First April on the farm

Things are pulling into shape around here.

– The coop is almost done: as soon as we have the pophole cut and a ladder in place, the gals will go outside (where hopefully they will smell less bad and earn their keep eating bugs.) In this picture the screen door into the run is not yet attached, that’s why it looks crooked.

– The fruit trees are leafing out well, except for the RedHaven peach and the Sugar Maple – the condition of both of which I complained to Stark Bros. about when I received them. They’re alive, but veeeery slow because of their damage. It might have been better for them to have died so I could get my money back, because weaked as they are I’m not sure how strong they’ll ever be.

– The onions are coming up in the strawberry bed, though I haven’t seen a sign of the garlic yet (it got planted late).

– I’ve got all the brassicas in the ground and under protective canopies. I’m going to leave the canopies on them to protect them from bugs until they’re much bigger and can fend for themselves – that’s the theory, anyway.

– The beehive is set up and, while not installed, is at least in approximately the right place. (See it behind the coop? there will be a line of deer fence between it and the chickens when they’re free-ranging, so they can’t just set themselves up a little bee snack bar).

I’ve gotten a lot more pathways laid out, and I’m soon to need another delivery of wood chips. (Ha, they told me I’d never use them all!) It occurred to me that I don’t have to stick to a grid layout, so I’m going to make the rest of the paths and beds windy and curly for more visual interest.

In the photo below you can kind of see a windy black drain pipe in the background; I was dragging it around to try and visualize walkways. I’ll still have to keep the beds no more than 5′ wide and make sure that while it remains easy to get across the garden with a wheelbarrow, the paths don’t take up so much space that we’re losing a ridiculous amount of arable land. Which will be an interesting design challenge.

I do think that making the vegetable garden look like an old-time walking garden will make it a lot easier on the eyes. I may also incorporate flowers and mix up veggies and blossoms like an old-fashioned cottage garden. I’m even going to incorporate a patio and an arbor, maybe with a little fire pit, for a tiny private place to hang out; I figure I’ll screen one side with climbing roses, jasmine, hops, or grapes for both shade and privacy from the neighbors. I wonder if I can hang screen to keep out the mosquitoes too? But that’s all far down the road, yet.

I’ve planted all my potatoes in a bed dug out on top of the nasty-soiled hill. Only about a third of them are leafing out well, which is surprising since they all had set nice sprouts when I planted them. I suppose patience is key.

I chose the hill rather than the lowland for their planting because potatoes need great drainage or they will rot, but I truly do hate that hill. I had to energetically use a pickax and hack at the soil all day to break into it. It’s so stony and full of hard clay that I could not get my shovel in there and was getting supremely frustrated. Not fun. And see all those dead snaky vines piled all along it in the background? Those are all the ivy vines that I had to pull first. The ones that made me pinch something in my back, I was tugging on them so hard. Double not fun.

I have at least two more beds to break in this slope, and I am not looking forward to it. Eventually there will be some kind of patio or arbor or lookout-point on the very top, but until then I’m going to keep all the land productive. If I can make it into any kind of serviceable bed without it killing me first.

The grapes are leafing out nicely, and the alfalfa is sprouting up around them on the ivy-cleared hillside. I have high hopes of the alfalfa colonizing that hillside to the exclusion of all the nasty weeds, until I’m ready for it.

The rye grass is starting to look hopeful, if patchy. I have to reseed it. And… see all the bits of blue I complained about in a previous post? Well, this is them after I’ve already trucked out wheelbarrowloads full of pieces of that damn blue plastic.

My new fig looks deliriously happy in its little 5’x5′ container (it’s a small variety) against a southern-facing brick wall. With the southern exposure and a covering of burlap, it ought to easily survive our winters. I’ve seeded peppermint (ooh, I loathe regular mint -shudder-) around it. I know, I know how invasive mints are, but you have no idea how much peppermint tea I drink. It would be really helpful to grow my own – and a container is the only place where I can control its root spreading and keep it out of the rest of the garden. (Still, I wish there were a bigger container available because I’m pretty sure this one isn’t going to produce all the peppermint that I’ll need.)

Tomorrow, as soon as I roll out of bed and caffeinate myself I’m going to finish installing SofĂ­a’s sandbox and get to work mulching more paths. I’ve got 3 cubic yards of garden manure sitting in my driveway, waiting for beds to fill, so that will be next.

3 Responses to “First April on the farm”

  1. David in Kansas Says:

    It looks as if everything is coming together. How do you make your spearmint tea?

  2. diana Says:

    Well, I was thinking I’d build a solar dehydrator later on this summer for my tomatoes, etc., so I was going to dry my herbs in there too. Then I have a tea basket/ball thing that I pour my boiling water over and let it steep about 5 minutes and voila, peppermint tea!

    I know you can also use the fresh leaves, but to me that seems to make weaker tea.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    wish i had removed the dead ivy on the slope.i would had thrown it into the forest. unfortunately I didn’t read this post till we returned from the “farm”. sorry

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