It only took six years, but I think I’ve finally figured out how to manage spring on the farm without completely losing my shit, and it only requires two things:
- Do not get new animals.
- Do not get new plants.
(For all of my friends and family who keep sending me pictures of baby goats… TAKE NOTE.)
Truthfully, things are really good on the farm this year. A lot of the work I’ve done in previous years to build new spaces (like the pergola, the bonfire pit, and the veggie garden) is paying off in that I have beautiful spots on the farm to enjoy with just a little maintenance and upkeep (and upgrades of course, but minor ones this year.)
And I’ve established the things like the orchard and vineyard (with tons of help from my mom) that now just need a few years of maintenance and care so they can flourish. Which, if we’re being honest, is still a ton of work (and a pain in the ass) but it’s not let’s-build-200-ft-of-grapevine-trellis-and-plant-30-vines-in-one-spring kind of work.
Here’s what things look like these days…
In The Garden
First, I still have not re-built the greenhouse since it blew over last spring (sigh), but I did spent some time last year putting in a really good foundation for it , so a lot of the heavy lifting is done. Now I just have to resign myself to repairing and re-assembling all of the pieces. (I hate doing re-work, so I’ve been avoiding it, but I’m committing to have it done before fall of this year.)
In an effort to give myself plenty of excuses not to start re-building the greenhouse, I have been adding more raised beds to the garden this year.
Originally I wanted to have border gardens around the inside perimeter of the fence, but after 4 years I’ve finally given up and realized that anything that isn’t in a raised bed will be impossible to maintain around here. People often ask me about the benefit of the raised beds, and all I can say is that in my case they are far easier to keep weed-free and maintain the soil composition of. (It may just be because we’re starting from scratch and have been keeping them up fairly well, but whatever it is, it works.)
I’ve added 5 new half-sized beds to one side of the garden and will add 5 more on the other side, plus a few more full-sized beds in the area I’d been trying to grow “row crops” like corn. For now, though, there are 19 beds (and 5 half beds) planted and growing some awesome things, including these native flowers my mom picked up at a native-plant sale recently…
The other fun thing about the garden area are these two full-sun flower beds that my mom and I created a year ago, at which time they looked like this…
In 15 years of home-ownership (and 3 houses) I’ve never had a full-sun garden where I could plant pretty perennials and watch them come back year-after-year, so these two little garden beds are oddly exciting for me. The peonies and “front” clematis were the first to bloom this year…
Still waiting on the butterfly bush, black-eyed susans, coneflowers (thanks mom!) and the fall blooming clematis that we moved off the pergola and is doing amazing on the garden trellis this year…
In The Orchard
Every spring there’s a moment where no matter how big the trees get, I’m convinced that the grass and weeds will grow tall enough to swallow them whole. This was that moment…
Due to some epically rainy weather (only on the weekends, of course) I was a couple of weeks behind in orchard maintenance this spring. I finally gave up on doing this during the weekends and promised myself I’d handle three trees a night for a week until all 15 were un-caged, weed-whacked, pruned, fertilized, mulched, sprayed, and re-caged.
I’m just saying, last week was a long week.
But we got there…
For the most part the trees are doing well, although only a few of my apple trees are bearing fruit and none of the peach trees are bearing any (and for the last few years they’ve produced more fruit than any others.)
I’m honestly not sure if this has to do with weather (was there a hard frost after they budded?) or lack of pollination? (I lost my second bee hive in late winter this year so I didn’t have any honeybees in the immediate area this year, but there are so many native pollinators it hasn’t been an issue for the pears or apples.) I’m really not sure, but the good news is that even if I’ll sorely miss my usual peach harvest this summer, the trees look great and they can focus their energies on growing bigger and stronger this year, instead of producing fruit.
I can’t wait to get a few more years of growth on these trees so that I can really start harvesting some fruit. In the meantime, other than the heavy maintenance in spring, they don’t take much work other than another dose of fruit-tree spray in another month or so.
In The Vineyard
The vineyard continues to be difficult to establish and keep under control. (As my mom said last weekend, “We’re just trying to grow a damn grape!”)
Here’s what it looked like a week ago…
Good luck finding a grape in that mess.
The weather, as per usual this spring, was beautiful and perfect all week, and then started raining bright and early Saturday morning. Which means my mom and I opened a bottle of wine bright and early Saturday morning and started working in the rain…
I can only mow so close to the trellises, so there’s a lot of weed-whacking needed just to get things under control. We also un-caged the vines, fertilized them, weeded, mulched, and re-caged. (Those cages are my deer protection.)
The 4 concord vines I have are definitely doing the best, and there are few other that are holding their own, but I tend to lose a lot of the growth every year, and the shoots start over from the ground rather than last-years growth.
I’m not sure if this is weather related, or due to the fact that I’ve been battling Japanese beetles for the last two years, and they’ve managed to strip the leaves off some of the vines before I get them.
Either way, it’s slow going. This year I need to get a better grass/weed management plan in place for the rows, finish the 3rd trellis, and spend all of my free time walking around picking beetles of the vines like a crazy person.
Around The Farm
No new animals means no new fences, or pens, or coops need to be build this spring, but I did make a few much-needed upgrades to the chicken run that Mom and I built last year.
This thing was so handy to have, even after I discovered the chicken-killing culprit that was wreaking havoc on my flock last year (dog down the street was sneaking out to come “play” with the chickens when the owner was napping…) and was able to let the flock free-range again, I still used the coop to acclimate my new chicks to the outdoors…
And to get the new guineas acclimated to the farm. The only problem is that I originally built it to be an extension of the indoor coop (where there is plenty of shade) but when I was using it as it’s own coop to keep the birds separate, I needed more sun and rain coverage. So I did what any reasonable person who owns every tool know to man would do…
Stretched a tarp over it?
Yeah. I’m a disgrace.
In an effort to redeem myself this year, I put an actual roof on the thing.
I was planning to use metal (or plastic) roofing panels from the local lumber yard, but then I saw these Ondura corrugated asphalt panels at Lowe’s and thought… why the hell not. (I don’t love buying building materials I haven’t used before or researched, but this is a low-risk project.)
So, I added some bracing to the roof…
And then spent a lot of time hammering nails into this stuff in the rain.
So, the roofing panels are fairly light and easy to cut (you can cut them with a utility knife vertically, or a circular saw with the blade on backwards horizontally) but the downside is that there’s a lot of hammering that needs to be done to secure them and if you miss the nail you’re going to put a solid dent if not an outright hole through this stuff. I’m pretty accurate with a hammer, but out of 250 nails I did still put two sizable dents in the roof.
I also don’t really care because I’m not really trying to keep every drop of water out of the coop, but I wouldn’t use this roofing on any kind of barn or house that I actually want to keep dry. And pretty.
Still, it did the job for the coop.
I also added some wood around the bottom of the walls to discourage any predators from pushing at the wire mesh (similar to what I did with the actual coop.)
It looks and feels a lot more substantial now. I still have a few clean-up details, but it’s nice to have a usable space if I need to introduce new birds to the flock, or so the chickens have an outdoor space when I’m traveling for work (which is fairly often these days.)
So, overall spring has been pretty manageable on the farm this year, and I’m looking forward to a little rest before starting a big summer project… (I’m looking at you rotted wood siding on the back of the house.)
SO much cool stuff.
Do you have anti dig aprons around your chicken run?
You’ve accomplished much in spite of the rain! Same thing happened here in SE Connecticut – nice during the week, rains all weekend. First tome in adult life my yard looked like crap for Memorial Day – grass 2-3 ft high dye to non-working lawn mower & weed whacker!
Forecast for good weather this weekend so plan to get flower gardens weeded/mulched, and possibly 2 trellises built for climbing roses. Plan to intersperse veggies in with flowers. My raised bed got demolished by carpenter ants/termites. May eventually replace with one of cinder blocks 🙂
Your place is looking great! I gotta say … I love reading your blog posts…and you’ve been a major inspiration for me. I finally got over my fear of (most) power tools and have started building stuff. I haven’t built anything pretty but I’m proud of what I’ve managed to build (bonus – it hasn’t fallen apart!). Thank you!
Well done! It must be such a good feeling to be a little more under control (still with a lot of work). I’m glad to hear that you only just got to your grapes and some of them are still okay. I’m way behind getting to ours, and I’m feeling so guilty and worried that they’re all getting choked by weeds and grass.
If you are going to set up the new farm outside the home then you can steal these ideas for the best farmhouse.
You have a really great and peaceful life in the countryside! I would also like to live in such a place someday, although I suspect that sometimes you have so much work that you do not know what to put in your hands? It was the same as when I went to my grandma’s village, there was still something to do 🙂 I am waiting for more entries, best regards.
My two cents worth. Be careful where you plant native flowers they can become invasive in a season of two. Same with the fall blooming clematis.
1) I’ve read that peach trees can take a break from fruiting if they’ve “overfruited” in the past. Did you happen to do any fruit thinning? One of my peach trees finally came out with a ton of fruit and it killed me but I thinned it to onefeuit every six inches or so. That way the tree can put it’s energy into a smaller amount of higher quality fruit, and it doesn’t feel like it’s done it’s job and can take a year off as far as reproduction goes.
2) we used the ondura panels on a mini barn a couple years ago and it’s worked great for us. We never intended the barn to be totally weather proof but it certainly is pretty dang close.
I’ve been reading your blog for quite a few years, but have never read the comments. I live in Montana on a small farm and encounter some of the same issues you go thru, ie., weather patterns, critters and such. I don’t know if anyone has ever suggested to you the use of cardboard topped off with mulch around your orchard trees and grape vines. The card board kills the grass/ weed and the mulch weighs it down. Every spring I just add a bit more mulch and hand pull the occasional stray grass. Every 3 yrs, I just layer more card board and mulch. Works like a charm! As I’m getting older and less physically able, I find that technique to be of great help and a terrific timesaver. Hope this info helps
FALL BLOOMING CLEMATIS?!
It looks awesome! I’m still in awe of the farm. My 1/4 acre in town lot is almost too much for me to maintain. I am slowly letting go of the idea of perfection….
What a gorgeous place to be! I’ll add a third rule, DO NOT GET AHEAD OF ONESELF ! I am guilty of starting project after project ordering materials after materials until I’m overwhelmed and it takes all summer to restore order.
Wow!! I don’t know how you do it all! 😮 Everything looks great.
Your farm is looking great!
Food for thought
I found a number of books discussing the advantages of keeping fruit trees small….like harvestability…
Just a couple thoughts on weed control. I am up over 20,000 trees planted on my farm so far and the ones that do the best are planted in weed control fabric. I can document the growth difference just 2 or three years can make between trees in grass and in fabric. I have also used cardboard or newsprint and mulch with good results. I recently visited a vineyard where they strips of old carpet run along their rows or vines. They laid it down upside down to get a lighter side up. They said it delayed sprouting which helped with late frosts. Old carpet should be free at any carpet store and that seems like a decent idea. In any case, thought I would pass those thoughts along. I enjoy reading your posts. Have fun at the farm this summer. God Bless.
I don’t have weed fabric around the trees, but putting some cardboard around/under the mulch for next year is a great idea!
wow, the chicken coop came out awesome. love that corrugated asphalt. strange name but looks nice.
Wow, really great photos 🙂 I love to spend time in the countryside, it’s really nice there and I feel I’m resting 🙂 Regards and waiting for more entries.
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