6.11.2014 June on the Farm

We’ve reached the time of year where the daily list of things to do is longer than daylight hours in which to do them. Even as we approach the summer solstice, the days simply aren’t long enough. It’s that time of year where you start work at sunrise and don’t realize until your tummy rumbles around 10:30 that you’ve missed breakfast again. Then it’s another hour before you actually eat something, all the while thinking about the list of things to do for the rest of the day. Then you pick the one most important task and get back to work. You work until the light fails, sometime around 9 pm. You’ve taken water breaks in which you let the sweat dry while you sit in the shade consulting the list, the tennis scores (It is the time of year for the French Open and Wimbeldon.), and the radar – does that little storm cell over Lynchburg look like it might make it this far east, or will it wither and die? It’s getting hotter and drier.

The spinach has long since bolted and the Dwarf Gray Sugar Peas are dying quickly now. The cabbage moths and their evil offspring have made a mess of the Red Russian Kale – which turns out not to be such a big deal. Everyone has had their fill of kale and is looking for anything that is not a leafy green – no matter what tasty concoction you tempt them with. Lettuce mix is still selling, sort of. The lettuce itself is struggling with the heat and the dryness. Variety selection is key and I am now planting lettuce in the shade of other crops. With a garden that’s oriented north-south, I will have a lot of shade for lettuce if the tomatoes, cucumbers and melons ever decide it’s hot enough to grow.

The pest assaults in the garden have switched from aphids and slugs, to cabbage moths and stink bugs. I spend a good portion of my days debugging the squash and the Red Russian Kale (that nobody wants). The curly kale (Vates and Scotch Blue) are largely unaffected by cabbage worms but I prefer Red Russian, so I am going to try to keep it going.

The first squash blossoms came this week, along with the first of the peppers. The tomatoes in the main garden exposed to the elements are slow getting established, but the ones in the hoop house are between 3 and 4 feet tall with good fruit set that are starting to lighten, but none are showing any color yet. Middle of June and all I’ve got is two bell peppers and a bunch of green tomatoes.

The hardneck garlic has sent out scapes and I’ll be cutting those tomorrow,

The wavy green thing on the bowl is a garlic scape, the undeveloped seed head from some varieties of garlic.  The green stuff in the bowl is garlic scape pesto.  Make your knees melt stuff.  Wow!

The wavy green thing on the bowl is a garlic scape, the undeveloped seed head from some varieties of garlic. The green stuff in the bowl is garlic scape pesto. Make your knees melt stuff. Wow!

but the bulbs on the softneck are still underdeveloped. Some of the onions are just about ready to pull, but most aren’t much bigger than when I planted them. And the spring planted leeks may well be a winter crop considering their incredibly slow growth rates.

Onions and garlic sure do look and smell nice hanging out in the barn, getting all dried and ready for storage.

Onions and garlic sure do look and smell nice hanging out in the barn, getting all dried and ready for storage.

We’ve also reached the point in the year when the bees make their honey. That means my front yard is looking really tatty because I haven’t mowed in three weeks in order to spare the clover. I am pretty sure my bees aren’t relying solely on clover nectar, but I am not taking any chances.

I thought I’d be harvesting honey this week. The pink hive (package bees installed in early March) had nearly filled a honey super two weeks ago, and because I knew I didn’t have time to pull that super in the next few days, I gave them another super, in case they ran out of room. Well, they started working both supers and now I have two partially capped, but largely full supers. I will give them another week.

And after "another week", I did harvest the honey.  24 sad little pounds, not the 60 to 90 I was hoping for.  But it's something.  Something wonderful.

And after “another week”, I did harvest the honey. 24 sad little pounds, not the 60 to 90 I was hoping for. But it’s something. Something wonderful.

The rest of the hives starting showing some good growth once I put the water traps underneath. The Blue Hive (overwintered) was struggling with wax moths. I kept reducing space and entrances in hopes they’d get strong enough to handle the infestation on their own, but no. I finally pulled their entire bottom box, (filled with pollen stores and wax moth larvae) and fed the frames to the chickens. Once the wax moths were gone, and the water trap was in place to catch any lingering larvae, the Blue Hive began to rebuild. I don’t know what was troubling the Orange and Lavender hives, but they too, also started to blossom after I put the water traps under the hives. I’ve only seen two small hive beetles so far this year, so I don’t think it’s that. Maybe, like the garden, the bees are just a couple of weeks behind schedule due to the cold spring.

Harvesting honey in a bee suit with zipper issues . . . tricky.  And, FWIW, duct tape won't fix this.

Harvesting honey in a bee suit with zipper issues . . . tricky. And, FWIW, duct tape won’t fix this.

We had our hay cut last weekend even though we had close to 200 bales still in the barn. Those 200 were from two springs ago and were getting moldy and rank. We stashed them at various locations on the farm and will let them weather for at least six months at which point they should make decent, herbicide-free mulch. Now we have 152 bales of fresh green hay stored in the hay barn.

This is our third stash of hay and we are getting much better at picking it up out of the field and stacking.

This is our third stash of hay and we are getting much better at picking it up out of the field and stacking.

Because moisture and mold is such a problem in there, we stacked the bales with the cut sides on the horizontal and the strings up. Hopefully, this will stop the hay from wicking moisture from beneath the platform. And maybe we’ll add yet another ditch outside the barn. Not that it will do any good. I think there’s a spring under the barn.

Out in the orchard there isn’t much to tell. My husband found three small cherries on the Montmorency planted last year. Two bug riddled peaches were all that made it through the late freeze. Fire blight is a problem on the pears again, though not quite as bad as last year. I do have a few apples, but I have little expectations of harvesting them. The apple trees we planted four years ago are generally not happy.

I have discovered asparagus makes a fine seasonal hedge.

Everywhere else that I have seen asparagus growing it's a wimpy looking sort of plant, never more than 3 or 4 feet tall.  My asparagus is over 6 feet tall and impenetrable.  Just ask the peach trees that have been overwhelmed.

Everywhere else that I have seen asparagus growing it’s a wimpy looking sort of plant, never more than 3 or 4 feet tall. My asparagus is over 6 feet tall and impenetrable. Just ask the peach trees that have been overwhelmed.

It came in late this year and I didn’t harvest it like I could have. Because it got off to such a slow start, I was afraid the ducks had done so much root damage that I’d lost it. But naw. It was just late. Next year. No excuses, I am harvesting asparagus and I should get way more than we can eat from my 15 foot bed.

I had a major cull planned for the chickens, thinking that I would have at least 20-25 chickens that were not performing to go into the freezer. Then a hawk came and did the culling for me. I am now down to 3 roosters, 27 hens and Squatch. The laying flock is now confined to the coop and the run where the shade is deep and hawks can’t comfortably reach. The chickens get their daily kibble and a dozen heads of lettuce a day. They have never had a better rate of lay. My lettuce is really good and apparently really good for chickens. They even eat up the bolted heads that are too bitter for human taste buds.

The new hedgerow and the old hedgerow I have totally neglected. Most things have survived, but could really benefit from a little time from me. Trouble is I have none to give.

Not complaining, mind you. I work hard, sleep well and grow enough good food that I can share it with others. It’s very rewarding.  I’m a lucky girl.

 

 

 

 

 


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