Friday, August 02, 2013

Working Feverishly

It took me two days to build the three new garden boxes and three days to dig and sift dirt from my "dirt hole" to fill them.  What I did was lay a thick layer of paper to cover the inside bottom of each box.  That was followed by a layer of poultry bedding.  And finally, the rest of the box was filled with dirt.  Talk about sweat equity!

The dirt hole deepens
The dirt hole doesn't look very deep, but I figure it is nearly 5' deep.  You should have seen me dig out that big rock.  I'll leave it in the hole until I figure out how to get it out without hurting myself.  By the way, this is the source of most of my rocks -- remember my ubiquitous rock pile? Conveniently it is next to the dirt hole. (In the background you see two of the new garden boxes already planted for a hopeful fall garden.)

My Rock Pile

In the new garden box next to the greenhouse I have planted Provider green beans and yellow wax beans.  If I am lucky I'll get some beans.  In any event, I'll turn the plants under and add some aluminum sulfate because that box is intended as a permanent blueberry planting for Tom next spring. 
Future Blueberry Box

Tom and Ed are making a dent in the big wood pile.  They cut and stacked these three rows and added a fourth one today.  Tom says he wants to cut one more pile and that should be it for next year's wood. We'll see.  Making maple syrup burns up a lot of wood.
Next Year's Firewood
It took two days for me to freeze four gallons of collard greens from Tom's garden, and today I canned one batch each of kosher garlic dill pickles and sweet pickles. I would rather can food than freeze it because of the way the power goes out up here.  If we have an extended power outage I don't want to do double the work by having to can food I have already processed. But I agree with Tom that frozen collards taste better than canned.

I always forget it takes my back a while to get used to canning each year.  I have tried different work heights, but my back still aches so I suppose it is the repetitive nature of the work that causes the problem.  I do love to can so I tough it out until my back stops complaining.  Looks like I need to buy a new water bath canner because the pot I have used for the last 35 years has finally warped.  It was one of the first pots I bought when Tom and I got married.  I think I'll buy a good stainless steel pot that can double for making home brewed beer and use this one for making maple syrup.

The chicken saga continues!  My sister stopped by last week and told us that Dad saw a wolf jump over the fence she had around her chicken coop and gobble up six of her chicks, feathers and all. It then jumped back over the fence and dashed off into the woods.  She said that since I erected the second fence around my chicken coop the critters thought her chickens were easier pickings.  Not so!  Tom went for a walk the other day after supper and surprised a fox that was running around the coop terrorizing the chickens.  The fence held that time, but yesterday the wolf came and terrorized a chicken into hopping in the space between the two fences.  It literally tore the outer fencing off its posts and snatched the chicken.  When I went to lock everything up I found a torn up fence, five rattled hens, and a pile of feathers.  What was so unnerving about the incident was that Tom, Ed, and I spent most of yesterday working outside and we didn't hear or see a thing.  I can't figure out when the wolf made his attack.  So, this morning before I started making the pickles I fixed the fence and put some cement blocks down around the base.  I ordered some deer fence stakes from A.M. Leonard Tool Supply, too, as they are currently on sale.  Of course, like eagles, it is illegal to shoot the damn wolf.  Can you see the steam coming out of my ears?

The garlic and onions are curing in the garage, and I hope to make it to the farmers market next week with them and some of Tom's collards and cucumbers, dill and chervil, and my spring planted carrots.  I'll take a run out to the field to check on the potatoes and squash.  Maybe I'll find some patty pan summer squash.  Last week my pie pumpkins and winter squash were just starting to run.  There are very few tomatoes on any of the plants.  I planted lettuce, beets, and beans for the fall to go with the potatoes at the market.  It seems I have better luck with a fall garden these last few years than I do with spring planted veggies.

We have already had some very cool nights in the lower 40'sF and even one night that got down to 38°F.  Not good for any sort of fruit set.  So far I have flowers but no beans on the Kentucky Wonder Homestead brown pole beans and Scarlet Runner beans that are twining up the ladder fence trellis surrounding the forest garden.  I have had poor blooming on Grandpa Ott's morning glories, too.  Still, the fence is very pretty and I'll leave you with some pictures.  I'm tired.

Kentucky Wonder/Old Homestead Brown Pole Beans

Scarlet Runner Beans and Grandpa Ott's Morning Glories

The Worm Fence

Peace Be and God bless you all!

Year Three in the Forest Garden

I am really enjoying my forest garden experiment.  It is so interesting to observe how this garden progresses in time.  This year, the dominant plants are raspberries and ferns.  Now ferns like moist areas, so I wonder if my digging swales throughout the garden earlier this spring are a factor in the rise of the ferns.  Raspberries also produce better when given extra water, and the bushes are loaded with berries.  They have just started ripening and I have already picked a quart of berries. 
raspberries ripening

Year of the Ferns
What I notice this year is the lack of insect damage.  Remember in the first year of the garden when my red currants and gooseberries were chewed down to nubs by nasty little worms?  Well, the following year I had wasp nests everywhere.  This year there are no wasps and no insect pests.  I discovered that wasps are great beneficial insects.  Most of the plants in the forest garden are healthy and growing wonderfully.  You should see the black currants! While there were no wasps this year, I did have a tremendous number of dragonflies that ravenously munched on our pernicious mosquito hordes.  I was very grateful!  All of the fruit trees, including the new apples planted this spring and the pears, which are very iffy in my location, look great.  I notice that the ferns and raspberries like growing around the fruit trees.  Perhaps this growth pattern helps protect the trees from marauding four-legged foragers.

 I have come to understand what "progression" means in a forest garden. Some of my herbs that did so well the last two years are now being crowded out by other plants.  I will need to move them to the new raised bed herb box.  For example, the oregano and peppermint can be found only by walking on them and I can smell their delightful fragrances.  The lovage definitely wants to be somewhere else.  Valerian on the other hand seems to have acclimated quite well to its location atop a rotting stump.

Determined Chocolate Mint

Unhappy Lovage
As I strolled through the garden yesterday picking raspberries, I wondered what might be the dominate plants next year, and it occurred to me that I noticed little trees growing strongly everywhere underneath the raspberries.  My guess is that trees -- maples, basswood, cherries, and yellow birches, as well as others, will take off next year.  If so, they will be the trees I dig up and transplant down by the creek buffer zone.  Transplanting my own trees will save me loads of money otherwise spent at a nursery.  The only trees I want to buy now are butternut trees.

Wild and Wooly in the Forest Garden
All in all, the forest garden looks wild and wooly, but if you know what to look for you can see the pattern of it.  Perhaps the hardest part of monitoring this garden is resisting the urge to take pruners in hand and make it "neat".  I have disciplined myself to cut only walking paths throughout.  I think the garden likes that.