Wednesday, May 16, 2018

My Mother's Day gift: A great big pile of...

I've been working like a mad thing in the garden. Unlike a lot of years past, this May has been warm and dry rather than chilly and rainy. There were years I couldn't get seeds in the ground until early June; but this year's weather has been so cooperative, I've been frantically getting stuff in early.

One of the necessities was a fresh layer of compost on every garden bed. Trouble was, the compost pile was down in the woods and the garden was not.

This pile of former barn waste has been quietly sitting here for the last three years, decomposing. It's the perfect state to put on the garden. The logical thing was to move it from here to there via the tractor, but Don's also been working like a mad thing on tankard orders, so here to there wasn't happening.

This represents a partial production run of an order we're trying to finish by the end of June.

And then Don gave me my Mother's Day gift: a lesson in tractor-driving, resulting in a great big pile of manure moved from there to here.

This was not without its occupational hazards. Every time I took a fresh scoop, the chickens would descend on the pile en masse. I had to be careful not to run them over.

Soon I had a satisfactorily large pile of compost much closer to the garden.

After that came the tedious wheelbarrow work as I moved compost to the individual beds.

But you can see the difference.

Don also took some time away from his busy schedule to help me do something that we've needed to do for a long, long time: chicken-proof the garden. Last year the birds did a lot of damage. They scratched up the corn seed, ate the grapes and blueberries, and in general were a pain in the patookus. But we installed chicken wire in strategic locations along the fencing where they were slipping through, and it seems to be working.

So far I've planted potatoes, carrots, onions, peas, seed poppies, and tomatoes. I'm hardening off basil, broccoli, and cayenne peppers.

Today I hope to get the watermelon and cantaloupe planted, and by the end of the week the corn will be in the ground. Meanwhile the other crops (either perennials or planted last fall) are growing great guns: grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, garlic, potato onions, and herbs. The pears (below) have blossomed, and the orchard (peaches, plums, apples, and hazelnuts) are blooming out.

I'm also trying an experiment this year, thanks to a reader suggestion: peanuts. Apparently it's possible to grow peanuts in northern climates as long as they're started indoors. Right now the peanut plants are hardening off.

If this works, I'll always grow peanuts.

So anyway, as you can imagine the farm work is taking up an enormous chunk of each day. It starts around 6 am when I release the calves from their pen so Amy can feed them, then I put Amy in the pasture with the rest of the cows.

Then it's into the house for some computer work (usually writing), then Don and I take Mr. Darcy out for his morning walk, then it's into the garden until noon when I fetch Amy from the field and let her feed the calves again; then it's back into the garden until about 4 pm when I take Darcy out for his afternoon walk.

Then it's barn chores, then it's time to fetch Amy up from the field for the night and have her feed the calves again. And that doesn't count helping Don with the tankard work.

Which is why I found the following article so grimly amusing about the so-called "indoor generation": "A quarter of Americans spend all day inside, survey finds."

I don't seem to have that problem, especially this time of year.


  1. Yay Patrice! Always nice to have tractor driving skills and farm compost for the garden! We too are busy from early to late with critters and gardening. As well as milking goats and making cheese 3 times a week, as well as regular away from the farm jobs for everyone but myself. My friends always admire my tan and then ask me what I am up to since they rarely see me these days. I always invite them out to the farm to see what keeps us so busy and enjoy a glass of tea or lemonade under the shade trees, but I think they are too busy inside! Thankful for lovely spring weather and a having things to do outside.
    Janae @ Creekside Farmstead

  2. I got a tractor lesson yesterday while on the phone w my husband was at work and I was on the tractor sort of crying. !!! ..LOL But so much can be done with the tractor that my 59 year old body doesn't want to do anymore with a shovel !!Good luck with peanuts , I grew the best sweet potatoes as just an experiment last summer , got them in the ground late and they were still large and wonderful ! Michigan zone 5 .

  3. Great to see a farm lady on a tractor. Never had much luck getting my wife to spend much time on a tractor. She always said it was too big, too noisy, and always thought it was going to tip over.
    Your preparations for the garden are looking good. Nice to have your own supply of manure/compost. I have to buy from one of the big dairys that compost. I pickup 4 yards for $25.00, so could be worse.
    Have a fine week, hope the weather works in your favor.

  4. That's a pile of Black Gold! The amount of work Don does wit that tractor is amazing.
    Dock Guy

  5. Don is - in my opinion - quite thoughtful. My wife and I are still in the city, but she is an avid gardener, making gift-giving quite easy.

    Through the years I've gotten her 400# of composted cow manure, a chainsaw, a wheelbarrow, a pitchfork, and other things for her garden and houseplants. I designed and built a pyramid which she has used through the years for strawberries, different flowers, and lately an herb garden.

    These are all things she uses for her hobbies, and she has been thrilled for each one.

    Good job, Don. :)

    Steve Herr