Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Good-night, Farm

It always feels to me as if the farm goes to sleep in winter. We tidy the garden beds, bring the potted plants inside, and say good-night until spring. The pecan leaves cover the grass. The geese this morning flew right over my head, honking south. I brought three volunteer tomato plants in from the garden in pots, plus a pepper plant, several mints, a basil that I hope will survive, and a lemon and a lime tree that we just bought at the nearby garden center. All are snug on the front porch, now wrapped in heavy plastic.

Adam wants to make concrete leaves year-round. Since the elephant ear leaves and hosta leaves are nearly dead for winter, he's making plaster "positives" -- a plaster cast from which he will make a clay mold. Then he will use the mold to make many leaves this winter. Here are some of the plaster positives he made yesterday:
 

Aren't they delicate? The veiling is very fine. I'm eager to see how the actual concrete leaves turn out from these impressions. Here is a much larger elephant ear plaster he made:
 A lovely, large mushroom popped up just outside the chicken coop:
I finished writing my little children's book, "Punkin and the Littlest Mouse" into one of Adam's handmade books. I left room for lots of little illustrations. Now I'm beginning to sketch them in. Here are a few examples:



It's a simple book, and I'm no illustrator, but I do think books for small children should have lots of pictures. I'm not up to complicated images, but I will add as much as I can. Punkin is my crazy Ameracauna hen. She's not nearly so sweet in real life as she is in this story, haha!

Adam continues to attempt repairs on our roof (really the eave) and after that, the ceiling. It's rough going. He succeeded in stopping the leaking along the very edge of the ceiling, but not entirely in stopping the leak in the middle. So up he went again on the tall ladder to rip off the repair he'd done, and pull down the gutter (gulp - yes), and go at it again. He's out there now. 
I went out to check on him. He showed me the roof's edge -- the metal is rusted and crumbling off. It's quite discouraging. A new roof is not something we can afford, so he will try to use metal pieces slipped underneath to reinforce the edge. It's something that must be attempted and done if at all possible. In my mind, this damage to the living room ceiling is the only thing that might still make the house not viable, and not able to be sold, if we ever wanted to sell it. Plus -- of course -- I don't really want even the smallest of drips from my living room ceiling. He is wonderful to keep after all the many projects that call on him, on this farm, small as it is. It's cold and windy out there today, but he's willing. We're both getting to an age when outdoor work in the cold and damp is hard on our bodies.

Well! On a happier note, Thanksgiving is coming, with a beautiful community service and three of our kids coming home! Philip, Kara, and Julia will be here next week. I'm so excited! They get to meet Trixie!
Trixie says, "Happy Thanksgiving!" She is learning how to be a good dog just as fast as she can.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Oh, Pecans!

What a pecan harvest we're having!Two years ago, Adam fertilized our main pecan trees. Last year, he rigorously cleaned underneath them. This year, we're reaping the benefits of that work, I think. Here's a quick video showing the 18 pecan trees we have.


I gather them with a little device we bought, and we store them on the front porch to cure. This is the haul thus far.
At first I picked up any pecan with a hull that was dry and open. I thought it didn't matter much, the state of the hull. After cracking and picking pecans for several evenings, Adam told me it does matter. The best, most fully-formed pecans have NO hull attached at all. So I began selecting only nuts that had fallen and had no hull attached at all.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that for every nut I pick up, I leave at least 20 on the ground, because they have hulls still on them, in some form.
We have thousands of pecans on the ground. It would be overwhelming, but thankfully I have no inclination to get them all.
Looking from the pasture toward the road, these five pecan trees are the large ones, very old, and very prolific this year. They are (we think) Stuarts, and their nuts look like this:
A good nut is fat, heavy, and light in color, as above. I don't want to add to Adam's work by picking up bad pecans.
In addition to those five trees, I'm also picking up around this tree by the barn.


Its nuts look like this (above), more pointed on one end. I'm not sure, but it might be an Amling variety.


The two trees in the middle of the pasture are also producing in alarming amounts, but their nuts are smaller (compared to the Amling above). I'm not picking them up at all, until I'm done with the other six trees' nuts. But when we walk along the path there, we crunch pecans underfoot.

Here's the view from the back of the property. It's a massive canopy of pecan limbs. To Ned's disappointment, an enemy squirrel can travel overhead from the road nearly to the barn, without being in danger of Ned's teeth.

The other enemy of pecans is the pecan weevil. This insect has larvae that bore their way out of a pecan, after eating the meat inside, and then drop into the soil to start the weevil cycle all over again.
When I see nuts like this, I crunch them under my heel. They are hollow and useless.

Although I grew up in Mississippi gathering pecans in our yard, watching my mother process them each winter, and enjoying my share of pecan pies, I'm fairly ignorant of how the tree produces and what to expect from our trees, year to year. Cleaning up the "pecan trash" under the trees reduces the effect of the weevil.We have so much "pecan trash" -- bad nuts, plus all the hulls -- we are dumping it all on our garden beds out front. They are far enough away from the trees that any weevils in there won't reach the trees.

In addition to the pecans, on the front porch I'm drying loofahs, drying herbs for tea, and beginning to move in potted plants for the winter. Adam has enclosed the porch in plastic again.
lemon balm, tarragon, and mint

volunteer toatoes

 Today it's 70 degrees. Adam is raking the mown grass in the far field, adding it to his compost mountain.
 And because he's the best doggie-daddy, he put up a puppy play area for Trixie. The other dogs taunted her with their freedom to roam.
 Poor Trixie. There are Ned, Beau, and Baby.
My onion sets in the garden have come up nicely. That's almost all I have left in the garden.
 I'll harvest them next year.
Now I'm going out to dig up a late basil plant and put it in a big pot for the greenhouse/porch. Maybe we'll have basil this winter, in addition to those tomato plants. Do you know the prettiest, newest, herb in my garden? Cilantro. Go figure! It's as fresh and pretty as if it were April.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday Morning Doings

I told Adam a minute ago that we accomplished a lot for a Monday morning! It helps that the new puppy, Trixie, gets up at a bodaciously early hour. Today that was 4:30 a.m.
Adam started by putting a trellis on the front of the house porch.
 I know, I know -- it's not very "fancy." But we're not fancy folk! It's a trellis for a particular plant to grow on, so I'm hoping it will eventually be covered in lovely green foliage. This will give privacy, and I can remove the shower curtain that's presently hanging there. See? That trellis is an improvement over a shower curtain! :)  
You see, I've had this silly plant for ages - I posted about it before -- a creeping fig. I planted half of the plant I divided at the base of the trellis:
 Creeping Fig is hearty in zones 8 and warmer. We are zone 7B. But I did see it growing in a warm, protected spot at the doctor's office, remember? The trellis is on the south side of the house, facing into sun, protected from north winds. We will hope. If it dies, I still have the other half of the plant.
Two purple coneflower plants will keep it company.
Well, half-way through the trellis project, the puppy woke up again (It's like having a baby, I kid you not.), so Adam switched to a project where he can tie up Trixie nearby. He made more cement leaves. This batch, he's using concrete (instead of masonry mix) with fiberglass in it. Plus he's putting a sealant on the leaves. And he's also etching the leaves, and we love the softened look it's giving them. Here's one he etched and painted:

Here are some with the sealant. These he will be able to sell before Christmas.
While he was doing that, I started processing our sweet potatoes. They've been curing on the front porch for about 2 weeks. So here are some photos that show the shocking transformation from ugly tubers to luscious, creamy mashed sweet potatoes.



 The outside is scary ... until you peel them.
 

Who would think that, under that ugly exterior, is this perfect, peach-colored potato?
 

I cubed them roughly and steamed them on the stove top. Then I mashed them in the mixer and put them into quart ziploc bags, and then into the deep freezer.

Adam also dug the last white potatoes in the garden. They were planted from old potato ends. Not a very big harvest. Here are about half of them:
Oh - I forgot to add that on Saturday he caulked the eaves on the side of the house where we've been having a leak.
Now we're off to do "church work" for the afternoon. Rain is coming tonight (at last). We will hope the repair job is what was needed. One never knows with mysterious leaks - stay dry and warm wherever you are!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

In Chicken News ...

Lately, Bernie has taken to sitting on the orchard fence like he's the boss of the world. He sits there and crows.
Bernie, in mid-crow
And for weeks Punkin has refused to leave the coop. She won't go into the orchard. It's not good for her to have no sunlight or fresh air. She scurries around that dark, spider-webbed coop All Day Long. So today I decided I'd move her in with the new flock (Arthur and his girls). Remember Arthur? (He's bigger now - this is an old photo.)
I scooped Punkin up. She squalled. Bernie squalled. I told him he'd lost one of his girls. I put an unwilling Punkin into the isolation cage, which is inside the new chicken yard where Arthur and his girls live.
They were quite interested in the new arrival.

All these chickens already know each other, but Punkin is such a mean hen, I'm delaying introducing her to these young(ish) ones, until I know they can beat her up. Seriously -- she's a bully.

Also, Adam's been making more leaves.

 


This is the first one, that had too many bubbles.
Now he's added purple veining on top of the green wash.
And we continue to gather and shell pecans, trying to figure out which trees have good nuts and which don't. 
I've had a plant for a VERY long time -- it's a "creeping fig," I found out today. Here's a blog banner photo I took of it about ten years ago.
It's been in that very pot for a decade (at least). I nearly killed it twice for lack of water. Yesterday I saw a creeping fig plant in a doctor's office courtyard, protected and growing with abandon against a brick wall in the warm sun. It looked so happy. I decided to yank mine out of its pot, divide it, repot, and think about where in the yard I could place mine, where it would be protected enough to survive over the winter.
 

The farm is quiet. The dogs are happy. I'm trying to spend more time outside or painting or writing, and less time being irritated at rude people on Facebook. Who needs that?