Winter fast is over. The garage pool is warming up and we’ve started feeding the koi again. The last few weeks we have had more winter weather than I remember from the first winter on the farm. A few ice storms and a little bit of snow. I really shouldn’t complain about the weather because in Little Siberia it was below 0° often. With the chillier temperatures, the garage pool cooled down to 47°. The algae on the pool walls dies off and/or are consumed by the koi. The koi are not fed once the water is at 50°. We don’t have a garage heater like we did in Little Siberia but I noticed that if we left the garage office heater on, the ambient temperature of the garage went up and the pool warmed up to 49°. Throw in a few days in the low 50s and the pool is now registering 53/54°. Along with the warmer temperature, their appetites have returned and we are starting to feed again. The green algae is making a comeback too.
The camellias in the greenhouse are blooming. I probably need to do some reading about pruning the camellias. There’s something about pruning the tea plants to promote branching and the flowering plants to promote flower buds. No long whippy growths wanted. They do seem to drink a great deal of water in the greenhouse. Someone asked me if they have a fragrance … some do, but mine don’t. There is a famous camellia nursery in Southern California called Nuccio’s that has some fragrant camellias but this is relatively new.
Building hügelkultur garden beds. We’re always looking for new ways to grow vegetables. I saw this on a Homestead Rescue episode and the pond builder saw a Youtube clip. It’s pretty simple to do. You create a mound with large pieces of wood, layer on some twigs/leaves/straw, layer on some manure and then top it off with some dirt. The whole mound starts to compost in place, releases nutrients gradually and holds a lot of moisture. We have plenty of downed pine in our woods that are perfect for these beds. I’m not really sure if I did it right but I’m sure they will be fine for my assorted pumpkins, gourds and winter squash that I plan on growing. The hay guy told me that it will be a race to harvest before the deer get to them. I’m going to plant some lavender around the beds because the deer tend to avoid fragrant plants. We’re going to make several hügelkultur beds around the farm to experiment with different plants.
Sourcing wood for our many projects is never a problem. This half way down pine tree has been an eyesore on the north side of our property. Pond builder decided to take it all the way down and do some rough cut boards. Someday we should set up a real sawmill instead of the portable Alaska sawmill. The area behind our barn is starting to take on a wood junkyard look.
Whenever we have an ice event, we find more downed trees to add to our clean up list. Two weeks ago, these trees fell over the paths we use to walk through our woods. We will be cutting them at least to the ground for now. When you walk by these trees it’s a rather unsettling noise of creaking wood. Trying to clear the woods of downed trees seems like a five year task right now.
Main vegetable garden – year 2. I have started reorganizing the vegetable garden. I have been moving the raised beds, adding fertilizer and more soil, designating a hügelkultur area and planning to transplant some blackberries into this half of the garden. Last year I had about 15 berries and the wild turkeys had the rest. Since this structure is totally netted, I will only have to fight some of the little birds that occasionally come into the garden. We are adding some more raised beds in the half behind the camera that will support the zucchini plants and bush beans. I’m hoping to do better this year since I found out that some of my plants need a shade cloth (or planted somewhere else) and I can overlap some crops to get the most use out of the beds. We should be getting a lot more vegetables out of the garden and have more potted versions to place in our greenhouse this winter.
Finally getting around to planting the Chinese timber bamboo. The two clumps are about 12′ tall. I had them under the barn overhang but every day I would find them blown down to the ground. After listening to me complain, the pond builder planted them today. My hopes for this bamboo is that it will spread in the direction of the arrow and eventually meet the arborvitae line. We’ll be eliminating the small junk trees behind and watching for any Bradford pear trees that try to come back. It will also be nice to see some green at the fork in the road since there are no large pines or cedars in this area.
Little signs of spring are everywhere. I’m very excited to see all my dogwood trees bloom this year. Many have been hidden by privets and vines, which we removed this summer. I can see hundreds of buds on the branches waiting for late March or April. It’s wonderful to see the daffodils and crocuses blooming – and being able to work outside on days that reach into 60s! We still get the usual 40s but I really do believe that winter is on its way out.