Some virtual blooms for our mama’s a few provinces to the east…wish we could deliver them to your door! This week’s ingredients include columbine; peony seed pods; lilacs and chestnut blooms.
Mother’s Day wouldn’t be complete without a new episode of “Chick TV on channel Hen…”. We’re all taking ample breaks from planting and weeding to sit and watch some ‘chick TV’. Ten little peepers were re-homed with us this weekend and we’re having fun guessing the breeds and sex of each fuzzball. If you leave the naming of chicks to our 11 year old you end up with handles such as Yolko Ono and Queen Kong. He doesn’t get why I think Margaret Hatcher is so witty…
At least we found a use for the old soldier’s helmet discovered in the woods!
We awoke to frosty conditions this morning but it was short-lived. Beautiful reminder not to rush the growing season too quickly.
The honey bees have had their fill of nectar from the first push of ‘weeds’. We’re leaving the seed heads for the golden crowned and white crowned sparrows who feed intensely in the fields. Seems a shame to mow down their buffet!
The newly planted Chinese chestnuts are awakening for the first time in their new habitat. It is romantic (to me) to imagine them awakening like this for the next 50+ years. I hope I get to see them in their prime.
Early season bouquets of thanks to my CSA members. This weeks’ ingredients included bee balm; fiddleheads; bronze fennel; flowering scirpus; early peonies; tulips and flowering chives. Lilacs are almost ready and a sure sign that it is May! So long frost. See you in October.
All 50 Chinese chestnuts (Castanea mollissima) are in the ground as of this week, bringing our total to 175 trees planted in the last year! We have 75 hazelnuts left to plant in May and then the planting shovel will take a well deserved break.
I wish I could have a toast with a tulip goblet filled with sparkling wine to celebrate our accomplishments thus far. A glass will have to do. That old hayfield is starting to transform into a nut orchard. Our site plan is materializing before our eyes!
Influenza took front stage in our house for a few weeks but now that we’re upright again we’re celebrating by focusing on growth!
My partner-in-crime surprised me with a dozen new swallow boxes in every possible location on the farm. He and the young jedi constructed them from scrap lumber while I was incapacitated with the flu. Three varieties of swallows are now scoping out the new real estate, much to our delight. The biggest thrill was seeing our first American kestrel on the property today, which we couldn’t snap a picture of. We’re hoping to help re-introduce kestrels in the neighbourhood by providing nesting boxes and habitat for their food sources. Their presence is the ultimate red squirrel deterrant for nut trees!
Bored with endless streams of ginger/lemon/honey tea these past two weeks we needed a little something else on our kitchen table… Welcome April!
There are lots of exciting projects on the go at the Weed Patch that are keeping us busy in preparation for our longest season of the year…spring! To kick start our post-influenza bodies, we look for inspiration in the bulbs and seeds planted last fall.
Two rows of columbine (above) and 270 tulips (below) are full of vibrant new growth. These beauties will fuel our bees and put a smile on the faces of our cut flower CSA members this season!
In March, the rooms in our house become the backdrop for the orchestra of flowering twigs and branches that we can’t resist bringing in for a ‘sneek peek’.The cherry blossoms are this week’s favourite.
Ana, now 13,the official greeter at the Weed Patch is still determined to join me on my weeding missions, and burrow into a sunny mulch pile. Thank goodness spring is not without our canine companions…
The creek that runs through the property is teeming with these bright ‘lanterns’ which glow in the dark greens of the forest. The smell of skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) definately signals spring.
Stay tuned for (hopefully) more regular updates on our chestnut and hazelnut planting marathon this season. Eight months to go until all 250 nut trees and alley crop rows are in the ground! Yikes! Let’s get to work…
The preparations for the test hugelkultur rows for the Styrian pumpkins are coming along, slowly. We thought we’d be completed by the end of January but we’re just now making the time to top them with manure and screened compost. Our feathered friends are working alongside us as stealth controllers of wireworms in the overturned sod clods. Last year we had wireworm woes in the new vegetable beds so we’re hoping this year the click beetles will give us a bit of a reprieve!
The third generation mobile chicken coop design has been updated and improved! After a year of field trials of the original design, we think we’ve ironed out the wrinkles and come up with a more rugged yolkswagon to cruise the aisles of nut trees. We feel these are the safest and cheeriest little coops for our silvopastured cluckers. You can’t help but smile when you see one (or five) colourful coops dotting the landscape. Collecting eggs is a breeze and moving the birds to fresh ground each day is not the mother clucker of a job as with some of the ‘mobile’ coops we’ve seen. Let the laying begin!
The start to the new year typically involves long evenings reading at the Weed Patch. The young Jedi is absorbed in a book about a time travelling 12 year old who is smack in the middle of World War One. My partner in crime is unravelling the mystery of a lost nuclear bomb in BC during the 1950′s. I’m spellbound with tales of women in the US Civil War. And then we spend our daylight hours digging and filling trenches… How fitting.In between our English walnut quadrant will be a series of alley crop rows to accommodate the Styrian pumpkins and some cut flowers. We decided to transform 40 metres of row into Hugelkultur beds so that we could utilize our assorted collections of woody debris, compost and woodchips. Step one is to dig a trench at least 30 cm deep; 1.5 metres wide and as long as you require. Add one visiting Sergent Duck Toller to supervise the excavations.
Step two involved filling the trench with as much coarse woody debris as we had available on hand. In our case, alder logs, corn and sunflower stalks from the fall and winter fruit tree prunings all ended up in this first layer. This slowly decomposing mass of wet wood will act as a sponge and a slow release nutrient source for the next several years in a portion of our field with shallow soils and a high water table.
Step three was to add a thick layer of well rotted wood chips. Now it’s time for a break while the rains soak these first three layers. But, by the end of January we will be adding the clods of upside down turf; horse and sheep manure; spoiled hay and chicken nesting box bedding; and then a final layer of compost which will be the planting medium for the Styrian pumpkins in early June. The entire mound will be mulched at planting to suppress weeds and keep the soil moist. The use of Hugelkultur as an alternative to tilled rows in small scale agriculture is gaining popularity and appears to be a great approach at the Weed Patch where we have field conditions that lend themselves well to raised growing mounds utilizing copious amounts of biomass that we have readily available. These rows will be in production of Styrian pumpkins and hardy cut flowers for several growing seasons until the nut trees close in their canopy slowly, in stealthy mode over the next decade and claim their territory… Time for some light fiction, I think.