Monday, April 26, 2021

IOWA - WTH?! The Farm Report 04-27-2021


The Farm Report

What the heck?! Welcome to my world in sunny southern Iowa. Annie and I sat out watching this late snowstorm the other afternoon. Crazy - but typical Iowa.

To be precise, it was April 19, 2021. "Oh my, but maybe it will only be a light frost," I said to myself.

But then a few days later, this was the temperature Alexa was so happy to tell me about when I got ready to make the morning brew. 28F. Fruit trees can take a frost, but at 28F, according to my books, about 10% of the fruit will be lost. Today, four days later, the high will be almost 90F and winds in the gale force zone;  'taint no place for sissies where I live ....

I'm the eternal optimist, and here's a reason why. When I went up to feed the chickens and open the greenhouse vents the next morning, I spotted something out in the cornfield stubble that caught my eye. A flower?

Yep! How it got there, I'll never know. Right out in the open cornfield - where all manner of farm equipment, and chemical fertilizers and weed killers have found their way over the years - there was the most beautiful bright yellow daffodil waving at me.

Three weeks ago, I cut the spuds and made ready to plant. Life interfered, so they're still in the buckets. At our low and cold temps, I'm not terribly disappointed. They'll catch up when I do eventually get them planted. One year, we found some seed potatoes back behind a bench. We planted them on the Fourth of July, and had 'new' potatoes for Thanksgiving Dinner. Taters is forgiving.

The flowering almonds are beautiful this year. I'm going to try to propagate some later on - when the wood is right. 

This year I'm using my soil block maker to make little 'soil block' starters for the indoor sweetcorn kickoff. It is like playing in the mud, but with a purpose and a special tool. A perfect thing to do for a 70 something year old guy who thinks he's still a kid.

Presto! The sweetcorn germinated really fast in the warm moist greenhouse. We'll set these out in a week or two - when the frosts are REALLY gone. Getting sweet corn to sprout in cold ground is a problem. Once it has sprouted though, it will grow on in cooler weather. So, I've learned to sprout some early corn indoors.

This is what sweetcorn looks like after it has sprouted and the mice have discovered it. Duh! Why didn't I think to put the flats up on the slick plastic buckets BEFORE the mice found it. "Too soon old, too late smart."

The ginger project took a vicious turn. Remember me showing you the spike that had started growing on my 'Grow Your Own Ginger' project? Well, here it is a few days later.

Look at those roots! Hydroponic ginger - from a Walmart ginger root/rhizome. I was thrilled beyond belief. Then I said to myself, 'Gee, that looks a lot like corn.' Then I realized it was corn. A kernel of sweetcorn had dropped into the potting soil. I never give up, so I'll get another root and try again. The old one had rotted - too cold I think.

Dutch bucket Boc Choy. Above the hole in the bucket is a false bottom and the fabric soil liner. Below the hole is just water and fertilizer solution. A wick inside feeds the solution to the plants.

Same song, different verse. For these Dutch buckets, I'm using hydroponic air pot lids. The 'soil' is only a 6-inch air pot. I put a wick in to draw water up to the soil for starters. Then, the plant's roots will grow out into the solution. These are broccoli.

The outdoor stuff is growing like fire. The cups are all tomatoes of one sort or another. Joyce always wanted me to plant 100 tomato plants. This year, I think about 2 dozen will do it for me. When she canned tomato stuff, she didn't want to fool around waiting for fruit. She wanted enough plants so she could head out to the garden with a couple of 5-gallon buckets and come back ready to go. Me too. Plus, you gotta love BLT's all summer long.

These are geraniums from seed. I've never done that before. Last night, I learned that the Japanese Beetle's most favorite of all plants to feed on is - you guessed it - geraniums! I've got ideas for 'em though. Stay tuned. And my ideas don't involve a tweezer and a bucket of soapy water either!

I've discovered self-watering wicking trays for seed starting this year. I make them from simple food storage boxes I bought at the Dollar Store. You could use anything. I cut a slot at both ends and there is a piece of fabric running  up into one slot on one end, across the bottom of the tray, then back down into the bottom through the slot on the other end. The fabric tails dangle in a pot of water under the planter tray. Works like a top. More geraniums to transplant and - AND! - my celery has begun to sprout. That's it on the left.

I biggie sized this for you, but you may want to do more so you can see 'em. Celery is slow to sprout, and when it does the little plants are not much bigger than a whisker. I love having celery in the garden just for the smell it gives the whole garden in summer. Otherwise, celery is a buck a sprig at the store. Mine is mine though!

Hydroponic strawberry patch in March

Hydroponic strawberry patch in April.

Hydroponic strawberry patch last night! This morning, some of those berries are beginning to show red. This is working!!!

In other areas of my goofy life, we spent time this past winter making copies of my electric razor strop/sharpener for my neighbor, Ron, and his grandson, Tate. My goal was to see if we could make them out of nothing and spend nothing doing it. We got pretty close. The wheels were cut from a sheet of plywood. (Before Canada got mad at us and raised the price of plywood!) The axle is a piece of electrical conduit. The bearings are pieces of plastic water pipe, and the pulley is made from wood, too. The frame is left over concrete lumber, and the motors are salvage scrap from who knows where. The wheels turn 'backwards' from ordinary grinders, and they are surfaced with leather and canvas webbing. The one on the right side is abrasive, then you work your way down towards the left with finer and finer abrasives until you come to the last one, which is loaded with red rouge. Razor sharp, no steel wasted.

And after fighting with 'Old Red' for too long, I have a new (to me) land rover for farm duty. It is a strange world we live in. This is a Toyota, but it was made in Indiana. My good old GMC van (which had almost 300,000 miles on it) was made in Canada with mostly Mexican parts. Joyce's favorite little blue Honda was made in Tennessee. We are all part of an international community now - and we're all the better for it as far as I'm concerned. No man is an island. With this new blue rig, I can go someplace, and reliably expect it to get me back home, too! On the same day, and without the use of a tow truck. This was becoming an all-too-frequent issue with Old Red. So, all is well here at Oakdale Farm. I'll put the AC unit in the house window next week - right after the fire burns out in the boiler. Cheers.


  1. So interesting to see all your green and growing experiments! I've always heard that geraniums are very difficult to start from seed. You definitely have a green thumb. And several other digits. ;o)

    1. Sometimes I think giving plants a gesture with a 'digit' helps them understand the meaning of the compost pile: "Grow or be on it!" I have fun trying new things.

  2. If you lived closer I'd sign up for a CSA. That may be the only way I can get garden-fresh veggies this year....

  3. If you were closer, I'd be happy to share. However, I don't do CSA or anything else close to business with my garden. That is one of my happy privileges now. No book keeping, no sales pitch, no guarantees. But I love to have produce to give and share.


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