Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A New Contraption and Other Goings-On

I've been trying to work on the pumpkin patch. My laziness often wins out, but there are several new developments that make me think that I may not be as idle as I had thought. Wait till you see!

First off, the Contraption!

This clever device is composed of two pallets, an old rake handle, box springs (stripped of all fabric and stuffing, of course), existing fence posts, and bale netting. I know, right? Isn't it just sooooo clever?

And because there is no way you could possibly get enough of it, here are two close-ups.

Contraption, left side. 

Contraption, right side.

I've had one pallet and the box springs out for a while. As Seville knows, I've been planning for a while to use these fine construction materials for a while. Apparently her mom has been looking forward to seeing it. Well, here it is!

Oh, you wanted it with gourds climbing up it? Hmm. Well, gimme a few weeks.

In the meantime, how would y'all like a tour of some of the more attractive parts of the pumpkin patch? Step this way!

Uphill from the slick new contraption is this year's big pumpkin field. That is, the part where we're growing the big pumpkins. Possibly even the Great Pumpkin. Who knows?

Just in case you can't tell which part of the spread-out corn fodder is the right part, I outlined it. It took hours and hours to spread all that stuff. Creed and Jorge did a lot of it on Saturday. 

Here's the part of the field that we did absolutely nothing on last year. I'm really hoping we can use it for pumpkins etc. this year. 

That's it for the notable part of the field, or anyway the part that looked good in photos.

Over at the barn, there's a bunch of lambs-quarters. It is very tasty in the spring; it tastes like spinach and is rather astringent. I should really pick a bunch for dinner, but it's a lot of fun just to eat it all day.

The compostumbler is nearby. My grandson John Paul absolutely loved turning it when he visited last year. 

Meanwhile, back at the house, look at the pretty lilies of the valley! Ordinarily, they are open on May 1, but this year they were late. I guess the cold winter affected them.

And the comfrey is doing nicely, too. It always does. I'm sure my children are happy about that. They have such fond memories of comfrey tea when they had sore throats. 

The poppies and irises are just beautiful! Maybe I can sell some poppy seeds this fall. Not for eating; they're too small. I'm talking about seed packets. What do you think?

I leave you with this shot of the house from up on the hill.

 Golly, I love it here.

Friday, May 9, 2014

In Which Rotting Organic Matter Thrills Me

Although I am possibly the laziest human on God's green earth, I have taken it on myself to have a pumpkin patch. It is a lot of work. Really a lot. I do almost everything by hand, because I'm a tree-hugger and besides I don't own much farm machinery. My riding mower is it, in fact. I bought a cart to haul behind it, but we are still not talking Big Tractors.

I also don't do artificial fertilizers. I can make compost, which is delightful, but mostly what I use is composted manure. My friend Leslie down the road has a bunch of it in her barn, because of previous tenants who never cleaned it out, and I have transported many loads of it down the quarter mile of road to my place. That's a lot of work.

So when I happened to see Millie, who is one of the farmers on the land across my south and east fence, I mentioned that she could scoop manure over my fence any time she wanted. I'd take all that her 70 acres of cattle, sheep, etc. could produce. She was happy, because their manure-spreader had broken. And pretty soon, look what appeared at the top of my field!

Isn't it beautiful??? I bet it will eventually grow lamb's quarters just like this pile of compost from last year:

(Grass clippings blew over it. It's actually beautifully brown.)

I also needed something to cover the grass and weeds, smothering them and turning them, too, into compost. Yeah, I should have gotten on this sooner, like maybe last year. And I should have planted a cover crop last year, too. I'm new at this and am making a lot of mistakes. So when I tried to find straw this year to cover the cardboard I'd saved up to spread on the field, there was none. Okay, there was some, but it was expensive. We had a very snowy winter, and people needed to feed their animals something plus give them some bedding.

Leslie came to my rescue again! She suggested corn fodder. I'd never heard of it. (You hadn't either, right? Okay. Now I don't feel so stupid.) It is what is left in the cornfield once the kernels have been taken off the corn or the corn has been harvested or something. It seems to include corncobs, which puzzles me—how do you get the kernels off without removing the ears from the stalks?

Anyway, she also knew of somebody who might have it. My friend Seville made some calls and found a farmer who delivered 28 round bales of corn fodder to my field.

It's too bad I didn't take pix of them all the way along, because it was pretty cool to watch. Suffice it to say that Seville and I spread some of the bales, and so did Timmy and I, but I still wanted some to go at the top of the hill. See, once you cut off the netting that holds all the corn fodder in the bale, you can just roll them and it'll all unroll like it's a really thick roll of toilet paper. Maybe this will help you understand how it works:

Generally most of it unrolls at first and then things peter out. This might be a better picture to illustrate the process:

See that lumpy, curved trail of corn fodder at the middle of the picture? The bales don't always unroll absolutely straight. It makes things interesting.

Now, these puppies are big. If you stand one up like a soup can, it's about four feet tall and five feet wide. And it has rained a lot lately, so they are heavy. It took Seville and me both to push them around. I've tried to do some of them that are still up on the hill, and I haven't had much success. I'm hoping to get Timmy to help me later today.

Anyway, their coverage is awesome. They've been composting since they were gathered last fall, and that composting makes them hot in the center. They aren't all that decomposed, though, because they didn't get any oxygen there. Now that they have oxygen and water, they will decompose.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself. We'll see.

In the meantime, our new farm dog is enjoying the place! In this picture, she's muddy from a persistent puddle that I'm trying to get rid of.

Isn't she pretty?

And here's the cattle trough that has overflowed and caused the puddle.

 Okay, enough. I've got to go out and work on the pumpkin patch!