Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wind and Rain and Time Warp

Everyone I talk to is having the same sort of year. Not enough time and no matter how many chores you finish it seems as if you are always behind. Time somehow feels warped.

For sure I have been busy. I added mint jelly and blackberry jam to my list of jams to sell at the market. A gallon bag of Green Arrow shell peas is in the freezer. The onions and garlic have both been pulled and cured. The seed garlic is in the frig waiting to be planted, and the onions are in a bushel basket in the kitchen ready to use. (No onions for the market this year. We eat too many to spare!) I have fermentation vessels everywhere. Yogurt and kombucha are bubbling in the kitchen. Cucumbers are fermenting in brine in the living room, and about 12 gallons of cabbage are fermenting into sauerkraut in my crocks in the laundry room. (Even Tom is getting in the act by brewing beer in the basement. Can't wait to try some of that!) I said bye-bye to a couple of roosters and added them and some good broth to the pantry. Put up 15 pounds of beets I bought at the farmers market. And yesterday I worked all day cleaning up and amending three garden boxes. Since the moon was in Scorpio I figured that if I wanted to put in a Fall garden I had better do it now, so I set aside one box to put the garlic in and planted the other two -- one with Purple Vienna Kolrabi, Scarlet Nantes carrots, Summertime and Paris Cos lettuce, and Detroit Supreme beets; and the other with Egyptian Walking Onions, Newburg onion seeds, Lisbon Bunching Onions, Forellenschluss lettuce and leftover unnamed onion sets from those I planted this Spring that I bought at the feed store. With row cover and plastic I'll see how long I can keep the garden going. I need to pick more beans and check the tomatoes. Tom's Swiss Chard and collards need picking again, too.

The farmers market last Wednesday was our best day yet. My jams are selling well and I had someone tell me they would like to see my knitted dishcloths in more colors. And everybody loved my Copenhagen Market Cabbages! I should have taken a picture of them. They were truly beautiful little cabbages. I sold all my Tuscan Blue Kale and some of the Portugese Kale, all the Italian Parsley I brought, and most of the cabbages.  My special customer received her bushel of Provider green beans. I will have to start bringing cold weather outerwear for Lara and me to wear because the wind is beginning to switch around and come out of the North. Lara said she was ok, but I actually got cold.

I have been making extra effort with respect to my seed saving skill and the effort is paying off. I'll have lots of herb seeds, peas, spinach, mustard greens, bush and pole beans, summer and winter squash seeds, cucumber, and tomato seeds. Hopefully I'll do better at overwintering the biennials than in the past and will get seed from them next year. Among them I hope to get cabbage, collard, kale, beet, and parsnip seed.


Today is windy, cold, and rainy; a good day to stay inside and rest. It is a day that heralds the coming of Autumn. I expect I'll start seeing the leaves turn color any time now.  Soon I'll be able to get back to my fire zone upkeep, and we will go over to Dad's and finish splitting and stacking his wood pile.

Sandy's Favorite Place

Till next time, Be Safe and Be Well!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hot and Humid

I have to admit I'm a wuss about hot and humid weather.  When the day temps start reaching into the 80's I go in the house and whimper. Cold drinks, a wet kerchief around my neck; I turn into a crab and hide in my shell.  I feel ill in hot weather and have a hard time breathing, so I elect not to unduly exert myself. I am grateful that I do not have to be out in such weather.

Late last evening I battled mosquitoes and waded through the forest garden to check on the melons, pie pumpkins, and winter squash. The sad truth is that of the three only the winter squash -- Blue Hubbard -- is even growing. The melons and pie pumpkins look like they were planted just yesterday. I can't understand it, but at least the big squash is happy. I think it is because I planted it in my hugelkulture bed.

I picked the last of the black and red currants to put in the freezer, and the handful of raspberries I gathered I added to a cup of nice homemade yogurt. It was a good snack. I will watch the raspberries closely as I have a feeling they will ripen pretty much all at once this year and I want to be sure I pick at least a gallon of them. The flavor of wild raspberries is hard to beat.

I pulled out one of my new books to read. I heartily recommend it if you are interested in saving your own seed. The Organic Seed Grower by John Navazio is the best book about growing for seed I've read since Suzanne Ashworth's Seed to Seed. This really is a must have book for your library shelf. This year I am going to try to overwinter beet, carrot, and rutabega roots, kale, Swiss chard, cabbages and collards to plant for seed next year, and I'll try to gather seed this year from just about everything else I can. If we are lucky and have a long Autumn, I may be able to harvest a lot of seed.

Lara and I did well at the farmers market again. We sold enough of the jam I made that I think it is worth the effort to make more to sell. I am going to make some different jams to add a bit more variety to the selection. We sold all but one of the spring cabbages we brought, too, so that was good.

Hope you all are staying cool!

Wild Tobacco

Friday, July 17, 2015


Whew! I have to take some time to fill you in on what has been happening here at the farm.

First off, I forgot to tell you that Tom and I had our 40th wedding anniversary back in May.  We decided to celebrate by taking the kids with us to go see the new (totally awesome!) Mad Max movie. So like us. I was always a cheap date -- take me to an action movie, buy me popcorn, and I was a happy camper. Some things never change.

My sister and I went to a pasture walk down in Milladore one evening to see an organic farm. It was pretty cool. The family had been traditional row cropper farmers but a serious accident caused the family to rethink how they farmed. Over the course of a few years, with minimal equipment, the family transitioned to being a diverse, certified organic farm. They raise grass pastured beef, chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Everything they raise is bought by an organic marketer, and financially they are doing better now than when they were row croppers. The walk was well attended despite being held in the evening. The family was very down to earth and had an amusing cadre of farm dogs, too! One of the funniest things that happened was when we walked by the duck pen and the 136 ducks saw the woman farmer. There was this huge cacophony of duck quacks and a mad press toward the fence. The woman told us, "Aw, they see me and think they are going to get fed." I guess ducks are like any other critter. :)

Back at our farm, while the weather has been steamy during the day with patchy heavy rain and too cool at night (we've have two nights down in the 30's) the garden is actually doing fairly well.  I have had no luck whatsoever with lettuce, radishes, and melons, but the parsley, red and green cabbages, collards, mustard greens, beets, and kale are doing great. The green bush and pole beans are finally starting to come on, and the cucumbers and summer squash are getting flowers now. My Green Arrow peas are just now producing when normally peas would be finishing up at this time. The green peppers and basil look pitiful, but the garlic grew gangbusters and the onions are filling out great. I have tomatoes planted all over the place and while there are no tomatoes yet, the plants are growing well despite the cool nights.  This year I planted Chadwick Cherry, Vintage Wine, original Abe Lincoln, and a very early variety simply named "1884".  I have been blessed with no insect or disease problems this year despite the weather. 

So, Lara and I take lots of greens to the farmers market. Customers even call us "the greens people". We have been to the market twice so far.

This week we didn't go to market however because the chores in the house and the garden were starting to pile up and I needed to make some time to take care of the work. I pulled the garlic and have it curing out in the garage. I amended the garden box the garlic was in and replanted it with rutabegas, lettuce (another try!), radishes, carrots, and beets. I picked the currants out in the forest garden and started cutting open some walk paths. Today I was in the kitchen making currant and strawberry jam to sell at the market. We may have some spring greens yet and some of the cabbages and peas should be ready to harvest for next week.

I wound up with 12 chicks that aren't so little any more. They are starting to hop out of their brooder box in the greenhouse so it won't be long before I'm able to put them in with the other chickens. Of course, before I do that I will need to whittle down the roosters and lazy hens in the main flock. Work never ends, does it! Well, busy hands make a happy heart, or so the saying goes. I think I'd rather take the time to  look for the bluebird of happiness.

Talk to you soon. Be safe and Be well, Everybody!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Solstice Day

Happy Fathers Day to all dads old and young, here or gone! We had my dad over for bar-b-que and the weather was lovely. It was a nice day. Lara and Ed bought Tom a Chicago Bears tool box, and I gave my Dad a couple of cans of pipe tobacco. He's set with tobacco now till Christmas so he's happy.

Holy cow, it's really the longest day of the year! This year is simply flying and I still have a flat of leeks and one of tomatoes to plant. The weather has been rain and more rain with brief respite in between storm systems. We may get some severe storms tomorrow. Darn it. It frustrates me how long it takes for me to get work done. There's not much you can do when the grass is too wet to cut.

I finally have some pictures for you. It's unbelievable that barely one month ago we had our last snow fall. This pic shows my greens box (beets, kale, spinach, mustard, and Italian parsley), my garlic box, and beyond it is my box that is planted with peas.

This pic shows about 100 trees and shrubs that I still need to get in the ground. I have already planted 40 butternut trees and about 40 each red oak and white pine out in the field. I want to plant the remaining trees and shrubs there, too.

 This is my collards, spring cabbages and red cabbage box. Next to it is the box planted with bush cherries. I have planted bush beans in there, too, though none have come up yet.

This is a little pallet garden I planted up with herbs. There are two little bay trees I bought from Nichols Garden Nursery planted in the black grow bags. Lara's fig tree (in the big pot) that I feared had given up the ghost is actually hanging on and sprouting new leaves.

These are the nine garden boxes Tom and I built last Fall. The two boxes on the far right are mine and hold my sweet peppers, yellow onions, and tomatoes. The other boxes are Tom's. The temps got down to 36°F the other night -- not good for any kind of fruit set.

My ankle couldn't hold up with manhandling the BCS tractor out in the field so I was not able to plant my potatoes or corn out there. I was able to plant the potatoes in wire bins, but I couldn't find a spot for the corn. What a disappointment! I shall try to plant the corn next year. I have planted the sunflowers and winter squash on my hugelkulture bed in the forest garden, and I've planted Moon and Stars melons and New England pie pumpkins throughout the forest garden, too. It will be interesting to see how everything grows there.  I also planted some white currants, goji berries, honeyberries, and more hazelnut shrubs. I actually had blossoms on one of the Chestnut crab apple trees this year so maybe I'll be able to make some crabapple jelly this Fall.

 Here are the first of the new chicks that are still hatching in my incubator. They are so cute when they first hatch. I have 13 so far and more coming.

My really good news is that I went down to Wisconsin Rapids on June 13th to take the Amateur Extra ham radio exam. I PASSED!!! I feel so great about it. I can't wait to be able to gather the equipment I need and set up my very own radio shack.

Until next time, Be Safe and Be Blessed!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Loving Spring

Woke up this morning to snow on the ground. Brrr! This is the latest snowfall I've noted since we moved here. Still, it is Spring.

I love Spring. You know, that time of year when buds break on the hardwood trees in colors of new greens and reds, and the conifers sport bright new growth on branch tips. I liken the feathery silver sage on the tamaracks to slender ladies wearing gossamer gowns. Spring is that short time when the cricket frogs chirp in the marshes and the grouse drum on a just right fallen log out in the woods. The humming birds return to fight over red nectar filled feeders, and I listen for new bird songs at the forest edge. The fecund earth is soft from the frost coming out of it, and the wild cherries, hop hornbeam, and elderberry bushes are first to burst into flowery bloom.  I suck Spring into my lungs and want to shout for joy! Earth is new again.

I move slower now because of that dratted ankle I broke last year. I had to buy some different work shoes to accommodate my swollen foot and I am very happy with them. They are not heavy to wear and are very comfortable. The ankle has better support with them and walking around on uneven ground is much easier. Because I am slower, it takes me longer to get work done. I hate that, but I am not young any more and I understand that my reflexes are not as nimble as my mind. It's one reason I haven't had much time for blogging.

I have accomplished a lot though since my last post.  I finally finished boiling down maple sap and got just over a gallon of syrup from six trees. Not a lot, but enough for us and maybe a gift or two. (Dad already has his jar.)

I also made great progress continuing my quest to cut away brush in the fire zone around the house. But my biggest achievement so far is getting the hand pump installed on the house well.

A walk through the forest garden was full of surprises. The gooseberries and the hazelnut bushes look healthy and strong. The red and black currants look great and are loaded with flowers already, and I finally have flowers on one of the Chestnut Crabapple trees. Yeah! The bad news is that my best Haralson apple tree is dead from being completely girdled by mice, and another Smokehouse apple tree died, so I need to find two more apple trees to replace them.  Overall though, the plantings are really starting to take shape and I like the way the garden looks. I finally finished the trellis fence around the forest garden to my satisfaction. When the moon goes into the sign of Cancer I'll plant some hops to climb the new sections. There are grape vines, blackberries, and when the weather is warmer, Old Homestead pole beans, Scarlet Runner beans, and Grandpa Ott's morning glories to keep them company. The fence should look very nice this summer.

I built a herb garden from an old pallet and am transplanting herbs from my herb garden box into it. The soil in the garden box has settled down considerably and needs amending so it is nice to have a new place to put the herbs. The greenhouse is filled with veggies waiting to go in the ground, and this morning I started more seeds in the basement: melons, pole beans, cucumbers, pie pumpkins, sunflowers, and summer and winter squashes. The rest of the veggies will be direct planted outside. Now I need to get out to the field and till the ground for them. Can you tell gardening is on my mind?

How are things going for you in your neck of the woods?