Saturday, June 25, 2011

Flowers in the Garden

We all like flowers here on the farm and have carefully nurtured the flowers that were already planted when we bought the place and we have planted many more. We admire the English garden style that mixes flowering shrubs, flowers and different foliages in a meandering billowy non-linear fashion rather than a formal look and we plan to add to our garden every year (we are only in our second year here). We are also aiming for dual use when possible so we have lots of day lillies which can be eaten, they have an attractive and easily maintained foliage, the flowers are beautiful and attract butterflys and bees which helps pollinate our vegetable garden and the fragrance on most varieties is rich and sweet and wafts through the air as we walk around the yard. Similarly, the marigolds we plant throughout the veghetable garden repels unwanted pests and brightens an otherwise green landscape and the sunflowers we plant provides a flowers and seed for the birds.

There is just something so peacefull and calming about flowers which is why we have them at funerals and send them to the sick or to someone you love. As we walk through our gardens and smell the sweetness and listen to the bees buzzing around and watch the butterflys flit from stamen to stamen its hard to be depressed or angry. We plant for succession and have something in bloom all year long starting with the Forsythia, Lilacs and Crocus progressing to the Iris and Rose bloom and on into fall with the Autumn Crocus but this period of early summer has given us a rich variety of color and fragrance.

We have many Mimosa trees we are nursing back to life after the previous owner cut most of them down (grrr) and they have an interesting wispy flower and the peculiar habit of the leaves on the tree folding up at night.

We have three Hollyhock gardens and though they are just about played out for this year they are spectacular. Ours have grown to about 7 feet tall and they are just loaded with blooms though the wind we have had has taken a toll on them this year.

And we have lots and lots of Day Lillies including this garden. Our friends Jack and Rene gave us all of these day lillies out of their own garden last year and they have just thrived.

Day Lillies come in a seemingly endless variety and gardening with them is an addictive hobby.

They have thick petals and very pronounced stamens and attract butterflys and bees in swarms.

Some are low to the ground, some mound and some are very upright and can get 4 foot tall or more

And they are very can smell these flowers all over in our back yard.

We just enjoy the variety

And we have Geraniums, Poppies, and Honeysuckle in back of the well house

Honeysuckle is also very fragrant and we have several patches of it but this particular one gives you a dose of fragrant Honeysuckle as you go through the grape arbor and right before you get to the big Day Lillie garden.

And we have Oriental Lillies interspersed with more Day Lillies and some small Mimosas

Lots of colorfull Petunias

Old fashioned Day Lillies in back of the wood shed

Hydrangeas, Day Lillies, Holly Hocks and Clematis along side of the house with Hybiscus getting ready to bloom.

We have planted a Day Lillie grden with Butterfly bushes next to a water source for the butterflys. We will eventually replace the ungly blue tub we use for water with a natural stone pond and a solar powered small fountain for the butterflys and birds.

The Camas Lillies are about played out but added some nice color out front.

And of course the unique and ubiquitous (to the Midwest anyway) Coneflowers...loved by butterflys.

More Petunias greet visitors at the front door

Along with Crysanthemums starting their colorful bloom

And we have planted Trumpet Vine for our Hummingbirds

Judy's Salmon Poppies didwell this year and I suspect we will have a great many more next year as they are colorful and hardy here.

And another addictive hobby is the cultivation of Knock Out Roses

They provide a steady bloom unlike traditional roses and come in a wide variety of flowers...some very fragrant and some not

Pansys greet visitors to Judy's house.

We have several varieties of Marigolds throughout the vegetable garden and we enjoy their color while we are tending to that garden.

We never could grow Sun Flowers in Alaska and we like the color, the height, and the seed they provide for our winter bird feeding.

We plant them at the end of all of our vegetable garden rows.

We have 6 or 7 Clematis vines all in a flowering state right now

We have purple, lavender, blue and a blue and white variety and there will be more next year to be trained along some of our field fencing.

I think these are Impatiens but ???

And finally...Persian Zinnias

These pictures wer all taken today, not all our flowers are shown and we have a pasture full of natural flowers, wild roses now in bloom, Mullin, etc. I guess..we do really like flowers!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fishing, Haying, and a Few Activities Around the Farm

Its been a busy week. Number 2 son Chris came to visit after being layed off in Seattle and he is awaiting the call up for a job in Louisiana so we have had some fun and of course put him to work. We also finished our first cutting of hay, we brush hogged, continued the gardening, worked on the new (old) garden tractor, and continued to wonder why we are working so hard in retirement.

Not a project but this little guy has adopted us and now lives in one of the wood piles. He is the first chipmunk we have had and he is pretty tame...he comes up on the back patio, eats out of the various bird feeders and generally toys with the cats.

Showed the boy how to cast in the farm pond and.....

Poof..a nice sized hybrid bluegill. These guys are delicious if you fillet them, roll them in a light cornmeal seasoned mix and then deep fried. It brings back memories of my beloved Aunt Isa who used to cook my various catches for me when I was a kid and spent my summers on a lake in Michigan. I would get up early in the morning and catch a brace of fish and she would cook them for breakfast.

Judy has been busy and finished this bed spread and pillow shams for my mother..she sure does good work.

We completed the first cutting of hay this week and everything worked out great. It rained before we cut, it was supposed to rain after we cut (but didnt)..

We will have to fertilize and lime next spring but we still did okay this year..we will get one and possibly two more cuttings of hay this year and should have enough for the cows all winter.

To me its always exciting to have this activity around the old farm stead. We love old equipment and you just cant beat the sound of the old tractors and the buzz that surrounds haying time.

There is something about cutting the hay that brings renewal and promise for the future as well as the security of having hay in the barn.

We changed to square bales for ease of handling on our small farm. We still have some of the round bales but they are just too big for us to handle with our smaller equipment without being dangerous.

The beautiful Holly drove the farm truck while Chris and I bucked bales.....I'm still sore.

Having our own land has been unexpectedly fullfilling to us. We feel secure in the knowledge we can raise our own food, we enjoy being able to drive and ride various motorized things wherever we want, and we particularly enjoy being able to set aside some of our land for our nature interests. We are allowing some of our pasture to go back to a natural state and we are trying to increase our wood lot....for no reason other than we like to observe nature as it happens on our own place....very satisfying.

Chis and Holly felt the work load on this day..

A satisfying result is having hay in the hay mow of the barn....if you are like me you remember that smell and the fun of playing in the hay when you were a kid..and the itch!!

Bandit, the crazy dog has gotten lazy in his old age and likes to ride in the hay wagon, on the equipment trailer, in the trucks, on the tractors.....anything but walk.

I spent years (since the 70s) wrenching on motorcycles but we sold them all before we moved here and I promised Holly I would divert my energies elsewhere after a couple of close calls and one bad accident. So....those energies have been diverted to tractors and garden tractors. Chis and I tore down the old Murray and after we basically rebuilt the thing (still need to do the cosmetics) ......

He was able to mow Judy's yard and for a total investment of about a C-note....we have a functioning and useful rider and had a lot of fun doing it.

We are now in the middle of painting it with an International Harvester paint scheme. The headlight naucelle and grill will be IH off white while the rest of the tractor will be IH red with the IH while stripe one each side. It just has that boxy IH look dont ya think?

So that was our last few days....not countng the gardening, a structural fire response, a couple ambulance calls, a visit to some homesteading friends, licensing the stock trailer, know, just a relaxing retirement!!

Junior 4H Fair and another Rural Saturday

The county Junior 4H fair was held last weekend at the Lion's Club grounds and we helped set up, I got to spread water on the arena with the fire department tanker, Holly and Judy worked the concession stand and baked pies, and we had a good time as usual. One thing that struck us is that we so wish we could have had the resources and ability to live like this when our own kids were young. Watching the kids show their animals really made us wish for a redo in some ways...I mean at one point we watched these little girls (probably Jr High age) ride their horses in the arena and they just had such a great happiness that is so often lacking in kids now days (yea I know we sound old). We called favorite daughter Jennifer and told her that if she and Steve moved down here we would buy her a pony. We also helped our friend Ed who has Percheron draft horses set up for the draft horse obstacle course. This is where teams of draft horses pull a sled with a kid on the back who has to go through several stations that involve feeding the hogs, watering the livestock, riding a stick pony around barrels and finally grabbing a goat and riding across the finish line...all for time. It may not sound like much to some but it was just...right.

Horses are big around here and lots of people have them and the use of wagons, buggies, and horse drawn farming implements is not uncommon.....and its not just the Amish. This is also the kind of place where kids say yes sir or no ma'am and the pledge of allegiance includes "one nation under god" and events start with a prayer. Regardless of your beliefs its hard to find that objectionable and we like it just fine.

Its not uncommon around here to come up on an Amish family in a buggy and you have to really watch out. This buggy driver wasnt Amish but we enjoy all the horse drawn buggies and equipment around here and lots of places have hitching posts for horses.

The Junior 4H Fair had lots of good looking animals and this Billy Goat was a fine looking fella...goats are next on our addition list for the farm but we are thinking no Billys..

Everyone here has chickens and they provide meat, eggs, and the ever important elimination of ticks. If you havent had a fresh free range chicken egg (not the questionable free range tag at the grocery) you are missing out. We have out chicken coop all planned out and are just awaiting the completion of some changes to our septic system to build a coop and begin our flock.

I doubt we will get sheep as we are more cattle oriented but these were some beautiful sheep and I have to confess I liked them.

This is pickup and stock trailer country and as we took this picture we could hear the various animals, we could smell the hay and the manure and feel the heat beating down. Its hard to describe the peace that something like that imparts but it just reaches something elemental inside us and we walked around holding hands and just enjoyed the day.

Of course we like cattle and there were some good looking beef and dairy cows present for the fair. We think ours look better but we are too old to participate...but we would have won.....

Our friend Ed (and my ambulance crew partner) has a couple of teams of beautiful Percheron draft horses (if you dont know what they are think Clydsdales without the hairy feet...really big) and a huge heart and he directs a draft team competition at the fair each year. The treamsters love it and the kids have a blast. Here he is explaining the course to the teamsters and kids who will be competing.

They go through poles and get deducted time if they hit one, the kids have to hop off the sled and move two bales of hay....

ride a stick pony around several barrels....

hold on for dear life when the teams get going....

and the in the finale' grap a goat, get him onto the sled and ride to the finish line.

And that night we harvested a few onions...the first of the season

And then we relaxed with a few hairy friends. They dont understand that dogs and cats arent supposed to get along!