Friday, April 30, 2010

It's Spring in the Mountains!

Look at all those peas growing!

My online community of friends keep showing off their gardens full of all kinds of vegetables, including tomatoes and peppers.  As you can see from the photograph above, this is not the case in my area.  But, compared to others around here, our garden is well along.  Remember, even though we are in the south, we are at 2,100 feet.  The published last frost date for this area is April 26 or 29, depending on who you consult.  But those of us who have lived here awhile know it is best to wait until mid-May if you don't like to replant.  So right now, we are just tickled pink to have peas, broccoli, potatoes, onions, leeks, and such growing right along.  
Picture from the WNC Herb Festival website
Tomorrow I will go to the WNC Herb Festival at the state farmers' market in Asheville and pick up some unusual herbs to put in our herb gardens.  This is a great event; if you've never been, you should check it out.  What really makes it special is that you can ask herb questions from the real experts. Anything you ever wanted to know about herbs you can learn at this festival.

The flowering shrubs are just outstanding this year.  Here is a shot of a Viburnum out front.  What an incredibly colorful landscape we have right now.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What's Been Happening at Our Tiny Farm

Air Force One arriving at the Asheville Airport on April 23, 2010

It has been a busy couple of weeks around here and I have not had time to keep up on this blog.  I started three new grant projects at work; on hops, forest products, and organic research.  That's been very exciting, but two of the projects are supposed to have full time employees doing the work, but I haven't been able to hire them yet.  So, I've been doing three full time jobs.  Fun, but exhausting.

The big local news is that President and Michelle Obama  are spending the weekend in our area. They flew into the Asheville airport Friday afternoon and my son and hubby were nearby to get some pictures and video footage of the historic event.  They picked a very beautiful time of year to visit our mountains.

We have been working hard here on Our Tiny Farm and the place is looking great!  All the early vegetable crops are planted and growing.  The pea trellis, garden fence, and gate are newly constructed and looking very fine.  Ground was leveled to create a proper pad for the greenhouse we hope to construct this summer.  We took advantage of having the heavy equipment here to lay new water and power lines on the part of the property.  We sectioned off half of the front pasture with a temporary electric fence so we could fertilize and renovate it.  It is filling in nicely with grass again. We had so much clover there last year that the horse had the slobbers something fierce.  In about a week we will do the other half.  The other pasture is being prepared for the cattle that we hope to bring in next month.  With the help of a crew of volunteers, the old rusty wire fence along the road, that was overgrown with honeysuckle, poison ivy, and lots of other unidentified vines, was ripped out and replaced.  It looks so much nicer and will probably be more effective at confining a few young steer.  Managing manure on the pastures has been an issue for us for several years and we've been exploring different ways to handle it. In the past, we would go out with a tractor and trailer every week or so and fork it up and add it to the manure pile.  That is time consuming and not much fun. So hubby put together a "manure drag" out of a piece of chain link fence and four cinder blocks.  He hooked it up to the big John Deere mowing machine and dragged it around the field. It appeared to be quite effective at breaking the manure into tiny pieces which should break down quickly.  Hopefully, between that and the fly predators that we release, we will have adequate fly control and a good looking pasture. 

This week we will plant another round of crops in the garden.  Seeded crops such as radishes, carrots, lettuce, and corn can be planted now.  It is so hard to be patient and wait to plant tomatoes, peppers, basil, and eggplant. But our last frost date is still many weeks away and I don't like to plant twice, so we will wait.  In the meantime, I can renovate the herb garden and we talked about planting a new one, too.  Daughter is living at home again and she wants to plant flowers.  Lots and lots of flowers. It will be a vibrant, beautiful little farm this summer.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Farm is Shaping Up Nicely This Spring, Thank You

Here's a quick update on our tiny farm. 
Chicken tractor and annex dismantled for spring cleaning

The bee hives.  Love that honey.
  • The garden is bigger and better than ever this year! 
  • We moved the asparagus out of the vegetable garden to its own permanent beds.  We harvested just enough for one meal and will leave the rest to rebuild strong crowns and roots so we can enjoy them for many years.
  • Hubby directed son in the  installatin of a permanent fence around the enlarged garden area with a cute little garden gate. Previously we had to take the fence down every year so we could maneuver the big Troy Bilt tiller around the edges when we tilled in the fall and spring.  But with the Mantis tiller picked up on Craig's List last year, we can do the edges with it and leave the fence up permanently.
  • This is what is planted in the vegetable garden so far: leeks, onions (two varieties), peas (two varieties), potatoes, cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, and cauliflower.  Remember, we are in the mountains, so our season is much later than many other places on the east coast. We had heavy frosts the past two nights.
  • The blueberries are blooming!
  • The kitchen herb garden will be renovated and expanded.  It was a very cold winter and the rosemary suffered some cold damage, but there is enough of several large plants undamaged that I think I can prune them back to look good again.
  • We had several years of drought followed by a year when it never stopped raining, so the pastures are a mess.  We put up temporary electric fencing to divide the front pasture in half and fertilized and reseeded one side.  After that gets established we'll do the other side.
  • Last weekend I scrubbed and disinfected the chicken tractor inside and out. I lined the nesting boxes with a thin flexible plastic mat to make cleaning them easier.  I also put the shade cloth up on one side.  Nice to have that job done.  Now the ladies are all set for the warm weather season.
  • The family has done an amazing job cleaning up the farm this spring.  We gathered up all the limbs that came down during the winter storms, cut back more of the invasives that were slowly taking over the bog side of the farm (e.g., privet and multi-flora rose), moved some big boulders along the dirt lane to prevent it from growing wider at our expense, mowed all the grass areas, weeded along the fence lines, and removed the few last remaining piles of "stuff" that were on the property edges from the prior owners.
  • Plans are being finalized to purchase two very young Angus steers to graze in the bog.  This is an all new venture for us.  It is pretty exciting!
  • The hens are producing eggs like crazy this spring and loving all the luscious new spring weeds.
  • The horse and donkey are also enjoying the fresh spring grass.  There was so much snow this past year they were forced to go weeks eating nothing but dry hay and grain.  They much prefer to graze.
  • Hubby is the beekeeper in the family, and when he is able, he has been working on the bee hives.  We lost several over the winter and intentionally killed out a very aggressive hive.  But he has the remaining ones all set for the season and is trying a bee allure product to try to attract some swarms for the empty hives we have to fill.
  • All in all, the farm looks very beautiful this spring.  Hubby and I were walking around it early this evening and discussing how different it looks from when we purchased it almost eleven years ago.  It is very satisfying.