Last Thursday I finally received the fruit tree seedlings that I’ve been waiting months for. The order contained 75 apple, 25 wild plum and 25 red elderberry plants which all arrived… [ Continue Reading at http://itfarmersblog.com/?p=2550 ]
For the past two days, I’ve had one item which has topped my agenda: Finishing and testing out the cider press I’ve been working on. A good friend, Adonica in the picture above, heard about my project and … [ Continue Reading at: http://itfarmersblog.com/?p=2502 ]
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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It’s been a great year for apples in Northwest Pennsylvania. Above is a selection of apples from a co-workers orchard. He’s got a real apple problem on his hands at the moment, with the potential to fill many, many 50 pound bags full. Chad brought in a selection of the apples he has growing, and I thought I’d take a picture, and share it on my blog. You can read more about his apple problem here: Ella and Family Stuff
Back on the farm we have quite a few apple trees of our own filled with very well grown apples. Davie and Rob took some time out of their weekend to pick apples using the John Deere, in place of a ladder. The trees shown are in the area that I’ve been cleaning up near my Herb Garden. I had pruned the tree in the spring not realizing that it was an edible apple tree. I was hoping to grow crab apples which could have been used as treats for my sisters horses.
A single pickings harvest is shown in the cart, but many more have already been processed into apple-sauce.
It’s also the best time of the year to plant trees, and after I found a few on sale for $25 each, I loaded up my little car, and brought three to my mother’s house where we planted them in her front yard.
I couldn’t help to purchase a Nectarine tree as well, and I planted it near the area I’ve been cleaning up with the Back-blade on the tractor. I’m hoping to plant many more cherries, berries and trees in the area, and while I had rob and the John Deere digging holes, we also moved a Service Berry plant. I’m beginning to think I should put together and post a map of the farm with each plant and it’s variety marked.
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Last year when it came time to plant the potatoes, we dug a trench and placed the spuds in the ground. This year, I’ve made mounds about a foot tall, and planted the potatoes in a ditch along the ridge of the trench. This should allow the potatoes to dig deep, and grow lots of new roots. I’ve separated the spuds that were planted whole from the ones which were sliced. The first three rows were planted whole, and the following four rows were cut spuds.
When planting potatoes, it’s OK to cut them into smaller chunks if they have more then one eye. The eyes are the portion that grows out of the potato and sets leaves. After cutting them into sections, it’s a good idea to let them sit for at least 24 hours before planting them. This gives the plant time to form a scab, and helps deliver larger yeilds.
After several days of constant planting, I decided to switch gears and do some construction. I started building the roof sections, and Nate snapped this picture when I was checking out the view from the top. I’ll admit that when I first climbed up to the top I was a bit scared, but I soon found that If I concentrated on my work, didn’t look down and moved slowly, I was just fine with being up so high.
On one of the days last week, some of the neighbors came over to check out my garden and all of my other plants. It’s nice to have company that shares an interest in growing food. Darlene had given me a book about herbs a year or so ago, so I made it a point to share the rewards I had learned from the book, and I gave her one each of the herbs I’ve been growing. The next day, Dan brought me a tree that fit excellently into my little farm. Above is an English Walnut tree, and it’s the first of what I hope to be a large collection of various nut trees. He also brought some mulch to place around the plant, and after seeing just how nice the mulch worked, I bought several bags for the farm.
I finally snapped a picture of the baby apples on one of the trees in front of my home. These are the first little apples I’ve seen, and I’ve been waiting for years to see them.
I found the cart on the back of the lawn mower works very well when moving plants. There are three large gardens on the farm now, and it can be quite a pain to walk the plants two trays at a time from the greenhouse to the other end of the farm. Once we began using the cart things got much easier.
By the end of my vacation time, I had the beginning of the peak constructed. I’m using more 2 x 4s then recommended and trying to arrange the boards in a beam type construction method. At the top where the angle of the roof changes dramatically, I have three 2 x 4s wide, with the peak itself two boards wide. I built an archway in the center to help support any accumulated snow, with two boards wide, and two high. I’ll need to load up my car with 2 x 4s on the way home from work Monday to continue moving upwards.
On Sunday I snapped the picture above. If I had to choose one picture to sum up my vacation, this would be the one I would choose.