Friday, August 31, 2018

Hawk! Run for your life! The Farm Report 8-31-2018

Hawk! Run for your Life!:
The Farm Report 8-31-2018

Click this link to view the photos in Google Albums

Hawk! They were called 'Marsh Hawks' when I was a kid. Now they are known as Northern Harriers. As in 'U.S. Marines Harrier Jet.' The two even sorta kinda look and fly alike. Well, my sister and I were out admiring the Replacement Platoon, F-Troop, the other day when I spotted Mr. Harrier swooping around like a fighter jet scoping out the chicks. Yikes! 

About the same time, one of what I think is probably 2 little roosters spotted the hawk, too.

"Quick!" he chirped in gallus gallus domesticus (Apparently chickens speak Latin. Who knew?). and they all raced for cover under the bushes. The hawk didn't just go away, he swooped around for awhile before deciding to let them fatten up for another day. I'll be on careful watch now for awhile.

Jimmy Durante used to sing a song with the lyrics, "Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go, but still had the feeling that you wanted to stay? Go or stay, stay or go?..." "Chickens," as my son Jon informed me some time ago, 'Are not problem solvers, Dad." The Troop decided it would be good to go back to stay in the protection of the night jail.  Eventually though, they decided to go.

I'm starting the fall lettuce in diatomaceous earth this time. It seems to work like magic. 

After only 3 days, the little seeds sprouted and the plants started breaking the surface.

This is where I live. Well not really. But kind of. Joyce was a registered interior designer and member of the American Society of Interior Designers. Her special interest area was grand public buildings. She knew more about these big old barns than is healthy for most of us. She thrived on it. To get her through the winter blues a winter ago we watched the old BBC Harry Dodson series about Victorian Kitchen Gardens. One of Harry's projects was to recreate the Victorian greenhouse and grow musk melons out of season. His variety of choice was Blenheim Orange. It is a small melon which was developed just for greenhouse growing - in the greenhouses inside the walled garden at Blenheim Palace. That building is Blenheim Palace - which is where Sir Winston Churchill grew up. His grandfather was the Duke of Marlborough, who owned Blenheim Palace. So, through the magic of the interwebs, I found some Blenheim Orange seeds.

This is what the melons look like. They are small, but delicious

Now my sister thinks we should have fresh melons with our Thanksgiving salads.... Of course she would. So now I'm workin' on it. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. 

Otherwise, all is OK at Oakdale Farm. Have a great week.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

To Every Thing There is a Season: The Farm Report 8-24-2018

To Every Thing There is a Season

The Farm Report 8-24-2018

Click this link to see the pics in Google Photos

Carola's Hosta are in bloom. Our family and Carola's first began our long friendship one fall afternoon in Wisconsin. These flowers were just blooming then, and I am reminded of that day every fall. Hostas are pretty much bullet proof. Even Japanese Beetles don't phase 'em! All these plants - and more around Oakdale Farm - came from one plant when we moved from Wisconsin to Iowa.

Part of the madness in my defense strategy is 'Benign Neglect.' I carefully hide my new little fruit trees in mountains of weeds. Even Giant Ragweed can be good for something. 

If you look closely between the two steel 'deer repellent' posts you'll see the sweetest little apple tree. And! In the tire and the weeds is a new Intrepid peach for next year. Did you know the sulfur they use making rubber tires smells like dead decaying flesh to deer? They don't like to go where their dead friends have been, so 'Hey Presto!' we have a peach survivor. Now to keep it safe from the deer AND the rabbits this winter. The struggles never end.

And! In the tire and the weeds is a new Intrepid peach for next year. Did you know the sulfur they use making rubber tires smells like dead decaying flesh to deer? They don't like to go where their dead friends have been, so 'Hey Presto!' we have a peach survivor. Now to keep it safe from the deer AND the rabbits this winter. The struggles never end. 

'Momma's Hedge Rose' may be on the way out. Age and Japanese Beetles have taken a toll this summer.

Out in the back gardens, here is one of my favorite gardening tools - a big lawn mower! 

See what it can do with just a few minutes of proper attention?! The 2018 sweet corn season is officially over.

If you'll look, you can see 3 generations of garden tools here. The lawn mower, my tiller, and between them, the old reliable potato fork. The one I just about took my toe off with last summer!

Henry Ford was quoted as saying that "Usually, a man with a machine is more productive than a man alone."  Of course, he was selling machines! But for us hobby/farm/machine/history geeks, that is one of his most famous farm tools back there in the pic. It is a 1952 8N. Still works and still amazes.  I actually do most of the mowing with it. The young kids can't believe THAT is where the modern 3-point hitch got its start. Yep! Harry Ferguson invented it, and Henry Ford made it and sold 'em. And that tractor is also the subject of some tremendous stories about patent infringement lawsuits, handshake deals between Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson, and the fact that Edsel Ford discovered they were losing money on every one of the hundreds of thousands of 'em they sold. Edsel was shocked! Henry felt that if people could see those little grey tractors in the fields, they would want to go to town and buy one of his cars! He made his money on the parts, son. On the parts! School has started, the leaves are turning, and I'm turning under the garden. Have a good week.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Dog Days of Summer: The Farm Report 8-17-2018

The Dog Days of Summer

The Farm Report 8-17-2018

Click this link to see pics in Google Photos

There are different versions of what the 'Dog Days' of summer actually means. Is it celestial or is it the calendar? Is it just the summer 'blahs?' Is it part of Poor Richard's poetry? Who knows. Whatever it is, it is hot and we're tired of it. Zoey has the right idea; When in doubt, Snooze it out. Better days will come...tomorrow.  

It is sweetcorn harvest time though! My brother came out to Oakdale Farm to help pick and shuck (that's him in the pic; you probably recognized him even though we don't look a lot alike). Beautiful and prime ready to freeze.

 Thirty-eight bags later, we're set for the winter. Soups, stews, cornbread laced with the 'real thing' and of course, corn chowder! 

It is also time to start some new little plants for the winter greenhouse. Lettuce loves it cool and not so bright. Broccoli, snap peas, beets kale and radishes will all go in. The goal is to have fresh picked salads for Thanksgiving dinner. Or maybe for the Superbowl party! 

And a greenhouse note: Here is what we had just a year ago. The frame was up, the support ironwork was going in, and we were getting ready for the plastic top. That didn't happen until September a year ago. We've come a long way.

Miss Kitty, the Official Shop Cat, isn't impressed though. She thinks that if Zoey can have her own 'Dog Days' then the feline contingent of the operation should at least have a little more comfort time in the hay too. Cats always find a comfortable place to be - even when things are not optimal by other people's standards. They know how to adapt, survive and enjoy the day. Take a lesson.... 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Let's Stay Out All Night and Dance: 

The Farm Report 8-9-2018

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The 'Two Henrietta's' likes them some watermelon! Of course the reason they gets them some watermelon is 'cause Tim likes him some watermelon, too! - but he gets his first.

The Replacement Platoon, 'F Troop,' is beginning to come of age. At least they are of an age where they need to stop spending the nights in my wood shop, and get outdoors full time. Maybe they will dance the night away, who knows, but it is certainly time for them to stay outdoors all night. The chicken tractor has been sitting idle since June, and the weeds found it. No worries though. Zoey and the Ranger pulled it out without a struggle.

If Zoey only had thumbs, she could drive the Ranger. She knows she could. Couldn't she please try? Please??? Then after the new chicken digs were set up and the idea was to put out some irresistible oats to lure them inside, we ran into trouble. 

Can you see anything wrong in this picture? Zoom it up and take a closer look.  'F Troop' escaped, and the Two Henriettas went in! Oh No! O.J. was out and about, and he thought it was a great way to begin the day for him.  Mmmmmmm everybody loves to eat chicken; tender young chicken.... Sorry O.J. not today.

The onions were pulled and allowed to air dry for a few days, then it was time to 'put 'em up' for the freezer. I've never had luck trying to store onions until my Mom said one day, 'I just put them in the freezer and use them all winter.' Thanks Mom. So that's what I do now. 

The summer kitchen in the shop is great. Peel the onions, slice three or four times through the equator, and Bam! they go through the french fry cutter and spray out into the catch tub. 

 18 bags later, we've got fixin's for soups and stews and whatever else for the winter - when it will be much cooler.
The scraps go back to Mother Nature. The Two Henriettas do not like onions. And I clean up with the air compressor and the power washer.

Enough complaining about the battles of farming and gardening. Beauty is where you find it. Right now, the roadsides are beautiful. The yellow flower is Partridge Pea - a fav for the bees. I'm not sure what the white flower is; maybe Queen Anne's lace but I'm not sure. Is that some timothy blooming there? Could be.

And to know the seasons are beginning to change, the last rose of summer, the Rose of Sharon, is blooming. Also known as Althea, it is an hibiscus actually. It loves it hot and gets its blooms in before the season collapses. The corn is dented and drying; all is well at Oakdale Farm.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Farming in the Sky! 

The Farm Report for 8-3-2018

Click this link to see the pictures in Google Photos
The battle with the bugs continues! We're getting serious now - no more 'kid's stuff'. Reinforcements have been called in - the air brigades have arrived, and the aerial bombardment has begun in earnest. (And for those 'fact checkers' out there, yes these are not new pictures. But they are just the way it happened!)

That little tiny white dot in the middle of the last picture is a crop duster helicopter. Actually, there were two of them working the field at the same time. One was red, the other white. They were not taking their time. You will have to provide the sound effects yourself. Make Vrooom! Vrooom! noises like you would expect to hear in a John Wayne WWII movie, and you'll know what my morning coffee was like. The guy in the yellow plane has a death wish - or he's crazy - or both. Sometimes he was flying so low the corn tassles wiggled.

So then I walked out to the garden to check the new sweet corn patch. Racoons!!! But oh, no! Not this planting; not this time. Sorry my little masked friends. This time it is all for me. Out comes the electric fencer! Stopped 'em cold in one night. It is an evil pleasure, but I would just love to actually see 'em touch their little wet noses to that fence sometime. Ah the justice in it!

For the 'Worry Warts' who think something bad might happen to me working all alone out here in the middle of the giant Iowa cornfield, just look at this picture and ask yourself, "What could possibly go wrong here?" Heavy steel, antique tractors, chains, hydraulic power...What?

I watch Red Green for the instruction, not the humor. We needed a new rake, so I added one to the collection. That red one with the wooden handle, as Crocodile Dundee would have said, 'That isn't a rake.' 'This,' he would have said pointing to the back of Henry Ford, 'This is a rake!' 

This is an 'Oldie but Goodie' with a nod to Joyce. What could be better than taking some time out in the summer to do something dangerous down on the farm with the grand kids? Target practice! Miles was old enough to hold the gun by himself; Evie needed a little help from Grandpa. If you'll look very carefully at the first picture, you'll see a suspicious little target hanging in front of the circles. If you'll look very carefully at the last shot, you'll see Evie holding that little dangler in two pieces in her hand. Joyce had made biscuits the night before and had a colossal failure! (Unheard of for her.) They were hard as rocks. So....they made great targets. Boom! Went The Biscuit.

As any wise old feline would know, O.J. thinks the best thing to do in the miserable waning hot days of summer is to just sit on the front porch steps and wait it out. I agree.