Three Apples

I grew three apples this year.

It’s been six years since I planted our apple trees.

Late this spring I decided I’d try to prune the apple trees in hopes they would actually, you know, grow apples.  I have a dozen books on growing trees, and that included instructions on how to prune them. But for the life of me I can’t understand what I’m reading when it comes to this topic. And there is like no one who will just swing by the house and show me. Luckily we have the internet and more specifically luckily we have YouTube. This dude, James Prigioni, on YouTube has a great video that I watched. It gave me the confidence to go out and massacre my little apple tree friends. (You can watch the rest of his videos here).

I went to the store and bought a hand saw and sharpened up my clippers. I did the best I could to remove the branches crowding the center of my trees. And I trimmed off dead branches. Generally working to shape up the trees. I removed up to 30% of branches on some of the trees. I pruned a little late in spring but I did the best I could when inspiration struck me.

The fruits of my labor were three apples on two trees this year. Not much progress but one of the apples was red, which is the first time we had a red apple tree produce an apple.


A red apple on a tree.


A green apple on a tree.

I plan on pruning my trees again this fall, or in the spring. They got very large this year after I pruned them. Watching the video helped out a ton because the books just weren’t explaining it to me in a way that I could understand. I really need someone to show me.

I’m sure I’m not taking very good care of my trees in terms of fertilizer or whatnot, but it is nice seeing them grow up, and maybe I’ll get lucky next year and they’ll start magically growing fruit.

I don’t know what happened to the apples. It’s late summer and they must’ve fallen or rotted off the trees. I don’t spray the trees so maybe that’s part of the problem too. Regardless, three apples is hardly anything to get excited about yet. So I just let nature take its course.

Pruning was fun and therapeutic. I look forward to playing with my apple trees some more next year.

Butterfly Garden

Figured out a perk of being lazy and not keeping up with (even planting) a vegetable garden. Letting nature take over has produced a perfect rectangle of butterfly paradise in our yard. Thistle and queen anne’s lace have grown up about five feet tall where once grew tomatoes and peppers. This is the perfect height to immerse one’s self into a world of dancing butterflies. I swear it’s better than the butterfly encounters you see at the zoo or museums. And it didn’t cost me a dime.

I spotted over six species of butterflies including Black Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Silver Spotted Skipper and Meadow Fritillary.

This place is pretty magical in the summer with all of the plants, insects and animals. Most people would have to go to a park or nature realm to experience what we can on any given day if we just take the time and open our eyes. Very blessed.



A week or two since I started planting seeds in our little mobile greenhouse, we’ve got sprouts! The sunflowers are the overachievers. They are already several inches tall.

All of the tomato seeds appear to have sprouted. And most of the corn is standing proud. The flowers sprouts are more hit and miss. The milkweed, which we planted more recently has yet to sprout.

Today we moved the greenhouse from the shaded, diluted light of my studio, to the sun soaked front window area in the dining room. I’m hoping the added heat of the sun will amp up the greenhouse environment. Mold is starting to sprout on some of the seed starting cells. I’m not sure I like the “cardboard” style cells which are always moist once you water them. To me, they seem like they get moldy fast. Regardless, I’m not too worried. The cells that didn’t sprout worry me more, if only because that’s space that could have been used to plant something else.

Our little greenhouse is maxed out space wise, but we still want to grow a flat or two more of kale seeds, and maybe something else…not sure what else. Will have to see. Maybe put a couple of flats on the drafting board in my studio and hope nosey cats mind their own business.

Here are today’s pics:


A couple of weeks back I burned an evening dreaming about a greenhouse; tapping through the internet, gazing at photos.

I like the idea of being completely independent. Free to do whatever I darn well please, not necessarily dependent on the whims of utilities, grocery stores…pretty much everyone, save whoever makes toilet paper. The allure of a greenhouse to me is, theoretically, I can grow all kinds of things year round. I wouldn’t have to buy veggies or fruits, except for whatever I didn’t grow myself. Now the reality is I would never do that. I’m too lazy and lack fundamentals necessities such as knowledge, money and time. But reality never stops day dreams.

Last year I said we are never growing plants from seeds again.  The seed trays on the window sills just attracted bad cats, who’s inquisitiveness meant damage plants, dirt and water everywhere. The whole thing was a mess; more trouble than it was worth.

So this year of course I couldn’t resist the urge to pick up an indoor little greenhouse. My former “no more plants from seeds” edict conveniently missing from memory (as reminded by my wife). As I mentioned in previous posts, it impossible for me to visit Lowe’s in late winter, early spring and not walk out with an arm full of stuff that I may or may not need. This week I walked out with a $35 indoor “greenhouse”, which is basically a backers rack with a vinyl cover.

We (my kid and I) set it up in about 15 minutes, in my studio. I didn’t feel like putting soil into pots out in the garage (too cold) so I brought all of my planting supplies into the studio and set to starting seeds. We (now consisting of myself and two kids) filled several trays with soil and little seeds. Trays were then placed on the racks, and the cover zipped shut. All that’s left to do is water and wait. Once the seeds sprout, we’ll thin them out and start toughening them up: moving the greenhouse to a sunny spot. Right now, in my studio, they only get indirect sunlight.

By the way, the seeds I picked up are organic ones from a nifty display I saw at Lowe’s. It’s important to get organic seeds so that they don’t contain neonicotinoids which are a type of insecticide that kills honey bees and other pollinators.

It was fun to set up the little greenhouse and plant seeds.

Nice to touch soil again.

In addition to pining for a “real” greenhouse, there’s a part of me that really wants animals too. I really want my very own micro farm really. Not sure who would watch this farm when we’re out traveling with our trailer for weeks at a time, but we can figure that out. But, who lets reality get in the way of day dreams, right?

Well we already have bees, and we’ve survived raising those, so there is a precedent for some semblance of competence. I think we can handle guinea fowl next. We can at least try 2-4 of them and see how it goes. The sole reason we’d get those is to see if they control the tick population, which is rampant on our little piece of paradise.

But beyond a few birds I’m thinking even bigger. I think it’d be neat to have a couple of goats and sheep. I’d love to have a little animal house, with an adjacent greenhouse and coop. Little animals roaming around, grazing…doing their thing. Cheese, wool, milk….

Who knows. Anything is possible.

Here are today’s photos. Enjoy!

Wren House

Spring is knocking on the door most definitely.  We’ve had a string of temperate days. Most of the snow has melted, even the giant pile that fell off the garage roof a month or two ago. Even the cool 40 degree days feel warm when the sun is out.

I’ve been locked up in the house now for a couple of weeks on end, working 10-12 hour days. Today was I nice respite from the enslavement that is having to work as much as humanly possible. With no projects on the docket I ran errands this morning. One of my stops was, of course, to Lowe’s. I needed a couple of blank signs for a community event this Saturday. Well not surprisingly, with one day left in winter, the store is shaping up to look like spring: grills and mowers out front, seasonal tables, pillows and decor inside. Scattered about were berry bushes and the obligatory seed starting paraphernalia.

I tried as hard as I could. I was good the last couple visits. Not buying anything except that which was on my list. But a long cold winter, and a life now spent chasing nothing but the almighty dollar has taken its toll on my mental well-being. Dark nights longing for a greenhouse; rationalizing it with every electronic page turn on a tablet. Thoughts of sprouting leaves, dancing in my head.

So I threw caution to the wind. My will broken.

It was the organic seed display that was my downfall.

Bee friendly, organic seed display at Lowe's.

Bee friendly, organic seed display at Lowe’s.

As we all (should) know by now, most likely the plants, and seeds, we all purchase at big box stores or local chain nurseries probably contain neonicotinoids. These insecticides are engineered into the plants to make them resistant to insects. As such they are also toxic to honey bees. Even the plants you get from seeds are engineered to basically kill honey bees.

The plan originally was, we were not going to grow anything from seeds this year. But like I said, seasonal depression took its toll, so I walked out of there with a several packets of organic seeds. Here’s what I got:

Wheat grass, sunflowers, and some other flowers - we will grow from seeds and see how it goes. Our bees will be happy. We can actually eat the wheat grass.

Wheatgrass, sunflowers, and some other flowers – we will grow from seeds and see how it goes. Our bees will be happy. We can actually eat the wheatgrass.

Of course if you get seed, you’re gonna need seed starting soil mix and pods to grow them in. So I grabbed some biodegradable Jiffy pots and organic potting mix.

We were in business!

Actually I was in business. The wife didn’t know what I was up to.

As I walked to the register, I glanced at the various seasonal displays. You’d think I’d know better: don’t be sucked into getting anything else you poor, tired, man. Well they had some bird houses and birdseed there.


I have a thing for bird houses. Actually animal houses of any kind really. I have some deep seeded desire to turn our 6 acre plot into some sort of wildlife kingdom. With little animals running around everywhere, shaking our hands, and helping us harvest vegetables.

Also I was thinking, the birds are all getting their nesting sites ready. For example, we had a mummified baby bird on our porch. It must have been in one of the porch nests last year. The parent birds – bluebirds? sparrows? deposited the unfortunate baby bird when cleaning out a nesting spot.  I love the idea of all these birds growing up in the safety of our yard and home.

With those thoughts in my head I marched back to the bird supply area of the store. I was going to get a bluebird nesting box. But then I’d have to find a post and long story short turn my trip to the store into an afternoon project. Looking around I spotted a diamond-shaped box with a wire hanger.

Ooo…I hanging bird house.

A wren house in fact.

I hung the house from my finger, and with all my other treasures tucked under my arm, I checked out and headed home.

Our new wren house. Was about $18 at Lowe's.

Our new wren house. Was about $18 at Lowe’s.

At home I googled where to hang my wren house (in an open yard or along a brush row basically). As a family we then went outside to hang our house in the front meadow. Somewhere where we can see it, yet away from the hustle and bustle of yard activity. I used a metal shepherds hook, pounded into the ground, to hang the house from (you can hang yours from a tree if you’d like). Now we’ll wait and see if anyone moves in.

A fine place for a wren family to grow up, in our south meadow.

A fine place for a wren family to grow up, in our south meadow.

I can’t wait for spring to get here. We took a walk on some of the nature trails. We could see little buds starting on many of the bushes and trees, including my apple trees. My fingers are crossed that we get blossoms this year, but I’m not holding out too much hope.

As with the bird house, we shall see. Until then, we’ve got little plants to start.


Our little "creek".

Our little “creek”.

Dogwood Sawfly Larvae

The wife came into the house and informed me that some sort of white caterpillar was eating our red twig dogwoods by the driveway. What is with all these insects and caterpillars out here? I’m turning into an entomologist against my will.

So I went outside and this is what I saw:

It looked like only one branch of one red twig dogwood was affected so I snipped off the branch and dropped it in a pile of old dead leaves on the other side of the driveway. I went back inside and researched “white caterpillars of Ohio” and came up with ‘Dogwood Sawfly Larvae’ which makes sense since they are on my dogwood bushes. I’ll spare you all the details but they’re essentially harmless – the plant won’t die from them. They do damage but not enough to kill the plant, especially our large bushes. If I wanted to I could spray them with insecticidal soap or pick them off.

As I said, I chose just to cut off the offending branch they were living on.

One interesting note, their mid-life larval phase is when they are white – the whiteness makes them look like bird dropping, which camouflages them from predators.

Nature is cool.

P.S. Congrats to me, this is my 400th post! Somewhat befitting it’s a post talking about mother nature hating me.

Schizura Concinna

Came home to find one of our three witch hazel plants was decimated by caterpillars. So went out and sprayed them heavily with Captain Jacks and some insect soap, both of which claim to be okay for organic growing. I then flicked all of the gross meaty caterpillars off of the two plants that had them on there. I didn’t get a good pic, my new phone let me down, but as best I can tell they were Redhumped Caterpillars (Schizura concinna).  

I just went outside and they’re all gone so hopefully a bird came and ate them all.


I’m done with the house and the whole nature thing. Ready to buy an RV and just travel the continent.

Schizura concinna

Schizura concinna

Image from

More info here: UC



Drying More Herbs

Today was pretty busy, as all week has been for the most part. But I have been knocking things off my “to do” list. I carved out an hour and a half to process the herbs that had been drying in my studio.

We have a lot of mint. Three 8 oz. bottles.

The other herbs are piling up too, though not enough to trade or barter with yet. One of these days I need to make labels.

Unrelated to herbs, I love my new phone. We, the wife and I, got new phones a couple weeks ago. The old ones were worn out, and the new plan is cheaper with better reception in our enchanted little hollow.

The new phone’s got a decent camera which is nice because I use my phone often for taking photos to put on the blog. It even has a flash. And I’m not a big phone case person but I got an awesome matte black case that make my glossy white phone look snazzy.

I had to share, ’cause it makes me happy.

I borrowed jars that were supposed to be for honey to put my dried herbs in. I need to make labels.

I borrowed jars that were supposed to be for honey to put my dried herbs in. I need to make labels.

Herb Harvest

Preparing Dried Herbs

The last couple days I’ve taken some time to process the herbs I had dried, and harvest a new batch.

I took down the herbs I’d previously dried, untied them and in batches I went about grinding them up. This first batch included mint, catnip, rosemary, and two types of oregano which I combined. I ran my hand along the stems of each and pulled all the leaves off, depositing them into a bowl. I discarded the stems. I then used our handy herb mill and ground up the leaves of each; cleaning everything off between herb types to minimize “cross-pollination” of herbs.

Once ground down, I used a funnel to put the herbs into 4 oz. round glass jars. It was amazing, I almost filled a whole jar with mint alone.

I ripped the leaves off and tossed the stems.

I ripped the leaves off and tossed the stems.

using an herb mill to grind dried herbs down.

using an herb mill to grind dried herbs down.

I used a funnel to put the herbs in glass jars.

I used a funnel to put the herbs in glass jars.


Mint, catnip, oregano, and rosemary in 4 oz. jars. It didn't take much to yield this much dried herbs.

Mint, catnip, oregano, and rosemary in 4 oz. jars. It didn’t take much to yield this much dried herbs.

Picking And Drying More Herbs

I was excited I ran out the next day and harvested more herbs. I learned you’re supposed to harvest in the morning, so I’ll remember that next time. This week harvesting in late afternoon sufficed as far as I was concerned. Here are some garden and harvest pics:

Corn is growing.

Corn is growing.

Harvesting herbs.

Harvesting herbs.

This is yesterday's harvest. There's more where this came from. I bet I'll have about six jars worth of dried herbs.

This is yesterday’s harvest. There’s more where this came from. I bet I’ll have about six jars worth of dried herbs. (Yes I misspelled oregano, sue me.)

I sorted all the herbs I harvested. I then washed them all with cold water and set them out to dry a little. As they were drying I tied them in bunches, about six (6) stems per bunch, about eight inches apart – basically creating a clothes line of herb bundles. I then hung them up in my studio to dry. Some of the smaller bundles or leaf only herbs (no stem) like sage, I used a drying rack.

A drying rack for chives, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

A drying rack for chives, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

I then used towels to get as much moisture off of the herbs as I could. In the studio I strung them up and now we wait, probably about a week for them to dry out. I’m drying these herbs right now:

  • rosemary
  • sage
  • thyme
  • chives
  • italian parsley
  • catnip
  • mint
  • spicy oregano
  • oregano
  • french tarragon
  • dill
  • basil

Some of these herbs, my herb book says don’t dry well: parsley and basil for example. But I’m going to experiment because I can have only so many herbs in my freezer. Throughout the process the kitties were very attentive – they can tell there’s copious amounts of catnip in camp.


Basil and catnip up top, other herbs below. I try to space them so they don't intermingle too much. Not sure if they'll transfer scent, oils or properties.

Basil and catnip up top, other herbs below. I try to space them so they don’t intermingle too much. Not sure if they’ll transfer scent, oils or properties.

Next up we’ll be extracting honey. Suffice to say if you’re on our Christmas list you might get some homegrown goodies this year. Actually we just made our first barter trade: I exchanged veggies for beer with a friend of mine that does home brewing. I like the idea of living off the land and trading what we grow for other things we want or need.

I did look at the lone surviving peach today and it’s starting to turn yellow. It’s not very big though. We shall see.

Okay, here are some flower and pollinator photos for you. Pick up a good nature sighting after the pics….

Baby Bunnies

Dixon was looking out the window curiously the other evening. So I got off the couch and looked out the window, and what did I see but literally a pile of rabbits! A mama bunny was nursing a whole litter of baby bunnies outside the family room window. It was so neat. Then they all scattered so we had adult and baby bunnies running everywhere. I wasn’t able to get any good photos. Sorry. But it was super cute. And of course now my pepper plants have more mouths to feed.

What baby animals have you seen this year?

Are you growing herbs?

Do you have any herb preserving tips?

Share below in the comments.

Starting To Harvest Veggies

Luckily work’s been busy this week, so I have yet to have “farm day”. But I did sneak out this afternoon and looked at the garden. Everything is growing nicely as far as I can tell.

I harvested a half-dozen radishes. Something about our radishes, they never look round like you see in pictures. Maybe I’m leaving them in the ground too long, but ours end up looking like mutants. I guess they taste okay. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with them all though. I can mail some out to you I suppose.

I also picked our first two cucumbers. There are a dozen more already on their way.

And I got another handful of green beans too.

Wednesday is CSA day, so we’re on the verge of having way too many veggies. Last night we cooked zucchini, snap peas, green beans and squash along with oregano and parsley. All that on top of pasta with some garlic, pepper, salt, and other spices. It was okay. But I find I need some sort of meat in there, otherwise I start to gag.

Today’s harvest:

Today's harvest. July 1st, 2014

Today’s harvest. July 1st, 2014