Still learning after two years

Almost two years ago, we bought the farm. It seems like ages since we first arrived. The pond builder has done a lot of work clearing woods, weeds and building fun stuff. I have been playing with fruit and vegetable gardening with a mixture of success and failure. There’s always ‘next year.’ Just a few photographs today of life on the farm.

The pond build is moving forward, slowly. This week we should find out if we have to shave off a few inches because we don’t have enough undamaged PVC pieces. We don’t really want to wait until August for production and the cost to get a few more pieces is astronomical. It’s very hot work for our contractor and since the inner pieces are black, they are covered with some shade cloth to keep from warping. We still have several concrete pours – waterproof concrete for the walls, the floor of the equipment house, the partial walls of the equipment house and we’re adding a concrete pad behind the barn.
I have some koi coming home next weekend. The gin asagi (left) and Isa showa (center) have been swimming in a friend’s pond for a year now. The Torazo kohaku (right) will be transported by the same friend from the dealer to his home. We’re hoping for some girls but the gin asagi has been named Romero for his pond antics. I also have a koi waiting for shipment with Bristol Koi in Florida. She (yes we know this one is a female) will come home in July too.
We started building Larry’s Treehouse. The pond builder thought an elevated platform in the middle of the back pasture might be nice. Our friend, Larry would like to use it for a little hunting and photography. We are hoping that Larry will come out with his night scope to get rid of some of our coyotes. The treehouse will be 8 feet high and is about 12 feet x 7 feet. I’m sure our grandchildren will have fun playing in the treehouse.
Meanwhile, coyote trapping with a coyote cage is pretty much unsuccessful. We tried this last year and caught a skunk. We dragged it out again and baited it with a groundhog. No takers, not even the buzzards…
Hay harvest is getting better. Our recent cut yielded 48 large bales, an improvement of 10 bales over the last cut. With some more care of the fields, fertilizing, weed control and overseeing, our hay cuts should yield 70-75 bales of hay each cut.
Food gardens are a variety of hits and misses. I do love the food picked hours before serving.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, bush beans, lettuce and herbs have been doing well. My zuchinnni has been slow in the enclosed garden, better in the hugelkultur bed.
The hugelkultur beds were not very successful. We think we needed more soil and soft compost material for the plants — and they need to be somewhere where they can be easily watered. At the beginning of spring, the plants were doing very well. I planted primarily gourds in the hugelkultur beds and they are not doing well at all. I have transplanted some of the plants but they don’t seem to like being transplanted either. Taller beds also seem to do better.
Fruit trees have definitely been a failure. The deer have found most (practically all) of the fruit. I have a few pieces of fruit but not sure if they will make it. Next year I will try to net the trees to discourage the free buffet. The trees are also slow growers. Maybe next year I’ll have more success.
This is an example of a fruit thief that also nibbled off branches of this plum tree.
The Cinderella pumpkin plant was minding its own business and looking good. A lovely little pumpkin was starting up and one day I see the pumpkin has been nibbled off the vine. Between insects and anything else that has been taking a chew on this pumpkin, it’s a goner. The plant has also taken a hit.
The Catawba grapes and many other plants on the property have been a free for all for the japanese beetles. They are chewing up my beans and have turned the grape leaves into lace.
We’re working on planting grass behind the house because it does good job trying to crowd out the weeds. We still have a lot of weeds but every blade counts. My bamboo grove is definitely not wildly out of control. I thought I would have seen more new culms but only the two smallest plants seem to show significant growth.
The azalea/japanese maple garden is doing fine so far. It enjoys a scheduled watering every morning and I need to figure out how to do that with more garden areas. It needs some more mulch spread out and I’m thinking about relocating some of the old half bricks that are strewn around the pond site.
The tea plant garden is kind of iffy and is always in need of weeding. Not seeing as much robust growth as my flowering camellia plants.
And finally a new addition to the season’s hopefuls – potatoes. I’m planting some japanese purple sweet potatoes (the plants) and some multi-colored sweet potatoes from slips. My friend Walt has been doing a really great job with potatoes and squash/gourd like plants in blazing hot Texas. I’m inspired to give these potatoes a try!
Next week is the start of the Wild Turkey Summer Observation Survey. From July 1 – August 31, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission runs the turkey survey to determine harvest losses and if the turkey season dates should remain in effect. It’s pretty easy to count the turkeys criss-crossing across the fields almost every day.

Staying busy on the farm is pretty easy. Hoping that each year I learn how to do something better the next year!