Monday, October 31, 2011

Do you mind if this is another garden tour?  

Things are looking so much better now that the cooler weather has blessed us.
(These are the Picotee cosmos blooming in the turnip patch)

There's more than Tatsoi growing out there now, thank goodness!  Even Matilda was getting a little tired of it.  You can vaguely see the yellow flowers of the bolting Extra Dwarf Pak Choy in the distance (I do wish the photo quality was better) and this year I've been realizing that pretty much the only difference between Baker Creek's Bok Pak Choy and Extra Dwarf Pak Choy seems to be that the Extra Dwarf stuff just bolts and becomes inedible much, much sooner.  Ethan is very pleased.  He has always been scornful of the Extra Dwarf Pak Choy.

Although a bit frosted, the pumpkins are still alive and flowering.  Some of them have even set some fruit, although I've been much too busy to poke around and see if they are keeping them.

The peas, the peas!  Despite the best efforts of the ants and what must be now a very tasty pea-sprout fed rabbit(s), they are starting to climb.  Ethan and Mr. McGregor (the .22) have been vigilant, but we've seen no signs of the culprit(s).  A good rabbit dinner(s) might make up for it.  Please forgive the s's in parenthesis, but it's like Will Cuppy says about mice, you can never have just one.

See, it's all looking slightly more cheerful, except maybe the pumpkins.  They might become a bed for lettuce and beets, anyway, we'll have to see.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


These are the pomegranates I started from seed (yes, from seed) way back in January!!
I just re-potted them, and they are starting to look like something finally!
Apparently starting pomegranates from seed is sort of hit-or-miss as far as how good the fruit will taste, but my dad had a great pomegranate he had started from seed planted in their yard until it was killed by a fungus.  They were super easy, and I've got a bunch of them, so who cares if only a few of them are edible?  I'm sure someone around here will like them, even if it is only the pigs, and I can't wait to have loads of fruit trees growing everywhere.  I think this coming spring I'm going to attempt tons of fig cuttings, and maybe more pomegranates.

(I just had to show some scrap of growing success after the previous depressing post about the winter garden)

Friday, October 21, 2011

The fall/winter garden

This is a photo of the abysmal fall/winter garden taken in September.  It looks slightly better now.  See how there's nothing actually growing in it??  That's continuing to be a bit of a problem.

I started off this season feeling lost.  I couldn't remember what I was supposed to do, except start brassicas to plant on September 1st.  I think I was still burned out from the summer season.

It was an extremely hot and dry summer, and none of the brassica starts really took off.  In fact, they mostly withered and died.  They would sprout right away, and then languish and dwindle, despite being watered properly (not too much, not too little), given a little boost of kelp emulsion after they were turning yellow, moved into the shade, moved into the sun and generally babied.  They just weren't happy.

I soaked and then direct-seeded the peas, thinking it would be just like the string bean success of the summer, but alas, no.  In the photo you can see the long row of peas only because of all the notermelons I used to weigh down the weed guard paper and keep it from blowing away.  They mostly rotted or were eaten by ants.  Freakishly, only one part of the row grew, although I can detect nothing different about that particular spot.

I think it was just too brutally hot for them.  Anyway, things are looking slightly better now.  Most of the fall pumpkins I had planted in August were attacked by creepy little flying aphids that made them wither up.  Oh, and squash bugs.  Strangely, nothing could be seen of the stem borer moths that were so common in the spring.   They were an easy pest to deal with if I was diligent about stalking up and down the rows of squash daily, picking off the little brown eggs.

The little flying aphids, however, were not easy.  They would fly smugly away in a little cloud when I swooped down on them with soapy water.  Eventually I abandoned the pumpkins to slowly die, which most of them did.  It does look like we might get a few, if the weather doesn't get much colder.  All I want is one pumpkin for Thanksgiving dinner.  If we get just one, it will all be worth it.

The other failures included direct-seeding all the Asian greens and only having eight rows of mustard come up (short rows, luckily.  Even so, we and the cows are getting tired of it already), and a very desperate struggle with the weedguard paper.  They make it look so easy on their website, but it's like wrestling an alligator.  An alligator who gives you paper cuts.  For some possibly supernatural reason it always becomes windy when I decide to work with it in the garden.  I could be thinning the turnips and there won't be a breath of wind until I get the weedguard paper out, and then it just won't stop.  Maybe it offends the wind gods or something.

Actually, half the battle with the fall/winter garden was troubleshooting the weedguard paper.  The other half was failing to keep anything except mustard and weeds alive.  (not to mention the situation with Alachua County Feed and Seed talking me into buying a "cover crop" for my garden that has now become a hideous and inextinguishable nuisance.  I still don't know what the plant is called, but at least it fixes nitrogen, although  with the cassia and the crotalaria, I'm not sure we really needed another nitrogen-fixing pest.)

So, next fall/winter season, if I am still gardening and haven't given up in despair, here are the following notes to myself:
-Start Asian greens first, in pots (which is what I eventually did this year), and transplant September 1st.

--Start peas in pots and transplant September 1st (yes, there are peas growing out there right now, and only because I bought more seeds and started them in pots, which will probably sound ridiculous to people who are used to gardening in much more fertile places.  Interestingly, they are the same height as the unfortunate peas who survived the first direct-seeding, although planted a month later)

--THEN start cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, etc.

--The best way to deal with the weedguard is to cut it to the length of the bed, soak it with water, lay it out and cover it with old hay or mulch to weigh it down, and then it can be planted through.  This saves the trouble of trying to find where all the little starts were planted under the paper or struggling to mulch around the starts.

Anyway, I hope to post a better picture soon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's kind of gruesome, but this is Mirin and Rose's notermelon baby they made.  (It was actually cute in real life, but in the picture it looks like a zombie).  The kids started with a notermelon that Mirin had hollowed out to make one of his drinking gourds for me (very refreshing to drink from one when you are planting the fall garden in the hot late summer sun).  They found a little one and carved the face with a butter knife they found in the milking basket, and stuck it all together with wet sand.  The yellow cap is a funnel that was lying around.
Since we just didn't manage to grow our own Halloween pumpkins this year, we are planning to have notermelon luminaries lining the driveway.  Not that anyone comes trick-or-treating in our neighborhood any way, but we're hoping the sheer number of notermelon jack 'o lanterns and the dug-out-of-the-compost-real-pig-skull candle holder will discourage pumpkin smashers this year.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fred E. Pig

This is Fred Pig.  He was the runty one of the last batch of pigs.  Being slightly smaller than everyone, he got pushed out of the way by his seven companions and was still way too small to eat last spring when it was cool enough to slaughter.  We kept him for us and let him grow all summer, and with none of his other companions around to push him away, he has grown enormous.  He's just huge.

He's a good pig.  He's happy and healthy.  When we come out to do the chores he runs alongside in his paddock by the driveway.  A few days after it rains he becomes a black pig.  He's got a wallow in the woods somewhere.  As it dries up he gets pinker and pinker.  We'll come out and he'll have only a pink butt, where he didn't quite fit in all the way, or just his sides will be muddy.  I love watching him leap over logs and squeeze through the trees, making  the "woof-woof" sound that pigs make when they're excited (strangely, I've never heard a pig say oink).  He's amazing agile for an animal his size.

It's been so nice to have a pig on the farm this whole time.  Usually we would have gotten new piglets by now, but we really need to make some changes and improvements to our pig set-up.  Fred and his friends were in a large wooded paddock the whole time, and they did a great job of clearing out the overly-dense underbrush.  It used to be so thick you couldn't see the large trees, but now you can see them clearly (and they look kind of relieved.  It's not good for large trees to have so much underbrush beneath them).  I'd like to give the land a rest.  I wonder what will grow there next year in the space left from all the little laurel oaks.  I wonder if we'll get some new wildflowers, like after a burn.

We need to finish the rest of the pig paddocks before we get another pig, but I so hope someday to have a sow and have our own little piglets.  Having babies on the farm is just so much fun.  There's so much to look forward to every day, to see how they've grown.  (The baby rabbits are hopping out of the nest box now, they are so cute!).

Monday, October 10, 2011

 Mirin got a real bow and anrrows for his birthday this year. 

 He's been so excited about it.  Ethan used to teach archery as a summer camp counselor before we got married, so he's been teaching him.  Out at the Farm, Mirin sets up a firing line and a wild watermelon (we call them Notermelons, because they are not watermelons--they are bland like cucumbers and very seedy--we feed them to the animals).  He's actually a pretty good shot (better than I am).  He's very careful about how the arrows are handled and about finding them all when he's done.  Luckily he only has six and they are brightly colored, because the grass is at it's longest right now.

Strangely, having a real bow has set off an even more obsessive phase of making bows and arrows out of sticks and all kinds of things.  I don't have a picture of it, but two days ago he found a hacksaw and cut and trimmed a long piece of oakleaf hydrangea and made a long bow that shoots shockingly well for being strung with cotton twine.  He also fashioned arrows out of palm fronds.  He also had a little crossbow he made with a rocket balloon.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Baby Bunnies

The big news around here is that Lily finally had a surviving litter of babies, and they are pretty much the cutest things ever, especially now that they have fur and their eyes are open.  (They resembled naked mole rats at first).  While the photo is not the best (they are looking a little demonic with the glowing red eyes) I assure you that in real life they are unbelievably cute and it's all I can do to keep myself from picking them up and snuggling them every day.

So, the story about the rabbits is that they were given to us.  We originally got two females and a male, Lily, Magnolia and Peter.  I honestly don't know anything about rabbits at all.  I really need to buy a book about it or something.  Our neighbor has a really nice rabbit set-up in his backyard, where all the waste from the rabbits goes into an earthworm bin.  Occasionally when I catch him walking by in the afternoons I can ask him questions about it.

Lily has had four litters before this that didn't survive, and a lot of that had to do with the nest box we were given.  It was just a square of wood, with no bottom.  It might have been totally great for in town, which is where they came from, but it just didn't work out in the wilderness of Fox Grape Farm.

The first time, I messed things up because our neighbor told us we should pick up the babies so they'll be used to being handled.  That  freaked Lily out and she stopped taking care of the babies.  The next litter she over night ate all of the straw I had put in for her to make a nest with and had the babies on the wire floor, and they died.  The third litter I put cardboard down on the bottom, then some straw, and she ate the straw and the cardboard and had the babies on the wire and they died.  The fourth litter (and I was feeling pretty awful about the whole thing by this time) I put extra layers of cardboard down, and straw, and she made a nest in it, had the babies and they got eaten by ants.

I was in despair after this, so I left her alone for awhile.  I finally realized it was time to spring for a new nest box, so I did, and it's made such a big difference.  This time, right around when she was due I bought some bag balm and smeared it on every possible place that ants could get into the cage.  And so, a year and a half after getting rabbits, we have our first surviving litter!