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Field Trip Day

Today was the day Charlie has been waiting for… foorrr – eevvv – eerrr! <– spoken in the most dramatic (and pathetic) way possible.  We kidnapped Grandpa Steve and headed up to Dadant’s store in Hamilton, Illinois for our beekeeping supplies.  The bees will be here in about a month (ordered through the local beekeeping association) and we hadn’t yet picked up the necessary equipment.  It’s now stacked neatly (not!) in the basement, awaiting assembling & painting.

Oh, I took pics of the property so we’d have a record of what we started with here.  We’ve already changed a few things up but it’s close enough to remind us a few years down the road.  I’m too lazy to mess with them all today so someone remind me soon!

Before I forget, I want to record the fruit trees we’ve planted so far:

1 Redhave peach

1 Illinois everbearing mulberry

1 Zestar semi-dwarf apple

1 Honeycrips semi-dwarf apple

1 Pink Lady semi-dwarf apple

1 Stark’s Delicious standard plum

1 Ozark Premier standard plum

1 Hosui Asian pear

1 Chojuro Asian pear

1 Sugarsweet standard pear

1 Honeysweet standard pear

1 Hardired standard nectarine

1 Crimson Gold standard nectarine

1 Ichi Ki Kei Jiro Oriental persimmon (which I realized just this weekend is not actually hardy here in zone 5.  Doh.)

Plus there are an existing peach and apple that were planted before we bought this place.

Garden updates:  Lemon balm and every last jug of Alpine strawberries, wintersown in February, were up yesterday.  Stopped at Geo Keller’s on the way home and picked up three pounds of Incredible sweet corn, one pound of Sugar Snap peas, and a couple scoops each of Crimson Sweet & Sugar Baby watermelon.

Raised Wheel Beds

The past couple of days, we’ve been working on getting the raised wheel beds into place and filled.  We’re a bit over halfway done so far — at least on the side in the pic below.  Next to these, to the right, will be a pool, then more wheel beds past that, to the fence near the road.  The main garden will be behind these, where you see the cornfield “above” the wheels in this pic.  The chicken house is just to the left, out of the shot.

Planted in eight wheel beds so far:  Lynn’s garlic, Mary Washington asparagus, Jersey hybrid asparagus, and Starkrimson rhubarb.  (Steve works for a large wheel manufacturer now so occasionally brings home the “duds” that didn’t come out right.  He torches them in half and, voila!, two raised beds.)

Today, we scored a truck load of wood chips that I’m using for mulch on these beds and elsewhere as I get things planted.  Also so more firewood, bagged leaves, and a couple bales’ worth of clean straw so I cleaned out the chicken house, placed fresh bedding in the nests, and DE’d the crap out of it.  Hooray for Freecycle and the town yard waste dump!

Spring has sprung

It started with the world’s largest flock of birds, taking up residence in our trees a week or so ago, incessantly screaming at the top of their lungs.  That apparently awakened a ginormous army of frogs who immediately challenged the birds as The Loudest Animal in the Universe.  A sudden explosion of flies, a smattering of bees, and a sudden freshness to everything… Yep, spring is arriving.  We celebrated today by lazing around this afternoon and, after planting a dozen or so pecan trees, I just lounged & lazed and played with my new camera.


Time Capsule: 2011

And then all hope of a group “finished” photo died with diaper-changing orders from a poopy-butted toddler.  “Mom, come ooonnnn!!!!”

Yeah, I share DNA with these weirdos.

Garden update:  40 fruit trees planted today.  Greek oregano and sage, wintersown February 6, were up today.  Pruned the few broken branches on the Stark Bros trees.

Children of the Corn

Garden  update:  47 elderberries planted today.  Mammoth dill and cilantro, wintersown February 6th, up today.  Gathered soil samples, will submit for testing tomorrow.

For those playing along at home

Got 53 more fruit trees (8 big ones + 45 small ones) planted today.  Just a few gazillion more to go.  Would have gotten more done but I spent all morning at the doctor’s office & pharmacy.  (Turns out I have MRSA, probably picked up at the hospital last year when Steve fell since I’ve had issues ever since.)

Random photo of the day:

Garden update:  Old, nasty-looking garlic bulbs I had forgotten in a bag during the move, I planted in a horrible spot next to the shed last fall.  Then one of the chickens got out and had some sort of garlic party so we thought there were none left.  Today, they’re up and there are lots of them!

Road Trip: Stark Bros Nursery

We are lucky enough to now live only an hour away from Stark Bros. Nursery retail store.  For a gardening addict like me, that’s a huge deal!  So this weekend, the kids and I kidnapped our friend, Susan,  and set out to spend a wad of money.

There were tons of growing frields of trees, warehouses, and so on.  The retail store was beautiful, I thought, and the staff wonderful.  The poor lady who helped me had the patience of a saint — and looked like she could be John Denver’s sister.  I love John Denver and had to really restrain myself from asking her to sing something.  She really knew her stuff, though, and I didn’t want to cheese her off.

It would be very, very easy to spend hours there, drooling over their offerings!  But, finally, we made our decisions, got our trees bundled, and Susan’s truck loaded.

After spending an entire day with the Speed Clan, Susan was a little bit off her rocker.  We still like her, though.

Planting began this morning, after letting the trees get a little drink.  Managed to get 32 of the little darlings in the ground today.  I’ll make a list of what we got/plant later in the week, once they’re all settled into their new homes.

Is it bedtime yet??

Garden update:  Glaskin rhubarb, wintersown on February 6th, was up today.

Wanted: Dead or Alive

But mostly dead.

Fresh deer tracks have been really  thick as we have been around the property, prepping for the new garden fence.  At least they leave a little fertilizer.

I’m thinking a tomato & venison sandwich sounds pretty good right now.  Anyone want to start a petition to move deer season closer to tomato season?

My first attempt at (fruit tree) pruning

I read and read and read.  Then I decided to just do.  I’d already cut off several dead branches that were hanging by bark threads last time.  Today, I decided to do some actual dormant pruning.

The apple tree had a pretty decent form, at least from what I’d been reading (and my very inexperienced eye) but it had several dead and damaged branches.  (Note to self:  Yell abusively at kids when they fly kites and parachutes in the front yard!)  I opted for the “modified leader” method of training.

The peach tree does this crazy lean thing and the main branches are not exactly where I’d have chosen them.  It’s trained to the open center method so I obviously stuck with that.  This one also had several dead and damaged branches plus most of the dang thing leans towards the driveway.  So, I tried to prune with the intention of producing more balanced growth.  We’ll see…  (The clothespins on the tree act as spreaders to get a (hopefully) better crotch angle on some of the new branches.  Again, we’ll see…)

I’m sure I’ve both emotionally and physically traumatized those poor trees but it’s a learning experience for me.  We’ll be getting more (new) fruit trees soon so I wanted to just get over the initial fear of pruning on these already abused and neglected trees.  I’m still scared of screwing up but at least I now know that the trees won’t scream bloody murder when I completely mangle them.

FYI:  The entire front yard smells like Starbuck’s after this weekend’s rain.

Garden update:  Saw sprouts today on leeks and chives wintersown on February 2.

Tree Buzz

There were two fruit trees already planted when we bought this place last fall:  an apple and a peach.  They’re still little trees and they look like they’ve been neglected most of their lives.  The house sat empty for a couple of years, the realtor said, so that would explain the neglect.

Yesterday, I took the snips to them to remove damaged and rubbing branches.  Not yet fully educated on pruning, I didn’t cut back anything else.  I’ll get to that in the next week or two after I’read up on the subject a bit more.

They still had wire screen around their trunks to protect them and it had been there so long that the poor trees had grown into them.  I gingerly removed what I could but the base of the peach had an old, open wound from the abrasion.  I hope it’ll heal now that there will be no new injury.  The peach also still had its “leash” on — tie downs.  I took those off so it could strengthen in the wind.

Then, I pulled back much of the grass around the base of both trees and looked around for what I could use as a mulch….  Aha!  Steve had brought me home some big bags of coffee grounds from Starbucks.  (Who needs diamonds, chocolates, and fresh-cut flowers??  If you want to impress me, gift me something practical, like a shovel or used coffee grounds for my garden!  And, no, I’m not being sarcastic.)  Coffee grounds are good stuff in the gardening world and, while they may not last long as a mulch nor be the #1 choice, they’re what I had on hand.

We’re supposed to get a good rain this weekend, so I expect by the time it’s done percolating through the coffee grounds mulch, the trees will be a-buzzin’!

FYI:  Josie LOVES coffee so she was pretty impressed with my choice of mulch and very willing to help me.

Quickie wintersowing update:  German chamomile, sown February 6, was up yesterday.

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