Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring Work has Started...Finally

This has been a relatively mild winter for us because we had such a long and warm fall but it has just seemed to linger a lot longer than we had hoped. We are still getting an occasional frosty night but spring has come to the Ozarks and the trees are budding, the daffodils have almost finished blooming and now we have Tulips and Irises starting to pop.

Of course spring is also the time when the real work starts and we have to mend our slacker ways. We have been back and forth to St Louis to pick up favorite daughter Jenny for a visit, I am now 2/3rds finished with the Emergency Medical Responder course, and we have been busy building raised beds, laying in gravel and prepping the market garden beds. We still don't have our new greenhouse (its supposed to be finished in a couple days) but we leveled the foundation for it and put in a couple inches of gravel so we are ready for it.

So on this day we spent the entire day tilling, picking rock, and doing various chores outside and it was so peaceful with the birds singing and the cows all around us making a ruckus (its calving season).....and then we came in side tonight to the news of the Boston bombings. More and more as I age I find myself rejecting much of what goes on in so called civilized society anymore and I just want to cut myself off from news and anything going on outside of about a 100 mile radius. We maintain this blog to share with family, friends and anyone interested in how we have escaped the rat race and tried to make a living and live simpler...but the outside world goes on and we have 5 kids living all over the place including one on active duty with the Air Force so we are not immune to the impacts of things like today's bombings. It just makes everyone feel a little less secure, it makes parents a little more fearful for their children and if you let it you can spend all day addicted to the latest news from North Korea, or terrorists, or the latest shameful conduct coming out of Washington DC. The best thing we ever did was to decide not to get cable (cant get it here anyway) or satellite TV and just capture what we can with rabbit ears on our $25.00 yard sale TV. I know so many people who watch Fox News, or MSNBC, or CNN almost constantly and all I can say is...turn it off and go will be better off for doing so.

 We have a sloping side yard and Holly had the idea to build some raised bed planters between the house and the greenhouses so we have started that project as you can see. We are using all pressure treated lumber (and the price of lumber is sure a shock) and there will be three separate 8' x 4' planters tiered down the slope. Holly is a true partner and we enjoy working together, she knows her way around tools and has many great ideas so we are a good team. Bandit of course is always around to make sure we get it right.

We added 2"x6" planks on either side to sit on which will not only add seating to the garden area, we are thinking more and more about our future mobility limitations and age. My spine continues its decline and Holly has hip issues which makes it difficult for us to weed so the seats will make that chore just a little easier and we refuse to give in to what we cant do. We may end up with a farm full of Rube Goldberg systems but I look at things from a "how are we going to get this done or make things easier" stand point. We are also trying to make sure that most of the things we put into place on the farm have maneuver area for those with handicap issues, including wheel chairs, so that mobility impaired customers who visit can have access to everything. It struck me when I was nearly incapacitated myself a couple years ago that few places like that exist in a rural area. 

There will be two more planter boxes of the same size tiered towards the outside boiler and there will be planted with Hibiscus and bulbs for flowers.

We have two completed and Judy and Rose the Farm Dog like them already. We are actually practicing a crude form of Hugelculture with these planters as we loaded them up with old rotting wood and brush before we put in the top soil and as the wood further rots and breaks down it adds nutrients to the soil. Right now the third planter will have to wait until we can afford to buy more wood.
Holly had the idea for the tiered planter boxes and this is my bright idea. I saw a YouTube video of a man who put gutters on a wooden fence and then drilled holes in the bottom, filled them with potting soil and planted his salad greens up and out of the way of rabbits.

So we sunk a couple of 4"x4"s and laid cross beams and did our own raised salad garden with 5" metal gutters. The gutters are dirt cheap and we just cut them to fit, added end caps and its worked out great. We will be adding a couple more gutters to these posts and also putting up a couple more of these. You can make them at any height you want to and is another good idea for those with mobility impairments. You could make them at wheel chair height or like these about 4 feet high where I can weed and thin out the salad greens without bending far over to weed. My neck vertebrae were fused a couple years ago so its difficult to bend much at the neck and this really works out great.

We are anxious for the new greenhouse, we have outgrown this one and are having to wait to plant seed starts and cuttings until we get more space.
We plow each garden area with a spade bit or middle buster plow then pick rocks out of the plowed up ground, then let it sit for a couple weeks to let the frost kill emerging grubs and then we use the 3 pt tiller on the back of the Kubota to prep the beds for planting. We will then use the IH 424 tractor to plow the rows and plant. We have been doing this for several years now and yet each year we seem to grow a new crop of rocks. But its getting better, as we glean the rocks and add organic matter to the soil it gets easier to till each year and this year the soil really looks good.

We have several planting areas and the roughly 1/2 acre tilled in this picture is for our market garden vegetables. It has received the most attention from us and the soil is really starting to become a rich and loamy planting area. It takes a lot of work and we incorporate no fertilizer or pesticide into the soil though we do side dress the rows with some organic or commercial fertilizer.

This is our pumpkin and gourd patch and the rock cairns in each corner are filled with rocks we picked from this bed. This will be our third year with this garden and its been a chore to get this up to par as it was a heavy compacted rocky mess when we started.

The orchard is just now starting to bloom (these are pear trees) and we will be doubling the size of the orchard this year.

The new green house will be to the right (and perpendicular to) of the existing greenhouse on the gravel area we have prepared. We also built this new raised bed for cucumbers (a couple more are planned) and we added a new frost free hydrant (what a pain).

Our existing herb garden is in the fore ground with the red bark mulch and we have one new herb bed in the back ground with two more to come.

The grass is still spotty, the leaves are just now starting to pop out and most of the flowers have yet to bloom but it was a nice sunny warm day and we felt satisfied with a good days work. We all already have a tan, our muscles are sore, and I can only wonder how people who work in an office everyday can do it....that was mean wasn't it?
One of the things I like about our piece of farmville is the elevation changes. I took this from back at the pasture fence (behind me would be the front pasture, the pole barn shop etc.) and you see the pumpkin patch by the water tank and then in the distance the greenhouse and market garden.

This newly planted area will be our corn patch this year. We rotate crops each year and never plant the same things in the same areas, not shown in this picture but to the right just out of the picture is another plowed area for our squash.

I took this picture of one of the new raised beds mainly to show the difference painting the wood shed and outside wood boiler made. If you look at the third picture in this blog entry you can see the wood shed was brown and the outside wood boiler was tan....the hunter green matches the house trim, chicken coop and greenhouse and we like it a lot better.
I had mentioned in a previous post about extending parking and turn around areas and laying in a different gravel to combat some of the mud and that project is almost complete. Over 1K in gravel but it really made a difference. 
This is only the first step towards some gravel paths to the garden and greenhouses but I came out nice and we aren't tracking mud everywhere now.

Besides the added parking and turn around areas....less grass to mow!

We gravelled all the way to the road including the sunken mud pit next to the drive.

The area behind the old Dodge is a parking/turn around area up front but it also extends to the road to the leased pasture so we don't have to go out onto the road to get to it or drive over the grass any longer.

So that is what we have been doing since the last post. It feels good to spend our days outside working the soil again and running the machinery. Life is good on the farm.

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