Sunday, April 30, 2017

Falling Behind!

When your husband (AKA, Mr. Muscle on the farm) injures himself, farm work quickly overwhelms, and we fall behind. Not only am I behind in my blogging, I'm behind in my many duties around the farm! Weeds are taking over, Radishes are not pulled. Potatoes are not covered. Tomatoes seem to be taking over the world.
Peas. They are high.
 Pea production has begun. I don't want to pick any early; I want them fully-developed, so I can freeze bags of whole peas for the summer and fall.
Wando peas
These are just a few of our many potato plants.
 Spinach is bolting. Lettuce is looking puny, but the soil in that part of the bed was not prepared as well as it might have been. Below is a Brandywine potato-leaf tomato plant. I seem to have a million of them. (Just kidding.) But I do have a lot! They all need homes, and they must NOT find a home in our yard!
Seriously -- I put about 56 tomato plants in beds in our garden, and that is ALL that I want or need. I refuse to do as I did last year, plunking random tomato plants in any available spots next to a fence, only to have them consumed by weeds and die slow deaths. These are gorgeous heirloom plants. If you want one for free -- or a few, or however many -- please stop by and take them home!
If you look carefully in this photo, you will see bunnies. Can you find them? After I saw them, they both ran away. I hope the dogs don't find them!
 Adam is still leaving our clover and buttercups in the pasture, although he's mowing paths for us to walk easily. He wants the clover to go to seed and become thicker each year. It's so pretty and good for the bees.
 Here's our first tomato bed. The lines hanging down to each plant are recommended by Peter, who worked at a small organic farm last summer; this is the method they used. And it really works. See the one cord going straight down? It's longer and already is twining around the plant below. Or perhaps I should say the plant is twining around the cord.
 Some of you will recall my eucalyptus tree. I think it is most assuredly dead. However, I'll leave it for this season to see if anything happens. But ...
 ... below, at its base, lots of new growth has appeared!
 I'm relieved. I may have a eucalyptus bush instead of a tree, but that's okay.
And the dead branches are so beautiful and aromatic.
 Let's tour the herb garden, shall we? The thyme is blooming and the dill has reseeded from last year.

The bushy plant below on the left is tarragon, which returned from last year. I'd read that it should overwinter here fine, and it did! On the right you see just part of the conquering oregano that is taking over the entire herb bed. It is a low plant, so I'm letting it do its thing ... for now.

Most of this below is cilantro. I wanted lots of it, and I do have a lot.
 This is lemon balm, which also overwintered well. And on the right is lemon verbena. It survived in a pot on the front porch all winter.  

I'm sad to say that my little bay tree (above) must've died over the winter. I was so hopeful!
I may try again and keep it in a pot on the porch.
My overwintered basil is still alive in the herb bed, but on its last legs.
Roses are blooming. This one is beside the front porch.
Together Adam and I took down the plastic sheeting on the ends of the front porch.
 We will replace it with breathable shade cloth for the summer.
 See the yellow roses there?
And now we have good cross-breezes on the porch.
Above is my semi-shade garden along one side of the house. The elephant ears have come back. The artemesia is doing well, and the sedum is healthy if short. The two ferns are quite beautiful, and six of my hosta plants, two of the three astilbes, and the lantana have all come up. The hearty amaryllis is brilliant. Sadly, my new bleeding heart didn't make it, and one of my hostas is not up yet. Overall, not too bad. I will try again with a bleeding heart once I find out why it didn't survive here. The bed is quite long (all the way down to the wattle fence in the distance) and is still sparsely populated. I added a foxglove last week.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cutting Tires and Making Saddles

I've been meaning to show you the "new" shelves we put in the greenhouse.
Aren't they grand? They were moldering away in the barn, doing nothing, and suddenly Adam remembered them and said, "Hey, would these be good in the greenhouse?" And I said, "Yeah, baby!" The shelves are on rollers. They hold pots and trays and lots of plants.
Before Adam attacked his right hand with a table saw, he brought home four old tires (our four old tires), cut them up and turned them into yard planters. He's made these before.
I painted them this color.
I'll put my lambs' ears in one, and a lavender in another. Some plants need significant drainage in our area. We are quite soggy. I've not grown lambs' ears nor lavender successfully yet.
Our peas are blooming now.
On hot, dry days the dogs lounge in the shade beneath the pine trees and bark at passing trucks.
My smallish Ameracauna hen, Punkin, was looking quite bad on her back. Many, many feathers plucked out by an over-amorous Bernie, I'm sorry to say. She is his favorite, and I don't think that's a favorable thing! Yesterday was very rainy, and the chickens stayed in the coop, so I think she had a particularly bad day with Bernie :( Last night I looked at her back while she lay on the roost, and I thought, "I have to do something about that!"
This morning I nabbed her off the roost, to her alarm, and carried her back to the house. I sprayed her raw back with Blu-Coat, an antiseptic spray that also darkens the skin rather like spray paint. Then I set about sewing Miss Punkin her own Hen Saddle! Yes, hens do wear saddles in these situations.
I found a pattern online at this site.
I cut a cardboard template and used some sturdy upholstery fabric. (I bought this fabric at the thrift store last year, and I can't tell you how many good uses I've put it to!)
It turned out just fine. I used buttons instead of snaps.
I tried it on Punkin. She did not like being dressed up.
However, she's wearing it fine. I think it's not quite situated perfectly around her left wing, but she won't let me catch her (now that she's outside) to fix it. I'll do it tonight when she's on the roost.
The other chickens did not like the fact that something was unusual about Punkin. They were cackling and chasing her, but later they settled down. A few minutes ago I heard a big ruckus at the chicken coop. I rushed back to see what the matter was. Punkin was sitting in the favorite laying spot; Ruby wanted to be there. Ruby and Bernie were squawking their opinions about it. So happily, all is back to normal, and Punkin's back is protected.
Do you remember when I posted about Cedar-Apple Rust? I can't find the post now. In the life cycle of the Cedar-Apple Rust Gall, we are now at this stage:
I guess our rainy weather makes them look even gloopier. The tree is rather heavily affected.
Have you ever seen this in a cedar tree? I never had.
I must dash to work, but that's some of the adventures happening on the farm right now. See ya later!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Blooming April!

 Our pasture is awash in the glow of buttercups and the aroma of clover. It's wonderful to stroll through them on the way to the garden.
 Because of his hand injury, Adam will be slow to get it all mowed again, but honestly -- he was allowing it to grow a bit so we could enjoy this show!
The doggies love it too.

 I took some of these irises to church this morning in an arrangement.
 These geraniums are from a friend's porch. Isn't the variegated variety breathtaking?
 Adam brought me some carnations the other day just because he's a sweetie.
 Then I made this arrangement for church, all items from our yard.
Knock-out roses, two kinds of iris, English ivy, fern fronds, and some eucalyptus.
Oh -- by the way -- yes, my eucalyptus tree did die :( However, as some of you suggested, it is sending up new sprouts from the base, so it's not really dead. It's just mostly dead (haha!). I will leave it until winter and see how alive it still is. But the brown branches with their circular leaves are so wonderful aromatic! I will save them all, regardless.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ninety-five and Counting ...

That's right -- 95 tomato plants so far in individual pots.
 I'm running out of small pots.
Adam offered to sift his homemade potting mix, removing the twigs, pine straw, pecans, and pine cones. Now I have this luscious stuff to pot with:
 And it's absolutely free. Better than store-bought potting mix. I'm tickled!!
In addition to the Ninety-five, I have this flat of Brandywine and Mini-Orange tomatoes, sprouting nicely. What shall I do with ALL these tomato plants?
 I refuse to get myself into the pickle of last year: tucking leggy tomato plants along fence rows and in random available spots in the garden. It was a nightmare of tomatoes! This year I shall choose my favorite 65 plants, and I shall sell or give away the rest with nary a pang! I can't keep them all!
This is my biggest tomato plant thus far, supposedly a Beefsteak variety. Three of them look quite strange. They smell like tomato plants, and their structure is like a tomato.

But their leaves are large and smooth, almost like a bean leaf. What's up with that? (I just google-hunted and discovered that some tomatoes have what's called a "potato-leaf," a smooth-edged leaf. Potato-leaf tomatoes are always heirlooms, not hybrids. Cool!)
Elsewhere in the garden, the peas are coming along a treat, as they say across the pond.

And the radishes are just beginning to show some swollen root. We'll be eating them soon.
Adam's potatoes are doing great! This year I suspect potatoes will be a big success after our "learning opportunities" of last year, haha!
long potato row -- as they grow up, Adam covers their stems
 We revised our greenhouse window. The temperature-controlled device that opened it automatically wasn't working well; it only opened it about a foot. Since the opening was at the bottom, it didn't efficiently release heat, which rises. So Adam changed the window, putting the hinge at the bottom.

He rigged up a rope that I can easily pull from inside the greenhouse, lowering or raising the window just as I like. I loop it around a screw to hold it.
And since its open at the top, it does a better job of letting the heat out. Plus, it can lay all the way down on the ground! Sometimes the homemade option is a lot better!
Do you remember the two pepper plants we dug out of the garden last fall and kept on the front porch/greenhouse all winter? Bless them, we put them back in the garden, leafless and pathetic except for their drying-up red peppers, still hanging on tenaciously.
I thought, "Well, they're dead." But I do like to give plants a chance if I can. Then I noticed this:
One of them's coming back! Yippee! Not that I eat hot peppers, haha! But I enjoy seeing plants demonstrate the zeal for life that all God's creation seems to have.
Our strawberries have not come up at all, and we're wondering if the whole bed died.
Our horseradish is amazing.
The asparagus is gorgeous.
The chickens continue to thrive. Little Snow is slowly insinuating herself into the flock.
The bees are fine, but the swarm Adam caught did not stay. They often do that. Bees have their own preferences, like us all, and will find a home they like.
That's it from the farm! I hope your April is humming along nicely.