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.

 

 

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.

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.

Yard Work

There’s a definitive lull in work this week (and last week). I’ve spent part of the last two days working in the yard: cutting grass, trimming, attending to plants in need and working on the sandbox.

Last things first, the sandbox is done. Turns out one of the posts I set is off by a good inch, so the box perimeter is out of whack. Nothing a strategically places bush can’t fix, but when I put the “cover” panels on, something seems amiss.  Well I’m not going to fuss over it. It is what it is, as the cliché goes. Now I just need sand and gravel to fill the various bays and the box will be ready for bulldozers and excavators.

In the front yard I worked diligently trying to save a couple of our gum trees. We have five. One looks great. Two look okay. And two look near death. I think it’s all the rain water that flows through where they live. I took the brush cutter and cleared out around each tree. I rubbed some Tree-tone fertilizer into the earth around the base of each tree. And then I capped a few of them off with some mulch. I hope they make it.

I also used the brush cutter to freshen up the nature trail. The trail is still pretty muddy and wet, since the deer now use it as a main thoroughfare. One happy occurrence on the trail and elsewhere is, we’ve got sensitive ferns popping up everywhere. It’s a banner year.

Lastly the east meadow has a sparse blanket of yellow flowers. They punctuate the green canvas. The east meadow is by far the most picturesque I’d say. The last two or three years we’ve gotten these great yellow flowers over there.

Apple Blossom

We went to the sold out John Prine concert last night at the Ohio, and it was awesome. I’m not a connoisseur of concerts, so I don’t know if they are all as great, but after seeing John live, I’m not sure there much need to go to any others.

To celebrate the wife and my wedding anniversary we started out the night with dinner at Michael Simon’s Lolita restaurant, where we enjoyed a delicious three course meal. First off were yummy mussels and an order of bruschetta. For dinner we both got the petite steak which was exquisitely fantastic. To top it off we shared a trifle. It’s a nice quaint restaurant and I’d recommend it to anyone.

We then traveled over to the historic Ohio Theater for the concert. It’s a great venue and the seats I got were the best, in the mezzanine, but right behind the aisle so no one was in front of us; I little tight on leg room but definitely the seats to get in my opinion.

Sarah Jarosz opened for John, and even played a few songs with him later in the night. We had never heard her before but we’re fans now. I liked the soulful country sound of her voice, her wonderful lyrics and guitar playing. Sarah entertained the crowd during her 35 minute set. During intermission we went out to the lobby and got her to autograph a copy of her latest CD.

John darted out on stage carrying his guitar, accompanied by his three band mates playing guitar, mandolin and (what I call a) bass cello, and launched right into ‘Spanish Pipedream’ which was a pure delight. It was the perfect song to start with, especially since the wife hadn’t even heard of John, let a lone his music. I wish I could have somehow bottled the moment….the whole night really.

The next two hours were spent listening to songs, ranging from sad to funny, slow to rocking. He hit upon virtually all the ones I know, including the encore ‘Paradise’ which Sarah came back out for and most of the band mates performed solos. John’s music is as authentic an experience as you’re likely to find that touches your heart and soul; it speaks to the human condition. He truly is a national treasure, a hidden gem. We are all better off for he and his music. I count myself extremely fortunate to have seen him perform live and would see him again in a heartbeat.

Here’s a review of the concert from the PD.

Back home today we cleaned up the house for a guest tour. I love having guests and showing off the house. It’s also a great excuse to clean up around here.

We had a beautiful day for it, sunny, though it wasn’t very warm.

As it turns out, we all took the day off. After we visited with our friends and showed them around, we ended up having an early dinner followed by just hanging around the family room watching movies on TV. At one point I even dozed off. As did the cats, and boys. Sometimes, despite the weight of the world squeezing the air out of your lungs, you need to say ‘it can wait til tomorrow’. I’m tired of it all really; and besides I love the escapism of a movie or two on a lazy Sunday.

Oh, and one of the best parts of today – as I was explaining to our friends that I doubted we’d get apple blossoms this year, I spied a white flower in the distance atop the one corner apple tree. Upon further inspection there are five flowers up there.

Who knows, maybe we will have apples this year.

Our first apple blossoms of the year. Better late than never.

Our first apple blossoms of the year. Better late than never.

Mama deer is about to squirt a baby out. Today I thought she was based on how she was walking in the south meadow. She walked the whole time tail up. I was going to video tape the birth but she rambled behind a hedge row.

Mama deer is about to squirt a baby out. Today I thought she was based on how she was walking in the south meadow. She walked the whole time tail up. At one point to relieve herself. I’d swear she was crowning (sorry if that’s not the right term, but I saw more of her privates than I care to admit). I was going to video tape the birth but she rambled behind a hedge row.

It's so rare to have the kitchen clean I just had to take a photo of it.

It’s so rare to have the kitchen clean I just had to take a photo of it.

 

Lavender Honey Beer

We’ve got a cookout coming up for Memorial Day. I laid claim to Memorial Day weekend for a friend / family cookout because I’m always jones-ing for a cookout after the long winter, plus it’s the unofficial kick off of nice weather in Northeast Ohio, and it reminds me that I have to buy my wife an anniversary present.

My friend brews beer as a hobby so I put in a special request to have a beer made specifically for the cookout. I like the idea of creating special beers – coming up with a name, creating cool labels, perfecting the recipe year after. Well I know nothing about brewing and have enough hobbies as it is, so best to let the pro take care of the technical beer stuff, and I can glam onto the arty bits.

The thought I have is to come up with four seasonal beers and try to use ingredients that we grow here on the “farm”. We have so many potentially great flavors to choose from: honey, apple, peach, blueberry, raspberry, black berry, choke and service berries, even lavender, sunflower and peppers, just to name a few. Unfortunately nothing other than honey is growing on the farm any time soon. My blueberry, raspberry and blackberry bushes took a huge hit this winter. The peaches won’t be read til Fall, if at all. And I’m not even sure we’ll get apple blossoms this year. The honey is ready but we won’t extract any until late May or June.

So for this first batch of Memorial Day beer I selected two flavors that we at least could have in theory, someday: lavender and honey. They sell these ingredients in stores so we just went that route. I’m calling our Spring beer ‘Lavender Honey Spring Ale. Here is my sketch for the label (full disclosure, I traced the lady for my first sketch from another artist, but will try my hand at drawing my own for the final).

My preliminary sketch for the "Lavender Honey Spring Ale" label

My preliminary sketch for the “Lavender Honey Spring Ale” label

So you get the idea. I’ll steal some mat board from the wife and pull out my pen and ink for the final. It’s actually a fun art project; will be nice to get into the studio for a change.

Tonight was bottling night so I trekked (i.e. drove) on over to my buddy’s house and got to help bottle our first beer (well “my” first beer).

We started out by counting out 50 bottles. The batch was about 5 gallons almost.

bottles and caps waiting to be cleaned. My OCD in action.

bottles and caps waiting to be cleaned. My OCD in action.

We cleaned all the bottle in some sort of fancy solution in the sink and let them dry and a cool drying rack. We reused beer bottles by the way though I suppose you could buy new ones.

Bottles drying, ready to be filled up.

Bottles drying, ready to be filled up.

Then we emptied the bucket that the beer was brewing in, into another bucket, leaving behind all the nasty yeasty bits.

The gunk left behind as the bucket drains out into another.

The gunk left behind as the bucket drains out into another.

Transferring beer from one bucket to another.

Transferring beer from one bucket to another.

From there my friend tossed the bucket up on the fridge to let gravity help us fill all the bottles. There’s a cool pipet thingy that allows you to fill up the bottles 12 oz. at a time. I then capped each bottle.  He let me fill a few too. It was a pretty cool experience.

Finished beer, just needs a week to carbonate.

Finished beer, just needs a week to carbonate.

The flat beer will now carbonate for a week. Then we can open one and see how it tastes, carbonated. We actually tasted it tonight and it did not taste like soap, which is good. You can definitely smell the lavender. The beer has a nice color to it as well. It’s just that right now it’s warm and flat so you don’t want to drink a lot of it.

The beer looks good and tastes good.

The beer looks good and tastes good.

I’ll have to find some me time this week to ink the label by hand. Like I said it should be fun.

I’ll have to come up with a few more ideas for Summer, Autumn and Winter.

Beyond the beer, I worked on the sandbox this afternoon. I was playing Mr. Mom watching the boys. It was a nice afternoon outside so we went out, they played and I worked. Soon they were back inside though so I didn’t get much done. I’m trying to get the box done by Memorial Day if possible, which shouldn’t be a problem.

I got exactly 20 mins. in today on the sandbox.

I got exactly 20 mins. in today on the sandbox. I used my favorite screws to mount 2×10’s to my posts. Everything is fairly level.

The only issue I have with the box is, the sand. Normal sand you buy in the store, like at Home Depot or Lowes is silicate made from crushed quartz which causes cancer. So I’m looking for natural safe sand, like you’d find at the beach (presumably made from limestone sea shell like material). The only place I found so far is in California and the cost is astronomical to have it shipped to Ohio. I could make my own, but I need like 2,000 lbs. There is a “natural” sand made by Sakrete that they claim is safe, but really it’s not. I think that’s the route I’ll go and just make sure the sand is “wet” whenever the kids play with it and make sure their hands are clean after. Or the kids may just get dirt and rocks to play in the sand box.

I don’t understand how these companies can market this stuff to kids with a cancer warning label on it.

Anyway, there always seems to be something to worry about. Most people would say “Oh you worry too much”, but then how many people do each of us know who have gotten cancer inexplicably in their lifetime? And it’s not like it’s a mystery, the labels tell you right out of the gate: this causes cancer.

Right now the boys are playing in the mud I created in the sandbox area and are happy enough. Maybe we over think things.

Maybe everyone who comes to the cookout could bring 80 lbs of beach sand as an offering.

Do you have any ideas for what to do with the sand box? Or where to find safe sand?

 

Mother’s Day

I was going to write something grand and epic for Mother’s Day, starting like this:

The world can be a pretty awful place. But it’s not nearly as bad as it would be if it weren’t for a mother’s love.

 

I don’t know what my plans were but I do know that at some point I looked at the woman who is now my wife and thought to myself, she will be a great mother.

 

See, we were together for sometime before we had kids. I guess no thought is worth a damn until it plays out. I couldn’t tell you if she thought she would be or not. I guess it’s not something that ever came up in conversation. I suspect like anything, when faced with an unknown variable, one could say there’s no proof until you see it,. No reason to practically think such things. But a life isn’t made of proofs, it’s crafted from the unknown.

 

When we were blessed with our boys, she took to it like a fish to water.

 

Her strength and love for her children leaves one in awe.

 

But I wrote these words last night and then I got tired. And I spent all day with the family, and walking the land this afternoon. And you know what, it doesn’t matter how I write in celebration of the mother that my wife has become; being grand about it may even miss the point. Life pretty much wears you down, but despite all the grinding, there she is being the best mom in the world to our kids.

She is the best mom.

I asked my kids.

They told me so.

I see no reason to argue.

She is everything to them. She does it all and they adore her rightfully so. There is a laundry list of things she does: cleans bathrooms, makes meals, acts as their chauffeur, fixes ’em up when they get hurt, is the chief snuggle buddy when they need a hug…does laundry…she gives every bit of her energy and heart openly to raising our children.

It’s a thankless job, save for seeing the joy on our kids’ faces when they are happy, and the comfort she provides when they are sad. On top of it all she works multiple jobs at all hours of the day and well into the night. (She’s working on her art as I write this, in fact. Tomorrow she’ll bake cookies before school. I’m tired just trying to keep track. She does this every day, of every week.)

She has built this home that we enjoy, with patience and a bottomless supply of energy. I don’t even think she sleeps at night. Maybe she’s a robot or something. All I know is that those kids, and me too, are lucky to have her. So Happy Mother’s Day to my wife. I don’t say it enough, but we appreciate the heck out of you.

We did spend much of the day outside, so here are today’s Spring pics to share. I love that our land has a ton of flowering trees. Today was peak I think in terms of flowers. It’s amazing to come up the drive, over the rise and “poof” see all the flowering trees. Presumably the seeds were carried by the wind from surrounding properties over the years. Like some sort of suburban landscaping fallout. The result is absolutely stunning. The photographs do it no justice. I think today, or the week of the bloom, is my favorite time of year on the property.  Enjoy!

 

 

Peach Blossom

With great anticipation I kept checking the peach blossoms today. The weather is sunny and not too cold, in the 50’s and 60’s. The wind is calm. So I was hoping the honey bees would find the peach orchard, and they did.

It was exhilarating to watch one of Christine’s bees go from flower to flower pollinating them. While this by no means guarantees we’ll have peaches in August, this at least assures that we’re on the right track; peaches should start growing once the flowers drop.

It really was incredible.

To watch the process first hand. How magnificent the nature works. We take so much for granted, in this age of factory farming and buying all our food at a grocery store. To connect with the natural process – a process that is simple, yet fraught with opportunities for failure – there was something fundamental and spiritual about the whole ordeal. I felt special witnessing it first hand. In a fast paced world where we never find the time to “smell the roses” let alone watch our food being made.

It’s a really special experience and I’m fortunate to be able to witness it right in our back yard.

A honey bee pollinating a peach blossom in our orchard today.

A honey bee pollinating a peach blossom in our orchard today.

Daisy getting into trouble again.

Daisy getting into trouble again.

 

Peaches

Red Haven Semi-Dwarf Peach tree blossoms.

Red Haven Semi-Dwarf Peach tree blossoms.

I’m pretty sure we have an addiction that may be borderline unhealthy. Well I know I have several of those, but what I’m specifically speaking about is our addiction to plants, namely trees. Okay, I swear we’re done….for now. It’s just that a certain little blond kid wanted a peach tree when we were at Lowe’s getting the Red Oak tree for Earth Day. Well we rushed out without getting one. Friday was Arbor Day, so what a perfect time to go plant some more trees. Except the weather was crappy. Today we ran out after my Saturday work meetings; took the trailer up to Lowe’s and selected three peach trees.

Now we have an unplanned peach orchard in our back yard.

In theory we’ve got a lot going on self-sustaining-wise. Bees = honey and wax, apples, black berries, raspberries, blue berries, choke berries, various herbs and vegetables, and now peaches.

In reality we haven’t had anything “grow” enough to harvest anything of note. Other than the cucumbers and zucchini last year; and maybe a few herbs.

 

The new peach orchard. Three trees if you're counting; next to the raspberry bushes and garden.

The new peach orchard. Three trees if you’re counting; next to the raspberry bushes and garden.

 

I planted two varieties of peaches: Red Haven and Belle of Georgia. Here’s some Georgia peach history (click here). Both are semi-dwarf varieties which means they should be about 10′-20′ in each direction. Home growers should stick to dwarf or semi-dwarf trees because they are easier to manage and produce fruit earlier in the lifespan of the tree. Peach trees hate wind. Don’t we all? We determined that there’s an alcove between the playground and veggie garden that gets lots of sun and the wind isn’t as strong as everywhere else. The land slopes in the area too, so cold air should pool elsewhere. See, cold frosty air runs over land much like water does, pooling in the low-lying areas. Keep your orchard trees out of the low-lying areas, in the sun and out of the wind and you should be fine.

I spaced our peach trees about 10′-11′ apart in a triangle. According to the cards that came with the trees, they are hardy to -10 to -20 degrees which should be fine. Unlike our apples, the peach trees are self-pollinating, but having two varieties should increase our yield. I will say it may be a moot point because it looks like the Red Haven’s are blossoming earlier than the Belle. I guess we’ll see. Regardless, the flowers are ready for the bees. We just need a little less wind, and the bees to discover the new trees. Then we should have peaches as early as this August if all goes exceedingly well.

Only other things of note: we took a box of junk to the e-recycling event in the park this morning. Of course they wouldn’t take our broken blender which kind of irritated me quite frankly. I took it home and it was easier to take apart than any other electronic device I’ve encountered lately. And voila it had a motor and circuit board – things I would think could be recycled. But “no” big bad e-recycler people don’t want blenders. Whatever. I took it apart, my kid will play with the part and then I’ll dump it all in the next e-recycling box. Except the housing and motor – those will go in a landfill and we all can blame the recycling guys who hate the planet.

Also I fixed the drawer on the wife’s Kohler bathroom cabinet. For whatever reason the wheel started falling out of the track. I bent the track back into place, cleaned the construction debris throughout the track areas and lubricated the wheels on the drawer with some WD-40. Seems better.

And as inspired by my fellow blogger at ’40 Is Like The New 30′, I will share a song to go with this post: none other than ‘Peaches’ by The Presidents of the United States of America.

 

Quercus Rubra

For Earth Day this year we went to Lowe’s to buy a tree. Christine spied a tall red oak that had a nice trunk caliper. I referenced our landscape master plan and sure enough, it called for two red oaks just east of what was supposed to be the wine garden; which is now our apple orchard.

As we paid for the tree I wasn’t sure if it’d even fit in the RAV4. I told the cashier I may be bringing the tree back. With as much dexterity as two adults and two kids could muster, we delicately put the tree into the Toyota, pointy bits first. I stacked up several bags of stone I had bought for the new bee hive stand, off to one side of the trunk. Propping the root ball end up on the stone pile, I beckoned the wife to come on back – we needed her to sit in the back and hold the tree in place all the way home.

But the tree did fit.

Once home I eyeballed where I thought the plan called for our new leafy friend to go. And I actually was pretty darn close. I dug a hole, added some top soil from the nearby stock pile and our new tree was in place. Judging by the location, someday this oak will tower over the orchard, and actually shade it too much in the morning, but by time it reaches 80′ tall and 50′ wide I’ll be nothing but dust underneath it.

Red Oaks are magnificent trees. I had previously planted several red oak saplings, but alas I don’t think any survive any more. They can live to be 500 years old. Eventually the tree will bear acorns, that the animals will like.

Christine’s oak will look over us for years to come and nurture our land, just as she nurtures our family.

Beyond planting the oak, I also installed stones around the base of the last bee hive stand. Our bees will be ready for pick up in the next couple days, so it’s imperative that we are ready for them.

I also tried to kill some ants at the base of a red bud tree with water and vinegar, as well as cornmeal. Not much luck so far.

The sandbox is under way, but wait for the next post for my over view of that project.

Here are some pics for your enjoyment.

Four bags of stone, placed over the tar paper and under the pavers to provide some stability and drainage for the bee hive stand. Also keep the tar paper from flying away.

Four bags of stone, placed over the tar paper and under the pavers to provide some stability and drainage for the bee hive stand. Also keep the tar paper from flying away.

Every night the deer wander through the yard, only about 15' from the dining room windows. It's like living at a zoo. They love the clover in our yard.

Every night the deer wander through the yard, only about 15′ from the dining room windows. It’s like living at a zoo. They love the clover in our yard.

I tried killing an ant hill at the base of our red bud tree with a mixture of vinegar and water from a spray bottle. And I poured corn meal around the base as well.

I tried killing an ant hill at the base of our red bud tree with a mixture of vinegar and water from a spray bottle. And I poured corn meal around the base as well.

Setting the 4x4 posts for the sandbox with cement.

Setting the 4×4 posts for the sandbox with cement.

My jeep made it out of the garage after six long months in the hibernation.

My jeep made it out of the garage after six long months in the hibernation.

The house as viewed from our country lane.

The house as viewed from our country lane.