Tag Archive | farm work

Return to the Garden

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It’s been a couple weeks. let’s check in at the vegetable garden.  I have been busily weeding, training vines, picking bugs, thinning rows and hoeing up the dirt around the bases of plants.  The weather has been quite warm with many days in the mid-eighties to nineties F.  Scattered thunder showers have provided adequate water.  Everything in the garden is growing with abandon.g2

Miniature pumpkin vines in the foreground and field pumpkins in the back.  Little fruit are already setting.

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This humid, hot weather is corn’s favorite growing condition.  If you watch carefully, you can see the indian corn get taller!

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A sunflower, winter acorn squash, red sweet peppers, beets and a row of carrots along the fence.  I have harvested loads of beet greens, eaten much and given more away to friends and relatives.  I even made some pickled beets!

The peppers are very happy this year.  Last year they mostly failed.  This time I planted them closer together, about 8″ apart.  They are in the shade of the corn for much of the morning and have the beets nearby for humidity.  Peppers like moisture and partial shade.  Several plants have good-sized fruit.  I may eat one now and not wait for it to turn red!

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The bush wax beans are in full bloom.  I expect to find beans waiting to be picked any day.

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The first tomato, right on schedule.  Think I’ll pick it for my salad today, before some slug or mouse can chew a hole in it.

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Lettuce, anyone?  This is head lettuce.  I let it grow close together and thin as I need lettuce until just a few large plants are left to make heads.

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Bachelor buttons, marigolds and zinnias to brighten the garden and provide cut flowers.  The Japanese beetles were devouring the zinnias.  Finally I dusted them with insecticide and the plants have started to bloom.  No bugs bother the marigolds, they have natural insecticides to keep pests away.

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End of August Farm News

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This last day of August seems a good time for an update on farm news.  My butterfly bush is in full bloom.  An anniversary gift from my husband, the bush is at the edge of its northern range here at the farm.  Every winter it dies down to the ground.  In the spring it sends up new branches and begins to blossom in August.  The scent is delicious!

a2The fig tree is thriving and has settled on five figs chosen to grow to maturity.  There were eight little figs but the tree let three shrivel and drop.  The figs are about 1.5″ across at the widest.  I doubt they will ripen before the first frost.  The tree will be moved inside as fall arrives.  I hope the fruit continues to ripen and not drop from the shock of being moved.

I spent part of the day stacking firewood.  Our wood pile is about two-thirds full.  We need at least six cords to be warm through the nine months of heating.a3a4  To get ahead of the endless tree felling, we decided to buy nine cords of seasoned tree length firewood.  It was delivered a couple weeks ago and forms a large pile up near the road.  As soon as we finish splitting and piling the wood we cut in our woods, we will start on the new pile.  There is a half-cord of ash left to split down in the woods.

Today I harvested the last of my fresh lettuce and had a big salad for lunch.  The head lettuce I planted this spring did very well and did not bolt too badly once very hot weather arrived.  Today I also canned the last of the wax beans for this year.  I put up a total of twenty-one pints of beans.  These will be a yummy reminder of summer during the cold months.a5

Today was very warm and mostly sunny so I took the opportunity to wash both the dogs.  They were badly in need of a bath, especially Holly who only likes to wade in the pond and stream while Otto jumps in for total immersion.  The dogs look and smell great!  And, so, a busy day and month come to an end.a6

Shedding an Angora Rabbit

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Here is my angora rabbit doe, Jade, a three year old sable color French-English mix.  She is ready to be shed out of her long hair.  Jade was mated to my albino angora buck and is due to kindle on April 20.  Kindle means give birth in rabbit language.  She’s shedding her fiber now and I want to clean her up so she’s ready for babies.

a2The first photo shows Jade before any grooming.  Just the rough rabbit.  I have a high pressure air blower for animals that is very handy for cleaning rabbits, but I won’t be needing it to clean Jade up this time.  A simple slicker brush is sufficient.  Her hair coat is mostly clean and matt-free.

a3Several minutes of brushing yields a rabbit ready to have her fiber removed.  The coat is straight, free of foreign matter like hay and bits of food, and contains no matts.  Time to start pulling the fiber.

I always hand pull my rabbits.  This means I use my fingers to remove the long hair that the rabbit’s body is shedding.  The full length of the hair is retained, and produces fiber with a length (or staple) of 4″-6″ on average.  Perfect for handspinning.

a4a5Pulling the loose hairs from the rabbit’s coat does not hurt the animal. Actually, the bunnies like it and stretch out to rest while they are being shed.  To remove the hair, I hold a small amount near the tips and gently pull.  The loose hair slides out in my hand.  I gather a handful then spread it on tissue paper to save.  The fiber is laid on the paper with the tips all oriented in the same direction.  When I am ready to spin, I just pick up a small hank of fiber from the pile and add it to the twist.a6

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It takes as much as 30-45 minutes to fully remove the loose hair from Jade. She has a thick, full coat and lovely long fiber.  The shorter hairs that grow on places like her feet and under her chin I pull, but do not save to spin.  They are not long enough.  I save shorter hair to add to her nest when her babies are born.  If the shorter fiber is not removed when it is loose then tight, uncomfortable matts will form.  All the loose fiber must be cleared from the rabbit to prevent matting.

a7A close look will show the new fiber growing and forming an undercoat on the rabbit.  The new hairs are the black tips in the white undercoat.  All the longer fiber is removed until just the short coat remains.  The rabbit is left with fur about 2″ long when she is fully shed.

a11Now I have 2 oz of fiber ready to be spun or sold.  This much fiber will make about 100 feet of two ply worsted weight yarn.  The pile in the photo is already sold to an eager spinner in Florida.

Jade was a good rabbit and cooperated for her shedding.  Her reward is a romp around the barn.a10

New Chainsaw

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Meet my brand new chainsaw!  Stihl MS170, just what I asked Santa to bring me.  Plus I got sawing chaps to protect my legs and anti-vibration gloves.   The 170 is just about the smallest chainsaw Stihl makes.  It weighs around 8 pounds.  I need a small, light saw to prune the large limbs in the orchards, keep up woods trails and trim back small trees and limbs from the edges of fields and from hedges and windbreaks.  Can hardly wait to get to work!  I used to do all that cutting by hand, very hard and tiring.

I’ve used both electric and gas powered chainsaws in the past and just finished reading the owner’s manual.  I also have read Barnacle Parp’s book on how to use a chainsaw, an excellent guide for anyone.  I do believe in safety first and will make every attempt not to saw myself.  Today my husband had a chainsaw mishap.  He managed to get his biggest saw caught in a tree and then the tree dropped on it.  Completely destroyed the saw.  He’s now in the market for a new chainsaw.  Luckily he has a smaller, limbing saw he can use in the meantime, since we have at least a cord of four foot firewood to cut to stove length.  I hope nothing happens to his little saw, or he’ll start looking at mine!

Sawing Firewood

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Here I am using an electric chainsaw to cut dry four foot lengths of firewood into stove length pieces.  Then I will divide them up on our hydraulic log splitter into halves or quarters so they burn well.  When I finish with this pile, we should have enough wood to go through the winter.

Usually my husband would be taking care of this chore, using his gas powered chainsaws.  But, he hurt his back three weeks ago and still is not able to do heavy work.  We need to get the firewood put up, so I’m happy to do the job.

This little electric saw is good practice for me.  I’ve asked Santa for my own gas chainsaw.  A new Stilh 170. It’s a small saw, nearly the lightest weight of the Stihl line.  It will be perfect for me since I have an injured left rotator cuff and a heavy saw hurts me.   I plan to prune the orchard into shape with my Christmas saw, then spread out over time to take care of all the little tree cutting chores that need to be done.  Things that have been waiting because I hate to take my husband away from cutting firewood to do my little tasks.

It’s hard to believe…yes, I’m excited about getting a chainsaw for Christmas!

Building a New Barn

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Old horse shed now housing rabbits, old cow barn on the right

Here is our current barn, built about 40 years ago.  The lower area that shows light green concrete blocks used to be a cow barn.  The old barn is on its last legs.  The cow section was slowly collapsing due to shifting and crumbling of the concrete.  My rabbits were housed in this old area and needed to be moved.  Last year I tore down part of the cow section and reused some of the old beams in a new temporary shelter for my two horses.  I moved the rabbits into the old horse barn.

We can’t afford to raze the barn and build a new one all in a few months.  Because we want to put the new barn where the old one sits, the project must be taken in steps so the animals have shelter and there is a place to store the hay.  I also want to save money by doing as much of the work myself as possible and recycling as much material as I can.  The beams of the old barn are cedar timbers that are still good.  The aluminum roof panels I want to remove carefully so I can use them to cover the walls of the new barn.

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The chickens like to keep me company when I work

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Lumber for recycling into a temporary shelter

 

 

 

 

 

This summer and fall I finished removing the boards and beams from the cow barn right down to the concrete. There is a nice selection of recycled lumber from the old barn.

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Current horse shelter to be made into a rabbit barn

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Foundations of the new temporary horse barn and storage area

Now I have to move the rabbits again as the old horse shed is also in danger of collapse.

 

I am constructing another temporary barn for the horses plus a large storage area for hay and will move the rabbits to where the horses are now.
I will close in that former horse barn so the bunnies will be warm this winter.  So far I have used old 4×4 timbers from the cow barn to make sills for the walls of the new temporary horse barn and hay storage area.  I have to buy a bunch of 2x4s to frame the walls and make the roof.

Then I will tear down the shed the rabbits were in before the snow brings it down this winter.  After that I will start to remove the inside of the barn in preparation for taking the entire structure apart next summer. We will construct a new pole barn in sections, starting with the hay storage.  This project will keep me busy for a couple more years, at least.

Pruning Pear Trees

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Our four pear trees

We have four pear trees.  Three are Bartlett, one is a red pear, Stark Crimson.  They are badly in need of major pruning.  The trees have grown so high that the best fruit is ten to fifteen feet out of reach.  April is a little late in the season for pruning, but the nights do still get chilly, helping the trees to heal before warm weather arrives.

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Three branches removed on the right side

I have to climb into the tops of the trees with my extending aluminum ladder and cut off the upper third of the tree with a pruning saw. The branches are four to six inches thick at that height.  I can only do three or four branches per day due to a recovering sprained wrist.

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Trusty pruning saw

Here are before and after photos of the tallest Bartlett, the tree most in need of pruning.  I cut three branches off the day before these photos were taken.  The stubs of those branches are visible on the right side near the top of the tree.

The handsaw is deceptively sharp and cuts through a six inch diameter branch in less than five minutes (with rest breaks!)  A dangerous moment arrives as the wood makes a cracking sound and the branch separates from the tree.  All that weight comes crashing down.  A good pruner plans the trajectory of the fall so that the branch doesn’t swing back and knock her in the head or off the ladder.

The tree appears much closer to the desired shape with the tall leaders removed.  Fruit will grow on the long branches loaded with fruiting spurs.  The weight of the fruit pulls the branches downward, nearer to the picking zone.  Now I can enjoy more of my pears plucked from the tree instead of off the ground.

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All the too-long top branches removed


The tree is still too tall and will be cut down another few feet next year. Also still required is a more thorough pruning to thin and to remove weak, dead or intersecting branches. In a couple years these trees will look much better and produce more, as well.