Monday, August 13, 2018

Weary August Farm

This was a hard summer for gardening. Way too much rain (about 35" so far), too much heat in June, but 3 weeks of drought thrown in there too .... I must admit, it didn't help that I was emotionally unmotivated! But amid the knee-high weeds, a few things are still alive out there. Here's what I found this morning:
 Sunflowers! At last!


 The verdict is still out on the loofahs this year.
 

My gourd hill is doing well.
 I picked one and have at least eight more on the vines. I'll let them dry there.

 The only part of the garden that looks loved right now is the potato row. Adam planted the little potatoes from the first harvest back in, for a second harvest this fall ... we hope.

 

A handful of small carrots. A few last tomatoes.
 I threw some overripe cukes to the chickens. 
All in all, an exhausting summer and a less-than-encouraging garden yield. I didn't even can or freeze a single tomato; I still have some frozen from last year! But the farm is still a beautiful place to live, and if we can get our spirits up, and our "mojo" back, we may have a fall garden yet. Adam plans to clear out all the beds. (He is doing better in the motivation department than I am.) I would be happy to see a few fall/winter crops there and tend to them in the cool of the year.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Summer Ups and Downs

I'm happy to report that our new roof is functioning perfectly, and we've had the weather to test it! Since the first of June we've had at least 34" of rain here on our farm. We are quite soggy. Adam can hardly mow. The dogs' paws are soggy. The chickens' feet are soggy. The garden weeds are out of hand.

Needless to say, the rain (plus the 3 weeks of horrible heat with no rain) has been detrimental to gardening, and not much is coming from the veggie garden these days. But aren't we glad we got a new roof before this rainy summer?!

The hatching of new chicks has been up and down too. Here's chick #1, the prettiest baby chick I've ever seen:
 She's about 2.5 weeks old now. I'm fairly sure it's a pullet (i.e., female) by her wing feathering and wing length, and her fluffy tail feathers.
 Such pretty colors! And I love her Cleopatra eyes.
Three eggs in the clutch were not viable. The last one of these was broken open with a perfectly formed chick inside, dead :(  That's hard to see, after waiting all this time.

Then yesterday morning, this little one was born!
 I could tell from its shell color that it's from one of the silkie mamas, which is great. He/she will have some pretty coloring too.
One of my two silkie mamas was pecking at the baby pretty hard, so I removed her from the broody box and put up a barrier to keep her out. The silkie mama still sitting on a few eggs has been at it for a long time. I hope she's okay.

The only plants looking quite happy these days are my gourd plants and my loofah vines. No loofahs are dangling from them yet, but I do have some gourds coming along. Here's the one I picked this morning:
It was a volunteer, probably from some little decorative Thanksgiving gourd I dropped in the yard.

I'm skipping the farmer's market tomorrow because somebody's here for a fast, flying visit!
He's much loved by doggies. It will be nice to have a break tomorrow, stay home, and make pancakes like I used to on Saturdays.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Being Industrious

Today I was awake at 4:00 and up before 5:00. We're getting old.
Yes, that's the back-end of a hen you see.
That's Lady Grey, who is broody on a clutch of eleven eggs, give or take. This morning she hatched out the first one!
I spent much time this morning in the chicken coop making the nesting box better for chicks - cleaning, gently shifting eggs, cleaning water and helping the new chick drink, getting chick feed, etc., etc. I enjoy chicken work.

I sat down about 6:30 to watch Mary Berry on "Who Do You Think You Are?" Did you know her great-great grandfather was a baker too? After a bit, I got antsy and decided to make a new product for my soap business: shampoo bars. (By 8:00, I had them in molds and was eating breakfast at last.)

Gumbo Lily recommended that I make this item, and I agreed. As I poured it into the molds, the shampoo was the color and consistency of lemon curd.
It's scented with rosemary and a dash of peppermint.
I don't think I'll be going back to my Prell. 
The recipe came from Wellness Mama, a respected site. We'll see if it's up to snuff!
 
I bought premium all-natural lard. In the past, people have been turned off by lard, but it's lovely for your skin and hair and makes a good bar.

I'm also making warming pouches filled with flax seed. Have you tried one? I bought one about five years ago from a friend in Oriental. She's since moved, so I feel the market is fair game for warming pouches. They're easy to make. Flax seed is the best filler for these lovely muscle helpers. Pop them in the microwave for 30 - 60 seconds and put them on your neck. I've used mine so much. Here are the fabrics I chose:
I still need to price these new items, and I promise I'm crunching the numbers to ensure I don't lose money on their sales. 

Oh! And guess what? I got a new piano student this week. An older gentleman called me after seeing my advertisement at the post office. I take that as a good indication that I'm on the right track. Now it's 9:00, and soon I'll drive to the music store in town to choose practice books for my new student. That will be fun! All that I've done since 5:00 this morning has technically been "work," but it doesn't feel so. Many, many thanks for your kind words of support for me as I step out into more avenues of from-home work. You have been wonderful, friends!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Farm Update: July 3

I haven't done a farm post in nearly two months. I have various excuses: rain, rain, and then a bit more rain. A wedding. The outrageous heat. But truthfully, I had energy for one blog, not two. There you have the unvarnished truth.

For future reference, here are a few stats:

*3 chicks survive from the May clutch. I think two are hens, but unsure still. They are nine weeks old today.
*Ethel is broody on four Ameracauna eggs, one week in. 
*It's a bad tomato year. I have about 25 plants in the garden, but the Mini Orange plants are performing badly because of excessive rain - rotten fruit. The 2 plants in pots with drainage did better.
*Matt's Wild Cherry tomato plants are doing okay. The 3 plants that overwintered on the porch have done extremely well. I should try that again. I had abundant cherry tomatoes all through June, which is early. The rope trellising is not a good solution for tomatoes. We need a new plan. Cages are too short for vining varieties.
*Cucumbers are bearing very well. The pickling variety turn yellow quickly. But the rope trellising is perfect for cucumbers. We will do that each year.

*I started my Blue Lake bean plants too late. I have 8 plants in a bed fenced against rabbits. Difficult to weed. Pepper plants also in there, and growing well.
*The greens bed was fabulous. We could not eat or sell even a majority of it.
*Babies' Breath and Chamomile did not grow well. Heavy rain destroyed the first and heat/weeds destroyed the second.
*Carrots appear to be growing well. No sign of orange root yet. I sowed seeds on March 29.
*A good year for onions, which were put in as sets last fall. At the end of June their tops were down enough to pull them. They're curing on the front porch. Then I think we'll store them in the frig.

* Each year our potato harvest improves. Adam harvested them today. He'll brush off the dirt and we'll store them in the spare bedroom.

*I've had decent farm sales at the market, selling nearly everything. 
*I have so much tomato sauce left over from last year that I'm cooking it down and turning it all into tomato paste, which Adam uses most readily in cooking.
Reduced by half, after simmering for a day

*We ate some peas this year, but did not freeze any. We don't tend to remember what's in the deep freezer, and garden produce sits there for a long time, uneaten. Need to improve on that.
* I made a batch of tea tree soap in February, one of lavender in March, and just made a mixed batch last week. I've steadily made batches of Healing Herb Ointment, Bee Balm, and Insect Repellent Lotion Bars, all of which sell well. I'll make a bit of ointment for ourselves today because we use it so often.
*Herb beds are doing very well, if weedy. I made a large batch of herbal tea (mint, lemon balm, tarragon, lemongrass), and sold the first tin of it at the market on Saturday.

*Adam's willow tree starts are doing extremely well. Thicker wands have grown better than thinner ones. 
*My seven loofah vines are looking very good. They won't bear until autumn. I sold almost all of my last year's loofah scrubs.

I think that's about it! If you want to know more about what's happening in our lives -- the roof, the wedding, the dogs -- skip on over to my other blog, Through a Glass Darkly. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 11, 2018

It May Not Be Summer Yet, But ...

I can feel it from here! At last -- warm weather! Now it's about 85 degrees. Gone are all gloves, scarves, and even long pants. 

What's the farm's status on this lovely May day?

Four baby chicks are a week and a half old.



It's hard to get photos of babies when there are two mamas and a fierce daddy standing right there!

Adam was called yesterday to come retrieve a swarm hive of bees that had settled in a shopping cart at the Food Lion grocery store. So he did.
 He used this portable nuc box. It's fitted out with frames inside, and is a perfect box for a swarm hive to start in. The bees stayed overnight ... but sadly this morning they'd decided to move on. Bees will do what they like.

In addition to mowing and watering and weeding and many other tasks, Adam continues clearing the border to the west of the house.
 He's leaving the large pine trees. There's a slender little tree in the photo, (just above the word "slender") that we wanted to identify. Here's its leaf.
It's a Washington Hawthorn with impressive spikes. Now that it's free of strangling vines and has sun on its face, perhaps it will have bright red berries and pretty white flowers as it's supposed to.
My hostas are looking grand.
 Both elephant ears and amaryllis are happy too.
 

From the greenhouse:
Tomato plants are going into the beds. All are Matt's Wild Cherry this year. We like them best. 
 I have a dozen of these to sell at the market tomorrow, plus a dozen cucumber plants, three loofah plants, and nine basil plants.

There's wedding planning in the garden too! How so, you ask? I'm growing gypsophila, also known as "Baby's Breath." You can't have too much Baby's Breath at a wedding.
 I've since weeded that bed more, once I was able to identify said flower. I sewed the seeds not knowing what it would look like.
 Next to it I sewed a small bed of chamomile. It's the ferny-looking stuff.
Here's a close-up. It's for making tea.
Everything's growing this time of year. So far, it seems only our lemongrass and most of my lantana died over the winter. I'm still holding out for the lantana though.
Oh -- if you missed my most recent Herb Beds Tour (I know -- Oh, the excitement!), here it is:

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Vegetable Garden Update

Both in the greenhouse and in the garden beds, Lady Spring is making progress in spite of our chilly weather. Where shall we begin? Let's go in the greenhouse. Here's my "work table" - my soil table.
 Adam sifts his cured compost and it's my potting soil for most things. See it at the back of the table? I use that little black square thing to sift it more. The most important tool right now for transplanting delicate seedlings is that old chisel. It's the perfect size for digging out a little seedling and placing it gingerly in a new pot. 
Regarding watering: I did use a mason jar (above) with holes punched in the lid. But it was so slow, and not big enough. The juice bottle it better. I punched holes in its lid with a knife. It's perfect. When the plants are bigger, I graduate to using the watering can (above also).

Here are some dill (left) and basil (right), newly moved into square pots.
 

I already have dill and basil in the ground in the herb garden, so I'll probably sell all these.
Here are tomato seedlings (left) in bigger pots, and loofah seedlings (right). I'll have more loofah plants than last year, and might sell a few.
 

Sadly, during our recent windstorm, the greenhouse door Adam made was ripped open and bent out of shape. What a wind!
 

Above is the smallest of my tomato plants that overwintered. It's looking rather happy ... considering.
Our lettuce/greens bed is great! I'm quite pleased. I sold some kale and spinach at the market Saturday, and will do so again.

 Asparagus is coming right along. Not a massive cloud of stalks yet, but well-established.
 Some unexpected radishes erupted recently (left). And a couple of stout kale plants too. I have difficulty telling the difference between a big kale plant and a collard.
 

This is where some of those tomato seedlings will go when they are older and bigger. The weeds encroach so fast!
 Now ... Rabbits!!! Oh, naughty rabbits. They come through the fence (you can't see it) over there along the trees (below). They started nibbling the tops off our pea plants -- the tender growth shoot! This was not to be tolerated.
 Adam had heard that rabbits are rather stupid. He didn't have enough fencing to enclose the entire pea bed (see above, the long bed with the posts). So he erected a line of fencing between the peas and the pasture fence where they creep in. Sure enough ... they never thought to go around the fence! Our peas have remained unmolested for a while and are now growing up the trellis. Soon they will be safe.

I have a few onions sending up seed heads (left) and some that aren't (right). I must continue reading up on onion habits.
 

Below is the carrot bed. Well, the front part is carrots, tiny seedlings just come up. The rest of the bed shows you there are plenty of spots we have neglected still. I don't know what will go in the rest of that overgrown bed, and I'm not digging it out until I have a plan.
 Potato bed:
Adam found some purple potatoes in the barn office that he'd forgotten last year. They had long rubbery roots growing on them, so he stuck them in the ground too.

I videoed (that's a word!) my chickens being crazy this morning. Sylvie (broody mother) got off her eggs. Other chickens were pecking and pestering her to get back on her eggs. Lots of squawking and dancing and fluffed feathers, wings outspread. Finally she and her sister decided to sit on them together. Later, the newest chicken (sex as yet undetermined), who two days ago began sporting a rakishly dashing tail feather, let out a pitiful but discernible CROW. I think he's out of the closet as a roo! Two seconds later, Arthur (the resident roo in that flock) came careening over to fight him! How dare Cassie-now-named-Cassanova to crow around him! We will have to work on this dilemma. Cassanova will move away to another farm where roosters go for a lovely but short life :(
I meant to say -- that video was too big to load here, so you'll have to imagine the ruckus and fun. 

Oh, and one last thing ... look what survived our horrible winter and has new, little sprouts?

It's my eucalyptus! It survived 8 degree nights (brrr!) -- Adam did put a make-shift tent over it, which caved in under the winds.
You can see the history of this eucalyptus. We've lived here 3 winters. The tree survived the first winter and sent up a tall trunk in the following summer. The second winter the trunk died and Adam cut it off, but that summer new side shoots grew (in the photo). Those in turn died this past (third) winter. However ... new shoots again! I hope the root system is deep enough, strong enough now to survive nearly any winter. I don't care if it's tall, scruffy, spindly -- I just want to cut eucalyptus branches. Actually, shorter might be better! Anna wants eucalyptus in her bridal bouquet, so perhaps I'll be able to oblige her with some from my own tree!