Friday, May 31, 2019

Think It'll Rain? The Farm Report 05-31-2019

Think It'll Rain?
The Farm Report 05-31-2019

So, I looked out the window the other morning on my way to make the coffee and this is what I saw! Think it'll be raining soon?  

You Bet! And, Noah, it rained and it rained and it rained some more. Reports vary, of course, but so far I think we've had over 10-inches of rain in May. I had over 5-inches from this one downpour alone. And yes, that is Walnut Creek flooding again down there. So far this year, it has been out 3 times. My mother says 5 times in one season is the record. I think we should make this the June Calendar Picture.

 Water front property the 'Army Corp of Engineer's way.' It is a long story, but God is not the only one in charge of these waters anymore. Well, ultimately, but the Army says they are in charge of it for now - and they kinda are. They announced yesterday that they will be increasing their release  of water from the Missouri River Dams up north to 75,000 cubic feet of water per SECOND. Remember 'Plumber's Rule #1: Water runs downhill.' I am downhill....

Next day, the flood waters had pretty much drained away. Now, we're considering whether to replant in corn or rice.... 'Taint funny McGee.' 

The rains are making the flowers grow. The mock orange and Joyce's pink weigelas are beautiful right now. 

Now that's what I'm talkin' about. The long cold deep snowy winter sheltered the strawberries. They didn't even know they got cold. I've never had a more beautiful strawberry patch. Homemade Strawberry ice cream can't be too far away! 

These are Earliglow. You can tell by the labels I've learned how to transfer to wooden lathe. I have 'bird scare' tape all over the place. It is just Mylar foil with 'sparklies' on it. It seems to be keeping them off. If it doesn't, then I'll be showing you the real reason for my naming stakes and rails. This is my Dad's invention. He put these over his strawberries to make just perfect ideal landing strips for his most disdained nemisis: Baltimore Orioles. They love strawberries! To keep them away, Dad would put sticky 'Tanglefoot' wax on top of the rails to make the birds feet sticky and keep them from coming back. It doesn't take much, just a touch. He said when he saw birds flying around with straw stuck to their feet, he knew he had put on too much - or maybe he said that was when he had it about right. I don't remember. Save the Berries! 

'I'm Melting!' The fall composting project didn't get off to the fast start I wanted because the winter came roaring in way sooner than I expected. But, wet hay eventually rots, and that big round bail is rotting nicely into compost. I'll have the netting off in a few days and then I'll use old Emmie, the 1947 Farmall M and a front end loader to fluff it up and make it into the compost gold we had intended. 

After all that gardening, and a nice hot shower one night, O.J. decided he needed to have another security lay-down with me. After the last couple of free rides he got for doing this to me (remember, he isn't giving me love connections here, he is clawing in for a hold-down) I said to myself, 'He's a slow learner.' Then I realized that one of us was a slow learner, but it might not necessarily be him! Why did I let this happen - again? 

Well, as if on cue, he remembered something and tucked in his claws. I allowed a nice catnap. 

The next day at lunch break, he hopped up into 'his' place again and - Surprise! - remembered his lessons a second time. Maybe a cat can be trained after all. I may be kidding myself, too.  

F-Troop is now outside and on their own for all day and all night. The girls have a while before they graduate from the boot camp training barracks and move on up to the senior squad housing. During the initial chick-protection stages, the box on the right end is what I used to wheel them into the shop in at night. It was their little 'chicken camper,' the perfect home away from home.

Aha! We had a near miss! See them little feathers out there on the ground? Well they tell a little story I didn't get to see. I would pay money to see it though. Guess where the stupid peeps decided to crowd up together and sleep on their very first night out? Yep. Right in the one and only open corner in the whole training barracks. What should happen? Rocky Raccoon reached through the chicken wire and tried to grab a handful of chicken. All he got was feathers though. I can just see the movie in my mind. Not having luck pulling an actual chicken through the wire, he reached up with his nose or his other hand to get a better pull and... . And see that yellow wire? That is a very high voltage Raccoon Taser surrounding their perimeter. When whatever part of Rocky touched that, ZAP! and I'll bet there was a high pitched 'Yipe!' Chicken saved, new reinforcement inside (I have added a second layer of screen wire inside), all is well.

A new go at the Michigan State University carrot project. I found an MSU extension website handout a couple of years ago showing how they used oats as a nurse crop to help get onion seeds established in a field operation. I thought, 'Why not?' So I started using the same nurse crop idea with carrots. Carrots are really hard for me to get started. The oats protect the little carrots from wind, bugs, drought, and mice. Once the carrots are up, they are tough and can make it on their own. Oats are easy to kill out, so once the carrots are on their way, I'll kill out the oats. How? Well, selective herbicides are an option, but really, just mowing off the oats works as well.  Oats do not like to be cut or mowed; carrots don't mind it. So if you see me out in the garden with the weed whacker, I'm just taking care of the carrots. Really. 

Up in the greenhouse, we're still full. The wet weather has really made it hard to set things out. So, the red salvia is still in plug trays.

The marigolds are holding their own in soil blocks. 

The parsley has finally given in and has started to sprout. 

The sweet potato has begun sending out new slips. 

And my re-planting of celery has started - again. I have learned how to make a 'false bottom wicking pot' out of just about any container that will hold water. See the tube at the back? The 'bobber' is an upside down throw-away lab pipette. I have it marked to tell me where the false bottom is. The part underneath it is a water pool and there is a wick going from the bottom of the water up into the soil. It makes a procrastinator's dream. I fill the bottom of the pot through the tube, and then I don't have to remember to go water everything all the time.  

'Jerico' is the name of this romaine type lettuce. It is in a wicking pot, too.

The basil needs transplanting, but the aroma it gives off is sooo good. Homemade tomato sauce is on my agenda for later on this summer. Chef Pasquale over on Youtube can show you how to make it. He's a hoot if you've never seen him. Orsara Recipes is his channel. 

'Getting the cows ready to go out and graze on flooded pasture' was the caption on this photo I lifted from the internet. It isn't mine, but it is so perfect for my wet flooded surroundings I couldn't help myself! It is funny, of course, but it is serious, too. The floods this spring have taken the lives of lots and lots of innocent animals who couldn't escape. We need to think of them, too. They didn't ask the Army Corp of Engineers for all this water, either. So - on that cheery note, I'll sign off until the next time. All is well at Oakdale Farm. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Apocalypse: The Farm Report 05-17-2019

The Farm Report 05-17-2019

Apocalypse! Well, at least that's what it has been looking like out here for the last month or more. We are lucky here at Oakdale Farm. Our fields are farmable this year. The crops are planted in and sprouting. But! Across Walnut Creek, on the other side, the smoke continues to billow. The floods washed tons and tons (literally) of corn stalks out onto the fields. In order to be able to cultivate and plant the land, the stock rubble must be burned off. It can take days of smoldering and burning. I often have thought what it must be like in Scotland and Ireland when they talk about the peat bogs burning in old romantic novels. 

Let's call this one the May calendar picture.  It is a little smoky, but this is more like it. 

The cherry tree from last time is now out of bloom, and in full swing growing cherries. This tree is North Star. It is a full black/deep red cherry through and through. The juice is almost black, too. It is technically a sour pie cherry, but it is a very sweet pie cherry. Delicious. I also have Balaton and Danube. I'm a cherry fan.

The rye cover crop is at its zenith. It will be killed off in a few days. It really works! This was a cornfield last year. Right where you are looking, we always had a huge problem with giant ragweed and mare's tail weeds. With the cover crop? Almost none. Less Roundup, less fertilizer, more soybeans! 

To see what I see when I'm back at the garden in the evenings. If you could 'stitch' the picture above with this one end-to-end, you'll get a more panoramic view. It is beautiful to me. Often, I see deer lined up at the edge of the timber watching me plant. Then, when I go in, they come down to check progress - and have a taste.... 

These are Sugar Snap peas. I like Chinese food, and snap pea pods in a stir fry is something special. These will climb all the way to the top of the 'pea' fence. 

Or...'Rose' fence in this case. Out here on the knob, wind is a big issue. Have I ever mentioned that before? Well, it is! Chad and I constructed this fence last year as a Rose Confinement and Protection Area. The idea is to protect the hybrid tea roses inside it from the winds. 

That was a great idea last year, but my roses were poor quality and I had a late start, and I think whatever else went wrong was Chad's fault. (I can say that because he isn't here right now, and I'm his Dad.) We never give up though, we just draw a line and start over. Joyce's sister, Nancy, and her husband, David, gave us a wonderful gift for Joyce this year: A whole new start on a hybrid tea rose bed.  Plants are such wonderful gifts and such a wonderful way to have a living memorial. And I also like to raise hybrid tea roses. It sorta scales out to the fact that I seem drawn to try doing just about anything difficult. Is that a character flaw, or is that just what it means to be an Iowan? Anyway....

Wow! Do my strawberries look great this year. That nasty cold didn't bother them a bit. That 3-feet of continuous snow cover all winter long didn't do 'em any harm either. I can taste the shortcakes already! 

I do believe that we have a winner in the broccoli department. Arcadia, from Johnny's, is the broccoli I raised a couple of years ago that was so sweet, and the one that kept throwing off side shoots all summer long and even up until frost. I'm sure of it - I'm sure of it, I think. 

New basil plants are at the ready to transplant and 'pot up.' The parsley is being stubborn (but so am I). 

Deutscher Garten is waiting patiently. I hope I didn't assume too much when I told you about Deutscher Garten last time. Deutscher means German! So, Deutscher Garten means  German Garden, to us in English. These are some of the plants I've grown from seeds Carola sent me from Hamburg - Germany that is! We'll have a whole little dedicated German Garden this year.

These are all cabbages. Homemade sauerkraut anyone? It is delicious - and almost nothing at all like that sour stuff you buy in a can. 

This is the year for red salvia in the shop planter boxes. But I have some marigolds just in case. (I'm not a pessimist, I'm an optimist - with experience. Red Green says, 'The pessimists are more accurate, but the optimists do live longer.) If I don't need the marigolds for the front of the shop, I'll plant them around the roses to help ward off the nasty bugs and nematodes. 

Why am I showing you plants still in the greenhouse instead of out in the garden? This almanac calendar tells the story. (You'll have to zoom it up to see the numbers.) One week ago, we had frost warnings on both Thursday and Friday nights. This week? It has been in the 90'sF. Next week, it looks like we might be back down in the 60'sF for daily highs. I don't like to set out peppers and tomatoes until the night time temperatures are ROUTINELY above 50F. Routinely! So, again, patience.  Let the weather settle. They will catch up and pass the ones that get set out too soon and get chilled. Sweetcorn sprouts better when it is warmer, too. Patience m'boy, patience. 

And speaking of personal discipline: 'Yes,' to answer the question, 'Can you have too much fertilizer in your homemade potting soil mix?' I am afraid I have fried my cauliflowers. I had intended not to fry them until much later when I could dip them into a beer batter and dunk 'em in hot oil. I've got more seeds though, and it is only the middle of May. I'll keep trying. 

My peeps is feathering out. Soon it will be time for the great new world of outdoor living for them! 

You can learn an awful lot from nature and animals. This last shot shows the little peeps reinforcing one of life's most important natural rules: "At all times, keep your fanny warm and dry - especially at bedtime." I try to practice this rule myself; sometimes with more success than others, but I always try to keep that rule! Until next time, all is well here at Oakdale Farm. I hope it is with you, too. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Blooms & Bees and Spuds & Trees: The Farm Report 05-01-2019

Blooms & Bees and Spuds & Trees
The Farm Report 05-01-2019

It has been a busy time here at Oakdale Farm! The seasons are a changin' and everything is poppin'. The fruit trees are all trying to bloom - well, most of 'em. As regular readers will recall, we had -22F one night during the winter. So the experts say (and they are right) -15F is about as cold as peaches will tolerate. We have not had a single peach bloom on any tree. Plus, there were only a handfull of apricot blooms. So.... we're already saying the Gardener's Mantra: 'Next Year.'

For the last several years, due to circumstances..., I have been a 'Bee Haver' instead of being a 'Bee Keeper.' Keeping honey bees is hard to do nowadays; I lost almost all my bees due to neglect and hard livin. So, instead of being discouraged and giving up (Never Give Up!!!) I have added some new bees. This is how they come when you buy them as a 'package' at the bee store. 

I actually only bought one package. A package of bees is about 3 pounds of worker bees and a new queen. A package contains about 10,000 bees. An expensive box of bugs is what that is. The circle on top of the box is a can of sugar water they ship with to feed them. There are tiny little holes in the bottom they can suck the sugar water from. The queen is in her own 'carriage' inside the box. The workers feed her through screen wire, but they can't get at her in case they decide they want to kill her. When they start out their journey, she isn't 'their' queen yet. She will be by the time they get settled in their new home.

This is a 'hobo' bee. It is a drone. Drones are male bees. They usually don't get to make the trip. But sometimes they cling onto the outside of the box, like a hobo, and ride along for free. ALL the worker bees inside the box are 'imperfect' females. Only the queen is a perfect female, able to lay eggs and hatch more bees. I'll tell you more about the sex life of bees some other time. It is fascinating if you're into bug sex. If you're not, it isn't.

 New home for the first night. Of course, the Honey Bee Gods were not happy that night. It got cold and rained on them. They made the best of it and camped out warm and dry. The jar is sugar water feed for them. You have to feed bees to get them started.

On other fronts, I've been making potting soil for the greenhouse. I use an old fashioned cement mixer. It works a charm for the job.

I like soil blocks instead of plastic trays. I use both, but I prefer soil blocks. The little pan is full of seed starts I make in 1/2-inch cube blocks. Now, they are ready to drop into the square holes the little block maker tool leaves for them.

Plop! And the seedlings have a new home to grow out into. These little guys are for Deutscher Garten.

But wait! What could this be?

Yup! It is spring and time to bring in new recruits for reinforcement of the flock. Winter was hard on everything, including the flock. I'll spare you the details, but we're not giving up on this front, either! This year's 'F-Troop' will be all Barred Plymouth Rock pullets.

You've gotta keep 'em warm, and I use electricity. I have a roller cart that wheels into my shop while they are getting started. It is warm, safe and free from predators - except for 'Miss Kitty' my shop cat. She's not too interested in them though.

Butt Check! Little chicks have, well, poo problems. Their little hairy butts get plugged up with poo sticking in their nether down. And as everybody knows, when you've gotta go, you've gotta go! and when the go-hole is plugged it is trouble.

OWWW! Butt, problem solved. Usually this is a one-time deal. It's gotta sting a little, don't you think? Having enjoyed a colonoscopy recently, I can kinda relate, but Oh Man!

No wonder they're all huddled up after that adventure! But at only a few days old, you can begin to see their tiny little wing feathers.

Use your imagination a little and you can see their tiny little tail feathers starting, too.

Other distractions at the farm have included installing a new boiler for the house. The furnace guys told me the new boiler will be soooooo much more efficient than the old one. I'm sure they are right, but I also know I'm spending thousands to save hundreds. The old boiler was about 50 years old, and sometimes it would go 'WHUMP!' in the night. I think it was time to make a change. I will still use my wood burning boiler most of the time though, as long as I'm able. I love to cut and burn wood.

Some wonderful friends gifted us with a special tree for Joyce's orchard. This one is just perfect. I found it at a fruit tree nursery/co-op in Maine. The tires help keep the deer away. The sulfur in the rubber smells like their dead friends and keeps 'em away.

I had to look long and hard to find this tree. It is a Golden Russet. It was one of Joyce's favorite apples. Rumor has it that this variety was one of the parents of the famous Yellow Delicious apple. I live in a very high wind area, so I picked the Antonovka rootstock. It grows deep strong anchor roots so the tree won't blow out of the ground out here. You'll never see this apple in stores. Americans, as my German daughter, Carola, tells me, buy apples with their eyes. The russet part of the name means the skin is like a russet potato; it is rough and gnarly. But the flavor! It is aromatic, sweet and juicy. Perfect for baking, cider making and eating - if you don't look at it. We had one of these in our Wisconsin orchard collection.

Henry Ford is being called back into service for Spud Duty. Tater work is sort of his last garden chore in the fall, and the kick off chore in the spring.

Cutting up seed potatoes for planting is a sure sign of spring. This year, we have several varieties for, well, variety! Yukon Golds, Red Pontiacs, Norkota Russets, Dakota Pearls, and my all time favorite, Kennebec. Fresh potatoes from the garden are like anything else - superior! Grocery store tomato, garden tomato - get it?

I let Henry make long rows the full length of my garden. I will let him help me cultivate and dig them later in the fall, too. 

 Nothing more fun to do on a warm spring sunny day than walk along the row, listening to the birds, and plunking in spud sets.

I grow lots of potatoes because I can, and because people enjoy them and use them. I give away a lot, and that's the idea. I grow for fun, and other people get to share in the benefits of the food with me. It makes me happy to do that. 

Old stuff has been my life. Old stuff and primative machines are the frosting on my cake. This is a restored Planet Jr. wheel hoe cultivator, made by the S.L. Allen Company in 1929. It is a double wheel hoe with split plow shares behind it. With the plow shares turned around 'backwards,' it makes the most perfect little hilling and potato covering tool you could imagine.  I just walk down the planted rows and this thing covers up the spuds for me.

I bought the rusty old irons from some guy in New York state through eBay. I made new oak handles and added some polish and paint. It is one of my favorite walking 'hand' tools in the garden. When you were a kid, did you ever have a 'Flexible Flyer' sled? S.L. Allen company made that sled; the same company as made this wheel hoe. The company made sleds to keep the workers busy in the 'off' season when they weren't making ag tools. 

I like to keep my stuff labeled. You think you can remember what's what and where's where, but you don't. 'The weakest ink is stronger than the best memory,' is my favorite saying to remember this.  

Weak ink is an operative  term here. I discovered long ago that black 'Magic Marker' or Sharpie ink will disappear if it is out in the sunshine long enough. I prefer these paint markers from Wally's. It does not fade out.

The little square in front of the greenhouse is Deutscher Garten! It won't be long now before I begin setting things out in it.  We had 31F night before last. It just isn't time yet! Patience, Tim, patience.... May 10 is our guaranteed last frost date here.

AWWWW Ain't that sweet? O.J. is being all cuddly and friendly. Well, wrong! O.J. is a farm tomcat. He is a neutered tomcat, so he only does consulting work now. Still and all though, he is a deeply rooted territorial tomcat. What looks to you like a friendly love pat is actually his pointy knife-sharp claws latched into my leg to make sure I don't move out on him without his permission! He had me locked in - and then pretended not to know and dozed off. We're still friends, but he did get to enjoy a free ride he wasn't expecting.  Cheers until next time. All is well at Oakdale Farm.