Friday, October 28, 2011

Catching Up On The Farm...

Boy has it been a hectic summer and fall! Between ongoing renovations here, shuffling back and forth between homes, storms, writing, new pets, and all sorts of things; I haven't had much time for the blog. I checked, and the last time I posted farm pictures was back around 4th of July, and those were from June. But I kept taking them, and now I have a bunch of that never got viewed, because I've been so doggoned busy, I haven't had time to sort them out and put some up here. But now that we're in the slow season and I am living alone on the farm, hopefully between now and the holidays, I will get most of the best ones up. 

I am going to have to do them in batches, there are so many waiting to be used. These first ones here are from back in Mid July.

My walkway pots or the beginning of them. Those marigolds were still in bloom today, even after a dusting of snow. In this pic it had just rained the night before. We had quite a bit of rain late June through mid August.

I finally found new cushions (marked down) for my glider bench. This was a nice spot to sit on a hot summer afternoon with a book and iced tea. The white lilac threw quite a bit of shade, if you sat close to it. With no AC here, I had to escape the heat and stickiness indoors now and then.

A patch of common daylilies over by the cellar door to the ell. Our propane tanks are there now, but in July these were in their glory. They are hardy, prolific and very forgiving of total neglect, so I will move some elsewhere and start again.

For wild birds who had never been fed, it didn't take these guys long to find the feeder and water over by the garden. Here a common grackle, a male house finch in his rosy red breeding plumage, and a dark capped house sparrow are sharing the bounty. This feeder was busy all summer, we even had crows come to check out spilled seed.

Over by the office trailer and garage the snaggy brush and vines are a mess! We cut some of it out but there were nests in the bigger sections so it got left for some undetermined time in fall that has not occurred yet. Likely not this year, maybe next spring before nesting season. I want it cut back before it ruins the building.

Queen Anne's Lace is the elegant star of the summer meadow.

This is an old schoolhouse bell that was a $20 thrifting find some years ago. So nice to have it back in service again. The ring is loud and can be heard for a distance. It's now mounted on the post of the porch, under the overhang.

Love those cushions! Makes the glider comfy. The dog thinks so too.

My first produce! We did really well all summer. The yellow peppers were sweet, but the green ones were moderately hot. I gave away a lot of summer squash and cucumbers.

First picking of lettuce, it came in late because I didn't get to plant until sometime in June. I ate every bit of it, and it was very sweet and tasty for marked down leftover plants. Some of it went to seed but I had salads as often as I could.

When it rains here, the water pours off that steeply sloped roof onto the walkway. We really could use gutters but I don't know if there is enough overhang for them. I was standing on the covered part of the steps for this. That's my livingroom window to the left, which can stay open during a storm unless the wind is blowing fiercely.

It was a rainy Friday afternoon right into evening. This is looking west, from the covered part of the walkway along the ell with the kitchen and dining room, and off toward the barn and the back of the property. That angle between the two roofs makes that waterfall effect, but the house is on a knoll and so the water runs off quickly.

Saturday dawned sunny, and the rain was long gone. A bunny came up by the driveway to graze and didn't mind if I stepped out in my robe and took a few pictures.

This is the resident woodchuck eyeing the all-you-can-eat buffet in my garden. We are not on speaking terms.

Because of our pond and the bigger one across the road, the place is loaded with redwing blackbirds that nest in the cattails. The lower part of our pond is shallow and infested with mats of those plants with shrubs and small trees growing amongst them. It is a wildlife haven.

The garden was thriving in July, and getting plenty of notice from neighbors. The folks at the town hall even mentioned it. In small towns, people love to see the old places like this farm being loved and cared for again. I spent many a day out there working, and got me a nice farmer tan. It really is a sunny lot! The garden got full sun from about 10:30 AM until 7:30 PM each day that it didn't cloud over or rain. And boy, did stuff  grow!

The peppers looked good at this point but later on lost a lot of lower leaves to some disease. They produced a little, but not like they should. The tomatoes did well until August when all the rain from the storms spread the diseases through them. We got plenty, and I gave a lot away, so no complaints. They were tasty!

I made a little friend. A juvenile female redwing blackbird came visiting with me every day for about 3 weeks until her family moved on. She would come within a few feet of me, and I'd talk and she'd listen and just go about her business of learning how to forage.

She was quite photogenic and seemed to pose now and then so I could get a good shot. The markings on these birds are spectacular up close and they serve to hide the females when they are on the nest, helping them blend in with the background.

It took her a while to figure out how to use the feeder. She seemed to prefer to forage on the ground. I always hang the garden feeder so that the seed falls mostly out of the garden and won't become part of the weeds. I used to come out every day with my books and my tools, and before I started, refill the feeder and water, and knock down some seed for her and the other ground feeding birds. It got so they'd watch for me and I could feel them fluttering around nearby as I worked. My experience with wildlife over the years tells me they can get a sense of your attitude by watching body posture and habits. I was the bird mama that had the open cafe. LOL

I missed her once she moved on. But that's the nature of life, nothing remains static. Hopefully she made it through the year and will be back next spring to find a mate and have a nest of her own.

That was the beginning of my winter squash and pumpkin 'glut'. I say that because we got something like 23 pumpkins, 140 butternut squash, and around 15 buttercup/kabochas. Yeah, I've been giving them away too! But we're keeping enough for the winter. I've never had such a crop before!

The summer squash did super, both the plants I put in and the ones I started from seed. We ate them like crazy and gave tons away.

Guess who? I left that stick there because she seemed to enjoy sitting on it.

A female house finch grabbing a snack. They started bringing babies to the feeder as soon as they were fledged and could fly well enough. The little guys would sit nearby, flutter and beg until they got fed. Watching them and the house sparrow young learning to chase moths through the garden was very entertaining.

My cucumber trellis on the far end and my tomato stakes coming toward you. I was in the midst of tying vines up. I kept up with them this year into August but after the storms it was a hopeless cause. Disease took out 2/3 of the cukes but enough survived that we were getting sick of them. They were also incredibly prolific. Since all cukes, squash, melons and pumpkins are pollinated by insects, we must have had good bee activity out there, likely because of all day sun and the proximity to a field with lots of clover. I never had such crops before!

Yeah, that's her again. It was getting late in this picture and she needed one more tidbit before going to roost.

A large part of the success of that garden was mulch cut from the fields around the house and applied liberally. It is always half dry so it doesn't heat up as much or get mucky and nasty like green grass clippings. Natural grass mulch is something I've always used in my garden when I could get it, and before we owned this place, we used to come here, cut it, and haul it to my other house, which is shadier and so always had a thin lawn. This stuff holds in moisture all summer and shades roots, letting the plants grow big and strong. It encourages earthworms and beneficial soil microbes, and gives cover to hunting predators like ground beetles, toads and garter snakes. It prevents soil erosion, keeps weeds down, and breaks down to add needed humus to the soil, which improves its ability to hold nutrients and prevent runoff. And it isn't sitting in a bag on the curb waiting for a truck to haul it away to some landfill. My fields get mowed a few times a summer, and they grow thicker and greener grass and clover for the grazing animals like deer and rabbits. The birds can hunt for bugs out there, we'd see dozens of them hopping around at a time. Swallows would swoop down behind the tractor, picking up insects stirred up by the mowing. We became part of the system rather than just another drag on it. And best of all, my weeding chores were fairly simple, and I only watered twice during dry spells.

A Saturday evening moon rising over the pines out front in mid-July is a good place to stop this for the day. I likely was done with my work by then too. I found out recently every one of those pines on the property was dug as a seedling on the neighboring hill about 15 years ago, and replanted in a line down the front. That property is still owned by the son of the original owner, so if we ever need more... These trees are now a good 50 feet tall and some of the trunks are 2-3 feet through at the base. Native white pines grow best here, so it was a good choice. They make a nice traffic noise barrier for the highway and a wildlife sanctuary. Nice to walk past too when the wind is blowing and the boughs are murmuring with that swishing sound I've loved since I was a kid.

OK, that's it for now, I'll try and get more pictures up as soon as I can. 


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