Monday, January 19, 2015

feeling inspired...

We have been having a little break from winter this weekend.  It almost feels like spring.  It got to the predicted 40 degrees today and we got some major snow melt.  After last year's disappointing garden season I am so looking forward to the start of a new garden year.  And inspiration is everywhere.  Garden bloggers are publishing their goals and their garden plans, writing about starting seeds and plant choices.  My daughter and I spent long phone conversations debating the merits of our past seed choices and putting together a new garden order.  And then our seeds arrived.
On the first of the year, or maybe it was the second :).  I started a list of goals, kind of a brainstorming session, if you will, and then let it percolate for a bit.  It is time to finalize that list of goals.

Jim and Mary at Old World Garden farms blogged about the system that works for them.  They each separately make a list of 24 goals, two for each month and then around the first of the year they share their lists and make a joint list from their separate lists and put it on the refrigerator where they can see it every day.

Their system would not work for me as I garden alone but I like the idea of having a system.  Here is what I am going to try this year and if it seems to work it might end up being my 'system'.  I am going to try to come up with one or more goals/projects for each of the different gardening spaces at the farm.  At the farm the projects fit into different categories, those that are quick, those that require a lot of effort by me, those that require help from others but also those that are cheap to do and those that require significant financial resources.  I will try to balance all of these categories and come up with a list that is doable but aggressive.

2015 garden goals

Organization, planning and records

Create a master calendar/to-do list/journal
create a four year rotation plan.
weather record?

The potager

Keep the gravel weeded.
Repair the trellis.

The orchard

Enlarge the circles around the two pear and two plum trees to make for easier mowing.
Research other fruit trees that will survive in our zone.  Peaches?
Do something with that pole.

The vineyard

Prune the arbor and start hardwood cuttings from the prunings.
Layout the new vineyard rows.
Purchase wine making kit.

The berry garden

Replant any 2014 new fruits that do not come back.
Add strawberry bed (see below)

The cornfield

Build pallet wood crates to grow potatoes.
 Finish building the south raised rows.
Finish the asparagus rows.
Finish the raspberry rows.
Install the final fence post.
Finish building tomato cages.

The compost pile

Move and use the completed compost.
 Turn the pile from last fall.
Pitch out the barn in the SPRING instead of waiting until fall.  What a novel idea.

The greenhouse

Increase growing space by adding wall shelves, hanging shelving.
Explore options for heat and light.
Keep the weeds from coming up on the cement (flame weeding?)
Cut down the saplings.

The hoop house

Get the plastic on the hoop house.
Landscape around it where the mower won't fit.

The fence garden

Remove the old water feature and fill in the hole.

The flower bed

Evaluate this garden and whether it can be salvaged and rescue plants if needed.

New fruit to the garden

Replant the nut trees that didn't come last year.
Install a strawberry bed.


Frame the chalkboard and install it on the farmstand or make a secure stand for it.
Letter the cash box.
Come up with a way to share printed recipes/business cards with blog address.

So, here it is.  I have to admit that a lot of these goals will need to be done when the weather is cooperating.  I have actually listed a couple of goals that are already in progress.  Is that cheating? 

feeling optimistic...

A few days ago I took a few pictures of the potager in winter.  There wasn't a lot of snow and the bones of the potager were peeking through.  Last year this garden was a failed space but some end of the season work, barely finished before that early first snow means that once the ground dries out in the spring it will be ready to go.
some of the perimeter boxes

center box, four long boxes greenhouse in the background

This will get plastic on it and be the hoophouse

This was my first vegetable garden.  It started out as four rectangular raised planting boxes set in a square.  The fence was added a bit later and then the taller center box was built.  Several years ago I added six smaller boxes around the perimeter wherever I could squeeze them in.  In 2012 the four original beds were starting to show some rotting of the wood and I set out on a plan to replace one each year.  My thought process was that the soil in the boxes has a high percentage of compost and as the compost deteriorates the level of soil in the boxes is reduced and instead of topping off the beds with additional compost I would transfer the soil from one of the boxes to the other three boxes.  Where the empty box stood I would plant my two vertical potato towers.  While the potatoes were growing I would have the whole summer to build the replacement box, remove the old empty one and replace it with the new one.  When I harvested the potatoes the soil from the towers would be the beginning soil for the new bed.  I could then transfer soil from one of the other beds and start the whole process all over again. 

It worked in 2012.  The first bed was emptied, potatoes planted, new bed built and the dirt from the potato towers was the beginnings of the new bed.  In 2013 bed number two was built and in 2014 bed three was emptied and the potatoes planted and then nothing.  In the very wet spring that we had everything became a scramble to get done and the poor potager received no attention.  The weeds grew up in the beds and around them.  The potatoes, once planted never got their soil additions.

And then this happened.

Mom and Dad's neighbor next door had a building project starting and was asking Dad where he could get rid of the dirt removed for his project's new foundation.  It was my idea to take the dirt, thinking that it could be used to fill my sister's planned but not yet built garden boxes.  The garden boxes that will be placed at the edge of her planned but not yet built, stage two of her patio project.  She cannot build her boxes until the patio is in so the trailer full of dirt came to the farm.  It was determined that the dirt could not sit on the trailer all winter so it was decided to use it around the farm.  Some of it went around the house to correct the grade in the front of the house.  The remainder was used to top off the existing beds of the potager and the new beds where the hoop house will be and the two new replacement beds built by Dad to finish up the four year plan in year three.    

Here is Mom loading the last of the dirt.  She and I moved all of the dirt, she shoveled it into the white tubs and I would load the tubs into a wheelbarrow and haul them away, three at a time.  After emptying the tubs I would return to the trailer and swap my empties for the ones that she had filled while I was gone.  It was a huge project but when it was done the yard around the house was graded and ready for bark and 13 planter boxes were filled to the brim.
Thanks Mom, thanks Dad. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

feeling blessed...

I live on a farm, a hobby farm now, but for generations it was a working farm.  A farm has a lot of moving parts.  Quite a few of those moving parts involve water, either coming or going.  the cold weather adds an additional challenge.  I have a herd that gets watered twice a day.  I have plants in the greenhouse that need water every day.  I have three sump pumps and they have all been running.  In Minnesota.  In the winter.  I don't remember that happening before.  I have a sump pump in my house, my well house and my septic system.  Problems with any of them could be inconvenient and expensive.  Out in the country we are not hooked up to municipal water or sewer.  I have a well and a septic system.  It is an old well and an old septic system.  It seems like lately all of those 'moving parts' have been taking turns causing excitement. 

Does that seem like a strange reason to feel blessed?  Here is why I am feeling blessed.  Nothing has broken.  I have been able to get everything back working without having to call my dad for help or get a plumber.  Each time there was a kind of a fluky something that allowed me to discover a problem before any real damage was done.  It is almost like I have a guardian angel.  The first time that it happened and the second time that it happened I kind of wrote it off as good luck but the third time, now I am not so sure.  

I have a brother in heaven.  It was just the anniversary of his death.  He died three years ago on the day after Christmas.  I think I have written before about the dragonflies that started visiting my sister that next spring.  She believes that they are a part of Jay or somehow related to Jay.  And I believe that too.  This fall when she was at the farm helping to paint my house there was a dragonfly that sat near her for a couple of hours while she worked.

I don't know, it might be just dumb luck but I hope not.  There is something very comforting thinking that it might not be luck.

Lisa's dragonfly:

Friday, January 9, 2015

gray day, gray sky, gray snow

Yesterday we are in the middle of a blizzard.  We had a little bit of snow and a lot of wind and the yard is covered in a thin layer of gray.  It was everywhere, this dirty gray snow.
footprints in the dirty gray snow

(mostly) white Elke sitting in the gray snow

camera shy Codie

west of the wood barn
a thin layer on the greenhouse glazing

And greenhouse wall

It did make for pretty gray sky

and clouds.
The farmers who farm the fields around us are missing some topsoil.  I had planned to leave the snow on the greenhouse glazing as a little extra insulation overnight but when I opened the door it all slid down making a little gray drift at the bottom.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

a look back and planning for the future

I have been spending some time reading blog posts written on or around the new year.  Some of the posts have been a look back at the year just ended; things accomplished, projects completed, favorite or most viewed posts.  Some have been posts looking to the future; goals, resolutions and plans. I have done neither.  My friend Kim at Exquisitely Unremarkable has done both.  She recapped her favorite projects here and then looked forward by choosing a single word as her inspiration for the year here.  Jim and Mary at Old World Garden's blog who are my inspiration for my garden/farm set their top farm goals for the new year here and then planned their garden layout for the new year here.

I think that I am going to try to do both, a look back and a plan going forward.

Since I don't  have a bunch of finished (finished being the key word) projects to share I will share a memory.  Looking back on 2014 what I will remember most was the absolutely viral ice bucket challenge.  We did our challenge fairly early (August 16) and then watched in amazement as the numbers of dollars donated just grew and grew and grew.  Not only did people contribute nationally (and internationally) but our state ALS organization blew past their fundraising goal and our walk team, the Jay Walkers, exceeded our goal as well. Many of our family contributed recipes to an ALS cookbook and then purchased said cookbook at the walk in September.  All in all it was a really good year for the folks trying to combat a really, really awful disease. 

Looking forward I have been spending a little time considering what single word would inspire me all through the year.  I am just drawing a blank.  I have considered and discarded several.  Nothing just seems right.  I will keep working on it.  I do have a partial list of goals.  The obvious one: finish painting the house and the ongoing one: to add new fruit to the farm landscape each year and the same one that nearly everyone has: to eat healthier, get more exercise and lose weight.  I have started brainstorming garden goals and have decided that I will organize my list by area. Making a goal or two or three for each of the different parts of the farm and then separate them by requires mostly money, requires mostly labor, needs help from the kids or parents and quick (one day) projects.  I will post it when I get it done. Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

pb dog cookies

I have added another recipe to the pet treat bakery portion of my other blog, The Bakery at Mom's Hobby Farm (link on the right sidebar).  Sadly there are only three recipes there.  My New Year's resolution should be to fill up that section.  A better pet parent would have that section overflowing but then it is always nice to have a goal to work on. 

peanut butter dog cookies
The link to the recipe is here.