ends of the front porch.
 We will replace it with breathable shade cloth for the summer.
 See the yellow roses there?
And now we have good cross-breezes on the porch.
Above is my semi-shade garden along one side of the house. The elephant ears have come back. The artemesia is doing well, and the sedum is healthy if short. The two ferns are quite beautiful, and six of my hosta plants, two of the three astilbes, and the lantana have all come up. The hearty amaryllis is brilliant. Sadly, my new bleeding heart didn't make it, and one of my hostas is not up yet. Overall, not too bad. I will try again with a bleeding heart once I find out why it didn't survive here. The bed is quite long (all the way down to the wattle fence in the distance) and is still sparsely populated. I added a foxglove last week.