Sunday, June 27, 2010

His End of the Bargain

Papa the Farmer and I have a deal.  He agrees to not turn my pretty yard into an eyesore and I agree to stay married to him.  =)  Frankly, it looks to me like he’s not holding up his end of the bargain…  (Well, I’ll stay married to him anyway!)
I already told you what I’ve been doing for the past month in this post, but there’s been a lot going on outside in the gardens too!  I can’t take credit for any of it.  It’s been mostly Papa the Farmer and his little Farmhands out there doing the work… and they’ve sure been busy!
First, they got the plants in.  I think these are tomato plants:
101-0173_IMGWe could spend our whole lives fighting off weeds.  In fact, I did the math.  One little weed contains thousands of seeds.  And each seed holds the possibility to grow a plant which has thousands more seeds.  I don’t need to be a mathematician to know that I don’t want to fight that battle!  So, we put down 15-year weed block:
I think that’s pretty neat stuff.  You just cut a hole where you want the plant and then the weeds don’t grow in the rest of the garden.    (And yes, those are old logs and boards that he is using to hold the week block in place.)  But Papa the Farmer was still concerned about the aisles between the rows so he decided to prevent weeds from growing there and he used:
recycled carpet!  This is where I start losing my enthusiasm!  I love being “green” and saving the environment, but not when it’s ugly and it’s in my yard!  Papa the Farmer was thrilled with it… “It is soft and practical for working on,” he said.  I’m am not-thrilled.  It is ugly.  Just look at that picture.  There’s no denying it.
If you think it can’t get uglier than that… oh, but it can!  The tomatoes need supports so that the plants grow tall and strong.  We used some tomato cages, but we didn’t have enough so Papa the Farmer and his helper-friend (who doesn’t live here by the way, and is not really concerned with how any of this looks!) came up with this plan:
102-0218_IMGDoesn’t that look just like a totem pole?  I think he should carve our faces in it!  He has more of these posts on the other end of the garden and a wire that connects each end.  It’s not finished yet.  He’s outside working on it as I type.  The finished product is really a bit of a mystery.  I will have to keep you posted…  Oh, and in case you thought it couldn’t get uglier than that… It can!  Take a look at this:
102-0217_IMGI just don’t know what to say about that!  (There’s another one at the other end of the garden that matches this one!)
He’s also been busy outside putting in an irrigation system.  We were watering by hand while we were waiting for the parts to be delivered and that was taking forever!  The irrigation system has made that a lot easier!
102-0219_IMGYou just turn on the hose and water runs through the main black line, which runs the length of the garden.  Then a bit of water comes out of those skinny secondary lines and through that little plastic piece.  That plastic piece is the drip emitter and it controls how much water the plants get.  You can set different plants up to receive a different amount of water… a gallon an hour, half a gallon an hour… whatever that particular plant needs.  It even comes with a moisture sensor so that you know how much moisture is in the soil:
102-0216_IMG Progress!
We’ve been having some problems with the animal kingdom.  I already told you about the beetle bugs in this post.  Now, these guys have attacked the pepper plants:
cropped grasshopper Grasshoppers!  They eat all the leaves off the pepper plants and then the plants die because they can’t absorb sunlight without leaves.  So grasshoppers are in my “bad bug” book.  We are trying to think of a natural way to eliminate grasshoppers and the only chemical-free alternative we’ve come up with is to introduce the grasshopper’s natural predator!  Chickens!  Papa the Farmer grew up with chickens, but I did not.  I don’t want chickens in my yard.  They are nasty-dirty looking birds if you ask me.  I’ve been known to call them “Walking Vessels of Bacteria.”  So, I could hardly believe the words I heard coming out of my mouth when I suggested chickens to my husband.  We’re talking about building a “moat” in chicken wire around the garden and letting the chickens run freely in the moat.  Then grasshoppers would have to cross the chicken area to get to the vegetables and hopefully they wouldn’t make it to the pepper plants.  We haven’t  done anything about it yet and it kind of seems like an extreme solution, but we don’t have any better ideas.  If you think of something, please let us know!  When Papa the Farmer came up with this crazy farming idea, I agreed to vegetables… not to chickens!
Oh and one other nasty thing going on around here.  One day the neighbor was at the fence talking to Papa the Farmer when one of the little farmhands came running into the kitchen.  I asked him what the neighbor was showing them and the little farmhand said, “Little snake, no head!  Little snake, no head!” 
101-0182_IMG If there was a word that was a cross between “Ugh” “Ick” and “Bleah” I would insert it right here.  This was technically at the neighbor’s house.  I take comfort in the fact that it was on his side of the fence.  We haven’t actually seen any live snakes on our property this year, but we did find one that had died of natural causes, so they must be around.
But look at this… It’s all worth it!  Isn’t this a lovely first harvest: 
102-0210_IMGThose are peaches and plums from our trees!  They were so sweet and delicious!  Mmmmm Yum!

What Happened to the Blog?

Remember a couple of posts back I wrote that my brother-in-law’s response to our new lifestyle was, “Cool!  A Blogging Farmer.  Now I’ve seen everything.”  Well, I’m starting to understand why farmers don’t blog… 

We have been crazy-busy around here over the past month.  The last week of May was spent at doctor, dentist and chiropractor offices.  Everyone was getting one last check up before our health coverage changed.  So now we are all healthy, in good alignment and have sparkly-clean teeth!  I have spent June getting our school curriculum together.  We home-educate the little farmhands and I am really excited about some of the curriculum we’ll be using this year!  There is so much good stuff out there!  Our new lifestyle fits in perfectly with home-education… It is said that the Bible and Nature are God’s two textbooks… Well, there’s plenty of both around here!

Our rosebushes looked beautiful during May and June!  I went out every morning and evening to collect fallen rose petals.  I’ve been making rose water with them.  Rosewater is known for having skin-softening effects, so I’ve been putting it in my soap!  It turns the soap a bit brown, but it is lovely nonetheless.  I tried creating a steam distiller, but I had a lot of roses and distilling it takes a long time so I finally settled on the “crock pot” method as my method of choice.  Here’s how I do it:

First I put the rose petals in the crock pot:

Then I weigh the petals down with a small mixing bowl: 101-0165_IMGIf I don’t weigh the petals down with a bowl, the petals float to the top when I add water.  Here you can see a couple of petals have escaped and are floating at the top: 
101-0166_IMGFinally, I add water, cover it, turn the crock pot on and just let it steep like a tea.  As the petals soak, the color actually leaves the petals and goes into the water.  When the petals are white, I strain the petals off and Ta-Da!  I have rosewater to use in soap!  In this picture, the rosewater soap is on the top shelf:
102-0215_IMG From left to right this is:  Rosewater & Glycerin Soap, Lavender-Oat Rosewater Soap and Lavender Rose Soap.  The soap on the far right is Soothing Oatmeal soap.  No Rosewater in that one!  See the difference the rosewater makes in color?  The Soothing Oatmeal soap has exactly the same ingredients as the Lavender-Oatmeal Rosewater soap, except for lavender essential oil and rosewater.  There is quite a difference in color!
While I’m on the subject, I haven’t really had a place to put the soap I make, but I was at Goodwill a couple of weeks ago and found this great shelf! 

In a previous life, this shelf was used to display protein bars.  You can’t tell in the picture, but there is a faint outline of the words “Carb Balance” across the top!  But it looks to me like this shelf was made to hold soap in my kitchen!

Here’s a closer peek at what’s on that shelf:  You already saw the top shelf.  That’s the shelf with all the rosewater soap on it.  Here’s the second shelf:

102-0214_IMGI need to get nice boxes for the soap… That will come later.  For now, I just wrapped the soap in brown craft paper, put a pretty heart stamp on it and wrote in the name of the soap by hand.  From left to right, this is: 
(back row):   Clove Spice Soap, Rosemary Garden Soap (made with Rosemary from our Gardens), Soothing Oatmeal Soap, Tomato Basil Soap, Spicy Sage Soap, Lemon Nutmeg Soap (my personal favorite!), Lemon Sunshine Soap,  Dilly Cucumber Soap, Garden Mint Soap, and Cornmeal Scrubbing Soap
(front left): Soapballs (a mixture of several types of soap), Carrot Soap, Orange Almond Soap
(front right):  Flower Garden soap (made with a mixture of dried flower petals)

Actually, between people buying soap and giving it away as gifts, all the soap on that particular shelf is already gone!
Here’s what I’m currently working on:
102-0213_IMGThe top shelf is more Garden Mint soap and a couple of soapballs drying.  (I love those soapballs!  They are so fun and homey to have in the bathroom!  They’re really great for washing babies off and I do a lot of baby-washing!)  The lower shelf is Lemon Sunshine Soap in the mold, waiting to be cut.
In my next post I will show you what Papa the Farmer has been doing out in the gardens.  Stay tuned!