Friday, May 29, 2015

New Face in the Garden

The back garden has a new resident. Meet Dorothy, named after St. Dorothy, patron saint of horticulture and gardeners. 

Actually, St. Dorothy is patron saint of brewers, too.  Which, all in all, is not a bad personage to invoke around the Farmlette...

But I digress.  Back to Dorothy, the scare-girl in the back garden.

Dorothy is a project two years in the making.  I found her outfit, a fantastic chinese-red-orange number straight from the polyester heights of the 1970s, last summer at a favorite thrift store.  Along with her palmetto hat and brown gingham apron, I found a pair of old pillowcases to make her long lovely arms and beautiful face.  I had a wig already, so all it took was a little sewing, a little fun with Sharpie markers, and some simple construction of a wooden frame.

Sadly, the actual making of Dorothy and construction of the frame took a whole year to accomplish.  You see, I tidied away the dress and hat and other bits and didn't find it again until this spring...whoops.  Well, in any case, she's fully formed and upright in the garden, happily watching over the peas and cabbages and garlic.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Planting Ollas

First off: what's an olla?  (pronounced oh-la)

According to wikipedia, An olla is a ceramic jar, often unglazed, used for cooking stews or soups, for the storage of water or dry foods, or for other purposes. Ollas have a short wide neck and a wider belly, resembling beanpots or handis.

There you go.  It's a pot, basically, which in this case is used to water the garden in an efficient and water-saving way.  My friend Ken Keppers, a local potter in Turtle Lake, made three of them for me which is so exciting.  I took advantage of the cloudy and rainy weather we are having to go out into the hoophouse (which can get up to 150 degrees Farenheit on a sunny day, whoof!) to plant my pots in preparation for tomato planting.

First off, digging the planting hole:
It needs to be just deep enough for the pot to sit in with the neck above ground, and wide enough for the round pot to settle into place.  As you can see, they're a gorgeous unglazed pot, the perfect size for providing water to my three foot-by-four foot beds.
Then, backfill and gently press the dirt into place around the pot, leaving the neck exposed.  Add a little fresh garden compost, and it's a great home for happy tomatoes who love being watered at the roots.

Just a word to the wise: put a cover of some sort over the opening.  Otherwise, it becomes an unattractive slurry of slugs and bugs that fall into a watery death trap.  I'm sure it's nutritious, but it gets stinky in a hot space.
There, that's better.  No slug slurry for me!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bean Pole Construction

Next weekend, I'll be planting out my pole beans.  In the front garden, I've made a support structure which is formed from bamboo canes.  Each cane is about six feet long, perfect for supporting those scrambling runners that will eventually produce lovely green beans.  I start by putting the side canes in at a slight angle, and then tying them together at the top with jute twine (to make an A shape).  Then, I pop on the top leader cane, make sure my A-shaped sides are evenly spaced, and then lash the into place with more twine.  To add structural support, I add a final cane on one side, angling across all the A-sides which gets tied into place.  This final cane really helps to lock it all into position.  I also find that setting the structure so it is lengthwise running east-to-west helps it not get knocked flat when a big storm rolls out of the west.  Once the beans start growing up and filling in, it can get smashed over if we get a near-tornado-type wind gust...and we do get those a couple times in a summer!

I've planted swiss chard and lettuce to the outer edges of the bed, and underneath the structure.  By the time the beans take off, the lettuce will be ready to harvest so it's a great short-term use of the available space underneath.

These poles will be home to Lazy Housewife green beans, which are an heirloom bean billed as the first type to be string-less.  I'm hoping they're also tasty!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cucumber Invasion

After some pondering, I finally figured out what configuration of pots would work best in my new little many-windowed greenhouse.

Top shelf: Three large and four small terracotta pots are now home to my healthy Mexican Sour Gherkins (for my UK friends, that's cucamelons to you).  Boy, those little vines were so happy to be potted on.  I think they are ready for a bit of heat, and then off they'll go making miles of vines.  Hopefully, I'll also get mounds of teeny little fruits.  I learned my lesson last year, where four plants wasn't nearly enough to satisfy my appetite for them.  This year, I've got 13 plants so hopefully, I'll have enough to munch on, some for salads, and maybe some for pickling.

Bottom shelf: A giant pot filled with oodles of good Pro-Mix compost will be the perfect home to three of my Manny cucumber plants.  I've encircled them with Jaguar marigolds, which will hopefully deter any cucumber beetles from moving in, and watered well.  It seems like a ridiculous amount of pot and soil right now, but in a few weeks, I think I'll be overwhelmed by cascading vines and climbing tendrils.  My prediction is that this little greenhouse will be bursting with greenery in a couple of weeks.  Stay tuned for pictorial updates!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Revisited

Today is, amongst the layers of barbeques, car sales and fireworks displays, a well-intentioned day for remembering those who fought and died in various wars.  Remembering those veterans and current service people seems to get a little lost amongst the charcoal grill smoke and waterwings.  For today's post, I wanted to remember those who, during times of war, fought the good fight on the home front.  With war placing demands on the industrial food supply, it fell to people at home to dig up their lawns and plant the food that would keep them, their families, and their neighbors going until the battles were over and peacetime resumed.

The Imperial War Museum has a wonderful collection of public service announcement films such as the one above, which are interesting to watch.  If you're interested in fictional accounts, I highly recommend the Land Girls series (available on Netflix) or Foyle's War (also available on Netflix).  I haven't come across anything much regarding the Dig for Victory campaigns of World War I, although I know that there was such a campaign then as well.  For now, I'll content myself with watching the WWII accounts of what to plant to be patriotic.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Chick Update

The chicks are now two weeks old, and the Dozen are doing well.  I think  I have several cockerels to choose from, if the daily attacks on my hands as I clean their tub is any indication.  They are funny at the age--a combination of bravery, shyness and general silliness.  After I take out their feed dishes and brooder heater, they all run around, hopping and flapping like suddenly they've been turned out into the wild beyond.  FREEDOM!  And then they wait impatiently for me to fill it again, so they can settle into eating, peeping and pooping--their three favorite activities.

This coming week, I'm going to introduce them to wood shaving bedding.  I think they will love scratching in it, and they've figured out what is edible and what is not, so I'm not so worried that they will eat the shavings and plug themselves up.  I'll also be introducing them to more foods.  So far, they've had grass, lettuce and strawberry tops.  They loved the greens, and liked chasing each other around as they carted the strawberry tops from corner to corner in a mad scrambling race.  I plan to make them a grassy pinata to play with:  basically, it's a bundle of weeds from the yard, hung from a dowel placed across the rim of the tub, and they can spend all day leaping up to snatch bits and bites off of it.  It's great chick entertainment, particularly useful when they are getting bigger, more inquisitive, and feeling a tad crowded as they grow and their tub feels the same way.  In a couple more weeks, I'll be moving them out into the rehabbed coop but for now, they just have to settle for their tub home.  By keeping them occupied and out of mischief, they should pass their time without picking on each other.

Friday, May 22, 2015

In case you hadn't heard...

I am a YouTuber now.  Episode 1 is up for your viewing pleasure--don't mind all the weeds, eventually they get a bit under control as the season winds on.  And subscribe to my channel, The Chicken Lady's Farmlette, to stay tuned for further updates from the home front.