Feb 10 2010

On Snow And The Changing Seasons: Garden Report

Roger


IMG_0578

We’re in our third major snowstorm of the season, and there is a blizzard warning until this evening. Probably about 30” of snow on the ground now — 24” from last weekend’s storm, plus what’s falling now. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this much snow.
The quiet, the calm make it a perfect time to reflect on the transition from the first season in the Sykesville garden to the second. Despite a disaster or two, we’d have to say it was a successful, very satisfying garden.
Because of all the infrastructure work — breaking ground, assembling the greenhouse, and most hugely, building the 7 1/2’ deer-proof fence — we got a late start, with not much in the way of early season crops. My seed-starting venture was pretty much a flop. I blame it on the ridiculous commute and hours I was working at a downtown job. Won’t have that problem this year.
As noted previously here, we were lucky to get an abundance of manure, making for amazing fertility. The zinnias and dahlias were ginormous. Peppers, the best I’ve ever grown. The beans were so dense on the gateway trellis that we couldn’t even harvest them. The tomatoes, up until the late blight fungus hit, were magnificent.
That’s the outstanding sour note and biggest disappointment. After an initial flush of fruit, the LBF took out all the tomatoes. Just one batch of sauce, and nothing to can. We actually had to buy tomatoes at the farmer’s market in August and September. How humiliating!
Lessons learned to be applied this year: Rotate, of course. Use only plants started here. Plant with much more generous spacing to allow more air and light in, and avoid persistent dampness. Install ground irrigation hoses to avoid over-wetting of the foliage. And keep the watering consistent.
Also as noted earlier, our showing at the Howard County Fair was very satisfying. The peppers were stars, with the green bells taking a first. We’ll be focusing on some more flowers this season; they were pretty much an afterthought. I’m sure Natalie will be on the lookout for creative containers to present our blooms.
Lastly, bow season was a bust. I had some close encounters, but nothing for the freezer. Leaving the downtown job behind will help that endeavor, too. Natalie, Blue and I have scouted out some prime new spots, and I’ll also be focusing on the old stand that produced last year. (We have one nice doe in the freezer, from Pennsylvania rifle season.)
Now for this year. I’ve ordered way too many seeds, as usual. We probably have enough from last year to plant a full garden. But I just can’t resist.
From Jung, we ordered:
Blue Lake 274 bush bean
Burpee improved bush lima bean
Franklin hybrid Brussels sprouts
Nantes coreless carrots
Eureka hybrid cucumber
Dusky hybrid eggplant
Italian large leaf basil
Florence fennel (for Natalie’s butterflies)
Super sugar snap pea
Aruba cubanelle hybrid pepper
Giant marconi hybrid pepper
Rainbow hybrid pepper
Easter egg blend radish
Bloomsdale longstanding spinach
Italian Largo hybrid squash
All blue potato sets
Benarys giant white zinnia
Magellan mix hybrid zinnia
Oklahoma mix zinnia
Single old fashioned mix hollyhock
New millennium stars delphinium mix
Thomas Edison dahlia
White perfection dahlia
Zorro dahlia
Jung’s premium gladiolus
Good god, I am out of control! Where are we going to put all this?!? And that doesn’t include the tomatoes. Here’s what we ordered from Totally Tomatoes:
Beefmaster hybrid
Lemon Boy hybrid
Pineapple
Roma
4 best hybrids collection
Notice there in no lettuce on the list. In an act of extreme discipline, I decided we had enough seed leftover. Notice also the preponderance of hybrid varieties; until we’re sure we have disease and fungi under control, we’re going with resistant varieties as much as possible.
So, they should be here soon, assuming the mail people can get through the snow. We’ll get the lights set up in the basement, and I will have no excuse for neglecting the little babies.
Now, time to get some serious outerwear on, grab the Blue dog, and go out to get some more firewood. Now that there’s someone here to tend it, and since we have plenty of wood to use, we’ve been doing a lot of heating with the wood stove. A nice country ritual (especially when you don’t have to depend 100% on it).

Above:  Garden after the second big snow of the season.

We’re in our third major snowstorm of the season, and there is a blizzard warning until this evening. Probably about 30” of snow on the ground now — 24” from last weekend’s storm, plus what’s falling now. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this much snow.

The quiet, the calm make it a perfect time to reflect on the transition from the first season in the Sykesville garden to the second. Despite a disaster or two, it was a successful, very satisfying garden. We ate a lot out of it. Natalie was very pleased with all the butterflies. And I’d have to say, I couldn’t have a better gardening partner: champion weeder, tireless transplanter, keen observer and meticulous caretaker. We’re an excellent team, in gardening and just about everything else.

Because of all the infrastructure work — breaking ground, assembling the greenhouse, and most hugely, building the 7 1/2’ deer-proof fence — we got a late start, with not much in the way of early season crops. My seed-starting venture was pretty much a flop. I blame it on the ridiculous commute and hours I was working at a downtown job. Won’t have that problem this year.

As noted previously here, we were lucky to get an abundance of manure, making for amazing fertility. The zinnias and dahlias were ginormous. Peppers, the best I’ve ever grown. The beans were so dense on the gateway trellis that we couldn’t even harvest them. The tomatoes, up until the late blight fungus hit, were magnificent.

That’s the outstanding sour note and biggest disappointment. After an initial flush of fruit, the LBF took out all the tomatoes. Just one batch of sauce, and nothing to can. We actually had to buy tomatoes at the farmer’s market in August and September. How humiliating!

Lessons learned to be applied this year: Rotate, of course. Use only plants started here. Plant with much more generous spacing to allow more air and light in, and avoid persistent dampness. Install ground irrigation hoses to avoid over-wetting of the foliage. And keep the watering consistent.

Also as noted earlier, our showing at the Howard County Fair was very satisfying. The peppers were stars, with the green bells taking a first. We’ll be focusing on some more flowers this season; they were pretty much an afterthought. I’m sure Natalie will be on the lookout for creative containers to present our blooms.

Lastly, bow season was a bust. I had some close encounters, but nothing for the freezer. Leaving the downtown job behind will help that endeavor, too. Natalie, Blue and I have scouted out some prime new spots, and I’ll also be focusing on the old stand that produced last year. (We have one nice doe in the freezer, from Pennsylvania rifle season.)

Now for this year. I’ve ordered way too many seeds, as usual. We probably have enough from last year to plant a full garden. But I just can’t resist.

From Jung, we ordered:

  • Blue Lake 274 bush bean
  • Burpee improved bush lima bean
  • Franklin hybrid Brussels sprouts
  • Nantes coreless carrots
  • Eureka hybrid cucumber
  • Dusky hybrid eggplant
  • Italian large leaf basil
  • Florence fennel (for Natalie’s butterflies)
  • Super sugar snap pea
  • Aruba cubanelle hybrid pepper
  • Giant marconi hybrid pepper
  • Rainbow hybrid pepper
  • Easter egg blend radish
  • Bloomsdale longstanding spinach
  • Italian Largo hybrid squash
  • All blue potato sets
  • Benarys giant white zinnia
  • Magellan mix hybrid zinnia
  • Oklahoma mix zinnia
  • Single old fashioned mix hollyhock
  • New millennium stars delphinium mix
  • Thomas Edison dahlia
  • White perfection dahlia
  • Zorro dahlia
  • Jung’s premium gladiolus

Good god, I am out of control! Where are we going to put all this?!? And that doesn’t include the tomatoes. Here’s what we ordered from Totally Tomatoes:

  • Beefmaster hybrid
  • Lemon Boy hybrid
  • Pineapple
  • Roma
  • 4 best hybrids collection

Notice there is no lettuce on the list. In an act of extreme discipline, I decided we had enough seed leftover. Notice also the preponderance of hybrid varieties; until we’re sure we have disease and fungi under control, we’re going with resistant varieties as much as possible.

So, they should be here soon, assuming the mail people can get through the snow. We’ll get the lights set up in the basement, and I will have no excuse for neglecting the little babies.

Now, time to get some serious outerwear on, grab the Blue dog, and go out to get some more firewood. Now that there’s someone here to tend it, and since we have plenty of wood to use, we’ve been doing a lot of heating with the wood stove. A nice country ritual (especially when you don’t have to depend 100% on it).


Jul 28 2009

Treestand Photos

Roger

Here are some views of the treestand discussed in the previous post.


Jul 26 2009

Review & Thoughts: Hunting From Home

Roger

I just this minute finished Hunting from Home/A Year Afield in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which Natalie picked up for me for $4 at the Green Valley Book Fair, itself in the Blue Ridge near James Madison University.  I’ve been nursing my way through it these four days at the beach, wanting to stretch it out, not wanting it to end.  I’m inclined to send Christopher Camuto, its author, the $20 difference between the cover price and what Natalie paid, but realistically, I’ll probably buy another of his books instead.

This book is a year of intense observation, basecamped around the 200-acre Highland Farm in the southern Blue Ridge.  Camuto is intimidatingly learned and apparently, natively intelligent.  His writing, from my view, is full of profound thoughts and observations beautifully, and frequently poetically, captured.  I have to admit my bias to his subject matter, though.  Woods and birds and trout and deer, stars and seasons, time and mortality — well, I suppose in a sense he covers everything.  My one complaint is that the title is somewhat misleading.  It starts with grouse hunting, but then spends a long stretch on trout fishing, and on birds, before moving to trees, back to grouse hunting, and then the welcome climax of hunting deer with longbow and muzzleloader.  I’m no fisherman, but I enjoyed those parts very much, and I am not and doubt I ever will be a birder; I complained a bit about the detail there, but still it was enjoyable reading.

This was one of those books that makes me wonder why I would ever try to write generic cialis online best price.  A bit of the feeling I get from reading Faulkner.  Better than I think I’d ever be able to achieve.  (Take the compliment please, Mr. Camuto, but you know as well as I — Faulkner, that’s a stretch.  But it’s the same idea.)

Had I not met the love of my life, I would be easily seduced by the solitary life Camuto describes.  Just him and his bird dog, Patches, a cabin and a woodstove, 200 acres to learn and love, hunting, doing the work of living, writing…(sigh).  Natalie thinks we could work it out.

Hunting from Home
A Year Afield in the Blue Ridge Mountains

by Christopher Camuto
W.W. Norton and Company
2003
Buy it on Amazon

Footnote:  Just googled Camuto and found that he’s on the faculty of Bucknell University now, the school that was at the top of my daughter’s list, but she didn’t make it in. :-(


Jul 26 2009

Clouds And Treestands

Roger

The clouds skirting the Catoctin Mountains were magnificent as we drove east across the Piedmont Plateau on our way back from Pennsylvania — flat bottoms and billowing tops, sliding from south to north in an endless parade of shapes. It certainly got me thinking about how seldom we (I) stop to observe clouds, and trees, and grass, and all of the other incredible bounty of nature.  As a people, we Americans have created a bastard existence for ourselves, focusing only on people and people-created things (and mostly, on what other people think about the people-created things we’ve accumulated, spending our time keeping score instead of looking at clouds).  I myself quickly lose track of the phase of the moon or the few constellations I know, or the hour of sunrise or set, and scold myself constantly for it.

We had spent the weekend treestand-building on my sister’s farm.  The stand we know as “Little Dom’s Stand,” because it is and has been his spot, has been dangerously out of repair for several years now. Dom III hunts out of it the first couple days of rifle season every year.  He doesn’t hunt with a bow, so I often use it on my all-too-infrequent bowhunting trips to Italia Farms, and usually for a day or two of rifle season after Dom III heads back home to the Eastern Shore.  It is easily the most productive stand on the farm.  I shot my first deer with a bow from it, a doe, and my first buck with a bow as well, and a number of others.  But it had been hastily repaired with a few more nails a few too many times, and was beyond any attempt to patch it.

So big Dom, little Dom, and I loaded up and made a caravan down to the spot at the edge of the oat field — Dom III driving his truck pulling a trailer with our stack of lumber and tools, Dom II on the John Deere with the Bush Hog, and me on the IH with the salvaged 6×10’ section of deck dangling by chains from the bucket, which would be the main deck of the new stand.  I hadn’t driven a “real” tractor in some time, so they just put me in a single gear and sent me on my way.

We pulled away the 12’ commercial swimming pool ladder that had served for more than 20 years, banged off a couple of the main limbs of the treestand, draped a chain around it and pulled it down with the tractor in one neat move.  It was one of the many times over the weekend that I admired Dom and Dom’s on-the-fly engineering.  For this project, I was a glorified gopher at best, and glad to support their impressive skills.

One of the problems with the old stand was that it was attached to trees, and their swaying worked constantly to detach our unnatural appendage.  This new one would be freestanding.  We started scraping and chopping at the rocky soil to dig four postholes — the soil was rocky to start with, and strip mining brought eons more to the surface — but soon decided we needed to go back and get the auger for the tractor, though we we not convinced it would do the job as well as the out-of-commission skid loader would.  But it worked fine.

I insisted on bringing and buying as much new pressure-treated lumber as I thought we needed.  We so seldom focused this kind of effort, I wanted to be sure it was well-spent.  We set four sixteen-foot 4x6s as the main uprights, 2x10s as the bearing beams, all generously cross-braced with new 2x4s and reclaimed 1x6s.  By Saturday evening, we had it all up, including the deck on top.  Sunday we re-set the swimming pool ladder, finished bolting things together, and cleaned up the old stand and took it down to the on-farm dump.

I was amazed at the accomplishment.  It is rock-solid; my attempts to shake it produced only the slightest movement.  It’s 12-18” taller than the old stand, but that little bit of height offers greatly improved views.  We still have to put railings, side skirting, and a roof on (new luxury), and it’ll be done.  And be set to last for 20 to 30 years.  Can’t wait to hunt it!


Jul 7 2009

Hiking in Patapsco State Park

Natalie

photo_070509_001To make certain we got some exercise, we invited Roger’s dear friend, Caroline, to go hiking on Sunday, July 5.  (By extending an invitation, it meant that we could not back out and decide we were too tired.) At first, we were just checking out the deer hunting possibilities at the end of River Road where there are 400 acres of hunting ground in Patapsco State Park.  Then, we went deeper into the woods.  At some point we had to decide right or left, forward or go back, toward or away from the river.  We weren’t exactly certain where to go.  What does Roger do?  iPhone, of course.  He consulted his GPS application and directed us to the road.  Amazing.  I really don’t like the iPhone.  Really.