Monday, April 30, 2007

Long Day

Boy, am I beat! Spent most of the day in the field. I finished planting the elderberries, plums and juneberries. I planted 12 juneberries along the driveway and surrounded them with stones to make it easier for me to find them. I will start looking for flowers to plant around them. I like any native flowers. I still have the hazelnut trees and I received 5 free spruce trees to plant. Whew! My knees and back are killing me. After I planted, I watered the orchard. I am so happy with the trees: all of the cherries are leafing out and all of the apple trees either have buds or are leafing out. That Chestnut Crab is taking off; I wonder if that is characteristic of all crabs. Even the Knobbed Russet, which I was giving a last chance this year, has new leaves. Unfortunately, the pears are the bad news. They are not looking good at all. I will keep my fingers crossed with them.

In the perennial section, all of the currants are leafing out, as are most of the gooseberries. The rhubarb is starting to take off and the garlic is looking great. I took a break and munched on chives. The moon is in Scorpio for the next three days so it is a great time to get plants in the ground. I want to get the high tunnel planted and the oats and wheat and peas in the ground. We are expecting rain tonight and tomorrow, so I hope I can still get some planting in.

Well, I'm going to go take some Arnica and fix a cup of tea. Good night all!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

When the Moon is Right

At Swamp Creek Farm we believe in following natural rythyms to make the circumstances of our lives flow smoothly. My personal observations about gardening by the moon have shown me there is something to it, and by extending following the moon's position and sign to other areas of life, it seems to me that our lives do indeed seem easier. A lot of people say such things are pure hogwash, and I certainly accord them their opinion; however, I believe there is more to life than what can be seen. I suppose the reason I bring this subject up is because the moon was so bright tonight as it is waxing in the sign of Virgo. The night clouds were lit up prettily and the stars are bright where you can see them. It made me think of the passage of time -- and how I want to get my oats and wheat and peas planted tomorrow.
Tonight was the second Price Direct meeting and we had two guest speakers. One was Jasia Steinmetz PhD, RD, CD, from the UW-Stevfens Point. She is quite an impressive lady. She spoke about the importance of eating locally grown food and discussed different ways that we, as producers, can encourage customers to eat locally grown food. The other presenter was Enos Hoover of Sunnyside Meadow Farm in Dorchester, WI. He spoke about sustainable farming practices and showed us how he farmed using livestock rotation. It was amazing to see how (in his slide show) poor pasture was reclaimed without reseeding or using any kind of chemicals by simply rotating cows, chickens and pigs. He suggested having a "centerpiece" farm activity and then having "complementary" activities for farm diversification. All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening. The only problem was we didn't get around to discussing the actual Price Direct agenda, so we scheduled another meeting for June 7th at 7:00 p.m. If you live in Price County or a county adjoining Price County and would be interested in joining our group of small producers as we discuss ways to keep our group alive and growing, by all means come to the next meeting!
I had a busy week. Tom and I fixed the broken corner post in the northwest corner of the field fence at the orchard end of the field and tightened most of the fence wire. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but when I went to water the fruit trees and bushes today, I didn't see any sign of deer in the garden since we fixed the fence. I was so happy to see the rhubarb starting to green up and the currants and gooseberries starting to leaf. The garlic is about 4 inches high already.
I took down the agribon and wire hoops I had over the collards and we'll see if the roots send up seed stalks.This is my first attempt at getting seed from a biennial so we'll see what kind of luck I have.
It took two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) to clean out the chicken coop. Last year it took me a week to do by myself, but with Tom helping me it only took two days. We hauled all of the bedding to the compost bins. I wound up going to town to get some plywood to fix a hole in the floor. I think I fixed it pretty good. I hosed the whole place down with bleach water and aired it out. Then I put down a couple of plastic tarps on the floor and covered them with a couple of bags of new wood shavings. The chickens are very happy! I'm getting pretty deft with that cordless 18v drill.
Had not one, but two, groshawks yesterday in the front yard high in a maple tree watching the chickens. I stayed nearby and left the dog out and the hawks didn't try anything. No wonder Chin Lee kept his big beak shut and the chickens stayed in the little shelter I built for them at the south end of the chicken run while I worked in the big coop. I think I will firm up the chicken fence and think about a top cover.
Today after I watered the orchard, I finished turning over the soil in the high tunnel. Tomorrow I hope to take the BCS out and turn all the ground over so I can plant my wheat and cover crops of oats and peas, and prepare the high tunnel so I can move the seedlings from the basement to the high tunnel, and start new seedlings in the basement. Mary is going to pick up my elderberry plants and plum trees in Phillips for me tomorrow, so I hope to get those planted on Saturday.
I am sore and tired, but very happy. I send all of you Blessings and Peace!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Second Part of the Story

Yesterday I didn't get to finish the story of the beaver because it was getting late and I had to take care of Lara, so I'll finish today. Anyway, I was laughing because I "stole" my own tree back from the beaver and put it up as a new corner post. I'm not very good with fence building and the post is up crooked, but it will do. If you take a look at the top of the post you can see where the beaver almost chewed through it. What is really ironic though is the fact that here I have put up a 10' high woven wire topped with 4 smooth 12.5 gauge wires fence to keep varmints out and the first thing I saw after I tightened up the wires was fresh deer poop next to my new chestnut crab tree! Now, who do you think has the last laugh? I suppose the moral of the story is, once you build a fence, you are always building a fence!

I think Spring is finally here because last night I heard the cricket frogs in the marsh. We need rain though -- the water in the marshes is so low that our dog had no trouble running in the marsh by the field. That really troubles me as I don't remember the water in the marshes this low since the mid-70's. Where is all the water going?

I got a lot done between yesterday and today. I finally was able to find out where to get my farmers market hanging scale certified: a girl from DATCP returned my telephone call of the previous day and e-mailed me a list of scale certifiers that service northern Wisconsin. It turns out she was from Park Falls so that made the call a bit more at ease for me, and it also turns out that the nearest certifier is in Tomahawk. I called the company and the guy was really nice. Because the cost of gas is going up and my scale is small, he asked me to mail him the scale and he will square it away for me and mail it back. That will really save us both some time. The way people are able to amicably work out exchanges up here really is neighborly -- it's as if living in Wisconsin is like living in a big neighborhood. I also got a call from Hunts engine repair in Marshfield who we bought our BCS from. We needed a new air filter so I called John and he called me today to let me know he has the filter and prefilter for me already. He'll drop it off with his brother at the Phillips Airport and next week when I go to Phillips I'll pick it up and get the check off to John. Did I tell you I signed up to go to that conference in June to check out the commercial kitchen? I am looking forward to that. Today I also ordered some 100% biodegradable produce bags for the farmers market stand. The company's name is Brenmar. They have all kinds of packaging for food, but there is a $100 minimum - not including shipping and tax. It was more of an expense than I wanted to make, but the bags should last me (I hope) a good two years. The business is building, slowly but surely.

Tomorrow night is the poultry certifying class up in Ashland from 6:30-10:00 p.m. That will be a long day. Tomorrow morning I think I will clean out the chicken coop.

Well, I have to check out the UPS web site so I can get my scale off to BSI Scales, Inc. in Tomahawk. Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Who is the Laugh On?

What a day -- I'm beat. Spent most of the day in the field working on the fence. I stole a tree back from the beaver (he's back and had already dragged one of the trees he hewed off) and I dragged it down to the North end of the field where the corner post was down and put it up as the new corner post. I am not very good at working with wire and it took me FOREVER to reattach the woven wire bottom section and three of the smooth wires. If the weather is good tomorrow I'll take the ladder out with me and do the top wires. I'll use what's left of the old post for a brace. I'm not going to tighten anything until after I get the road side fence line moved out of the new utility easement. I see the utility people have a trench dug and that will make it easier for me to see where the fence line should go. I don't think the move will be that bad. I hope it doesn't take me too long to do -- I'll have to try and snatch another tree from the beaver for the other fence post I need! He cuts fence posts just the right size!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Field Work

Spent most of this beautiful day in the field today. The ground is still too wet and hard to work. In the perennial beds I cut down the asparagus ferns from last year and checked on the fruit bushes. Rhubarb and garlic is starting to peek out of the ground, and the currants and gooseberries either have some green showing or buds swelling. Too soon yet on the raspberries to tell if I will need to replace any. I watered the apple and pear trees and did the last of the pruning until the trees are dormant again. I cut the two pear trees and Knobbed Russet back to the sprouts on each that grew just above the graft and will give them a last chance. I'm told that the trees are shot and will likely die, but I will give them another chance. If the rootstock peters out I'll order some more trees and plant again in the Fall. The trees I put in last Fall came through the winter excellently, and I am looking forward to seeing my little trooper Fameuse bloom. No sign of the horseradish yet. Tomorrow if the weather is good I'll spray the fruit trees with Neem Oil.

I had a nice surprise when I went down to the creek with my bucket to haul water to the trees: I found a blackberry patch with at least 11 good canes that are sheltered from the wind by a big balsam to the North and alders let in the Sun on the South. They are just far enough from the water not to have wet feet. I cleared away the dead brush from around the canes and I will keep an eye on them. Blackberries hardy this far North would be a good species to propagate so I will tend them and when they get a bit bigger I'll take some cuttings and start some new plants and see how they do. Sandy, our yellow Lab, found the water chilly, but not overly so! She startled a loon on the other side of the creek -- must be a nest there. I haven't seen any new trees chewed down by the beaver so I wonder if something got him. Come to think of it, I haven't seen that fat racoon again either.

Last night I went to the Price Direct meeting. I really enjoy being a part of this group. I have a feeling I will be learning how to start a Community Kitchen. Well, that's fine with me; maybe it will help me get over my self-confidence block. When I finish with the one, I may look into starting another closer to home! Next meeting is in two weeks. Boy, the tasks are really starting to pile up!

Have to go put the chickens in the coop now, so I'll catch up with you later.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Snowing and Blowing

Well, we can't go fishing yet like Greatgrandpa Matias (in the middle) and his son Ed (the tall guy on the right) yet, but I sure would like to catch a fish like they got! Today is April 4th and what a difference a day makes! Woke up this morning to snowing and blowing. Had a foot deep snow drift outside the garage door when I went to check on the chickens. I'll have to wait till this melts before I can get out to the orchard. It looks like a couple of the trees are bent down. I can't tell if deer were at them (the ground is too hard yet to fix the broken corner post at the orchard end) or if the wind blew the wire guards over. Anyway, that needs to be checked out pretty quick.

Overall, the seedlings are doing well. I have some eggplant coming up now. I do have trouble with the sweet peppers though -- no Cal Wonder seedlings yet. I have plenty of hot peppers. The new pack of Buttercrunch seeds sprouted ok so I figure I am only about 2 weeks behind. I am disappointed though in the Riesentraube tomato germination. This is the second year I've tried this variety and the germination has been poor both years. I think I will try to find a different seed source next year, and if germination with the new source is as poor as it is now, I will switch to a different variety for cherry tomatoes.

I was looking at MOSA's organic certification web site and debating whether or not I should bite the bullet and send off for the certification packet, but the prices for everything just seem to be going up and up. I think I will be better off waiting at least another year and continue to work on building my infrastructure (read water well and field cooler) and production.

There are some good learning day trips being presented through the Ag Extension soon. I wish I could go to all of them, but with the price of gas on the way up I will have to pass on most of them. I have decided to go to Ashland on April 20th for the poultry testing certification class as that will not be offered again until 2009, and there is a great conference in Appleton in June that I want to try to go to; the full conference is very expensive, but I whittled it down to just one day to check out the community kitchen. I want to see what all is involved with starting something like that.

The County has started cutting away the trees from the road shoulders in preparation for the upcoming road work. They were really nice guys and even took the wood over to my Dad's for me. There was a lot more wood than I thought! Now Dad can cut the wood down in the yard and his wood pile is nearby, and I can use the trees on the field side for fence posts when I move the fence line.

You know how I have been thinking about doing some agroforestry? Well, I got The Mushroom Cultivator from the library. Holy Cow! I had no idea growing fungus could get so involved! This is a book for people who want to seriously get into mushrooms. I just want to buy my spawn and plug logs on a small scale. Still, the book is very understandable and teaches you everything you ought to know about mushrooms.

I finally finished sewing the last hair piece on my knitted farmer boy dolls. I will work on the overalls for them. I have two pair of brown overalls that need to be sewn together, and I have to get a skein of blue yarn to knit the third pair. Haven't decided yet whether to make the suspenders the same color or not, and I don't know yet if I want to just give them neckerchiefs or hats or both. Decisions, decisions -- at least the girl dolls are done. I have 9 ecru jar toppers finished. I think when we go to Minocqua to take Lara for her neurologist check up I will stop and see if I can get some different color thread for jar toppers and the skein of blue yarn. Maybe I can get that nice dark grey Coats and Clark yarn, too. I want to take that one hooded sweater I made apart and double the yarn to make it a bit warmer. The gray will go well with the oatmeal color I think. It would be nice to be able to make a couple of shawls and have those to sell, too, at the end of the year at the Harvest Festival in Phillips.

I've been babbling long enough. Think I'll go look at some catalogs and engender some creativity!