Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Early Spring Activities 2017

Its been a busy spring with little time for posting. But here's a few shots (from two weeks ago) of the garden clear off, first till, cherry tree planting, etc.
 Tilling in the winter rye.
 Last of the over-wintered collards. They were really yummy!
 The cherry trees. One "White Gold" and one "Regina". Both sweet and semi-dwarf.
Dad's red buds. He gave me these several years ago as 12 inch sticks from the Arbor Day Foundation. They didn't even have roots! I didn't have the heart to put them in the wild border back then so I gave them one season in the vegetable plot to establish themselves. Last year was the first time they set seed. This year I'll try to collect them to start more.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Down Time And Waiting For Spring

It's that time of year when for once there is nothing to do in The Patch. A rare occasion indeed! A month or two of rest is a welcome treat. And contrary to tradition, I decided to not start onion sets on Christmas day this year which means that the seed starting table and grow light have yet to make an appearance from the basement.

Post holiday chores this year included a complete turn-over and replacement of seed stock as well as sending the chickens off to slaughter. Their lay rate was dropping off and one of them managed to develop a taste for eggs. This is bad news for such a small flock because once they start eating eggs it is almost impossible to get them to stop. We were down to only three girls as it was and only one or two eggs a day just wasn't cutting it. Better to get them out now before the depths of winter.

This provided an excellent opportunity to clean the tractor and get it up on the patio for winter.

Now all we need is some spring-time weather!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Landscape Hell

Anyone who knows my general gardening strategy knows that I detest suburban landscaping. Don't get me wrong I really like large-scale estate or park-type landscape designs having been on estate grounds crews in college. But when it comes to small lots I really prefer to put my valuable time into vegetable and edible/functional landscapes. But there have been projects around the house that I've been putting off now for over fifteen years! And since we will be having to replace our basement doors and ultimately our air conditioner units in the near future, I thought it was about time to take care of some erosion issues. So for the past three weekends, I've been busy working up new planting beds and redirecting downspout pipes. Our soil is pure clay and full of rocks. But luckily the parts up by the house were fill from when they graded the lot. The only substantial rocks were the two down in the lower left hand corner of this first photo. The largest must weigh at least 500 lbs and took an entire afternoon to extract!

I also decided to finally take care of the side edges of the back patio. Over the years, various varmints (mice, rabbits and ground hogs) have insisted on digging out under the slab. It took several hours to back-fill the voids. But this time I covered the areas with rat wire before tamping in the final fill. Hopefully this will make it a bit harder for anything new to try and dig it out again.

 And next summer if we get a dry spell I'll finally wash down the footers and put on a new coat of foundation paint. This is another thing that really drives me crazy. Foundations really should not be painted. But the previous owners did it and they didn't do a very good job especially on the back wall that remains incomplete. All that's left now is to put in some plants next spring.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Late Summer Activities-2016

Labor Day weekend is always a time for new beginnings in The Food Patch. On Saturday the squash, Roma tomatoes and various herbs were cleared off to make room for fall stuff. Soon to go in are cauliflower, bok choy and lettuce seedlings as well as a row of kale, collards and chard. This should get us up to first frost and early winter. Soon, about half of the patch will be seeded in winter rye so the chickens will have something green to forage on in the depths of winter.

And yesterday was the first of the fall brew days up in the Oak and Iron Nanobrewery. Got to get those bottles filled for winter!

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Rare Friday In The Patch

Here in the ex-burbs of Ground Zero, if you have the leave time and no essential meetings, definitely take off the Friday before a major weekend holiday like Independence Day. There is just too much uncertainty with the westward commute and nothing is worse than spending hours on the bus in traffic when you could be doing something much more constructive than sleeping or listening to moronic ring tones and street urchin cell phone conversations.
 The beets are in! Pound-for-pound these are the most nutritious root crop known to modern man. This bunch is going into the pot for dinner tonight but the majority of the row is destined for the dryer. Beet chips are easy to make and a great snack especially on the trail. Perfectly fine by themselves I like to dust mine with a little onion powder before they go into the dryer.

 Split rail fences are nice but after about ten years they need constant upkeep as they slowly disintegrate. I would prefer 12 ft chain-link topped with razor wire with an occasional Claymore/proximity fuse for good measure. But that probably wouldn't go over too good with the family and neighbors and I would probably end up killing someone's kid. So its quarterly replacement time this weekend for the ones that are broken or sagging.

 I can think of nothing more patriotic than to throw some locally grown beef on the grill this weekend. Stonewall Black Angus is just across the road and so close I can almost hear the moos from my front porch.  Its a bit pricey for every day consumption but I can't wait to throw on a filet and a T-bone grown right here next to The Patch.

Happy Independence Day to all! Get out there and plant something!!!!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Fine June Day in The Patch

It was one of those summer days when if for no other reason you just have to break out the camera and take some shots. We don't get many days like this where the temperature, humidity, breeze and air quality provide a near perfect day.

 The Food Patch looking northwest under the morning sun.

 The herb and butterfly bush bed.

Southeast view of The Food Patch with the heirloom lima beans from Emily. They just got a much needed support installed today and every one of them came up!

 Another view of the herb bed.

The raspberry bed. Yields were down this year mainly because I failed to take good care of them last year. Berries form on second year wood meaning how well you foster good wood development affects next year's crop. I made sure the soaker hose went in this season and they got all of the chicken tractor bedding collected over the winter as an early spring mulch. The tall vines here are new wood so I'm hoping that things will get back to normal next year.
The grape tomatoes caged up and waiting for that first ripe orb. I don't think I'm going to make my grandfather's July 4th deadline this year due to the long, cold and wet spring. But we do have a lot of green ones just waiting to ripen.

And the second planting of lettuce under 50% shade cloth. I've found that once we pass Memorial Day its best to go ahead and keep the majority of the lettuce under shade cloth. The other option is to plant in the shadow of taller crops like the tomatoes or the bean and cucumber walls once they form up. Using this approach I've been able to keep leaf lettuce all summer long with no bitterness. The tough part is remembering to start new seeds every other week. Its been hard this season due to the weird weather and being especially busy training and getting ready for the Blue Ridge Ramble.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Arrival of Summer

This spring has been one of the oddest weather-wise that we've had in our thirteen years of growing at the Food Patch Nanofarm. We had a brief dry spell in the early spring where I was able to do some initial tilling of the main garden plot and the long bed but then we had over a month of Seattle-like weather; consistent rain and low temps that made getting out to do even basic chores almost impossible. To make matters worse, this looks like one of those particularly bad rabbit years (they seem to be cyclical). Luckily, this weekend, I was able to get in and do the last spring till so I could put up the electric perimeter fence.

The chickens didn't seem to complain much about the odd weather as it assured abundant grass to forage on in their own separate pasture area.

They've also got the last of the early spring greens until the new crops start coming in.

And we're hoping not to have a repeat of last year when some varmint got in and slaughtered our whole flock. Since then we covered the remaining holes with wire, taken care to close the pop door tight every night, and I even put out an electronic predator-guard that my daughter gave me for Christmas. I haven't been able to find much info on their effectiveness but it can't hurt.

So far we've been lucky with health issues. In either of our flocks we've not seen any of the diseases normally found in large flocks or chickens raised under factory farming condition. I attribute this to being pastured in the fresh air and sunshine, feed a varied diet, providing a regular dirt bath and getting an occasional head rub. The only preventative I do is to include a dusting of diatomaceous earth in their hutch bedding to ward off fleas. From the chicken keeping literature the hall marks of health are bright eyes and combs, consistent foraging behavior and fluffy butts. So far I think we've got that covered.