Saturday, April 30

So much has been happening here that it has been impossible to find time to write a post. By the time we settle in for the night, I am so absolutely exhausted that all I can think about is crawling under the covers.

My last report detailed our fields drainage issue and the ridiculous winter weather that refused to give way to spring. Our 205 fruit trees, 100 white pine, 100 Douglas fir and 100 American cypress trees were delivered during a snowstorm in the first Monday in April. They arrived in two gigantic boxes from the back of a Fedex trailer. I was amazed at how so many trees fit into two boxes. While they were being unloaded, the rental company came to pick up the rented backhoe so our little home was the busiest place on the road for about 20 minutes.

We knew that we had to get the trees into pots of compost and soil so we spent the next few days buying out the entire stock of muck buckets from our local tractor supply store and potting bunches of 5' tall fruit trees with bagged manure compost and potting mix. The nursery that we ordered from, Van Well Nursery, did an excellent job with the packaging of the trees. 

Safely tucked away from the cold in our barn and covered with tarps, we moved on the other matters involving the partial collapse of the drainage ditch in the field where we would be planting the fruit trees. We already have 60 Chinese chestnut trees started there and in order for them to survive, and for the fruit trees to have a chance, we need better drainage. So far, it is acting more like a swale than a drainage line but until the wet weather clears up and the ditch becomes dry enough to work with, it is staying as it is - an ugly 'earthquake crack' running the length of the field to the creek. When it dies up, hopefully in May or June, we will shovel out the collapsed sections, redo the angle and install the pipe and gravel before filling it back in. I am dreading this project since it will be a lot of digging, measuring, hauling gravel, and most likely more than a little foul language. I keep telling myself that it will be filled in and all that standing water will no longer plague the roots of my orchard but will instead flow gracefully down that black pipe and empty unceremoniously into the creek.

Partial collapse of the drainage ditch. Note the lack of snow - the weather so far this month has been incredibly unpredictable and miserable. One minute it is snowing and the next it is sunny. But it is constantly chilly which makes it impossible to plant.

In more positive and happy news, we picked up our batch of chicks on the 17th and they have been happily peeping away in the basement brooder ever since. We have 14 Isa Browns this season and so far they have been a much better bird than others we have had in the past. I have not had once case of 'pasty butt', they are growing very fast and there are no noticeable problems at this point. In the past I have spent too much time with a pan of warm water and cotton balls gently cleaning the rear ends of baby chicks to rid them of their blockages. Not the most pleasant task on my to-do list, although necessary to insure that the chicks will grow up to be part of my egg production staff.

14 Isa Brown chicks 
Even though I can not garden outside, I have been very happy with the seed starting this year as it satisfies my need to dig around in the dirt and grow something. My houseplants, although most likely grateful for all the attention they receive over the winter months, are probably sick of my poking around in their pots.

The peppers, eggplant and tomato seedlings are all doing well despite the chilly temperatures that creep into the basement. I have heat mats keeping them toasty and except for a little green growth on the top of the soil, they are looking very promising. To fight the green moldy stuff I have been sprinkling cinnamon powder from my spice rack directly on the mold. It has been doing a very good job of keeping that mold in check and it does not seem to hurt the seedlings.

Sunday, April 3

Drainage Problems in the New Field

It has been a busy past few weeks here and we have been working hard to get things ready for spring. Our fruit trees have shipped and they will be arriving this coming Monday even though the weather is not cooperating in the slightest. The past two days have brought an unexpected snowfall to our area leaving 4 inches of snow, ice and gusty winds with chilly temps. 

This past week has been productive with outdoor tasks. The kids were on spring break so they were 'helping' as best as they could. They each have their own little garden this year and we planted the peas in both their gardens and my own. With the purchase of the new property, we have inherited a lot of clean up work but with the previous owner still using the barns for storage until August per the agreement, I am concentrating on getting everything squared away on our original two acres first. 

We have full access to the acres, just not the buildings. As the summer progresses, I will gradually begin the work of cleaning up, planting, transplanting, landscaping, building, etc that will probably take up most of the summer months. At while point the buildings will be empty and we can get to work on them.

The snow came on Saturday evening so the entire day was spent using our rented backhoe to dig the very long drainage trench in one of the new fields. Last year we planted 60 chestnut trees in three rows in this field. They appear to have made it though the winter for the most part but we are waiting to see buds before we count how many survived. This particular field has a substantial drainage problem which we were not fully aware of when we planted here. We knew that we might have to put in some drainage to the creek but it was a little worse than we anticipated.

We decided to trench 3 to 6 feet down for about 300 feet, starting at the creek and working to the west end of the field. The plan is to lay gravel, weed barrier, the drainage pipe, more gravel and then fill the trench back in with the soil. This should allow the water to travel down the pipe to the creek and make the field much drier. 

The trench was finished about 5 minutes before the snow started flying on Saturday.

Now we are sitting on 4 inches of snow and miserable working conditions with over three dump trucks of gravel arriving Monday morning. Working to get all that into the trench is this weather is going to require time, energy and a lot of patience. But with the trees coming on Monday also, I want the drainage project completed within the week so I have time to unwrap the trees inspect the roots and get them potted up if need be. I don't want to plant them in this weather but leaving them in the barn without any sort of protection is just not going to work.

I keep telling myself "one project at a time....." but mother nature and the nursery delivery schedule have other ideas. 

This week - trenches, trees and hopefully baby chicks!

I knew that my newly blossomed daffodils would not survive the snow so I snipped them all and gave them a
prime spot in the kitchen window.