Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bottling Wine during Holiday Break

We tried to use our time off wisely - visiting friends and relatives...and bottling wine.  It has been terribly windy the last two days, so doing "inside" work was a great alternative.  We bottled a batch of Elderberry Wine, Asian Pear Wine and Sour Cherry Wine.  Jeff had to put another wine rack together, to hold the bottles, which also involved rearranging some of the kitchen furniture, as there is not enough space for bottle storage in the cellar.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas at the Long Shot Farm

Following German tradition, we share presents on Christmas Eve, after days of baking cookies, making Christmas candy and deserts and finally, on the 24th, preparing a big dinner and spending the evening with family.  All of the preparation is team work, with everyone pitching in!  Our holiday cookies for 2010 included:
  • peanut butter cookies
  • peanut blossom cookies
  • oatmeal (with coconut, walnuts, and raisins)
  • Italian Christmas cookies (with ricotta cheese and icing)
  • lemon stars
  • ginger snaps
  • apricot turnovers
  • nut tarts
  • pinwheels (with dates)
  • cut out butter cookies - decorated with icing
Candies included chocolate truffles and marzipan/apricot delights.  Other deserts included lemon bars, peach pie, blackberry pie, custard pie and spice cake. 
Everyone, including Tina's parents, arrived by lunchtime on Christmas eve - by that time the turkey had been stuffed and put in the oven, and all side dishes had been "prepped".  Basically, we did a re-run on Thanksgiving dinner, since you can't beat a good turkey :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Racoon Hats for Christmas Presents

Anja and Duff as well as Zach, Rachel and Toben arrived on Monday before Christmas - which gave us several days together to prepare for the holidays.  Jeff really wanted to have someone get excited about his tanned hides and he managed to talk Anja into trying to make hats out of the tanned raccoon furs.  After doing some research on the internet and coming up with a pattern, the two of them spent 2 days with Tina's sewing machine and managed to produce 7 raccoon hats of various designs.  Each of the hats took two hides and all of them were lined with flannel.  Since two hides were used per hat, they ended up with extra tails - which resulted in some rather unique hats.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Parsnip Harvest Officially Ends Season at the Long Shot Farm

Jeff dug out the last of the parsnips earlier this week, peeled and boiled them, and froze most of them.  That was the last of our vegetable garden for this year.  The only thing we are still harvesting are some of the hardier herbs - parsley and sage are still going pretty strong as they are on a protected side of the house.

Our next project will be bottling some more of last year's wine to empty out some of the carboys and get them ready for our currently fermenting batch of apple wine.  So bottle washing it is for between Christmas preparations.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Apple Wine and Cider

Our family and friends have been enjoying last year's apple much so, that we are beginning to run short.  We certainly want to avoid that situation in the future, so Jeff went and got more apples last week.

This weekend - which was gorgeous again - we pressed another 20 gallons of cider.  We saved about 3 gallons of this for Thanksgiving (Tina found a great recipe for a cider Thanksgiving punch - which consists mostly of apple schnapps and cider with spices and some oranges and lemon slices for decorations).  The remaining cider is already in the fermenting vat for another batch of 2010 apple wine. With the earlier apple wine batch, we hope to end up with about 30 gallons.

Got some major house cleaning, re-arranging and decorating done this weekend as well.  Even finished our home office area.  Now we are almost ready for everyone to come and visit for Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fall Clean up Continues

It was a beautiful fall weekend, and we got a lot of things done outside.  The backyard's overgrown, messy flowerbed is no more:  after Tina transplanted all perennials worth saving to other flowerbeds and moved all the scattered large stones to the future stone wall, Jeff pulled out most of the tree-stumps with the tractor and then used his grader to level the ground.  Only two stumps could not be removed - one of the Magnolia trees is planted between them and they will now anchor a much smaller flowerbed.  After Jeff raked the space smooth, Tina spread grass seed over the bare ground.  Not sure it will still grow this fall, but it was worth a try, since the seed was left over from the spring planting in front of the house. We then removed the round turtle pen and mowed off the weeds (the turtle - being a desert creature - had to be moved inside for the winter).   

Tina also pulled out the dead annuals - since we had a pretty hard frost earlier this week, not much is left from any of them.   All this cleaning up certainly made the compost pile a lot bigger.  Jeff shut off all the outside water spigots, and we put away the water hoses before they freeze and crack. Mowed the backyard and the "orchard" one last time this fall, which made everything look rather clean :)

Also found time to play with wild grapevines, which Jeff and Jens brought back from Bedford after their Saturday hunting trip.  Tina wanted swags for the three windows in the back room, so she measured the windows and screwed the longest dry-wall screws she could find in the appropriate spacing on the backside of the corn crib - then she wound the long grapevines around the screws and Jeff used the more flexible vines to wrap around the swags.  This worked pretty slick!  We are letting them dry in position for a few days - when they are set in their new shape, we'll add some fairy lights (on the brown wire so they are hardly visible except for the lights).  If this does not look too gaudy, we may try another swag for the living room window - at least during Christmas time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Plowed and Disked for Next Year's Berry Plants

Jeff plowed and disked another acre, getting ready to spread hard fescue grass later this week.  This will be our next acre of ground ready for planting blackberries in the spring.  We'll make rows for the berry plants right before planing, but this type of grass should not spread into the rows and should only have to be mowed a few times a year.  Hoping that plowing and disking will destroy any weeds (and poison ivy vines) that were present in what used to be a hay field.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wine Storage Bargains Found at Yard Sale

I was looking through the classified ads trying to find used kitchen base cabinets for building a kitchen island and by pure chance came across a yard sale ad that listed "commercial wine racks" - not knowing what to expect, Jeff and I went to the yard sale and found what may well be our best bargain purchase yet.  The guy selling the racks was a very high end contractor, who had remodeled a multi-million dollar home, where the new owners wanted to reduce the size of the build in wine cellar.  The contractor pulled out the extra teak wood wine racks that were no longer needed and he has been selling them to friends for a while and wanted to get rid of the last 6.  These are not small wine racks, they are about 8 ft wide and 6 ft tall.  We bought all 6, of these, 3 are for individual bottle storage, the other 3 are for case storage - we also got all the extra teak wood which was used around the built in shelving, plus a small side rack.  All but the small extra rack are stored in the bottom of the barn, where we have yet to build a wine storage area.

Monday, October 11, 2010

More Blueberries

OK - so we got a great deal on some blueberry plants - at $2 each on closeout, we bought all 32 remaining plants and thus quadrupled the size of our blueberry patch.  Totally crazy...

 First we made the patch a lot larger (with the tractor), dug holes with a spade :), planted and then ran irrigation lines.  Luckily we still had some line left over, plus enough emitters to make this work. We've been irrigating every day since we planted..

Also found time to do some serious flower and herb garden weeding (sometimes I think I grow composting materials as my main crop), here is my "kitchen garden" by the front entrance door:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall Clean-up Started

Things have been hectic the last couple of weeks - too much going on at work, plus we helped Rachel, Zach and Toben move to Ohio this weekend.  They have a beautiful house and barn outside Mt. Vernon, about half way between Columbus and Cleveland.

But we still found time to work on our farm, mostly we spent the last couple of weekends cleaning up around the pond.  We cut down the remaining willow trees and pulled out their roots as best as we could.  Since we have had such a terrible long dry spell, the water level was at a record low - which allowed us better access to weeds around the banks.  We weed-whipped around the pond, push-mowed and removed all weeds, including the wild roses and poison ivy!  We also pulled out the old boat dock, which jutted out into the pond - but it was rickety and not too safe.  Taking advantage of the low water level, we cut off the decking portion, hooked it with chains and ropes to the high- lift of the tractor and lifted it off - after some creative sawing, the former dock became a front porch on Lars's playhouse in the woods. The pillars from the dock (old telephone poles) were pulled out with the tractor, and we will re-use them for trellises for either the grapes or blackberries.

Jeff cut down both corn fields, and plowed the lower one under - this will be a section of the 2011 blackberry patch.  We still need to finish plowing the remainder of the field.  Tina weeded and hoed the blueberry bushes - we lost two of them (too many weeds and not enough irrigation we think).  Will need to replenish those.

Also started doing serious research into current cover crop recommendations to get the 3 acre field ready for grapes. Found a lot of very useful articles online, also got a number of articles on winery equipment and overall setup.  During the last few weeks we also worked on the online course offered by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB)  called the Wine Industry Compliance Seminar.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sauerkraut Saturday - we made close to 170 lbs

Don't think we'll need to make sauerkraut again for a very long time - we put away 28 heads of cabbage (at about 5 lbs each) for regular sauerkraut, the kind that is just made with 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 lbs of shredded cabbage. That made about 15 gallons - which is sitting in the kitchen happily fermenting. We weighed the top of it down with gallon sized freezer bags filled with salty water (in case one of the bags breaks it won't mess up the salt brine that the cabbage is fermenting in). We also put away another 30 lbs of cabbage for German style "Delicatessen" sauerkraut. In between each 5lbs layer of shredded, salted cabbage, we added about 5 juniper berries, one grape leave, about 1 dozen green grapes, 1 cup shredded sour apple, 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds, and about 1 dozen peppercorns.

It was a little challenge finding juniper berries in the local grocery stores. In one of the stores, the lady I asked about juniper berries first asked me to repeat the word 3 times, then asked me what I needed them for. When I told her it was for making sauerkraut, she looked at me, in a pitying sort of way, and told me, honey - we don't do it that way here. (luckily there is Wegmans)

We also picked potatoes - Jeff used the single plow to dig up the rows, and the potatoes were literally just rolling out of the ground. We picked up 24 buckets of potatoes, which ended up being about 17 bushel. They are spread out on the middle bay of the upper barn to dry a little. We'll have to pick through them and sort out the damaged and cut ones, and then store the rest in crates in the bottom of the barn where it is cool and dark.

We used some of the left over cabbage to make "Freezer Slaw", about 12 quart sized bags, have to see how this turns out. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Canning Weekend Additional Count

We finished off the Labor Day canning marathon with another 20 quarts of spaghetti sauce and 16 quarts of the best applesauce ever!  (also squeezed in a 3.5 mile quick run at the park)

Record Breaking Canning Weekend

We are on the way to break our canning record for total jars - and varieties of food - canned in one weekend. Granted, we had a lot of help, as Anja & Duff and Zach & Rachel were around all weekend, and Jens and Grace stopped by on Saturday. 

We started off on Saturday morning picking tomatoes and then picking through (and cleaning) a pick-up load of apples, which we ran through our apple press.  It was a beautiful morning, not too hot and windy enough to keep flies away (had a lot of bees buzzing around us though).  We ended up with  about 40 gallons of apple cider. 

While the cider was being made, Rachel - and Toben -  worked on cleaning the tomatoes for the first batch of sauce for the weekend.

Jens and Grace stopped by and brought along half a bucket (5 gallon sized) of assorted hot peppers from their garden and a 50 pound bag of onions from Sams Club.  In the afternoon, Duff came up with his first batch of original salsa - which we called "Duff's Smokin Salsa" (it contained chipotle and ancho peppers and we roasted the onions before adding them).  Today (Sunday) we canned some of the cider,canned some peaches, started a batch of apple wine, made another batch of salsa (this one was a milder variety), made apple sauce and nectarine sauce (some we mixed 50:50), and canned all of this, and cooked enough tomatoes for another batch of sauce.

We used the burners on our kitchen stove, the side burner on the gas grill and the turkey fryer outside, as we just ran out of space in the kitchen during all this processing.  In the middle of all this, we all went to Chambersburg to watch Lars and the Big Spring Midget Football varsity team win their first game of the season.  Go Bulldogs!

Here is what we ended up with by Sunday night:
  • 20 gallons of apple wine (30 pounds of sugar added)
  • 38 quarts of canned apple cider
  • 10 gallons of cider in gallon jugs in refrigerator
  • 18 half pints of "Smokin Salsa"
  • 15 half pints of "Mild Salsa"
  • 20 quarts of Spaghetti Sauce
  • 31 pints of apple/nectarine sauce
  • 6 quarts of plain apple sauce
  • 7 quarts of peaches

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Zesty Salsa Batch #1 Recipe

Here is our first version of the "Zesty Salsa" - which makes about 14 pints:
  1. 20 cups skinned, chopped tomatoes (we left seeds in, but may want to seed them)
  2. 10 cups seeded and chopped sweet bell peppers (we used red and green ones)
  3. 10 cups chopped sweet onions
  4. 4 cups chopped jalapeno peppers
  5. 9 cloves garlic - minced
  6. 4 Tablespoons dried cilantro
  7. 6 Tablespoons salt
  8. 2.5 cups cider vinegar
  9. optional teaspoon or so hot pepper sauce (we did not use any for this batch)

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then fill hot salsa into pint jars - adjust lids and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Our cup measures were generous - and this batch made 14 pints. The salsa is bursting with flavor - not very hot, but slightly tart from the vinegar, may want to add some sugar to the next batch to reduce the tartness somewhat. This is the kind of salsa that you would add to melted cheese, or to mashed avocados for a dip (avocado, sour cream and salsa) or add to your chili.

Monday, August 30, 2010

More Corn, tomatoes and soup

For the last two weekends we have been working on harvesting, freezing and canning the rest of the corn. By the end of Sunday (August 29) we had frozen over 200 quarts of sweet corn - lost track of counting somewhere along the line. Had several friends stop by and pick corn for their own use plus we made 5 gallons of chicken corn soup, which we canned.

Jeff helped a friend butcher a beef - and came home with one of the hind quarters. He cut a lot of it into cubes for stew, had some ground into hamburg and used the bones and left over meat to make about 5 gallons of vegetable beef soup. Froze all the meat and canned the soup.

Continued working on tomatoes at the same time - made more spaghetti sauce, canned 12 quarts of plain tomato juice and made a batch (20 pints) of black bean-corn-tomato salsa. No end in sight yet for the tomato harvest - currently have two 5 gallon buckets of roma tomatoes in the refrigerator, ready to be processed.

Last week we also pulled out all the irrigation lines - (except those that are permanent in the blackberries) - and used the tractor with the bush hog to mow the corn stalks and the fields around the garden and corn patch - which made everything look a lot better.

The weather continues to be hot and dry and the water level in the pond is rather low. Lars started Middle School on Wednesday and we dropped Samantha off in Brooklyn on Friday for her senior year at Pratt. Midget football started a few weeks ago, and with Sam off in college we've got to drive Lars to practice three evenings a week (which kind of cuts into the weeding time). Zach and Rachel closed on their house in Ohio today, so they will be moving in a month.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Corn and Berries + Berry Pie Recipe

Our corn in the house-side field is ripe! We had our annual "husking party", where everyone pitched in with picking, husking, blanching, cutting and freezing. We started Friday afternoon and worked through Saturday afternoon - at the end we had frozen 129 (very full) QUARTS!, canned 7 quarts and 17 pints of corn. Friends and neighbors also picked corn for their own use - but we still have more on this field and will continue to work on in. Plus there is the second field of sweet corn on the pond side, which was planted three weeks later.

Also got some blackberries (from our old house), froze some, and made pies and tarts.

Here is my favorite Blackberry Pie recipe:

For the 10" double crust:

  • 2 cups flour
  • scant 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 sticks of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of crisco
  • approximately 1/4 cup cold water - enough to form a pie dough
  • roll out two circles, place one in pie plate, use second to cover

For the filling:

  • 6 cups freshly picked blackberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • mix above ingredients and pour into pie plate
  • Cut 1 tablespoon butter into small pieces, dot on top of the mixed filling before covering with second half of dough, make slits into top crust
  • make egg wash (I just use egg white, whipped) and brush it on top of the dough

Bake at 425 degree F for 40 minutes (really good with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Finished Beans! Pickle Recipe

At the very end of July we finally got all the beans picked and the stalks pulled out. The last picking was done by friends (thanks Cindy!) Our total bean harvest resulted in 40 canned quarts and about 60 frozen quarts (not counting what we ate and what we gave away). At this point we also put away 30 pints of bread and butter pickles and 42 quarts of kosher style dill pickles - cucumbers are still growing, so we may make more. Just picked another 2 buckets of roma tomatoes to start our 3rd batch of spaghetti sauce - each batch makes about 20 quarts, depending on how much we eat before canning :)

Bread and Butter Pickles (sweet)

4 lbs cucumbers, cut into slices (use food processor slicing blade)
2 lbs thinly sliced onions
1/2 cup canning salt (do NOT use regular salt)
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. mustard seed
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon ginger

3 cups apple cider vinegar

  1. Place cucumbers and onions in a large bowl, layering with salt. Cover with ice cubes and let stand for about 1.5 hours, then drain and rinse twice.

  2. Combine spices with vinegar in a large pot and bring to a boil, add drained cucumbers and onions and return to a boil.

  3. Pack hot pickles and liquid into pint jars, remove air bubbles, adjust lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Canning Season Started at the Longshot Farm

After a wonderful week at the beach we returned to PA to find out that everything on our farm had a major growth spurt. It rained over 5 inches while we were gone - lucky for us we had just gotten the new rainspouting installed on the barn the day before we left for vacation. The vegetable plants, as well as the weeds and grass, had grown incredibly fast. We got home around 10 am on Saturday after a 12 hour drive from South Carolina, took a short nap and got to work in the garden. By that evening we had picked and cleaned 1 bushel of green beans and pulled all the weeds out of the herb garden and the flower beds around the house - 6 wheelbarrow loads of weeds for the compost pile! We picked and processed another bushel of beans on Sunday and altogether froze 24 quarts. These were the earlier variety of snap beans, the second variety we planted is just now in blossom.

We also picked 3 buckets (the 5 gallon size) of cucumbers, and loads of zucchini as well - shared much of this weekend's harvest with friends. Luckily Rachel and Zach had kept up with the zucchini while the rest of us were at the beach - Rachel baked 12 loaves of zucchini bread that week.

On Monday evening, after a spice shopping spree, we made our first batch of "bread and butter" pickles and canned 7 pints. We have not made pickles for a long time, and our plan is to experiment with different recipes and methods, from fermenting, to fresh pack (like the batch we just did) to refrigerator pickles. We'll have to wait and see which ones turn out best. Even the fresh pack pickles take about 4 weeks in the jar in order to develop their flavor. Here is hoping that they stay crunchy after being canned :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Very Hot July 4th Weekend = More Irrigation

Temperatures soared up to 110 degrees this afternoon, it has not rained for days and there is not rain in the forecast - luckily we have irrigation in our blackberry rows and the vegetable garden. Both are doing great:

Finished picking and shelling peas this weekend as well and froze 10 quarts (we really only planted the peas for fresh eating - just had a few extra). Continued harvesting red beets, potatoes and onions for immediate use.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Finally cleaned up the front section near the fruit trees (where water puddles in a hard rain) and made room for two rows of elderberry plants. We had taken cuttings from our old bushes and started them in flowerpots - all of them grew nicely over the winter. We rototilled the rows, and made them far enough apart for the lawnmower to fit easily (so we can pick from both sides). Each row has about eight plants each. The remaining elderberry bushes will be planted in the blackberry rows to keep birds away from the blackberries - apparently birds prefer the elderberries, and this approach had worked really well for us before.

Quick update on the garden status:

  • planted 4 Carolina Gold tomatoes
  • planted 4 Better Boy tomatoes
  • 50 sweet potato vines
  • 1 pack of watermelon seeds
  • 1 pack of cantaloupe seeds
  • various varieties of sunflowers and cosmos to fill in the rest of the row

Today we pulled one of the flowering potato plants out and it had 6 nice sized red potatoes on it (already). We also pulled out 3 rather puny red beets - they need some more time to grow! Lars rototilled most of the garden - he was very careful between the rows of plants and did a great job!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Building a stone wall - really?

Last weekend we did some major grading, pulling the artificially high "flower bed" that had been created around the front of the house away, to allow for better drainage of rain water after major storms. The flower bed had been edged with large field stones, which looked to have come from an old foundation or stone wall. Sam had the idea of building a new stone wall as a border between the back yard and the adjoining field - where Tina had started to create some sort of shady flower beds under the existing tree line. None of the guys were keen on this idea (probably realizing that they would have to help with the heavy lifting for a project bound to take months), but Tina found basic instructions for a mortar free stone wall - with pictures - and the first stones were sorted into piles. There are literally tons of such stones around the house and fields, so theoretically, the wall may become a reality.

We also ended up rototilling and raking the newly graded front yard sections, sowed grass seed and covered the seeds with some of the left over dry hay from the barn. We had to water this for two days, until luckily it rained all day Wednesday. Hopefully this grass seed will sprout OK - to match the rest of the front yard, which we seeded a few months ago (first grass appeared right around Easter)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Painting Barn Roof, Planting More Garden

Jens volunteered to paint the barn roof! He arrived before 7:00 am, and Jeff had already gotten a safety harness (plus reflective roof paint and brushes). By 8:00 am Jens had secured the D hooks on the rooftop and strapped himself into the harness - he finished the entire one side of the roof by 3:00!

Also got more garden planted this morning:
  • 42 bell pepper plants
  • finished the pepper row and tomato row with cucumbers (marketfare)
  • row next to the peppers starts with 1 pack of yellow straight neck zucchini
  • about 4 oz of black zucchini
  • 1 packet spaghetti squash
  • about 1 teaspoon of acorn squash (saving the rest for late summer planting)
  • next 1.5 rows = green beans: .5 lbs of Tema, .5 lbs of Slenderette

Worked a little on the herb garden, added mariegolds to the border, hoed and watered


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Wine, Sauce & Yams

Finished washing and labeling the canned goods, then ran wires to add more lights in the cellar, set up more shelves and finally moved all the jars and bottles downstairs. Thanks to Knud and Shannon, these two batches of wine bottles were capped with the heat-shrink foil, red for the peach wine and green for the apple wine.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Garden Update - May 22

Our potatoes are up very nicely, as are the red beets, peas, parsnips, lettuce and spinach. We had a nice slow drizzling rain all afternoon and planted - finally - 114 tomato plants (about 100 Roma and the rest Brandywine) and the 47 cabbage plants. Also planted a dozen basil plants in the herb garden. Went to the Newville Hardware store to get more corn seeds, as well as summer and winter squash, cucumber and some flower seeds. Weed-whacked two rows of blackberries and filled in those spots where the plants did not take (about 10%) - we had extras set aside for filling in. Would have gotten more done today, but Sam locked her keys in the car while getting ready to be a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding - so we had to drive the spare key out to the wedding venue for her (twice - since the first time we took the wrong spare key). Also got another section done in the shade bed at the edge of the lawn, put in more bleeding hearts, sweet woodruff and hostas.

You Can Catch my Tractor on Fire....

Jeff did catch his tractor on fire the other day. Apparently, the exhaust pipe is right by the fuel tank, and he was running the tractor hard, disking the new corn field. He was running it so hard, then when he shut the tractor off (at the edge of the field), he could hear the fuel boiling in the tank - which apparently happens... Jeff started walking toward the house, when the fumes from the fuel caught on fire, and the entire hood of the tractor was covered in flames. Jeff ran (in his words) to the house to get the fire extinguisher - Sam said he was really moving - and managed to get the flames put out. He opened the tractor hood (which by the way was still so hot that it singed all the hairs off his arm) to get some air flowing, hoping this would cool the tractor off. The tractor started right back up and Jeff decided to drive it back over to the house side and cool it off more with a water hose. After this incident, Jeff took the hood off the tractor, to keep more air flowing around the fuel tank. It now bears some slight resemblance to "Mater" - but the tractor is running fine.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Winter Transplanting Worked After All

Perennials that were hastily transplanted during our move last November miraculously survived in the equally hastily created flowerbeds. Right now poppies, peonies, perennial geraniums, lavender, roses and a few stray daffodils are in bloom. Above is the circle bed right at the corner of our hedge in front of the house, which we edged with stones found around the property.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bargains at Annual Plant Sale

Went to the Cumberland County Master Gardener annual Plant Sale and found some nice additions for the flower beds and more:

  • 6 evergrees (3 blue spruce and 3 scotch pine)
  • black eyed susan
  • blue bell flower
  • shasta daisy
  • bee balm
  • feverfew
  • lilly of the valley
  • 1 flat of cabbage plants

Friday, May 14, 2010

More Cleaning up and Planting

It's time to catch up with blogging - it's been a crazy week:

Last weekend Jeff planted corn - two pound of Silver King (we think) - this was seed we had left over from last year, so we'll have to see how it germinates. He planted this on the lower field - next to the blackberries in the back of the property. Jeff had ordered new parts for the fertilizer bins of his corn planter - they worked like a charm, saving us a lot of time!

We also killed a lot of poison ivy and continued cleaning out the willows around the pond. Late Sunday afternoon, Zach decided to set up the swing set - it was in pieces and had to be moved into place with the tractor. We got it all set up between two large trees in the back yard, near the 'future play house' (an old chicken coop that Sam worked on cleaning our for a couple of days already)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cleaning Around and in the Pond

This past weekend we worked on cleaning the pond - around the edges and the water.

Jeff sawed off a lot of the willow trees - which not only grow around the edge, but also grow in the water. He cut the larger pieces into firewood (which Anja and Duff carted away and stacked), and we made yet another burning pile for all the smaller branches.

Then Jeff had the great idea of trying to pull those willows, which were actually growing in the pond, out with his tractor - Tina had to borrow Anja's fly-fishing waders to go into the water and hook ropes and chains around the tree trunks....this did not work too well - so we went back to sawing them off where possible.

At the end of this rather exhausting day, we hung out at the pond and enjoyed the peaceful afternoon. Anja and Duff took a ride in the paddleboat.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Patch of Blueberries

On Saturday we added a blueberry patch to our collection of small fruits. We planted them in front of a fence by the barn, that had been home to a large compost pile. After leveling the compost and working it into the ground, we dug holes for the 12 plants, and watered them with an acid fertilizer. We added a mixture of peat moss and potting soil into the holes and around the plants, which were two year old bushes. We'll keep working on that ground to keep the pH around 4.7%. We chose to put the blueberry patch in front of an existing fence so that we'll only need to add a few more posts in order to fence it in and cover the bushes with netting, once we actually have berries. We ended up planting the following varieties:

  • 2 Chipewa

  • 4 Bluecrop

  • 2 Misty

  • 4 Liberty

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Transplanted Tomato Seedlings

Transplanted our two flats of Roma tomato seedlings during the last two evenings - not sure what we are going to do with 166 plants yet :)

We used 8oz clear plastic drinking cups, Jeff made holes in the bottom by heating a nail on a torch, then added regular potting soil around each seedling.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A New Home for the Treehouse

Today we finally moved the former "treehouse" to a useful location. We decided to put it into the grove of pine trees which is located at the far corner of the pond-side of our property. But first we had to do some tree trimming to make space for the treehouse - now called the playhouse. Then we carefully loaded the playhouse onto the trailer (with the help of the tractor), and pulled it with the four wheeler across the street to the new location.

Then we had to move the base ( the deck portion of the playhouse which used to be anchored between the trees) - Jeff did this with the tractor. Once the base was where we wanted the playhouse to be, we backed the trailer to it and tilted it (again with the help of the tractor) and slid the playhouse onto the base. After the playhouse was positioned on the base, Jeff used the tines of the tractor's front bucket to lift first the front, then the back - while Zach stacked cement blocks under the base to make it level.

The playhouse still needs some boards replaced, and screwed to its base + a door and windows, and the railing...and maybe some front steps and a little deck - and a firepit...maybe some benches....

After all that, we planted the extra 20 pine seedlings we had gotten to make the grove of trees a little larger.