Farm Happenings, April Edition
As a gift to my dear gardening wife on the seventh anniversary of our marriage (we eloped as good, middle-aged folks should), this is Facilities Manager writing the post for the week. Howdy do! Well, there is much to see and discuss, so please join me as dear wife enjoys her new bathtub and I have some fun with words and pictures!
Oh, the native dogwood tree is greenly blooming. Interestingly, I nearly sawed this 30-footer down last Spring, but we chose to keep it and it surprised us with these very cool blossoms.
This is standing on the parking pad looking west in September 2015 when we purchased our little farm. The silver tree is a trunk of a larger maple you can see behind it. So you know, that mesh of filberts and blackberries has been removed. Now we can see the sunsets! At any rate, remember that silver trunk because . . .
. . . last Friday's big windstorm sent it over. I was looking outside and watched it fall and smack onto Ranger and then Gary (the blue Hyundai). Gary has a couple of new dimples and your Facilities Manager learned how one moves vehicles out of the line of fire during a windstorm. I was going to cut down that trunk anyway this spring, so Mother Nature saved me the trouble.
Here it is on a better day, trimmed of its upper branches. We are lucky it did not take out the little solar panel that provides light inside the red shed. Also, please note the lack of the filbert/blackberry wall. Of course, one can make things a bit too visible to one's neighbors! Haha, Mike and Mary won't mind as they enjoy shouting at us from their deck. Be careful with that chainsaw, they always shout.
This is the brush pile from the fallen maple. I plan to burn this one day soon. Shhhhh, don't tell Tamara. She is nervous when I burn.
I'd have cleared this, too, but my chainsaw blade is so dull that I could not cut butter, but, hey, imagine cutting butter with a chainsaw. Lordy! Some mess! I have a new chain on order and we should have this trunk sliced and stacked in the wood pile in a few days.
Tamara and I winced every time Frida, Blanche or Effie, our hen-trio, had salad at the expense of our Carex grasses. So as FM, I was requested to solve the problem. I created 72 of these ghostly cages to protect the grasses from our ever-hungry hens. Nothing special. Just a lot of snipping and bending and then using 6-inch staples to hold them in place. Frida, et al., were puzzled for a few minutes but since they have brains the size of half of pecan . . . well, they don't worry about much.
Yes, I said 72 of these suckers!! And that was fine, you know, what with the weather so bad and the ground too soft for major projects. I like the ghostly, metallic haze it provides the garden.
Okay, so let's all count: 43, 44, 45, ah, 46, ah, did I count that one? Oh, boy! Tamara here - I call it the Christo art installation. I like it. It may or may not be permanent.
Oh no, there is Facilities Manager-ette Sharon, my mother, helping me dig the big berm at the bottom of the garden. That was three weeks ago. Tamara here, so this is the other project I hinted at a few weeks ago. I had this idea to cut into the edge of the dry meadow garden to create a shelf for visual interest and a path and drainage. FM dug it all out and made berms on the down slope - this in perma-culture practice will also help keep draining runoff in the soil longer than if it just flowed downstream without this obstacle.
The shoveling was great exercise, or so I tell my lower back and shoulders. My shoulders haven't been this sore since I took up snowboarding in my mid-40's.
For scale, Blanche (she whom does not lay eggs) snoops around the trench. And, if you look very closely way in the back, you can see the silver trunk maple that took the plunge last week. It is leaning just in front of the brown pickup way in the background. I smoothed out the piles of soil that I called the Himalayas so they are more even.
A self-portrait of your favorite FM after Tamara and I shoveled out two Ranger-loads of 1-1/2-inch gravel. We plan to add five yards of smaller gravel to the top of the stone.
And, of course, one of the Bengals must inspect. I think that is Lucy, but sometimes it is confusing.
This is looking southwest over the gravel and the berms.
We smoothed the berms by pushing the dirt toward the trench. And then . . .
. . . black plastic shows up. Since there was grass-sod in the mix we decided to roast it to dust by using the sun. But, of course, the sun is merely a rumor in 2017! Tamara here - so the idea is to kill any weeds or seeds left in the soil as well as prevent seeds from infesting this open soil. We've learned that if there's open soil, mark my words, there WILL be weeds in about 3.47 days.
Remember to always pick a windy day to lay plastic! Haha, just kidding. This is being held in place with more of those 6-inch staples. We noted the wind was getting in under the plastic though.
So after Tamara added some plants on the berms --- cutting my beautiful plastic sheets, sniff sniff --- we put down some red paving stones we had around the farm. They really help keep the wind from finding its way down under. I bought a few more in Scappoose since this picture was taken to make sure we aren't chasing plastic sheets come the next big windstorm. Tamara here - so I had some Fescue 'Beyond Blue' and a couple manzanitas I was saving for this area to plant. The fescues were becoming pot-bound, so rather than wait for the solarizing to take place in a few months' time, I decided to plant them now by cutting into the very precious (sorry, FM) plastic and plant away.
Here are a few of the rather sad looking fescues and an Arctostaphylos silvicola or ghost manzanita on the upper right.
Much better. And it looks kind of dramatic. We'll have to live with it for a few months.
Blanche and Effie help Tamara plant some Ceanothus 'Point Reyes' under the big white oak tree. What would a day without hens underfoot be?
You might enjoy me mowing in the background as Tamara tell us about what she planted. Oh, yes Tamara here - I decided that rather than dandelions and occasional clumps of grass under this Oregon white oak, I'd plant Ceanothus 'Point Reyes' here - some 10 total - groundcover plants. The bright green in the foreground is sweet woodruff planted last fall. The ceanothus will reach a couple of feet high by several (to 6 or so) feet wide. They don't like rich soil and do well under oaks, so since they are evergreen and native to the West Coast and provide great blue flowers for pollinators, they were the chosen plant. I really look forward to watching this fill in.
Every spring and fall these cranes migrate through Saint Helens. They stick around for a few days and make the most delightful clattery purring sounds as they wing about in groups. We also watched this day two bald eagles clawing at each other in mid-air. We weren't sure if it was playing around or "playing around." (Tamara here - it was "playing around.")
Tamara surprised me with a real gem of a gift for our anniversary: A copper hoe! I love it! This will make hoe-ing weeds in the veggie garden such a pleasure. Thank you, Tamara! Tamara here - it's made in Austria, I found PKS Bronze copper tools online. See, the traditional seventh anniversary gift is copper, so...
I surprised Tamara with a custom-built, hardwood garden wagon. She put it to good use already. This will be much more stable for her than the wheelbarrow. And, of course, the kitties and, sigh, probably the hens, too, will take some rides now and again. Oh, yes, the little red wagon was a gift for her birthday. We have since given it to the Bengals for rolling around inside the house! Tamara here - I adore this! I had to laugh, we bought each other farm tools for anniversary gifts....**sigh** life on the farm.
And, finally, a true sign of spring is the blooming ornamental cherry tree on the north side of the house. We love us some flowers, we do, and we note the tulips are about ready to open, so we are looking forward to Spring coming full force in the coming weeks.
Thanks for the opportunity to share our recent activities and events here on the farm. I cannot think of anyone else I would care to create this lovely garden and farm with than Tamara. We are truly blessed.
Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart!
And as Tamara usually says, "That's it from Chickadee Gardens for this week! Go forth and grow stuff!" Something like that, anyway. Cheers.