Porcupines are pretty slow-moving creatures. So when our favorite new local resident showed up at the pleached apples today, it was fairly easy to trap it in a small garbage can. Lid on, loaded into the truck, tied in place. We were off to an undisclosed (though hopefully far enough away from here) location with most of the comforts of home (sans sheds to live under). It really is rather cute, up close. But when we nabbed it in the trash can, and it’s fur stood up, those sharp quills were evident. Best to move on.
First we have a mysterious blob in the pleached apples. Turns out a young porcupine has decided the apples are tasty treats. Great. We have everything a little porcupine — which is quite cunning and cute up close — would want: old apples, lots of good bark, sheds to hide under, and who knows what else would make a good home. Then there are to dogs of course, who are going out on leashes until we are certain this waddly little fellow (or gal) has gone away. If it shows up again, I think we will be making sure it relocates to a galaxy far far away.
Then Ella found one of the cats’ freshly killed red squirrels. Good kitty. But really, did Ella have to eat the whole thing? And I do mean the whole thing. Usually the cats at least leave the tail, if not other eviscera. But not Ella. Makes one wonder if she doesn’t have some terrier blood in that supposedly blue-blooded poodle strain.
We have also had the marauding turkey flock of around two dozen around the house. Ella is also quite skilled, by the way, at flushing them up into trees. And this is to say nothing about the run of the mill deer grazing on late season apples, the end of the chard, and now the parsley has been mowed down. Someone even nibbled on my brussels sprouts, which is annoying since we are still harvesting these sweet morsels, and counting on them for a Thanksgiving feast.
After the November 3rd snow storm, I mean, blizzard, the first order of business (after resurrecting the Coleman camp stove for boiling water for coffee as the electricity had been long gone) was to survey the damage. Yes, a big spruce topped out. And a couple of birch have been creamed and will need to come down. I think I lost a pear and a small apple snapped in two. Branches and limbs are down. And at last the remnant of the birch to which the arbor in the woods was attached came down, bringing the old arbor with it.
Beyond the arbor was the next big crash. Though I had knocked the snow off the chicken wire roof of the outside run at the chicken coop, the load of the night’s heavy, wet snow was too much. Crash, rip, ruin. The chickens are fine — they are huddled in the coop, warm and dry with food and water. A repair job lies ahead.
The hoop houses stood up to the snow, and the one that is planted is full of lovely winter vegetables. Fortunately, before the storm, I was able to replace the torn end walls and repair the one door that had shattered in a windstorm last spring. So everything was tight and cozy. And I feel quite lucky that the winds kept the wet snow from building up too much on the structures as I have not yet put the winter snow supports in the two lower hoop houses. The spinach from here, by the way, has been phenomenally tasty.
And you gotta love seeing these healthy, strong beets on the inside, and snow on the outside. Beets, turnips, spinach, chard and kale are all doing well, and I expect to harvest these throughout the winter months. The radicchio, though, I seem not have started soon enough as the plants are just starting to think about heading up. Maybe they will do something before the sun disappears entirely, but I am a bit doubtful. So note to self: start the radicchio earlier if I want any in the winter.
Emmett and Stuart are not well pleased. In spite of their efforts to stay on dry, snow-free spots, they do have to tiptoe through the snow. Fortunately this morning anyway, the crust of ice on top of the snow is enough to keep them from sinking down. Well, maybe Stuart is a bit too heavy to stay on top all the time.
Off to vote today.
Building a new home always, always entails disturbing the land. Even with this project here in St. George where very little of the site was disturbed during construction, there still was an apron around the house that needed to be softened. Probably this is one of my favorite sorts of projects: how to blend and naturalize with the existing site.
Harbor Builders did a great job preserving as much of the surrounding woods as possible, and a few large trees in particular. There were a few areas we wanted to screen, some softening of edges, often with hay-scented ferns, which in short order should fill in and become lush stands of ferns in the woods, and then a walkway and landings to put in.
Of course pine needles falling everywhere helps blend the new with the old so the whole project quickly looks as if it’s always been this way. Sort of. Give it a couple of years. In time the ferns will become visible, nursery-pruned spruce and firs will loose their tight symmetry, other plants will self-sow and start establishing themselves. In time people will wonder how this house was built in the woods.
Very carefully, is the answer.
Finally a few of the Red Hot Pokers I started from seed this Spring are blooming. The dragon fly is a true colorist.
The ginger growing in the hoop house is starting to look good, and we have begun harvesting some of the baby ginger. Yum. Such a delicate flavor. I’ve been doing a better job of adding the seaweed-based fertilizer we use regularly than I did the first year I grew ginger, but even so, the ginger just seems to hang out looking straggly and weak until toward the end of August. Then the growth just seems exponential. This year we have a surprise ginger flower growing. Just one, and it’s not that impressive. Maybe something more will happen.
I expect we will harvest bits each weekend and then do a grand harvest of the ginger toward the end of September, or maybe into October, depending on the weather. The first year we had the baby ginger I made two different sorts of ginger jams and candied-ginger. Thanks to our neighbor, Angie, I learned the trick of preserving the ginger in vodka, so I had baby ginger all winter, and ginger vodka when he ginger was gone. (I used the vodka mainly in marinades, by the way.) I’m thinking about trying some ginger beer this year. Just a thought.
The tomato hoop house has been productive, though I am about bored with it and ready to pull most of the plants, making way for the winter crops I have started in the greenhouse. I can’t, however, until more tomatoes ripen. Not to mention the rest of the Petite Yellow Watermelons.
The Speckled Romans and the San Marzanos are about to ripen with a vengeance. I believe much tomato sauce is in our future. Most of the heirlooms have done their thing and have only a few green tomatoes waiting to ripen. I was disappointed this year with the Black Prince, and will probably not grow it again, and I tried Weisnicht’s Ukranian and was not impressed. Aunt Ruby’s German Green is a keeper: I’ll grow more next year. And more Pink Brandywines. The Cherokee Purple were somewhat feeble this year, though in the past they have done well.
Not an heirloom, but a great producer and a tasty two-bite treat is Mountain Magic. That’s a keeper. It’s just coming on now, but what a crop. I also grew Luci and Rebleski, both hybrids bred for greenhouse/hoophouse production. Both of them proved to be disease resistant with about the same level of production of neat, uniform red tomatoes. I’m not sure I saw much difference between the two. I doubt I’ll grow Peacevine, a rampant grape tomato that is only now starting to produce anything.
We have just finished a project in Hope. The task was to create an entrance to the house and an area for perennials. The site has lovely long views down toward Alford Lake, but is also very exposed and windy.
And now for a few of the details involved in the project. First there were the large boulders from the property that Jon Smith carefully pulled out from the edge of the woods and placed.
Then there was the wall the Adam and Alex built from rocks they gathered from the edge of the field on the property. We had to bring in the flat stone for the walkway, but all the rest of the rock came from the site.
And then some trees, shrubs, perennials. Oh, and a drain we found we needed to add after a big rain. It turns out the field is very clayey and loves to hold water.
There is enough complexity in the project to have interesting details here and there. In time, the homeowners will add more perennials and enjoy the garden. I look forward to seeing it mature and emerge.
We are in full harvest mode here on the farm side of things. The artichokes are wonderful. Out of ten plants only one has chosen not to flower. Thus far we have harvested about twenty artichokes and I expect up to thirty more. Next year: twenty plants!
The tomato hoop house is full, with the vines climbing to the top. This has been a good year for Aunt Ruby’s German Green: still my all time favorite. Slowly we are getting converts: people just have to try them to know those green tomatoes with the slight pink blush at the market are the best. Pink Brandywines are pretty good. Actually the tomatoes have been so popular at the market I am thinking about adding another hoop house so we can have two houses of tomatoes.
Also in the tomato hoop house are watermelons. Petite yellow. We had one we cut open for sampling at last Saturday’s market. Delicious. There should be a couple more ready for this Saturday, and then a whole slew in the next couple of weeks. Yum.
The onion and shallot harvest has been good. And we have just had a great run of sunny dry weather to dry them out in the sun. The next step is braiding the storage onions and shallots for winter keeping.
The ginger is about ready to start harvesting. We began pre-sprouting them in mid-March, and the harvest should run from five to six months out from there. So baby ginger here we come. I noticed an anomaly among the plants, though: one appears to be sending up a flower shoot. This is the first year I have gotten a flower. I’m totally curious.
Way back in February, I started a slew of artichoke seedlings. The seeds are fairly large, and they germinate fast and well. Because artichokes are really biennials, which means the plants normally set fruit and flower the second year of their life, I had to trick the seedlings. So after I grew them up to about this size, on heat mats, and in as much sun as we had in late winter, I moved them to the lower cooler and darker shelves of the greenhouse for a month. This was to be “winter” for the plants. After a bit, I moved them back into the light and then once everything warmed up I planted ten plants outside. All with great hope for some fresh artichokes.
And yesterday, we harvested the first two!
They were yummy. Steamed with a clove of our freshly harvested garlic and a quarter of a lemon in the water. Then a sauce of mayonnaise and balsamic vinegar for dipping. I have counted nine more little buds already, and some of the smaller plants that haven’t budded up yet. August may be a lovely month of artichokes!
I have not yet gotten tired of the cycle: the miracle of stored energy in each little seed, tending the plant and watching it process sunlight and nutrients, grow and fruit, and then the good eating that comes from this. Not to mention how cool the plants all look growing in the garden. (Which is why I will probably let some artichokes flower as the flowers are spectacular giant thistles.)
During the summer months we get all sorts of visitors to Hedgerow. It’s a delightful, lively time. Elizabeth is spending the summer in Port Clyde, and wrote about us in her blog, Stixandstonezblog. (For some reason I can’t create a direct link to her Hedgerow posting here, but the web address works to get to her blog.)
Nice photos of the place.