I cleaned out my garage “barn” this past weekend and discovered an unsettling amount of mouse droppings. With a puppy and poultry, poison’s not an option. So tonight I set four traps. Nailed them in too, after reading online horror stories of captured mice dragging the lightweight traps into hidden spaces, only to die and stink to high hell. Wish me luck.
June 30th, 2011 § 0
June 29th, 2011 § 0
Is not for the faint of heart.
It means I spend a half an hour each evening hunting under and over each leaf, smushing my prey with my bare hands.
There’s a perverse satisfaction to it. The most fun are the fat green tomato hornworms, stupid big bullies that quickly strip leaves but deposit a pelleted trail that makes them very easy to find. With every green gut squish I am fighting the good fight as I try to stay ahead of the bugs without pesticides. However, I know things could turn bad in a day, when the tipping point between manual control and inevitable reproduction is reached.
But for right now, things are looking pretty good. I had my first harvest this week: cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, Japanese eggplant, red Russian kale, and great boughs of basil that went straight into pesto. It’s officially summer in the kitchen.
June 21st, 2011 § 1
I recently discovered quite the blackberry thicket growing at the wood line. It’s funny—all last summer I searched the property for the berries I was sure had to be around and never found any. So I planted a bunch of berry bushes in the field and started my own patch. And then this year I stumble on the wild berries, which judging by the size of the patch must have been there all along. Joke’s on me.
In truth, though, they could have been easy to miss. They’re well-hidden in a mass of poison ivy, honeysuckle, and all matter of creeping, twining summer foliage. Wading in to collect the fruit feels like entering a murky pond. I gingerly place my feet, cringing when anything brushes my skin, anticipating the strike of a disturbed snake or a swarm of seed ticks.
The berries aren’t huge, and they’re seedy. But they’re tart/sweet and taste of wild vitamin C. I’ll be back every day while they last.
*This post is dedicated to the bear, with memories of a hot and dusty hedgerow and other small, red fruit.
June 20th, 2011 § 0
With the deer fencing hung, dig out perimeter of garden in preparation for small-critter protection:
Secure chicken wire to bottom of fencing, flaring it down into the trench about 10 inches to thwart digging pests. Secure bottom of deer fencing and chicken wire with landscape staples. I went through at least five, 75-count bags of staples on this project!
Next, line inside of garden with landscaping fabric to prevent hard-to-remove weeds from growing around fencing. Refill chicken-wire trench with dirt and secure landscaping fabric on the outside of garden to similarly thwart weeds:
Finally time for layout on May 15. Define walkways with landscaping fabric and stick in a few plants and seeds…
…before a hailstorm hits:
After the storm, keep planting…in the mud:
Tucker, go get the tractor…
…and help me mulch around the garden to make it look pretty!
And finally, kick back and wait for the plants to grow while enjoying a break from nearly three months of hard work!
June 19th, 2011 § 1
Let’s take a trip back in time, way back to winter—March 25! That’s when I started the project that was to consume much of the next three months. Without further ado, a high-speed photo tutorial on How to Make a (Critterproof) Garden from Scratch:
Find a nice piece of land, preferably fairly level, and stake out your corners. If you’re a redneck like me you’ll already have big dead patches of pasture from where your junk trailers had been parked for the past year:
Next, borrow the services of a family member with a pretty sweet new ride-on tiller!
Once the ground is broken up, add peat moss, sand, compost. Till that in.
Final garden: 20′ x 36′. Looking good!
Work stops to wait out the final snow of the year on March 27.
When not working on the garden, get acquainted with brand-new, eight-week old Bonafide Farmdog:
Next up: Deeproofing! Set posts and string tensioned wires to support 7′ deer fencing:
Puppy raising takes time away from the garden and in the meantime, spring has sprung! On April 23, begin hanging deer fencing, a slow process when done alone. This is heavy-duty polypropylene that should last a good number of years:
Stay tuned for the rest of the garden build, including all the essential critter-thwarting tricks!
June 18th, 2011 § 2
Thursday night I came home to a dead baby bluebird on the ground beneath the nest box. There were adult feathers about as well. The three remaining babies seemed okay.
Friday morning the remaining babies didn’t look good—and didn’t seem as vital as the night before.
When I checked the birds at lunch on Friday, two were dead and a third was weak. I removed it from the nest and it had some sort of larvae on it, which I later deduced could have been bluebird blowfly, a common parasite that often takes out the season’s second and third broods. If the chick would have been even a few days older I would have considered trying to raise it by hand, something I’ve done with pet birds and finches. But this little guy was too young. So I put him back in the nest and resigned myself to a funeral in the evening.
Last night I cleaned out the nest and put the babies in the woods for the foxes. It was a quick end, but that’s just the way it is.
June 17th, 2011 § 0
June 14th, 2011 § 0
June 14th, 2011 § 0
Was woken at 3:00 a.m. last night by a rodeo in my bedroom. Sadly it’s not what you think—there were no cowboys.
But there was one very proud kitty who laid her still-warm, bloodless kill at the foot of my bed and then pranced and purred around me as I praised her.
I really need to finish building my house and seal up all these open areas under the eaves and around the porches. That’d probably put an end to middle-of-the-night rodeos, but then again I know Kitty is loving her new job.
June 13th, 2011 § 1