Tag Archive | rural life

First Snow and First Eggs

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Time to finish cleaning up the garden!

We awoke today to the first measurable snow of the season, about 1/2 inch of wet accumulation.  The white won’t last long.  The next few days will have temperatures in the 40sF with rain.  It’s pretty to see, dusting the trees, carpeting the lawns.  A warning of what is to come.

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Winter dusts the harvest decorations

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Snow never stops Otto from enjoying his favorite ball

The first snow of the winter is later than last year by about three weeks.  We have enjoyed a very warm autumn.  The ground has not frozen yet.  I am still harvesting the late apples and they are in good, hard condition.  I also collected my hazelnut crop, a total of eighteen nuts! b6

Next year should bring a better harvest.  Only the largest hazelnut bush produced nuts.  Hazelnuts require good cross pollination.  There are two other hazelnuts struggling to produce flower catkins.  They should provide enough to fertilize my largest plant next spring, as long as the deer don’t chew on them again this winter.  I trimmed my husband’s hair last night and collected the clippings.  Legend holds that hanging little cloth bags of human hair in the branches of trees will stop the deer from eating the twigs.  I’m giving it a try.b1

The pullets hatched in May and June have just started laying.  There are a total of thirteen hens.  Every morning the lights in their pen come on around four.  This gives them enough supplemental light to stimulate laying during the dark, dreary days of late fall and early winter.  We are getting an average of eight eggs per day.

b5The shell color on the eggs being produced by these young Ameraucana hens is lovely.   My latest flock is all silver or black plumage color.  I believe the blacks produce the deepest blue shade on their eggshells.  I breed specifically for the bluest shell color and things seem to be heading in the right direction!

 

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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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Garden’s In

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After much weed pulling, tilling and fence installation, the garden was ready to plant last week.  It took two days to get all the seeds in the earth.  The weather has been so dry for so long that the dirt was like talcum powder.  I watered after planting to give the seeds a start.

The weather forecast was for rain over the past weekend and through most of this week.  Happily, we finally got a good soaking yesterday afternoon and overnight.  It poured!  Now the sprouts will start to pop up.

g2It is time to set the last of the plants in the garden:  the tomato and red pepper seedlings.  These came from a greenhouse last week and have been hardening off outside in the shade, preparing for the harsh conditions in the full sun and open air.  The tomatoes already have flowers!  The variety is Early Girl, a nice medium-sized tomato that is very early.  Usually I get my first fruit by mid-late July.  Yum, can hardly wait for that juicy, home-grown taste!

Planting Time

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Here are some of the seeds I’ll be planting today.  Just seeing all that lovely produce inspires me to get out there and weed and till!

Currently the garden is little more than a 50 foot square spot of dirt choked with weeds and overgrown with Jerusalem artichokes in one corner.  The area will quickly transform, with my exertions, into a fenced spot of fresh earth marked with rows of newly sown seed.a1The spring has been cool and dry, again.  Chance of frost still exists, but I’m willing to get started now.  Tomorrow’s forecast is rainy, perfect for jump-starting plants.  Next week I will put the tender tomato and pepper seedlings in the ground.

By the first week of June we should be safe from frost.  Yesterday was 86F, with lots of sun.  Today is cloudy and mid-fifties.  The weather is so changeable in Maine in spring that it doesn’t do to take something like last frost dates for granted.

News from the Frontlines: Battle of the Rattle

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Update on the Battle of the Rattle, my ongoing campaign to wipe out yellow rattle in my hayfields:  the scales are tipping in my favor.  After mowing the entire hayfield with the rotary mower in mid-June, I hoped the rattle would be defeated for this year.  Surveillance proved otherwise.

Plentiful rains after the mowing encouraged regrowth from the cut stems.  Rattle sprang up and rejoined the fray.  By last week, the parasitic plant was blooming all over the field.  I have a new tactic, this one will be the decisive move of the war.  Methodically, by quadrant, I am sweeping the entire field and pulling the parasites by hand.

The work is long, hard, hot and grim.  Deer flies and mosquitoes buzz my head and attack any exposed flesh. The burning July sun beats down.  My back aches from bending to pull the endless plants.  I fill bags with the plant bodies and throw the casualties deep in the dark woods where they will never be seen again.

So far I’ve cleared about one-third of the field.  I’m not sure how big the entire area is, several acres, at least.  Yellow rattle is a rigid, brittle plant.  To remove it from the ground, a gentle, steady pressure is applied.  Pull too hard and the stem snaps.  Pull just right and the entire puny root system comes loose. Rattle does not require a lot of roots since it gets nourishment by tapping into the roots of other plants.r3

r2I use great care not to drop a single seed pod. Each pod contains twenty or more seeds. A dropped green pod will mature to papery-gray with loose seeds rattling around inside, ready to start a new generation of the weed.

Removing rattle by hand will defeat the plant.  The only threat that remains is seeds that got into the field in the last couple years.  They can still germinate next year.  I will be ever vigilant.  If more plants show their miserable yellow heads next spring, I will be all over them, yanking them from the ground.  Next year, I will not lose my hay crop.

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!

Best Bunny Time Ever!

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Citrine

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Alabaster

Now that the garden is almost harvested and they really can’t do any harm, I let the angora bunnies romp around inside the fenced area.  It must be bunny’s best time ever!

The garden is 24 ft by 36 ft with a two foot tall lattice fence that sets up on a berm around the edge.  A perfect place to let bunnies get some exercise.  Today, three of my does, Gem, Citrine and Alabaster are enjoying the freedom. Alabaster snuffled around in the dirt and got her nose all messy.

b3These rabbits are pretty excited about having so much room to run and so many places to explore.  They barely stop to nibble grass, dandelions and other stray weeds, or even the left-over carrot tops that dropped here and there.  Too much to explore, no time for eating!  Citrine decided to try digging a hole, there is so much dirt, it’s hard to resist scrabbling in it.b1

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Gem

The dirt is also cool and a lovely place to stretch out a belly. Gem has been hunting around under the Jerusalem artichokes and picked up a bunch of dried leaves on her coat.  Plenty of work for me to groom the bunnies out after their fun.b6

The angora rabbits can’t run for long distances, they get overheated.  In the garden they take time to just relax and enjoy a place with no wire walls or floor.

All the rabbits have had a chance to run in the garden.  A couple days ago, my old buck, Jasper, who is nine, visited with my granddaughter Lia while I pulled the carrots.

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Lia and Jasper