Farm Day

Farm

I have not found the time or spirit to write much since mid-month. Summer finds us busy trying to scrape by. For me at least I haven’t been in the mood to do much writing or anything for that matter. The work necessary to keep the homestead means we, or at least I, have little time or desire to enjoy the place. The irony is not lost on me.

Outside the world’s reverting back pre-house wilderness. My lack of time and desire means that the clover ridden yard hasn’t been cut in weeks. The planting beds we fought for so much last year are overgrown and mostly in-distinguishable. The garden is holding its own for now, though I can afford it not much more than a cursory glance here and there.

Part of me yearns for the day when the bank takes over the place and I can go back to living in some soulless suburb waiting for death to come rescue me.

What I really need to do is set aside a “farm day” each week to work outside. Six days of work and then one day to tend to the yard, beds, garden and bees. The property is blossoming into a full-blown micro farm (my word), but like any farm it requires attention. We’ve started harvesting herbs and vegetables on a regular basis. Judging by how well the bees are pollinating everything, we’ll have more crops than we could ever dream of, yielded from just a small little plot of ground. We need to start figuring out what to do with it all; look for people to barter or trade with. We’ve taken to freezing herbs such as parsley, cilantro and basil for future use. And I’ve got catnip, oregano and rosemary strung up in my studio drying by the north window. By summer’s end we’ll have enough we could start selling the stuff.

Also, I have my first batch of poison ivy all over my body. I will never, ever learn.

Bees

We did check the bees last week. Hive No. 1 has re-queened itself and she has been busy. The hive is full of eggs, larvae and capped brood. We pulled a total of ten frames of honey, about 40-80 lbs. before processing, as far as I can tell. I told Christine to go ahead and buy the equipment we need to process it. I’ve also got plans to build a homemade bees-wax solar melting box thing. Once that is built I can melt bees-wax into flat cookie sheet size slabs, cut them and store them for future use or sale. As for the other hives, aggressive hive No. 2 is doing well. Christine spotted their queen during last inspection, and the hive is growing at an alarming rate as well. I suspect my laziness in the yard is resulting in three of the happiest bee hives in the county. We have abundant clover and flowers; our little yellow friends don’t have far to fly. Hive No. 3 is not doing all too well though. They apparently have lost their queen and show no sign of making another. Hopefully things will change by time we check them next.

Snake

We found a Northern Ring-Neck snake behind our art show booth when picking up after the show. For more info click here. They’re cool looking snakes, though I didn’t want to pick it up without putting a baggy on my hand first. I dumped it in a bag and let it go by a creek across the way from our booth. Also, reptile / amphibian related: we have a new batch of tadpoles in the driveway pond. Nature hates me.

Rabbits

This past Saturday I awoke and decided to check on the veggie garden before we departed for our day of work at a local art show. As I got ready I could hear the boys yelling out that there were bunnies in my veggie garden. (It’s mine really, as I’m the only one who works the tick laden soil and plants).

See we have several bunnies who call our land their home. They live under our porch. Each morning they explore the property, eating clover, tea bushes and the occasional pepper plant. And every evening finds them playing in the yard, chasing each other endlessly, jumping in the air, landing in witch hazel.

Our youngest has even named them all…

Snacky

Bunny Paws

Fluffy

Woofy

Rupert

Vroom Vroom…

Like the skunks, deer, turkeys, crows, bats, hawks, woodpeckers, snakes….the rabbits are family. They are an integral part of the experience of living with this magical slice of heaven on earth.

So Saturday morning I stepped out to check on things. I figured I could scare the bunnies out of the garden and maybe they’d think twice about coming back, at least for a little while.

Turns out I would scare the living piss out of them.

The garden is surrounded by a fence delineated into 2×4 inch mesh. The double garden gate has a gap below it that allows the rabbits in. Something on my list to fix some day. On this particular misty morning I walked past all the overgrown planting beds, past the berry bushes and could see a rabbit in the veggie garden.

In my mind’s eye I imagined the rabbits would bolt when I approached and be gone from the garden. Turns out there were three rabbits, and as I opened the gate, sure enough the bolted faster than the blink of an eye.

The problem is since I was at the gate they ran away from me. And the fence openings aren’t big enough to allow a rabbit to pass through.

In a flash I had three rabbits, Rupert to the left, Bunny Paws in the middle and Vroom Vroom to the right, presumably stuck in my garden fence; their fuzzy little asses point back at me, their unlucky rabbit’s feet strumming the ground in a frantic manner.

I guess I imagined they’d jump the fence like a deer, not try to go through it.

What in the hell am I supposed to do now?

Strum, strum strum.

One at a time. I step towards Rupert. I look down at his furry little butt, plain as day. Cock my head a little. Scratch the whiskers on my chin.

Strum, strum, strum.

He looks back at me, and then he works himself free, taking off around the corner past the septic tank back to the porch.

One down, two to go.

Far off at the other end of the garden, Vroom Vroom has grown silent, under a blanket of tomato and zucchini plants. But in the center, Bunny Paws is flipping out. I can’t see him because of the large bush I left growing in the center of the garden. Every time he strums the bush shakes. I pull the bush back, hoping he’ll free himself as Rupert had done moments ago, and all I see is his legs furiously strumming.  I watched as he emptied his bladder, strummed some more and then listened as he cried out with the most god awful bleat. (click “distressed” HERE and turn your volume way up)

I turned tail and ran back to the house, grabbing the wife for moral support, and two wire cutters for technical support.

Oh and I grabbed my camera. You know. Blog.

Bunny Paws was still frantically trying to extract himself from the wire fence. I reached down with gloved hand and grabbed his skinny little butt. Felt just like a cat really.

BLEAT, BLEAT, BLEAT….

Strum, stum, strum.

Nothing.

I thought of going around and pulling. What I didn’t want to do was cut my perfectly good fence. But he was seemingly too fat to get through. So I grabbed my wire cutters.

Carefully I selected which wires to cut. The last thing I needed was Bunny Paws running around the yard with a 2×4 inch mesh fence belt.  I cut the top two wires above his hips.

BLEAT, BLEAT, BLEAT…

Strum, strum, strum.

“What the hell?” I thought out loud.

I grabbed a leg.

BLEAT, BLEAT, BLEAT…

Strum, strum, strum.

Crap. His legs are all intertwined in the fence, no wonder he can’t just scoot out. With every strum more fur came off, more likely he was to slit his tendons into useless rubber bands.

Visions of ‘Watership Down’ (the part where the bunny is trapped in the snare) dancing in my head I started cutting more wires. I grab both legs to stop them strumming. They’re so strong I can’t work them back out through the wires. I can only cut.

BLEAT, BLEAT, BLEAT…

In a flash Bunny Paws is gone, running through the brush. In my hand is a square of fence decorated with tufts of rabbit fur. The whole ordeal kind of weirded me out. Standing back up the corner where Vroom Vroom was is silent so I decide to leave him to his own devices. Presumably he either made it through the fence or lie in wait for us to depart. So we departed forthwith.

Now I have a hole in my fence, about the size of a rabbit. At least now they have one new escape route I guess.

A Note About The Blog

We keep having to pull levers to try to make this all work. The spousal unit and I are thinking of something new that would allow us to whore out what’s going on outside with the bees, garden, our knowledge and whatnot. We need another endeavor like a hole in the head, but at the end of the day it’s about amassing enough cash annually to pay for everything (and our tack isn’t working). And it will be an opportunity to pursue a shared dream. Plus I can’t store beeswax and oregano forever…

As such I’m taking a look at this blog (and everything else online) and may be calling it quits. Fret not my four (4) regular readers – we’d migrate to a new blog (or transform this one maybe). Regardless something’s gotta change. Stay tuned.

 

 

Advertisements

Tadpoles

So for my…our…latest bit of insanity I present to you: tadpoles.

I think it was Saturday. We were doing work, play or whatever in the yard. The weather was nice. I headed inside at some point to do something. A second later I could hear yelling from outside. The spousal unit was calling my name.

Gheez. Maybe someone was hurt. No one ever calls for me.

So I ran outside, yelling to find out where everyone was at, and turns out they were down by the driveway.

“Hey are these tadpoles?” She called out to me.

I walked down as the family stared down into a puddle in the driveway

Sure enough it was full of tadpoles.

There’s one really big puddle that forms in the driveway whenever it rains. I usually splash through it when pulling up the drive. And here some frog decided this was the best place to lay her eggs.

Well being the lunatic that I am, I can’t very well just leave nature to chance. After all, mankind has done it’s fair share intervening into nature’s business in an effort to kill of frogs and other amphibians. The least I can do is step in to help them out.

So we’ve been watering our limestone puddle twice a day for the last three days. Yesterday, Father’s Day, I was watering the puddle and decided the tadpoles might enjoy some shade from the brutal sun. So I pulled some grass and leaves, dropping them in the water to create some shady “habitat”. I don’t know what tadpoles eat, but maybe they’d eat the leaves or whatever. ‘Cause otherwise the puddle is just limestone and some bugs.

Well turns out today that the birds figured out our little secret. The wife says seemingly most of the little swimmers have been eaten by song birds. I didn’t have the heart to go look.

It’s sad I guess, but I’ve gotten use to the futility of my good intentions and effort in this world.

I’ll check tomorrow and keep watering as long as I can see tadpoles. We thought about putting bird netting down, but I’ll let nature takes its course (mostly cause even my insanity is trumped by laziness, and only so many hours in the day.

I wish we had a little vernal pond by the driveway. I’d like to dig a deep hole that will hold water through the dry season for frogs. Someday.

Elsewhere I planted more veggies in the garden. We lost some pepper plants to bunnies, but the family bought me replacements for Father’s Day. The holiday allowed me the opportunity to get out and play golf with my dad. I hadn’t touched my clubs in two years. It was very enjoyable. Also on Father’s Day, while filling out my card to my dad, my eye caught something moving outside in the early dawn: a skunk!  A fluffy skunk waddled by; I ran outside and tried to snag a photo to share with you all.

I love the variety of animals we get out here. It’s like living in paradise really.

Here are some flowers and other pics for you to enjoy.  Enjoy these last days of Spring peeps.

 

Fence Around My Peach Trees

Last evening I put fencing around the peach trees. And I sprayed some sort of deer and rabbit stuff…for keeping them away. It smelled like bloody cat vomit.

Peach tree fencing.

Peach tree fencing.

The "last" peach, hidden amongst the leaves. It's about the size of a walnut.

The “last” peach, hidden amongst the leaves. It’s about the size of a walnut.

Kicked Down

I could see it as soon as I got up this morning. Even without my glasses. Don’t ask me why, but it’s just part of my daily routine. I look out the window.

To see if it rained.

Yep, the eroded little “stream bed” was puddled, the soot building up over the walking path, near the anemic blueberry bushes.

To see what else happened overnight.

Everything growing exponentially. Green everywhere. Except the berry bushes of course.

So much work to do. I can’t keep up with any of it.

And then of course I could see what had happened outside my window, plain as day.

As I’ve said, it’s almost to the point where I can tell you the story of every leaf on every plant.

I could tell right away.

Already depressed, I put my shoes on. It’s trash day. So I gathered the trash and begrudgingly walked around back, off into the area beyond my bedroom window.

The deer decimated them, eating virtually clear up to four or five feet really. There is so much to eat around the land, I was in denial that they would bother three little trees. I know there are fences, potions and tricks spun by old wives, but deep inside I’m cut from a different cloth.

One that likes to pretend the world isn’t a shitty place to live in.

The worst part really it’s strictly a function of my defiance and ingrained laziness.

I looked closely.

Out of fifty, yes 50, peaches only three were left.

One very large one, hidden high within a tree that only had one or two to start with.

One very small one, barely a bud, low and residing also in a tree that had but one or two fruits.

And one random medium-sized peach, on a tree that easily had over forty-five peaches on it. Mind you a tree not much larger than a bush really.

The trees will survive. There are enough leaves, higher up, on each. Just as the apple trees survived their deer trimming last year or the year before.

I’ll fence the peaches in later today. More money. More time. I’ll spray concoctions around them. I may even endure the random “I told you so” to add insult to injury. I deserve it.

I’ll even wonder if it’ll ever sink in that maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.

Telling me that everything I do is daft. That trying to be different is wrong. Normal people don’t do this sort of thing. They don’t plant fruit trees and actually expect to get fruit. They don’t fight ticks, raise bees, live vastly beyond their means. I need to learn. That I should get back in line, do as they say, do as everyone else does.

Follow the rules.

If I’m lucky everyone sticks around for thirty minutes instead of twenty at my wake. Then the universe can chime in “Next.

I don’t know.

I hate to think that’s the case, but all the little things seem to point in that direction.

Maybe my saving grace is that I rarely if ever listen to anyone, the universe included. More often than not, to my detriment.

So I’ll live and learn.

I’ll put up little circles of wire.

And I’ll check on three little peaches every day for the rest of the season.

Post script: I went out to Lowe’s for a work project, and I purchased a 4′ x 50′ roll of 2×4 wire, so I can now protect the peach trees. And I bought four brightly colored tomato hoops just because they made me smile. They’ll add some fun to our garden, and not everything has to be formal, contemporary and “matchy” around here. They cost like $6 apiece so they’re not cheap but I don’t care; they make me happy.  🙂

Northern Flicker

Looking at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facebook page today I perused a post on a recent bird watching hike they conducted whereby they saw a bunch of different bird species and it got me thinking about a cool bird we’ve been seeing around the estate lately. I looked at the list and nothing jumped out at me. But I was pretty sure whatever our bird was, it was related to a woodpecker because it had a long beak and some bright colors. So I googled “woodpecker” or something like that and looked at the images. And there was my bird; I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier.

Male Yellow Shafted Northern Flicker (not sure who checked to see what color its shaft is but I'll take their word for it.) Photo stolen from Wikipedia, click link in post for more info.

Male Yellow Shafted Northern Flicker (not sure who checked to see what color its shaft is but I’ll take their word for it.) Photo stolen from Wikipedia, click link in post for more info.

We have two on the property and they are Yellow Shafted Northern Flickers. I thought they were rare since I’ve never seen one before, but I guess they are not. They’re super neat birds who like to hop along the ground eating ants, and fly around the woods like a wood cock or something. I hope our pair are a breeding / nesting pair.

Speaking of nesting, some sort of bird is using our bird house in the east meadow. I spotted a pair this evening as I walked the driveway. My camera lens isn’t good enough to get a good pic from far away, but it was a little tail wagging song bird of some sort. One was on top of the house, the other inside.

You can't see it really but there's a bird on our bird house. Inside is another. We have a resident couple hopefully using it as a nesting box.

You can’t see it really but there’s a bird on our bird house. Inside is another. We have a resident couple hopefully using it as a nesting box.

I tried to cut the grass but my batteries weren’t fully charged for the lawn mower so I just got the front orchard area done. Before cutting it though, I took in the view of all the beautiful clover blooming in the yard. Surely the bees were beside themselves with all of the flowers. Our lawn is basically a wild mix of grass, clover and other flowering plants. I don’t use any fertilizer of any type (mostly due to laziness, and being a cheap skate).

The yard is a haven for bees, as the clover is all blooming and it has been a while since I mowed the lawn.

The yard is a haven for bees, as the clover is all blooming and it has been a while since I mowed the lawn.

As for other industrious pollinators, after two years the carpenter bees finally discovered that our house is covered in western red cedar. Smack dab in the middle of the front porch a bee has burrowed through our siding, leaving behind a gigantic mound of sawdust. No way Jose; I took a paper towel, dowsed it in bug killer and plugged the hole. Sorry but this tree hugger has his limits. I provide 6.5 acres of wildlife nirvana. My cedar siding is off-limits.

An industrious bee is drilling a hole in our cedar siding. Can you believe all that sawdust?

An industrious bee is drilling a hole in our cedar siding. Can you believe all that sawdust?

You know what else is nirvana? The salsa and chips we got from our community supported agriculture program (CSA). The salsa is from Blaze Gourmet and the corn cracker minis are from Shagbark Seed & MIll. Together, with a cold beer to wash them down is pure culinary ecstasy.

This is the best salsa and chip combo, courtesy of our CSA. Blaze Gourmet salsa and Shagbark Seed & Mill corn cracker minis.

This is the best salsa and chip combo, courtesy of our CSA. Blaze Gourmet salsa and Shagbark Seed & Mill corn cracker minis.

Here’s a picture of a poppy from the yard. All the flowers on the land are incredible. I wish I knew how to paint flowers.

A poppy bloom. Fun.

A poppy bloom. Fun.

Also blooming are the daisies and wild black berry bushes. So far we’ve had constant blooming since the snow departed at the end of winter. Cone flowers are on deck. We’re also starting to harvest strawberries. Back in the garden I even saw a huge zucchini bloom, so we’ll have veggies in no time. I bet our bees help make for a bountiful harvest.

The daisies are in full bloom throughout the areas I planted them.

The daisies are in full bloom throughout the areas I planted them.

I don't think they are all wild black berries, but regardless bushes like these are in full bloom throughout the property. They are beautiful. They remind me of flowers you'd drape over a race horse or coffin.

I don’t think they are all wild black berries, but regardless bushes like these are in full bloom throughout the property. They are beautiful. They remind me of flowers you’d drape over a race horse or coffin.

One thing I noticed was that the rose-bush that survived (the other one is officially dead) has been devastated again by saw fly larvae. I saw their little green bodies under the chewed up leaves. So I sprayed the same insecticide soap that I used last year. Not surprisingly, this post from last year was from June 1st, and it outlines my discovery and remedy. The saw flies come back at the same time each year. One perk of my blog: it acts as an awesome almanac. I can look back and see when things died, bloomed or whatever in years past.

The saw fly larvae are at it again. Check the post to see how I take care of them.

The saw fly larvae are at it again. Check the post to see how I take care of them.

One other fun sighting today: a squirrel! Right by the play set, which is the closest we’ve ever seen a squirrel by the house. I find great pleasure in all the flora and fauna we see on the property.

It really is amazing.

Okay, I guess that’s enough for one day. I wish you all could see it first hand, it really all is amazing. You’d like it a lot.

-Chris

 

P.S. Christine read that because of the cold, the flowering buds on fruit trees can crack open and die off, which means they won’t blossom in the spring, which apparently is what happened to my apple trees throughout my orchard (except those 5 blossoms I had at the tippy top of the one tall tree).

So no apples this year, at all.

I hope we are still here next year.

Just once I would like to get an apple from one of our apple trees.

Nothing Much.

I have nothing to write about.

We’re just busy living life. Work, art, upkeep around the estate.

Daisy keeps escaping. Today she ran under the front porch. Bad kitty.

Who me? Bad?

Who me? Bad?

Outside the weather has been great for the garden. Our plants are growing nicely.

The yard is filled with clover so the bees are happy. We checked on them last week by the way and they look great. I didn’t see any queens but we saw eggs in all three hives so they must be okay.

Stay happy, healthy and keep having fun peeps.

-C

Plant A Little Garden …

My Sunday was spent in the vegetable garden, planting this year’s crop of veggies and herbs. We’ve been blessed with an unrelenting string of beautiful weather: low 80’s, cool breezes and sunny skies. The sort of days that make you start thinking life is really a dream. That something ominous must happen soon, if only to act as a balance. Or maybe it is our payment for all the cold, grey, desolate days we suffered through during Winter.

Living in Ohio I suspect we appreciate extraordinarily nice weather more than most.

The valley is thick with a carpet of green. The Summers of our childhood have arrived early this year. It is only June and the bright fields and shadowed forests beckon us to explore. Something engrained deep within each of us is awakened after slumbering through decades of reality.

Planting the garden by myself was a relaxing delight, although it was hard, sweaty work no less. Spiritually fulfilling or not, working the earth is no easy task, even with the benefit of modern tools.

Unlike last year, when we grew a lot of plants from seeds, this year we simply purchased plants at the local garden center. Someday I’d love to have a greenhouse (attached to the bee house), and I could grow all sorts of things from scratch. But it’s just easier sometimes to buy larger plants. I don’t know if the plants we bought are sustainable or GMO free but they are what they are.

Our 20×40 garden plot had become overgrown since I tilled the soil in April. I tried weeding by hand but it got to be too much. I did turn the soil with spade and diced it up a bit. Ultimately though I decided to place down landscape fabric to snuff out all the weeds. I laid out each square in the garden, covered it and pinned the fabric in place. Where a veggie was to be planted I scissored out a 12″ diameter circle, roughed up the soil, spread some general 10-10-10 fertilizer and planted the plant. On top of that I placed some mulch, left over from last year’s projects.

Turns out we have a lot of space left over in the garden. I methodically did my planting yesterday so I ran out of time, so the lavender and New Jersey Teas didn’t get their reprieve from encroaching “weeds”. The veggies only used half the space in the garden. The rest is all weeds. I’m not sure if we’ll get more veggies or not. Frankly unless we sold our crop at a roadside stand, I’m not sure what we’d do with it all. We’ll probably freeze some tomatoes regardless.

Maybe I’ll grow some corn.

Or we can start nursing more lavender.

Here’s what we planted:

  • Basil (2)
  • Tomato (6)
  • Green Pepper (2)
  • Green / Red Pepper Mix (1)
  • Rosemary (1)
  • Cilantro (2)
  • Dill (1)
  • Strawberry (4) (planted in front yard)
  • Parsley (2)
  • Cucumber (3)
  • Zucchini (2)
  • Summer Squash (1)
  • Radishes (3 rows)
  • Sunflowers (I spotted at least 4 that sprouted, planted about 4 dozen)

Growing elsewhere from last year:

  • Bee Balm (1)
  • Oregano (1)
  • Mint (1)
  • Catnip (1)
  • Peaches (3) (planted this year)
  • Blueberries (2 plants near death)
  • Blackberries (wild and domestic)
  • Raspberries (various)
  • Chokeberries (8)
  • Serviceberries (2)
  • Strawberries (6)

No apples this year – they never blossomed for whatever reason.

But we do have peaches!!!  Lots of fuzzy little peaches growing.

Judging by the amount of space we have in our garden, I’m curious how many families we could feed. I’m going to keep track of our harvest as best I can this year. I ate a strawberry yesterday so that’s “one”.

We joined a CSA as well, so quite frankly we’re going to have more fresh food than we know what to do with (hopefully). Which is good. This “experiment” of mine requires a lot of test, trial and error.

Ultimately it would be nice to be 100% self sustaining through growing, managing, bartering and trading. Beyond mortgage, taxes, and education, it would be nice to eliminate most of our expenses.

Food is a big part of that and relatively simple to work towards.