Growing things


Despite the protracted radio silence, things are still growing at the Gravel Creek Homestead. In fact, they are growing better than ever before. Let me take you on a tour of what we have going right now. Where to start?

2016beezSMHow about bees! The beekeeping season is well under way, and the little guys are doing their best to flourish and bring in honey. I’m currently at 13 hives, which is about 5 more than I had after the latest natural disaster. I’ve been able to split the two strong survivors from the winter, I bought some bees, and have been going on swarm calls. But my favorite addition is the giant cloud of bees that descended on the apiary as I was working, and over the course of about half an hour moved into one of the empty hives right before my very eyes. I feel both excited about more bees, as well as strangely honored that they think I would be a good landlord.

2016goatsSMLet’s stick with the topic of animals for a bit longer. We’re not too into animals on our homestead/ farm, maybe because they are pretty attention-intensive. I’m a bit too distracted for that, and Emily is a bit too officebound. We do, however, find ways to include animals in our rotation. Here we see the neighbor’s four new goatlings (new kids on the block?) as I was replacing the clutch on the tractor. They were “helping” by standing on my toolbox, i guess so it wouldn’t float away or something. They are going to live on our place part time this summer, to get them away from the Billy, and to munch down our ever plentiful blackberries. Yes, dad, that’s the same toolbox you bought me when I moved off to college. Still works great… both for storing tools, and for holding up goats.

2016MrDeerSMBesides goats, we also see a lot of deer on our property. They are almost as tame as the goats, too. This buck is new, until lately it’s been mostly does that come around. Apparently a 2-point like this guy is called a “forkedhorn” in local slang (click to enlarge). If he is still around in the fall, I will invite him to dinner. But for now, it’s nice to see him, as he is very peaceful, and I need more of that. So long as he stays out of the garden.

Moving from fauna to flora…

potatoes2016_smLast year, we did a pretty halfass job with the garden. We were both totally exhausted from getting the house occupy-able, and  we basically just tilled a patch and threw some old seeds from the bottom of the pantry onto the ground. The results were pretty lame. This year, however, we have a little more time and a much better emotional outlook. Emily decided to buy a dumptruck load of compost, to really get the soil conditioned, and I forked the beds full depth with the broadfork after hitting them with the rotoplow. End result: total garden awesomeness.

2016peasSMAbove, we see Emily planting the potatoes for the year. We are trialing about 7 different kinds: salad potatoes, bakers, fingerlings, short season, purples… all of them yummy. They seem pretty happy, because they are already waist high. You can see them here, to the left of Emily, and in front of her are the peas. Another secret of excellent garden health is that I take a 15 minute break mid-morning, to rest my eyes and look away from the computer screen, and i fill this time with weeding. The fresh air is good for me, and the weeding is good for the sprouts.

2016cornSMI had to plant some corn again. It never does very well here, but this is a shorter-season variety of popcorn that we had moderate luck with once before. I just can’t help it. I’m encouraged, though, because it’s already knee-high and i still have three weeks to go before the 4th of July. In front of the corn, we have celery (a new one for us) and it seems to be doing really well, and in front of that, rainbow chard.

2016berriesSMI went to a tree grafting seminar a few months ago and learned how to graft fruit trees. While I was there, I perused the nursery and came home with about 75 strawberry plants. You can never have too many of those! Today I saw the first red ones, so I expect we’ll be eating those dandies pretty soon. And the variety we got, Albion, is everbearing.  Two years ago, we were getting Albions all the way through September! Sam across the street has been making goat cheese and sharing it with us, so we’re going to invite him over for strawberry-feta-honey crepes, a house specialty that has heralded summer for us for half a decade now.

2016deckwreckSMI suppose this wouldn’t seem like a real post if I didn’t mention something about the house remodel. We’re still not quite done, but got a lot closer last weekend.  The WorkParty descended upon us once again, and this time demolished and hauled away the rotting deck. It was getting so dangerous that were were too scared to walk on it anymore, but more importantly, it being there was preventing Emily from being able to visualize what the replacement should be. Now that the deck is gone, she says, she realizes how ghetto our house looked while it was there. Hopefully we will have the design for the new one figured out in time to get it built before my parents come again, so they can sit on it and enjoy the garden and forest views.

OK, it’s getting really late, I should post this. I have more to say, though, so stay tuned.

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