Sunday, April 28, 2013

spring is in the air...

It felt like summer today.  The high was recorded at 79 degrees and it is kind of looking like we might get a little rain tonight.  It felt good to get outside and do a little  preparation work in the portager.  I worked up the new soil in the bed that was replaced last fall and the center bed.  Both need a couple more inches of compost to fill them up to the top and recharge the soil.

So I headed over to check out the compost pile.  The compost is not fully decomposed yet but it is close so I shoveled off a few wheelbarrows-full and started a new pile.  If it doesn't rain tonight I will water it tomorrow.  I think that turning the pile will encourage it to decompose faster and hopefully be ready to add to the garden boxes before it is time to plant those boxes.

Some of the perimeter boxes will need more soil or compost to top them off as well.  A decision needs to be made as to whether to plant the three long boxes that need to be replaced or rebuild them and then plant them.  Once there is stuff growing it is pretty much fall before any building can be done.  

A quick peek in the box where I planted the garlic last fall shows that nothing is happening yet.  If no rain tonight perhaps I will give that a shot of water tomorrow.  There is no activity yet in the strawberry tower yet so that will get a shot of water tomorrow also.

Next I moved to the greenhouse and watered all of the plants on the tables and planted seeds for transplants.  Quite a bit of the seeds planted last weekend are up and so I moved most of them off the heat mat to make room for today's plantings: two kinds of cucumbers, both a pickling and a slicing, along with two summer squashes, a yellow and a zucchini, two winter squashes, an acorn and a butternut, and the pumpkins.

These, along with the melons planted last week and the sweet corn will be going into the new planting area which still needs to be readied.  It was still pretty wet a couple days ago but once it is dry we will till it and lay out the beds. I would like part of the garden to be done in raised rows.  I am thinking that if I install a few every year that it would be manageable and allow for the layout to develop over the course of time.

To do list for tomorrow:

set up the bird bath
water the new pear tree
water the garlic
water the strawberry tower
water the new compost pile
work up the soil in one or two perimeter beds
check the field for moisture
move more composting manure  

Saturday, April 27, 2013

one down one to go

Last fall and winter I was making birdhouses.  Some of them were included as part of the Christmas gifts for my children, part of them are hung by my parents at their home and their lake home.  Four will be hung at the farm.  Two of them were painted blue and I hung those on the white fence a couple days ago.  

I had two left to hang. These are both red, white and blue and are to go on the south wall of the barn, joining the barn quilt and fencepost flag already mounted there.  I was able to get one hung today.   I am still considering if the method that I used to hang it will be the final choice or if I will continue to look for a better way to attach this large, heavy birdhouse to the barn. 

In the picture above you can see several summer projects on my list.  The winter has been hard on the window below the birdhouse which needs to be repaired or replaced.  There are also plans in the works to build new barn doors.  When the granary door needed to be replaced last year Dad was able to replicate a door from a photo found on the internet.  After that success we just naturally decided to make matching doors for this building as well.  

Here is the other opening that needs doors.  I am picturing a dutch door on the single opening, above, and two doors that swing open armoire style for the double opening, below. 
 Below is the Granary with its brand spanking new door built by my dad and painted by my mom.  Thanks Mom and Dad. 
The door that inspired this project can be found on the blog listed on the sidebar to the right where it says 'inspiration'.

Friday, April 26, 2013

mason bee house

One of the projects that I wanted to get done early this spring is to make a mason bee house for the orchard area.  Mason bees are great pollinators and I am hoping that if they can be encouraged to hang out in my yard that we will have better chances at fruit.  Last year we planted two pear trees and two plum trees.  They are planted near the two apples that were planted the year before.  In the same general area are the transplanted black raspberry canes, the blueberries and the potager.

Yesterday I built the box for the mason bee house.  Last evening I painted it blue and today when I was in town I cut the lengths of bamboo that i had purchased for this purpose into 4 and 1/2 inch lengths.  Today I hung it on the fence and filled it with the short bamboo pieces.

Here it is ready for occupants...
Here is what I started with. Scrap wood.
I was able to use the pieces the lengths that they were.  The back is a piece of old 2x6 and the sides, bottom and top are all 1x pine.
The holes are predrilled and the screws started
the right side is attached to the back

attaching the base
the left side is added
Adding the roof
Painted blue and hanging on the fence
filling up the box with the bamboo pieces

Okay bees--we're ready!

Monday, April 22, 2013


Today before the snow got started I took down the last of the winter decorations from the fence and replaced them with a couple bird houses.  They are blue and they are hanging near the bottle bush that holds the blue beer bottles.  If I put the blue bird bath in the same area it will be kind of a cobalt garden. 

I have two more birdhouses to hang.  These are flag colors and will hang on the barn alongside the fencepost flag.  Hanging those involves a ladder and a helper. 

In a related project I am planning to make a mason bee house to attract pollinators to the yard.  Mason bees do not sting and they will lay their eggs in tubes.  I have several lengths of bamboo that I can cut down to short lengths and place them in a box that will hang near the garden and orchard.  Perhaps if I paint the box blue it can hang in the cobalt garden. 

Today while it was snowing Cody and Sadie and I heard a very noisy vehicle.  Not sure at first what it was, I looked out the window and eventually saw a dark pickup driving in the field along the ditch across the road from our house.  We watched him travel east until he got to the approach by the dredge ditch and up he come, onto the road.  So of course we had to go check it out.  Turns out he went into the ditch west of our house just past the approach about halfway between our house and the neighbors, drove at an angle thru the ditch, up into the field and continued along the edge of the field until he got to the next approach.  Although there was very little snow on the road in front of our house, where he went in the highway was covered full width with a snow/slush mix.  Luckily he didn't hit the first approach and I imagine he didn't dare stop because he surely would have gotten stuck in the mud.  That ditch is pretty steep so I am wondering if he caught the edge of the approach as he went across. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

the replacement pear is planted

Yay, the replacement pear tree is in the ground.  It arrived yesterday and when I dug the hole the ground was pretty wet and I didn't want to mud it in so i figured a day might help things dry some and then we got a little snow overnight.  So today after the sun had been shining for a while the little bareroot tree went in the ground.  Now we will wait to see if it grows.  And while we wait we will be watching to see if the other pear and the plums that were planted last year survived their first winter.  

Here it is.  
It kind of looks like the one that I dug up.

This pear is called Waterville.  In the online catalog it is described as "Large and juicy with a slightly coarse but very sweet flesh.  The tree is an extremely vigorous grower."  Sounds scrumptious. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

an afternoon in the greenhouse

After the past few days of cloudy, snowy weather it was nice to get a little sunshine therapy in the greenhouse.  I had on my to do list for this weekend to transplant the rest of the tomatoes into bigger cups and to get the melon seeds started.

Nikole selected the tomato seeds and this year we are growing an heirloom, a large red indeterminate, a cherry tomato and a paste tomato, so if all goes well we should have a nice selection of tomatoes.  We planted some early and are hoping that they can be in pots and ready to flower by the time it is warm enough to set them outside.  We planted some later that will go into the garden as a transplant.  We have extra seedlings which should allow us to have more tomatoes for canning or for sale as plants or as produce.  Saw an online article about a new way to plant tomatoes and I think i will give it a try as an experiment.  A bucket or waste basket with holes drilled in the bottom and around the sides about 10 inches up is placed in a hole in the garden with the top row of holes just above the soil line.  Five tomato plants are planted around the bucket.  A cylinder of fencing is then placed around the tomato plants as a tomato cage.  In the bucket goes a couple shovelfuls of compost and the bucket is filled up every couple days with water.  I am picturing this as a constant supply of compost tea.  I think I will plant five more of the same variety conventionally and compare the two groups as far as yield, taste, disease resistance.  I think if I have a couple of marked containers for harvest it should be easy to keep records.

Now that we have extra space it will be fun to try our hand at melons.  This year Nikole selected a watermelon and a cantaloupe.  She was thinking that we still had seeds from last year for a honeydew melon that we never used but when I found the seeds it was a muskmelon.  We also had a seed packet that was not dated from Burgess that was for another cantaloupe variety.  I think that might have been a freebie that they sent with something my mom may have ordered.  I planted them all and if they all come we may have lots of cantaloupe seedlings.  The seed packet directions suggest two ways of planting melons and I am going to try them both as an experiment and see which works better and makes better use of the available space.  One method is more of a hill type arrangement and the other is a row arrangement. 

The basil, thyme and kohlrabi that was planted on the 12th are sprouting.  The parsley, rosemary and dill have not yet.  Next weekend it will be time to start the squashes...

And as an update--the replacement pear tree arrived today.  I have not unwrapped it yet but I did shovel around last years tree and dug it up.  The ground is thawed down at least a foot and it was easy to dig but the soil is pretty wet so I decided to allow the soil to dry out a little bit and plant it tomorrow when it is supposed to be 50 degrees out.  Then tonight I hear that there is a chance of rain or snow during the night.  Keeping my fingers crossed that it holds off until I get the tree in the ground.


Winter storm yogi entered our yard from the north.  I am anxious for spring so was not too excited to take pictures of the new white stuff but did think that these trees were interesting.  The evergreens in our yard were snow covered on the north sides and  mostly snow free on the south facing sides.
You can see here how the left side is rounded with branches outgoing and the right side is snow covered with the heavy snow holding down the branches and flattening that side of the tree.  The bottommost branches are stuck in the snowbank that formed as the snow fell from the tree to the ground.

This is the row of trees by the second driveway.  North is from the left in these photos.

This is the spot where the replacement pear tree will go.  See that little twig sticking up in the snow to the right of the blue bottle bush?  That is the tree that didn't make it.  The new one will go in the same spot.  I have been informed by Nathan that the replacement has been shipped and could arrive today.  A little shoveling is in order to try to get it in the ground while still dormant. 
It is supposed to be near 50 tomorrow but I hear we may have another shot at snow next week.  Sigh. 

This is a video of ice falling from the trees after winter storm Xerxes.

Friday, April 19, 2013

greens sampler--a taste test

Two weeks ago I posted some pictures of the greens from the greens sampler.  Today I did some tasting, measured some of the biggest leaves and had a salad.  Originally twelve varieties of greens were planted.  Today's tasting and salad involved the largest of the greens.  Each of the greens is pictured on a square plate that measures eleven inches on each side.

Tokyo Bekana

Joi Choi
Top Bunch Collards
Golden Frills (top) and Mizuma (bottom)
All of the lettuces were good and most of the ones with round shaped leaves kind of tasted similar, none were spicy, the Golden Frills had a cabbage like flavor with a little bite to it.

Here is a picture of the finished salad...mixed lettuces, tuna, water chestnuts and craisons topped with a little homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

flower and veggie seed update

 A while back I started some flower seeds in the greenhouse which are intended to go into the summer gardens both here and at Nikole's.  I planted Marigolds, Bee Balm and Impatiens.  It has now been six weeks since they were planted.  The Bee Balm have not germinated at all.  I planted a second smaller group with the remaining seeds and they have not come up either.  In a little online research it turns out that some Bee Balm seeds benefit from a moist chill so I am back out to the greenhouse to bring in the Bee Balm seeds to refrigerate.  There were a couple tiny seedlings that had started so I transplanted them into cups before sticking the others in the fridge.

The marigolds germinated but not well.  I planted only one seed per cell so some cells did not germinate.Two weeks ago when they were four weeks from the date they were planted I transplanted them into cups.  Here they are today.  They have multiple leaves and sturdy stems.  I think that we have about 24 plants.

These are the Impatiens.  There was a little mishap with the planting of these.  The little dish that I had transferred the seeds into got jostled and the seeds flew, landing on a thin layer of seed starting mix.  I spread the seeds and mix over the filled but not yet planted cells, planning to thin/replant when they came up.  We actually got a fair number of seeds to germinate and when they were still pretty small they were separated to one plant per cell.

 Here is one of the tomato seedlings from the first group planted...

Brandywiue tomato
and the asparagus...
and the kohlrabi...
This weekend I will be starting more seeds for the summer garden and hope to have more updates on seeds that have been started.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I couldn't make myself take a picture of it.  I think we may have gotten less than 6-12 or even 15 inches predicted but it is hard to tell.  It was windy so the snow is barely there in some spots and three feet deep in others.  Lots of places in the yard it was 10-12 inches deep.  It is already turning to slush as the temperatures hover around  freezing.  I know that our area needs the moisture and I will be glad that we got this most recent snow but it was just starting to look so spring-like.

A couple days ago, before this last storm, our snow was mostly gone except for in the grove where it collects the deepest and hangs around the longest.  I had poked a little at the top of the composting manure pile and it was thawed and loose and crumbly.  I debated about dragging out the wheelbarrow and hauling some over to the potager and topping off a couple boxes.

I had checked out the potager anxious to see if my garlic was sprouting--it wasn't.  No signs of life yet in the strawberry tower.  I poked around in the new box and the soil there was loose and crumbly.  This was the box that was replaced right before winter.  All four of the long raised bed boxes are needing to be replaced and this was the first one.  Last year we grew potatoes in this spot.  All the dirt that was in the bed was moved and the potatoes were grown in two vertical systems.  One was a wire cylinder and one was a wood box.  As the potato plants grew soil was added to the containers.  By the time it was time to harvest the potatoes the new bed was built around the towers and the soil from the potato towers stayed in the new bed.  That soil, which partially filled the bed will need some compost added to it but it was loose and crumbly and tempting.  The plan is to remove the soil from another box and then plant the potato towers in that spot.   I am not sure if all three of the planters will be rebuilt this year or not but at least number two will need to get done.  Those boxes were the original garden boxes and i cannot complain about how they have held up. 

I had been out to check the corn field.  It is going to take a lot of work to get it ready but I am so excited about having a space to grow the plants that take up a lot of room.  This new space will have the sweet corn, pumpkins, squashes and melons for sure and perhaps the beans, peas and extra tomatoes.

A quick check of the orchard revealed that one apple tree has some signs of buds on the branches.  This is one of the two apple trees.  Both are unknown varieties but this is the one thought to be a full size apple tree, the west one.  No signs of life yet in the new pear and plum trees planted last year.  I am anxious to see if they survived their first winter.  The replacement for the one that never grew last year has been ordered.  Hopefully it will wait to make its appearance until the snow is gone.

I hear from Nikole that they are eating salads from the salad bowl planters and I hear from Kaylee that Asha is eating from her salad bar.  The choi is her favorite.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

greens sampler update

What has happened so far:

February 22, 2013
The seed order from Johnny's arrives including some greens seeds that are intended for the winter greenhouse.  Included in this bunch of seeds are several varieties that are new to us.  Six seeds each  of twelve different varieties are planted in a 72 cell seed starting tray and put on the propagation mat.

February 25-27
All of the seedlings are sprouting.

March 14
Transplanted the groups of seedlings that were the largest into clear tubs.  This was the Bilko, a Chinese cabbage and Tokyo Bekena, an Asian green.

March 16
Transplanted the next largest seedlings into tubs.  This was the Tatsoi and the collards.

March 23-24 
The remaining seedlings are transplanted into tubs.  

April 4

Three weeks after transplanting this is the Bilko and the Tokyo Bekena.

Tokyo Bekena

At 19 days after transplanting this is the Tatsoi and the collards.
At 12 days after transplanting the Mizuna, Vitamin Green and the pak choi.

Vitamin Green

pak choi

The above are the greens that have been the quickest so far.  I think that provided they taste good I will plan to start them a dozen at a time in each of the seasons of the winter greenhouse to see how they do with the shorter day lengths.

Below are the remainder of the greens.  They are much further behind even though they were planted the same day and germinated at about the same time.  They were transplanted later and an experiment for next time might be to see if there is a difference had they been transplanted sooner.  Instead of transplanting all six i now kind of wish that I would have transplanted them over a period of time and then compared how they fared to see if getting them into bigger pots and new dirt sooner makes a difference.

sorrel on the left and Golden Frill on the right.
arugula on the left, claytonia in the center and allstar mix on the right.

These are planted a little closer together and may need to be separated if they get to be too big.