Sunday, June 21, 2009

Update from the Mud Zone

While I try to resist it, there have been a few recent flashbacks to last year's flooding. The storms, the heavy rains, the wind, the weather radio going off in the middle of the night. Still though, I'm not complaining, truly things are no where near last year's mess. While we have had to replant a few crops, the bulk of them are doing well. Plus we still have not just one, but two high tunnels standing and full of crops (and promise.)

As I've mentioned before, we are participating in a season extension field trial with PFI to look at the profitability of high tunnels as compared to crops grown in the field. To that end we have the following currently planted:

High Tunnel #1 (26' x 48'):
Zucchini (Eight Ball & Sebring)
Tomatoes (Big Zebra & Paul Robeson)
Peppers (Ace, Golden Marconi & Wenk's Yellow Hots)
Eggplant (Listada De Gandia & Orient Express)

High Tunnel #2 (42' x 48'):
Peppers (Islander, Sunray & Mini Bells)
Basil (Genovese & Italian Large Leaf)
Tomatoes (Dr. Wychee, Juliet, Mule Team & Redfield Beauty)
Cucumbers (Diva & Suyo Long)
Swiss Chard (Bright Lights)
Eggplant (Ping Tung Long & Rosa Bianca)

In addition to minding our cultivated crops, we are also ready for the next wave of wild harvesting. The elderflowers are just coming into maturity and the mulberries and black raspberries are just starting to ripen. So many weeds to pull, crops to harvest and jams to make!

And now that the official start of summer is here, the temperatures are finally starting to feel like it. Late this past week, we made our first batch of herbal sun tea. Lemon balm and mountain that's refreshing!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Spring means Baby Birds

Well, after several adjustments to my computer settings and several false I am the guest blogger, bluemom. I have to admit after enjoying Jill's past writings, I'm am more than a little intimidated by the responsibility, but here it goes!

Spring is such a special time on the farm. My two favorite things are birds and flowers (That's right after grandsons "N" & "Z"). Last week we had a wonderful "bird event," when five baby phoebes fledged during the rain. I'm sure the mother bird was having the same thoughts as I did, "why on earth would you choose to leave a dry nest for a wet first flight?" I suppose five baby birds in one small nest was enough motivation for them. Anyway, I was checking the nest as usual ( at least 50 times a day) and they were gone. So, I looked around and noticed the adult flying around a low cart. Sure enough, there was a tiny bird, looking rather forlorn. It was wet and cuddled up to the edge. Another one was near by and it was making quite a racket. I'm sure it was calling out "feed me, feed me." The adults were doing their best to feed everyone.

Later in the day, I was on the other side of the cabin and there was another baby bird sitting on the deck rail. It saw me and did an instant freeze. If you've seen the mad bluebird picture, it was just that same look. I grabbed my camera and started taking pictures. The bird was not impressed! Can you tell?

Fledgling Phoebe

A couple of weeks before this bird event, Jill and I were mushroom and ramp hunting. We saw a baby barred owl. I think she mentioned this in a prior blog. Anyway, I went back later that day and was surprised to find the owl in the same tree as before. So, this time I had my camera and was able to get several pictures. I know 25 is more than several, but that's the beauty of a digital camera. I hope you have all discovered how much fun it is sans film. The owl seems to have the same look that the phoebe gave me.

Barred owlet

I hope you enjoy these little neighbors on Blue Gate Farm. We certainly have a wonderful neighborhood.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

House Concert

A brief interlude from farm work...
House concerts are something I miss from our Houston days. For those not familiar, here is what Wikipedia says about them:

The definition of house concert is not definite but is generally taken as a concert that's presented in someone's home, or a nearby private space, for example a barn or back yard.

  • Usually, but not always, the audience capacity is smaller than at a coffeehouse or club.
  • Usually cash is collected at the show. Generally tickets are not sold in advance.
  • The money collected usually (but not always) goes straight to the performers, with no "profit motive" on the presenter's part.
  • Often, but not always, house concerts are conducted "by invitation" (for practical reasons), rather than as "public" concerts like a club or concert hall.
  • Often - again with exceptions - there is little or no "sound system" - performers play and sing acoustically, unless someone needs a little amp for their keyboard.
  • Refreshments, if any, are usually either a "pot luck" brought by the listeners, or provided by the hosts using a bit of the gate receipts.
  • Sometimes - but definitely not always - the performers get a meal and/or lodging with the presenters as part of their compensation.

Luckily we have wonderful music-loving friends from our Houston days that have recently relocated to Des Moines, and last night they hosted a house concert with musicians Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart. The Thompson house was a perfect venue for 70-some friends to get up close and personal with this talented duo. This was my first exposure to Stacey and Mark and I've become a quick fan. You can check out their music at Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart.

Huge thanks to our Thompson-friends for hosting this wonderful event and for including us in the fun!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Still Here

No we haven't died in some mysterious farming accident, buried under a two-ton pile of compost. Nor have we chucked it all and returned to our theatre lives. No, its just spring and if I had a web cam pointed outside, you would see me crawling around on hands and knees transplanting vegetables like a mad woman.

Last weekend was all about tomatoes, eggplant, edible flowers and herbs (thanking my lucky stars for family and Terri help!). This weekend was bed-prep followed by transplanting garden huckleberries, ground cherries, hot peppers, okra, cucumbers, patty pan squash and zucchini. The haywagon which was once a solid block of transplants is now just dotted with orphan plants and the yet-to-be-planted herbs. So the bulk of the transplanting is now complete, then there's the weeding...
I haven't forgotten about the blog, I just can't seem to find a way to get everything I want to get done, done.

So yesterday while transplanting ground cherries I had a eureka moment, followed by a "duh" moment which involved smacking myself in the forehead with a muddy glove. It can be summarized in two words...
"Guest Blogger!"

I know, its not exactly revolutionary thinking, but I had been encouraging my mom to start a blog to show off all of her wonderful nature photography from around the farm when I realized that I could provide the forum and she could help update and beautify the blog. So keep checking in, as new and exciting content is on its way.