Tag: Campbell, NY

Unexpected Productivity or Who Knew?

Earlier this afternoon I started to wonder what had happened around the Micro Farm this past week.  The events of the week that first came to mind were good things, and productive, just not around the Micro Farm.

Then I went out to take pictures to document the plant growth of the past week.  The pictures tell the bigger story.   After a light rain in the middle of the past week I realized I needed to re-configure the angle of the gutters.  After thunderstorms today the gutters are working better.

These are things growing well on the Micro Farm  Upper left - strawberries; Upper right - rhubarb; Lower left - blueberry;  Lower right - peas
These are things growing well on the Micro Farm
Upper left – strawberries; Upper right – rhubarb; Lower left – blueberry; Lower right – peas

The rhubarb is coming along well.  It has been a very dry spring for us, and I was concerned it would slow down the rhubarb.  I am please to see it doing well.  I have a rough history with this blueberry bush.  It has been there for about three years.  It has watch me kill its three other compatriots.  Now it is full of green growth.  I am very happy to see it doing so well.  I am looking forward to strawberries, basically for strawberry-rhubarb pie.  Hmm. Now I am hungry.  The peas are pushing their way through the pine needle mulch.  They are looking very strong.  Although, it has been unusually hot here for about a week it is expected to cool down.  This is good news because peas get tough in the heat.

Upper left - cilantro;  Bottom left - basil; Right - alyssum
Upper left – cilantro; Bottom left – basil; Right – alyssum

I have grand plans to re-located my herb bed this spring.  I have a spot that gets a little more shade that I think would be more conducive to herbs.  It would also let me get away from a wildly aggressive mint plant.  So I started a bunch of basil and cilantro.  I also use flowers to help with insect control.  I like alyssum, or carpet of snow, so I started several six packs recently.  It will not be long before they are placed in the gardens.

So while I was thinking not much happened, I am thrilled to be wrong.  There is much more to do this week.  It would be nice to get more done than I think for two weeks in a row, but that might be expecting too much.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Wood Chip Madness

Lots of manual labor around the Micro Farm this weekend.  It all started with a truck load of wood chips.  Several municipalities in our area offer free wood chips, you just have to load them.  I filled the bed of my Ford Ranger and drove them home to unload.

I have been reading and learning about “permaculture” this past winter.  One permaculture technique is “sheet-mulching”.  You put a layer of cardboard, or something similar, and then put mulch on top.  Wood chips are free so I used wood chips.  When everything breaks down, I will just put down another layer of cardboard and wood chips.  Hopefully, building my soil upwards.

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New growing bed. The cardboard watered. The next step mulch.

Several beds were mulched with wood chips others will be mulched with pine needles.

The "circle" garden and the primary wood chip bed.
The “circle” garden and the primary wood chip bed.
The cucumber bed, mulched with pine needles.
The cucumber bed, mulched with pine needles.

I was also able to fully connect the second rain barrel.  The gutter is about 18 feet long and catches water from three roofs.  This winter ice accumulated between the buildings make it difficult to navigate.  The gutters and rain barrel will help reduce that problem.  I like solving two problems with one solution.

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Rain barrel connected and looking better than last week.

Spring is springing in big ways around the Micro Farm.  The raspberries are starting to leaf.

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New growth from the yellow raspberries.
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Young leaves on the black raspberries.
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Red raspberries are putting up new canes.

I planted over 200 peas this spring.  They were from seeds I saved last fall.  As a new seed saver I am very nervous about not doing it correctly.  I was starting to get nervous that my peas would not come up.  I figured I could not have screwed up 200 seeds. Right?  Well, in the past coupe of days I have seen many pea shoots coming up.  I am very excited.  I really enjoy fresh peas.

 

 

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Yeah. The peas are sprouting.

After a few more things are cleaned up we should have the Micro Farm presentable.  The past two weeks have been busy, but productive.  We will see what the fruits of this labor will be.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

One project, two project, yeah!

The past two weeks have been a busy around the Micro Farm.  The first project was a new compost bin.  We have become the compost center for several households in our neighborhood.  The two bins we had did not give us enough space.  I also had several pieces of material that needed to be used.

The new compost bins.
The new compost bins.

There are now three bins instead of two, and all three bins are larger in size.  I also was able to sifted a load of compost in my lawn tractor trailer.  I am hopeful these new bins will help us make more compost.

The second project has been connecting our rain-barrels.  I was able to connect the first barrel using parts that I had on hand.

The first barrel connected to our garage
The first barrel connected to our garage

This barrel is completely full after about two storms.  It collects from about 18 feet of gutter and fills with a small rain shower.

Connecting the second barrel required new equipment.  I am still waiting on a few parts from the store to complete the full set up.

However, with a few pieces installed and a little rain fall I have been able to collect about ten gallons of water.  Only 10 feet of gutter is connected, and the rain fall since it was connected has been small.

The second barrel connected.
The second barrel connected.

I am not happy with how the downspout looks.  After the rest of the parts arrive I will make that change and a few other small changes.

I have also planted several cool weather crops.  The peas were planted but have not come up yet.  The radishes have come up though.  There are two varieties this year, an heirloom black radish and an heirloom red radish.

Small radish plants.  You might have to look close.
Small radish plants. You might have to look close.

I walk in the garden everyday and I am still amazed to see the garlic as tall as it is.

Two varieties of garlic.  Foreground is one variety; background another
Two varieties of garlic. Foreground is one variety; background another

I have a good crop of plants.  I planted four varieties of garlic in the fall.  Two of the four did not come up.  They did not look good when I planted them and was not surprised when they did not come up.

The other two are very strong.  It is difficult to see in the picture but each varieties’ greens have a different color and shape.  I am excited to taste each variety.

More projects are on the way.  The seedlings are growing in the basement.  It looks to be shaping up to be a nice spring.  Hopefully, it warms up a little.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Spencer: Crime Scene Photographer

Two weeks later I got outside and finished trellising the red raspberries.  Everyone looks good for spring.

Red raspberries trellised and trimmed.
Red raspberries trellised and trimmed.
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A fairly good “V” shape

After I finished working the red raspberries I checked on the black raspberries to see if they remained attached to the wire.  Again this year I found rabbit pellets and even a urine mark.  But what I found next put me in an Elmer Fudd kind of mood.  Beware the picture below is graphic, well not really, but I was not happy.

The scene of the crime.  If you look in the lower part of the picture you can see the black raspberry victims
The scene of the crime. If you look in the lower part of the picture you can see the black raspberry victims

The rabbit(s?) have chewed off several of the small black raspberry canes.  You can see why I almost went for my big, floppy hat and gun.  I will continue to observe and protect.  More action may be needed.  Fortunately, my neighbors recently brought home a kitten.  Over the past couple of months he has grown considerably, and really enjoys attacking my leg from behind.  He is very aware of the rabbits hiding places and works hard to find them.  So I now have a partner in my mission.

My neighbor's cat ready to pounce...on me.
My neighbor’s cat ready to pounce…on me.

I took some winter pictures around the micro farm, because the snow will all be gone in the next day or so.  Several days of above freezing temperatures will melt the little snow we had away.

The rocks are already showing through the snow.
The rocks are already showing through the snow.

The compost bin that was a month ago above my head has settled down significantly.

A much more reasonable height for a compost bin
A much more reasonable height for a compost bin

The seed catalogs have begun to come in.  It is difficult not to get in over my head in mid-December.  There will be lots of thought, dreaming, and careful planning in the next month.  Then we begin again.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Raspberry Pruning

I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving and took a few moments to reflect on the most important elements of life and said a prayer of thanksgiving for them.

Warmer temperatures early in the week allowed me to pick up three more garbage cans of free wood chips.  My mulched pathways were getting thin and needed to be replenished.  Our local electric company has a site where they offer free wood chips, if you load them yourself.

Two more areas mulched.  1) In the top of the picture 2) In the middle of picture - almost done
Two more areas mulched. 1) In the top of the picture 2) In the middle of picture – almost done

My raspberries suffered this summer from not being tied up and pruned.   It was difficult to harvest or walk around.

Black raspberries
Black raspberries
Red raspberries
Red raspberries

When working with raspberries I recommend thick leather gloves, long pants, and long shirt.  Their rasps grab and pull.  Grabbing a can is difficult if you do not have gloves on.  For pruning tools I use a hand shear and a large two handle shear that really works well on the thicker canes.

I start by cutting canes that look dead or wooden.  The wooden canes are not pliable or may even have a hollow wooden sound to them.

You can see a difference in canes.  The closer canes look more like a tree stem
You can see a difference in canes. The closer canes look more like a tree branch

Often the dead canes will come off when I tug on them.  However, I like to cut them with my shears so the cut is clean.  Jagged cuts leave more surface area for disease and insects.

Then I selectively cut to allow for the best sunlight access, air flow, and space on the trellis wires.

The black raspberries, long view.
The black raspberries, long view.
Black raspberries, side view
Black raspberries, side view

I was aggressive with the black raspberries.  They are fast growers and I have difficulty controlling them.  The “V” shape helps to get air flow in.  Inside the “V” is were new canes can grow and get plenty of light.

I tied each cane to the trellis wire with twist ties.  I get a roll of twist tie, that is about 25 feet long, from my local nursery.  I wrap each cane so it has enough room to grow thicker but does not get away from the wire.

The sun set before I was able to finish tying the red raspberries.  I hope to get out on a sunny day this week and finish.  I think both berries look better than they did when I started.  I hope they now have enough space to grow.

I have already begun dreaming about next spring.  Seed catalogs are starting to come in the mail.  It is good to get outside and do some work.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Springing Forward

The Micro-Farm is really starting to take shape after winter.  I have removed 90 per cent of the old plants.  I have enjoyed taking a few minutes to enjoy the hard work that has gone into the micro-farm over the past four years.  While ever farm is a place of constant change there are goals I have hoped to achieve.  This spring I feel good about where the micro-farm is and where the next steps will take it.

I attempted to sift the compost piles a month ago.  After removing the first layers on both piles I ran into two compost ice cubes.  After stabbing both piles with a shovel I quickly realized I needed a few warm days before any sifting was going to take place.  Two weeks later I took the weekend and dedicated it to compost sifting.  I do not enjoy the sifting very much but the end product is great.  I filled almost two lawn tractor trailers.

I have also been doing some planting.  It may seem crazy, but there are some really crazy plants that do not mind the cold.  I planted over twenty-five pea plants, beets, a few leafy greens, onion seedlings, and turnips.   Many have sprouted and are, slowly, growing.  The garlic planted last fall has come up and is about six inches tall.  A couple of frosts have slowed the garlic down but it is still going strong.

The garlic a couple of weeks ago.
The garlic (37 plants)  a couple of    weeks ago.

We have a very tall pine tree near the garden beds.  In the fall it sheds a lot of needles.  Without a better plan last fall, I mounded the pine needles around a planter box.  I have been spreading the needles around and using them for mulch in my garden walkways and paths.

The other side of the growing beds
The growing beds when I was beginning to put down needles and before compost
Beds with new compost and needles in paths
Beds with new compost and needles in paths

I like the way they look, feel, and smell.  They also do a good job with keeping the weeds down.  Possibly most important the price: free, all around pretty good.

Last growing season the grass and weeds took over my pea bed.  I fought them for a while, but eventually they won.  I worked hard on last year’s pea bed, this year’s cucumber bed, to clean out the weeds and grass.

Now it is cleaned out and ready for cucumbers
Now it is cleaned out and ready for cucumbers

When I was in middle school NASA gave students tomato seeds that had spent time either on the Space Shuttle or on the space station.  I totally loved it. Seeds from space!  They even came in a Mylar seed packet.  I asked to keep information on how they progressed.  I have no idea what happened to those plants.  Most likely, they dried up or were choked out by weeds.  I have felt a little guilty for those plants.

Now I have a sense of redemption.  I am growing turnip seeds for Seed Savers Exchange’s M-Gen program.  I am asked to keep details and records on how they are doing.  So far I have been keeping everything up-to-date.  I planted twenty seeds a week ago.

The bed on the left has been planted.
The bed on the left has been planted.

This weekend I have seen a few seedling popping up.  Next Saturday I hope to plant another twenty seeds in the bed on the right.  I am really looking forward to this project.  You will see further reports as the season goes along.

You can see a lot has been happening.  I also should report that I lost my second thyme seedlings.  For the third try I moved them to the kitchen where they get southern sun and have a higher, and more consistent, temperature.  I have about five times more seedlings and they are growing well.  The third time is the charm.

I hope you are enjoying your spring clean up and planting.  Please share what you are doing it motivates me.

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.

Not This Thyme

Waking up to snow covering your lawn this time of year is a bummer.  It will melt quickly, but it is tough for those of us who want to be playing in the soil.

The weather this week looks promising.  So I will get outside and do more clean up from last year.  If I am really lucky the ground will thaw enough for me to pull some of last year’s plants from the ground.

Many of the seedlings are doing well.  True leaves are starting to appear on everyone. Even my tiny strawberry plants have started to develop true leaves.

The second crop of peppers
The second crop of peppers
My first rosemary seedling
My first rosemary seedling

It was exciting to see the rosemary seedling this morning.  Rosemary takes a long time to germinate.  So after almost a month one plant is up.  Maybe there will be more, but I am pleased to at least see one.

Last week I show how well my thyme was doing.  You can see and read about it here. Somewhere in the middle of the week the thyme dried up and almost all died.  I was really surprised because the soil looked damp, but I did not look close enough.  A few are still surviving so that will be ok.

The surviving thyme.
The surviving thyme.

I also planted a few Pruden’s Purple tomatoes.  Pruden’s Purple is an heirloom tomato.  It is similar to a beef-steak style tomato but bigger and meatier.  It has become one of my favorite varieties.

The Pruden's Purple seed trays.  They should be up this weekend.
The Pruden’s Purple seed trays. They should be up next weekend.

Until everything thaws most of my work is watering seedling and making sure they are doing well.  Quickly re-planting if I make a mistake.

What are you doing?  How are your seedlings?

Enjoy this season, learn from last season, and look forward to next season.