Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Planting

We've been planting as quickly as we can since the weather is cooperating nicely. It is supposed to rain off and on for the next few days so I think I will be able to get everything in the ground. I finally finished planting the high tunnel. On the South wall are the sweet potatoes interplanted with calendula and spearmint, catnip, and chives at either end of the row. The next row is Cherokee Trail of Tears and Rattlesnake pole beans. The middle row holds Malaysian Dark Red, Pandora, and Turkish Orange eggplants, King of the North sweet peppers, and loads of hot peppers: Lemon, Chocolate Habanero, Early Jalapeno, Thai Hot, Thai Hot2, Thai Hot3, Laos, African Red, and Bolivian Yellow. The next two rows are mostly tomatoes: Green Gage, Large Red, Italian Tree, Limmony, Cherokee Purple, Vintage Wine, Brandywine Red, Mortgage Lifter, Bloody Butcher, Stupice, and Rutgers. The second of those rows is filled out with Genovese Basil and I'll be putting in the cucumbers tomorrow. The North wall is filled with herbs: sage, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, elecampane, and summer and winter savory.

In the nonplanted area of the hops section I have two wide rows of red kidney beans and two wide rows of soldier beans, a row of sunflowers, a wide row of Stuttgart onions, a row of Copenhagen Market Cabbage, Champion Collards, a row of Giant Musselburgh Leeks, and Garden Huckleberries. Next to those I'll put the Charentais melons -- trying them in the field for the first time. That will leave a smaller area next to the hops where I will plant the Sweet Annie, Lavender, Bergamot, and Foxy Digitalis. I was too tired to finish planting the rest of the flats and that is too bad because we have received the nice rain today, but hopefully I'll get it all finished this week and be able to make the farmers market next week if all goes well.

Tom and I set up the hand pump by the creek. Now whenever I need water I will have it handy. The pump is kind of hard to get going because the hose is 1" diameter, but it works well once the water comes up. I pump into a pail and and dump that into a large garbage can. That makes it easy for Ed to fill a watering can. I don't want him too close to the creek bank. Watering plants is something he can do -- at least once the plants are big enough for him not to step on. I figure I'll have arms that look better than Michele Obama's by the end of the summer!

Thanks to Shane and Molly from the Midway Bar for the egg cartons! I'll bring you some eggs once the ladies are laying.

The garden boxes are looking good. Here is Box 1 with the garlics, shallots and potato onions:

Box 2 looks kind of sparse but that is because I need to plant more sorrel and the St. Valery carrots are still very small. The Forellenschuss lettuce you can see is small but growing rapidly, and at the end of the box the scallions and Egyptian Walking Onions are looking good.

Box 3 is pretty full. I received a free packet of Alaska Peas from Baker Creek and while they are growing, I am not impressed. They seem to be very slow and the germination was not that great. The French heirloom turnips (Navet Des Vertus Marteau) are EXCELLENT. I have been eating the thinnings in salads and they are just delicious. I think I will try to save most of this vegetable for seed. The French Breakfast Radishes are ready to pick and the Nichols Mesclun Mix is ready to start cutting, as well. That, by the way, is my favorite mesclun mix. Don't see the Golden Beets anywhere yet so I don't know if they'll come up or not. In any event, I should have at least scallions, radishes, salad greens for sale at the market when I go.

The new grape vines are growing!

And the rhubarb seems to like its new location.

You know I free-range my chickens (much to my husband's dismay), and before I relegate the roosters to the nearly finished chicken skid out in the field, I thought you might like to see some pictures of their favorite haunt -- under the balsam trees among the wild raspberries in the woods just beyond the grassy lawn. They scratch themselves a resting place in the duff layer during the heat of the day, then roam around in the grass around dusk before returning to the coop by dark. They are very happy chickens!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Planting Today

It was cloudy, chilly, and drizzling most of the day today. The moon was in Cancer so I wanted to plant as much as I could. Tom and Ed and I went out to the field about 11:30, and while Tom and Ed worked on the chicken skid I re-tilled the hops and main veggie section and then started planting. I only got two wide rows of red kidney beans and Soldier beans planted, one row of sunflowers, most of one row of Stuttgart onions and I finished that row with Mammoth dill. And that was all. The flats I took out to the field I wound up putting under Agribon with the other flats in the high tunnel. I watered everything in the high tunnel, and then worked some on tacking up feed bag patches on the end walls of the high tunnel. I poked my thumb really good once, but it didn't bleed very much. Even though the bags are just tacked up, they seemed to be doing all right keeping the wind out. I still need to finish patching the other end wall, but I think that after I get the patches tacked in place that it will only take me a day to sew them in place securely. They should suffice until I can get a chance to find out how much new panels will cost me.

Tom hooked up the new suction hose to the hand pump I bought, and we took it out to the field to see if the hose was long enough to reach down into the water from the creek bank. We had to prime the pump so I was glad I had taken a couple of jugs of water with us, and hurray! the pump works fine, so even though I will still have to haul water, at least now I don't have to go all the way back to the house to do it, and I won't have to worry about skimping on giving the plants water.

Tom pretty much finished the chicken skid so I just need to get some handles, a door latch, and the roofing materials, and I can start moving the roosters out to the skid. I will be glad to catch up with all the work. Some times it seems that all I do is "catch up". There is so much work to do. I still have to call the utility company to come and mark where the electric line is so I can fix the fence. And I still have the perennial bed and orchard sections to cut the grass on. I sure hope Bernie calls me tomorrow and tells me the chicken feed order is in -- I'm down to two bags already, and it's been over a week since I placed the order.

Well, I'm pretty beat so I'll talk to you later.

Monday, May 25, 2009


This morning we all went to the Butternut High School for the Memorial Day Service by the American Legion. We received a Blue Star Banner for our Sarah, who is a Sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves and serving in Afghanistan.

It was a nice service. I had no idea there were so many people in our community with loved ones in the military. I felt like part of a larger family. My sister, Mary, and her husband, John, received flags for her daughter, Theresa, who recently re-upped, and her husband, Matt, who also re-upped. Now there's a pair that military life seems to suit!

We stopped at Dad's on the way home and invited him over for bar-b-que, but he had just eaten and wasn't sure he'd come. That's ok. He's used to eating at certain times while we tend to eat whenever the chow gets done. Anyway, it is a beautiful day for Memorial Day. I hope you all remembered to buy a poppy. Please pray for our fallen soldiers and all those who serve our great country today.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Farmer's Tan

I suppose you could say that getting a nice tan is a bonus when you work outside. I certainly don't mind getting tanned even though the tan is only on my lower arms, face and neck! Today, I tried using a sewing awl to repair the high tunnel end wall, but the feed bag I was using for a patch ravelled mercilessly and I will have to think of something else to use. The sweet potatoes and pole beans survived the frost last night so I was glad I took the precaution of double wrapping all the seedlings in the high tunnel with Agribon 19. I watered everything and came back to the house.

This afternoon after I took care of Lara, I went with Tom and Ed to Tom's garden area next to the farm house and we planted Tom's potatoes. The sun was hot but the work was not unbearable because there was a slight breeze. We are seeing a lot of people going by on the road that are up for the holiday.

After we came back to the house, Tom helped me fix the little lawn mower Dad gave me and we got it going. Ed will be cutting the grass around the field sections tomorrow if the weather holds! I'll be working on the chicken skid as I bought the hardware cloth and latch bolts I need to build the ramp door. Unfortunately I midjudged how big the chicken skid would actually be and the door I was going to use will not fit. Oh well, I'll use that door for something else! In any event, I am still looking for roofing material other than a tarp that will give the chickens some better protection from the elements. I must remember to bring the saw out with me so I can even off the joints and staple on the chicken wire over the side walls.

The new moon is tomorrow, and it is also Tom's and my 34th wedding anniversary. Time sure flies! He was cocky and had that cherry red 1973 Chevy Nova SS. You know, that was a great car. . . . Anyway, some time this weekend we plan on having a bar-b-que. The American Legion wants to give us a blue star banner at the festivities at Butternut High School on Monday to honor our Sarah, who is in Afghanistan, so we will go to that. Maybe Tom will decide to get involved with the Legion activities; I think he would like that.

We had some fun today with Google Earth. We looked up some of Tom's old Air Force buddies' addresses and then we tried refining our address since for some reason Google and Yahoo have our address farther North on FF than what it actually is, but I can't seem to be able to correct the error. Well, it isn't that far off, but then, their location is still part of the farm.

The chickens really like running around the woods near the house. They have decimated my herb garden unfortunately, and I have to keep the garden boxes covered with Agribon to keep them out, but it is fun watching them run around. They seem to enjoy digging through the duff layer under the trees. I keep the feed and water inside the chicken coop and fenced area to keep them close. I have already noticed a slow down in their feed intake, but I have ordered another 1/2 ton of feed from Bernie. He will call me when it is in. Any feed broiler/grower feed that is left over will go to the next batch of chickens -- and ducks. As soon as I have everything planted I will start butchering. I figure I can do a couple of chickens a day in the evening. I bought Herrick Kimball's book "Anyone Can Build A Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker" and that is another project on my To Do list!

Tomorrow is the opening day for the Phillips Farmers Market at it new location across from Copp's grocery on Highway 13. I will not be there because I don't have anything yet despite my best efforts, but it shouldn't be more than two or three weeks before I have some peas, lettuces, scallions, and radishes. So do try to go and support the local producers who are able to attend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wind and More Wind

Today was kind of scary. The wind would just not let up, and gusts were over 45mph at times. I was grateful the trees are not yet leafed out or we would have had many down. As it was, the power went out for a good two hours and we had two fairly big trees snap in half in the front yard. What scared me though was that I smelled smoke somewhere. I think the woods are either on fire or there was a fire somewhere Southwest of my farm. I wonder if it was related to the power outage. I worked most of the day in the high tunnel turning the ground over and planting my sweeet potato slips, calendula, and Cherokee Trail of Tears pole beans. The wind is ripping the West end of my high tunnel end panel and I was trying to seam it back together with some repair tape when I smelled the smoke. I could see smoke in the air, too. I drove from my field to the County line, but I could not locate the source of the smoke. That really bothered me. I came back to to the house and listened to the NOAA radio, but there were no hazard warnings. The wind is expected to diminish (it is now after 11:00 p.m. and I can still hear it) and there is a 50/50 chance of thunderstorms. I know that across northern Minnesota there is extreme fire hazard warnings. Fires in Minnesota could easily spread to Northwest Wisconsin. I am fanatic about keeping a fire safety zone around the house, but I think I will go out early tomorrow and make sure brush and dead leaves are well away.

The temperature today was close to 90F -- unreal for this time of year. And everything is SO dry. Any rain we get soaks immediately into the ground. I made sure the chickens had lots of water. They don't like the wind and they spent the day under the balsams in the woods or on the lee side of shelter out of the wind. I don't like to do it because of the racoons and fishers, but I decided to leave the coop window open a bit tonight to give them some extra air. The bear is back and I am afraid he may try to get at the chicken feed stored inside the coop.

I got two flats of Mandan Bride flour corn and one flat of Rattlesnake pole beans started in the basement. I have Kentucky Wonder and True Red Cranberry pole beans that I have yet to start. The pumpkins, pickling and slicing cucumbers, and winter and summer squashes are just about ready to take to the field. I have loads of bush beans to plant in the field, too. I hope everythings grows and I get enough bees to pollinate everything. Once I get my pump out to the field maybe I can keep everything watered enough to attract bees.

Well, it's getting late and I'm beat. Talk to you soon.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Time Flying By

We had snow yesterday morning -- that's the latest snow I've seen since we've been here in the Northwoods. It was on the coldish side temperature wise for the last two days; even the heat came on in the house. When I washed and re-filled the chicken waterers from the outdoor faucet, my hands got pretty cold.

The chickens are really getting big. I have one rooster that is trying to crow; can't figure out which bird he is, but it doesn't matter as after I get the planting done I'll start butchering. The chickens are 10 weeks old now. They like the roosts in the coop. Some of them like laying on top of the nest boxes better.

Tom and Ed helped me dig in the hops' poles, and yesterday I got the potatoes planted.

We'll have six long rows of Katahdin and Red Cloud. Tom re-tilled the empty section where the hops are and I am thinking about what I'll plant there. Last year's hops are off to a great start:

I checked out the wheat section today but didn't see any sprouting yet.

Tom and Ed and I went out to the field today after lunch and worked on the chicken skid. The directions from Herman's book turned out to be rather confusing. I mean, there are drawings, but really no clear instructions as to how to build the skid. We tried to follow the pictures, but aren't sure if what we are doing is correct. Anyway, we have it about half-finished and it seems sturdy enough. We brought the rafters and ridge pole back to the house to cut the rafter angles so that when we go back out to the field putting the rafters up will go smoothly. I told Tom I was thinking about putting plywood on for a more secure roof, but maybe some metal roofing would be lighter. Well, I have a few days before I need to decide. Here are a couple of pictures for you:

Today my nephew, John Ertl, graduated from UW Wood County finishing his first two years of college. He is off to Cornell on a full scholarship to complete his studies. He will be interning this summer as a unionizer. We are VERY PROUD of him and know he will do well. His sister, Melissa, has applied to be a White House page and I hope she gets to be one. All of my nieces and nephews are great kids and I think our society will be better off for their sincere community minded efforts.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Another Good Day

The weather was glorious today. Just right! Tom and Ed went out to the field with me and we got the wheat planted, the seedlings watered inside the high tunnel, the hops' poles cut, and half of another garden section tilled. If the weather holds, I'll finish that tomorrow. That section is where I've had oats and wheat rotating for two years, so the ground is harder to turn under (I use a BCS 722 Harvester). If I had a bigger tractor and a plow I would have been finished, but I work with what I have and if it takes me a couple of days, then it takes me a couple of days. Anyway, I like using the BCS because I can get a closer look at the soil as I break it up, and I am VERY happy with my increasing earthworm population.

The Webinar from NCAT on hoop houses was good; more for beginners, but good. This was the third Webinar I've attended and I think they are GREAT! If this is is how education of the future looks, I'm all for it.

Well, it's going down into the 30's tonight so I'm going to make sure the garden boxes are covered. Hopefully I won't pick up any more ticks -- they are out in force and I've pulled 4 of them off me just today!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Another Lovely Day

It rained and rained last night, and this morning, like magic, everything was green! I call this kind of rain "The Planting Rain" because now is the time to plant just about everything. The rain makes the soil easier to till while the soil moisture helps seeds quickly germinate. I will be out in the field tomorrow!

We had a lovely visit today from Sodie(sp?)and Ruby. I am glad the weather was nice for them. Ruby enjoyed watching my chickipoos while I related farm history and goals. It was a very enjoyable visit and I'm glad I decided to let them come out.

Because visitors were expected, I stayed in the house and worked all day on my seed saving presentation. Putting this talk together is more work than I expected it to be, but it will definitely be a good presentation. Fortunately I have photographs of my own and royalty free clip art I have purchased from Dover Publications that I can use to liven up slides. What I will need is help on how to get this presentation to play on an overhead projector. I have never done this before. I am using the free program Open Office to create the presentation, and I have to say I am very happy with Open Office. I find it very user friendly.

When I checked the apple tree grafts for signs of growth I discovered I had to re-do one of the grafts -- somehow I put the scion upside down on the rootstock! Oh, brother -- I hope those grafts take.

My library book "Depletion and Abundance" by Sharon Astyk came today. So far it is an excellent read.

I think I'll go and meditate for a while -- been feeling the need to better center myself. Talk to you soon.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

Here are some of the latest pictures from around the farm.

We had 4" of snow that melted the next day. The chickens didn't seem to mind the white stuff.

The trees are finally starting to break bud so I know that Spring is finally here.

Even the rhubarb is starting to grow.

Here is a picture of the pot I planted the blueberries in yesterday and the apple trees I grafted using the Antonovka root stock I bought from Fedco and the unknown heirloom apple scions GeorgeW sent me (George is from the heirloom Yahoo group I frequent) that he rescued from an abaondoned farm demolition. Way to go, George! I really hope those grafts take -- it's the first time I've tried grafting.

I finally pulled the winter mulch off my herb garden. I thought it would be nice to see the garden before the herbs grow. I'll take another picture this August when everything is in bloom. I'll be adding more herbs to it soon like tansy, summer and winter savory, elecampane, calendula and bergamot. After supper last night I spent some time hauling rock from my "dirt hole" -- I'll have to get you a picture of that LOL -- and putting it around my herb garden for a border. I almost have the garden ringed with stone. It will look very nice when I am finished.

Of the three garden boxes, only two have I covered with Agribon to give them some additional cold protection at night. I am delighted to see that all the seeds I planted are already sprouting. Don't know if I'll have anything for Opening Day at the Farmers Market or not. I planted as soon as I could.

The chickens are getting big. Now that I have my scale back from the certifier, I'll start weighing some of the bigger ones.

Here's a pic of my potatoes chitting on top of my piano. There is about 50 pounds of Red Cloud and Katahdin. After the Feast of the Three Chilly Saints (May 11, 12, and 13), the dandelions should come into bloom and that is when I plant potatoes and corn. (Two weeks after that I plant beans.)

This is Tom's new tv. Now he's all set for football! (Sigh -- no wood shed, storage shed, feed bin . . . .)

Tom and Eddy have been busy cutting firewod. Once the pile is big enough, they will get out the log splitter and start stacking. I would like to see them do a spiral wood pile, but Tom isn't one for aesthetic touches.

The last two days have been hectic while we've tried to capitalize on the good weather. I hauled some fence posts and twelve trays of seedlings from the basement out to the field and high tunnel. I planted the Nugget hops and marked locations for the hops poles (which I still need to cut). I planted the three low bush blueberry plants in a big pot that I placed beside the garage door. Yesterday, Tom and Ed helped me plant the 20 Swamp Oaks and 25 Yellow Birch tree seedlings around the creek bank and big swamp. Today I planted the 6 grape vines (three vines in a row) and sank poles for two trellises; I'll staple the wire to the posts when I get a chance. And all this on top of cleaning the house, taking care of Lara and the chickens, and working on my seed saving presentation. Tom and I were going to till the field and plant the oats and wheat but it was too windy.

This morning while I was taking care of the chickens, a lady called and asked to come out to the farm. Normally I would not allow this because the farm isn't at the stage of development I would like it to be before I give farm tours, but she was a care giver of an elderly woman who wanted to come see my chickens so I decided to let her come out. They will stay on the driveway and I'll bring the old woman out a chicken to pet. It's too bad I don't have the skid built yet for the roosters (I'd like to show her that), but I will explain my chicken operation to her and tell her a bit of farm history. Tom says it's embarrassing that we don't look like a farm (i.e., no barn, sheds, tractors, etc.), but this is the new age of farming and picturesque barns with gobs of machinery belong to another era. If I had my druthers, instead of building barns and sheds, I'd like to build domes -- I read that domes are extremely strong structures and that tornados jump over them for some reason and don't destroy them as they do traditional buildings. I think the shape would make them easier to heat in the winter, too, but I'm not certain of that. Anyway, I think domes are just cool; they make me think of hobbit houses. I hope the ladies like my chickens.

Hey, it's raining pretty good outside. We need the moisture! That's it for now.