Monday, June 22, 2015


The black raspberries have exploded with ripe fruit and the red raspberries are right behind.
This is the first picking and there are many more to come.

I carefully made a new bed for black raspberries the fall we moved here. This is the first year we have actually had a harvest from the bed, what with one calamity after another befalling the poor raspberries. But now I may need to rethink the entire bed. It's not very large, maybe twelve feet long. There were a few black raspberry bushes growing at the edge of one of the pastures and I hastily dug in what bushes I didn't have room for in the new bed. Now this group of black raspberries is flourishing and may make the small bed superfluous. That would give me room for more blackberry bushes!

Thinning the Apples

It's hard to thin the apples when you have so few and only one tree, but thin you must.
There may be 50 apples remaining on the tree but they are growing well and will at least be a crop for fresh eating this fall.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Old Apple Tree

One of the apples trees that were planted by the previous owners of our property did not make it through the winter. When we moved the chickens out of the orchard Alan was able to cut up the tree and dig up the trunk. He said the roots were very mushy and limp.
Now I have room for more fruit trees.
Using the method I am employing with the other fruit trees, I should be able to get at least four more trees into this space.
First though, we need to level out all the holes the chickens dug.
I will cover crop the area with buckwheat throughout the summer, then sow a fall planting of oats. The oats will be killed in the winter, leaving a nice surface into which we can plant the trees in the spring. The cover crops will help build up the soil and keep noxious weeds from taking over the area this summer.
Now I just have to figure out what else I want to plant in the orchard.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June Veggie Update

Scapes, we have scapes!
The red potatoes, planted last month, are doing great. I am mulching them with shredded leaves to make them easier to harvest and improve the soil. This is the new part of the garden we made when we moved in and the soil isn't as nice as the older portion of the garden. Eight inches of composted shredded leaves should help.

 The grafted tomatoes have really taken off. One has three tomatoes. Time will tell if they help against late blight.
The Amish Paste Tomatoes are trying to catch up.

The onions are doing well too.

As are the leeks.

Parsnips from last year are going to seed. I don't really have anything to plant there so I was going to try saving seed. Then I realized I planted a hybrid variety last year so who knows what the seeds will get me. At least the pollinators should appreciate the flowers.
The broccoli has never looked better! That's because the cabbage moths haven't found it yet.
The second planting of lettuce, chard and kale are looking pretty darn good.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Happier Chickens

The chickens have been in their winter quarters for far too long. We just couldn't decide on the best place to move them. The last two years we rotated the chickens around the pasture, but I want the grazing to be saved for the sheep.  Finally, we ended up moving them to the area occupied by the goat run-in for the past two and a half years. This would allow the chickens to scratch up all the old bedding still there and allow the land to recover from years of goat manure.
The chickens also moved back into their chicken tractor. Alan ended up replacing the trailer underneath the chicken coop. The old trailer had a bad tire (it basically blew out the whole side wall) and the wheels are old military wheels. Eventually we'll find old tires and rims for that trailer, but now the coop has a new trailer that had been floating around here for about a year (my husband collects trailers the way I collect animals.)

We needed the winter chicken coop for the new chicks and ducks. The chicks let me know last week they were growing out of their washtub in the outhouse.

Now they are living in the small coop, but are not very sure about going outside.
The chicks and ducklings are in a fenced off corner of the new chicken run, allowing everyone to get to know each other before co-mingling.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Cover Crop Experiment Continues

The value in the cover cropping I've been doing should be seen in the planting results for this year. I have been a bit late planting this spring, but just about everything is now in the ground. It took me a while to figure out where to plant everything, harvesting then waiting for the cover crop to start to break down, and how to go about doing the planting in the cover crop.

Planting in the rye is definitely difficult. The time spent making and planting the rye in rows next fall will really pay off for planting in the spring. It was tough making furrows to plant seeds when the clumps of rye roots were randomly spaced around the patch. I had to rip out a few but I was able to get everything planted.

Here is the patch of parsnips planted in the rye. I am very interested to see how things go with weeds since hoeing would be very difficult, if not impossible in this patch.
The beets are a bit of an experiment. The first row on the left were planted last month: Chiogga variety. Next is another row of Chiogga, then a row of golden beets followed by another row of golden beets fully in the rye.
The last plot with rye is a large one with corn, beans and squash.  After seeing how difficult it is to dig furrows in the rye I decided to go with the old indian/colonist three sisters' planting method. I dug holes every two feet in a four by five pattern. Into each hole was planted five corn seeds, two louffa gourd seeds and two hyacinth bean seeds.
I had planned to plant the carrots in the rye as well, but thankfully the rye didn't quite go that far. One row of carrots has a small area of rye so I can have a very small trial. I really like Cindy Connor's method of planting carrots in between rows of rye. That will make a huge difference next year.

The last plot of cover crop to be planted was the pole beans. These are seeds I saved from the few plants I grew last year of a Thai bean I got from a friend at work (Thanks Na!) I ate only a few of the beans so I would have enough seeds to get a good planting this year. The pole beans went into the Austrian Winter Peas. The beans don't need the nitrogen from the winter peas but the garden is a great big puzzle when it comes to planting. When you take into account crop rotation and the large area that is too close to the old walnut tree it makes it hard to figure out the best place to plant everything.

One big improvement planting into the cover crop has shown is in water run-off. Most of my vegetable garden is on a slight slope so when I water often the seed will move downhill with the water. That didn't happen with the seeds planted in the rye.  So the experiment continues!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Sheep on a Mission

The sheep have figured out the whole rotational grazing thing. They stick close to me in the morning to figure out where we are headed for the day's grazing; and in the evening they head back to the barn for their evening snack without waiting for me.
Once they get through the gate and can see their barnyard they take off running. A little grain and hay is a great bribe training tool!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


The kittens were born on May 2nd and we really haven't seen them up til now. Once, I caught a glimpse into their burrow and thought I saw three; two gray with white and one tabby like mama. Today I finally saw the three kittens sitting outside their burrow, but of course they had gone back in when I returned with a camera. And mama had returned too, and was not happy to see me anywhere near her kittens. I was able to take this picture.
The eyes of one of the kittens are glowing from the flash in the background. The kittens all look healthy. Their are a few trap, neuter and return programs in the area that will neuter and give rabies shots for $35. Stumpy has been letting us get very close to her while she is eating in the cat carrier so she should be easy to catch. Hopefully the kittens will get trained to the carrier as well. I can't wait to see them running around playing. It's been a long time since we had a kitten around.

Friday, June 5, 2015

17th Century Kitchen Gardens

I love history and I love gardening so when I saw this video I was hooked.
Garden Secrets-17th Century
The kitchen garden section begins at minute 32. But there was some interesting information before minute 32 on garden design, parterres, perspective and the introduction of flowers to the garden.

I found the section on "Step Over Apples" to be fascinating. I have always wanted to play around with espaliering but I don't really have a suitable wall. The link above, from the Royal Horticultural Society, explains how to train a dwarf stock into a low horizontal cordon. These apple trees can then be used to line a walkway or act as a divider. And they are so low to the ground that most people can easily "step over" them. I love it!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Orchard Update and a Book Review

The fruit trees I planted this spring are growing very nicely. That first cut to get the main trunk to knee height is scary though! The trees do seem to respond well to the cut:
The tree above is a Spitzenburg. It is very happy here.

Not so happy is one of the original apple trees that was here when we moved in. I guess you are a little more than unhappy when you are dead. The winter must have been too much for it, especially after taking a beating from the deer the year before. The other original apple tree is doing great and it is just about time to thin the baby apples.
Every visit I make to our local library starts with a look at the new book shelves. They had an interesting book about forgotten apples (and of course I forgot the name of the book) ranking them by taste. My Sheepnose apple ranked dead last, not necessarily for the flavor, but apparently the texture is so awful tasters couldn't get past the texture to evaluate the taste. Maybe it is a good cider apple.
The book I did take out of the library, Grow a Little Fruit Tree, is a little gem. In no nonsense explanations and pictures this book explains exactly everything I need to know about growing/pruning small fruit trees.  The author, Ann Ralph, gave me the final push I needed to go out and make that drastic cut to my newly planted fruit trees. Her recommendations for summer pruning are also very well explained. Also included are sections on watering, fertilizing, and pest control. Every topic is addressed from an organic perspective. This book came along at just the right time in my orcharding. Ms Ralph's step-by-step pruning instructions will help me keep the growth of my trees at a manageable size.  This is one book I must have permanently on my bookshelves.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”