Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hot and Humid

It's actually hot here -- and very humid -- but still no rain.  We could really use some rain.  The farmers market in Park Falls opened yesterday and only two vendors showed up.  Everybody's gardens are way behind because of the late season start.  Out in the field we hilled my potatoes although they didn't really  need it, and we did run the tiller between the corn rows to slow down the weeds which don't seem to be bothered by anything, but the rest of my plantings are doing poorly because we haven't had any rain and the temperatures are wacky -- 44°F the other night to 82°F  (plus humidity) during the day simply stresses the heck out of plants.  Because the heat bothers me, too, I've been getting most of my work done when the area I want to work in has some shade or later in the day after we have our supper.

Remember this?

I think this looks much better!

Weaving through the posts on the driveway side of the forest garden fence is coming along much faster than I thought it would.  I love the rustic look of it.  You can see the space between two posts where I'll put in an access gate.

On Midsummer Eve Lara and I put out some cornmeal (we don't smoke so we didn't have any tobacco) for the fairies near a clump of thyme and some more by the Foxgloves (aka Fairy Fingers!).  Alas, we couldn't stay awake till midnight to see the fairies dance. 

Fairy Fingers or Foxgloves
Cornmeal for the Fairies
I started clearing out the forest garden area near the red currants so I can dig beds for the horseradish, rhubarb, and grapes.  If there is enough room after I get that done, I'll try to add beds for the French sorrel and Egyptian Walking onions.  There are a lot of tree roots in this area so the going is on the slow side since I have to use a mattock to chop through the roots.  To take a break from this work, I was going to define work paths through the forest garden, but everywhere I looked I saw butterfly or moth cocoons on leaves, and I decided to wait a couple of weeks.  I'll do it when the tree leaves begin to fall.   

Well, that's about it for now.  Take care!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

That Warm Feeling

Ever since the tragedy at Fukushima I have been very concerned about radiation exposure.  And as the Internet sites I frequented to keep apprised of what was happening disappeared altogether or stopped providing information, I have become even more alarmed.  No news is not necessarily good news.  So, I thought I would share with you some curious experiences of late.

If you read this blog regularly you will know that two of my three children are severely disabled and that my husband is both diabetic and has malignant melanoma.  He is a Viet Nam veteran and our children's disabilities are listed effects of Agent Orange exposure.  We see doctors often.

I recently had occasion to take our daughter to see her neurologist for her annual appointment.  I told the doctor what I was doing to protect Lara (and the rest of us) from radiation exposure:  increase in daily vitamins and especially vitamins C and D; addition of nascent iodine daily; addition of alpha lipoic acid 300 mg daily; epsom salt and baking soda baths; staying out of the rain; and having skin covered as much as possible when outside.  The doctor's reaction was very curious -- she never said a word, but as I enumerated each step I was taking, she slowly nodded her head.  I got the distinct impression that she had been told not to talk about radiation exposure.  She never said one word about radiation exposure or about what I was doing. 

Then, I had to go for my annual check-up -- at a different clinic.  Our area is very rural and doctors only stay here long enough to meet the service requirements of their student loans or grants .  Right now there is only a female physician's assistant for women like myself who prefer to see a female doctor.  I decided to see what her reaction was to my radiation exposure precautions.  It was the same!  She never said one word about radiation exposure or about what I was doing.  I am convinced that doctors have been warned not to talk about Fukushima and radiation exposure.

A third incident occurred with my husband.  A few weeks ago he received a call from his oncologist's office asking him if he would mind seeing a physician's assistant instead of the doctor since my husband's condition is currently stable and because they were experiencing a large increase in the number of cancer cases coming into the office. 

All of this could be coincidental, but I'm a suspicious Scorpio and don't think so. 

In case you are interested, here are a couple of useful links:

symptoms of radiation sickness;

Jeff Rense's free e-book Coming Clean:  From Denial to Detox is a clickable link located here above the right side bar; written for residents of the Gulf of Mexico tragedy that is also being ignored by the media, I think it is a helpful publication;  I frequently listen to Jeff's radio shows and was surprised to find that I did not know about this publication until today (thanks to links in George Ure's Urban Survival blog); 

benefits of the use of alpha lipoic acid in Chernobyl victims.

Also of interest is this story already indicating an increase in infant mortality in Japan and the West Coast of the United States. 

I guess letting your light shine these days includes understanding that the warm glow you may be feeling might not be so welcome.  All I know is that I sure don't want to turn into a glow worm.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This and That

I'm a bit sore today from working on the Forest Garden fences, but I am pleased with my progress.  The worm fence is shaping up nicely, and digging in the fence posts for the drive side of the fence went easier than I thought it would in the gravelly soil.

zig-zag or worm fence

Fence posts dug in
 Branches for weaving around and tieing to the fence posts will come from my always increasing brush piles.  I just can't throw a good stick away.

Since we are finally getting some much needed rain (it didn't rain the last time we expected it) I decided to rest my "shovel" foot and hand by working on another of my long term projects -- putting rocks around the base of the house to prevent the chickens from pecking holes in the insulation.

By the way, in the ice cream pail are two elderberry bushes that I'm rooting in water, and the six little trees in the other pots are those that Lara and I grafted at the Woodland Owners Conference back in April.  It looks like at least three of the grafts are taking -- a Bartlett and Lucious pear and a Northwest Greening apple.  On one tree I see that I accidentally put the scion on upside down, so that one is a dud, but for a beginning graft attempt, overall I think Lara and I did pretty well. 

Getting back to the rock project, as you can see from this picture, clearing away the grass and my husband's idea of a barrier fence isn't much fun.  So far I've only uncovered one snake that our dog promptly dispatched for me.  I should have enough rock to cover the house base up to the front steps.  After that I'll need to go over to my husband's garden and pick more rocks; his garden area is only two years old and it will be some years before we get most of the rocks out of it.

This forlorn mess is my next project.

This is an unplanted area of the forest garden.  Although you can't see them, there are several witch hazel trees and native juneberry trees in this mess.  After I clear away the brush, this area will be the new home of my Bohemian horseradish, Egyptian Walking Onions, and McDonald/Victoria rhubarb beds, and my three remaining grape vines.  The little trees should be happier, too.

Now, I've prattled enough about what I worked on today, but I haven't talked about why I do it.  Picking and hauling rocks, digging in fence posts in gravelly soil, and dealing with blood thirsty flies and mosquitoes are hardly pleasant activities.  I guess it boils down to my idea of what is self-sufficiency.  If I had no money to buy materials and build a fence, what would I do?  If I had no money to hire a contractor to landscape my house, what would I do?  If I had no gas for my car and couldn't get to a grocery store, how would I feed my family?  You get the idea.  I teach myself by doing.  I learn how to build fences with what materials I have at hand.  I pick and haul my own landscaping rocks.  I grow the majority of my family's food. Et cetera.  And sweat equity is all it costs me. I become accustomed to thinking resourcefully and using my imagination to solve problems.  I gain self-confidence.  So many people think that they can buy some land,  read a library of self-sufficiency books, and just become self-sufficient by absorption; but from where I stand, that is just not so.  You have to get out and DO it.  Failure is part of the learning process, and losing weight from all that exercise isn't bad, either!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sweater Weather Again

Well, the heat only lasted two days -- that was enough for me -- and we are back down in the 45°F range again.  I like the cooler weather because the bugs aren't as bad.  I was able to get the barley, pie pumpkins, and mangels planted out in the field.  I also finished out the potato section with  Blue Hubbard and Sunshine winter squash, Vates collards, Danish Ballhead cabbages, Musselburgh leeks, more yellow onions, Pascal celery, Anthem dill, Marketmore cucumbers and a free package of melons (I don't know what kind of melon it is; I think it'll be too cold for melons to grow well this year, but it was a free pack of seeds so I planted it).  By the house I planted the Rutgers tomatoes in one of the garden boxes and put an Agribon shield around them because of the cold temps.  I also planted some Perkins Long Pod Okra, Genovese Basil (my favorite), sweet bell peppers, and more dill in the garden box, too, and covered all of those seeds with an Agribon row cover.  Already this morning the basil and okra are coming up!  In the big plastic pot near the garage door entry, I planted the Thai Hot, Tabasco, and Laos hot pepper seedlings.  This is the sunniest and hottest place around the house, but I'm thinking about putting an Agribon tent over these plants as well because the cold temps are shriveling them up.

I have one more garden area to plant and that is the garden space my brother-in-law said I could use this year because he is too busy with other things.  I was going to put some beans in that garden, but because Tom planted so many green beans, I think I'll plant carrots instead.  I also have some Jenny Lind melon seeds I'd like to try.  It is a nice sunny location so maybe the melons will be ok there.  I would have liked to plant some sunflowers, but it is too late already to direct seed sunflowers.  I also have some Gilfeather Turnip seeds for that garden, too.

So why are these plants not in the greenhouse?  Well, Tom broke one of the roof flashings and we were missing a hook from one of the roof cable brace kits so we had to order the parts and wait for them to come (they came in the mail yesterday) before we can get back to building the greenhouse.  And, of course, now we are busy trying to get everything planted.  Ugh!  If we can get the greenhouse built within the next two weeks, I'll try putting some more warmer weather varieties in it and grow them in pots.

Today I helped Tom plant out in his garden by Dad's house.  We planted Kennebec potatoes, green beans, collards and cabbages, and beets.  Then Tom's blood sugar dropped so we quit for the day.  Tomorrow we'll plant the corn and winter squash.

The bear is back and the deer are gone so maybe the gardens will have a chance even though I'm told that bears love melons. A woman on one of the gardening list servs I read said that she has successfully deterred varmints from her garden by using a simple fence made up of (of all things) video tape! I'll try anything!

We're supposed to get rain tonight and that will get the seeds off to a good start.

That's all for now. Keep safe and be well!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Feels Like Summer

We went from winter to summer this year.  You could almost watch the leaves on the trees unfold.  It has been hotter than Hades the last few days and now the black flies are eating everybody alive.  Today it is supposed to be 91°F.  That's why I'm in the house right now.   I have been putting off most of the work till after supper when it is a bit cooler and the sun is not so hot.  It is supposed to get down in the 40's again tomorrow night.  I still think it will be a cooler than hotter growing season.

We could use some rain.  We have seen rain falling both North and South of us, but we have not been getting much. 

We are getting lots of wind though that dries the plants out and keeps me out watering everything more than normal.  The black currants especially don't like wind.  So far just about everything in the forest garden is still alive:  one of the two Honeycrisp apple trees, two elderberries, and three raspberries look like goners though.

Out in the field I got the Golden Bantam corn, Red Cloud potatoes and most of the onions planted.

When I pulled into the field with the truck and started unloading my tools, I discovered a surprise just a few feet away from me in the next field section to be tilled:

A spotted fawn!  Its mama must have hidden it in the tall grass and gone to get something to eat.  The fawn put its head down when it realized I could see it.  It didn't move a muscle.  I slowly walked away so as not to frighten it to go plant my onions and when I came back to the truck, the fawn was gone leaving only the grass pressed down where it had lain. 

I had other visitors watching me that day.  Maybe this doe was the fawn's mother.

Then there was this Canadian goose in the grass just outside the fence.  I usually see this goose across the road in Minnow Lake where I suspect it has a nest.

I finally got the cranberries planted down around the West marsh.  This marsh is what I think they call a fen because it has a stream clearly visible that flows through it.  Fens are rare in Wisconsin.  I planted the cranberries in different places around the edge of the marsh and hopefully the plants will eventually spread. 

Tom wants to plant some small trees or shrubs around the front yard so we took a short trip to a local nursery.  He didn't find anything he liked, but I, of course, am not one to ever leave a nursery empty-handed, and came home with some nice Lady's Mantle, Black Cohosh, Pulsatilla, Russian tarragon, and Lemon Balm plants that I'll add to the Forest Garden.  We will take a ride one day out to Winter Nursery in Winter, Wisconsin.  I bet Tom will find something nice to plant from there.  Maybe he'll buy some Bali cherry trees; they are nice natural dwarf trees that have pretty flowers in Spring.  I'm sure we'd never get any cherries off them as the birds are sure to get them first.

Speaking of birds, I've counted at least five sandhill cranes.  They must have nests nearby.  I suspect I'll see more of them after the corn comes up.  Sandhill cranes are the best corn pickers in the world. ;D  I hope they leave some corn for me.

I wanted to get a picture of how the beavers chewed down the dogwoods by the creek, but the greenery has grown so quickly that it's hard to see the chewed stumps already.  But the creek looks nice --

More planting is on the schedule so I'll check in with you later!