Day of Dirt

Yesterday was a day of dirt.

Digging.

Shoveling.

Crushing.

Ray and a team over at the neighbors started transporting dirt from the greenhouse to our yard.

Joe and Jake helped by stomping and crushing the pile.

Meanwhile, I dug holes and transplanted raspberries and seaberries out in the swales.

There are seaberries coming up everywhere in our fedge. They run under the ground and pop up in, around and between other rows.

The root system runs wild under the ground from plant to plant. This means that when you dig one plant up, you usually end up with two or three all strung together.

It wasn’t until I’d dug up the third plant that I’d noticed the nodules.

All of those bumpy white nodes that look like a cluster of eggs are packed with nitrogen. They are just waiting to spread and feed the plants and trees around them. Pretty cool!

After all the raspberries and seaberries were in their new homes, I mixed water with some Superthrive, a liquid multivitamin for plants, and gave them a good soaking.

By the end of the day, I’d transplanted 10 raspberries and 8 seaberries and we had a large chunk of dirt in our backyard.

Playing in the dirt
In the hot summer sunshine
Gives me a warm glow

Milkweed and Mistakes

I have a confession to make. A rather embarrassing oversight on my part.

I had thought all the milkweed was gone.

Whenever I went out to the pasture, I searched and searched with no luck.

Turns out, I didn’t really know what I was looking for.

It wasn’t until Joe, my sweet 6-year-old boy pointed it out that I realized I’d missed it.

“Here’s the milkweed!” he shouted.

I gazed at it and felt an overwhelming sense of…embarrassment. Or maybe shame is a better word.

You see, I had seen this plant before.

In the vineyard.

In the fedge, and all over the pasture and swales.

In short, I’d seen it everywhere.

I just didn’t recognize it for what it was.

I’d been searching for the tall plant with the big pods, not these little guys. I didn’t stop to think what these might be…I just pulled them.

Sure, I left them alone when they weren’t in the middle of a path or smack in the center of the yard. The leaves are smooth and kind of pretty and I thought they looked nice mixed in with all the other greenery.

But I ruthlessly pulled all the others.

I felt really bad that I’d not recognized this plant for what it was. So I did a few Google searches to see what the life cycle of the milkweed is.

I learned that the life cycle from seed to flower is actually about 3 years. And guess what? The young plants don’t look a whole lot like milkweed. In fact, the very first “common mistake” listed is…

Not recognizing the small plant for what it really is- Milkweed!

I felt a little bit better after that.

Until I remembered that my 6-year-old recognized the plant for what it was.

Boy was my face red!

The Arrival

They are sneaky. Bzzz!

They are stealthy. Swish-swish!

They are silent. Pshhhhh!

They are…the pollinators, and they have arrived on the homestead.

Yesterday, the vineyard and fedge were mostly green, but today white and pink flowers are opening and vines and branches are stretching out to entice the lovely pollinators as they soar through the air.

Of course, I’ve yet to actually see any of them, but the evidence is undeniable.

Young milkweed growing in the vineyard. THE VINEYARD! Also, there are a few in the fedge.

Flowers are bursting from the blackberries.

Pinkish-white bulbs are opening on the kiwi.

The grapes have already grown beyond flowers to tiny green grape-lings. (Not sure this is actually the correct term, but it should be.)

The fedge is the same. Blackberry flowers stand out like white dots all over the vines and the thorny blackberry is already starting to show signs of fruit.

While all of this life bursts forth in the fedge, the autumn olive is suffering. It’s supposed to be invasive, but every year, it tries with all its might to die.

The growth has been faster on one side for the past two years now, so I’m not really worried yet.

I am, however, a little mystified. Here I thought we’d be digging up runners of autumn olive and transplanting them to the swales all year every year, but we are lucky we’ve kept one alive.

Instead, we are digging up seaberry and transplanting that to the swales.

Because it is coming up all over the place in the fedge. It’s running into the aronia and trying to take over the blackberries.

I sure hope the berries are as tasty as people say.

Pollinators here and there
Of every shape and size
Moving pollen everywhere
While flying through the skies

Some are tiny little bugs
They fearlessly take charge
Taking sips and great big glugs
They get to be quite large!

Lush and Green

We had family pictures taken in the vineyard a few weekends ago. Yesterday morning, I realized that I hadn’t visited it since then, so I took a stroll through the rows of grapes and hops.

I was surprised at how much the grapes had grown, how much the mint had spread and how far the hops had creeped.

The kiwi vines are weighing down the wire. We are going to have to tighten it up soon or all the vines will be on the ground. I am seeing the kiwi flowers on all 3 rows now.

Joe loves to hang out in the shade the vines provide.

So does Boots.

The mint is all over the place and the blackberry I stuck in the ground last year has exploded with flowers.

And don’t even get me started on the hops.

I’m so excited to see at least one area doing so well. It’s lush and green with pink buds on the grapes and kiwi.

The kitchen garden is not faring as well so far this year. The wind has been awful and has destroyed almost all the tomatoes I planted.

The ones I started and tended inside for weeks and weeks.

The ones I fertilized to strengthen the roots.

The ones I slowly introduced to the outdoors so they wouldn’t be destroyed by the wind.

But…the Superthrive I used for the roots is paying off. They are slowly coming back…maybe there is hope yet!

 

Beauty

I walk around
I wander over pastures
I see the world
So beautiful and bright

I see my boys
I hear their joy and laughter
I want it all
To stay like this always

The wind blows soft
It flutters through the grass
This land I love
This life I live

The sun shines bright
My world is bathed in gold
I stand enthralled
I kneel in awe

Life Skills

For the past couple of weeks, Joe has been asking if he could learn how to start a fire. My first reaction was to say “maybe when you are a bit older”.

But I then I thought, he’s curious and interested so why not now?

He’ll learn more and retain the information better. And, he’ll learn the safe and correct way to start a campfire. 

Away from buildings, with water handy and the safe guidance of daddy.

Last night, Ray gave Joe and Jake their first lesson in building a fire.

He explained the why and patiently answered questions.

He guided them and he reinforced being safe at every turn.

He quizzed them throughout the process to make sure they had listened and understood both the dangers and reasons behind the safety guidelines.

He also explained what a fire needs. Air, heat and fuel.

I enjoyed watching him teach a lesson. The boys might have learned how to build and create fire from me or someone else, but watching them work with Ray and listening carefully to every word was amazing.

He was patient and the boys had fun.

They learn by doing and they were so proud of the end result of the lesson.

“Look at the fire we built!”

When the fire was roaring and ready, we all sat around the fire while the boys roasted marshmallows for us.

The boys could not stop smiling.

Fire play is so fun
With Daddy to guide the boys
Eyes bright and amazed

Rise of the Kiwi

The kiwi is coming!
The fruit has appeared
We’ve waited four years
It’s finally here!

The leaves are all over
The vines are all strong
They’ve grown quite a bit
They’re twisty and long

The leaves are concerning
The edges are black
But most are still vibrant
They’ll pick up the slack

Our only small worry
Our only great fear
Will Japanese beetles
All be back this year?

Rain Damage

Mulch does a great job retaining moisture in the soil. It’s why we try to heavily mulch around all of our plants and trees, and why our spades so easily lift the soil.

But…too much water can be detrimental to plant growth and root development.

Over the past week or so, we’ve accumulated more than 4 inches of rain in a very short time.

All this rain has been great for the swales and pond, but almost too much for our kiwi and my sole lavender plant.

The leaves are turning black and curling inward. We are not sure exactly what is going on. It could be fungal or bacterial or signs of root rot from all the moisture in the ground.

Plants need oxygen, water and sunlight but due to all of the rain, all of the air holes that are normally present in good soil are full of water.

It could be something fungal or bacterial, but I don’t think so. If that were the case, it would be spreading faster than it is.

Also, the same symptom is affecting my lavender that is too far away for a fungus to spread leaf to leaf.

We are worried, but not overly so. I’d really just like to figure out what is causing these blackened edges.

The kiwi fruit continues to develop and looks healthy, but it would sure be a shame if we weren’t able to finally harvest the fruit.

We’ve been patiently waiting for four years to taste that first kiwi…and I’m not all that patient.

Dark blackened edges
Curling leaves, rolling inward
Due to soaking rains

A Frog’s Life

One cold, windy and sunny day, Joe got up and wanted to grow some frogs.

“Mom, can we collect some tadpoles from the pond and grow our own frogs?”

High off the success of hatching our own eggs, we put are mud boots on, grabbed a glass jar and trekked out to the pond to collect a few tadpoles.

“We might not see many since it’s so cold,” I told Joe.

We saw just a few more than I thought we would.

“Our pond is going to have all these frogs!?”

“Well, not all of them will make it,” I said.

“Oh yeah,” Joe said. “Predators.”

Joe wanted to collect a jar-full, but I convinced him that we should start with 5.

He dipped the jar into the shallow end and carefully lifted it out.

We ended up with 10.

The boys wanted to rush back inside and put them in the fish tank. I wasn’t so sure that Bubbles and Fannytail would appreciate that, so we went in and researched how to care for tadpoles.

We picked a shallow container and covered the bottom with gravel. Jake picked out a few bigger rocks for when the tadpoles grow into froglets.

Then we filled it about halfway up with some of our filtered water and poured the 10 tadpoles into their new home.

A couple of the sites we looked at said that they would eat fish food. Since we already had it on hand, that is what we sprinkled in for now. It’s not an ideal diet for frogs, so I ordered some frog food.

It takes 12-16 weeks for the tadpoles to develop into frogs. We are not sure how old these little guys are so we may see frogs sooner…or later.

Tadpoles in a jar
Metamorphose into frogs
In a month or 4

Zounds!

Rain.

Rain.

More rain.

Really, that’s all that’s been happening over the past few days.

It rains, then comes in sheets, then pours buckets all over the land.

Our swales are full.

Our yard is full.

Our property is full.

Zounds!

A large mote ran around us for over a day. Ray was checking the basement almost constantly and I was pacing nervously, worried about a flood.

We had small breaks. During one, I went and pulled the smaller chickens inside. They had a tote for cover, but the ground was so full of water that it started to pool so I thought pulling them in would be kinder then leaving them to the elements.

Hopefully they agreed.

And still it rained on.

The water washed over the road.

Cars had to slowly wade through.

Our fedge was drowning.

I’m sure the kiwi are angry. The leaf edges had already started to turn black from too much water.

And still…it rained.

On.

And on.

And on.