Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Garden

Adam's been keeping up with the vegetable garden and things are looking good out there! 
My gourd plants are flourishing.

We planted okra this year for the first time, and it's coming up nicely!

These three beds are doing well.

Sweet potatoes:

White potatoes. They're ready to come out.

Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes:

My cherry tomato plants that overwintered on the porch are bearing well:

Our zucchini and cucumber plants are taking off:
I bought some lavender plants this year that are supposed to be hardy in our area, which lavender usually isn't. Our rainy weather just kills most lavender off. See this raised tire bed?
The dead lavender plant is one I bought at Lowe's, an ordinary lavender. It thrived as long as we were in a drought, but as soon as the rain came, it died. It really died.
But the lavender plants that resist our humidity and rain overload? 
All 3 of them look like this -- so healthy!
I've also been drying more mint, lemon balm, and tarragon for my herbal tea.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Rain, At Last!

We've had weeks of drought, of watering the garden, of pulling out dead plants, of thirsty chickens and dogs. And today -- it's raining, good and hard and long.
That's our fig tree bush, finally fully pruned for good picking access.

So what's up on the farm?

Chickens are doing well. 3 chicks are now 8 weeks old. I suspect I have 2 roos and one very pretty hen, but I'm not certain. I rely on careful observation of saddle feathers as my preferred method for sexing a chick. Round feathers = hen. Pointy feathers = roo.

The vegetable garden: Adam is doing a fabulous job this year of keeping ahead of weeding and making the beds tidy and healthy. We still have trouble with tomatoes. I like lots of tomato plants, and it's hard to find spots for them where they weren't planted last year. Planting them in the same place 2 years in a row is a no-no. They are suffering from drought too. But I have a pretty bed of Matt's Wild Cherry plants, and hopefully some Amish Paste plants that will survive. 
Strawberries are healthy. One squash plant with tiny squash fruit that are delicious. Lots of onions for the long haul. Adam's white potatoes and sweet potatoes are looking fabulous this year. We have cucumbers and zucchini coming up. Peas are all gone and those beds cleaned out; okra is now planted there.

My lavender plants are so happy in their tire beds! And our one elderberry plant is growing very fast. I'm hoping for a big shrub/tree that will give fruit for jam.

Adam has used all his straw stored from last year, mostly covering beds, so he's starting again with his mowing. He's moved his compost pile back near the barn where the dogs' playing will help keep it turned over and breaking down.

My herb beds are doing fine. Basil suffered a bit in the drought too, because they are annuals and newly put in. My cilantro and dill are beginning to reseed, so lovely! And here's a tip: green cilantro seeds (early coriander) is absolutely DELICIOUS. Pick them early, pop them in your mouth for a burst of cilantro flavor, and enjoy the light crunch. They would be great in avocado dip or salads too.  My thyme, oregano, tarragon bush, and mint varieties are doing well. My lemon balm is a bully and is taking over. I must dig large clumps of it out or he will take over the entire old herb bed. It even beats out the cilantro! My tarragon planted last year did not overwinter, in a very mild winter at that, but my old tarragon bush continues to return each spring, a full round shrub. I'm still drying tarragon, mint, and lemon balm to make tea, and it's delicious.

That's about it from the farm. I've been very dull and sluggish lately. Adam is working on a new business venture which keeps him inside on the computer when he's not weeding the garden. No big new projects on the farm right now. I hope your summer is going along very well!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mother's Day Farm

Happy Mother's Day!
It's 6:00 a.m. A little sprinkly rain is welcome this morning. The pasture lies under a thin blanket of clover and buttercups still, and the pecan boughs overhead make everything lush green.
The spinach is bolting.
 The peas are coming along nicely. We "trellised" them this year using the string trellising method that worked so well with tomatoes and cucumbers. It does NOT WORK with peas! They don't like to grab onto the strings; they need something sturdier.
 Lots of lovely lettuce this year, and we've enjoyed salads many evenings.
 I bought only two tomato seed packets (Amish Paste and Matt's Wild Cherry) from Johnny seed company. They ALL germinated, and I have over 200 tomato cells, 2 plants per cell. ((sigh))
The paste plants have grown quickly.
 If I can't give them away, we'll compost the extra plants. I don't have enough room in my garden beds for them all.
The cherry tomato plants will soon be going in this bed (below) that is overgrown with weeds.
The bed covered in straw has potato plants coming up nicely.
 Adam has finished lining all the raised beds in metal. It's hard work, but will cut down on weeds in the future. The bed on the right (below) should already have cucumber seeds in it, but I'm slow. The bed next to it has spinach (bolting), collards and kale (why do we plant them, again?) and peas on the other end.
 And here is our garden friend. We've each seen him once. He's about 4 feet long, and I'm hoping he keeps the rabbits out of the garden. He's just a harmless black snack, and very docile. He's far from the chickens, so no worries there.
 I'm still painting cards. I sold 8 cards at the market yesterday (Yippee!!!) This is a chicken card I painted this week and it sold yesterday.
 It makes me extremely happy to see my little artwork walking away down the street in the hand of somebody who will do something happy with it :)

Adam and I went to Williamsburg for the last time on our annual passes. I told their gardeners, who were weeding so nicely, that they could come to my house next. This (below) is the terraced veggie garden beside the governor's palace.
 Adam planted a plantain bed for me, and it's doing very well.
 I think this is the last photo I took of Arthur, our rooster. He was a very mean, aggressive rooster, and I think it led to his demise.
 On Thursday Adam found a few feathers near the garden gate, and then a little mound of feathers at the base of a pecan tree. Arthur was gone. We never found him, so I think he started a fight with Ned, leapt over the pasture fence for a duel, realized his opponent, and skeedaddled behind the barn and over the back fence into the wide world. Poor fella. I don't miss him much; I always had to carry a very large stick around him. But his hens are now at a loss of how to conduct themselves. He was always in charge and told them all what to do!
I bought a small elderberry at a plant sale. Adam made a big tire bed for it, and it's doing wonderfully! I want to make elderberry jam.
 I sold all my basil plants at the market this year, a very good year. I saved 27 plants for my herb beds so Adam can make basil salads for us this summer. They were all started from last year's seeds that I saved.
The basil plants grow nearly 4 feet tall. I let them go to seed and dry thoroughly, and then harvest the seed heads and freeze them to use again early next spring ... to start the process all over again. When I stand in the garden in December next to those tall, dead plants, it's hard to believe they hold so much life in them. My hand smells strongly of basil after clasping the long, brown stalk and pulling my fist along it to strip the seeds off. We enjoy the bright, tasty leaves all summer, and that's good. But perhaps the most important gift the basil plant gives us is the seeds, which nobody notices. Most people would pull the dead plants from the soil and toss them on the burn pile. When you garden, consider the dead plants. Look at their tiny seeds. And think of spring!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Attacking the Garden Again

Hello, farm friends. We have been making progress in the vegetable garden. Strong wind and too much rain have slowed us down a little.
 Adam's been digging out his potato beds and now has them lined in metal like the other beds. He has white potatoes in one bed, and the sweet potatoes are coming this week in the mail.
This next area is the old compost pile (grass clippings). 
 He may plant corn there this year after he digs out worms and puts them into his worm bin.
Other happenings in the greenhouse and garden:
Tomato seedlings - Matt's Wild Cherry on the left and Amish Paste on the right:
 Basil, which I sold at the market this morning:
 Those onions I have no idea what to do with:
 Oregano seeds did not germinate well. These are all I have.
 The wind blew under the greenhouse plastic and left a mess!
 The thing growing best in the garden beds is the horseradish, sigh. We've tried to get rid of it.
 Someone gave us a nice yellow squash plant today.
I would show you the peas, lettuce, kale, collards, spinach, strawberries, and asparagus, but that means I'd have to show you how weedy those beds are, and I just can't do it. We will address the weeds after Easter. Been a bit busy around here lately, and the garden has taken second fiddle.

Hurricane Florence ripped up our chicken pen cover. Branches and leaves fell on it, and then the cords broke. Adam pulled it all off and put new netting overhead, plus a new center post to hold it all up. Old:

The netting looks like somebody's wig.
 Adam got four massive truck tires for free to use as planters for a new elderberry bush and some lavender. 
Elderberry bush:
 I've had no luck with lavender at all. These are varieties that supposedly do well here.

My broody silkie mama hatched three chicks. They are so adorable, peeping away. She is wonderfully attentive.
 They haven't yet left the end of the coop that is their brooder. Those other eggs in the photo were duds.
My other silkie hen likes to pretend she's broody. She sits in one of the laying boxes all day long, on the other hens' eggs with her eyes at half-mast like broody hens do. But if given half a chance, she's outa there, taking a dust bath, also known as chicken spa.
 There's a children's story in there somewhere.

I'm still painting the gourds I grew last year.

 The Lady Banks Rose is lovely this year.

A friend gave us a box of fresh local strawberries which we topped and put into the freezer. I'll make jam later. The fig trees are looking promising this year. Adam and I aren't quite as quick and spry regarding farm work as we were nearly 4 years ago! But we will get around to it all. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Windy March Farm

So much wind! It makes a normal day a cold day, especially in the garden, which lies on the north side of our property, abutted by a huge farm field. The winds across that field cut like a knife. But in the greenhouse:
 Those are basil seedlings. We also have oregano, but it's much smaller.
We're picking asparagus for the first time this year! First two spears:
 Onion seeds. I have onion sets doing beautifully in the garden, so I don't know what I'll do with these, or if they'll thrive.
 The four volunteer tomato plants from last fall that I've over-wintered are still going strong in the greenhouse. They're a bit peaky, but will bounce back as soon as I get them into the soil in May.
 'Tis the time of year for dandelions. The kind lady at the post office looked at me rather funny when I asked if I could pick the dandelion flowers in front of the P.O.
 I dry them and then infuse them into safflower oil.
This is used to make "Dandelion Lotion Bars" in the summer, which are insect- repellent. But this is the first step, which must be done when the dandelions are fresh and plentiful, well before the mosquitoes come in herds.

What else on the farm?
*Kale, collards, and spinach are all up in the beds.
*Strawberry plants are healthy. 4 in a large garden bed, and the original small strawberry "nursery" bed is coming back well from winter.
*Onion sets look tall and healthy.
*6 hens and 1 rooster still. Lady Grey, my broodiest silkie, is broody again and is due with chicks on April 11. Because I struggle to incorporate new birds into my flock, this is by far the easiest way to guarantee new birds will be smoothly received.
*Adam has started mowing and weed-eating. His gas can was chewed through this winter.
No photo description available.
*He's covered the crawl space openings with lattice, repaired the garden fence, dug out the front ditch, and trimmed bushes and fruit trees as the weather allowed.
* I dug up yet more daffodil bulbs that were in bad locations where Adam wanted to mow. It does no good to have them mowed down; they never bloom. I've been rescuing daffy bulbs every spring since we moved here! This time I'm giving them away to friends.

That's all for now! Spring has begun, but it's really not warm enough yet to do that serious seed-starting and yard work we long to do.