Farming Stuff: Mr. Duke plowed rows for us to set up raised beds for our vegetables but then got busy with his day job so we didn’t get the raised beds built. We are hoping to get them built before next Spring.
We planted several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, cucumbers, and squash most of which we kept for ourselves. We harvested 80+ bulbs of garlic, ~20 lbs. of Red Cloud Potatoes, ~40 lbs. of Yukon Gold potatoes, and ~30 lbs. of blackberries which we sold at the market or put in the freezer.
We learned a lot about thornless blackberry growing this season. I visited a family-owned commercial blackberry farm that has been in the business for 23+ years. I asked a bazillion questions and learned more in 3 hours than I had in all the many hours I’ve spent reading books and surfing the internet. Turns out with our initial 80 thornless blackberry plantings we did practically everything wrong. So… now armed with a mere portion of 23+ years of actual experience, we are embarking on planting many more rows of thornless blackberry plants in the correct direction and of the right varieties for our target market.
I also learned a painful lesson about growing sweet corn.
I very excitedly planted ~200 seeds of corn in the most beautiful straight 8 rows and waited with great anticipation for the tiny green plants to burst forth from my carefully dug, mulched and tended corn rows.
ZERO seeds germinated.
ZERO plants “burst” forth.
And I cried… What the heck? Folks with a whole lot less resources, education, etc. have been planting AND HARVESTING corn for eons yet I got ZERO seeds to even germinate. It wasn’t birds or other critters as I was out on the property most days, along with all my dogs, the property is enclosed with deer fencing and the rows were undisturbed. We surmised that I must have planted the seeds too deep. Aaaaaargh!!!!!!!! Very disappointing turn of events… Huge lesson learned. How hard could it be??? Geez.
Zero-Turn Lawnmower Adventures:
I continued my obsession with getting the zero-turn lawnmower stuck going places I shouldn’t with our zero-turn lawnmower. BUT, due to numerous scoldings from the Mr., I have learned how to get the thing unstuck with Diego, my tractor, by myself. This is HUGE as now the Mr. never knows of these quite numerous incidences (that occur only while he is away at work) thus no more scoldings for me to endure for THAT and THAT is a good thing… Making progress :o) Whew!
Japanese Beetle Saga: Despite our best efforts applying milky spore to the entire property over two years ago, the annual Japanese Beetle invasion came and stayed for 2 months this year. And I cried…again. They deleafed our fruit trees (except the Plum tree and Fig trees-weird) for the 3rd year in a row and then moved to our blackberry rows but thankfully AFTER we had harvested the blackberries. For some reason they didn’t bother the blueberry bushes (again weird). We found ~40 boxes of milky spore powder on a huge CLEARANCE SALE at Lowe’s so we will put it out one more time and pray we can make a dent in the population next season. Local Cooperative Extension experts advise there is no good evidence that milky spore works at all on Japanese Beetles, at least in our area in North Carolina. I continue to look for a natural way to control this extremely destructive pest other than picking them manually either squishing them or drowning them. I feel NO remorse. Next year we will try putting our chickens to work in the fruit tree orchard during June and July. Hopefully THAT will help. I’ll report back.
Fun Fowl Stuff: We established our egg laying flock with the arrival early Spring of 24 Black Copper Maran, 24 Ameraucana and 24 Golden Comet chicks. Unfortunately, none of the Ameraucanas made it (too many days in transit—very sad) so we ordered a replacement batch from another hatchery. All are doing very well with no further losses. We are ecstatic with the early production and size of the Golden Comet eggs–lots of double yolks! The Black Copper Marans started laying the end of September albeit not at the Golden Comet rate or size but then they are a specialty egg layer: dark chocolate colored eggs! The Ameraucanas will probably start laying early November and we are looking forward to their beautiful blue-tinted eggs.
We move the chicken coops and solar fencing every week and they are loving all the fresh air, grass and bugs. We enjoy watching them and listening to their sweet happy noises. There just is not much more fun than making up conversations they are NOT really having with each other :o) I am stunned at the beauty of one of our 2 Black Copper Maran roosters, Sundance, above; however, in October, Sundance decided he needed to protect “his” girls from me :o( I used the Dog Whisperer method of claiming space and he complied and has given me no further trouble…yet. Seriously dude?
On to Indie. I am perplexed by the complete disregard this little lady
(on the right–affectionately called “Indie”), has for the boundaries of our solar fencing…
She flies her precious “brilliant” self over
the fence every morning and spends the entire day walking around the outside of the fence wanting to get back in. Every day she does this. Mr. Duke has to catch her and put her back in every night…every single night. There’s always a problem child. Indie is ours…
In October we started making Friday egg deliveries to North Raleigh and having a large time visiting with the folks there! Everyone is delighted with how orange the yolks are and how thick are the shells and particularly enjoy getting a double-yoker every now and then! Feels so good for all involved!
Our African Grey parrot, Agadore, returned to us after a vacation with my cousin while we settled in our temporary house. Although I hand-raised “him” and “he” loved loved loved me when “he” left, “he” HATES me now. Horror! Turns out “he” is a “she” and now at 7 years old she is interested in nothing but men. She loves hubby… Infuriating to me and she knows it. But she still cracks me up. I hear my cousin ordering stuff and talking on the telephone; fire trucks or EMS drive by several times a day (cousin lives on main street of a small town); kitties are called A LOT; dogs are told “let’s go out”; the emergency broadcast system alert is tested several times a week; cell phone alarm rings randomly; unintelligible conversations are held; a pantry door opens and closes; somebody belches, sneezes, coughs and, finally, gas is passed but w/no odor. So funny. Note to self: Be careful ordering things by credit card over the telephone next to her. They remember EVERYTHING perfectly! The first picture obviously was taken when Agadore adored me.
Picture to the left is now…feathers all ruffled up to “scare me” and trying her best to coax me to come just a little bit closer so she can bite my nose off. I tell you she wants me dead but I still love her. So funny! What an ungrateful faithful house bird…
Olde English Bulldogge Going’s on: PUPPIES!!! And PUPPIES!!!
On June 14, 2014, Miss Mina naturally delivered a beautiful healthy litter of 7 puppies: 3 boys and 4 girls. Miss Mina did not require ANY assistance from me during June. You see, Miss Mina is a Super Mommy. She kept every puppy AND the whelping box spic and span and every puppy filled to the brim with yummy Mommy milk 24-7. She takes her Mommy responsibilities very seriously :o) All puppies went to super homes at 8 weeks old, very much loved and socialized AND knowing what “go potty” means on queue! All are doing very well and are bringing a lot of love and happiness to 6 sweet families. One family took 2!
Then, on October 30, 2014, Miss Boo naturally delivered a beautiful healthy litter of 10 puppies: 2 boys and 8 girls. All made it safe and sound without any difficulties. We are so thankful everyone arrived okay and that Miss Boo is being a super Mommy and doing really well.
Boo and Angelina are convinced they can drive the tractor better than me… Pleeeeze Mommie, let us take a whirl, just once!
Boo supervising the blackberry weeding, tying up, etc. Quite the Boss.
Poison Green Stuff: Yeah, so up until September 15, 2014, I was not allergic to poison ivy/oak. On September 15, 2014, I spent the entire day weeding the blackberry bushes, blueberry bushes and pulling/snipping miscellaneous “vines” from trees in the area…of course with gloves on…and of course it was a bazillion degrees hot and HUMID so of course I was pouring sweat AND wiping my face with my gloved hands. This was never an issue prior to that day. By September 18th my face, neck and chest were covered with swollen, red hot blisters and very painful rashes. THESE DID NOT ITCH. These HURT like having red hot coals stuck all over my face and neck every moment of the day. My only relief was freezing wet clothes and mashing them on my face. A round of steroids calmed it but a second round of steroids was needed as well as that of a course of antibiotics and, as of this writing, it still is not completely gone. 4 weeks. Seriously?? I no longer go pulling at vines willy nilly or traipsing through the woods without seriously suiting up and looking very carefully for…awe forget it…I don’t go in the woods anymore. I don’t touch vines whether 3 or 5 or 100 leaves. I don’t. I don’t know there is a suit on the planet sufficiently secure enough to get me to go in the woods again or touch a vine. I’m sparing you the horror of what I looked like for over 2 weeks. Suffice to say I scared people the few times I went in public… ‘Nuff said.
Our Sweet Old English Mastiff: The last of our four Old English Mastiffs, a beautiful apricot gentleman we called Mr. Mick, passed in September just a few weeks shy of his 10th birthday while I held him and kissed his sweet big head and told him I’d see him in just a bit and to just rest for a while. Mr. Mick had endured many health issues over the last 6 years of his life without complaint. He was happy. He loved being out on the farm—it gave him new vigor and we are so thankful he spent his last year rolling in the grass, being next to me while I worked in the fields, wading in the pond, and running in front of the Gator barking loudly that “Mom’s coming!” He loved me above anything or anybody else on the planet and desired nothing in life but to be with me wherever that was. He would lay at the front gate when I left and was there, tail wagging, when I returned. We all miss him terribly (including the bulldogges, especially our oldest, Brock) as we do all of our very much loved canine and feline companions that have crossed over) but our lives have been so blessed because of every one of them and we are thankful. I believe they all visit me on occasion and when that happens I always smile and my body tingles with love, happiness and thankfulness.