It is Cherry Season

20June2014_DSCN0402As you can see in the picture of Micha picking cherries, it is cherry season in this area.

We were driving down our road last Thursday and saw a sign advertising U-Pick Cherries for 0.50 cents a pound.  After we returned home, Misty hopped on her bike and rode about 3 miles to the cherry orchard to see what was going on.  She came home with a pack full of cherries.  Misty and Micha liked them, so it was decided that we would go early Friday  morning and pick cherries.

We managed to wake up early, before the day became hot, went to the orchard, and 20June2014_DSCN0415proceeded to pick cherries.  About 3 hours later, the three of us managed to pick approximately 130 pounds of sweet cherries.  While it was hard work, it was also quite enjoyable, and it was difficult to convince Micha to leave.  I think she did not want to leave all the cherries she saw on the trees, but also did not realize how many cherries we had picked.

Micha and Misty have been cleaning and pitting the cherries, and we are also dehydrating 15 pounds of them for baking and later use.  Misty canned some for pies in a light syrup also.  As for me, they prepared 50 pounds of cherries that I am 20June2014_DSCN0468going to use in a 6 gallon batch of mead and a 6 gallon batch of wine.  Figuring to use a bit more than 4 pounds per gallon and shoot for an ABV or 20% for the mead, and 14% for the wine.  I would like the mead to be on the sweet side, and a dry wine with possible a bit of oak.

Our two apricot trees are producing apricots now also.  Micha has been picking them daily, and we now have tables, dehydrators and boxes full of drying apricot halves.  I do not know how many pounds she picked, but I would imagine that there are about 2 – 5 gallon buckets full.  Possibly 40 or 50 pounds maybe.

Fifty cent cherries and free apricots – hard to beat that!

Time Goes Quickly.

26March2014_300_1916We were just coming in from another hard day in the garden, and the scene on the left appeared. As time went by, the rainbows made a complete arch and connected on the other side of the shed. Quite a pretty scene.

I think I have said this before, but once again, the garden work is finally finished.  I have completed the watering system, planted all of the plants and seeds, completed everything chicken related, and hand mowed 2 acres of grass and weeds.  So, the garden is finished.  Now, saying that, I also have to say that the garden is no where near being complete.

What have we done this year just in the garden spaces? 

  • 26March2014_DSCF7027Developed two garden patches, one totaling 4,900 sq. ft., and another around 2,800 sq. ft., as well as developing the start of the orchard grid.
  • Planted 13 trees, including:  3 cherry, 1 peach, 1 nectarine, 7 apple, and 2 Asian pear trees.
  • Planted about 20 grape vines including five taken from around the property that were dying but now doing quite well, and 13 different berry bushes.
  • Planted the following plants grown from seed:  53 various tomato plants, 200+ bunching onions, 100 Walla Walla onions, 9 broccoli, 46 various cabbage plants, 15 kale, 60 sweet/hot pepper plants, 23 or so cucumber plants, 49 potatoes, 40+ leaf and head lettuce, 4 eggplants, 5 tomatillos, 16 various squash plants, 6 or so musk melons, and probably some things I am forgetting.
  • Planted the following seeds:  A lot of carrots, beets, fennel, around 400 corn seeds (2 seeds per hole @ 200 holes, and 13 different varieties) a 50 foot line of various bush beans, 9 watermelons, 8 musk/honeydew type melons, and 100 onion starts from store.
  • Planted the following herb plants started from seeds (I do not have a count of the plants):  dill, cilantro, parsley, valerian, angelica, sage, basil, spearmint, chrysanthemum (edible), comfrey, caraway, St. Johns Wort, Bee Balm, yarrow, and a bunch of others.
  • Constructed 35 foot diameter herb garden to plant the herbs and other plants in, including 10 or so lavender plants, 2 roses, and various other plants.
  • Installed drip irrigation systems for the vegetable and grape/berry gardens and all trees.  The above right image is of the first test of the drip irrigation system in the vegetable garden.  Took a few tries, but it works fairly good now. 

EVERYTHING planted with one exception is heirloom, open pollinated.  Four of the tomato plants were from hybrid seeds.  Supposedly you get 2 – 4 pound tomatoes from this thing, so I simply had to try it. 

While the work was fun, it was a lot of work, and for the past three weeks (three months actually) all we have been doing is working in the garden 7 – 9 hours per day.  But, as of today, 95% of the corn is up, 75% or the beans are up, the carrots and beets are starting to grow, and some of the melons and seed planted squash are starting to push through.  Most of the grape starts are alive and thriving, the berry plants are doing great, and all of the plants we planted are healthy and growing quickly.  So far the effort has been worth it, but I am looking forward to a break in the next week or so when the garden will actually be complete.

I do have a few things left, including planting a second planting of seeds such as cabbage(s), melons, watermelons, pumpkins and squash, as well as construction 100 feet of trellis for the tomatoes, building support for the hops, building trellis’ for the grapes and berries, and routine maintenance of the property in general.  Figure out if I want sheep this year or next, and then build sheep facilities.  Some of the above will not happen this year because of time, and the fact that I want to do other things such as hike, bike, and find a job.

I was out messing with the irrigation system last week before planting and found a new gardening buddy:

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This thing was about 5 feet long.  I followed it a bit to get a few pictures, but left the snake alone hoping it would continue to wander the property eating mice and such, but unfortunately I found it dead a few days ago.  Now sure what happened, but I hope another will come and take its place.

We also have nice birds here:

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The yellow bird nests in the front yard.  The image is a bit fuzzy as it was taken through the kitchen window.

Remember the chickens and how small they were the beginning of March?  Here they are now, grown and about ready to be invited over for a BBQ:

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That is it for now.  Hopefully I will be able to update the blog more frequently now that things are (hopefully) slowing down. 

A Lot Complete–Much More to Go.

10Apr14_300_1775One of our many surprises with this property can be seen on the left.  This one of our many tulips that sprang to life this spring in one of our fields.  I am not sure how many tulips we actually have, but if you count the very small ones, I imagine the number is close to 40 or 50.  So far, we have orange, red, and white.  We also found a couple patches of beautiful blue Hyacinths.  If you split all of the Hyacinths they could number close to 75 or more.  We are in the process of10Apr14_DSC_1791 transferring the tulips and Hyacinths from their present locations to new patches that will be out of the way of the rototiller and mower.   I did not post pictures of the Hyacinths as it was very windy when I was taking pictures and they really did not turn out well.  Soon though.

We also knew that there  were several old and un-cared for grape vines on the property.  They were left to fend for themselves, and were basically a mess.  Two of them are too large to dig up and move, so I will build a trellis for them.  I dug up 4 and transplanted them to a new grape/berry garden that I am developing.  I have an additional 8 Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 or 6 table grape plants coming.  Additionally, two more apple and 2 Asian pear trees, and 6 berry plants are one the way.  This will give us 16-plus fruit trees, 19 or so grape vines, one almond tree, and at least 15 various berry vines. 

As I posted earlier, the fruit trees in the orchards are starting to bloom, and so are some of our trees.  On the 10Apr14_300_1764left is one of out very old plum trees blossom.  The trees has to be at least 35 years old, if not older, and not really doing that good.  To try to help it become healthier, we pruned it and cleared the surrounding area.  I will feed it later in the season.  I dug up one of this trees “children”, which sprouted from an injured root area and transplanted it to the (proposed) herb garden.  I am not sure if it is going to live, but I wanted to try as it was either transplant it or cut it down.

We also have an old almond tree that is simply beautiful in bloom.  If you have 10Apr14_300_1768never seen an almond blossom, the image on the right if for you!  We had almonds last year, but were really not sure what they were at first.  Since we now know what type of tree it is, and how beautiful it is, we will do what we can to help it continue to grow, but like most of the trees and plants on the property, it was not really well looked after.

While this is a desert, it does rain quite a bit in the spring.  What does rain bring?  Weeds.  Lots of weeds.  The image on the left is of the neighbors field of weeds – 10Apr14_300_1773blue mustard.  We have blue mustard, yellow mustard, cheat grass, annual rye grass, and a few others that were identified by the Marsing Cooperative Extension Service – very helpful folks.  For out fields, I attached the sickle bar mower to my BCS 852, and three very tiring hours later, we had a nice, neat field. 

For the past month, we have been putting in 8 – 10 hour days in the field, building coops, fences, and garden beds, as well and maintaining and modifying the lawn and house garden area.  Finally, the major work is done and we can start to cut down a bit.  Today, it was only a 5 hour day, putting the final touches on the coop, fence, and transplanting a few vines. The below pictures are of the finished fence, and coop – complete with chickens!  There were 13 chickens in the coop since last night.  I opened the door this afternoon, and 7 figured out how to fly down to the grass – I am going to check in a few minutes to see how many figured out how to make it back inside, as it is getting dark.

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It is now time to take a bit of a rest (until Saturday when I start completing the irrigation plan for and various gardens and start on the herb garden, which is a 30 foot diameter circle garden, and maybe find some time in the next 5 days to do my taxes – maybe!

Tree Planting Complete

27March2014_300_1736Misty painted the chicken coop door – it looks very nice! 

We had a fairly intense wind and rain storm last night, and I was curious to see whether or not the coop would leak.  When I checked for leaks this morning I was pleased to see that there were no leaks and no wind damage.  Two weeks until the chickens go outside.

I planted the trees yesterday, and am fairly happy with the placement. I also dug up an small plum tree that was growing off one of the main trees roots, and transplanted it to what will become an herb garden.  I have doubts that it will survive or ever produce fruit, but I was going to dig it up anyway and figured I would give it a chance to live.  I took a few pictures of the trees that I planted and they are below.

The first picture is looking South towards the front of the property the next picture is looking West towards the house:

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We are also doing quite a bit of lawn and house maintenance in preparation for Spring and Summer.  One of the things is that we are try to to is to provide a cleaner look to the front of the house, so Micha is doing a bit of landscaping in the front of the lawn by the driveway.  Hopefully, this will help us not use as much poison to prevent weeds, and will also provide a nice place to plant our 10 new lavender plants. 

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In some fun news – we went to the DMV to apply for our concealed weapons permits, as we completed the legal and shooting portions in February.  The DMV was quite crowded, and they have a ticketing system that prints numbers for the cue that you are waiting for.  For us, of course, it was the concealed weapons cue.  What was interesting is that the cue for weapons permits was also the cue for those registering as sex offenders.  Apparently, a separate (additional) button on the ticket machine is $10,000.  As usual with Idaho it seems, the people at the DMV were very helpful and nice, and we were out of the office quickly.

Oh – and this is what I get to see when I am working outside – either sunshine or beautiful clouds:

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Almost Spring Update.

DSC_0011Spring (almost) seems to be here, with daffodils blooming, tulips getting ready to bloom, trees starting to leaf out, and green appearing everywhere.  With Spring comes all of the chores and projects that need to be done, meaning it is becoming very busy around the home.

First, the chickens.  We now have 13 chicks growing in the garage.  They hatched the last day of February to about mid-first week in March.  They are growing quite well, and will be put outside at the end of this month. The chick brooder is a very large plastic water trough for cattle that came with the property.  I installed a heat lamp as well as a Brinsea brooder which the chicks like to hide under.  I topped the brooder with wire to keep the cats out, and put a pallet on top of the wire.  The pallet provides a nice viewing platform for the cats.Spring2014_DSCF2336

I am nearing completion of work on the chicken coop.  I initially started the coop in the Fall, but I was unsure of what type of coop I wanted.  I knew that I needed an 8’ X 4’ (32 sq. ft.) coop, but could not decide between a tall or short coop, or if I wanted it on or off the ground.  I still did not know what I wanted last week, so I decided to simply start building and see what developed. 

As you can see from the below images, I choose (finally) to build a short coop that was off the ground.  The coop walls are 4 feet tall and the coop sits 2 feet off the ground.  I decided to build an elevated coop as it will be easier to clean and easier to collect eggs.  The coop is based on a set of plans that I modified a bit to better suit my needs and materials that I had on hand.  The coop if based on “The Daisy” coop by cleancoops.com.  I am vary satisfied with the quality of the plans, though I did find some of the instructions a bit unclear in a couple of sections, but nothing at all major.  Basically, a 4.85 out of 5, and a set of plans that I would very highly recommend to anyone wanting a spacious, strong, and if you know how to do woodwork, very attractive coop.

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As you can see, I build the walls and then attached them to the coop floor.  This was easier for me than building directly on the floor, as the shed floor provided a level base to cut and nail as well as a warmer, less windy spot to build.  All of the parts fit together well, and as the last image shows, the coop is almost done.  Hopefully, it will be done prior to the weekend and we can paint and decorate.  We are having a wind storm with up to 50 MPH gusts, and so far the coop has not tipped over or fallen apart, so I guess I did a pretty good job putting it together. 

In other news, I planted vegetable seeds last week, and the cabbage are already sprouting.  Not many seeds as compared to previous years, but still about 150 starts.  All vegetable seeds for this years garden, with one exception, are heirloom seeds.  I am also finalizing plans for the garden and will post a plan as soon as it is finalized.  Planning over 5,000 sq. ft. is not as easy as I expected, especially now that I also have to determine how to irrigate the garden.  there are also 7 fruit trees in the driveway ready to plant – 3 apple, one nectarine, and three cherry.  Still have two apple, two chestnut, and a peach to buy. 

Fall is Here. Really?

It is October 12th, and in Caldwell Idaho, and below are pictures of my my yard.  The flowers are still blooming, especially the Petunias, which seem to be enjoying the cooler weather.  The images are of the back of my house, and of the property looking East from the house.

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The temperatures are in the mid to lower 60’s during the day, and in the upper 30’s to mid 40’s at night.  Almost perfect.

Fall Maintenance

RototillOn the left is an image of the GPS track that I took while rototilling part of the garden.  The path you see if 1.23 miles, and it took about an hour and a half to complete.  The area is approximately 65 X 65, and will be expanded another 15 or so feet in the coming weeks in preparation of fall.  I rototilled now to give all of the grass clippings from the lawn a chance to decompose over the Fall and Winter. 

I used my BCS 853 tiller for the first time, and after getting used to how the DSCF1854the tiller felt, which is very different from the BCS mower attachment, it was a fairly easy job, though I was sore the next day.  Even though the machine more or less takes care of itself, it still needs to be guided and man-handled on occasion in order for it to go where I wanted it to till, and especially when turning.  I will more than likely till one or two more times prior to winter.

I also tilled a 100 foot path about 5 feet wide where we will put some of our trees in the Spring.  I have decided not to do a Fall tree planting, as there is a specific nursery that I want to order from, and they only do Spring shipping’s.  They also have a better variety of trees, and I am interested in specific tree varieties, especially apple. 

So far I think we are going to initially plant 4 apples, including two cider specific varieties, one almond, two plum, two apricot, three cherries (both tart and sweet), two nectarine, two peach (maybe), two Asian pear, and maybe two Black Walnut trees. 

We had electricity ran to the barn this week so Misty could set up a ceramics studio.  The electricians put in a new pole, and then ran a line 300 feet underground to the shed.  The studio is in one of the four 40 X 20 foot bays that is enclosed, but has three doors and a window, including a large front bay door that allows you to drive into the bay.

The below are images of Misty pressure washing her area, as well as the rest of the barn.  The barn is 80 X 40 and will also house some animals in the near future.

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While Misty and I were working on the barn, Micha did a lot of burning – this is looking from the barn to the side deck:

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After a very hard day working outside, this is our view from the side deck:

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Flowers and Birds

8Aug13__DSC1587Micha as she was cleaning and burning some of the brush from around the property.  We still have many days of burning left, as well as weeks of cleaning up under the various trees we have.  Apparently, the previous owner was trying to create a forest for the birds and animals, which is cute.  However, they never cleared out any of the dried weeds or pine needles, which are a huge fire hazard, not to mention a spider and bug paradise.  We may eliminate some quail habitat by cleaning, but we will leave enough behind that they will be able to still find quite a bit of nesting ground. 

It was a bit too bright to take pictures of the roses, but I figured that I had some spare time after mowing the lawn and did not know when I would have another chance, so here are some a few pictures of some of our roses:

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And, an image of an injured woodpecker:

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Mowing the Lawn

21Aug13_DSCF1677Racked the Apricot Wine today, and as you can see in the image on the left, there is still a huge amount of sediment that will need to fall out, so it will in the secondary for at least 6 weeks. It smells great, and I obtained exactly 6 gallons of liquid, so all should work out well for this one. I did not get an SG, as there was simply too much stuff floating around to be accurate. I will worry about SG in 6 weeks.

In other fun news, I mowed the lawn again today.  Mowing the lawn is a fairly intensive process, and I really wanted to see how many miles I walked when I mowed.  So, I slipped on my Polar RCX5 heart rate monitor and GPS.  According to the Polar GPS, I walked 3.87 miles mowing the lawn.  It took 2 hours, 22 minutes, and 38 seconds.  I also burned ~1385 calories.  I have attached the path I took while mowing the lawn.  The paths to the field are of me emptying the grass catcher.  While it is a large lawn to mow with a hand mower, today was great weather-wise, and it was very enjoyable.  Looks great too!

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Planting the Garden–Finally!

Garden_20Jul12_DSCF1257Today, I was finally able to get into the garden and plant the majority of my plants and seeds.  Though 5 days later than my normal planting date, I feel that the garden will do well this summer.  Usually, actually always, I plant on the 15th of May.  This year, due to the weather, I had to delay until today.  Actually, since I purchased my first hose in 1984, this has been the first time I have not planted on the 15th of May.

A few things went wrong this year as far as the garden is concerned.  My zucchini is still too small to plant outside.  I think that because of the cold, it has simply stopped growing.  The zucchini is in the (fake) greenhouse getting warm and hopefully growing.  My cucumbers have suffered because of the cold, wet weather.  They actually died.  So, I am replanting them tomorrow.  My tomatoes are OK.  Not good and not bad.  I transplanted them and they are in the greenhouse also. 

The problem this year is that the weather has been unusually cold and wet.  While I plant all of my seeds inside, on the 1st of May I take them all outside, and place them in a portable cold frame type device,  in order to harden off.  May is usually warm and the plants grow and become used to the outside, but not this year.  Interestingly, the lettuce is smaller than usual, and lettuce likes the cold.  Oh well, all will workout.

What went right is the cabbage – it is huge! I guess it really liked the cold weather, as all of the brassica’s did quite well.  The herbs, including rosemary, oregano, parsley, and cilantro did well also, as did all of my flowers.  Interestingly, despite the cold weather, my nasturtiums have performed unusually well; they are over a foot long already.  Of course, my pansy’s are as usually, beautiful – almost ready to bloom.  Garden_20Jul12_DSCF1248

What was also done this year: A new garden addition, as you can see in this picture.

In this area, my daughter and her boyfriend are establishing a small garden of their own, including potatoes, a variety of herbs, and strawberries.

The below image is of the entrance to the main garden.  Because of the new garden addition, I needed to rewire the electric fence.  I used a new spool of wire that is stringer, and has more exposed wires than the old fence.  Hopefully, it will keep deer, dogs, cats, and other critters out of the garden this year.

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Oh, and the fake greenhouse is pictured on the right.  It is a reinforced plastic fabric over a metal frame.  It seems strong and has survived some strung winds so far.  I will be growing tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse. 

I still have some plants to plant, and will do that throughout the week.  I also need to fund room to plant a bit of an experiment.  I am trying to see if oats, wheat, spelt, and barley will grow here.  Is they, or one of the grains, grow here, I may plant a large plot of them next year. 

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On the left is picture of some of the primrose flowers.  The picture, actually 

all of the pictures, suffered a bit from a heavy overcast we had today.  I will take clearer pictures if the sun ever comes out this summer.

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