Saturday, March 31, 2012

Portable Sawmill

The portable sawmill guy came last week - and the sawmill is still sitting in our back field.  Each day, Jeff helped saw some of the logs and old barn beams that we have been accumulating.  A lot of it was walnut so far.  By the end of the week, we had a pretty nice pile of lumber started.  We still have another walnut log, 2 maple logs and one sugarberry log to go.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Weekend Brings Showers

After planting over 250 grapevines on Friday, Saturday brought saturating chance for working in the garden at all.   Luckily we had another type of "shower" planned for that afternoon - Gracie's surprise bridal shower, which sure made up for all the rain!
It took until late Sunday afternoon that the ground was ok enough to start planting more vines - got another 60 in the ground, then it got too dark.  About 200 more to go (the root stocks are safe in a trench, soaked, and covered with peat moss and soil).

Saturday, March 24, 2012


We will have a portable saw mill coming in on Monday to finally get all our logs cut into boards.  We just had one more walnut tree (which was starting to get sick), that needed to get cut down.  Since the tree was leaning precariously close toward the garage - and it was just a little too big for our chain saw -  we decided to have someone come in and cut it down.  The tree feel safely away from the garage, and just touched the top row of blackberries with no damage at all.  Jeff and Zach finished the project by cutting the smaller pieces into firewood, while Lars stacked it all up. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Crush Pad Built!

Cement was delivered and poured earlier this week for what we are calling our future crush pad. This is a section right in front of the barn where the outside floor is level with the inside barn floor, which will make it really easy to roll out our cider press. The section is also high enough off the ground on the far end to line up with a trailer or bed of a pick-up truck.  This area could also be used as a patio, since it offers a nice view of the pond and grape vines - or, if need be, it could double as a dance floor! Another large project done...just in time, because on Friday we are getting our order of 500 new grape vines!!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Oliver on Walkabout

Our desert tortoise, Oliver, has figured out that he can push on the screen door and get it open (we never latched it until today). With temperatures in the 70's, we have been leaving our kitchen door open, letting the screen door swing back - never thinking anything of it. So yesterday, a bicyclist stopped in the middle of the road and yelled for Sam, who was playing with the dogs across the street. He had seen this rather large turtle in the middle of the road and did not want it to get hit, so he stopped right in front of it and guarded it against possible cars. He was afraid to pick it up, not knowing what kind of turtle it was and I can't blame him, with a large pond visible from the road, it may have been a snapping turtle. Sam met the turtle rescuer, thanked him and picked up the turtle, explaining that he was our pet...ugh, what kind of pet do you have running loose in your house?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fishing for Bluegills in March

Tina and Lars went to visit Zach, Rachel, Toben and Fiona in Ohio over the weekend, Sammy had to work and Jeff spent most of his time pointing rocks in the barn.  When it was time to take a break, Jeff could not resist the warm weather and figured he'd try to maybe catch a bass, thinking it would be way too cold yet for bluegills to be active.  But on Sunday afternoon he got lucky, and - to use his words - all of a sudden the pond was just bubbling with bluegills that had come toward the surface.  Yes, he caught some, cleaned them and we'll have fish for dinner on Monday :)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Using SketchUp

Finally had a "hands-on" lesson on using Google SketchUp from Zach - it was a lot easier having someone who knew all the tools and icons to explain how to use it, especially for someone who never used any sort of CAD program before.  We made a rough sketch of the barn, including some of the outside elevations.  Missing a lot of windows and doors yet, and the dimensions still need to be updated with exact measurements - but what a useful tool! Can't wait to "play" with this some more and start working on laying out the inside of the barn.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Plastic Mulch for the Vegetable Garden

We rented a plastic mulch layer attachment this morning and bought a roll of plastic mulch.  In less than 2 hours, Jeff had 10 rows made...and this was the first time we ever used an attachment like this.  We still had drip irrigation line left from last year and this attachment made raised bed, laid down the irrigation line, covered everything with plastic mulch and scooped up some dirt around the edges to make sure the plastic cover is secure.  We also bought a tool to make holes in the plastic to drop seeds -  thinking of squash, pumpkins and cucumbers.  Mostly though we are planning to use these mulched beds for plants:  tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, onions and melons.  It should hold back a lot of weeds and reduce water usage from the irrigation. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Deer Repellent for Fruit Trees and Grapes

Bought 3 yards of netting today (the kind you would make little girl's ballerina skirts out of) - in a drab brown color.  It was 50% off, so I think the cost was 75 cents a yard.  I doubled up the fabric and started sewing strips together, just wide enough for the bars of soap we have been collecting. Most of the soap came from Zach, who travels the most :)   I cut each 3 yard strip into 6 pieces and then inserted the soap. This made a total of 48 "bags" for the soap.   Tomorrow, I will tie one bag on each fruit tree, and space them out along the grape trellises.  Not sure how many more I need, but I think this might work.

Early Spring Weather

Not only did we have a relatively mild winter, but also an unseasonably warm February and early March.  Last Thursday, the temperature crept up to 68 degree F and for next week, the forecast predicts temperature in the upper 70's....this is definitely causing concern for fruit crops, fruit trees as well as blackberries.  Warm weather will cause some trees and brambles to bloom early, making them susceptible to frost damage - and we still have 2 weeks of winter left!  According to the National weather service, temperatures have been running nearly 6 degrees above average in February, and more than 4 degrees above average already in March.  But - the warm weather is great for getting a head start in cleaning up flower beds, and even painting fences.  Today we planted two more fruit trees -  Stanley Plums, there were a Christmas present which arrived via courier on Friday.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ute's German Apple Cake

Ingredients for the Crust:
· 1/2 cup of sugar
· 1 stick + 6 tablespoons of butter
· 2 cups flour
· 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
· 1 teaspoon vanilla
· 1 egg

Ingredients for the Filling:
· Approximately 6 large apples
· 2 tablespoons butter
· 2 tablespoons sugar (depends how tart the apples are)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mix sugar and butter, until smooth
3. Add vanilla and egg and blend well
4. Mix flour and baking powder and add to mixture, blending well.
5. Take 2/3 of the dough and press it into a greased 9 inch springform pan, forming a 1 inch rim
6. Peel and finely slice apples and pour into prepared crust (just like a pie)
7. Dot apples with small pieces of butter and spring a little sugar on top
8. Roll out remaining dough on a well floured surface and cover the apples - this does not have to look pretty,
9. Dot with some more small pieces of butter and a little sugar
10. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour

 Ideally, this is served with fresh whipping cream!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Babyshower Weekend...and more pruning

We celebrated Anja's babyshower over the weekend with lots of family and friends. It was a perfect day, sunny and breezy and everyone enjoyed walking around outside.  We also managed to plant 2 flats of pansies before the "party", and trimmed more brambles as well as our roses and fruit trees.