Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Ent Hall - A Magical Willow Room

Today, while we all messed about with a burn pile in the pasture and watched the dogs play,  Adam started a long-desired project: growing a willow dome room. Here are a few photos from the internet to give you an idea:

Image result for willow dome room

From the inside, looking out:
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Thankfully, we have an old swamp willow tree on our property, and from it we've propagated about twenty young willow trees (plus one lovely weeping willow tree grown from a slip a friend gave us). 
The "mother" willow looks pathetic because
she was hacked of many limbs today.

This is her stump, which fell over years ago.

Our stand of little willow trees

Our one pretty weeping willow tree
In addition, we live in a place damp enough that, if you stick a willow slip in the ground, it will grow into a tree.

Today's work looks like this:

But within a month these sticks will have leafed out, and in a year they will have grown at least 6 feet. We will trim any branched growing the wrong ways, and begin to weave the branches together into the dome. I want seating inside, and maybe candles of some sort, or lanterns.

But in the end, this willow dome is for one purpose: for grandchildren to play in. So we must get a start now!

Friday, November 15, 2019

All Quiet on the Farm

I've not posted anything here for months. It was a difficult year on the farm. We suffered under severe drought conditions during the late spring and well into August. Weather like that will kill off a garden quickly, and we could not afford to water the entire garden. However, we continue to learn about both ourselves and our little farm. Here are a few take-aways from this year:

1. The vegetable garden must be redone to allow Adam to mow it with the riding mower. Weeds take over when paths between the raised beds only allow a push mower. Adam will remove one or two of our long raised beds in the spring.

2. We have too many raised beds in the garden, and we continue to attempt vegetables that don't grow well here. We'll focus on crops that thrive here: okra, sweet potatoes, peas, asparagus, strawberries (we hope).

3. I'm moving all my tomato plants out of the veggie garden next summer. They'll be in large pots in the house lot. I'll only plant Matt's Wild Cherry tomato plants. My tomatoes in the garden got progressively more diseased year to year, and they take up so much space.

4. I will never, ever try lavender again. I gave it my absolute best try, and it all died ... again.

5. Elderberry bushes, however, do quite well! I want more of them.

6. My gourds did well. My herb beds continue to flourish. The willow saplings are doing well too.

Now for some photos of what's been going on.

Henny Penny hatched four chicks in late summer. They're now ten weeks old. I think I have two hens and two roos.

I continue to weave occasionally.
 Adam installed a new water filter in the kitchen.
 I continue to paint many watercolor cards and sell them. Here's a roo.
 Adam vastly improved the chicken run with a supporting pole for the netting and new mulch underfoot.
 He built himself a desk in the house too, for all his writing/editing/podcast/youtube work.
 We had enough figs to make my mother a few jars of preserves in August.
 We had wonderful okra! I planted it late, so it produced after the drought had mostly passed. It did well when nothing else did.
 I continued to knit for autumn.
 Adam and I sold my wares at the farmer's market each week.
 We survived Hurricane Dorian. The north side of our house was splattered with shredded leaves.
 I painted the walls and floor of the guest room.
 Adam pulled out the entire termite-eaten floor in the little building.
 And he put in a new floor after treating/killing all the termites.
 And I painted it.
 Our trees and shrubs are so very confused after two hurricanes in two years. The crabapple tree is now used to blooming in October.
 Molting season has arrived in the chicken coop. Poor Sheena looks awful!
 I picked a few herbs before frost, hoping to make sachets with them.

This is the extent of our sweet potato harvest! So very sad. Adam worked hard, and dug out a very long bed. That's what a drought will do to you.
 I'm saving dried okra pods for next years planting.
 Drying herb leaves in jars. Tarragon flowers also.

 And one last woven scarf.
We are keeping busy, but farming/gardening has been a disappointment this year. We're hoping for better rains in 2020, and healthier crops. It's raining right now! Praise the Lord!

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!