Pruning Grape Vines

Grapes

When we moved to the farm it was winter and the overgrown grapevines were in hibernation. It was a great time to cut them back. I was nervous, but did some severe pruning and loaded it up with compost.

Grape Vine 2014
The new growth was incredible, covering half of the shed it sits in front of, but no grapes.

Grape Vine 2015

Grapes grow on second year shoots so I this year I had to carefully prune the vines correctly. I picked the 5 or 6 sturdiest looking shoots, tied them to the wires and cut them back to 4 or 5 buds. I’ve heard recommended number of buds ranging from 2 to 5 and decided to try the higher. I was really excited to see how quickly actual grapes showed up on the vines this year. Note the main picture.

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Planting Bed Preparation

Bed Prep

I did some volunteer work with a local historical working organic farm and got some free training on how to prepare a vegetable bed. They had acres of land with cover crop and 50 designated planting beds they were tilling one at a time. I had the pleasure of practicing bed preparation and used the experience in my own garden. I started with a weedy bed like the 2nd row down from the top of he picture. At the farm they tilled it under and at home I did a thorough weeding resulting in a clean, loose soil bed like the 3rd row down in the photo.

Unfortunately our plot is covered in bind weed. I understand roots can grow 10 feet in length and when a tiller is used, every piece of root that is chopped up turns into a new plant. Everyone I ask for an organic solution to bind weed says the same thing. “The only way to get rid of bind weed is to move!” I’ve accepted this nasty weed as something I’m just going to have to tolerate.bind weed

The farm had a weed barrier paper they laid down which I’m going to look into next year.  The drip irrigation was placed on top of the paper. Not having the paper, I skipped to the next step and covered the bed in straw to suppress weeds. Note the top row in the picture.

Finally, they created furrows just outside of the paper strips covered in straw and planted either seeds or transplants lining up to the drip irrigation. I planted bean seeds shown in the finished bed at the bottom of the picture. The last step for the farm was to put down a row cover over all the seeded rows until the seedlings where an inch or two tall. They had so many birds on the property that the seeds or tiny seedlings would be destroyed before they could take hold. I didn’t have a problem with birds eating my seeds or seedlings last year, but I have more birds this year and they loved the beans, pumpkin seeds, and watermelon seeds. I had to plant the pumpkins and watermelons twice and put some fencing around the beans to keep the birds at bay. I’ll also consider the row cover for next year.

I’m still weeding like crazy and putting down straw but everything is finally coming up and looking good. We had a small hail storm that required replanting some damaged tomatoes but everything recovered nicely. It was lucky I had extra tomato transplants!

I can’t wait to see if these added methods help the yield.

Predator Proofing the Chicken Run

Chicken RunThe chicken run isn’t done yet. The attention is in the detail. We see hawks and coyotes routinely on our property so we need to predator proof the run.

We used 1/2 inch squared welded wire cloth on the sides. That will keep out almost anything, including predators, diseased wild birds and wandering dogs and cats. The wire is also stapled at the base of the coop, bent down with 6 inches extended on the ground to prevent digging under. The wire on the ground is also covered by pavers around the base of the coopfor an additional layer of protection. The 6 inches of mesh around the wood bottom of the run will eventually be covered with cardboard, dirt and will be turned into a herb garden to repel insects and pests.

The top of the run is covered by a heavy duty shade cloth that will not only provide shade and protect from hail and harsh weather, it will also keep the hawks from getting in.  You can get different weaves of shade cloth depending on how penetrable you want the fabric to be.

Have a little more work to do, but nothing it too good for our chickens’ protection.

The chicks have a place to run.

coop_runWork on the Taj MaCoop continues.

The chicks are growing like mad and will soon be old enough to go outside.  I’ve been working on the coop run as time allowed but with the chicks fast approaching 6 weeks it was time to get it at least done enough so they could be let out.  With the number of birds we are raising we needed to have a good sized run.  How big?  BIG – as in 20 by 40 with 6 foot walls.  Right now the top is open but we have a solution in the works for that and the run should be fully enclosed within a week or so.

I sure hope those birds appreciate everthing that has gone into this.

What’s the buzz? The Bees are here!

bees_on_frame

The hives have been prepped and ready for a few weeks waiting for the bees to get here.  To get a head start we ordered nucs (pronounced “nooks”) which are 5 frame hives that are already up and running with a working queen instead of “package” bees which are a bulk of bees with a queen that has to be introduced.  Well, today was the day our bees arrived.

While I went to pick up the bees, my better half was going to make a big batch of sugar-water for spring feeding. We both knew this was coming but somehow neither of us thought about just how much sugar we actually needed. She realized pretty quick that we had no where near enough in the house so a quick trip to the store was in order for a 25lb bag. Yikes, that’s a lot of sugar.nucs_in_car

It was a little strange loading 10-20,000 bees in the car with me for the ride home but it was a cold day so they were pretty docile.

 

loading_the_hive

Once back at the farm we suited up, lit the smoker and sprayed suger water in the empty hives to prepare them for the bees. I’m not sure how useful the smoker was with the wind but I went through the motions anyway.  The bees were relatively calm either way and I was able to do the inspection and search for the queens with no problems.

When all was done, we inspected each others suits for stray bees before heading into the house but still found a stragler on my suit as I was taking it off.  A quick walk back outside with a soft brush and he was back in the wild.

The move from the nucs to the hives went smoothly and we apper to have two healthy colonies to begin our season. closed_hives

Honestly, the hardest part was suppressing that urge most of us have to swat away a bee when it comes at you.

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Transplants In the Ground

Cabbage Transplants

The weather is finally cooperating! I finally got some transplants in the ground including cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Seeds planted include peas, 4 different types of heirloom beans, 3 types of onion (bunch, red and Walla Walla sweets), spinach, collards, radishes and carrots.

Seeds still to plant……beets, lettuce, cucumber, corn, okra, summer squash, watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkins. Transplants that still need to be planted….celery, tomatoes and peppers.

I also have herb transplants that are taking a long time to grow including parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme (the Garfunkel), basil and oregano (the Italian), and lemon grass.rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, and fennel (the aromatics).

And where would we be without flowers? There are already so many on the property, including lilly of the valley, iris, daylillies, hostas, shasta daisies, peonies, catmint, phlox, roses, wallflower, vinca, passion flower, dianthis and penstemon. Amazingly they haven’t been eaten by the deer or rabbits yet. I’m planting more native flowers as a xeriscape food source for the bees we will be bringing home next week. That includes sunflowers, blanket flower, pineapple sage and not so xeriscape, but great for eating…nasturtiums.

Wow! Reading all that I realize there is still a lot of work to do!

First Seeds in the Ground

Planting Onion Seed

The snow is gone! I finally starting planting in the evening after work. Here is my first row of seed, an heirloom Walla Walla Sweet Onion! I also seeded bunching and red onions as well. The bunching onions can be eaten whenever you want. The other two onions will need to grow through to next year to get of any size. I also planted spinach and collards. A good start for a couple hours of work!

Tomorrow will be peas, carrots and beets!