Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Vegetable & Fruit Garden 2015

The gardening season challenged us in many different ways this year. Rain for all of May, June and half of July created ultra soggy soil conditions that didn't allow plants to thrive. A very dry rest of the summer allowed for some things to rebound and rid themselves of diseases brought on by too much rain. Now, we are once again doing a rain dance. Our soil is dry down at least a foot in most locations, hard as a brick and cracked.  Plants are really struggling since their roots are so shallow given their adaptation to the early spring and summer rains. There is some rain falling today and we are hoping it amounts to something. (Dance, dance!)

Here's some pictures from our harvest last night:

Many of the flowers we interplant to attract pollinators are in full bloom now - late in the season due to the early season rain delays, but in some ways that's quite beneficial. Late season nectar is highly sought after and is something we all should think about in our home landscapes. If you do, you will help fuel migrating monarchs, hummingbirds, and critters like warblers, dragonflies and bats that feed on nectar or foliar feeding insects. We will do a full blog post on this very soon....it's a very exciting topic!

The marigolds are in their shining moment right now.

These little red ones from Baker's Creek are one of my favorites.

Bees of all sorts are loving the blooming basil, which must be quite an abundanct source of nectar given the high levels of activity.

We are picking lots of raspberries, cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, yellow zucchini, red peppers, and jalapenos. We only harvested a few winter squash due to the rains and since it is such an important part of our diet, we went to the Owl Creek Produce Auction and bought 64 small butternut at $0.50 each - what a deal! If you live anywhere near a produce auction, we highly recommend going as long as you pay attention so you buy what you think you are buying at the right price. We got it right this time. We store those butternut in our basement root cellar and they last us well into winter.

Any of our tomatoes that are rotten are shared with our thankful chickens. They are great recyclers!

Steve thinned out our chard and kale bed and we plan to sow one more patch of spinach and kale for winter. We are a couple weeks later than we prefer to allow for adequate plant growth before frost and low light levels slows down production, but we are going to give it a go anyways.

Our new onion method is a total winner. Look at these beauties!

We hope you all are harvesting some good food too...there is just something so extremely satisfying with growing and eating pure, chemical-free, delicious food.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Thanks for Supporting Us & Chrysalis Magic

Thanks to everyone who came to the farm or the Clintonville Farmers' Market and supported us. We are really excited to move forward firmly in the direction of our dreams!

Our next event is the Dawes Arboretum Handmade Holiday Fair on November 7 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. - a great time to buy gifts for those you love!

Ok, now for a bit of super coolness. Our milkweed continues to support hundreds of critters, even as we near the end of the growing season. Here you can see Milkweed Bugs (adults & nymphs) and a monarch caterpillar in the background.

We still have at least 10 monarch caterpillars that we see feeding. We're hoping the season is long enough to allow them to go through the chrysalis stage and then fly south to Mexico. They go through five growth stages (instars) as a caterpillar lasting 10-14 days, then they need another 10-14 days in the chrysalis form to metamorphos into an adult monarch. Most of the ones we see are in the 4th and 5th instars. Fingers crossed!

And finally, we found three more chrysalises! (The monarch on our porch metamorphosed perfectly and is no doubt, well on its way south.) First, I found an opened chrysalis that a monarch already emerged from on a gray-headed coneflower I cut back since it flopped in the path. GULP! That sure made me watch my pruning much, much more closely. Now, look in the center of both photos and you will see the most beautiful green chrysalises ever. Steve found this chrysalis hanging from Riddell's Goldenrod first:

Then I found this chrysalis hanging from Canada Goldenrod while looking out our library doors. That shape is unmistakeable and made my heart nearly burst with excitement!

There must be dozens more we haven't found and that is so encouraging since the monarch really, really needs all our help. We have lots and lots of common milkweed seed if you want to grow a patch yourself. Getting the seed in the ground before winter is ideal and makes the process so easy peasy. We are happy to give it away free or send it for just the cost of postage.  Let us know and until then, happy fall adventuring!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Last Open Day of 2015 & Cool Nature Sightings

Hey friends! We have one more open farm day this year. Find the details here. Next year, plan for an open house the 3rd or 4th weekend in July. It's peak bloom at that time and will be a great time to visit. The goldenrods and asters are starting to put on a show now and we enjoy watching all the pollinators take advantage of these important, late season beneficial plants.

Steve made this super sweet ball jar carrier perfect for gathering flowers or holding silverware or anything, really. He will have some of these and some reclaimed wood totes for sale this weekend too.

Here's a few cool nature sightings from Big Darby Headwaters just this week:

Oval-based Prominent (moth caterpillar):

Active honeybee comb. Wow! We don't know a lot about honeybees. Will they survive winter exposed to the weather like this?

? Skipper. I double checked on this guy since we continue to work on our skipper ID. So far Dun (my initial and most likely incorrect thought), Swarthy, Dion and Dukes have all been mentioned. Any thoughts? For size, it looks like it's resting on a Bidens.

One monarch of many on this hot, brilliantly sunshiny day. Migration is happening! Monarchs, green darner dragonflies and ruby-throated hummingbirds are all visibly and notably heading south. We are nearing the autumnal equinox so all is as it should be.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Monarchs Everywhere!

We are seeing so many monarchs this year and it makes us both feel some hope after the dismal numbers these past few years. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch assessed the numbers and things are definitely looking up this summer. However, to really save the Eastern monarch population, we have to boost the population dramatically more so they can demonstrate resiliency in their overwintering grounds (Mexico) in case of devastating winter storms. How do we do this? Continue to plant milkweed and yes, we have tons of for sale!

Milkweed grows wild all over our property and along many of the roadsides along here. Mowing regimes around here do not take into account monarchs or any other wildlife for that matter so we collected 30+ monarch caterpillars and eggs and brought them home to complete their life cycle in relative safety.

We so enjoy watching these caterpillars chomp away and grow, grow, grow. While sitting at our porch table enjoying some coffee, good conversation and the surrounding wildlife, we looked up and alas what do we see, but a monarch chrysalis!

How cool is this?! This is what turning your property into a nature preserve is all about...humans and wildlife living in harmony. Awesome.