Monday, May 30

The Orchard Fence

On one of our new sections of field we already have the chestnut trees and now those 205 fruit trees spread out over a 550 foot long by approximately 100 feet wide area. We hope that this is the beginning of our orchard including both fruits and nuts with many other eatables and perennials mixed in. 

Our problem comes from the deer wanting to enjoy those eatables as well. Many gardens and orchards in our area are fenced - my own vegetable garden has a five foot fence surrounding it - which I have seen the deer vault over in search of delicious snacks. So, a fence was is a necessity after spending the money on all the trees. This area will also be packed full of all those other crops to consume or sell which makes the fencing decision a little easier to handle. This is a permanent, 8 foot tall, metal fence with 12 foot 4x4 posts buried between 3 1/2 to 4 feet down, spaced about every 25 feet apart. It is a big investment and an even bigger construction project - the biggest we have taken on since moving here and deciding to adopt this lifestyle.

Just starting out with the poles on the south side, running 550 feet in length. 

The post holes were dug using our tractor and a post hole driller which got us down to about 3 1/2 feet. However, we measured for and drilled all of the holes we would need in one weekend, so when we returned the next weekend to install some posts, there was a lot of water in many of the holes. This make the depth hard to determine and we spent time on each hole digging out mud and checking measurements.

 This part of the property does have some drainage issues but because of the purchase contract, it was the only open field that would work for this project. (The rest of the acreage will hopefully be purchased at a later date when finances allow). It is our plan to install the drainage pipe down the middle of the field to funnel the majority of the water into the creek, therefore making the field much for workable. This should be accomplished after the fencing project has been completed.

It was slow going installing the posts as it was done at a rate of about 5 posts per night after Roy returned home from work. Given the size of these posts, it was not feasible for me to attempt installation during the day. It is a two person job and I spent a lot of time measuring, leveling and using the manual post hole digger.

Weekends gave us more time to install more posts. This also lead to our kids getting into all kinds of mischief both in the house and out in the field with us. My son is obsessed with the farm 4-wheeler and wants to drive it even though he is only 7. The 4-wheeler is much to powerful for him and we try our best to make shoveling fill gravel a fun project for him. My daughter is a great helper at 4 years old but he attention span is, of course, that is a 4 year old. I have moved her plastic playhouse and table out to the field so she has something to occupy herself with while my husband and I are hauling posts and leveling them up. Leaving them in the house is not an option since they get into all kinds of trouble with sneaking snacks and drawing on furniture or watching television shows they are not supposed to. If anyone can tell me why shows like Phineas and Ferb, Sponge Bob or Shezow are appropriate for ANY age group, I would love to hear your reasoning behind it.

Two weekends ago the first section of fencing went up - 550 feet in 2 sections. It took two tractors, 4 adults and some serious skill with the come along to get it into place. 

The trees are doing well so far - about 95% of them are showing signs of growth, budding and/or flowering. 

This weekend we will be installing the other 550 foot section, despite the incredible heat and humidity, and passing sudden downpours. Also, all those eatables and perennials need to get put in, even if the fence is not complete, to ensure a good growing season. That will be the celebration of Memorial Day here on this farm - hard work and appreciating what we have.

More updates to come - the young chicks, the garden and or course, the hopeful completion of the fencing project.

Sunday, May 29


Apparently, it is good luck to plant peas on St. Patrick's Day and while I was a week late and we had some seriously cold and wet weather after I planted, my luck held and I now have rows of these beauties popping up in the garden.

The first to show in spring, along with the radishes, peas are my favorite thing to plant in the garden. Seven varieties this year:

Green Arrow
Tall Telephone
British Wonder
Little Marvel

I also started the radishes - Sparkler, French, Cherry Belle, Champion and Early Scarlet - along with beets, kale, onions, carrots and some spinach.

Most of the pea seeds were ones that I had saved from last years crop. The idea of saving my own seed has really come to the top of the list for me. It just seems to make sense - both financially and from a production standpoint. How many times have I bought seed from the store or a catalog only to have little to no germination? In the past I have been unable to get certain seed. And who is to say that the plant who's seed I was shipped in the mail will grow in Upstate New York?

If I can save the seed from my best plants every year then I should be able to reasonably say that when I plant that seed the next spring, it will grow. My climate, my soil, my gardening methods - they produced a healthy plant resulting in healthy seeds, that if saved properly, will be a reliable source for the next season.

The cost savings are what makes my husband happy. I can easily spend upwards of $60 on a single seed order, as many of us are tend to do. Learning how to save the seeds from the previous year to replant will cut way down on the catalog spending ( but I am making no promises that I will not drool over Baker Creek's selection of beans and pumpkins every year).

Saturday, May 28

14 Isa Browns

This years chick selection was Isa Brown - a great egg layer with low risk of pasty butt or what I call, sudden chick death. In previous years I have had terrible problems with pasty butt on the "assorted pullets" selection. I spent more time cleaning chick butts.......  And, in the past, I have looked in on the little girls only to find one laying dead in the brooder. No signs of any problems - just no longer alive.

So far, these Isa Browns have been fantastic. No problems. Fast growing, eating well, feathering out nicely and good temperament. We have 14 of these girls who just a few days ago made the trip from basement brooder to segregated chicken coop pen. They can see the flock but they are too small yet to be integrated.

They seem to be happy with their new accommodations even if they were not thrilled about the dark cardboard box ride to get there from the basement. It's hard to tell with chickens, but I figure as long as they have fresh food and water, dry bedding, safety (in this case in the form of a re-purposed children's octagon playpen) and protection from the elements, they should be content.

Wednesday, May 18

200 Pine Trees and 100 Sycamores

More tree planting - this time it was 200 white pine and douglas fir trees, and 100 sycamore seedlings. The white pine were placed in various locations around the property, mostly to create privacy walls between property lines. The douglas fir trees were used to create a three-tree-deep, staggered privacy barrier between our side field and the road.

White pine seedlings along a property line
The sycamore trees looked more like dead sticks and it was hard to tell them apart from weeds and fallen branches along the creek bed. Sycamores are reported to like water and we are hoping that they also serve as a bank stabilizing root system. The creek has a tendency to erode the edges causing hidden soft spots and collapses - not the best thing to come across unawares while on a tractor. We marked each tree with rocks are keeping watch for buds.

Between getting all the trees in and the fencing project around the fruit trees, there has not been much time for other outdoor projects. My garden is being planted as time allows and all the animals - existing and new - are being cared for. 

Birds are on my radar lately......

Turkey on the trail cam

On the neighboring properties pond

Cheeky little guy who was singing away

One of my girls looking regal

Wednesday, May 11

205 Fruit Trees

Planting 205 fruit trees in one long weekend is not an easy task for two people when those people also have two young children and a dog that likes to chase ducks. A few weekends ago we decided to go ahead and get the trees in - all of them. Three rows, all 550 feet long with a tree every 10 to 12 feet. We designed the planting by fruit maturity date and we mixed varieties of apple, peach, apricot, plum, nectarine and cherry.

The weather was still chilly but not intolerable so we got to work. To save time and backache, we used the auger on the back of the John Deere to drill a hole on a pre-marked spot and we did the entire field - all three rows - before we planted any trees. This took some time but it was much faster than digging by hand. Some of these trees had impressive root systems given that they were all around 5' tall.