Wednesday, August 28

What is this Plant????

This thorny vine came up by my garden shed this year and I don't remember planting anything there. A nice surprise, but it would also be nice to know what it was.
Any thoughts?

Tuesday, August 27

The little girl shows much promise as a future farmer, but her tractor safety operations may need a little work.

Monday, August 26

Should I File a Claim?

This past weekend gave us such beautiful weather that I could not help but spend as much time outside as possible. A great deal was accomplished around the property from brush clearing and weeding to wood stacking and landscaping.
My garden however, looks as though it has seen better days. As I surveyed the scene and took some photos it felt like I was recording damage evidence for the insurance company. My tomatoes are looking horrible. Usually at this time of year I have so many tomatoes that I am almost swimming in them. The vines are usually thick and green and bursting with foliage, and the tomatoes are so numerous that they weigh the whole mess down. This year, the vines are almost bare of leaves except near the ends of the branches where leaves are still growing. All the lower branches have died off and the tomatoes are not nearly as plentiful as in years past. Most of the pear tomatoes are splitting before they even start to turn yellow. The cherry tomatoes are very small and tart. And the larger tomatoes are in very short supply, and splitting as well.
Drooping vines, sparse foliage, meager fruit.

The branches are just turning brown and breaking off and what tomatoes actually grew are having a tough time.

And, on top of that, something has been sneaking in and eating the ones that I could have used.
Tons of 'splitting' this year.
The rest of the garden is fighting a 50/50 battle. The peas, beans, onions and cucumbers are all producing well, even though the cucumber vines seem to be yellowing and dying back. I started my 4th planting of peas and I hope to get another harvest before the temperatures changes. My beans are doing very well and I am letting quite a few of the purple pole beans go to seed for harvesting. I am also very happy with the green bush beans. This is the first year I have planted both bush and pole beans and I think I will plant both again next year. The bush beans are very easy to grow and care for.

The broccoli and cauliflower are gone. And the cucumber vine is turning yellow even though there are still plenty of cucumbers coming along.
With all my fencing efforts this season I was sure that I had stopped the flow of woodchucks and bunnies looking for a free meal. In some cases I had three fences up around some plants. But they still got in. And they ate. They ate the broccoli and cauliflower down, then I put up more fencing hoping that it would grow back, which it did. I almost had some nice little broccoli florets ready to harvest, and then they struck again. Yesterday I took out all the plants and called it quits.

On the plus side, we do have a ton of cucumbers what I need to preserve in some way. I am looking at a couple of new methods since making water bath pickles a few years ago did not turn out well. The beans are also becoming a challenge. I must admit that, although I have one, I am deathly afraid of using a pressure canner. I envision explosions, kitchen fires, a frantic drive to the emergency room...

One method I heard about on the Survival Podcast sounded promising. I have to go back and get the details but it involved blanching and freezing the beans. And, you don't end up with block-o-green-beans in the freezer. It involves freezing them single file on a cookie sheet before putting them together with other beans in the freezer bag. Apparently, they do not stick together this way and you do not have to defrost and use the entire bag if you just want a few for a meal side.

Details and lessons in another post....

Sunday, August 25

Goldfinches and Thistles

Some people consider them a weed and a huge problem (they are listed as a noxious weed in nine US states). They would hate seeing my field and property lined with purple thistle. But I think they are beautiful.
I have a huge specimen growing out by the garden on the edge of the field which is now about 6 feet tall. Last month it was full of purple blooms and buzzing bees. Now it is mostly disintegrating into a huge composting ball of white fluff.
But the goldfinches love it.
When I come out to the garden and see a bunch of bright yellow finches perched on the last of the sturdy branches, with just a few bits of purple left, I feel like I just got a present. I watched them one day and they seemed to be eating the white fluff, and also flipping it around and almost burrowing in it once on the ground. there were some lower branches that had gone to seed and they had managed to get most of the fluff off the branch into a big pile. The female was sitting right in the middle of the pile looking rather comfortable. Two males were up in the higher branches disturbing the fluff and sending it floating on the breeze like a giant snowflake.
After a little research, I learned that goldfinches do not nest until mid-summer, when milkweed, thistle, and other plants have produced their fibrous seeds, which goldfinches incorporate into their nests (white fluffy = comfortable) and also feed their young.
I also learned that goldfinches are strict vegetarians, only eating the rare insect.

Friday, August 23

Apparently, I am 'Anti-Rut.'

This is my side yard after an over-eager wood delivery service told us that
maneuvering in the side yard was "no problem"...
We have all the wood we need for this coming winter, and it is a good thing, since I am never letting another truck larger than a ford ranger on my lawn.

I can place the blame on Roy for this one and I have no reservations about doing so. After the delivery was made (I was not at home at the time) and after I arrived home, the first thing Roy said to me was "Don't worry, I'll fix it."

Now, any wife knows that when those are the first words out of their husbands mouth when she walks through the door, there is more than a small problem waiting.

And when the second sentence he says is "I'll just get a load of dirt delivered", it turns into a lot more than a small problem.

The wood has since been stacked, the lawn, or I should say 'what remains of the lawn' has been raked and cleaned up as best as possible, and the rut-filling should be taking place this weekend. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. The truck not only got stuck but it had to drive in and drive out which impacted the ground a great deal. I now have tire-wide depressions about 3 inches deep running all over the side yard.

There are few things that will get Roy to admit fault. Blatantly messing with my landscaping is one of those things.

As he stated when I finally uncovered the extent of the damage, "So, you are anti-rut, then?"

Garden Update

My wall of beans - I am very happy with how this worked out. But I think I have too many beans!
I am going to let a section dry out and harvest the seed.

I am also currently buried in cucumbers. I will be making some pickles this weekend.

I love those purple beans from Baker Creek Seeds.

Is there anything more satisfying than pulling up a carrot that you started from seed to
find that it is straight, fully grown and unblemished?

12 great surprises (plus that one little guy that I pulled on accident).

Not all of them turn out so well.....

Thursday, August 22

GCVM Civil War Weekend

Oh, such a long over-due post.....  We attended the Civil War Reenactment at the Genesee Country Village and Museum last month. One of my favorite places to visit, this place is a homesteaders and history lovers dream. I could actually live in the pioneer village section.
It was a very hot day but I was determined to enjoy the reenactment and all the fantastic exhibits. We had driven up the day before since the reenactment was a two-day event, but pouring rain kept us from leaving the car and we spent time in the parking lot watching drenched ladies in period clothing making their way to shelter. Many layers of hoop skirts and heavy cloaks seem to hold water.
The next day was hot, but clear and we were liberal with the sunscreen and the bottled water. The day's schedule included two battles - Stones River and Gettysburg. Visiting with the kids meant that we missed the village battle of Stones River. I should know by now that I need to allow one extra hour per child to prepare, load, travel and organize upon arrival for any event or outing. I thought I was so smart in bringing the big red plastic wagon for child, diaper bag and cooler hauling, but who wants to ride in a hard plastic wagon when you can be running around getting into everything. I decided that it was too hot to worry about it and as long as they were in sight and one of us could reach them before anything broke, we were ok.
I was a little worried about the Gettysburg reenactment since they made liberal use of the very loud cannon. Earplugs were passed out and the kids were enchanted with the little neon green squishy things that you could shove in your ears without getting in trouble. Both made it through the battle and both seemed to enjoy it.
After the battle we toured the village museum and spent a great deal of time in the pioneer farm display. Six whole buildings to make a wonderful homestead example, complete with period actors, sheep, pigs, chickens, crops and great photo opportunities. 
I have no shame in telling you that I was in my glory, despite wrangling children and keeping everyone hydrated and happy. I was surrounded by the details that make me draw breath and pause - timbers, dovetail joints, livestock, open-hearth cooking, farmsteads, raw wool, threshing, rough hewn beams and hand water pumps.
They grow and harvest their own wheat right on the farm using period hand tools. That might be the most wonderful sentence I ever typed.

Some day I will wake up and gaze out my kitchen window at a flock eating their breakfast.

If only my kitchen we this minimalist and wonderful.
But who an I kidding, the cat would have that vise on the floor in a million pieces in under 5 minutes.

I think I am going to have Roy build me this nice overhang work area off the back of our house.

So that's how you grow hops.....

I need this kind of stockade, oopps, I mean fence, for my garden.
And I love those bean poles!

Tuesday, August 13

Photos from The Farm

I don't know about you, but I dream of living on a road like this one.

Monday, August 12


Two weekends ago the kids and I drove up to what is now my brothers farm, previously owned and lived in by my Grandparents for over 30 years. We took a drive through some of the hills surrounding the very small town that he is now a resident of and the views were amazing. One day was cloudy and the other day was brilliant and sunny.
A sunny view of the fields

The new windmills in the southerntier, and an older model still being used at a local farm.

An Amish farm with wheat shocks standing in the field.

Using draft power to harvest the wheat on the cloudy day. 

I love the variety of eggs that I get from the flock. And now that the new girls have started laying, I have almost white, very small eggs in the nest box next to those big brown ones.

Seamus is helping me illustrate the size difference in a recent photo.

Friday, August 9

The Problem With Peas

Basically the problem with peas is that you have to plant, pick and shell a ton of the things to get a bowl of actual peas to go with a meal. The only time this bothers me is when I want peas with a meal. I don't mind the planting, the picking or the shelling. This has mostly been a problem in previous garden years in that I just don't plant enough peas. I underestimate how few that long row of vines will give me and I end up with small side dishes containing peas rather than having a bowl of honest to goodness home grown peas on the table.

This year I planted two long rows consisting of three different varieties. They have grown, blossomed and produced pea pods at different times so now that the early pea plants are dying back, there are still green vines from the other varieties. And, where the vines have dyed back, I have started another group of seeds.

With this new strategy, the pea production is increased and we have them as a side at least twice a week. There are even enough for the little girl in her high chair. She has a habit of throwing them at her brother.

Thursday, August 8

Shady Dust Bath


The outdoor run that my flock uses is more often than not in full sun. From the time the sun comes up over the side field until about 1 pm, their run is in direct sunlight. I have tried various things to provide them a shady spot during these hours and despite appearances, I have mostly resorted to hanging a couple old blankets on one of the fence lines. It works and it is easy.
The other problem that I was having concerned the dust bath swimming pool. One of the little man's plastic pools sprung a leek and I decided to use it in the chicken run. There is a lot of dirt in that run (the grass only lasting about three days after we introduced out first chickens into it), and the ladies have created areas of shallow holes to get some dirt under their feathers. But I wanted something that I could control. I wanted to be able to mix in a little DT earth if I felt mites were a problem. And I wanted this area to remain dry during rain storms. The pool of sand would turn into a muddy mess at the first shower and then it was no good to anyone.
I decided to create a sort of dust bath tent using some left over fencing, some wooden stakes, zip ties and an old tarp. I hammered in 6 stakes in two lines on  either side of the pool. then I placed a curved section of leftover metal fencing near the tops of the stakes and used the zip ties to secure the fencing to the stakes. This gave me the framework for the tarp. I used more zip ties to secure the tarp creating a 4' high hoop house with no ends. The sand is kept dry and the metal fencing is sturdy enough to hold up to the heavy rains and winds.
The added bonus is that it provides another shady area during the morning hours.
As always, there is room for improvement. I am not sure if this will hold up to the snow this winter so I may have to go back to the drawing board in the spring. I would like to create a permanent structure - something with the roof and maybe two sides - that would serve as a dry place for the dust bath and a shady area during the summer months. A permanent structure could be left out all year round and the roof would be made from metal or a durable corrugated plastic, slanted to allow for run-off. The sides would be made from the same material as the roof for added stability.
Something else for the to-do list.
Ever notice how completing one farm project brings to light at least three more projects?


Wednesday, August 7

Garden Update

A staple for the hot days of July and August.

Another staple - both very drought and heat tolerant.

I am very happy with how this turned out.

After a very disappointing cucumber season last year, this year has been great.
I planted extra seed and gave them plenty of room to climb.
Some of the first sungold tomatoes. It takes a little while for them to get going,
but once they take off, we will have tomatoes everywhere.

My favorite bean to grow - the purple podded pole bean.

Flowers from my second round of peas.

I managed to end up with 4 hot pepper plants this year and only two bell peppers.
Note to Self: be sure to place those popsicle stick markers in the right places when starting the seeds.....

Tuesday, August 6

Not bad.......
I need more time to practice!