Saturday, July 13, 2019

Lovely Day for an Update

Today was an absolutely beautiful summer day! The weather was perfect; not too hot and not too cool. And, it was Lara's birthday. We celebrated by going to the Mexican restaurant in Hurley on Highway 51 for some excellent food, and then later in the day after we returned home, we had some Williamsburg Orange cake for dessert that I had made per Lara's request for her birthday. She opened her birthday gifts and talked with her friend, Carrie, on the phone. Everyone crashed. I feel like I'm going to pop. Not good for my diet, but a splurge now and then is OK. For a change, it was a day without stress.

This was a busy week taking care of doctor and dentist appointments. A trip to the feed store took up another day. And, of course, there is working in the garden. FINALLY it is starting to take off.

Here's before in mid-May:

 Here's now:

I actually have weeded these boxes three times now.

It was a job but I also got the fence erected around the big garden over by Dad's. I have potatoes, pumpkins and winter squashes, Moon and Stars melons, beets, rutabegas, Golden Bantam corn, Jerusalem artichokes, pole beans, and flowers in it that call my sister's bees, and that garden needs to be weeded again. I have to thin the beets and rutabegas and till the bare area I left for the squashes and melons to run in.  I'm ecstatic that no deer have gotten over the fence. There are deer beds in the grass around the garden so I know they have been thinking about getting in. I will have to take some pictures of the garden for you so you can see what I'm talking about.  Tom and I put up 7' deer fence over 6' posts. We used old t-posts from around the farm and pieces of angle iron Dad gave me. We decided to let the overhang be instead of tying it up with the thought that the deer might be spooked by the loose fencing blowing with the wind, and so far, it has been working. Two of the four fruit trees I planted died and need to be replaced, but I think where I planted the trees will work as an orchard area. The soil just needs a bit of work. Good spot for comfrey to do its magic, and I have been taking black and red currant cuttings and potting them up for new plants to add, as well.

Earlier this spring I pruned the rose bushes and currants. Holy smokes, does everything look good! I think that despite the weather this will be a great year for fruit. I will be loaded with plums, black and red currants, blueberries, and raspberries. Even the elderberries, of which half the plants had to be severely pruned because of winter kill, are going to give some berries. And for the first time there will be some apples on the Honeycrisp apple tree. Half of my grape vines died right to the ground although thankfully they did not die and are sending out a new central leader, but the others are beautiful and climbing all over the newly repaired trellis fence. The hops are happily climbing the trellis fence on the far side of the garden. They are filled with drunken fat bumble bees. Ever see a drunk bee? 

I have been harvesting some herbs this year, too. I dried a bunch of violet flowers to put in teas and soap.

And German chamomile decided it wanted to grow for me and came up all by itself in the boxes where I transplanted all the rhubarb and the walking onions. I just love volunteer plants; they are like old friends you haven't seen in a long time that suddenly drop by to visit. I'll be cutting and drying St. John's wort, yarrow, and mugwort this coming week.

In the back yard the collards and kale are doing well enough that I will harvest some to take to the farmers market this Wednesday. I'm not happy that the collards that have grown are not the collards I thought I planted. I like the giant leaves on champion collards. Still, collards are collards I guess and when you are hungry variety doesn't mean much. It all looks the same in the freezer. It is a shame that everything growing is behind time about two - three weeks. I am concerned the season will be short and not everything will have time to  mature.

Tom and I have noticed all the wild trees that are flowering and fruiting.  We discovered three hop hornbeam trees at the edge of the back yard behind the Honeycrisp apple tree. They have beautiful white flowers that look like big hop flowers. All the lower branches of the trees have been eaten by deer, and when Tom looked the tree up in our tree identification book, it said that deer and lots of other animals love hop hornbeam flowers. Medicinally, it is also a great tree to have around. You use the leaves and flowers. The choke cherry trees are full of fruit and all over the place. It's no wonder we are being visited by all sorts of birds. We have the usual nuthatches, finches, robins, chickadees, and marsh sparrows, as well as orioles, blue jays, grosbeaks, and red wing black birds. We even have catbirds, Cedar waxwings, scarlet tanagers, and believe it or not, we actually had a meadowlark stop on the feeder, but it flew away before I could get a picture of it. I would have sent the picture to the newspaper if I had been able to get a shot of it. I thought meadowlarks were extinct. I discovered that they are not, but they are almost gone. Tom says the birds line up on the back yard trellises and nearest trees and wait for him to hang out the feeders in the morning. Spoiled critters!

I got 19 chicks hatched out in the incubator, and after they hatched my big hens decided to go broody. I was going nuts there for a while trying to gather eggs, but finally one of the bantam cochins I bought last spring outlasted everyone as a biddy. The other day while I was out in the coop cleaning and putting away new supplies, I heard a "cheep cheep" that sounded like a new baby. I knew the incubator chicks while still small were too big to make that sound, so I looked around and sure enough, there was a baby sticking its head up through mama's feathers. Baby looks good and mama is still sitting on the clutch so I think more babies may be coming.

Well, it's time to go shut up the coop and take care of Lara. It feels good to have time to sit down and blog an entry. I hope you all are well and have your gardens planted.

Be safe and prepared!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Time to Work Outside

Well, the snow has melted enough for me to get out to clean out the chicken coop. Was that ever a job! I'm usually able to clean it out during the "False Spring" that comes in January, but this year the weather didn't cooperate. In fact, it got so cold that I added four bales of hay to the coop for some additional insulation for the chickens. The hay worked out well keeping the chickens warm, even when we had the -50F wind chill nights. But it took me two whole days to shovel out the coop. Now when the ground firms up a bit and the rest of the snow melts I'll have to cart everything over to the compost area for breakdown and use on the gardens next year. I'll sure get my five miles a day walking in then for sure.

I potted up a bunch of seedlings I started in the basement last month and they are coming along nicely. I have about 30 Brunswick cabbages started, lots of kale, cilantro, onions, and some flowers. I hope to move them to the greenhouse in the next few days. It's funny. In the Spring you find you have to "do this" before you can "do that". And before I can take the seedlings out to the greenhouse, I have to clear out all the yard "stuff" that I stored in it over the winter. Then I can go back into the basement and get my squashes and pumpkin seeds started.

Yesterday I went out to the forest garden and pruned the black currants and a couple of fruit trees. This year I'm clearing away a lot of the "weed trees" so the sun can better reach into the garden. It's too soon to tell if I'll need to replace any of the trees, but most everything looks good. I took 20 black currant cuttings and potted them up in the greenhouse. I really like those earthy black currants. Once you get used to the taste they are great. Try an apple-black currant pie; it's delicious! Anyway, I sure hope those cuttings take. The cuttings I potted up last summer and left to overwinter in the greenhouse have started putting forth leaves. Only two look like duds. Of that group there are six black currants and six red currant starts. If I get good at starting cuttings like this I may be able to sell them for extra income. That would be great.

It's mud season now and the roads are posted against heavy traffic. The snow is rapidly disappearing and we've had our first good rain. I can work outside without wearing a heavy coat, and the birds are starting to return and sing.

If only those black barred cochins I bought last year would sit on some eggs now . . . .

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Tough Winter

Winter started late again this year and has turned into a monster. Morning temps are evidenced by the above picture are lately the norm. Boy, am I glad I dug out the wood piles and refilled the wood stacks in the garage before we started getting the non-stop storms. Having a fire in the wood stove sure is nice.

Snow storms have been coming non-stop. It takes Tom and I about three days to shovel everything out -- just in time for the next storm. Keeping up with the snow is hard. He is ready to move and I say he can go if he wants. I'm not going anywhere. Moving the snow is hard work, but I am grateful for the opportunity to exercise my muscles, solve problems like where to put the snow and how to take care of the chickens in extreme weather, and test my critical thinking skills regarding "what would I do if . . .". I can't do any of that living in some shitty little condo back in the city. I believe in being self-sufficient and getting older simply presents me with an exercise in adaptive living.

The chickens are doing remarkably well. No frost bite to deal with and I haven't lost any of them yet. When we had the -50F nights I spread a couple of bales of hay in the coop, and just doing that noticeably helped warm the coop. Still, about half the eggs I get I have to toss because they freeze. Those little barred cochin bantams I bought last year are real talkers. I get the biggest kick out of them and can't wait till it warms up so I can clean the coop out well and set up the broody box for them. With their feathered feet the snow doesn't seem to bother them.

I've started a bunch of seeds in the basement and some of them are already starting to come up. I bought a wood stove and may set it up in the greenhouse (which miraculously has not collapsed with the ice and snow) to keep seedlings warm overnight.  Australian Brown and Newburg onions, New Brunswick and red cabbages, rainbow chard, Champion collards, Tuscan kale, and lots of perennial flowers. I'll wait till May to start the squashes and cucumbers. Supposedly it will be a cool and wet summer. We'll just have to wait and see.

Here are some pics of the snow around the house. We had three more inches after I took these pics and we are expecting another 5"-8" again this weekend.  By the way, I'd like to thank whoever the good person was who moved the big snow banks at the front of our driveway. Our snow plow couldn't move the snow back any farther than we had it so your act of kindness has given us some place to put the incoming snow.  Thank you!

Tom may be right saying that we'll still have snow in June. As far as making maple syrup this year, well, that's up in the air for now. I'm glad Dad is in the nursing home; it would be really hard worrying about him if he was at the farm house and dealing with our issues, too. Thinking positively, when the sun does shine the days are beautiful, and Spring IS on the way!