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!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Fresh Air and Sunshine

Isn't that what we all need right now? Adam's still recovering from bronchitis/pneumonia/tracheitis, and now Julia and I are coming down with some ugly upper respiratory bug. Grr. But today was a glorious day outside! We enjoyed it fully.
Our Japanese magnolia (called a tulip tree by some) is ready to burst into bloom. I've seen two others in full bloom elsewhere in the county, but they're in full sun.
 Both my climbing roses look superb! I'm encouraged that they survived transplanting and the winter.

The one on the left is a very prickly rose moved from the orchard. On the right is my bought-from-the-nursery Lady Banks Rose.
Today Adam finally lit an interesting contraption -- an alcohol jet stove -- on the front porch. Here's a photo:
 Isn't that cool? It's moments like these when the Mad Scientist comes out in my husband. That's camp-stove fuel in the little Mason jar. The copper tube has a wick threaded through it. A tiny hole allowed the fire to eject and heat the top of the copper coil. And it does heat it!
He'll put that heater inside two of these clay flower pots, which will be suspended from the top beam of the hoop house. The pots will heat up and keep the hoop house warm on those cold March nights.

Don't you wish you had  Mad Scientist for a husband?
Yesterday Adam decided he'd had enough of sitting on the couch coughing so he trimmed a pear tree.
It felt good to be outside in the fresh air.
He'll keep the straight cuttings (the new growth) and try his hand at weaving a little wattle fence.
 Meanwhile, I pulled some of my plants off the front porch-cum-greenhouse for a good hosing down. The basil plants and lemon verbena both had aphids and sticky leaves. Hosing them down aggressively combats the aphids.
 The hoop house is steamy.
 Here's a shot of our automatic window-opener with its thermostatic control. It's working! It opened this far on its own, by about 10:00 AM.
 Our pitiful old easy-set pool is dying. The upper inflated ring punctured, so it barely holds water.
 We still have this 1000 gallon water tank lying around. Adam hopes to use the old plastic pool as a liner for it.
Today I dug random daffodils out of the lawn. I enjoy doing that. I'm gonna have the most amazing daffodil bed when I get them all together! And Adam put up some higher-and-stronger fencing around the chickens. I will be gone all next week to visit family, but hopefully the following week I'll start my tomato seedlings in the hoop house. That will be grand fun. If you don't hear from me, it's because there's nearly no internet access or cell phone coverage where I'm going. It should be a very restful week :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valentine's Week on the Farm

Feb. 10 -- I put the first Wando peas into the garden, in the first bed north of the hoop house.
Feb. 11 -- A 4th asparagus spear is up in the center crown of the bed.
Feb. 11 -- I started my very first seeds in the new hoop house, a small 9-cell of basil seeds from last year.
Feb. 11 -- Adam trimmed the grapevines in the orchard.

Feb. 11 and 12 -- I made grapevine wreaths.
Feb. 12 -- Punkin laid an egg again after a laycation of about a month and a half.
Hers is the blue one.
Feb. 12 -- Julia wanted a painting companion, so I painted Ruby, my Rhode Island Red.

Feb. 13 -- Adam put posts in the sweet pea bed, but then he was very tired.
He also attached the window opener on the hoop house window. And Punkin gave another egg, so perhaps she's on a roll.
Feb. 13 -- After promising not to do any unnecessary crocheting (for the sake of my aching thumbs), I am making a soap pouch for myself. I have so many soap slivers and want to put them all in this pouch to use them. Then I thought, "This isn't too bad. Maybe I should make a few for selling at the market." Sigh.
Feb. 15 -- I'm still yarning. After finishing that soap pouch, I made another, and then a dishcloth, and now a second dishcloth too. I don't seem to do anything by halves.
 I think this soap pouch is particularly cute, don't you?
 Here's the hoop house window opener I mentioned. The temperature-sensing device is in the black wand. It screws to adjust the setting for what temperature is desired, and the lever arm opens the window accordingly.
 And Adam put a handle on the door, which is quite useful.
 These are all little things, but it's been a week of little things because Adam is still tired, weak, and sick.
My hens are confused. They never used the laying box on the left. They sometimes used the laying box on the right. Their favorite laying spot was down on the floor of the coop, back in that far right corner under the board, next to the cement block.
 Then I put this straw bale in the coop to have ready straw to put into the boxes and on the floor, so they would be more comfortable ... but they had other ideas!
 They quite like the top of the straw bale as their very favorite laying spot now! They've dug out a nice recess there. Yesterday I found three eggs there, the first time I've found three eggs in one day in a very long time.
And so our days go on this week, with Adam recovering slowly, and both of us longing for warm days. Today was rainy, windy, cold. I came home from work ready for soup and a hot bath. I'm eager for Monday when I start a week off, and take a few days to visit my parents and family in West Virginia. I haven't seen them since last May.