Friday, November 12, 2021

In With The NEW! The Farm Report 11-12-2021

 In With The NEW!
The Farm Report

'Out with the old,' is usually how the expression starts. I'm sick and tired of the 'old' so I'm starting with the NEW! Here is part of my new potato crop for 2021. All washed and ready to store away for winter. That handle Annie is wanting you to see is my new potato rake. It has tines about 2-inches apart, and it's bent so I can pick up spuds without ever having to bend down. Everybody should have one. I learned about them from Ruth Stout's 'No Work' gardening books.

In some circles, they recommend against washing potatoes before storing away. I'm not in that circle. I like clean when I store stuff. It seems to keep better for me, and I don't have to fight grime when I want a spud.

I'd pay actual cash money for more of these storage bins. We've used 'em for years. They are on wheels so they're easy to move, and they stack. I love them. I have a cold room in the shop where I store spuds. I put an old sleeping bag over them to keep out the light and keep in the cold. They will store until I plant the remains next March or April.

The bird house gourds are all picked up and curing. We got about 75 if you're counting.

Remember last summer when I just plopped down some throw-away lily roots? Well, they grew in spite of the terrible summer. Now, I'm going to clean up the roots and store them inside until spring.

Ever protective, Annie wants to be sure nobody gets to her big bucket of new day lily roots. After I get them washed up and trimmed, I'll set them in flats of moist peat and put them away where it is cool and dark.

I'm all chuffed! I got the whole tarp garden cleaned off! Here is the sage hanging outside to begin it's preliminary drying. Thanksgiving turkey dressing, here we come!

Sage is more-or-less a perennial for me. This ratty looking mess is the roots of the sage. This patch is now 3 years old, so we'll see if it makes it through the winter for a 2022 crop.

More good news! I made these strawberry markers about 4 years ago. They are nothing but lathe boards with a glued-on label name. I print out the names in 'reverse' mirror image on my toner printer, then stick the paper, print side down, into yellow glue on the lathe. After complete drying, you just wash off the paper, and the toner remains behind stuck in the glue. Four years and still going is fine with me!

Cheap thrills - or winter therapy? We have been bulb forcers for decades. There's nothing like a big pot of happy daffodils to warm your heart in the middle of winter. Ya gotta start 'em now, though. There's still time if you want to do some for yourself. It isn't hard.

Step A - go buy some bulbs. Cheap is fine because they won't make it past the forced pot stage. One bloom and they're out. All you do is put some potting soil in a pot. Crowd in the bulbs shoulder to shoulder and cover them - just. I put the whole shebang into a black garbage bag to keep the moisture in and the light out. Set it in a cool/cold corner somewhere like the garage floor (but where it doesn't quite freeze). I put some of mine in my shop fridge. There's not much else in there this time of year anyway.

Along in late January or early February when you've got cabin fever, take out a pot and watch it bloom for you. You'll be glad you did.

As advertised, here is part of my 'how to make plastic pots look like old bronze pots' tutorial.

First, give 'em a good screwing! (OK, I'm still a 7th grader, and proud of it...Sorry.) I put these four screws into the  base to anchor the concrete we're about to pour into the bottoms. They will keep it from falling out later.

I want to screw the top on too. Those screws will have to go down through the inside of the top into the base. I don't want to have to try driving these screws into concrete, so I just stuffed some paper toweling into the base to make a cavity for the screws.

Like so. It don't have to be pretty to work.

Next, buy a bag of ready to go concrete mix. Juice it up and pour it into the pot bottom. Level it off as best you can, and go away for a few days. It will set up and be hard as a rock when you come back.

Presto! Now we have bottoms that weigh about 25 pounds and only the screw heads remain as evidence. A little paint, and you'll never notice them. These pots will NOT blow away in the wind.

"Tim! There's something down in there!" Annie is always on the lookout for something that needs her herding management skills.

I'm always tickled to have her on the job. In this case, who needs a compost turner when you've got a Texas Heeler on the job.

Under the classification that says it is always better to be lucky than smart.... This is the potato row I dug to get my Ranger load of spuds. I was disappointed in the yield. However, see where Annie is standing? Well, I forgot I had planted TWO rows of spuds. Annie is standing on the mother lode! When I plowed the rest of the garden, luckily!, I hit the row perfectly and popped out another fifty or seventy-five pounds of taters.

One wonderful thing about gardens: Next year is always going to be better.

All is forgiven by the edict of the plow! Weeds are gone, grass is gone, messiness is gone. Promises of next year firmly installed. 

I have a little 'landscape rake' that fits on the back end of Henry Ford. It is just the ticket for cleaning up the garden and making it ready for next spring's joy.

We planted a couple bags of oats and some buckwheat seeds on the newly prepped ground, then 'scratched' them in with the landscape rake. Goodnight sweet garden, goodnight.

And then I planted my garlic to start the 2022 garden season. It is a never ending circle of fun!

"Is this where you want the Ranger, Tim, or should I pull it up a little?" Annie would be driving the Ranger if she had thumbs and a driver's license. She never NEVER misses a Ranger ride. This time, we're out in the orchard setting in 4 new super-duper apple trees.

Not being a stranger to these parts, I'm no optimist either. I put the little trees into the ground, then put cages around them. Then I put cover cloth around that to keep out the deer, mice and rabbits. And wind. The tires help keep out the deer; they smell of sulfer, and that reminds deer of their dead friends' decaying bodies. The grass and stubble helps keep out the rabbits. The posts keep off those little year old bucks with pongee antlers who want to rub out my trees! Venison sausage anybody!?

This year's apple plantings include 4 trees that are a cross between some University of Minnesota winners and some old standby heirlooms. The catalog said they were spectacular - so I had to buy 'em, of course. Time will tell.

What I see every morning. That's Annie's ears, and O.J.'s backside.

Annie is 2.5 now. She's beginning to enjoy a mid-morning nap while I read. She likes her favorite pillow, too. We're both happy about that.

And, I'm learning how to make my own hot dog an hamburger buns. Why not? What else is an old guy to do? (HINT: I'm also learning how to make my own cheese and sausage, too.) Keep following along and I'll share the good parts with you. Annie gets the losers....

Cheers from Oakdale Farm. All is well.

Monday, November 1, 2021

"Seems Like...." The Farm Report 11-01-2021

 "Seems Like...."
The Farm Report 

It 'seems like' fall these days. I thought this pic just about summed up my world for you right now. Some firewood to bring in, the Hopi Grey winter squash have been harvested and saved from the soybean combiner going through the fields where they had trespassed, and some nice big roasting potatoes. Perfect!

But it also 'seems like' summer just wouldn't give up and go away! I have my handy globe set up so the pointy corner of the base is pointed right at me sitting in my 'Papasan' chair. I am the sun! I have the base marked off by the months. I move the axis one month at a time so I can see how the earth - how Oakdale Farm - is facing the sun's angle. South America is getting all the rays now. We're out of the heat.

I have decided to invent a new weather tool though. It 'seemed like' summer just dragged on and on. Then I said to myself one night, Aha! The weather gal was giving 'heat index' numbers. She said the 'feel like' temp was about 110F, even though it was only 88 - and buckets of humidity. She said that made it 'seem like' it was way hotter. In the winter, they say we have wind chill indexes that make the cold 'seem like' it is much worse. 'Seems like' is their standby tool for escaping reality. Well why not! said I.

So I have invented the 'seems like' day length tool. Winston Churchill said that if you avoided all the fun but sinful pass times common to lower man, you could extend your time on our rotating celestial mudball, and live to be 100. He then quickly added, 'It will seem like 200."

October 'seemed like' it just evaporated. August 'seemed like' it took forever and 3 more days to move by. So...using my new system, on very nice wonderful days, I might assign a 'one quarter day Seems Like' day length. On those terrible awful August days, I might assign a '10 day Seems Like' day length. Each day seems like 10 days.  That will help me understand why August takes so long, but October just zips by. If the heat index 'seems like' is high, then the 'seems like' day length is longer - lots longer! I could make millions on this idea. Or not....

We planted cover crops on 100% of my fields this year. This field was soybeans. We planted oats (with a sky tractor). The oats fell on the not-quite-ripe soybeans and sprouted down under the bean growth. When the soybeans came out, Bingo! the oats were green and ready spring up. Oats will winter kill, so next spring when it is time to plant corn, Farmer Sterling will not have to do battle with them - but they will have soaked up the fertilizer and held it for us, and they will have added their organic matter to the soil. It really helps. I'm sold on cover cropping!

Hard freezes are predicted for tonight. The gardens are mostly cleaned off now. I've been holding out on digging the dahlia roots. They're pretty sad now, but I still get a blossom or two to enjoy. Annie O. is standing on the new strawberry plants that have traveled out away from the greenhouse. These are the ones I'll dig up and put in the Greenhouse Hydroponic Strawberry tubes next Feb or March.

Bloom girls! for tonight you will die.

My birdhouse gourds produced a huge crop for me. Remember back when? I planted the seeds in the hot dry part of late summer with a 'grow or die' attitude. Well, they grew! Now I'll leave 'em out in the field in the sun and air to cure before I bring them indoors. They make wonderful birdhouses for the wrens and bluebirds. They go to the gourd houses first every time.

Annie found voles in the greenery. She wants to herd anything that moves. She isn't a killer - she's a HERDER! It is so funny to watch her herd mice and voles. Genetics makes for an amazing animal.

Maybe this little guy will be a hummingbird house?

A grin and a last bouquet.

The tarp garden has been stripped! That greenery down there is my sage crop. I'll get that cut and indoors to cure pretty soon. I love sage in my dressing, on my roast chicken and in my sausage!

Better lucky than smart! The pretty marigolds are volunteers from last year's hybrid flowers.They grew up from seeds in the sidewalk cracks. No care, no effort, just success. The red salvia behind them is the very expensive seed starts from the greenhouse last spring. Well, yes I did over fertilize them. That's beside the point. They didn't do well at all. Next year, it will be fancy marigolds again - and the seeds from these volunteers will be in rows in my garden.

Did I mention Annie O. will herd anything? If you look closely, she's herding a praying mantis this time. It didn't happen, but I was just waiting for the mantis to jump up and lock onto Annie's nose. That would have been a rodeo!

What do you think of the big planter urns I found for the front porch? I'll glaze them and do some fun patination work this winter so they will look more like really old bronze urns. I will also make them wicking pots so the plants can survive on the long 'seems like 10' days. 

OK, so I'm a little odd. I get it. But here is one of my next fun projects I'm working on. This is the inside view of the root cellar on my Grandfather's farm. It hasn't been used for a root cellar for decades and decades. It is a really neat one though. Built like a bomb shelter probably just before or just after WW I, it is still perfect inside! Perfect, except for the wood and the mess that is. I plan to restore it to full use. If things go really nuts, I might live down there.

See that chair? Well, the story is that my Grandpa had an old house and an old tenant living in it. He paid almost no rent, and Grandpa's 'deal' with him was that he could do anything he wanted to do with the house, but Grandpa was not going to contribute even one penny toward the cost of doing it. They were a matched pair. Mel, the tenant, was very afraid of storms. Solution? He put a lawn chair and a cushion down there so he could sit out tornado warnings in safety. Then he left. Then the racoons moved in. Then every body left. Now I'm moving in....

Everything here has a story. See those quart jars on the shelves? I remember distinctly that my Dad and his brother made some home brew beer one time. They stored it 'down in the cave' to let it age and cool. I also remember they had a hard time climbing up the steps to get out of the cave after having sampled the works of their art down there one time. I'm not going to taste it, but I'm thinking that might be a jar of the elixir they brewed up. Who knows?

These stairs. As far as Annie Oakley is concerned, there are evil spirits (no pun intended, I think) down there and she wanted out! It didn't take long to satisfy her curiosity about 'down in the cave,' and she didn't have any other questions about it, either.

Here is a project from my 'other life' as a furniture restorer I thought might interest some of you. My assignment was to duplicate one of the missing drawer pulls. It came out pretty good, so that is why I'm showing it. No, these are not made from deer antler - although I do use antler for some things.

This project is made from plain old ordinary Sunday Roast Beef Cow bone- as in femur.

Many items on antique furniture which appear to be ivory are in fact bone. I think it is important to know this because people get turned off on the idea of ivory nowadays. Ivory was always a very expensive material. It was seldom used on furniture - except the very elite furniture. Bone looks very much the same - and is free with each roast. I'm showing you how I chuck up and hold the blank on a throw away hardwood mandrel to begin the turning.

Bone doesn't come in great big chunks, so you have to make little parts and put them together. Done properly, they are hand threaded and screwed together. Through luck, some study and a lot of practice - and meeting a mentor named Bill Jones ( a 5th generation Victorian Bone/Ivory/Hardwood turner from England) I learned how to hand cut threads in things.

Here we are in the rough. All turned round, but not colored correctly. 

A little art magic, and the colors came true. One is the original, one is mine.

Topside, bottom side all around all around. When I've done my very best work, you can't tell I've done anything! I live a strange life. Here is a link to more pictures of this project if you're interested: Click Here.

Indoors, the fun never ends. For O.J., it never starts. It's like Annie is saying, "Tim, do you think he would play with me this morning?"

"Maybe if I'm really nice to him, would he play with me?"

"He won't play with me, will he?" No Annie, he won't and you know what he will do if you keep bugging him. Has this ever happened before - like yesterday morning?! O.J. don't play.

But Ziva will! My nephew brought his red heeler, Ziva, out to play with Annie. You can tell by Annie's ears that she is a little cautious about this whole circus. After a 'Hi How Are You' butt sniff or two, they became two sisters of the cloth and had a wonderful time together.  

And finally!.... I have been stacking shop firewood pretty religiously the last month or so. I bring it inside the shop a load at a time and put it up in nice neat stacks as high as I can reach. One morning after stacking, I heard a big noise and a crash. This is what I saw when I went investigating.

I was getting ready to blame myself for poor stacking technique when I spotted the 2X4 laying across the doorway back there. "I smells a rat," said I. I looked for Annie and her ears were about 3-ft long pointing straight up! She denied any knowledge whatsoever of having anything to do with this. Except for that 2X4. It WAS standing straight up leaning on the wall BEHIND the wood pile.

"Somebody," I said, "has been up on the wood pile looking for mice - or for Miss Kitty. Was that you, Annie?" Annie said no, and left the building and stayed outside for the rest of the morning. Busted!

So that's how it has been out here on Oakdale Farm. I hope all is well with you, too. Never pass a chance to have an adventure!