Tuesday, April 30, 2024

All's Right With The World: The Farm Report 04302024

 All's Right With The World

The Farm Report 04302024

Got Roses! Yep, April in Iowa and we've got roses. The roses wintered over pretty well (not 100%) in the grow bags and they started blooming on the benches of the greenhouse. Yay!

The Asian Almonds bloomed their little branches off - for a couple of days. In my country, they always bloom just when the weather takes a foul turn. Beautiful but fleeting. Some other things in life are like that, too. Enjoy it while you can.

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) This is a sneaky weed and proof you shouldn't try to trick Mama Nature. Henbit is what they call a 'winter annual' weed. It is in the mint family. I think it is pretty. Not sure everybody else does though. Why tricky? Well, it blooms in the no-till fields really early in the late winter. It sets seeds fast. Then it drops the seeds and laughs while all the herbicide guys drive by. After harvest, and the farmers start thinking about going to Florida for the winter, the seeds sprout and the little plants get a good foot hold for - wait for it - next spring's flower crop and self-reseeding!

Short version: Henbit blooms reseeds itself and ducks before it gets shot!

Annie has been helping with the spring turkey hunters up in the timber.

It's a special sport.

Patience pays off. These are blossoms I saw in the timber floor. They are bloodwort or (Sanguinaria canadensis). I planted their roots a long time ago. It is an herbal remedy, and a traditional source of organic dye stuffs. It makes a red dye.

You've seen this before. Henry came out from his long winter's nap to plow the potato rows for me.

I had enough spuds left over to plant two long rows. I mostly plant Kennebec's. This time, I also planted a few Yukon Gold's.

Here is the bottom view of my 1922 Planet Jr. wheel hoe with hilling shovels. I use this to cover and hill up my plants in the garden. Ancient but unbeatable. Easy as pushing a grocery cart in the store.

Upright and ready to use.

You just walk down the row and the Planet Jr. knows what to do. I like to just cover my new potatoes in the beginning so they will get warm and take off. Then, I keep adding a little more to top them off. Eventually, Henry Ford will come in with the big hilling discs to finish off the season.

We had -22F temperatures this winter. That's the actual number, not some phony 'feels like' trick. It was COLD! And, my freeze-proof storage area wasn't. Cleanup on Aisle 6! Ever been around rotting potatoes? Yuck! A good hosing off and we're good as new.

You wouldn't know if I didn't tell you.  The dahlia tubers were stored in the same place as the spuds. They froze, too. Another (less stinky) mess to dump.

Walmart to the rescue. Thank goodness I wasn't saving expensive dahlias. Wally's are mostly $5 for two or three starts.

I like to pot 'em up and give them an early start in the greenhouse. I'll put them out in the garden near the end of May. Dahlias like hot weather.

I am totally hooked on growing roses in bags. They love it, I love it, and the results prove themselves. These will go outside any time now.

Tiffany. Usually one of the nicest fragrant roses. I have noticed that the cold weather roses don't have the full fragrance.

Junkyard Tomcats find a nice place in an old Cadillac to sleep. My potted roses have to fight it out in ugly surroundings, too.


I've been worried my strawberries weren't coming along fast enough. Then, this morning, when I looked in on them Presto! I've got strawberries.

A little success is dangerous. I've turned the lock on Bibb lettuce. Now, I'm branching out. This is plain old Iceberg Lettuce.

Romain in a pan.

And everything else. Our winter/spring has been such a roller coaster ride, things aren't as neat and pretty as I'd like. We're thick and growing though!

Miss Kitty made an appearance in my office a few days ago. She is friendly, but bashful.

She also has little tiny fish hooks in her feet. Annie would like to play, but Annie knows that Miss Kitty is quicker than old O.J. - and she slaps.

"Tim, why would you think I would be screwing with the dog? I'm innocent!"

Annie ain't quite so sure.

Here Annie, I'll be your friend. (Maybe) Annie's ears always tell the true story. She's wary - for good reason.

With a cat, it's always on their terms.

Annie has been hunting rabbits outside, too. It's funny and fun. The little tiny baby rabbits haven't even had time to read the book yet, but they know what to do. From my park bench, I see the bigger picture. The little rabbits Annie is looking for have already run for safety out the back side of these bushes. Annie has just as much fun hunting them though. Maybe it is the same with Turkeys? Ah well....

Cheers from the whole crew out here at Oakdale Farm

Thursday, March 28, 2024

MARCH: The Farm Report 03-28-2024

The Farm Report

Annie Oakley says, "Good Riddance! - I think...." You can tell by her ears she wasn't absolutely positively sure she wanted to see her old Ranger leave the farm - without her! But, alas, it had to go. We have a new one to toot around in, and the old one went to a good home. All is well. 

This pretty much says all you need to know about my month of March! Not only has it been a super busy month, it now takes TWO diesel heaters to keep the little greenhouse plants from freezing on some recent nights. TWO! Well, the new little orange one can't be expected to keep up with older brother. It is only about 1/4 the heating size. It is very efficient, and it is vented - which I really like. But it is small. Not a huge issue. Both are on thermostats, and I've set Mr. Big to come on only if Little Boy can't do the job. But it has been nuts here this month! I just haven't had time to take pics and write down everything. I'll do better next month - I promise.

Onions and leeks don't mind the cold. They're doing fine. I need to up-pot them getting ready to go out into the garden in a couple of weeks.

Score a WIN on the hybrid tea roses wintered over in grow bags inside a cold building. They're coming out of dormancy nicely.

This is what they looked like just a few weeks ago.

Lettuce! I did 3 presentations for the Master Gardeners group I participate with this month. One was on growing hydroponically. So...I thought it would be fun to have some hydroponic lettuce to give the participants. It was a little tricky doing this in January and February, but we did it!

Rex is the one above. It is open pollinated and bred especially for hydroponic growing.

But the old goodies do well, too.

Tennis Ball has roots that go all the way back to Thomas Jefferson's gardens. It is also open pollinated and does very well when grown hydroponically. Frankly, it is my favorite of the two. Sweeter, nicer little 'soft' heads. Fun all around. You should try it.

"And other'n that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play!?" Warm spells, cold spells, really cold spells, Nasty weather spells. I'm ready to move on. Maybe I'll put away the snow blower next week; maybe not.... My dear sweet brother and sister in law sent me this 'indoor' grill so I could at  least pretend to have a grilled burger out here in the great beyond in the winter. Something is always better than nothin'.

We make do.

All is well - but crazy busy! Hope you're well, too.

Cheers from Annie Oakley and me. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

ANNIE'S NEW RANGER: The Farm Report 02-28-2024

 The Farm Report 02-28-2024 

"Hey, Tim buddy! Whadya think of my new Ranger?!"

Yep, that's the old dead Ranger back there in the background. Annie convinced me that we really needed to move up and get her a new machine. This one is a 'Chinese' Ranger from Tractor Supply, but it will keep her happy for awhile. If she had thumbs and a driver's license, she'd be driving it, too.

Good Neighbor, Ron helped us drag it home from the store one day a few weeks ago.

Annie immediately knew it was her new fav machine.

"We're cookin' with gas now, Tim. This unit is just perfect for us out here at Oakdale Farm."

February has been one of those 'Iowa' months so far. When we brought the new Ranger home, it was wet and sloppy. Then, NOT! Major snows and major cold, oh my! It lasted for most of the month of February.

Here's the Oakdale Rose Garden, hip deep in snow.

We went into town and helped prune up a little plumcot tree that had broken itself down due to neglected pruning chores last summer when it was loaded with fruit.

My Dad was famous for saying you could prune your trees yourself, or let Mother Nature do it for you. He insisted that when he did the cutting, it was neater and cleaner than when MN did it herself. He was right for this little tree. It had so much heavy fruit last summer (which is the most delicious sweet candy you've ever picked off a tree!) it broke itself. The best, biggest and most fruit is ALWAYS way out on the end of the branches on the new wood. Physics lesson: the farther away from the trunk of the tree, the more leverage there is on the limbs and the more likely they will break. Which they eventually will do.

The remains of the day. It isn't all for naught though.

We harvested some really nice grafting scions from the prunings. Stay tuned, we'll be doing some spring bench grafting in a week or two. Hope springs eternal out here. New trees soon to come.

However.... All that deep heavy snow cover and the super cold temps set the rabbits off with a hunger passion. The only food they could find was the sweet bark off my sweetest apple trees. I think this old knobber is a gonner.

So's this one, I think. They didn't get the bark all the way around the trunk though. I might try what is called a 'bridge' graft before it breaks dormancy. Bridging is grafting new wood from the bottom over the damage and back into the good cambium at the top. Nothing to lose if I try; everything to lose if I don't. 

I have empathy for the hungry little bunnies, in a way. I really wish they hadn't eaten my trees though!

Oh well.... Life on the farm. So, instead of whining too much, I decided it was time to start some seeds.

I'm doing two sets of lectures for the Iowa State Univ. Master Gardeners' conferences this spring. One is on hydroponic growing. So, I'm trying to get a head start on some lettuces for that talk.

Once the little seedlings have sprouted and proven themselves, I transfer them into 'net pots' which will then go into the hydroponic water pans up in the greenhouse.

I like to use soil blocks for this. The seeds start in little tiny blocks about 3/4 inch square. I use a home made set of 'tweezers' instead of my big ol ham fisted fingers to do the transfer.

If there is more than one plant per block, well, it won't be that way for long. Only one plant per net pot is allowed.

Don't forget to label! When I put in the seeds, when I transferred the blocks.

Net pots transplanted and sitting on a heat mat for awhile under LED lights.

In just a few days, the little lettuces had put out roots searching for whatever it is that roots search for. Time to move on out.

It is really too early to get the greenhouse going, but hey, what the heck! So, I put out the water pans and moved the little starts into their new home.

Like me, they need an extra blanket on those cold winter nights.

New onion varieties started at the same time. Onions from seed is one of my new fun things to do.

It's amazing how fast they grow. These are also sitting on a heat mat, and behind them is a greenhouse 'cloch' that I pull down at night to keep 'em warm. The cloch is like a wire framed tent.

Speaking of warm.... I have a new little diesel heater for the greenhouse this year. These are sold as 'parking heaters' for semi trucks and boats and RV's etc. They burn diesel fuel and run on a 12v battery. Unlike my old heater, which also burns diesel, this one is vented so there are no exhaust fumes inside the greenhouse. See that little brown tube going out towards the door? Yep, that's the vent tube.

Here's a better look. These heaters use an idea that was cooked up in the 1930's. In fact they were used as heaters for air cooled VW Beetles back in the day. I know - I HAD one. Bugs were notorious for being cold. They were air cooled. The engine cooling air took a long time to warm up, and when it did it was usually pretty stinky from all the oil etc. on the outside of the motors. They sold add-on heaters like this one for the VW Beetles. Mine was a gasoline version, and it made heat instantly. The updated version I have now burns diesel fuel - AND it has a brain. A cute little microprocessor keeps track of the temperature I want and the difference between that and the air temp around it. It then adjusts the fan speed and the burn rate accordingly. It is amazingly efficient.

So why not start up a little earlier? It is burning about 1 quart of diesel per night right now. I can swing that without feeling like I'm eating gold lettuce in my salads.

Two days ago, it was 79F here. Perfect timing to get out the Oakdale Hydroponic Strawberry Patch and give it a good old fashioned washing down. Whoda thought you could play in the water in February in Iowa? Annie was so hot she was panting while she was supervising me.

Here's a part of the OHSP you usually don't get to see. This is the 'Mother' barrel that holds the water, pumps and nutrients for the system. It sits down under and behind the strawberry tubes. Usually it is hidden under layers of black plastic (to keep the light out) and hay (to keep it cool). I stripped everything off to give it a cleanup as well. I discovered that 'hard water' (ice) had done some damage, so next I'll be taking it up and doing the repairs.

Well, that's all for now. Speaking of things you don't see much - that's me! And by the way, for my far off readers, the day after the 79 degree day - the very next day! - it was 10F. I live in a very harsh climate; almost 70 degrees change in one day. Keeps the riff raff out though.

Cheers. All is well - and Spring is coming!