Friday, March 30, 2012

We have soil!....

Some storms came and went, but my topsoil arrived on time, and Leah ended up being able to come down for the weekend from Kent.  I bought an extra shovel, and I hope she's ready to get dirt-y, cause we've got a lot of beds to fill.  Hmm, that whole sentence sounds a bit off.

Experimented with HD video on my new phone for the first time tonight.  Inspired by Paul Wheaton's videos over at, I might try doing some short narrated clips to offer more detailed insight on the goings on around here at the farm.  I did a really short one about the burdock mini-plantation that seems to be in effect along the soggy south side of my woodshed barn.  If I can get it uploaded to YouTube, I'll post it up.

The best laid plans...

Earlier in the week it seemed we were destined for nice weather this weekend, and we might get another strong work week in on the greenhouse/outdoors.

Now the weather is hinting at thunderstorms and my normally iron-clad father is nursing a busted shoulder that will likely keep him home in Cincinnati this weekend.

But the twenty cubic yards of dirt that are likely being delivered as I type this wait for no man, and neither do the bare root trees that showed up in the mail from Stark Bros. yesterday.  The garden beds need filling if I'm going to be putting plants in them this year, and those trees need planted, pronto.

So, help or no help, I've got work to do.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Link: Biodiversity Heritage Library

In searching for the full text of an old reference from vegetable varieties from the 1920's, I stumbled across an amazing project over on the Internet Archive called the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

At first glance, it appears to be a huge collection of old (but still very useful) texts on a great variety of topics.

Some random titles from the top of the stack include:
Insects, their ways and means of living
On growth and form
Fish hatchery management (sound familiar, oh beautiful rescuer of library cards?)
Ants and some other insects; an inquiry into the psychic powers of these animals (!!!!)
Birds in legend, fable and folklore

And oh so many, many more.

In a separate post soon I will post links to a variety of more practically useful texts I have found on Internet Archive, some of which are not part of the BHL... so stay tuned for that.

This almost (almost) makes me want an eBook reader, so I can peruse this awesomeness in bed at my leisure.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring blooms

Pulled in the driveway tonight with enough light left in the day to take a quick tour of the property and see who amongst my fruit trees and bushes is budding and blooming this (sudden) spring.

The peaches are blooming hard, even the ones I planted just last summer (pictured above) .  The apricots are already falling out of bloom, and might just be big enough to take a shot at making some fruit this year without stunting their own growth.  The pears and plums are swelling into bud, and a few more plants I had written off as potential casualties appear to have pulled through another winter (I will have some replacing to do in the vineyard, however... I don't think many of the grapes I planted last year survived).

Checking my dear Leah's blog Foxglove and Folksongs, I see she too is thinking of spring tonight and posting pictures of it's resulting blooms, and has posted some seasonal prose and verse.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This place is crawling with amphibians...


Taking the dog out for the last time last night, I paused just before opening the storm door, noticing that a frog had attached itself to the glass.  I guess the porch light was delivering a bug buffet.

Pretty little guy!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Link: "An Eerie Winter"

Kurt Cobb over at Resource Insights has many of the same misgivings I do about this winter/spring's odd weather patterns.

His piece just happens to be a lot better researched and written than mine.

Definitely worth a read.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Springtime is proceeding at full throttle!  There were garter snakes everywhere underfoot all weekend, including lots of cute little guys like this.  We had to be constantly careful when walking.

Some of the asparagus I tried to salvage from a super-late planting last year seems to have survived, and has put up one very stout looking spear.

Besides a few bouts of light rain and one severe but short-lived thunderstorm on Sunday, the weekend weather held out for us, and we got a lot accomplished on the greenhouse.  

We finished some supplemental framing work, and plywood walls are up on all four sides of the greenhouse.  I caulked all the seams through which air/heat might escape.  Trying to keep this thing as airtight as possible!

We opted to wrap the entire structure with Tyvek to serve as a moisture barrier behind the vinyl siding.

All the materials requied to finish the job are on-site.  Vinyl siding is waiting to be installed, as well as roofing sheets, felt, and shingles.

A few more weekends with decent weather, and we might just be able to finish off what has become a very long term (but very rewarding) project.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Big Greenhouse Weekend

Hoping like hell the weather holds out this weekend, as we're doing a huge push for progress on the greenhouse.

A wallet-draining materials shopping trip tonight means we'll have almost everything we need to complete the thing... after that it's just time and sweat.

Good friend Scott will be visiting the farm on Sunday as well!  We'll put him to work.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It's not May in March

The news and weather media are abuzz with the undeniable joy of a Spring season come early, even as last week's headlines of devastating weather across the country still sit in the recycling bin waiting to go out to the curb.  Unseasonably warm temperatures are sweeping across the country (20-35 degrees above Mid-March averages in much of the U.S.) this week, "vaulting us into record territory."

Setting records is something to aspire to when you're running a race, or even (god help us) competing to see how many grilled cheese sandwiches you can eat in a minute, but in this case I think it's cause for concern as opposed to celebration.

Displaying the standard myopic approach to the news, media outlets are taking the opportunity to herald the wearing of shorts and the early arrival of golf-and-barbecue season without devoting any space whatsoever to why the weather is so pleasantly odd.  The closest thing to critical analysis I've seen is a few articles on whether or not the unseasonably warm weather is goosing the national economic figures.

In all fairness, I must admit that I too am susceptible to the wiles of springtime.  It's positively lovely out there.  Trees are swelling into bud, the frogs are proudly croaking away in the woods, and it's almost too easy to forget that this time last year, I was slogging around the snow-covered back roads of Geauga county during the apex of a frosty maple sugaring season.

Trying to hold memories of that same time last year whilst walking around today produces a bout of cognitive dissonance that far exceeds my recent ill adjustment to Daylight Savings Time.  And so I'm left wondering... what's going on here?

You would think that Americans would join me in scratching their heads, especially as we collectively waltz out the other side of one of the mildest winters in recent memory (those of us whose towns weren't wiped off the map by severe tornadoes, that is).  But most people seem content to simply shrug and go on about the business of enjoying the comfort they happen to be enjoying at that particular moment, without concern for what comes next.

In a country where the subject of climate change serves as a litmus test of of ideology more often than a topic of serious debate and discussion, the most pressing issues of our time can be easily identified as the ones being most pointedly ignored by the population-at-large.  Most Americans remain hopelessly adrift on a shaky raft of misinformation, politically expedient pipe dreams and industry-funded propaganda that have little support from actual science, but whose soothing tone has reverberated deep enough to muddy the waters of any informed debate on the topic.

Put simply, people hear what they want to hear.

News comes out today that 4 million Americans will (proverbially) be underwater by the end of the century.  I have little doubt these and other numbers will be revised continually upwards, as similar such numbers have been in the past.  Not only do we have a history of underestimating such environmental impacts, but we as a species don't seem to be in any great hurry to stop or even slow the acceleration of the very behaviors that are driving such results.

I continue to hope that at some point, modern society will look up from it's own navel and finally catch the scent of something big happening all around it.  It might be too much to hope that our major news media (whose job it would seemingly be to inform the public) would aid us in that goal, as opposed to just handing us a bottle of sunscreen and commenting in a neighborly way "how nice it is outside."

I wonder if the headlines will retain their chipper tone this summer if we find ourselves in the midst of similarly record-breaking temperature trends... when the results might make us all far less comfortable than an early spring day.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

First seeds started indoors, and the Plant Hospital...

With clear skies yesterday and temps in the 70's today, it was a prime opportunity to get out and do some early spring garden prep, cleanup, and tie up some nagging loose ends from last year's gardening season.

What you see above is the area I lovingly refer to as my "plant hospital."  It's the place where the plants that I had written off as dead go when they suddenly show show signs of life come springtime.  It's also where I pot out tree seeds and volunteers from my rambling bramble collection.  So far I've "rescued" a blueberry, two elderberries, two afghani figs, and a small cadre of Cascade hops that I was pretty sure were all toast.

I had to dig up and re-pot some bramble suckers that had escaped their original pots and plantings in various places.  I've long lost the tags (some of these plants were from little root bits that remained in the soil after a flat of 4" pots had been moved), but they're all various cultivated strains of Raspberry, blackberry, and Tayberry.  They'll be fine in the pots, but I need to find a place where I can get some of them properly established without worrying about their wandering and spreading habits.

I also potted up a fair number of the paw-paw seeds that have been chilling in the fridge since last year's Ohio Paw Paw festival in the hopes to get some of them growing.  Paw paw seeds are supposed to be notoriously tricky, so this may be a long-shot... we'll see what happens.

Leah and I also got our first batches of indoor-started seeds going.  We seeded some cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and leeks.

I actually got a little sunburn on my translucent white arms today!  After thinking about being outside so much these past few dreary months, it feels amazing to actually be out there.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Learning about ollas...

Photo via threeForks

Just found this post on threeForks from a few years back about a concept I've never seen before called ollas.  Basically it's using buried unglazed terra cotta vessels as a slow-release watering device in your garden.  Seems quite simple and efficient.

I've got a ton of terra-cotta pots out in the white barn, so it'd likely be a zero-cost experiment.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Keyhole Gardening bed mimics Hugelculture...

Someone over on posted a link to this interesting article about using (what amount to) hugelculture principles to make a drought-resistant keyhole planting bed.

Good read!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

First day in the garden!

My dad and I were talking over dinner Friday night about projects, and how many I tend to take on, and how many is too many.  My mom perhaps gives me too much credit (as moms so often do) by using the analogy of Michaelangelo (the painter, not the ninja turtle) whom apparently had a tendency to take on too many projects and had to be prodded to finish older ones he had already begun.  This is me to a "T", but I think that's probably where the similarities end.

However, this weekend proved itself to be an excellent example of why it can be beneficial to have multiple irons in the fire.  Timing, weather, temperature, and circumstances often keep you from being able to work on one project or another, and having multiple projects going on at once means you'll always have something to do.

The basement is coming along nicely.  We spent the first half of the weekend chipping, scrubbing, and mopping the layers of sediment off the concrete.  It looks like they had a small flood at some point when their sump pump failed.  The previous owners (a very nice elderly couple) never used the basement for much, and so they never bothered cleaning up afterwards.  But we wanted to paint the floor, and so we needed it squeaky clean.

We rented a floor buffer/polisher and some scouring pads.  It took the better part of an entire day to get the floor clean enough to paint.

Over the course of Saturday evening and Sunday morning, we painted the floor and got a second coat of paint up on the drywall sections of the wall.  Then we headed upstairs to let things downstairs dry.

With some bonus time on our hands, amidst chilly winds and the occasional toss of snow flurries, I actually got out and about in the garden today.  I weeded the garden beds for the first time this season.  We patched some muddy ruts in the driveway with gravel left over from the greenhouse floor fill.

I prepped the "stinging nettle beds" along the sides and back of several buildings, getting them ready to harvest the nettles when they start coming up.  I also did a number with a machete on the on the wild grape plant that consistently overtakes my giant raspberry bush behind the barn in the hopes that I can actually get some fruit off it before the birds eat it this year.

Also got to digging down in a few of my raised beds, giving the ol' Hugelculture practice a try.  I dug out the garden bed about a foot below original ground level, then buried a fair bit of punky wood bits leftover from the wood shed and some charcoal from the fire pit.  Mixed in some compost and coffee grounds with the soil when I covered it back up with soil.

My understanding is that Hugelculture pits can be dicey in high-clay situations like we have here in Central Ohio, so I want to give this a try before I incorporate such practices in all the beds.

My back hurts.