Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ta Dah! The DOT House - finally done!

The cutest coop in the county!

The girls (aka The Dots) have no idea just how stylish their little house is - the farmers and ranchers around here think this is an "LA chicken coop" but I can tell you that it makes me smile everytime I look at it and there is nothing wrong with that.

Click on the picture for an enlarged view - it's pretty wild!
The view when you drive into the yard.

It Rained Apricots Last Night

Late late last night as I was still trying to fall asleep, I heard the wind come up and then it really started to blow. Next to our bedroom is a huge old gnarled tree - I could hear the branches brush the house and then I heard several things falling onto the roof - like balls. There wasn't any rain so it wasn't hail. This morning we had apricots all over the yard! Yeah!!!!!!!! Another great find - I LOVE apricots.

Last fall, Mark fed the trees in the yard. This spring during the dry times we watered the trees. Early spring this old tree was covered with white fragrant blossoms - so we knew it was a fruit tree but didn't know exactly what kind. We thought apple or crabapple but it is an APRICOT. I'm making jam tomorrow!

Mark and I picked the entire cherry tree on Sunday. Look at the bounty! They are sitting in an old turkey roaster and the tea cup gives you an idea of the volume of fruit. I then made the cherry jam and dry packed 11 pints of cherries to use through the winter for pies, etc. Our freezer is beginning to look like a food version of a pirates treasure chest. Fantastic!

Check out the growth in the garden at this time. Those are tomatoes in the tank - and boy do they have lots of tomatoes setting on.
 And check out the winter squash.

The flowers are blooming behind the garden bench. It's a great place to sit and chill or to talk with friends on the cell phone. Yeah, I let technology interrupt occasionally so I stay connected.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

We "found" a 20' mulberry tree in our front yard!

The other evening friends stopped by for strawberry raspberry pie. We then went out to pick cherries and they pointed out that we have a mulberry tree in our front yard to our utter surprise. Neither of us had ever seen a mulberry tree and evidently it had been setting on berries and started to produce ripe berries while we were away - the tree is loaded with berries.

Boy, are those little berries delicious!  They look like small blackberries but have their own distinct flavor. You harvest them by laying old bedsheets or something similar on the ground and shaking the tree.  Now the mulberry tree is about 20' tall - so Mark climbed the tree and shook it. He can do anything! Check out the picture carefully and you'll see Mark in the tree.

Check out the resulting jam. YUM! The perfect jam for fresh out of the oven bread. And, my first mulberry pie.

As you know I've been on a mission to identify the trees on our place. This was a stunner because the tree is so unremarkable in looks that I hadn't really noticed it. We certainly had no idea it was a fruit tree. This is like winning the tree lottery!

Check out the first cherry pies of the season and the first mulberry pie  with the blossom crust. These two cherry pies were just from the first picking I did when we got home from North Carolina. We have an abundant crop from our little old cherry tree this year.  The tree is truly old and is held together with steel plates and unfortunately we lost another branch in a big wind storm this year. I hope we get a few more years of production from this special little tree.

Check out the Dots running to check out the mulberry harvest. Once we pulled up the blankets, they discovered all the mulberries that had dropped to the ground on their own - it was a treat for them too.
Wish you were here to enjoy the fruits of our labor! If you do make it, I'll just pull a pie from the freezer and a jar of jam from the shelf to enjoy on fresh bread. I'll leave you with that thought....

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Rhythm of Country Life

For those who have never lived on a farm, the realities of the country life can seem cruel at times but it is the rhythm of life - birth and death.

We have been gone a week to North Carolina for our niece's wedding. A wonderful, memorable affair in the Smokey Mountains and lovely times with family.  We arrived home yesterday and our travel companions wanted to see the guineas. We could hear the guinea sounds but didn't see any. Last night they weren't in their roost and we saw only one. Today we discovered that they are brooding - sitting on eggs - all around the property in tall grass and thickets. We don't know how many we still have since they are scattered and didn't come into their roost last night. We had another feral cat come by and evidently it had a delicious dinner with one of our Easter Egg chickens so I only have 3 Easter Egg chickens left out of 5. The cat may have gotten some guineas too but we won't know until they roost again. Now do you understand why we don't name the birds?

When we arrived home, we checked the incubator and 2 guinea eggs were being chipped open - babies were hatching! See the picture on the right - it is just MOMENTS born.The guinea babies are called Keets. It looks as though we have a few more about to hatch. They are soooo tiny at birth. The newborn guineas are so much smaller than our chickens which were 2 days old when they arrived.

This little guy is still wet from the egg and look how tiny.  This is probably the cutest stage of a guineas life!
We have a nursery for the Keets set up in our laundry room like we had for our baby chicks. I get to be mother hen again!Today the Keets are dry and starting to eat and drink.  Noisy little guys - so tiny.  No new ones yet today. There was one this morning but he didn't make it completely out of the shell. We don't know if more will hatch or not. We'll keep you posted.

And, life goes on.

The garden looks like it exploded with growth while we were gone.  We had another 1 3/4 inches of rain while we were away. It is beginning to really produce so here are a few pictures of what I gathered today...

snow peas...

cherries ready to pick for pies, jam and freezing for later...

A couple of my beautiful, fragrant roses that aren't pink! The vase is a gift from the bride and groom - a wonderful momento of their special day.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Another Baby Boy

Our mare, Effie, had her baby two days ago - another baby boy in our horse family!  This new baby is so tiny - he's adorable. Wouldn't you agree? No name yet.  Just like human families, not as much fanfare with the second baby!

This makes our 4th boy this spring but 2 were born at friends in South Dakota so we've only had the two born here.  We're spending regular time massaging the first baby so he gets really gentle and broke to lead. This is the closest I've ever been to a baby horse so I love it and am thrilled that Mark is including me in this process. The baby is so muscular and yet soft. He is a handsome guy. (BTW, he is the only one around here getting massages these days - good for him, bummer for me!) Mark is so great around horses and knows how to work with them so they are comfortable. It has been good for me too, getting comfortable with the horses. The mares are so sweet and patient when we are playing with their babies. They are really good mothers. We'll start working with the new baby soon.
Check out the birds that share our country place - so beautiful. Mark is the photographer and some of these
pictures are Wows. Try clicking on each picture for an enlarged view.

The bluebird house is outside our kitchen window so we get to witness these sites daily.

Country birdbath... 
We have LOTS of yellow finches to our delight. We have four feeders off our deck so we see lots of action. 

A big wind moved the feeders together.
Country GYM... This is my main exercise.  We have lots of grass so I easily get my 10,000 steps in on the days I mow.  It takes me 2-3 days to get the entire yard done. I know it sounds crazy, but I LOVE to mow.

 The DOTS are beginning to get braver and venturing farther from the Dot House (aka chicken coop).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Garden Structure is Showing

Today the garden looks so great and you can really see the garden structure. It's not the same as being here but check it out...
This is the garden from the SE corner looking NW. The garden is totally lined with brick and some stone that Mark found on the property. It provides a good boundry on three full sides.

This is the south side of the garden which includes squash, beans, rhubarb and potatoes. Mark dug the trenchs along 3 sides of the garden, filled it with gravel and good top soil. I put the crops here that need room to ramble,  some of the beans will climb the bean branches like the peas are doing.  The potatoes are laying on the ground covered with 4-6" of hay - outside the garden - it is a technique from Ruth Stout who wrote the 1961 book "Gardening Without Work" and "How to Have a Green Thumb without An Aching Back". She is a hoot to read and I'm trying some of her techniques this summer. Already 3 potato plants are coming up through the hay.  I'm quite excited since I just laid out the potatoes on the ground, covered with hay, and didn't have to do any digging. I originally watched an old video of Ruth Stout on YouTube that was so interesting but it has been removed due to copywrite issues. Anyway, I think she had it right about using mulch to lessen work. She was quite elderly in the video and I'm sure she is now deceased. She left a wonderful legacy.
The potatoes are in the area in the upper left side of the picture - they are growing under the hay! In the middle of the picture are the hills of squash. In rows under the bean branches are the beans.  The branches are there for the beans to climb. On the far right edge of the south garden are herbs. The west side ground garden includes more beans, garlic, onions, asparagus and sweet potatoes.

This is looking north from the SE side of the garden.  Asparagus, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, onion and basil are in these beds. You can really see the brick edge of the garden along with the arbor. I have most everything heavily mulched with hay or pine straw that we brought back from North Carolina.  It really keeps the weeds down and the soil evenly moist ala Ruth Stout.
This is a nice view of the garden, you can see how the tanks relate to the surrounding inground beds. Blueberry bushes make the northern border for the garden. In this view, you see the strawberry tank closest to the camera, the tomatoes in the middle, and the northern tank is peppers and broccoli. Across from the strawberries, is the snow peas/carrots/and soybean tank; the middle tank across from the tomatoes holds beets, peas, and the last of the spinach; and the northern most tank holds lettuce, kale and cauliflower. Yum, Yum!
This view is from the NW and if you look closely you can see the 6 blueberry bushes which will eventually form the north boundry of the garden. They are small but really doing well, we're seeing great growth. They are our favorite fruit so we are really really excited about these little bushes!  On the west side, just outside the garden, are 2 more blueberry bushes and 2 raspberry bushes (our second favorite fruit). You can see the garden in relationship to the cottage. The deck faces the garden.
The garden bench is a special place in the garden. The structure around it is part of an old rusted metal porch railing that Mark found on the property. I planted moonflower and morning glory to climb the towers and johnny jumpups and allysym under the bench. The Wee Gnome sits on the rocks under the bench among the shamrocks. I can't wait to see how this develops over the summer. It is a great place to rest & contemplate. I'll send updates as the growth progresses this summer.

To the left is the fabulous lettuce we have been enjoying; and on the right is the kale. I will be freezing the kale this weekend. It will be great this winter in soup. I got most of my seeds from SeedSavers Exchange in Iowa.

This is looking south from the NE edge of the garden.  I think you have the idea of the structure of the garden.

The sundial...

The deck view from the rocking chairs...
So tonight as I have been creating this blog post, we had a BIG storm - thunder, lightening, rain, hail... but not enough to damage the garden, I hope. My Mother, Bessie, was a weather worrier. She would go from window to window, checking the sky and anticipating the damage. OMG, I inherited the Bessie weather worrier gene! This was a very stressful storm. Now that it is over and it appears that we just really got a lot of rain and wind, I feel better. Tomorrow everything will look like it got a great drink of water.