Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Whirlwind

Like our land in spring, life is moving so fast that it’s sometimes hard to keep up.  The oak leaves are beginning to tint the branches with green. The lilacs are showing their potential, hinting at what is to come. Grass is growing at an incredible rate. We even had a tulip pop up out of nowhere!

The garden is coming to life. We painted the inside of the fence and, weather permitting, will finish the outside this weekend. We need to get that protective coat of paint on so we can secure some hardware cloth to the inside. We’ve seen plenty of rabbits hopping around, and I don’t want our seedlings to become anyone’s dinner anytime soon. We’ve also laid down a thick layer of road gravel along the pathways inside the fence to discourage grass, gophers, and other things that would like access to our garden boxes. Along the outside of the fence we’ve planted all sorts of bee-friendly flowers, laid down mulch, and installed a drip irrigation system. As far as the garden itself, all of the beds have the properly amended soil and drip irrigation lines put in. But we’ve only put kale seedlings into the groud so far (with straw as mulch so it will compost well when we’re done with it). We’re in the midst of hardening off our onions and leeks–which essentially means putting them outside during the day and in the greenhouse at night to get them used to the cold. But we have plenty other things to get into the ground in the next few weeks. The last potential day of frost (May 15) is approaching fast, and I can’t wait.

All in all, things are going really well. The bees are settling in–I’ll have an update on that soon. But the hive looks healthy and active.  The bees are calm and I love seeing them dive in and out of the hive every day. The fruit trees are blossoming, and our berry canes are looking great. I’m learning how much exercise a push mower can provide! There’s always something to do around the homestead, and often we end our weekends exhausted, sore, and satisfied.

As far as school–you can probably guess that it is keeping me pretty busy. But the class itself is amazing; it’s one of those classes that requires you to pick your jaw up off the floor on your way out. I’m blown away by some of the insights that I learn. The work is hard, but manageable. I’m glad that I only took one class this quarter. I feel like trying to balance school, housework, and working the land is a constant juggling act. But things are beginning to come together, and I can see it happening.

Back to my strong cup of coffee, cleaning rag, and homemade all-purpose cleaner. It’s supposed to rain today, so I’m off the hook for my yard duties!

Whew!

The bees are coming, and we’re ready for them.

We spent the weekend putting the finishing touches on the hives and creating some wind-breaks that won’t blow over in our sometimes 75-mph gusts.  We painted the hive a light yellow. The paint is necessary to seal the wood, but it has to be a light color. Dark colors will absorb summer heat, and that’s not good for the bees–they work very hard to keep the hive at a perfect 95 degrees.  Thus, a lighter color makes that job a little easier for the workers who spend their days regulating temperature in the hive.

We’ve added a top feeder, instead of a front-entry feeder (makes it harder for the nectar-substitute to be stolen by other insects/animals). We also added a queen excluder, so the queen won’t be able to get into the super that will have the honey frames (you don’t want eggs in your honey!).  The bees are set to arrive Friday, and we’re waiting with great anticipation.

Also, we’ve finally got a few answers about our poor Sugar, who is still not feeling very well:

Turns out she has a little protozoa infection. We’re going to get medicine for her in the next few days (unfortunately the vet who finally figured it out is 2 hours away in LA), and she will hopefully be as good as new in a week or so.

Finally, I’m immersed in one of the best and hardest classes of my life. I’m translating more Greek and thinking more critically than ever before. My professor is notorious for being an enormously hard grader–so I’m needing to constantly remind myself that I am there to learn, not get letters in a grade book.  But the class has re-awakened that seminary fire in me, and I’m grateful. It makes the commute a little more bearable!

Our seedlings should be in the ground in the next few days or so. I’ll keep you posted.

Finished!

We finally got the garden boxes finished. We dug the 6′ x 6′ holes, stapled gopher wire to the bottom of the boxes, and filled them back in with a combination of amended soil: 50% of our own soil (which tends toward clay soil), 25% green  manure, and 25% bumper crop compost. It was a lot of work, but now our garden plot is ready for the coming day when we can plant our seeds.  Now all of our boxes look like the box on the left side of the picture below:

The only real work left, other than actually planting the seeds (some of which we have started indoors already), is to lay down some gravel on the path and to paint the fence. Oh, I forgot: Sugar definitely helped too:

Unfortunately we probably won’t get much more work done this week. I’m starting my Spring Quarter tomorrow, so I’ll be commuting 2 hours each way to get to my classes. Then, on Wednesday, our 70 degree weather is supposed to turn around and change to snow. Yikes.

Seeds

Photo provided by freefoto.com

As my body continued to heal from this doozie of a cold, I spent some time yesterday ordering our seeds from an heirloom seed company.  It was exciting. I never thought that, at 29 years old, I’d get such a thrill from ordering seeds on a rainy weekend afternoon.

About a month ago, Robert and I spent a cold winter evening planning our garden and making our seed lists, so I had all of the information at my fingertips. All I needed to do was actually order them–and, strangely enough, this small act made our homesteading seem all the more real.  It was like when I ordered the bees. Planning was one thing, but clicking “Order” suddenly made sure that it was going to happen. Or, at least, we’d make a good attempt. Regardless, it became an inevitable part of the story.

Some of the things we ordered will simply come as seed packets: eggplant, cucumber, lettuce, carrots, kale, spinach, green beans, leeks, onions, butternut squash, pumpkins, arugula, and various edible herbs. We’ll also get seeds for the flowers and herbs that will surround our garden and help to lure the bees: lavender, bee balm, borage, hyssop, chinese aster, star of the veld, zulu prince daisies, and ox-eye sunflowers. And then there will be the large sunflowers that will help to create a windbreak: velvet queen sunflower, evening sunflower, and a mix of others.  All these will arrive in small packages and hopefully fill our small space with beautiful colors and healthy meals.

We also ordered garlic, potatoes, and tomatoes, which will arrive at various times of year. The potatoes will arrive in mid-April, and will come in 2 1/2 pound bags. We’ll have to plant those in an entire separate area, because potatoes don’t play well with other vegetables. They wreak havoc on the soil and attract all sorts of bugs (which is why conventionally grown potatoes can harbor some of the most toxic pesticides around).  They’ll take a certain amount of attentiveness and care from year to year, so we plan on rotating them in various spots on the property. However, they won’t get to hang out with the rest of their culinary friends in the garden. Besides the potatoes, we’ll be getting tomato transplants in mid-May. May 15th is the last day for potential frost in the area, so we can’t get them any earlier than that. Tehachapi is known for its short growing season, but hopefully next year we’ll have the greenhouse up and running and won’t have to worry about that as much. The tomatoes are especially exciting because we’ll be getting some of our favorite varieties–Cherokee Purple and Green Zebra. We’ll also be getting a variety called “Amish Paste,” which will be good for canning and cooking. Finally, we’ll be getting garlic bulbs in early September. We’ll plant them when the rest of the garden is beginning to wind down, when the pumpkins and winter squashes are demanding our attention, and when the ground begins to get cold again. I plan to plant a lot of garlic over the years–we’re big fans in this Italian household.

These seeds bring us one step closer to our dream of living off of the land. We also looked through hatchery websites last night and picked out some heritage chicken breeds that might make it into the running for our tiny flock.  But more on that later. We still have a lot of work to do before we can order those chicks. We just need to take it one wonderful step at a time.

Small Tastes and Good Fences

Our weekend was filled with various guests–friends and family, young and old alike. We were blessed to open our home to people from all corners of our lives. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for this place…it was as we had always hoped, even when it was simply a dream of ours: a place of sanctuary, of peace, of warmth and love. It certainly isn’t of our own doing that we have this place (God has been the mapmaker of this plan), but we are going to do the best we can to do it justice.

We’ve had a nice dose of warm weather over the past few weeks.  As a result, we’re getting the first taste of Spring here in Tehachapi.

It’s like the little trumpets are heralding an end to the cold–soon enough, soon enough. I can’t wait for the land to errupt in what everyone has assured me is a dizzying array of flowers, the best of which is a ring of lilacs within our driveway circle.  Our oak trees will become full, and green grass will poke its head through the (temporarily) soft earth. We’ll find out if our fruit trees and grape vines have survived the years previous to us taking stewardship; unfortunately, we’ve been told, they didn’t get enough water or pruning or pest protection. But I have hope.

Finally, we’ve made a lot of progress on our little garden plot. The trenches were dug all the way around, and gopher wire was put about a foot down. Once we filled in the earth around the gopher wire, we began to construct our fence. We’re almost done; all we need to do is construct a gate for each remaining side and finish it off.

Hope everyone has a beautiful, gratitude-filled week.

PS…I’d like to share an inspiring blog that I found earlier this morning. Before Fall of 2008, it was a simply a woman’s joyful musings on motherhood and her life in general. But following a plane crash in which she and her husband barely survived, it has become an inspirational testament of her courage. She embraces every day with a courage that I could only hope to have, and gives me pause when I consider the “stresses” of my daily life.  I encourage you to check it out: http://nieniedialogues.blogspot.com

Progress and rainy days

It’s a rainy day here at the homestead. We’ve had a wonderful week–during the day I’ve been working on the house and the land, and in the evenings we’ve been spending a lot of time with new friends.

For a surprise, I cleaned out the garage for Rob and laid out his tools so he can put them in order. Our garage had exploded into a mess of wood bits, sawdust, grout, paint, half-filled water buckets, and trash from our week of bathroom construction, and I knew that the mess was weighing on him. So I took a sunny afternon and cleared the trash (5 construction trash bags full!) up to the barn, swept, and put things in order.  After all…he works so hard to make this dream happen. I want to make his time here at home as calm and enjoyable as possible, because I truly appreciate that sacrifice. He’s quite a man, my husband.

I’ve also got almost 3 sides of our “gopher fort” dug, chicken-wired, and filled. I had to call off the digging today because the rains have settled in for a couple of days. But once they’ve passed through and softened up the earth even more, I’ll be back at it.

Speaking of our garden, our fencing arrived this week. Which means after the underground gate is in, we’ll be digging post-holes and setting up our cedar fencing. I’m excited about that. We also spent a lot of time looking through an organic heritage seed catalog and picking out our seeds. I’ll be ordering them in the next few days, although they’ll arrive throughout the year (some seeds and some seedlings) depending on what type of veggie it is.

Another exciting event of the week: the former owner of this house was watching his friends’ chickens while they were on vacation, and pulled me along for the ride. I got to meet 8 pretty laying hens, and we plucked four eggs from the roost. He let us keep them, and we were eating honest-to-goodness farm fresh eggs the next morning. I can’t wait until we have our own, but we have a lot of work to do on the coop and the fencing before we get there.

Our beehive equipment also arrived! We’ll be spending some time this raining weekend assembling it all. All the books I’ve been reading say that it’s a good idea to get everything assembled and ready a few months ahead of time–that way, when the bees arrive, all you have to worry about it getting them settled in. Since our bees are set to arrive April 16th, I think we’re right on schedule.

Our evenings were spent at the houses of our new friends. It’s been quite a blessing to have only been in town 8 weeks and already have people with whom we enjoy spending our time.  I’m also beginning to appreciate the gift of knowing people that are different–different beliefs, different lifestyles, different values, different hobbies. Many of my friends from college and grad school were people who were strikingly similar in our core belief systems and interests. I’m not sure if that was just dumb luck or if being involved so closely with LMU Campus Ministry shaped it, but there is was. This was a blessing to me at the time, because it helped me to become more comfortable with my newfound place in the church, in my faith journey, and in my own self-confidence as an increasingly independent woman. But now I find myself appreciating that I can share my life (and faith and values) with people who don’t necessarily share them in the same way. I can appreciate where they come from and why they see the world a certain way. Being in seminary really  began that part of my journey, and living in Tehachapi is continuing it.

Finally, the big news on the homestead: we’re hoping to trade in one of our cars this weekend for a truck (well, kind of a truck). We’ve been looking at different trucks and have our eye on a Ford Expedition that is in our price range. It has the power and (hopefully) the room of a truck, so it can haul a small animal trailer or have a few hay bales stuck in the back. At the same time, it has plenty of room for what we hope to be an expanding family. So we’ll see how it all turns out. If we like the test drive and like what they offer us for the car, we’ll have a dependable four-wheel drive for our next snowstorm.

Gopher-Proofing

Digging our gopher trenches will be pretty time-consuming and will burn plenty of calories! A few hours of my Saturday afternoon consisted of getting 1/4 of our “gopher barricade” installed. Here’s me digging one of four  24′ long trenches to line the perimeter of our garden:

After the trench was dug to a 12″ depth, we put in the metal hardware cloth, buried it, and compacted the earth. Here’s the end result:

Only three more sides to go!!!