Sunday, January 26, 2014

What I Did on My Christmas Vacation

     It's been a long time since we've posted here at Ladybug Farm. We were so excited about our new drip tape last year and then, maybe because we mentioned it, the weather turned nasty and we had way more rain than normal and temperatures were well below average throughout the season.  I don't think we used the drip but once or twice all year.  To make matters worse, I ran into a health issue, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and for most of the year had no idea what was causing the pain.  Consequently, any and all projects I had hoped to complete last year had to be set aside as I was not in any condition to do much manual labor.  Since August, I have started to receive treatment and due to the combination of medications, while not cured, my symptoms are managed and I can get back to work.

     That said, this past Christmas break afforded me the opportunity to finish a number of projects that we needed to get done before the spring.  The first thing I had to do was finish the pallet fence I had been building throughout fall.  The garden, while "only" about a third of an acre, required a little over 100 pallets to fully enclose.  Gathering all of those pallets was slow going, which was okay because I  only wanted to work on it a little at a time.  Nevertheless, digging the post holes for this fence with a shovel was time consuming and difficult work as I was still feeling the effect of the RA from time to time.  Therefore, with the help of my friend Eli, we rented an auger.  The auger made post-hole-diggin' so much easier but led to another health incident which set me back a bit.  Upon digging one of our last holes, my left knee gave out as the patella tendon popped out and back in again.  It was scary and did set me back about three weeks but it has happened before and is not that bad of an injury.  By Christmas and with two healthy legs under me once again, I took to finishing the fence.   Here's another photo of the fence "in action" and can also be seen in these pictures of our new laying hens (pullets now) that we have spreading compost about the garden.

     Another important project was the construction of a new field gate between our house and the pasture.  We already have a field gate from the road to the pasture but it has a very steep incline to the road and the road curves making accessing the road at low speeds difficult, particularly when people drive so fast.  Building the fence between the house and pasture offered a flatter lay-of-the-land and was therefore a safer way to get the truck or tractor on the field.  Here is a photograph of the fence I built.

     Next in line was the eggmobile.  While at first we are actually going to use this trailer for our broilers, I built the "mobile chicken coop" with laying boxes so I might transition some birds to the pasture for egg production.  Versatility aside, this coop is pretty cool and while the framing is all new lumber, the siding and roofing are all salvage from the 100+ year old barn that is falling down on the pasture.  Here are a bunch of pics.

     So, that's what I did on my Christmas vacation.  I still need to convert an old livestock stall on the back of the garage into a chicken coop and brooder before March, as well as get the beds in order for spring planting.  So there is always a project to sink my teeth into around here.  I ordered a couple of hives of bees for April delivery, so we're going to do that.  Maybe we'll have honey for sale in a couple of years.  Another project I would like to do is cut down some Sweet Gum trees so we can grow Shiitake mushrooms this year as well.  Our goal with this project has always been slow growth and while this seems like a lot to add this season, I think it's right in line with the long term plan.  Maybe we'll add another market this year and hopefully, now that we have been inspected and approved as meat handlers and processors, we'll get this meat CSA off the ground this year.  More pictures to come as we get more done.  In the meantime, here is a picture of the "Sun King," Louis XIV.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Drip Irrigation!!!

We're excited!  We just purchased and installed our new drip irrigation system in the garden.  Our hope is that this system will save time, water, and energy as well as prevent the growth of unwanted weeds.  The system was really easy to put together and with the help of Trey and Ray at Berry Hill Drip Irrigation we got enough tubing, tape, and 
parts to set us up.

Below we have pics of the installation.  We will try to describe the process as you scroll through.

Step 1: The first thing we had to do was set up the hose and run it to the place we wanted to start.  Since we had to run the hose across the gate opening, we decided to dig a short trench and run the hose through some old pvc pipe.

Step 2:  We dragged the box with all the parts out to the garden and laid them all out on the table to make sure we had everything we needed.

Step 3:  Aaron hooked up the regulator to the hose.  The regulator drops the pressure to 10 psi.  It's automatic and there are no adjustments necessary.

Step 4:  Since the tomato rows are at the back of the garden and run perpendicular to the other rows, we needed to splice in a 'T' on the 3/4 inch main line.

    Step 5: Then we ran the 3/4 inch main tubing across the rows we

wanted to run the tape down.  At the end of each main, we used the *figure 8" lock to simply pinch off the end of the tube.  This stops the water from flowing out.

Step 6: To get the valves (red) connected to the main we had to punch a hole in the 3/4 inch tubing using the wood tool that comes with the kit.  It's on its side in the first pic above, next to the pile of valves.

Step 7:  Then we took the drip tape and slid it on to the valve stem, pulling the coupling back up over the tape and tighten down.  All of these couplings work with a simple hand tightening.

Step 8: After we connected the tape to the valve and ran it along the row, the last thing we did was install a blue end-cap.  It goes on exactly like the valves.

Step 9: We repeated until all of our rows are set up with drip tape.  Then, we turned on the water and checked for any leaks.  We only found leaks where we were supposed to be; in the drip tape, every 12 inches.  Below is the tomato patch.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Spring Garden Pics

The spring garden was off to a late start this year but the weather has finally truly settled and now everything is looking great. We're trying a couple of new varieties this year, one that I'm super happy with is the bush snap peas, seems like they will mature a little earlier than the trellis type, which we planted too, so maybe we'll have a steady supply for a couple of weeks. I love snap peas and they are really easy to grow... 

Another new thing we're trying is growing clover between most of the rows in the garden, we're hoping it will be less work than the way we were mulching last year. 

Bush Snap Peas

Here are some pics of the different lettuces we're growing for our salad mix. Everything was chosen for its heat tolerance, so we can have lettuce a little later in the season. We'll see how that goes.

Lollo Rossa

Red Sails

Jericho Romaine

 One plant that seems to have loved the cold winter we had is the spinach, I've never had such good luck with spinach grown from seed. Look forward to seeing some of this at the market!

The flower garden is starting to fill out, too. I spent some time out there this week trying to combat crabgrass, a losing battle.


The hens we got earlier in the year have started laying! We mixed them in with the older hens, as you can see one isn't really a hen, we ended up with a couple of roosters by mistake.

Happy Chickens!

Here are a few more pictures I took over the last couple of weeks. The field next door has exploded with buttercups, so pretty.

Our cherry trees were covered in butterflies a couple of weeks ago, I was amazed at how many suddenly appeared just as the cherry trees were starting to bloom. There would literally be dozens on the trees at a time. They were so into feeding, I was able to get some really close-up shots without them flying away. The tree is covered in little green cherries now, hopefully it won't be long until they're ready.

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's Spring, right?

It's been a long, cold, wet winter and we are really ready for Spring. I took these photos last week on one of the warmer days when it felt like it was really going to be Spring at last.... and then, boom, it got cold again. Really cold, winter cold. It's been that way for the last month, at least. a couple of beautiful days, then a week of cold and miserable.

Stuff out in the garden is growing slowly, really slowly. But even though it's been cold and wet, there are signs of rebirth everywhere you look. I love to watch as the trees come to life again and start to put out leaves. Little tiny lilac buds that grow a little every day and the cheerful forsythia are reminders that although it's forty degrees out it's Spring, dammit.

Sugar Snap Peas
Red Leaf Lettuce

Stripey and his Mom Moe are proving to be a pretty good mouse-control team. They've been hanging around the chicken coop all the time lately. Here she is giving him a couple of pointers. I know that's corny, but I couldn't resist.
Stripey's Lesson

Starting Seeds in the Greenhouse
Fat Hen!

Pear Tree
Rosemary blossoms