My, How the Garden Grows!

a man in a purple t-shirt kneeling behind a large squash plant
The happy gardener

The garden and the gardener are very happy. The gardener’s hair is not keeping up with the plant growth, though. The gardener’s shirt looks a little baggy because some of his weight has disappeared in that garden. He did the planning, planting and mulching.

Not pictured, the water master. My job is getting water to all of it. This year, I used drip tape (as opposed to drip tubing), a large sand filter and cartridge filters (instead of just cartridge filters), and gravity-flow water at 6 PSI (instead of pumped water at 50 PSI). We had temperatures in the 100s this week, 105.6 on Friday, and everything kept growing, so that’s a good sign. It’s always difficult to know what’s happening with soil moisture under all that growth and mulch. I think I have a tendency to over-water, but our drainage is good. David has been pulling a lot of weeds that escaped the mulch and I keep asking him about the soil moisture and so far, so good.

The spinach has gone to seed, some of the first tomatoes are almost producing. The radishes are finished. The squash are producing. The gladiolus look like they will be spectacular if the heat doesn’t bake them when the bloom.

We did have one, major setback this year, one we’ve never experienced before. It started when all the tomato seedlings (over 100 plants with 30 varieties) David carefully grew from seed started to whither in their pots. Then they stunted and curled. He dumped those and did another 60 plants (he lost 10 varieties because he had no more seed). Those plants also stunted and died. Then we started trying to figure out what was wrong. We were able to identify that one of our batches of horse-manure compost had aminopyralid in it. Even though we do everything organically, the hay source was contaminated with a herbicide (a very unpleasant surprise for us and the lady we get manure from). In over 15 years, this had never happened to us. Apparently, her hay supplier got a grower who was using something like Grazon, Thistledown, Crossbow, UP-Front, or similar (how about those catchy names those chemical companies use for their weed killers) to kill weeds in the grass. The chemical passes through horses and concentrates in compost. Thankfully, we hadn’t spread the compost on the entire garden because we used some of our own goat/rabbit/cow/alfalfa compost on the new garden. And based on planting tests in later compost piles (and from our manure lady’s current manure pile) there’s no additional contamination. The contaminated compost will just have to be stirred for a couple years — it takes that long for the chemical to decompose! Here are pictures of what the tomato plants looked like: Here’s a place to start if you want more info about what other herbicides contain aminopyralid or similar chemicals: https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=aminopyralid.

Beautiful Blackberries

Plump, juicy, and big!

Freshly picked blackberries

The berry mania continues with blackberries now edging out the blueberries.

These things are exciting, beautiful and tasty. Easy-to-pick, too: thornless!

Bonnie back there in Missouri, if you read this — remember the way we used to dump these things into the blender with vanilla bean ice cream decades ago!!?? Now I skip the blender and mush them all together in a bowl with a little vanilla bean and toss in a few walnuts too.

Chicken Does Not Come from a Store

… we grow and process our chicken here …

Freshly processed, organically fed, hormone and antibiotic free, whole chickens

In addition to raising turkeys (our primary food protein), we also raise meat chickens. Meat chickens are not the same as egg chickens. Egg chickens don’t have genetics suitable for meat production (in other words, egg chickens are skinny and tough).

This morning, we processed 21 chickens and we have 17 more to do next week.

I don’t think we’ve had to purchase a chicken sitting on a blood-soaked rag in a yellow, Styrofoam tray, shrink-wrapped and frozen, in a grocery counter for nearly twenty years.

The taste and texture for farm-fresh is totally different (and better in my biased opinion).

We have a number of friends who are vegetarians or vegan, and we suspect many more would be if they had to grow and process the meat they eat.

We are grateful for the animals that live here on the farm. For the ones that nourish us with their lives, I hope we honor them both with our thanks and in the way we conduct our lives.

Goat Update – Two Months Since Kidding

… all are doing well, still nursing, but not much.

I didn’t take the time to photograph all of the eleven kids — they are all doing well.

The goat routine is to head for the upper pasture at 7:00 a.m. after we let them out. They return to the irrigated grass pasture before noon, and then lounge about until later in the afternoon. Then they eat grass again until we put them up around 7:00 p.m. (daylight determines when they go out and go in, in the winter it’s more like 7:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.)

These photos were taken mid-afternoon when the goats typically rest and chew on what they ate in the morning, and before they go back out later in the afternoon. They like laying in the warm sun, but near shelter, when they are on siesta.

  • three little goat kids sleeping next to their mama
  • Two white goat kids laying in the grass

Those not pictured: Rose, the female kid from Daisy the milk goat is big and very chunky (she was born to the buffet); Bucky, the orphan from Goatie, is really pushy and strong; Chocolate’s three: Lefty, Socks and Chip are all friendly, but Lefty is into everything; Lil’ Girl’s remaining kid, Fate, has been adrift since her brother died, like she’s always looking for something. We are still bottle feeding Bucky morning and night, but not much. He doesn’t really need it, but he sure expects it!

Who Loves Lucy?

… no, not Ricky …. Tommy Hawk!

  • a miniature Jersey bull ... dark brown and black
  • A Jersey heifer sniffing on a Jersey bull, we see the Jersey's head and the bull's testicles

We took Lucy to visit her new suitor today, and they seemed to hit it off immediately. We’ll go back to get her in a week.

While on this journey, Lucy is chaperoned by her mother, Mocha.

Lucy (foreground) with her mother, Mocha

Berry Mania in Berry Creek

… boysenberries, raspberries (red, golden and black), strawberries, blueberries …

Grateful to have a variation of the above each morning for breakfast, along with David’s scones and eggs.

It’s hard to say which of all these is “favorite” — it sort of depends upon the end use, eating fresh, freezing, baking, or preserving. The golden raspberries are even more flavorful after freezing. Blueberries are the most durable. Boysenberries are legendary for jam. Strawberries are happy fruit. For fresh flavor, I like the black raspberries the best. Of course, of all these, the black raspberries are the only ones with thorns here!

Yes, we have blackberries of both kinds (thornless and mean-as-heck thorns), but they are still blooming or only in the tiny green marble stage.

Also have gooseberries of both thorned and thornless varieties, but they did not produce this year.

Thirty-foot Wide Lawn/Brush Mower with Jersey Driver

  • a tribe of goats standing on a hill with blue sky and pine trees
  • a tribe of goats standing on a hill with blue sky and pine trees
  • a jersey heifer walking across a field with blue sky and pine trees
  • a jersey heifer walking across a field with blue sky and pine trees

It’s amazing to watch this little tribe in action — they move like a wave, 30′ wide, munching and chewing like a giant lawn and brush mower. Lucy is never far behind, or even right there with them.

actually, we have a 124-foot lawn/bush mower, counting Lucy’s four hooves along with the other goat hooves …

Blueberries!

Freshly picked blueberries

When we bought this property in 2012, we planted seven tiny blueberry plants. We did not live here until 2016, but we managed to keep the plants going. Now they are producing berries!

We do have to net the plants to keep the birds away. Amazing result: gallons of berries versus none. Birds lose this time! Ours!!

We also have golden raspberries and black raspberries producing now. I just haven’t managed to put them into photos, too. It’s busy this time of year with everything starting to come on (produce).