Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bitter and Sweet

Lots of things happening here at Swamp Creek Farm as we reach the week before field planting.

Here are some of the new Dominique chicks.

I only bought 15 this year, but they will give me plenty of eggs and allow me to better control trying to start my own flock.  I really like the Doms.  These little critters are already scratching and chasing bugs.  They are great foragers and take cold weather well.

On Friday, Lara and I sold poppies for Memorial Day over at the Post Office in Butternut. She was very excited to come with me and enjoyed talking to the people who bought poppies.  She wore her poppy print jumper that I sewed for her.  The wind was chilly despite the sunny day and I was glad we wore sweaters and brought my shawl.  Lara wants to volunteer with me again next year.

I am busy working on the fences, cutting back weeds and brush from our fire zone, and trying to keep the seedlings going in the greenhouse till we can plant.  Our temperatures are expected to get down in the 30's again by the end of this week so I won't plant the seedlings outside till after then.  June 1 and 2 the moon is in Scorpio so those are my target planting days.  I did plant 350' of my Red Cloud potatoes saved from last year on the 20th while the moon was in Taurus.  (The seed potatoes kept wonderfully over the winter!) When I go out to plant on the 1st, I will probably  need to hill them already what with all the rain we've had this week.  It rained heavily again last night, but we've been so dry that the rain just soaked into the ground right away. 

Tom took Ed for some oral surgery and we are waiting to hear the biopsy results. Everything is expected to be ok.  And, Tom and I have made it to 37 years together. 

Time is short for me today so I'll catch up with you later.  Take care and be safe this Memorial Day weekend, and do remember to pray for the brave souls who died so that we can be free.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Taking Time to Evaluate

This post is for Kim down Milwaukee way.

What an interesting question you posed in your comment to my last blog entry!  You've made me stop and really evaluate what I'm doing here at Swamp Creek Farm.

Let's start with my take on Sepp Holzer.

My understanding of what this grand farmer says is:

1) Evaluate your land.  What is your elevation, terrain, soil?  What are the native plants that comprise the basic flora for your climate zone? What are your existing water sources and lowland areas that might be utilized to enhance a permaculture design? What kinds of critters do you have to deal with (including the two-legged regulatory authority sort)?

2) Define and decide the goals for your property. What do you want to achieve with your land?  Do you want to farm commercially as a private farmer, or open your farm to tourists?  Do you want your permaculture design to enhance and include wildlife and water courses like streams and wetlands?

3) Do it.

So where am I in this farming philosophy?  Let me begin by describing our farm.  We have about 78 acres (after family feuds and eminent domain).  Most of the land is wooded.  There are three fairly large wetlands, one containing a small lake that never goes dry, and one that I think could be classified as a fen - rather rare in Wisconsin. Our house well is only 60' deep and I believe our proximity to the marshes has something to do with that as most of our neighbors have wells that are at least 200' deep. Swamp Creek runs through a portion of the property.  Historically, during the logging days logs would be floated down Swamp Creek to where it runs into the Flambeau River, so the Creek can be fairly deep with a relatively strong current in spots.  I had an uncle who drowned in it so we treat Swamp Creek with respect. Our soil varies from silty clay to gravely to sandy loam. The woods are mostly maple, yellow birch, and basswood.  Cherries seem to be on the increase and since the tornado blew through two years ago, there are lots of shrubby trees like choke cherries, elderberries, juneberries, and dogwoods shooting up.

The goal here is very simple:  Make enough income from farm ventures to pay for the farm ventures and the real estate taxes.  Any money earned beyond that is gravy.

Being the cheapskate, er, frugal Bohemian I am, I have decided to work with the existing terrain contours and water features as much as possible in order to accomplish my permaculture goals instead of paying for an excavator to come out and move the earth around.  Wisconsin also has very strict regulations governing wetlands, which suit me just fine because I like my wetlands just as they are and I don't want just anybody messing with them.  I don't like trespassers.  That being said, my husband and I are going to pay for an evaluation from our regional aquaculture representative to see just what it would cost and entail to make the largest marsh able to support fish year round like brown trout and pan fishes like crappie and blue gills. Also, my farming philosophy is decidedly organic; I strongly consider myself a steward of the land.

I am self-taught and like digging in the dirt and experimenting.  I like to observe the results of what I do.  My "scramble planting" certainly exists in my Forest Garden area where I am also slowly building up a large raised bed (like those Sepp builds).  This is only the second year for that garden area.  I would like to have a better digital camera that would take crisper pictures of how everything grows there. So far I have not been very happy with the detail of the pictures I've taken so far with my current camera and haven't posted many pictures of this garden.  When the plantings are a little older I think you will be able to distinguish among plants better.

The field that lies between the big marsh and Swamp Creek is about three acres in size.  This is where I work at building the soil -- it is very poor and mostly sandy. The bad news is that I really need bigger equipment to be able to do all I would like to do here. Each year I am only able to to really pay attention to one or two of the sections I have divided the field into. This is an area I would eventually like to open to the public, but right now I am concentrating on soil building, pasture improvement using livestock (I'm still at the chickens only stage), and increasing the hops yard.  Each year I add trees to the buffer zone I have designated along the creek and marsh, too (about 40' including grassy area).  Trees take time to grow, and most of them don't live either because of the winter weather or the wildlife eat them. So, I am always planting trees. My family commitments also don't allow me to be able to be in the field as much as I would like. But each year I do see improvements in the farm, and my observations of the small steps I am able to take in permaculture farming teach me alot. I have already seen an increase in biodiversity that tells me I am doing the right things.  We have an increase in amphibian and reptile life, and there are two types of hawks besides bald eagles flying around.  We spotted our first Oriole just the other day. To me, practising permaculture is like putting together a 5,000 piece puzzle; though you might not see it at first, eventually every piece fits together to make a nice big picture.

To sum up, I like and use Sepp's ideas of raised beds, utilizing livestock as "farm workers", and unorthodox crop planting methods.  Eventually the marshes will play a bigger part in our permaculture farm plan, and one of these days I'll get around to building some of his really neat root cellar/animal shelters and getting a couple of pigs. 

Life moves slowly here at Swamp Creek Farm, but surely. I hope, Kim, that this answers your question. Thank you for making me sit down and think about what my long range goals are here.  It doesn't matter how small you are, just keep gardening! 

The field a few years ago

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Spring Green

Today was an absolutely beautiful day.  The trees are leafing out showing off their many colors and blossoms, and the sky was dotted with rain clouds that lightly dropped their moisture here and there.  Everything smells new!

After voting I worked at starting some more sunflower seeds - a vole or something got into the greenhouse and dug up all of the sunflower seeds I previously planted and ate them.  Ugh!  I started Charentais, Green Nutmeg, and Moon and Stars melons, more Blue Hubbard squash, and Ground Cherries; the greenhouse is almost full.   I hope to finish the field work soon. 

My onions came in the mail so I had to get them planted.  I built a raised bed in the field  next to the jerusalem artichoke bed and planted them.  There was lots of room left in the bed when I was finished so I transplanted my over-wintered leeks there, as well.  There is still some room left so I think I will transplant my Egyptian Walking Onions there, too.  I think working permanent raised beds will be alot easier for me.

We have new tenants -- a pair of Canada geese have a nest down by the little lake in the big marsh next to the field and were proudly walking five downy babies yesterday.  Looks like I'll have to leave Sandy, the Swamp Creek dog home when I go out to the field so she doesn't get "terrorized" by a protective parent!

Talk to you soon!

Recall Primary Day

Well, today is another one of those favorite Feast Days of mine.  It is the Feast of the Apparation of St. Michael the Archangel.  This day is different from the Feast Day celebrated on September 29th, but since I like Michael the Archangel I am partial to both days and always say the Prayer to St. Michael on these days.   Michael the Archangel is a tough guy who takes care of good people.  I think holding the Wisconsin Recall Primary today is fortuitous for the people of Wisconsin.  I can almost picture St. Michael standing on top of Timms Hill with blazing sword in hand and fixing his eyes on The Inglorious One and his cohorts in Madison . . . glad I'm further North.  Anyway, I'll be up late tonight watching The Ed Show and meditating positively for the people of this good state.  Tom and I drove to Mercer early this morning to vote our say in the matter. 

Get out and vote, People of the Badger!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Good to Be Working Outside

Every day since Easter Tom and I have been hauling mink manure that we get for free from our good neighbor, Dale, over at Camp One.  We toss it on the field and garden areas, and we hope to finish some time next week.  Dad has said we can use his tractor and plow to turn the ground over.  I really appreciate that as most of the field sections have sodded over and it would take me quite a while to redefine them using just the BCS 722.

I have been working hard adding to the fence around the forest garden.  The picture below shows a fairly long area that faces the front of the house.  I am going to use this part of the fence as a trellis for scarlet runner beans and Grandpa Ott's morning glories.  I think the hummingbirds will approve when they migrate back here around the end of this month.   Thankfully, digging in the fence posts has been relatively easy.

I rounded the worm fence I started last year around the corner where one of last year's compost areas lay, and joined it to the woven fence under the trees.  It is starting to look pretty good. This view from the top of the berm along the road. 

While I like cutting poles for fence posts, Tom says that to save time I can buy some for fixing up the perimeter fence around the field.  We are going to repair the downed posts there, then redefine the individual field sections with the tractor and fence them to help keep out the deer.   I have the wire to do the job but I'm not sure I'll have the time to get it all done.

I bought red maples and white pine trees through the Price County tree sale this year and walked around last week planting them.  I put some of the white pines down by the creek to replace the pine trees that came down there during the tornado.  Tom and I are going to pull those downed trees around and leave them as part of the creek buffer zone.  Remember last year how the does would hide their fawns by those trees while they went to eat?  White pines grow fast so I expect the empty looking areas to fill in quickly.  Most of the red maples I put by the house purely because I love the way they look in the Fall and there isn't much red color in our woods.  If the County offers sugar maples next year I'll buy enough to plant an alle along the hay road.   Eddy and I have also been transplanting little balsams and pines that are growing out of place and adding them to our road screen.  I took a picture but they are a little hard to see so I'll wait for them to grow a bit then try taking another picture for you. 

The little greenhouse is filling up fast with seedlings and I am feverishly starting more seeds in the basement.  Even though the weather is now warmer (it was almost 80°F today) than colder, I won't even think about planting most things outside till after the Feasts of the Three Chilly Saints .   The dandelions blooming are telling me to plant my saved seed potatoes, but I am going to resist temptation.

I could tell you more, but I'm pretty tired and the music of the frogs in the marshes sounds like a lullaby.   Think I'll have some rhubarb pie and hit the sack.  Talk to you soon!