Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Molting Chickens and Fall Food Crops

Egg laying slowed here a month or more ago as these two girls molt their feathers. L.G., the Rhode Island Red, lost her feathers last fall and didn't grow them back till this year! Anna Lee's genetics must be better because she is completing her molt all in one season. The two look like porcupines, but are still super cute...

We are going into our third season growing and planting our own homegrown garlic and we just love that this food supply is a closed loop for us! October is a great time to plant in Ohio so after our harvested garlic bulbs cured in the barn this summer, I put aside the best ones for planting.

We continue to rotate our crops around the garden so the same crop doesn't grow in the same place or in the same place as a related plant for at least three, usually four years. I put three rows of garlic in this raised bed.

Just a note on raised beds - we use them in the NW corner of our garden because it is wet, but unless you need them for a reason such as this, don't make them. They require hauling in of soil, something to build up the sides and they dry way too fast. It's so much easier to just grow in the ground. Even if you have "horrid clay" the crops will generally grow just fine as long as drainage is ok. Steve, the Soil Scientist, reminds us that soils here in the midwest are incredibly fertile!

Here's the planted and mulched garlic bed that we will not cover over the winter. They do just fine as planted and will send up shoots most likely in the spring though some may do so sooner if we continue to have mild weather this fall and into winter.

This past week we received about 3/4" of rain which our greens appreciated...watering from a well just isn't quite the same. The chard and kale continue to make us some mighty fine salads and we hope to keep those going for a long while yet.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Conservation Stewardship Program = Lots More Trees at our Place!

This past year we applied for the Conservation Stewardship Program through the Natural Resources Conservation Service and were awarded $1000 annually for five years to improve our fence row. This tree line marks the boundary between us and the farm to our west and currently houses lots of young sugar maples, dead ash thanks to the emerald ash borer, a few pin oaks and lots of invasive honeysuckle and multiflora rose. Steve is loving ridding the area of those problem plants and mincing the brush down into compact piles that provide nice cover for wildlife and don't grow to 20' tall.

After invasive removal, we cleaned up one of the old farm dumps. Much of it headed to the landfill, but most of the cool colored glass is waiting in boxes for tumbling and drilling by me this winter. I envision some tinkly sun-catcher mobiles that will connect us to the past of our little farmstead, while turning something ugly into something beautiful.

Pin oaks sprout like grass around here so we potted many of them up early in the season and added them to our CSP project.

They are such cute little things and will really benefit wildlife.

We bought a few trees from Five Springs Farm in Athens, OH at the Pawpaw Festival because we live in the Midwest and we, of course, must grow pawpaws!

We also purchased many trees and shrubs from Riverside Native Trees in Delaware, OH. They have a great selection and the owner is super friendly.

After this spring and early summer it's hard to believe, but we are dry as toast up here and have only received about 2 inches of rain this entire summer. Our soil is cracked and hard as a brick so we are hauling 5 gallon buckets of water to these new 50+ trees and shrubs. We also caged them all to keep the mischievous rabbits away.

It's a lot of work initially, but we are excited to sit back and watch as these plants grow and provide all sorts of food and shelter for the local wildlife. It's really incredible what we can all do on our own properties to benefit us and nature, whether it's a tiny city lot or hundreds of acres.

The Living Landscape by Ricke Darke & Doug Tallamy is a great read and visually stimulates and inspires. Doug Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home motivated us in truly profound ways to rethink our life, our role on this planet and our plantings, but it might be better for some as a follow up to The Living Landscape. This new book lets you see the beauty of the plants that grow naturally in the United States and how essential they are to the wildlife that live around us.

The entire premise for all this thoughtful planting is to preserve biodiversity and hence, preserve humankind. Pick up this book, read it, get inspired and plant. We are wowed every single day!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pallet Bridge

Our bridge across our little creek crumbled apart this summer so Steve made us a new one using salvaged poles and pallets.

He had this thing whipped out in an hour. What a guy!

Our mower can drive across this bridge so it's even better than the last and made completely from reclaimed wood.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Beautiful Ohio and Fall Craftiness

Fall is here in Ohio and it's gorgeous. The goldenrods and asters are feeding millions of insects it seems. The insect hum is audible several feet away from the plants - magic.

A few black-eyed Susans are in bloom again offering up their nectar and happy yellow color.

A plant we adore...the always colorful Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is really starting to put on a show:

It seems this Silver-spotted Skipper likes it too.

Dryad's Saddle on our woodland trail.

Our hundreds of oaks are growing, which is great for us, the birds, the caterpillars, etc. and we marvel at their fall colors too.

Here's one of the many caterpillars that feed on oaks, a stunning Crowned Slug. The first time we saw one of these was in 2005 at the location of my first job out of college so it's fun to see it again!

Hmmmm...is this the Sharp-Stigma Looper? The back-lighting is difficult, but that marking seems fairly sharp to me. Let me know what you think. Their hosts are aster, goldenrod, horseweed and tobacco.

Due to some health problems that popped up unexpectedly, we will NOT be at the Dawes Handmade Fair in November, but we will get our online shop open soon. I am having some technical difficulties with our web store, hence the delay. Fear not though, Steve the tech guru is stepping in to assist me. Whew!

We will have soap and salve as soon as we open and then lots of reclaimed wood creations too. We just scored a whole bunch of great wood and slate at an auction to stock Steve's wood shop back up. This is just the first load!

$24 for all that slate. Yes, all of it. Wild.