Crops – All

July 9, 2010 – Buckwheat Already

Although it might look small or not apparent here, there are thousands of tiny buckwheat seedlings starting to grow. After we pulled the garlic, we replanted just 5-6 days ago with buckwheat and it’s already up!

Buckwheat is a great summer cover crop because it loves the heat, provides good late summer forage for the bees, and lays down some nice seeds for the chickens to pick and scratch in late fall as they lay down next year’s fertilizer!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #170″

September 27, 2008 – Harvest Table

A few weeks ago a school tour came and I neglected to show the “harvest table” that shows some of the goods and products harvested from our farm.

This table, set September 14, shows apples, onions, potatoes, raspberries, blackberries, garlic, tomatoes, beans, shiitake mushrooms, eggs, watermelon, lambskin, peppers, flower bouquet, and a bunch of canned goods.  We are ready for winter!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #89″.

August 22, 2008 – Late August Garden

The harvest, preserving, and selling season is in full swing and it is time for weeding to fall by the wayside.

This is our best looking garden – one weeding professional Linda has managed to keep in check. It’s hard to make the switch from tending to harvest, as it is hard to let go and there is only time to do so much, and it’s time to put food up

one year ago…”Dog Agility”

August 16, 2008 – Moldy Hay

I’ve finally looked at the local Craigslist ads and I think it will be a dangerous thing for me!

Our first purchase was about 50 bales of moldy hay for fifty cents a bale.  A storm a few weeks ago ripped a roof off a hay shed and soaked the hay – it started molding, so it was on a fire sale.  I know that moldy hay can be dangerous to the lungs, so I decided to store it outside, rather than bring it into a confined space and since it will be used for garden mulch, outside storage won’t hurt it for that use.  I might throw a tarp over it.  It spent a couple of days drying out on hay wagons before I stacked it.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #84″

August 5, 2008 – More Garden Space

It’s time to consider more garden space.  We are also looking at some less labor-intensive space.

Here’s our plan.  We mowed four foot wide strips with four foot wide grassy areas. The spacing is such that we’ll till up four foot strips and have grassy steps in between so we’ll be able to do tractor work and keep the tires on the grass instead of in the garden.  So we mowed down the new garden strips and loaded it with compost, then covered it with black landscape fabric to kill the grass by next spring.  This picture shows a couple of strips covered, a couple with compost, and a couple just mowed.

one year ago…”And so it Goes”

July 30, 2008 – New Aerial Applicator No Spray Signs

After the rash of organic and sensitive crops being mistakenly sprayed by aeriel spray planes (not to mention the large crew of field workers as well), IDALS, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, has implemented a sensitive crops directory that aeriel sprayers are asked to consult before spraying.

The department provides the signs at a discount and leaves it up to handymen like myself to figure out how to get the sign 8-10 feet off the ground with the sign at a 30-40 degree angle from the post.  I just bought a heavy piece of 10 ft PVC vent pipe and a 45 degree elbow.  I cut about two feet off the pipe, mounted the sign to the small piece then connected the two pieces with the elbow.  Then I drove a steel fence post into the ground and just slipped the PVC pipe over it.  I’m hoping I can get away with not attaching it to the post so I can slip it off in the winter to spare the sign and PVC some weathering. Â The PVC seems heavy enough and puts enough torque against the post that it doesn’t seem to want to spin around at all.

one year ago…”Claire’s First Road Trip”

December 31, 2007 – Oak Creek Canyon, Sunset Crater & Wupatki

The day dawned clear, crisp and cold.

The first stop was Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon. A great natural playground of water, red rocks, deep pools, and smooth red rocks.

Another view of Oak Creek.

Fifteen miles upstream is the top of the canyon wall. Oak Creek is at the bottom of the canyon.

At a Coconino Forest Overlook there were artisans selling their wares. In the middle of the picture, Emma is trying to decide what to buy.

North of Flagstaff is Sunset Crater National Monument. This is the cinder cone of a volcanic eruption “only” 1000 years ago. It’s a little like Hawaii in the winter!

A few pioneer trees have started to grow in the ash. Emma decides to climb up for a better view!

The other direction from Sunset Crater is this view of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest point in Arizona at 12,000+ feet just north of Flagstaff.

These are the biggest ruins at Wupatki National Monument. It was the biggest structure for about 50 miles around at the time of the eruptions at Sunset Crater.

This is another ruin near the Wupatki ruin, the Wukoki Pueblo. These were occupied in the 1100s – about the same time as the Crusades in Europe, to give some Western Civilization context. We had a hard time thinking about living in these dry, windy treeless areas as a home camp.

A shot of some happy travelers at the end of a good, long, day!
one year ago…

September 24, 2007 – Hops Harvest

The hops experiment has been somewhat successful.  The vines didn’t cover quite as much of the trellis as I’d hoped, but it did produce hops in year one!  Check out what it looked like on May 11 from the same vantage point.


So, now I’ve got to figure out what to do with them. (Actually I know what to do with them, it’s the how I lack.)


Here’s some of the harvest on the drying racks.  I’m virtually clueless on the correct time to harvest hops in this part of the country.  Any brewmasters out there have advice for me on timing and post-harvest?

one year ago…

July 23, 2007 – Hops Progress

The hops we planted this year are making a tentative start.


The experimental hops we planted this spring are making their way up the trellis.  I’ve been rather surprised that we are having a bit of a pest problem with these – as there are not many hops around to breed pests.  There are tent caterpillar-like worms that we’ve been picking off the leaves.

one year ago…

April 17, 2007 – Coming out the Deep Freeze

The last few days have been back in the 70s after the long early April cold snap. We still are not sure how far along the fruit tree blossoms were when the cold weather came (teens at night and 3 days without getting above freezing).  We should know in a few days to week or so if they saved the flower buds.


The rhubarb will be fine, it’s already sending up new growth from the growing point, even though the first few leaves are brown and dead.

one year ago…

January 9, 2007 – Pasture 2.0

Here’s a look at the furthest east side of our pasture. You can barely see the rows of Christmas trees on the far side and you can see the fencing of the hardwood trees on the left side. For now we’ve decided pasture is not the highest and best use of this ground since we have so little land and need a higher return than we can get from a few grazed cattle.

There’s a bit of higher ground on the far east side, and you can see where a couple of rows of Christmas trees will go. Down the center of the picture, we are investigating woody ornamentals that can stand wet feet. They’re in a low spot that floods maybe once or twice a year if we get a quick, heavy rain in a short time when the crops aren’t in the adjacent field. It doesn’t stick around for long, but does move through pretty good.

We’re looking at curly willow and other brightly colored willows and perhaps some marsh-loving plants like iris in the low area. The willows can be mowed every year and as a side benefit will offer great goat browse as well. I must admit – I do like researching and planning a farmscape like this. A great advantage of doing something totally different than the rest of the county is we’re the only one doing it. Of course, the disadvantage is that we’re the only ones doing it! I do however like the diversity and experimentation that we can indulge in on our little piece of old prairie ground.

one year ago…

December 30, 2006 – Pulling Fence in December!

It’s not often December 30th brings 50 degrees – we used the opportunity to get a start on some work that is usually done in late March or early April – pulling up and putting in fence. We’re moving the entire line of fence on the north side out another 10 feet so we can plant another row of trees in the north windbreak/Christmas Tree patch.

Here’s Marty working the post puller. It was actually so wet, that we didn’t need this – the posts could just be pulled out.

There’s something about working in a warm rain – I’m not sure it reminds me of camping, or if the rain provides a slight sense of urgency to get done before the rain increases. It was not unpleasant and good to get out.

one year ago…

December 27, 2006 – Fencing Me In

Now that the cows are gone, the tree-destroying job has evidently been passed onto the rabbits. I noticed some chewing around the base of the trees, particularly the maples. So, now we are starting to put chicken wire around some of the trees.

Today the girls made the cages, pounded the stakes in, and protected 17 trees. More to do tomorrow!

one year ago…

November 17, 2006 – Fruit Tree Problems

This year, a number of our fairly new peach trees developed wounds on the south side of their trunks. While I was at the Small Farm Conference I spoke with someone from the Missouri experimental fruit station after a grafting workshop who told me to paint the south sides of the trunks white because the hot winter days followed by cold were causing the splits in the trunks. He said you don’t need fancy paint, interior latex works as well as anything.

It looks kind of strange to see all the white trunks offering striking contrast to the autumn browns.

one year ago…

November 8, 2006 – Short Shirt Sleeve Day

Today might be the last day in the mid-70’s for a while. I used it to take care of lots of nagging little jobs. Fixed the oyster shell dispenser that was leaking oyster shells on the ground outside of the coop, painted the south side of the peach trees white, moved all the chicken tractors in the barn along with most of the summer outdoor furniture, started on rabbit guards on the new trees, put another coat of poly on some bookshelf shelves, and so on.

My favorite task is “pruning” the fall raspberries

Here is a row before pruning.

This is the row after pruning. The “pruner” in this case is a riding lawn mower! This beats the heck out of individual cane pruning the summer bearing berries. I’ll just throw some compost on, and they’ll be ready for next spring.

one year ago…

October 20, 2006 – 2nd Stage Garden Cleanup

Today was the 2nd stage garden cleanup – mowing to shreds all the remaining plants and weeds to help them break down over winter. I did find one total surprise – some of the radicchio and chinese cabbage plants have regrown. They are early spring crops and just kind of hibernated through summer and now they are back!

I found out our power cooperative has an off-peak billing option – you pay half price for 22 hours of the day and pay three times the rate from 5-7 pm. It sounds pretty good – put a timer on the deep freezes and water heater to go off for a couple of hours and avoid laundry or clothes washing at that time – I figured it could save us up to $80/month. I’ll keep you posted how it actually works out.

one year ago…

October 11, 2006 – Garden Gleaning

You know you are committed when it’s 39 degrees with a 25 mph wind and you are out picking the last raspberries of the year! I had to come in three times to warm up the fingers before getting all the raspberries picked. Tonight will be the end of the growing season at last. This was the last garden gleaning before a hard frost.

This was part of the day’s harvest. In addition to this, some radishes, lettuce, and herbs were gathered. So, today was devoted to freezing the beans and berries, making one batch of salsa, and canning more tomatoes.

I wasn’t necessarily planning on this for today, but something about my upbringing can’t let the food go without one last putting away day.

one year ago…

September 24, 2006 – Raspberries Won’t Die!

The frost was not a killing frost – only a handful of tomato plants bit the dust. The raspberries keep going…

Someone asked the variety – they are the old traditional fall variety – Heritage.

One of the neighbors had a “block” party this afternoon(A block meaning a couple of miles square) for all the old and new neighbors to get together. We had some a few years ago, but hadn’t had any for a while, so it was nice to have the tradition picked up again.

September 15, 2006 – Peaches and Raspberries

Our raspberries refuse to surrender. We’ve been picking since mid-August. On Monday we picked 2 gallons and today (Friday) 6 more quarts. This is from a 50 foot row!

The oldest peach tree was ready for harvest as well. Three crates of peaches from it this year – about 1/2 or less of last year’s harvest from the tree, but still lotsa peaches.

So, time to make more jam, and depending how the mood strikes us tomorrow – canned or dried peaches. I would not be disappointed if it froze tonight (it won’t for quite some time yet). I’m ready for something else besides picking and putting food up (at least for a while). I don’t think I’d do very well in a place without seasons. It’s nice to anticipate, enjoy, and exhaust each season. I look forward to fall – typically a time to fix up buildings/create contrivances in the workshop after the gardens die.

September 9, 2006 – Market Goods

Here’s a sample of what we bring to market. This may be one of the last weeks as the garden winds down.

As Martin’s Kindergarten class was discussing colors this week, nobody believed that peppers were purple. (Doesn’t anybody teach “Peter Piper picked a peck of purple peppers anymore?) So, for share day, he brought in some Purple Beauty peppers to show.

Some of the fall bouquets are striking with the dark reds and browns.

Our fall raspberries are just going nuts this year – lots and lots of big berries.

September 4, 2006 – Gift of Heirloom Apples

Today Helen Gunderson stopped by the farm and dropped off two Wealthy apple trees she grafted from an 80 year old tree on her childhood farm. I’ll have to ask her where the tree was in this arial photo shown in the previous link.

We were able to pick two of the trees to plant at High Hopes. To facilitate this project, Helen learned how to graft and brought these trees from grafted twigs to these nice potted trees over the summer. She is spreading the apples around the state, a modern-day Johnny Appleseed (except the true story of Johnny Appleseed involves lots of hard cider and profit, but that’s another story for a diffent day).

August 26, 2006 – Putting Food By and By

As today was the Memorial for Mildred Grimes, we weren’t able to go to market. I’m glad we went to the service – it was very beautiful. We were, however left with many tomatoes, beans, and raspberries to “use or lose.” Linda and Emma canned 21 quarts of tomatoes.

We’ve got our old kitchen countertop on wheels and old gas stove on a propane tank, so we can keep the mess out of the house.

Claire and I dug more potatoes. I had a crabby and happy picture of Claire, and chose the happy picture this time.

August 16, 2006 – Favorites Around the World

GJ is hosting a high school exchange student in Ames and brought her out to the farm. She is from Nigeria and wanted to eat a couple of things from our garden that we seldom, if ever eat – okra and amaranth. She wasn’t as excited about the rest of the crops in the garden as these two items.

This is the first year for okra in our garden. We have very little, but it seems to go at market. We cooked some up last week with egg and cornmeal to so-so reviews.

The amaranth variety is used as an ornamental variety here, but we’ve known that it is an important crop across the world.

August 12, 2006 – At the Market

Linda had a late morning wedding (one of her ag students) in Tama, so it was up the Martin, Emma and I to man the market booth (Claire went with Linda).

It was a pretty good market day as those things go. Emma alone sold $30 worth of dog treats and cookies.

We did have an abundance of plums this week and had made a bunch of plum jam and bought more than a few home unsold, which we are now canning in earnest.

I told Martin he would get a quarter for each jar of jam he sold. We had some samples on bread and his job was to ask people if they’d like to try a sample. He was very hesitant to start. But even I was a bit taken aback when he asked a young woman if she wanted to try a sample. She did and responded politely that it was good. Then, out of nowhere, he says – “Well, if you like it, then you should buy a jar.” She did.

August 7, 2006 – Grazing Example

Although it might not be as noticeable in this late evening, low-light photograph, this shows how rotationally grazed pastures can hold up better in a drought.

In the center there is a long rectangle fenced off from the rest of the pasture where we have planted trees. The grass outside of the fenced off area is continuously grazed. Inside the fence simulates rotational grazing (periodic mowing). The grass is much happier (and greener) since it has a chance to recover between grazing episodes.

If a tuft of grass is eaten once, it grows back – if it is eaten a second time, before it has had a chance to recover and grow, its roots can’t keep up and it gives up. The lush grass in the middle shows the power of periodic, instead of rotationally grazing. The net effect is the same amount of pasture can maintain more grazing animals and be healthier.

August 1, 2006 – Flower Bouquets

I thought I’d share a picture of one of the bouquets Linda makes. We sell them at farmer’s market and to some people at school and in town.

The flower composition varies by the week, but they are always nice!

One of the ideas we had last winter when we were researching a farm store was an e-mail ordering service for mid-week to help keep produce moving between markets. We started with two families and it is working great for us – send them an e-mail as to what’s available and they e-mail back what they’d like. Both the delivery and school bouquets are great since we only harvest what we know we can sell mid-week.

This week’s idea…well, more about that tomorrow.

July 31, 2006 – Peppers

The peppers are starting to come on strong. Here’s an assortment from the garden.

The dark purple peppers (Purple Beauty) are the size of normal grocery store bell peppers and the big green one is called “Napolean Sweet Pepper” – just for fun here’s a description of it from the 1923 L.L. Olds Seed Company Catalog: “Plants about 2 feet tall. Possibly the most productive of all the large peppers, bears consistently until frost. Mild as an apple. Fruit about 8″ long and 4 ½” in circumference, standing upright until they get so heavy they sometimes droop. Remarkably early for a large fruited pepper. Might be classed as an extra early.” Good flavor when green, sweeter when red.

July 24, 2006 – News from the Farm

Among other things, today was onion and potato harvest day.

We pulled all the onions. It wasn’t the best year for onions, as they weren’t all very big – the white variety did best this year.

We pulled about 1/4 of the potatoes and Martin was excited to haul a load from the garden to the drying spot with his tractor wagon. The red potatoes dried down first. Like the garlic, we seeded buckwheat where the onions used to be.

I also spent some part of the day hauling scaffolding – three sections from Morning Sun Farm and two sections rented from a scaffolding company in Des Moines.

I’m always scheming what to build next – the latest idea is an outdoor brick or adobe oven to cook breads and dry fruits and veggies and cook an occasional pizza. I’m about to start the research process and my number on question is can the clay-based horno type ovens last in this alternating humid/cold climate? Keep ya posted.

July 21, 2006 – Garlic Drying

Here’s an update on the garlic – it was pulled a few days ago, and here is drying on old refrigerator racks in the hayloft of the barn – as warm and dry place as we can find these days.

Garlic is a great crop for us – it’s planted in the fall gets pulled in mid-July, and stores well and people like it.

July 17, 2006 – Harvest Day

It’s amazing what grows in a week or so. Today was a big harvest day despite the sweltering heat. How hot was it you ask? When I got out of the car, my glasses fogged up at the blast of warm humid air.

But there were things to do – pulling some more of the garlic was high on the list.

We did this first thing in the morning, but it was still hot.

Martin with the day’s digging. The girls were sent out in the afternoon to pick beans. They came back with a 5 gallon bucket and a grocery bag full!

I think the looks on their faces portray the joy of picking beans! We also had a bunch of raspberries to pick, and a big secondary blush of broccoli.

In the evening, since it was so hot and the supers were near full, Joanne extracted honey.

A frame dripping with honey.

Turning the extractor and draining the honey.

Finally, the raw honey in a 5 gallon bucket. All in all, a good day at the farm!

July 7, 2006 – Little bit of Oat Hay

Today, the oat buffers along our farm were baled. Since all my wagons were occupied and there were only 13 or so bales, we just used the truck to pick them up.
There was a short waterway that we couldn’t get to using the tractor and baler, so we snuck the truck in and picked up the loose straw hay (still has the oats attached)

We’re looking forward to using this as bedding in the chicken coop in the winter as it will give the hens something good to scratch in the winter.
It was good work (it didn’t take long) and there’s something about making hay that is rewarding, no matter how little.

July 5, 2006 – Working with the Cub

Today’s entry doubles as this week’s Photo Friday Contest entry. This week’s theme is “Summer.”

I had just a little bit of raking to do today on the buffer strip in the neighbor’s field. I borrowed the neighbor’s rake and hitched up the Farmall Cub to rake the oat straw.

Nothing says summer like making hay on a hot day.

July 2, 2006 – The Three Sisters

Even though Linda and I don’t have three sisters between us, we planted them this spring. The three sisters are corn, squash, and pole beans. We planted the corn first, waited a few weeks, and followed it up with the beans and squash.

Here are the anthers from the “Mandan Bride” variety of corn we planted.

Here’s another expression of the Mandan Bride corn.

Finally, here they are all together. The beans are starting to climb and the squash are just getting started. The idea is the squash smother the weeds, and the beans fix nitrogen for the corn and the corn offers the beans a place to climb.

June 25, 2006 – Jammin’

Today was a jammin’ day. We made a bunch o’ jam yesterday and today.

We made strawberry, strawberry-rhubarb, and cherry. All day the rain danced around us – there was enough to make puddles in Melbourne (3 miles away) it rained in Marshalltown for a few hours (12 miles away) and we didn’t get any until a small cloud gave a brief shower and we got 1/10 of an inch! At least enough to settle the dust for a day or so. It also added 100 gallons to the storage tank that runs off the barn.

June 19, 2006 – Summer Fencing

Today was a day for some fencing configuration. First we put up the portable electric netting fencing.

Martin is hauling over the “power posts” for the netting. You can see it is all laid out, the path is mowed, and today’s good fortune was that the 164 foot length was about perfect from the side of the chicken coop to the fence next to the pine trees. It was also close enough to the electric fence in the main pasture to hook onto that instead of putting the solar charger out.

Here’s the fence ready for action – works on chickens and goats alike. Love this stuff.

We also took an odd portion of the main pasture and fenced it in with cattle panels to keep the cows out. Thought it was time to put the goats on a different pasture for a while, plus there are some mulberries they’ll mow down first.

What more could a guy want than a tractor to do the heavy lifting and a wife to do the pounding! It was nice to have the tractor to save the back by pulling out and putting in posts.

June 18, 2006 – Cherries are In!

Even though the strawberries are still coming in, the cherries have arrived.

Linda picked them to make her favorite jam – cherry jam. Today to celebrate Father’s Day we went to Ledges State Park – a place we used to hang out when we lived in Ames. I didn’t have my camera so no pics.

We walked down the creek, surrounded by rock cliffs and lots of greenery. Nice place on a hot day. The road that winds through the park, occasionally goes through (instead of over) the creek. Kids line up and urge cars and trucks to drive fast through the water to splash. We also climbed up to a rocky outlook over the Des Moines River and felt nervous with a four year old.

There were lots of people there today picnicing, the most notable, an “absent” father who had a sun shelter set up watching TV! Even the natural wonders and his family around him were not enough to lure him from the TV and watching the cars going around in a circle over and over…

June 17, 2006 – Takin’ Care of My Babies

Today was mowing and trimming day – got the pines and the hardwoods all mowed and trimmed. Also got the two thistle patches in the pasture mowed down.

The pine trees look good do far – all the new ones this year now have a drink.

The hardwoods are looking good as well – many of the trees that were eaten by rabbits have resprouted.

The rain still dances all around us.

June 12, 2006 – Berry Moon

Last night’s full moon was also known as the “Berry Moon” in times gone by. I’ll vouch for that!

Today was strawberry day. This was the biggest one day harvest from the patch so far this season. This strawberry season we’ve made canned strawberry sauce, froze whole berries, made jam (strawberry and strawberry-rhubarb). About the only thing left are fresh strawberry margaritas!

June 7, 2006 – Strawberries/Attic Building Continues

The strawberries are here!

Linda is being diligent about getting the fruit in. Claire made strawberry shortcake from scratch for dinner and the rest are destined for the freezer.
Today was a bit of clean-up in the wake of re-roofing. It is now very hot up there since there are no windows to open. I moved all the boxes and cleaned up all the nails, dust, bits of wood and asphalt shingles that fell down inside during the re-roof. We had about a dozen sheets of plywood left over and I moved them from the hay rack to the barn and finished hauling the branches that were trimmed to the burn pile.

Spent most of the rest of the day behind a paint brush.

Here’s Claire a couple of days ago, wiping the stain on the floorboards and window and door trim. Since it was hot and dry – it was a good day to throw a finish on the trim and beadboard for the attic. We’re on our 17th day in a row of above average temps and the grass is finally starting to turn brown. I’ve got two hay racks full of freshly finished boards.

May 26, 2006 – Garden and Building

Today was one of those rare days that more “farming” got done than planned. Spent the morning loading up a load for the dump and getting supplies in town and in the afternoon started getting ready to reroof the back side of the old machine shed. First task was to nail 2x4s across the roof into the rafters. The roof has a great hump (where two buildings were joined). So, I tore all the asphalt and cedar shingles to get down to the sheeting on the hump to help smooth out the hump. Got all the boards pounded in.

Even got three sheets of roofing up – about nine feet. I was hoping to get it done this long weekend, but about 3/4 done today – should be a snap!
Linda got some serious weeding done today.

Here’s a view down the onions and potatoes.
GJ got lots of patio blocks set around the new raised beds. It was hot and calm – a day that felt and smelled like summer. So it was the first time to Ev’s in town for ice cream after dinner.
Any guesses what this crop is?

These are Chinese cabbage and raddicchio – looks like they like the wet weather of late.

May 22, 2006 – No Flame Decals on that Tractor!

Today, the tractor was ready to be picked up at the John Deere Dealer after they fixed the problem that filled the crankcase with gasoline. They didn’t have the ticket written up, so they let me drive it home without paying for it (yet).

They drove it out of the shop and noticed some gasoline was leaking around one of the newly installed parts. They went to fix it and the service man was fiddling with it for a few minutes, when he suddenly runs away from the tractor and grabs a fire extinguisher to put out the flaming engine block! I’m sure that flaming tractors in the lot are not good for advertising! It was extinguished in moments. The gas that was leaking out was ignited when a wrench arced across a wire that was missing its plastic coating.

After it was all fixed, I had a 12 mile or so tractor ride home. I lost my fondness for ever participating in the “Great Tractor Ride Across Iowa.” Twelve miles was enough.

I’ll leave you with one picture for today – the minty new growth on the concolor fir.

The last 2 weeks, the trees have really taken off with spring growth – some of the black cherries and bur oaks already have grown 4-6 inches.

May 17, 2006 – Strawberry Fields Forever

The strawberries have loved the rainy weather of late.

Today, it warmed up to the mid-70s and Linda was out of school, so it was the first day for a long time we could work on the farm at the same time. We finished weeding and pruning the raspberries, weeded the perennial flower garden, got a few herb, some okra and parsley planted, lawn mowed and other odds and ends.
The newly planted raspberries and blackberries are starting to come to life as well.

May 16, 2006 – Acorns to Mightly Oaks?

Here’s a look down the alley of hardwood trees we planted in the pasture. The fence is to keep the cows out. It’s hard to see much yet as this is just the 2nd year in for the trees.

This will be the centerpiece of a rotational grazing system that the animals will rotate around the oval with the trees in the middle and be moved to a different section ahead every few days. We planted walnut, sugar maple, bur oak, and black cherry with a few chestnuts thrown in. So far, the black cherries have taken off the fastest.

May 3, 2006 – Catch-up

Today was one of those days that I felt like no matter how much got done, I’d need another day and still not be where things need to be for the season. It must be the weekend+ worth of rain that set these wheels in motion.

It won’t be long before the strawberries are here!

This shot shows some strawberry flowers and a very small green berry.

May 1, 2006 – Asparagus

Today was the second cutting of aspargus. It’s one of the first edibles out of the ground. By the end of the season, we’ll have our fill of grilled, souped, and steamed asparagus. It’s a nice, easy crop at a good time of year. Around here the old-timers treat the wild ditch aspargus like morel mushrooms – they have memorized the location of all the wild patches that grow in the ditches and drive around and harvest.

Today I cleaned out the boat. I got it from my Dad and have not had it on the water yet! It was in an old shed and had years of raccoon doo-doo in it. So I washed it out and put it back on the trailer upside down to prevent a re-run.

Since it was so soggy, also got a little hand weeding done around the fruit trees and raspberries. Tonight we discovered a rat had been getting into the pet food outside, so without delay I went to town and got a rat trap. (It’s just one creature I don’t want to share my immediate surroundings with.) I didn’t get one of the giant snap kind – that seemed a bit scary – especially if the pets got near it (which they would). Instead I got a small live trap that is too small for the dogs and cats to get in, but big enough for a rat.

April 21, 2006 – Planting Raspberries

Today, among other things was raspberry planting. I ordered about 75 feet of fall berries, golden and red, along with 75 feet of blackberries. We hope these spread our berry season out a little more and offer a little more variety.

Here I am using the wheel hoe to make a shallow trench to plant the berries. Yes, I do feel like a horse. The berries are being planted in the place we had the paper and straw laid down on sod last year and had tomatoes planted.

Here are the newly planted berries. The new plants will come up from the roots, not necessarily from these stumps.
H

ere’s Claire helping put a little mulch along the side of the berries to conserve moisture and help keep weeds out. We lucked out and had some calm winds at nightfall, so were able get the paper down and mulch.

Martin had an interesting few days. We had been getting him ready for Kindergarten roundup today and he was very apprehensive saying he “didn’t want to sit at a desk all day.” He goes to day care two days a week and is home the rest of the week, and at day care, he was hugging everybody and saying good-bye (including getting in trouble with his friend – see here at this blog entry) by hugging her and not letting go! He thought he was saying goodbye to eveyone at Tiger Tots forever as he thought Kindergarten was starting today, not next fall. In his mind, he was saying good-bye forever, and everyone else thought he was saying good-bye for the day. At any rate, he was excited about school after going through an abbreviated day of books, recess, singing, and snack in the lunchroom.

April 9, 2006 – More Kids!

We thought Paullina was due in a couple of weeks, but when we came home from church there were two babes in the barn. That’s the second year in a row that Paullina has given birth while we were at church. Emma was the one that found them, she had a friend come over who arrived shortly after we returned home and she and Betsy found them and ran back excitedly to the house.

Here is kid #1 a darling black and white kid (no name yet).

Here is kid #2 looks like her mother. They are both females!
We also started to plant the garden – a little bit of lettuce, beets, larkspur, and spinach.
Here are the kids are cutting up the potatoes to dry up before planting.

Here’s part of a trench to plant the spuds – just look at that rich dark soil!

April 8, 2006 – Trees Tucked In

This morning after dropping Claire of for her ACT test (yes she’s in 8th grade, but was suggested to take it), we started to mulch the trees. I’ve gathered mulch over the winter and had two wheeled contrivances full.

The first step today is to put the landscape fabric into place (a great Costco bulk item and the 220 foot roll wasn’t long enough!) and cut an “X” where each tree is. Then the trees peek out and the fabric is ready for the mulch. Even though it was in the 30’s for a good part of the morning, it was still, clear, sunny, and the spring birds were calling.

Here’s the cattle shute, filled with mulch. See its conversion into a mulch wagon last October.

Martin helped get the mulch in and here he helps shovel it out.

Finally the boy gets a chance to pretend to drive the tractor.

In the evening, I dropped Claire off in Ames and got another load of mulch to replenish the area under Martin’s playground. We also made the “TCC” Total Chicken Containment area complete – those birds love to dig in the mulch and doesn’t make me quite to happy – so we stretched a bit of chicken wire along the cattle panels.

A note – I bought some of the newfangled plastic chicken wire last week to try – well – DON’T do it. The chickens pecked right through it.

April 5, 2006 – A Great Day to be Born!

Today started out well enough. In the morning Martin and I took care of some small things – we pulled out some fenceposts to move to make way for the new trees. Martin could pull them out, drag them, and lean them along another fence once I used the fence puller to get them nearly all the way out.
Then we mowed the strip where the new trees are to go.

We uncovered the garlic from the winter straw.

We unwrapped the winter wrap from the peach trees.

We got out the ladder and cut some of the middle-sized pines to a single leader on top. We added some chicken wire to the bottom of some cattle panels so the chickens couldn’t get to the new trees.

Right before lunch, we went to check on Blaze, and this is what we saw!

Blaze had given birth to triplets sometime between 10ish and 11:30. She was a dutiful mother and was licking the kids with conviction. One is very small and was not able to get up for a few hours. Although it is windy, it got up to 70 degrees today, so it was a good day to be born.

Then the UPS truck comes with the trees I was expecting Friday. So, after getting everything ready for planting, I went to State Center to get taxes signed off and pick up the girls from school so they could see the kids sooner and help with planting.

The sound of the girl’s shouts of glee when they looked in the barn and saw the kids was worth a lot of mid-winter chores and then some!
After playing with the kids for a while – Emma tenderly and confidently picking up the runt and easing the kid’s mouth into its mother’s teat was very nurturing. Blaze had all boys. Last year we had 2 boys. If you count Martin, that’s 6 straight males conceived on the farm!

Linda got home a bit early and it was great to see all five of us working to get the trees planted before dark/evening thunderstorms. Claire liked to dig holes, Emma liked to plant, Martin liked looking for worms and the rest was just hauling water and digging more holes. Eventually, Claire went in and cooked dinner for us as we finished. We finished by planting four more peach trees that came with the firs. We still have the mulching left, but all the trees are in the ground. The skies opened up minutes after getting back to the shed. More good karma.

Linda and I had a good 45 seconds of bliss as we were alone on a corner of the farm, looking down a couple rows of orchard, beyond that two full rows of conifer on the north edge stretching to the end of the property. To the right were the windbreak trees we planted when we moved in reaching 10-15 feet, and a distant view of shiny white new roof on the corn crib. After the new life, delightful experience of all of us pulling together to get more trees planted, we were able to remove ourselves from the never-ending “to-dos” and could simply enjoy what we’ve done since we arrived on the farm. 45 seconds of bliss, plus the sounds of the girls seeing the kids is enough to keep us going another year. It’s the kind of day that deserves a Morning Sun home brew from brewmaster Mike. Today is a good enough day to open one!

March 29, 2006 – The Ultimate Pruning – A New View!

Today was the day two of the three old apple trees were cut down.

This is the view before the cutting.

After the cutting/Before the hauling.

This is the view after the cutting.
The apple trunks were cut into logs and ends sealed with wax to prepare for Shiitake mushroom spawn in a few weeks. The branches (all four loads) were hauled to the burn pile. It was with both sadness and relief that the trees were cut. They were very bland tasting apples and the trees took longer to prune than the rest of the trees combined and picking up the deadfalls was a pain. However, they were part of this place for a long time. We kept one of them as it has very early (July) apples great for sauce and we’ll give it one more year and graft some branches to new rootstock to continue it on this place.

If you look closely, you can see the first raised bed in place – I’m going to build a bunch of raised beds where the trees used to be for more gardening space. Right now, there is a chicken tractor perched on top – we’ll use that to create the soil.

We also put up a small cold frame to get a jump on lettuce and early spring crops.

March 24, 2006 – It’s Still Not Spring

As the snow s-l-o-w-l-y recedes with highs only in the upper 30’s, the garden springs to life in the basement.

A statice pokes its head out of the soil.

The wonderful starting stand we have was given to us by someone who was moving – it has some nice trays, fluorescent and incandescent lamps, and wheels. It works great for seed starting.

March 20, 2006 – Tree Cutting

This morning was a morning of efficient town trip. I ordered some mushroom spawn (shittake) and need some logs to inoculate with the spawn when it arrives. The three old apple trees near the driveway need to go away – they take so long to prune and only one produces decent apples. When we moved in they were old and had reached about 8 feet over the power line and I had pruned them back to 5 feet or so under the wires, but they were a lot of work to keep there and produced lousy apples. The other two just make windfalls that have to be constantly picked up. So, they’ll be cut down and used for multiple purposes – spawn logs and goat browse. One of them will be grafted onto new rootstock for a new tree.

So, I wanted to make sure my chain saw blades were sharp and one was dull and the other was quickly dulled by cutting up the remains of a big walnut that blew down in a big windstorm years ago. I cut until the blades were dull. It was one of those things that is “on the list” it doesn’t necessarily take that much time, it’s just that so many things are on the list! So we got all but the biggest log sawed up.

Then we took the truck and dropped off the load of scrap metal, dropped off the chains, stopped by Big Lots going out of business sale and by a stroke of luck, bought a split queen box spring as our box spring will not fit up the stairs to the attic after the remodeling is finished. Then off to the lumberyard for more cedar for another raised bed.

We had our first appointment regarding Emma’s orthodintia and one of the options was to saw her jaw, move it forward and re-attach it. That didn’t sound like a great idea, even if it would immediately “fix” her mouth. Since there is not a health reason, just a cosmetic reason, we all agreed it was a bit excessive. Emma was very relieved. So I took her to the ISU women’s NIT game and watched them lose in OT to Marquette – but it was a hard-fought, exciting game.

March 19, 2006 – Seed Starting

The last few days Linda and Martin started seeds in the basement – things like tomatoes, peppers, some cut flowers, and soybeans. Soybeans are for Martin. Last year after harvest we walked in the field adjacent to the farm and Martin picked up some seeds that the combine had missed. Unknown to us, he had saved them, remembered where they were, and wanted to plant them. So, not wanting to discourage a budding seed saver, we planted some of his beans.

Martin ready with the row markers for the newly planted seeds.

March 3, 2006 – Tree Pruning

Today, a few more trees were pruned. I’ll take the easy way and lead with the kid before showing the before and after pictures! After I crawled up this tree to prune it, Martin wanted to try, so here is the little monkey up the tree.

The following pictures show a before and after of a small apple tree.

Now a bigger apple tree before and after pruning:

Tree pruning is as much an art as a science and it is a task I enjoy. I follow some pretty simple rules:
1) Cut damaged branches out first
2 )Cut branches that are crossing/rubbing
3) Cut branches that grow straight up
4) Cut branches to allow light and air circulation in tree

I generally am not afraid to cut out 1/4 or more of the branches out if the tree needs it.

January 9, 2006 – Gravy Raspberries

Today was gravy. It was about freezing with a strong north wind, but it was sunny and there’s always something fruitful to do at high hopes. Today I started pruning the dead canes out of the raspberries. The raspberries are on the the south side of the barn and in the sunshine and with the barn blocking the wind, it was more or less pleasant.

It was gravy in that January 9th isn’t always a time when I can get at the canes. It gives a little more time in late spring for something else. Also continued hauling burnable wood out of one of the old sheds to the burn pile.

Here’s what the canes look like before pruning:
before pruning raspberries
Here’s what it looks like after the pruning:
after pruning raspberries
The summer berries grow one year without fruit, the second year they fruit, then they die. It’s good to get the dead canes out to give the new ones more room to grow, help prevent disease, and make it easier not to have to move around dead canes. It’s a good task since it is not a “must do” during a particular day or week, like picking strawberries.

December 3, 2005 – Snowfall

The computer is now back online. In addition to fixing the problem, I added a firewire card, network card, upgraded to Windows XP and added a DVD burner.

We had some nice gentle snowfalls the last few days. This is the earliest we’ve had lasting snow in quite a few winters. Now there is a big cold stretch, with lows about 0 and highs in the low teens for the week. This puts an end to any work with the soil, although there are still things to do on warmer days in terms of interiors of outbuildings
snowtree
The new pine trees are all tucked in the the snow now.

November 21, 2005 – Glads

Today we (Linda) started digging the gladiola bulbs out of the garden.

When we planted them this spring, they were less than half the size they are now.

It’s nice to see so much growth – and we can use them again next spring and will probably get bigger glads. There’s still more to get and freezing ground is not far away.

November 4, 2005 – Peach Wrap

Today, nothing was “urgent” so lots of smaller things got some attention. I wrapped tree wrap around the peach and nectarine trees – hopefully that will help with sunscald and winter heat/cold damage.
peachpaper

I also put permanent metal tags on a number of trees, worked some more on the siding on the corn crib, but have reached the height that I can do solo, started sizing up the roofing on the old machine shed, put some summer furniture away for winter. It was another gorgeous day.

October 22, 2005 – Garlic In

Today we got the garlic in (but not mulched). It does so much better planted late fall than spring. We planted five different varieties: California Early White, California Late White, Music, Chesnok Red, and Siberian. We planted a bit more than last year – last year we had about 200 ft of garlic, this year we have about 360 feet.
We also rearranged some chickens.
tomatochickens
We moved two groups to garden clean-up patrol – the Black Astralops were assigned to the former tomato patch to clean up the rotten fruit on the ground.
gladchickens
The mixed standard layers pullets were assigned to the gladiolas and pole beans (the part of the garden most weedy by the end of the year).

I’m really loving these chickens in the garden after harvest to clean up the waste/seeds/weeds. They really seem to enjoy it and leave some fertilizer in place. It’s like getting free weeding and fertilizing!

October 5, 2005 – Jinxed Myself

On Monday I wrote about the trees. Today, I was at work and Linda called to report that part of the fence was down and some of the neighbor’s calves and bull were in the alley munching on the new trees. She tried to shoo them out, got the calves out, but the bull was not interested in moving. Then she remembered all the stories of the farmers being killed by their bulls and thought better of her approach. So she went to the apple tree and picked some apples and coaxed the bull out with apples (thank you Emma, for starting to feed the cows apples many years ago!) For the most part, it looks like it was just a light browsing on mostly the oaks, I don’t think there is much damage to the trees as a whole.

October 3, 2005 – Getting Trees Ready for Winter

Martin and I finished mowing and hand weeding around the trunks of the new trees. I want to make sure there are not good mouse/rabbit hiding places in the the tall grass, so out it comes. Then we distributed one truck load of mulch to about half the trees. They are looking good. I has been very warm the last few days – 88 today and humid – more like August than October. By the end of the day I was wiped out as your mind doesn’t wrap around the fact that it really is hot out in October.

One of the baby Bur Oaks, the state tree of Iowa and the central feature of native prairie savanna.
hardwood
A southward look at “hardwood alley” the center of our back pasture planted with bur oak, sugar maple, black walnut, black cherry, and chestnut. Perhaps someday it will become the nexxus for a raceway rotational grazing track.
conifer
An eastward look at “conifer alley” on the north edge of the pasture, perhaps offering Christmas trees and/or a windbreak.

September 30, 2005 – Gourds

Here is this year’s gourds drying down own the vine.
hanginggourds

We’ve found that the best way to dry the gourds is to leave them outside over the winter. We’ve tried bringing them in the barn or house, but they just seem to rot. So outside they will hang.
See the August 26th entry for the gourds in full spendor.
We’re working on making the gourds into useful items – the obvious one is bowls (maybe we’ll get beyond that this year!).
gourdbowl

Here’s a seasonal display using the miniature corn and gourd bowl.

September 25, 2005 – A Great Rotation

I’m especially proud of this rotation we’ve put together this year. First was potatoes and onions. After onions and potatoes were pulled, we planted buckwheat, which acted as a cover crop and great flowers for the bees. Now we are running chicken tractors over the buckwheat – the chickens are eating all the seeds and leaves and leaving next year’s fertilizer!
chickens on buckwheat

To the right, you can see the garden the chickens have cleaned up and towards the top, the buckwheat waiting to be eaten. The chickens are eating virtually none of their usual food, preferring the buckwheat.
Just as things were getting dry and I was about ready to water this year’s trees, the skies opened up with about 1.5 inches of rain this weekend.

September 20, 2005 – Harvest Begins

The last few days the first bean harvesting has begun in adjacent fields. Here’s our neighbor testing out the combine in the field adjacent to our place.
combine
After the field was harvested, Marty wanted to go look. So we found some stray soybeans and gathered them up to show everybody.
Then he just ran and ran in the field, for a long ways – like he was reveling in the open spaces just created. It was gratifying to have such a big playground and sense of freedom and security to run so far. I liked looking at his figure – small, strong, and sure – running in the distance.

September 5, 2005 – Making Hay

Today we helped some friends make hay! Hay making is one of those things that elicits fonder memories the longer its been since you’ve done it!
hay making
It all starts innocently enough, with the geometric patterns of cut and raked hay in the field. This looks comforting. Anybody who has made hay knows you can predict the hottest days of the year by the hay-cutting schedule.hay making
There is romance about the equipment. Here’s the New Holland baler that we used.
hay making
Of course, there are often numerous adjustments to make to fine-tune the baler. The expression that there’s nothing a farmer can’t fix without wire and baling twine, deals primarily with the baler itself.
hay making
Eventually, usually with the threat of approaching weather, the hay bales arrive safely to the barn. We are using our barn as a storage area for this hay.
This is the most unsavory part of the day. The day ended at dark, or at least the work did – then it is time for a drafty beverage, simple meal, and the feeling of hay in the barn good as money in the bank.

August 31, 2005 – Hints of Fall

The first hints of fall are appearing as September nears. Some of the soybean fields are showing a splash of yellow as the drying down begins.

hint fall
We lost our first turkey overnight – one of the biggest toms – just dropped dead, no sign of predation (they are behind an electric netting fence.)

We also closed on a home refinance that was and is rife with errors and bad communication. I’ll be happy when it is completed.

August 28, 2005 – Around the Farm

Thought I’d share some of the nice sights around the farm these days. Here’s Claire next to the broom corn – it’s tall!

I continue to be struck by the combination of the blooming buckwheat and amaranth.
amaranth buckwheat
This amaranth is very striking in its deep maroon color – even from a distance, it is the first thing that catches your eye and is much more striking against the green backdrop than this photo portrays.

August 26, 2005 – Squash Tunnel

One of this year’s experiments was to bend a 16 foot cattle panel over as a half circle and plant gourds on it. Part of the reason was to span the pile of fenceposts destined to be grape fencing.

It turned out well, next year it may be worthwhile to make it double-wide and trying cucumbers to get them off the ground and maybe help prevent wilt.
gourds
Here’s a view of the fruit from the inside – I love the filtered minty green color inside the tunnel.

August 19, 2005 – ‘Nother Hot Day

Today was another 90 degree plus day with plenty of humidity. The girls spent most of the morning in the kitchen making cookies for market tomorrow and the afternoon on the slip and slide.
slipslide
slipslide
The hot weather is good for our buckwheat crop. After we harvest summer crops in the garden we sow buckwheat since it grows well in hot weather. Here’s part of the patch where the potatoes used to be.
buckwheat

This picture is a few days old – today it started to show flowers – an added bonus is more forage for the bees.

July 27, 2005 – Cart-o-Veggies


Today was root crop day at High Hopes. We dug all the potatoes, and the remaining onions and garlic. Just as importantly, pulled all the weeds and planted buckwheat where everything was pulled. The weather is still pleasant and it was a good day to work.


We moved the turkeys out of the cramped chicken tractor and got our first electric netting fence up and they had a good time stretching their wings. They were quite hilarious flying up and discovering what the fence does.

July 25, 2005 – Garlic Bread!

Today was the last hot day for a while – so it was a good day for a dentist visit and to clean the house to get ready for an appraisal for a refinance. It’s nice to have a clean house. In the evening we cut some of the black-bearded wheat we planted for ornamental value. Martin, however, is convinced we are going to make wheat flour with the wheat, so here’s a picture of “garlic bread” for Martin.
garlicwheat

July 12, 2005 – New Trees Gain a Foothold


So far, so good on the new trees planted this spring. Until now, rain has been plentiful (I’m grateful I’ve only had to water once) and they’ve put on inches of new growth. Virtually all have survived. The next step is to get them through the heat of summer and through a winter to see what rodent damage may be. Next year, I’m planning on planting more.

July 8, 2005 – Claire’s Back and Linn St. Market

Today was Claire’s “graduation” from her two weeks at U of I. The director told us that they were the youngest that the university recruited and each has a $1,000 scholarship should they enroll at Iowa. I wonder if Iowa State will match it and add 10%?
clairebelin
Claire after the closing ceremony.
clairebelin

We “had” to go Prairie Lights bookstore where one of Claire’s favorite night-time events was a book reading.

This morning we decided to try to move some stuff at Linn Street Market – a place where local farmers can sell their goods year-round at an indoor venue by renting market space. We brought in some raspberries, flowers, and the first apples of the season.
lindaflowers

Linda creating her magic in the barn arranging the flowers. We also vacuum-packed the first few carrots of the year and threw them in the freezer.

July 2, 2005 – Trophy Dandelion!

Today was a day of long-overdue work around the place. Spent most of the morning weeding the gardens. Check out this trophy dandelion root. It was about five feet long. I kept pulling and it just kept coming and coming, and coming.

Also spent a couple of hours on thistle patrol – mowing patches in the pasture, cutting them out of fencerows, and pulling them out from around the new trees. Everybody hates thistles, so I am doing my part for neighborhood harmony. We also picked the last peas and took out the trellis and poles and moved it over to the just planted pole beans.
Had a nearly all-farm meal tonight – our chicken, beets and green beans. Froze the peas, some beans, and some raspberries as well. Planted the last of the Gladiolus (I think we put in about 450 this year). Also planted some buckwheat where the peas and a weedpatch were as buckwheat does great as a summer cover crop. Did a little work on the trailer while Emma and Linda took the dogs for a walk at dusk.

Martin has been dwelling on his birthday and what it means. He was asking where he came from and where he was before he was born. We told him that half of him came from mommy and daddy. That was good enough explanation and he seemed pleased with that answer. Then he said something to the effect of “But I have my own spirit, right?” I thought that was rather amazing that he would consider the non-physical part of himself after finding out his body came from Mom and Dad.

June 26, 2005 – Summer Colors

Today after lunch, brother Kraig and family left, Linda and Claire went to Iowa City to drop Claire off at a two weeks writer’s workshop, and Grandma Jo took Jill and Emma, so it was the boys most of the day. We mowed some grass, stained the wood for the trailer and sanded the metal to get ready for primer and cooked dinner.

The clematis on the garage is going nuts this year. Here is a view from afar.

…and a closeup.

While I was mowing near dusk, I happened upon some interesting sights. First was this grass laden with yellow pollen. (Allergy sufferers, it must not be quite so beautiful) and then a Great Blue Heron set its wings over the back pasture and swung around a couple of times. I was flattered that the small wet spot we fenced away from the cattle was even being considered by a heron. Later, near dark, I wandered down there and the Heron was roosting in one of the big maple trees on the edge of the pasture.

June 19, 2005 – First big Flush of Fruit

Today was the first big flush of putting food away. The cherries are beginning and the strawberries are at peak. We’ve got strawberries freezing on cookie sheets, cherries reserved for pie, cherry jam made, cherries drying in the dehydrator, and strawberries left over for eating fresh or waiting for an empty cookie sheet.
strawberry patch
Emma’s helping out in the strawberry patch.
grandmastrawberry
Grandma Jo helped out too!
cherry picking

Martin helped for a short time picking cherries.
cherry picking

Martin examines a cherry.
Later today cousin Jill arrives fro m L.A. and Graunt (combination “adopted”aunt/grandma)arrives from Minneapolis as well.

June 13, 2005 – Emma’s Experiments

I let Emma loose with the camera and she took many pictures from interesting perspectives. Here’s one of some garden flowers from the ground up.
emma experiment
She also took a photo of some amaranth after weeding.emma experiment
We have been growing amaranth seed increases for the WORLD’S amaranth expert, David Brenner. The seeds we grew out last year are now at Reiman Gardens. Dave holds the Guinness Book of World Records for world’s tallest amaranth. Dave is the curator for amaranth, clover, and many other species at the Plant Introduction Station that maintains seed lines of plants, much like a seed-saving operation for future crop improvements.

June 11 2005 – Strawberry Gorging

It’s strawberry season!

strawberry
That means that it is that sweet time of year for strawberries with each meal, snacks, made into jam, and frozen. The season is so sweet and fleeting.
strawberry
strawberry jam
Today we made one batch of jam – that’s all the Sure-jelll we had leftover from last year.

Today the ponderous bee swarm swayed in the wind. We located an empty hive down below the swarm in hopes that they may move in there. They were too high in the tree to try to move. We were weeding the garden when they decided to blow this popsicle stand. They all swarmed in a cloud, moved over the raspberries and took of to the east and were gone in a a matter of a couple minutes. I wonder where they went? Do they send scouts out to find a new place? How do they decide where to go and who to follow? Is it like the Borg from Star Trek? Perhaps its a simple HTTP protocol?
At any rate they are gone.

Blue came home very ragged after a T-Storm yesterday. He looked very sheepish and very dirty. He was bleeding a bit this morning and then disappeared. Emma came home from her week away and wanted to show her friends how Blue jumps, and I had to tell her he was hurt and we couldn’t find him. She eventually found him and we brought him to the vet for an exam and some anti-biotics. I don’t know if he was hit by a car, had a run in with other dogs or barbed wire?

Emma took the camera this nightfall and took this picture of some yarrow in the garden from the perspective of an ant!
yarrow

May 23, 2005 – Lofty!

Today Lofty came to the farm. To those without a youngster in the house, Bob the Builder is a toddler construction hero supreme who has a wholesome motto of “Can we fix it, yes we can! Lofty is a crane, there is also Dizzy the cement mixer, Muck the bulldozer, Scoop, the bucket, and the favorite – Lofty.

Lofty came to help haul away the tree trunks I didn’t want to cut up for firewood from late winter’s tree-cutting near the power lines. Here’s lofty lifting a big trunk up.lofty 1

It was a fun day for Martin to have lofty come so close.
lofty 1
This is almost the last chapter of that work – much of the wood has been squirreled away in the shed, the branches have been mulched and distributed on the new tree planting. It’s kind of sad in way for the trees to have stood so long and be cut down before they naturally fall. The combination of being able to get them cut for free and have truckloads of mulch delivered on the property – free – helped sway my decision. The clincher was they are helping a new generation of trees get started. If only we could all be so useful. The only thing left is to rent a log-splitter some day I’m bored and out of things to do and split up the logs.

May 2, 2005 – Another Frigid May Day

Today was just as ugly as yesterday. At least when I washed the van this am, the water didn’t freeze on the vehicle as it was 33 degrees.
grow light
The seeds we started really want to go outside, but that would be cold-blooded murder on days like today. This weekend we put some of the broccoli and cauliflower out to get hardened off (used to real sunlight) but the wind really made them look bad, but not as bad as they did after they were put into the mud room for shelter and a dog/cat/child stepped/dropped something on them.

Let’s think happy thoughts, shall we? We are trying to incubate our first eggs. These are Guinea Hen eggs and are expensive through the hatcheries (about $5.00 each) and guineas are notorious for wanderlust and never coming back. We have two we think are a pair of the right combination, (although we haven’t seen them being amorous). guinea eggs

Guineas love insects, so we hope to employ some natural insect control in the garden.

May 1, 2005 – Bark & Lichen

Here’s all I’m going to say about today from the weather forecast:

“Isolated light rain showers and light snow showers in the afternoon. Breezy. High in the upper 40s. West wind 10 to 20 mph increasing to 20 to 25 mph in the afternoon. Gusts up to 40 mph.” Enough about today!

I’ve been thinking about this bark on an apple tree at the farm.
The bark is starting to get old. There are lichens growing on it. I associate lichens with old places – for example all lichen growing on exposed bedrock in northern Minnesota.

This was one of the first apple trees I planted when we moved to the farm. It was part of a pasture that went to within 75 feet of the house. It makes me think of the consequences of our actions and the understanding that can only come with time and watching life unfold. Anybody can look at a tree, but until you’ve planted one, watched it grow up and get old, you may not really “know” that tree. The time from sapling to maturity gives a deeper perspective. In the past few months, I’ve seen and cut up some trees that were probably planted by some of the first settlers of this farm and I’ve planted some new ones. I haven’t and probably won’t be around to see those trees mature, but seeing the lichen on this tree gives me some sense of the passage of time.

Likewise, I’m aware of the part of life I’m now in – I’ve seen a parent die and watched children be born into the world. There’s a lot more to see – like seeing the children grow to fruition, whatever that may be. There’s something from this passage of time and long-term awareness that seems to be lacking in our disposable and short-attention span culture. I’m grateful that the lichen on a tree can remind me that delayed gratification can indeed be sweeter and richer than a quick fix. Somehow the apple from the tree planted, watered, and pruned by my hand is no contest in satisfaction to the bag of apples I can instantly buy that have been stored in ethelyne-controlled warehouses for months. That’s one reason I like the farm – there are so many of those things in place – and more on the way.

April 29, 2005 – Getting Ready for Raspberries

The wind finally stopped blowing today, so this afternoon, I had a chance to prepare the ground for next year’s new berries. Rather than fight with digging up sod, or spraying it, we first put heavy paper over the grass.
mulch
Next, we put some old hay we scavenged from a nearby farm.
mulch2
By next spring, the ground will be ready to plant. These two rows will probably contain fall raspberries and blackberries. How much many more rows to do???

April 19, 2005 – Bonus hours

Today Linda had a dinner meeting, so I came home early from work. Claire made dinner on her own for the family and Martin and I went into the back pasture and finished the fence around the “island” planting. We just have about 100 feet of fence by the pine planting to move out 16 feet and the fencing will be done – still no rain, even though there has been a threat.

In the on-going series of spring blossoms – today it’s the nectarine. This is the last year for this tree. It blew over in a storm a few years ago and grew back from the rootstock. We let them ripen last year, but they really weren’t any good, but we thought we’d let it bloom this spring before cutting it down to enjoy the profusion of blossoms. It will be replaced.

April 16, 2005 – Just one more…

Today was the tree planting day. The trees were mostly all too big to spade an and some were 3-4 ft tall, so we ended up digging a lot of holes in the black soil. It was rainy/drizzly most of the day until about three. So we went through 2-3 sets of clothes through the day and didn’t have any pictures in the rain, but took a few in the afternoon.treescene

We had reinforcements come near the end of the day for that last boost over the hump.

tom and linda

We even let Kraig take one break in the afternoon.

kraigbreak

A special thank you goes to Emma, who spent many hours with us digging holes and fetching water!

April 15, 2005 – Tree Planting Begins

We got a jump on the tree planting planned for tomorrow – brother Kraig down from Twin Cities.kraig
We had many hands tonight working on the northern pine border. emma digging
We planted Canaan Fir today, Iowa’s best equivalent of Balsam Fir. pineplanting
Even the smallest hands helped haul water. Rachel and Martin brought us buckets with a gallon or so of water at a time from a stock tank on a trailer. They also helped move carts.
rachel and martin
Photos courtesy of Claire.

April 14, 2005 – A Good Day

Today Linda burned up a use it or lose it personal day. It was a pleaseant, not windy, sunny day. We ripped out most of the fence around the cement animal lot and put in a new one. We mulched the remaining unmulched chestnuts and put fence around the ones along existing fences.

The first fruit trees are setting out flowers. Here’s a cherry tree showing off its splendor.
cherry bloom

In preparation for the tree planting, our neighbor came over and loaded all kinds of conveyances for hauling wood chips (saves us a lot of scooping). wood chips

The first things are coming up in the garden – spinach, radishes, lettuce, and onions. onions

The rains of the last few days filled up the mudhole, but did not flow through it, which I’m hoping is good for the marsh seeds I planted the morning before the rain.

The girls were exploring the drainage a few hundred yards downstream from the mudhole and found a big crayfish. I didn’t think anything was living in there!

April 9, 2005 – SpringBurst

Spring is bursting all over. Here’s the rhubarb: (compare to March 30).

rhubarb

The aspargus popped its head up yesterday:

aspargus

Today we ate the first garden produce. We had fresh chives in our twice-baked potatoes. The radishes and lettuce are up. Today was the last “Growing Your Small Market Farm Class” for me for until next fall. The last class is next weekend and it is tree-planting weekend, so I won’t make it.

It was extemely windy today. Too windy to plant, to windy to spread mulch, the kinds of day that uplifts swirling dust clouds from the road. So, it was a good day to fetch the last 100 fenceposts from town and pound a few more into the ground. I got what is affectionately and oh-so-creatively called the mudhole fenced off. We bought a marsh seed mixture from Ion Exchange and need to get them in soon. The turf around the mudhole is slowly being broken apart by the cows, so the fence and planting should help it recover.

When the wind died down a bit near sunset, the kids got the home-made kite out and played with that. We were watching the three of them, the two dogs, and the kite out in the back pasture and I commented to Linda “there’s the reason we moved here.” We never have to worry about who’s in the park. Here’s a picture Emma took of her kite (a 4-H project) and the best kite we’ve ever had.

kite

Martin was holding it for a while, until he let go and although there is a substantial piece of board to wrap the string up, it lifted all the string and the board over two fences and about 20 acres away. I came back to see them and saw Emma far-far away with kite in hand and Martin clinging to the fence.

April 2, 2005 – Planting Time

flowers
I went to class this morning and noticed some folks must have had enough accounting as the attendance was thinner than usual! Brought the truck so got another load of free mulch. The tiller worked like a champ today – did all gardens without a bolt breaking, tines gettting wrapped in garbage, or belt breaking. Then potatoes, onions, and the first round of chard and carrots found their way it the ground. Here’s team potato at work:

planting

Emma enjoyed getting the bike out today as well. Oh yeah, I forgot Claire is i Washington D.C. for a class trip. No fair – When I was her age, I got to go to St. Paul for an afternoon!
flowers

March 30, 2005 – Rhubarb!

Looks like the rhubarb is ready to take off:

rhubarb

It’s a low energy day. I’m fighting a cold and don’t have the usual get up and go. So we vacuumed under all the couches, pruned some of the windbreak trees to a single leader. Here’s a before photo:
unpruned

Here’s an after photo showing a single leader. This will prevent a crotch low on the tree and a future weak spot and place for rot and wind to snap it off.
pruned

Also had a kind gift of a goat stanchion today – fetched it between thunderstorms and it was ready to go except for building a feeding tray on it. So when Paullina births, we’ll be ready to go!

This evening was a Wholesome Harvest board meeting. It’s always an exciting and challenging time to be part of a start-up company.

March 20, 2005 – Seed Starting

Today was the first day of spring and it was warm enough to do all the seed starting outside. It was much better than doing it in the house – all the mess stayed outside. Linda supervised the soil mixing, which was earnestly performed by Martin and Emma.

seed starting

The chickens are laying like nuts – we were down to 6 eggs a day in January, but yesterday we got 40, including a goose egg. I don’t think we have many more chickens than that.

This morning we folded and sealed the last of the surveys.

martymail

After church, the 4H dog agility team came over and built the jumps etc. for future training. Then good friends Steve and Sally brought over a traditional Irish meal of Irish Soda Bread, corned beef, cabbage, potates, carrots, and bread pudding.

meal

March 13, 2005 – Sunday, Sunday

The day dawned cold and clear, but it was a pleasant cold and clear after all the wind. Of course, by the time we got around to some outside work, the clouds and wind returned. We started pruning the last three apple trees. Here’s Linda hard at work. Martin has proved himself an able tree-climber, so in a decade or so, I’ll have a monkey to climb the trees on my behalf!

Linda Pruning

March 9, 2005 – Pasture Improvement

This morning Martin and I tried a low-cost experiment. We broadcast (by hand) some seeds into two acres or so of ho-hum pasture. We spread some Birdsfoot Trefoil, clovers, and some pasture mix grasses. It was a cool, but sunny day and not too windy day to do this. Now we just wait for the freeze/thaw to gently place the seeds where they need to be for spring rains. We also cleaned up part of the barn.

Late in the afternoon the UPS man came with some marsh seeds from Ion Exchange for the small mudhole we are trying to renovate – a mix of sedges, grasses, and flowers. Yesterday the UPS man brought beehive boxes for Joanne’s supers.

There’s been a story off the radar – Iowa’s biggest grass/brush fire, consuming between 12-25 square miles, including burning down some homes and farms. It happened this windy weekend.

I checked the Secretary of State web site, and found a new company! High hopes gardens L.L.C. is now a registered entity. So, also applied for IRS EIN number for tax reporting. Also worked some on adding farm store survey to web survey tool