A few terse emails have recently reminded me that, to many of our family and friends, we have dropped off the face of the planet. When you’re going a hundred miles an hour, the surrounding landscape is a blur. Mostly I’ve been too busy even to snap the occasional picture, but the past weekend, as Grant was loading up to leave, I grabbed my camera and got a few shots to share. For anyone wondering, this is what is going on at the farm:
Here’s our fruit orchard. We had to replace virtually all the trees this year. In my deer obsession I totally missed the real threat, a tiny rodent called a vole. Evidently they create tunnels under the snow and prey on the bark of young trees. In our case, our trees were handy and apparently tasty. They girdled virtually every one. That was an expensive replacement order from Stark! We learned our lessons this time around and now have trunk guards, in addition to a (hopefully) impenetrable deer fence.
This is a picture of one of our new nut trees–a Carpathian Walnut, I believe. The nut trees are in the pasture as part of the development of a “silvo-pasture.” As they grow and form their canopy, they will improve the pasture by creating shade for the grass during the hottest days of summer, and mining nutrients from deep in the soil, which they’ll then contribute to the top soil via their leaves. After our lessons with the fruit trees, all the nut trees have a “deer cage” as well as trunk guards. We have black and English walnuts, pecans, hickory, chestnut, butternut, almond and oak. My mouth is watering as I type, but the reality is it will be a good eight to ten years before we see our first nut. Nut trees are considered “legacy” trees. The grand kids will get to enjoy them, along with the sugar maples that can be tapped in about forty years.
Here’s my Top Bar bee hive. My bees involved another heartbreaking, expensive lesson. It’s taken me a year, but we finally have a viable and growing hive. Their main job is pollinating, and any extra honey they can spare will just be a bonus, as far as we’re concerned. I’ve already seen them at work on the strawberry blossoms. Bees can triple the yield from a garden or an orchard, and we’re grateful to have them “on the team.” Our pollinators are in serious trouble in this country, and we are happy to provide them with 82 acres of safe, pesticide and herbicide-free habitat in return for their services.
The pond has reached its peak runoff level, and the water vegetation is quickly beginning to fill in the open areas. We still have a large population of migratory waterfowl who showed up early this spring and have stayed to raise their young. There are also literally thousands of frogs who sing us to sleep every night. Last week we found a large turtle making its way toward the pond. Last year Bobbie and I saw a moose who’d stopped by for a snack, but so far Grant and I have not encountered anything that large. A resident flock of turkeys keeps us entertained along with the occasional white tail deer. I’m in heaven…..
Our pasture is slowly improving, after years of overgrazing by the previous owner. I’ve counted at least ten different species of plant living there, including some beautiful wild flowers. The knapweed (a noxious weed) is encroaching from the south, but we have a plan to eradicate it–sheep! Turns out sheep love the stuff and in one enthusiastic sheep-owner’s words, “they become addicted to it.” Unfortunately, the sheep (and the pasture) will have to wait until next year!
Our “home away from home.” We’d be in big trouble without our trusty camper! Grant hooked up the solar panel a few weeks ago and we haven’t had to run the generator for “house power” since. What a luxury! “The shop.” We used this covered trailer during our move north, and now it is project-central. We’ve got shelves toward the front that hold the “little stuff” and plenty of room in the center to store bigger tools like a table saw and the generator, which are pulled down the back ramp when needed. It also makes a handy place to dive when the occasional rain shower shows up! You can see how much we are in and out by the way the grass is trampled down to the dirt in front of the door…The “well house.” There was a well on the property when we bought it, and it is housed in this humble structure on the right. The water level is only about seven feet below grade. We postulate the left side of this building was once a chicken coop. We’ve since drilled another well near where the house will be. Took about five minutes with a contraption my handy hubby put together. We hit water at about eleven feet. To us desert rats, that is amazing! The water is in a sand layer, so we put down something called a “sand point” and have been pumping the most beautiful crystal clear, good tasting water you can imagine. We’ve only used the original well for irrigation.Behind the old well house, we used some old metal we took off the roof at Bull Lake to build a simple pole barn. We’ve named it the “equipment shed” and it mostly houses the tractor and various implements.We don’t have enough hoses to get everywhere, so we’ve converted the motorcycle trailer into a “water wagon.” I pull up to one of the wells and use the pump mounted on the back to fill the tank. This makes it easy to get water to wherever we need it. We’re only watering the trees every week or two, depending on rain, but the garden gets a drink pretty much any day we’re there. I LOVE this old willow tree! It’s got to be at least a hundred years old. It looks a lot better since we trimmed it up this spring. There are still some dead areas, but it is stubbornly clinging to life! It’s our mascot.You can tell we are only ten miles from the Idaho border, because our potatoes are going nuts. I’ve never grown potatoes before, so it must be beginner’s luck! It’s fun to go out each day to see how much they’ve grown! We’ve got a 40 X 40 fenced garden area with raised beds for vegetables in the center and raised beds around the inside perimeter for berries and grapes.Here’s a closeup of one of the strawberry plants we put in early this spring. In general, the berries are very, very happy here. Besides the strawberries, we’ve got blueberries, elderberries and raspberries. I’ve also got five wine grape plants I’m very excited about. Wish me luck!More strawberries!The latest addition to the “fleet.” This thing is a beast! It weighs fifteen thousand pounds and has a forty foot reach with the boom extended. I’ve already had a lesson on how to operate it, and it will certainly come in handy with our future building projects! Our barn will be a metal building and the kit will be delivered in the next week or two. We’re finalizing the house plan, and hopefully will be starting on the foundation for our future home some time in July.A giant Jack Pine died a year or two ago and it is close to the future barn, so we decided it was time for it to come down. Turned out to be two solid days of sawing and chipping. We’re going to leave the giant trunk, for now. We’ve been considering buying a small sawmill. We’ll see……Took me a couple hours to load the truck with logs cut from the larger branches. Grant was doing his “tractor-driver” thing, trying to get the spot leveled for the future barn.
I hope this helps explain why we’ve been off the grid. Thanks to all our friends and family for the love and support during the biggest project of our lives!