Friday, June 20, 2008

Summer Solstice

With two mornings in the 30'sF last week, I guess I am not surprised that nothing looks like it is growing in the field. Still, I think I planted in enough time to be able to get produce this year -- no early crops, but Fall only. And I am confident that everything will grow because I planted with the moon.

Today I spent all day cutting the grass around the the sections with the brush mower. I wanted to cut it today because we are expecting rain and I want to use the grass as mulch. So, if we get a good rain tonight, I'll be out tomorrow raking grass around everything to help keep in the moisture. If I was cutting the grass for animal feed, I would have waited till we had a good dry spell -- usually around the 4th of July. Cutting the grass was very hard work, and I didn't quite finish, but that's ok. I'll be cutting the rest of the grass and in the orchard soon enough.

Speaking of orchard trees, my Westfield-Seek-No-Further and one of the Wealthy trees didn't make it through our horrid winter. I think I will place an order with St. Lawrence for two new apple trees -- haven't decided on a variety yet -- and a couple of grafted plum trees. My moving the shrubs out of the perennial bed is leaving a nice area for new trees! I guess I just have the orchard bug! The asparagus bed is shot so I will look for a new place to start it again next year. And now that I cut the grass and can see what is growing, I'll move the gooseberries and whatever raspberries I find this Fall to the house.

I checked the garlic for scapes, but there are none showing yet. A good rain will let me weed the garlic more easily tomorrow. The horseradish is weedy, but looks good, too. A big can of compost should make it take off.

Dad was cutting wood today, and Tom and Ed were out cutting up the trees that have fallen from winter and storm near the house. I am glad to see him feeling stronger.

Our Sarah called. She is back in Detroit and will have a week's leave so she wants to come home, probably the end of June and hopefully she'll be able to stay through the 4th. We will certainly have a good bar-be-que for her! I'll call Dad and Mary and see if they want to come. Maybe we can do a day trip to the Apostle Islands; it's been over 10 years since I was there. I know Sarah would like going there.

I'm beat so I'll leave off for now. Happy Solstice Everybody -- the days start getting shorter now!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cold in June

I have been working hard to get the garden in after having to wait to do so because of all the heavy rain and hard winds we received. All I have left to do is re-till the section in front of the high tunnel -- it's been tilled twice, but the rains have made the weeds grow like monsters -- and plant the hops, winter squashes and beans. I think I will forego the heirloom beans (you have to baby these heirlooms until you've grown and saved the seed for three years to acclimate the variety to your growing area) and just put my hopes with the Provider green beans for this year. On the 4th of July I will plant Green Wave Mustard Greens, Detroit Red Beets, and Scarlet Nantes carrots for late harvest.

I took some pictures of the garden. You can see how cloudy it is and has been. Sunshine has been brief all month, and while I am thankful for the rain after three hard years of drought, it would be nice to have at least some warmer temps. You can see how lush the woods are and how high the creek is -- it's almost to the top of its banks. In the garden I have covered three rows with Agribon to protect seedlings from wind and to give a bit more warmth. Tom is at the doctor today, but I hope to go back to the field after supper and cover the cucumbers and eggplants -- I already have the wire hoops in place so it shouldn't take too long. It was raining this morning so I cleaned house and scrubbed out the seedling trays and put them away till next year. It is supposed to be really cool tonight.

You wouldn't believe how many bug bites I have. I look like an escapee from the CDC. Mosquitoes and flies may be plentiful, but I have only seen ONE bee this year. Who knows what the harvest will look like with the temperatures more like September than June.

So what's in the garden? Mandan Bride flour corn; New England Pie Pumpkins; Lisbon Bunching onions, Southport Red Globe onions, and Stuttgart yellow onions; Peas (I went with several seed packets I received free from Jungs last year); Forellenschuss, Paris Cos, and Jung's leaf lettuce mix; Bull's Blood Beets, Bloomsdale and America Spinach; Kohlrabi, Collards, Copenhagen Market Cabbage, and Wong Bok Chinese Cabbage; Sweet Fennel, Genovese and Lemon Basil, Sweet Annie, Marigolds, Calendula, Bee's Friend, two kinds of Statice, Honesty, Cilantro, Mammoth Dill, Curly Leaf Parsley; Red Cloud and Kennebec potatoes; Perkins Long Pod Okra (some is also in the high tunnel), Black Beauty Eggplant (Round Mauve is in the high tunnel); Boston Pickling Cukes and Green Slicer cukes; and Charentais Melons. In the high tunnel are the Round Mauve eggplants, more Perkins Long Pod Okra, spearmint, catnip, and Italian Flat Leaf Parsley; St. Valery carrots; the "found" tomatoes -- Bloody Butcher, Chadwick Cherry, Riesentraube, one each Arkansas Traveler, Mortgage Lifter, and Cherokee Purple, and a couple of Rugers. Let's pray they all fruit! Something has already chewed most of the King of the North Sweet Peppers and half of the Okra, but most of the hot peppers -- Tobasco, Joe's Long Cayenne, Thai Hot and Laos -- are looking fine. They must be too hot for the bugs to chew on.

Once I have the garden planted I will work on setting up a meeting for the Local Food Atlas Committee so we can get to work on next year's atlas. I have several ideas to offer the group and need to do some research before the meeting.

Sarah is back in Detroit doing more training. She may be able to come home for a few days before leaving for Afghanistan. We will be sure to have a bar-be-que for her!

Almost forgot to tell you about the wild life. I can tell we are in for more weather because Sandy brought up a big turtle out of the woods. You know you're in for lots of rain when you see those guys heading for higher ground. This morning a fox ran through the yard three different times. And on the way back to the house from the field, a large gray wolf crossed the road in front of me. It had an injured fore paw but was moving quickly. When I told Tom about it, I said it must have run along the edge of the marsh right in back of the house. He said he saw two deer running through the woods and he figured they must have been running from the wolf. I wonder how it hut its leg.

Time to go. Stay warm and dry! My prayers go out to all those suffering from flooding in the Midwest and the effects of natural disasters all over the world. Peace (in wisdom) Be on Earth and Among All Creatures!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rain and More Rain

Well, this certainly is an interesting year! The last three growing years here suffered horrible drought. But this year we have lingering cold and rain, rain, and more rain. Now, I'm not griping about the rain; it is much needed to replenish the depleted water tables from the droughty years, and I would rather have an excess of rain than drought. I have to admit though that the high water has me nervous. What worries me is the lingering cold. In the last three years, late frosts nearly wiped me out, so this year I've waited to plant. Most of my seedlings are hardening off out in the high tunnel, but since time is getting late in our short season, they have to go in the ground this week while the moon is in good sign. The cold temps don't bode well for growing, and the lingering off and on heavy rains favor plant diseases and root rot. Today, heavy rain, high winds, and possible hail are forecast for tonight, so I decided not to plant the seedlings in the field until tomorrow. After today, the rains are supposed to lessen for a few days so I figure that will be enough time for the seedlings to adjust to being transplanted. Because it is so cold, I have decided not to plant gourds, pole beans, and some finnicky winter squashes. Most of what I do put in the field will go into raised beds and be covered with agribon most of the time. I am also worried about pollination -- I have only seen ONE BEE so far this year.

I have managed to finish planting the high tunnel: I found some Bloody Butcher, Riesentraube and Chadwick Cherry tomato seedlings in the basement that I missed when I took the other seedling flats out to the high tunnel, so hopefully we will have at least some tomatoes this year. The new flat of tomatoes I started are still in the basement and I do intend to plant them in the high tunnel and try for late harvest. We'll see what happens even though I don't think I'll get any kind of harvest. Yesterday I planted the Round Mauve Eggplant (boy, do those transplants look nice!) and a whole flat of Perkins Long Pod Okra. Okra did so well for me at the farmers market last year that I decided to plant even more of it this year. The St. Valery carrots look very good, and the Italian flat-leaf parsley is starting to sprout. The spearmint, while not very much, is looking great, and the catnip that made it through the winter looks positively champion. I planted two varieties of lettuce, Jung's salad blend and some of my beloved Forellenschuss, and both are sprouting nicely, though the Forellenschuss actually looks much stronger than the Jung's blend. I will direct seed many more greens (see my Feb. 17 entry Waiting for Spring and click on the title to go to my 2008 seed list) tomorrow if the weather cooperates.

In between rains, I finally finished taking down the compost bin in the front yard (the electric company didn't like it being under the wires). The whole project only took me about two weeks. I have to admit the area looks a lot better and I will be very happy to put all the compost on the field this fall. Slowly but surely my worm count (and soil fertility) is rising!

Friday is my turn for annual blood work and mammogram, so I will stop by the Ag office in Phillips and pick up some more Food Atlases (to to get Father's Day gifts, too!). I received the brochure holders I ordered on-line and will take some filled holders to the three businesses I talked to that said they would let me display them. Now that Tom finished his daily trips to Minocqua for cancer treatment, I should have a bit more time and will be able to look at scheduling the Atlas Committee meeting.

A nice customer called last night looking for beet greens, and to everybody, yes, I will have beet greens from Bull's Blood Beets again this year. Also, I will have some MacDonald rhubarb -- not much as the plants are still on the small side, but I will have some. I have to keep an eye on the garlic with all this rain, but the last I checked, it was growing very well, too.

It's time to take care of Lara, so I'll leave off for now. Prayers and best wishes to all who are suffering in the flooded areas of the Midwest . . . .

Sarah called from Ft. McCoy this week. She sounds good and is very busy with all the training. I don't like to think about my brown-eyed baby girl learning "hand-to-hand combat", but on the other hand, I can't help but feel kind of sorry for anybody my "Little Red Chief" tangles with. God be with my Sarah and all our troops! May you come home safely SOON!

I read an interesting article from ATTRA today about new research that shows that people are willing to pay up to twice grocery store prices for locally grown food. That bodes well for small farmers like me (if we can get anything to market in this wild weather!). Reading articles like that helps keep me positive.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

June 1st

This afternoon after lunch (fried chicken with mashed potatoes, cream gravy, broccoli, salad, and corn bread) I was able to take the BCS out to the field and turned over two sections. (It was a great way to work off lunch!) I'll let the grain grow on the rest of the sections, then I'll harvest the grain on one section and turn the growth under on the other. That should make the worms happy! I think I'll have enough room to plant everything else on the two sections I turned over today. If I can, tomorrow I'll take the hiller/furrower out to the field and till a bit deeper. Maybe I will have enough time to plant the potatoes and onions. We'll see.

A customer called this morning asking for rhubarb. I was delighted to tell her I would have some, but unfortunately, it's not beg enough yet. With the late onset of Spring and the cold weather, everything is growing very slowly. I happened to water the rhubarb yesterday and it does look very good. I threw some good compost around all of the plants so hopefully they should take off.

I am almost done moving the compost bin -- there is only one more section to take down.

Yesterday I did some work on the herb garden by the propane tank and added a healthy layer of good compost. Planted into the compost I added many more seeds of Honesty, Holy Basil, German Chamomile, more oregano, salad burnet, and sage, edible Chrysanthemum, more lemon balm, and statice. That little garden should look fantastic by the end of the summer.

I brought the black cohosh and goldenseal plants up from the basement and put them under the trees. There is no sign of the blood root though, but I think that is a very slow germinator.

My Willamette and Cascade hops are looking very nice. I really have to decide where I will put them. I am tempted to keep them by the house to act as a shade screen; I will be better able to water them there and I won't worry so much about thieves stealing them. On the other hand, it would be nice to take one of the field sections and turn it into a little hop yard. I'll think about it.

Boy, the bugs are bad! I am really chewed up, but I have to say that they really didn't drive me crazy. Maybe it was wearing that new field hat. Looks like the beaver came and got his wood -- those nice posts are chewed down to about 4' each and the skid trail down to the creek is well marked. Maybe he remembers how I took his post last year!

The gooseberries, currants, raspberries, and even the wild strawberries are looking great. Let's hope we get to pick some this year!