It is a delight to be the spouse of a hard working, joy-filled, dedicated man.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Farm Tours Restart

Welcome back for more tour of Vicktory Farm & Gardens! Didn't mean to let nearly a year go by. Today we will be strolling in the Barn Garden and talking water and weather, hope you wore your boots. Anna could run to the kitchen and get some bread sacks to go over your shoes but those stilettos your friend there has on definitely won't do.

In the scheme of things this garden sits west of the house, I can see parts of it from my new big bedroom window (the lilac hedge blocks a full view). In past posts you have seen the South Pastures that sit just west of the Barn Garden and share a pond, and in Hang Out Spots tour you saw the yard that is just the other side of the east boundary fence for this garden.

Let's get started, come off of the driveway here and come through the gate in Dirt's special fence.

You'll see a lot of plastic 5 gallon buckets around the Farm, they come in super handy. I use them to pick up my weed piles so I can throw the weeds to the chickens, easier than a wheelbarrow I gotta get up more often than a wheelbarrow load or I won't be able to unkink my legs.

There is a little strip of garden that separates the driveway from the main Barn Garden. We'll come back to that at the end.

For now we are going to go on through this second gate, gate way actually, because the gate is old and needs fixing. This walk way is rather muddy because the rain off of the big barn roof comes through here and out into Barn Pond. This issue is in the process of being solved, unfortunately it isn't at the top of the list.

I do a lot of ditching around here, no the "d" is correct, I dig a lot of water ways. I'm a hydrologist. The biggest issue about keeping someone out of the garden early in the year in the PNW (Pacific North West) is water and soggy soils.

This is what the soil looks like this time of the year when it gets walked on. Not a good look for garden soil.

That is the reason nearly every gardening area here at VF&Gs is a raised bed that has hidden electrodes around it so that you get blown to the next county if you step on the bed. Well, not really but a girl can fantasize about things, can't she?
A raised bed is one of the basic season extenders here at VF&G, one I wouldn't do without. We make them simple. No treated boards, no plastic "lumber", no concrete blocks (the poison they all leach has a way of undoing that home grown goodness plus they harbor slugs, bugs and fungus) just a three to four foot wide bed not much longer than twenty feet (otherwise you find yourself cheating and jumping the bed to get to the other side). They are sometimes straight and other times they go with the contour of the landscape. We employ them not only in the "vegetable" gardens but also in the ornamental gardens as well.

The soil in these beds is nice and fluffy and can actually pass the soil lump test just fine right now, if you took a similar sample of some other areas like the lawn or the market garden strip in the pasture rotation, it would not pass the test for a couple of months. It is also warmer than soil that is all soggy and wet because it can't drain.

Being able to get into the garden at this time of the year is a real bonus, and in spite of my being slightly jealous of those areas that get real snow and ice for winter, it is why I love living here in the PNW. With a few season extenders PNW gardeners can produce food for most of the year. So yes, our tomatoes are a challenge and fresh corn is barely a month long treat but if well attended to, a PNW garden can provide very well.

It also allows for gardeners to stay ahead of weeds. I suppose that ice and snow has a damper on weed growth but being able to weed during the slower growth months of winter really helps this procrastinator stay ahead, okay, a few steps behind the weeds.
Winter weeding is an art all to itself. I should tell you all about it soon. I hope you noticed a specific pattern to the little garlic plants coming up, it is called equidistance planting.

But for now lets look at another season extender, my cold frame. It sits just to the left and forward as we came through the last gate (the gate way). The area around it is trying to find itself, the beds just in front of the glazing side is becoming Bet's herb garden area but this funny spot back here is having some serious identity issues.

Here is the front glazing side of the cold frame, it is oriented exactly to the south. Not necessarily always the best choice, sometimes it is better to catch the sun a little earlier and orient it slightly to the east, but when you only have one and you can't make decisions well, you go with normal and average sometimes just to get the job done.
There are some things inside, lets lift the lid and see.

A few flats of last year's left over onion seed, onion seed like just a couple other vegetable seeds is only really viable for a year, but I hate throwing things out so I went ahead and dumped the packets into flats just to see what I could come up with. And I think the showing was worth my trouble. This week I will be seeding flats with this year's main crop of onions and in a couple more days these guys in here will be ready to come out and head to a garden bed. Most likely in the North Garden.

So this is the view looking west from the cold frame area. We rather went crazy with the garlic this year. It will be interesting to see just how much we really need to be planting. Even though Dirt eats lots of garlic, with the varieties we end up growing he doesn't eat as much of it as when we get it from the market. So it will be interesting to see how sales of garlic go this year and how much we really need to plant. Yippee I am so excited about our new adventure. But we'll talk more about that later.
For now let's go over and look at Bet's two new peach trees.
The names escape me at the moment, I'll get back to you on that in the morning here, They are semi dwarf and won't get much over fifteen feet or so. Bet says she is looking forward to coming out here with a good book and a saddle pad and taking her breaks from work under her peach tree, she has a few years yet before that vision actually fleshes out but I love her patience and I admire her faith. I now understand what it means to have the gift of faith, Bet has it. In spades. About absolutely everything.

Here is the other peach tree, the two trees line up with a spot she has picked out for some other trees. They are semi dwarf and of course deciduous, so the fact that they sit in the center of the garden isn't a real problem. The sun will climb up in the sky before they have their leaves and there will only be a lovely dappled shade underneath them, just perfect for somethings that can't take the heat of our dogs days of summer, five days in August.

This is our hoop house made from livestock panels. It has been a lot of things, a gourd arbor mostly, a cold greenhouse in the late winter/early spring and a great spot for the mums to get their early boost if it is a super cold winter.
Most recently it served as a chicken coop so that Bet could separate out some of her breeds. It may be that again soon. There is supposed to be a chicken coop built along the west wall of the barn, it will serve to keep the water from the base of the logs of the barn and house Bet's breeding stock but the Hot House/Market Shed complex comes first and then we might collapse for a month before we tackle this project.
If stock panels weren't so stinkin' expensive at the moment I'd have more of these, I'd anchor them a little differently, but this one was hard to do because there is a concrete slab we were spanning with the hoop.

Standing up here at the hoop house and peach trees looking south we can see Bet's duck house. It finally got its front doors on and so the ducks got kicked out of the big barn and now Bet comes out and locks them up out there at night and lets them out in the morning.
They were being pretty good at staying on their side of the fence until the last couple of days. Something will need to be done to keep them from coming in here and pulling up the garlic and onions. They seem to be attracted to the green, go to pull it out, taste it as they are pulling it out of the ground and decide they don't like it. Unfortunately Bet hasn't successfully trained them to replant it!
They really like their pond and they can wander all over on the other shore and up around the turkey pens but they seem to like to dabble in my garden this time of the year. I think its the green shoots of the garlic, I haven't seen much signs of slugs and other treats, besides if they are in here the slug and bugs are also out there.

Bet and I have been doing a bit of research about dealing with grey water, specifically the water from processing poultry, for when we apply for our license to process. We have come across some interesting info about cleaning water by running it through bogs planted with cat tails and some other specific water plants.
The heavy stalks in the water in the center left of the above picture is a little colony of cattails. I am really drawn to cattails and would love an excuse to have a larger planting of them up around the Barn Garden.

The boggish place just to the right of this fence line has been filtering and dealing with the grey water from the farm house every since there was inside plumbing here. It is a great system and rarely puts off an odor, some compost piles smell more than our little un-designed bog.
The pond just beyond the bog supports bull frogs, cat fish, occasional escapee trout, and the ducks of course appear to thrive here. Not to mention the resident river otters and beaver clan along with clearly healthy pond side flora.

Here's a view from the far southwest corner of the Barn Garden. The fact that the majority of our grey water has its own system and doesn't go through the septic makes our septic all that much more healthy. Besides in a septic system the grey water would pretty much end up doing what it is doing right now. Go through a soil/plant root filter before eventually ending up in the pond.
It is all so freakishly green I can hardly speak of it. Funny, things on farms were green long before now and old farmers knew how to protect the water and soil supply. They didn't really need the Birkenstock, or black nail polish crowds to tell them how to take care of the earth that they depended on.
Here is a big view of the south west side of the barn and the hoop house. In the foreground is one of the gazillion weed piles. Lots of my weed piles, stuff the chickens would rather not eat or just the stuff that is more than they can handle, are cold compost piles.
They eventually rot down and no, the weed seeds aren't burned up, but man that takes a heck of a hot pile and I'm just not that into doing that at the moment. The hot compost will come when we have to start dealing with poultry offal from the processing. But as for the weeds, I'm beginning to think they aren't so stinking bad, I really feel strongly, come 'round July or August especially, that we actually ought not to weed any more. But that's a discussion for another day. Right now I love weeding.

And I love tossing the weeds to the chickens so that Bet doesn't have to put alfalfa in the hay rack that you see the hens sticking their little head in (the bluish green square on the right half of the coop. This is the winter housing and where the breeding stock hang out. In the summer the eggers and the meat birds head out to the pasture and will become an integral part of the pasture rotation that we will be incorporating this year. MiG. Managed intensive grazing. Making the most of less land. And something Dirt and I are very excited about. But... you guessed it, we'll talk about that another day.

If we turn around and look east we come across my aronia berry bush. I have some more up at the nursery beds that will be coming down here this month during transplanting days.

I have no idea yet if this moon signs planting business is really effecting the plants and bugs and weeds (there are days for dealing with everything!) But it sure is doing a good thing for making me get stuff done and not get sidetracked with a bazillion jobs all at once. I need a way to keep me focused or I end up not getting anything finished because I am doing too many things.

A better view of Bet's herb beds in front of the cold frame, the bright green little tufts off to the left of the picture are her chives, a lavender and a sage is just beyond that.

The bed between that one and the cold frame is filled with lavender starts from a plant that I rooted in place by heaping soil up around it and in the middle of it. Each branch then became a rooted plant. It is a great way to multiply several different types of shrubs and herbs especially when they have been neglected of seasonal pruning and get all out of shape. A "do over" of sorts.

These are a examples of raised beds that are not straight. I would like to do more large gardens with not-straight beds but that will come later in my life I think. Right now I just like to get it done and get them planted. Soon I will have more time to shape and have fun with different geometrics in the garden.

These big lumps here on the far left are not more weed piles, they are my enormous comfrey plants that if I have time will be busted up this year and dispersed through out more areas of the farm. Comfrey is an amazing plant in the apothecary and out in the garden. Its huge leaves are great in the compost and add some really good extra nutrition, because of deep roots it can pull up lots of minerals from the sub soils.

I can't think of a plant that doesn't like to be near comfrey or have its big leaves as a mulch during those five hot days in August. It is another great bog and pond edge plant and has tremendous water filtering abilities. It is just simply a must have plant.

This for me is a dreamy view. I like to look far across the pond to the other bank and the white barked aspen. To me they are like the paper birch in the painting by Carl Larsson of his family picnicking or the one where they are fishing. Sometimes I like to think I live in Carl's world.

This is the little gate way and walk that Bet takes to let her ducks out. This spot is also in need of an identity and restructuring, something I hope Bet and I can get to and get into process later this spring or at least by early summer.

We turn around and head back for the gate by the barn. Our raspberries here on the right on the fence line await their annual trimming and tying up session, hopefully this year I will get to it before the leaves are out, that makes a tough job tougher. I'm utilizing a bit more of my wonderful black weed mat, Water goes down through but weeds are really discouraged from growing and it is even impervious to armor piercing quack grass.

On the right side of the weed mat walk way you can see a couple of step in black plastic posts. Those mark where I think I want some climbing roses to go up over some hoops toward the raspberries, forming a arbor-ed walkway here. I like secret little walk ways and such so we'll see. The fence post in the fence line are old creosote and I keep the raspberries back from them for the most part but I would like to move the raspberry operation some place slightly less toxic entirely.

As we head back out the gate you can see the walkway, between the barn wall and the chickens, becomes a holding place for my mums in pots and the fruit trees awaiting their new home spots.

Sometimes I get a little crazy with the old and makeshift things we've got going on here but then most of the time I just embrace the character of it all. And then, I am thankful that God has placed me here and not in a modern home on an uninteresting, history-less plot of land.

Like the stories this little garden by the driveway holds for us.

Some where in that center bed lies the first casualty here on VF&Gs. A murdered sheep was buried by yours truly about our second or third year here. Back in '88. Dale's flock of sheep had come out here to live but not before the pet lamb of the wife of one of his worker fellas had been mistaken for a locker lamb. So after the flock had been here a while Dale dropped off a sweet little Cheviot to hang with the group, replacing the mistaken identity lamb.
Well, sheep are flockish, and they did not accept her, She spent most of her time many yards from the flock, she ate separately from them or after they were done and had moved on she would come and clean up the leftover. She was excluded from coming in the barn to get out of the rain or the heat.
Then one day it was particularly rainy I was glad to see that she had obviously gotten to go in out of the rain because she wasn't in the barnyard. But when I looked over the door I didn't see her. Well this is turning into a long story and has nothing really to do with gardening so I finish it up later.
Along with buried sheep and my second oldest's pet goose being buried in here, down by the lilacs there, was where the out house stood for the former resident and now neighbor and old work buddy of Dirt's. All another long story about just how small the world is and confirmation on God wanting us here.
But as for the outhouse part, Dave says that when he left home for the Korean war the out house stood right about where the lilacs are or maybe a little over to the right where the path goes out onto the lawn. But when he came back there was a new addition on the house and indoor plumbing.

Well that's the end of the tour, long one for such a small space, you can come in and take advantage of the indoor plumin' if ya need to and you can stay for a cup a tea ifn' you'd like. I gotta get on with the hallway project but you can pull up a chair and keep me company while I paint.


Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

i loved seeing the farm by tour and had tears over the little lamb. poor little thing. i had a woman be really mean to me recently and it hurt so i felt really bad for the little lamb...

smiles, bee

Lisa @ Life with 4! said...

thanks for the tour, Lanny!!
you have so much to keep you busy there.
i enjoy seeing your place, it gives me ideas for our garden space.
have a blessed day!

Tipper said...

Loved the tour : ) Made me wish the snow would go away so I could get to it too : ) I like your thoughts on raised beds-I kinda did a few of mine like that last year and had great success-as well as saved money-and time.

Vickie said...

Hi Lanny - thanks for the tour. Looks like you're making good use of every square inch dirt! Thank goodness where we live we dont have much mud to deal with. Our land is mostly sandy and it drains really fast - which is good for mud, but it makes us have to water more...

See ya - Vickie (not Sandy ;o)

Eggs In My Pocket / Yesteryear Embroideries said...

What a wonderful tour! A wonderful canvas to watch come into to full bloom! blessings,Kathleen

Daisy said...

I enjoyed the tour, Lanny. I can't believe how much green you have there. We still have snow on the ground--got some more today. We won't see green until the middle or end of March at the earliest.

jen said...

Hey.... totally enjoyed the virtual tour.. thank you for posting! :) I mostly lurk as you know--but am rather active on FB ~lol~... I just wanted to let you know how much (haha, fast fingers typed 'muck' in place of much there) I enjoy your blog. I am so glad to have met you at the fair this year! :) lucky us!

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Lanny: What neat photos of your garden and all the stories of the work it takes to really farm a land. Thanks for sharing this special area of your life.