Spring Projects on the Farm

It really is spring time in North Carolina – complete with a heavy dusting of pollen. Flew home and the first thing I did was to stop at the local koi club’s spring fling. Felicia S. hosted a great event that included USA Koi and a Maryland seafood food truck. It was really nice to hang around, look at koi and talk koi. We just joined the local club and looking forward to meeting other members over the next few years.

Steve Z. (AKJA candidate judge) and hostess, Felecia S. – lovely home and backyard koi pond.
Me (AKJA candidate judge), Steve Z. (AKJA candidate judge), Jason G. (AKJA certified judge and ZNA judge), Norm S. (Cape Fear Koi)

Driving on to our property, my nose was assaulted with the smell of fresh fertilizer. 😩 The fertilizer should have gone down a few weeks earlier but the rain and wet ground did not allow for the equipment to come in. I was hoping for a good rain right away to get rid of the smell but we have only had a few sprinkles. You do get used to the smell and I guess it’s part of the farm experience.

The front pasture got a broadleaf weed treatment this week and the back pasture should be treated in a few days. I’ll be covering the young fruit trees and maybe the garden as well. It’s very windy on the farm. (Much windier than I remember the summer and fall.) Drifting weed killer would not be good for the young plants. The fields should look nicer in a few days which is a happy thought.

There’s a lot more wildlife to see and control now. Every few days I am making the rounds looking for a wasp trying to build a nest. I’m sure I will not get every nest but I am determined to get rid of as many as possible. The pond builder had some bad reactions to some stings last summer so I’m hoping less wasps, less chance of heading to Urgent Care. The carpenter bees by the barn are a little aggressive. I feel they are planning to dive bomb me whenever I’m checking on my vegetable garden.

Birds are cute except when they are pooping everywhere. A few phoebe nests have been struck down by me because they really are in an annoying spot (for me). I really should just leave them since they might be wasp eaters. However we have plenty of places to create a nest. Rounding out the pests are assorted flying things, skinks, lizards, frogs, toads, turkeys, hawks and more. I saw a woodchuck the other day. Cute but destructive little mammal. We’ll have to watch for any signs that a woodchuck is digging close to the house.

The vegetable garden project has not been as smooth or easy but it’s getting there. We had some unusually cold weather and frost that damaged a lot of plants, including some of my young plants. My cucumbers and beans were wiped out. Before I left for Little Siberia, I placed some new seeds into the ground. I’ve decided that growing vegetables outdoors from seed is a better option than starting my own plants under the grow lights. I will need to do a better job of starting plants earlier and a better hardening process next year. Garden center plants are good too. We have already enjoyed some radishes from the garden and anticipating healthy eating this summer. Pickling and shabu shabu will be the mainstays.

In addition to veggies, I’ll be able to enjoy blackberries and grapes this year (assuming that I can harvest before birds and deer eat them). I have some trial patches in front of the barn this year and will create more permanent areas next year. Testing out some Catawba grapes that are good for snacking, jams and wine. Lots of wild muscadine grapes in the forests so crossing my fingers the deer will ignore the test vines. None of my fruit trees will be bearing fruit this year – maybe next year. My fig trees were hit by frost and not sure if the pomegranate tree will make it. I ordered an olive tree to see if it will grow on the farm. It should be hardy for this region.

We continue to take down Bradford pear trees, trim the undergrowth, spray the poison ivy, weed around the house —— it really never ends. This trip we tackled the area near our driveway that was overgrown with privet and vines. The privet plant is a great screening shrub but it will quickly grow out of control and is invasive. The vines were doing their best to strangle a dogwood, cedars and black walnuts. We started before everything was totally leafed out but it’s been a lot of work.

The pond builder is cutting back a large black walnut that had been killed with vines. He was able to cut it down so that it fell on the privets and not on the garage. Tree felling skills have improved exponentially on the farm. I’m still practicing on smaller trees, with mixed results. My new favorite tool is a small 8” Stihl hand chainsaw. I have a repetitive movement shoulder injury from the plant clearing work so it allows me do work with minimal stress.

The area we are clearing is another old dumping area on the farm. As we clear the trees and vines we find old bottles, metal pieces and a lot of leather. It’s quite a mystery to see so many shoe/boot remains. This area might have been where they would fix or junk vehicle parts. We’re finding some headlamps and pieces that look like they come from a vehicle. We found a nice Double Cola bottle that could sell for about ten dollars on eBay. For now we just keep sorting through junk and one day we’ll do something with it. Much of it is being thrown out.

Old junk…probably wise to stay up to date on our tetanus booster…

To pull up the vines and a few stumps, the tractor comes in handy. Pond builder enjoys ripping up the ground. We’ll be at this for a few more weeks and have some ideas for the area. As soon as we have it fairly cleared we’ll have two trucks of mulch delivered. I am putting in a line of azaleas on the gravel road side under the trees that remain. We think it will be nice to add some outdoor living amenities, maybe an outdoor fireplace. The pile of bricks from the original farmhouse well might be reused for that. At the far end of the area, we’ll have our winter greenhouse.

I think we’re just easily amused and we really enjoy larger scale landscaping projects.