Another year has passed on the farm, and as the old year passes by, it leaves changes much like a glacier grinding and pushing its way to the sea. 2011 brought lots of new equipment and experiences to the farm, including a new John Deere tractor, and a much older yet still very effective 8n Ford tractor. The two tractors work great in tandam, making the hard work of yester-years into play time on full sized toys. The two tractors share lots of interchangable attachments including a back blade, brush hog, finish mower and more. Once we got up to speed on how the tractors worked and what we could do with them, everything changed. Tasks that were difficult became easy, and what was once impossible is now do-able.
With the power of many horses under our feet, we began to transform the land directly in front of my home from a thicket of brush into a smooth flowing lawn, complete with a meandering stream which runs through the center. This will be the land where I continue planting cherries, berries and fruit trees, as I’ve nearly run out of space close to the house. I’ve also found time to build a herb garden with lot’s of old field stones.
The year has also been shaped a great deal by the construction of a new shed. The idea began as a chicken coop, but as soon as I began construction of the shed in my minds eye I envisioned a work shop and extra storage for many of my tools. The shed demanded a good deal of my time, and I’ve had lots of help with the design and general construction. That project is now complete for the year, and the workshop is quickly being stocked and organized. I’ve built a study building that should last for decades, and its large enough that I have extra room for future use.
While the sun was hidden from view I put together my first book, which expands upon my first few years in the garden. After returning from work, and putting away my shed construction tools, I would edit, layout and revise my story, producing a 70 + page tale of trials and some errors on my path to master gardening. You can read more about the book by clicking here.
In 2009 and 2010 I had well over 100 tomato plants die due to late blight, and I lost the majority of the tomato harvest to this pest. It’s a difficult thing to loose so much hard work to something which is hard to see, but in 2011 I fought back with the conviction of a four star general. I drew up “battle plans” and stuck to the program, using Epson Salt and “Dragoon Dust” to protect the plants and destroy the enemy.
The blight managed to kill a plant or two, but I treated the outbreak much like the CDC would treat a case of SARS. I carefully covered the infected plants with a garbage bag, then ripped the roots from the soil, being carefull to isolate the infected plant. After torching the exposed plant matter, I redoubled my efforts in blight prevention. I took a doctor’s approach towards treatment, and gave the plants a heavy dose of Miracle Grow to keep them strong, while dusting the area exposed with an extra serving of anti-fungal agents.
At the end of the season it was clear that the blight had not succeded in robbing my harvest yet again. The tomatoes flowed from the garden like water spraying from a badly leaking hose.
With the endless bounty that streamed in from the garden, we all learned the fine points of food preservation, including canning, freezing and even vacuum sealing veggies. 2011 has been a great year for the garden, with two exceptions: Cucumbers and Zucchini.
I only managed to grow a few cucumbers, unlike past years when I would require a back pack in order to pick a row of cucks. The zucchini wasn’t nearly as bad, but it also suffered due to a thousand bites from pesky ground hogs. Overall, I’m very happy to see so much progress in hind sight. I’ve grown a great deal this year, perhaps more then the last five years combined. I’ve extended my garden season into the winter with Broccolli, Cualiflower and Brussels Sprouts, and I’ve demonstrated stubborn commitment towards shed construction.
Everyone on the farm has been learning and working together very well, and I think the outcome of this years labor is a testement to that effort. I hope to redouble my planning in 2012, and deliver even better results in the new year.
Happy New Year !
– I.T. Farmer
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Most of the plants in my garden have long ago succumbed to the cold weather, but there are still a few hints of life around the farm if you know where to look. When I set out with my camera to document these hardy plants, I was pretty surprised to notice that my elderberry bush is beginning to set new shoots, in December. While I would have never expected this plant to begin growing when the sun is far away and the tempuratures are even lower, the whole process may hold some secrets to cloning elderberry bushes. I’ve tried in the past to clone the bushes in the spring, and now I’m thinking it may be best to attempt cloning while the canes are very cold.
When I got to the garden, I was hoping to see thriving Swiss Chard plants, but none were found. In fact most of the cool hardy plants in my winter garden are going to seed, with only my garlic, a few turnips and Brussels Sprouts left to display to green colors that keep me planting. I’m very happy to have the brussel sprouts doing so well, but I must admit these are my first plants, and I’m not quite sure what to expect from them, and even more importantly when to expect it. There are lots of little sprouts on these plants, and they taste good, but I don’t think they should be eaten just yet.
Moving away from the garden, I walked down to my rock garden, where I planted a second batch of garlic. I had planted an early crop of garlic in July (As Good a Time as Any), but I wanted to plant an additional batch at the correct time to ensure a healthy supply of garlic. I’m a huge fan of garlic, and this will hopefully be the best results I have with this tasty plant so far. To prepare the ground, I dug up some garden soil, mixed in some sandy silt from a nearby stream, then added lots of manure, epson salt, bio-char, and pot-ash to make this one of the most fertile beds of soil on the farm. After taking this picture I spread an inch thick layer of hay and straw to protect the bulbs from the bitter cold in February, and help block weeds from growing in the spring.
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I only have a few major components to finish before I can call my shed complete, but before I totally enclosed the second story, I figured it would be a good idea to add a ladder and some light. I decided to use some left over 2 x 4’s as the ladder base, with 2 x 3 rungs. After nailing the whole thing together, I added some railings that I made from some left over facia boards. I plan to hang a piece of plywood on some hinges and attach those to the railings to produce a very accident free ladder system.
When the ladder was complete, I hung the first of three large lights. Hanging a light by yourself can be very frustrating, so I cheated a bit by using an extension cord as a pully system to hoise the light into place. Once I was happy with it’s location, I tied the cord around a nail to secure it in place, and used the screw gun to permantely attach the light. After adding three lights, I ran some electrical wire and installed an On/Off light swtich.
After turning the light on, I saw that the light switch was made in America, which made the accomplishment that much sweeter.