The Beginning, and The End

Simply, from this: 

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To this:

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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. 

Evening in Idaho

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First Hike 2014

19Apr14_DSCF2378Not quite sure where we were, but we had out first hike of 2014 this past Saturday.

We were out exploring last Wednesday and found what looked like an interesting mountain to hike, so on Saturday we left early for the hike.  Like I mentioned, I have no idea what the mountain or area is called, I just know that it on either BLM or State land.  When I download my GPS data I will 19Apr14_DSCF2385look a bit closer at the map to get some names.  What caught our interest in this mountain was the color of the cliffs, which were a yellowish-green color. Looking closer we saw that is was some type of lichen that was only growing on these cliffs.

Anyway, the day of the hike was quite warm, starting out in the upper 40’s and getting up to the low 70’s with a nice cooling wind/breeze.  The hike up was steep but steady, climbing 1000 feet in about 0.65 miles.  The top of the ridge was approximately 5800 feet high, giving us a great view of the area surrounding us. 

Once we got to the top, it was a gentle 1.75 or so mile hike along the ridge to the end.  We could have continued on, and may come back for an extended hike in the future. But for now, we just want to do some short exploratory hikes first so see what each area surrounding us has to offer. 

One thing was we really enjoyed was the variety and abundance of wild flowers.  They were small, but very pretty.  I took quite a few pictures, but unfortunately, it was quite windy which made the flowers move, causing some very blurry pictures.  I am posting some of the less blurry ones, and hopefully will return with a better camera on a calmer day.

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I always find it amazing when I find a plant or tree growing where nothing else similar is growing.  This picture is of a tree attempting to grow on the very edge of the ridge.  There are no other trees growing within a mile of this one in the first picture.  We also have a picture of Micha and Misty on the ridge, and in the car the Wednesday prior as we were exploring the area.  Oh, if you Juneau people want to see what a real deer looks like, the last picture is for you!

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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!

Sunrise With Morning Coffee.

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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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Finished the Coop!

24March2014_DSC1734Spring is here, and flowers are everywhere. Our daffodils are blooming, and the tulips are all up and should bloom shortly.  Better yet, the orchard trees are also starting to bloom.

Down the street a bit is an apricot orchard that is in bloom.  From the house the orchard, and several other apricot orchards that are in bloom, looks like a white carpet, so we decided to stop by and take a couple of pictures.  It seems that apricot trees are the first to bloom, with the others, including peach, pear, apple, cherry, and plum, following shortly after.  I am interested to see the pink apple blossoms as well as out two old and large crab apples. 

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So, the chicken coop is finally complete!  We finished painting it today, and I put the roofing on the nest boxes.  While I say it is complete, I actually have a few minor items left to do in the interior of the coop.  I want to 24March2014_DSC1725temporarily block the nest boxes so the chicks do not think it a good place to sleep and then lay eggs elsewhere, and there are a few small weatherproofing, bug proofing, and trim items to take care of.  I will be putting the chicks outside in two and a half weeks, so I have time to spare in completing the remaining tasks.

While I really do not enjoy building things, building the coop was often enjoyable due to the beautiful weather last week, it was in the upper 50’s and sunny, and the wonderful scenery that surrounds the property.  Today while painting, it was in the low 60’s and again, beautiful.  Also, I am extremely satisfied with the coop itself.  It should provide the chickens a good home where they can lay a lot of eggs for us and maybe a bit of soup or a nice BBQ dinner…..

As you may be able to see, the chicks are growing fast.  I am thinking of moving them to the studio in the shed, as they are very dusty in the garage.  As they loose their baby feathers, the feathers, in the form of dust and fuzz, to everywhere, and the garage is a mess. 

Next on the agenda is a fence for the chickens and the lambs that I will be getting in the next few weeks.  I have decided to raise sheep for meat, as they will have enough food in the pasture I am developing to not need much, if any, additional feed.  Also, in the next few days I will be planting 6 apple,  1 nectarine, 1 peach, 2 sweet and 1 sour cherry, 1 plum tree, a boysenberry and raspberry bush, transplanting three or four old grape vines, planting 10 new grape vines, rototilling all three garden areas, finding and developing an area to grow hops, helping Misty develop an herb garden, putting in an irrigation system for the trees, bushes, vines, garden areas, and who knows what else.  This does not include performing spring maintenance on over 15,000 sq. ft. of a very resource wasteful, but nice, lawn.  All hard work, but all extremely enjoyable to do.

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. 

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