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!

Friday, March 17, 2017

After the Big Chill

After three freezing nights, this morning Adam got up and, noting the stillness in the air, started a big burn pile.
For a second time, I saw a snake and did not scream. This fellow was on the warm ashes beside the fire. I thought he was too close. I prodded him, and he slithered under the big stump we've been trying to burn up for over a year.
I rolled the stump over into the fire, and there he was, curled up. The stump was smoking, and I wondered if he was dead. I prodded him again.
And I'm sorry to say, he slithered into the fire. It was shocking! As his head neared the very hot embers, he tried to recoil, but it was too late. His head was singed. He died and I carried him away.
Later I saw a lizard on that same stump! I didn't mess with him at all.
Our tree-chipping friends delivered yet another pile of mulch. For free!! Yay!! Adam gets to haul and haul and haul ... again!
Now that he's mulched to his heart's content in the veggie patch, this new mulch went over the shrubs along the road front.
Adam has taken to calling our vegetable garden, the "patch," as the British do. He's so silly.
Here's my new chicken, Snow. She's still in isolation, although her private pen is inside the other chickens' yard, so they are around each other. Next week I plan to put them together under close supervision. She has grown a lot.
Here's her face. I've read that hens with white earlobes lay white eggs, and hens with red earlobes lay brown eggs. Hers are small yet, but look like they might be pinky red. I'm wondering if she's actually a leghorn; there are other white breeds. We shall see!
I'm wondering about my eucalyptus tree. All her leaves are copper brown after the winter. Is she alive?
The leaves are quite pretty. I just hope there's new growth coming soon.
And now! My Lady Banks Rose! Look at her! I'm so pleased and proud. She's blooming beautifully in this her first year.

Tiny little blooms.
Here's my Baby. I finally got a close-up shot of her face. I can't tell you why, but she is just my dog. I know she adores me. Don't know why. She doesn't look like the kind of dog I might choose for myself. But there you have it -- we've picked each other. I just love her.
I love her sweet face and her soft ears. When she lets me caress her face and whisper to her, I feel that we understand our love for each other :)
My white hyacinths are gorgeous too, yes?
What's blooming in your yard, friend? Are you still in winter's grip? I think ... hopefully ... we are past our big chill this year.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

When Everything Happens at Once!

After more than a year, these fellows came to our little farm at last.
They're clearing tree limbs for the power lines along our two-lane highway. Adam talked with them, and they agreed to come dump all the wood chips/mulch that they cut-and-grind, here on our farm! Yay!! Free mulch!
They delivered the first pile this morning. Adam's spent the whole day thus far hauling mulch in the wheelbarrow back to the garden.
He'll mulch between the garden beds and other places we want to keep weeds down. And speaking of garden beds, I finished planting the spring bed. The close end now has a row of peas with a row of spinach in front of it. That's FIFTY FEET of spring garden yumminess!!
It doesn't look like much now, but hopefully it will later! It's the worst of the garden beds, as you see -- it doesn't have any edging to keep weeds at bay. Much of this bed was actually under last year's greenhouse and hasn't been a bed before.
Yesterday Adam worked on bees before they were flying. It was a cool morning. He's putting two heavy posts into the ground. They used to be stands for grinding telescope lenses. The bases are cement in 5-gallon buckets. The buckets are buried, so these stands will be quite solid. He'll build a new bee table atop them and raise the hives higher than they presently are.
This morning our asparagus is looking lovely. Lots of spears coming up. We will give it another year at least to strengthen and proliferate.
Adam is trying again to start new fig trees in the hoop house. Last year I think we failed to keep them moist enough, and none of the cuttings took. We'll see how it goes this year.
One willow branch is also there, given by a farmer friend. We have plenty of low spots just perfect for a pretty willow tree.
Below, you see our old collard/kale bed from the winter. Soon it will be full of strawberries. It's about 2 feet by 5 feet.
Adam bought some fun new additions to the farm: two packages each of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and grapes.
Today I planted the strawberries in their bed, kicking the kale out just in time. We ate the kale for lunch in a salad :) There were 22 little strawberry plants in those two boxes. I do hope they thrive! It's a very nice bed for them.
A local chicken lady also gave me two new hens. You can see the one on the right is younger -- she's not full-sized yet.
It's wise to keep them segregated for a while and incorporate them very slowly into the flock. Hens can be mean. This is a large dog kennel, but Adam also put together a small new coop from some things around the farm, and it's in the old chicken yard.
We still have some chilly weather coming and some freezing temps, so we are not quite "free-and-clear" for spring, even in this balmy part of the world. So much is blooming, including forsythia.
Baby, our new farm dog, is just doing great! We are so pleased about how nicely she's settled in. She seems relaxed and happy, and not stressed and afraid as she was at first.
Last but not least, I must announce a personal mile-stone. A little while ago I went on the front porch-cum-greenhouse, and I saw a small brown snake there. slithering along the wall. And I didn't scream. That is a major accomplishment!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Because ... It Feels Like Spring!

So much is happening on the farm right now because it's about 80 degrees (for today, anyway), and one must "make hay while the sun shines," right? While I was gone to West Virginia, Adam and Julia painted the dining room a lovely pale blue.
This house is nearly 100 years old, and the walls and floors are wonky. Plus, the walls were in bad shape with tough wall paper to be removed and lots of prep work. There's still trim painting and touch up to be done, but the basic paint job is complete, and I love it! It's so cool and calming and clean.
Outside, the big news is that we (once again!) have a new dog. Her name is Baby. She is a mix and we adopted her from some friends of Julia who could no longer keep her. We think she's a mix of Rottweiler and hound ... maybe. She's not quite a year old. She makes a good companion for Ned; they play all day long.
Baby will be outside only and sleep in the barn office with Ned.
Baby on the left; Ned on the right
The Japanese magnolia is blooming now.

And the camellia bush is heavy-laden.
I'm thrilled to say that at long last I spent my first blissful morning in the hoop house. Adam got my shelves up. These are taller than last year, so please note the blocks under the legs:
 He brought me a massive tub of his very own homemade soil!!!
 That's made of worm castings and compost. Lovely stuff.
He brought me buckets of water too.
 I put lots of heirloom tomato seeds in dirt first, plus some luffa gourds, and (just to experiment) some rosemary. I've never tried rosemary from seed before. I've heard it's hard to do. But I had grand success with my other herbs last year, so why not?
Some of those tomatoes are Brandywines, Beefsteaks, Matts Wild Cherries, Small Red Cherries, and Mortgage Lifters.
Into the garden beds, I sowed these items: spinach, two kinds of lettuces, radishes, cabbage, and onions and Swiss chard that aren't pictured here.
All the seeds above (plus more) were given me by my sister-in-law Anne. Wasn't that kind of her?
I put all these coldish-weather seeds into one long bed. The peas (which are already UP!!!!) are on the far end where those posts are.
Did you notice the spinach package above, in "seed tape"? Here's what it looks like.
It's easy to lay into the bed, although I don't find regular seeds very difficult to do either.
Here are a few of the peas that are already up in the sunlight.
I made one more grapevine wreath today (which was a nice chance to sit down and rest), and I'll take three of them to the market in the morning for sale. They look quite nice.
I moved the two cayenne pepper plants into the hoop house too. I figure they'll get better care there, since I'll be watering at least daily, and they'll be moved into a garden bed in March. I'm itching to get my lemongrass plants into the ground too, but must wait until the real chance of frost is past. That's all for now!