Farm Life = Always Something to Do

Barn maintenance. The pond builder does not do barns. I suppose he could but we decided to hire someone for some much needed maintenance tasks. Not really sure how often a barn needs to painted but at 14 years old, this barn is looking tired. We’re going to have semi-solid stain applied and selected a color called “Barn Red”. 😂 Why are barns traditionally red? Early varnish usually contained some mixture of linseed oil, lime, or iron oxide, which over time would transform to a red hue. While barns can be any color now with modern coatings, many owners stick to a traditional red tone. The late 1700s barn will not be painted.

The base edge of our barn is starting to rot so we are having a trench dug around and a concrete gutter formed. This should keep the wood from soaking up moisture from the ground. We are not replacing any wood but a skirt of treated wood will be affixed along the base. The bonus is that the doors will be less likely to become dirt bound.

Our doors have slowly been warping even with the wood ‘X’ pieces. It makes it very difficult to open and close the doors. We have been adjusting latches but the corrections only last a few months. The contractor will be installing some turnbuckles and cables that should correct the warping. I looked online and some DIYers are skeptical if this works on a large scale. I will cross my fingers.

We are also having all the headers reinforced. The original barn headers were made of material not really rated for the existing doorways. New headers made of laminated veneer lumber (LVL) are being bolted into place. This wood will control warping, shrinking, and adds a lot of stability to the doorways. We should not have any sagging that will contribute to more door problems.

Trying to do better with the 50+ fruit, nut, and flowering trees. Over the weekend I sprayed our trees with a copper fungicide. I was excited to use a little tow around mechanical sprayer that pond builder purchased for me last year. I mixed up 20 gallons of copper fungicide and he asked if I really needed that much. I thought ‘why not’, but he was right. I barely used 3 or 4 gallons. Ended up spraying the back pasture with the excess. However, I do love how it works and the size of the trees require a sprayer rather than a hand held spray bottle.

Three nights of frost arrived this week. So the season for sensitive plants has come to an end. I really had hoped that I could squeeze out a few more squashes but all of the plants have been killed. I have cold weather crops that live under floating covers and they will be fine but this weekend I’ll be cleaning out the frost damaged plants. I can also continue on my upper garden rearranging project. It’s kind of like rearranging furniture except it’s with raised garden beds. I’m hoping to find an arrangement that is easy to water and works for the vegetables that I traditionally plant in the upper garden.

Japanese sweet potato crop. Describing it as a crop is probably a stretch but I successfully produced some Japanese sweet potatoes. I learned that they don’t need to be watered much, you should trim back the leaves to encourage root growth , and I need to be more careful when digging them out. I’m also going to devote a much larger area for them next year. Now that they are out of the ground, I’m supposed to place them in a warm, humid area for about three weeks. The skin will toughen up and the starches will turn into sugars. I really don’t have a spot that meets the criteria so I placed them on a warming mat. They look like they are curing fine.

Cutting back the front yard. I often wait to cut back the large ornamental grass clumps in the front of the house but the chickens are always scratching at the dying stems and making a mess. I am also trying to uncover more of the decorative stone that has been covered with soil over the years.

Bad chickens. Perhaps they are mad that I took out their favorite long grass clumps. They’re definitely not liking that the breezeway doors stay down in the cooler weather. They have learned the treats are stored just within the breezeway and like to come in and stare up at the containers. So now they’re just being annoying. They will peck on the doors, then they move on to find mulch and dirt areas to scratch. I will have to make cedar wood boxes around the pond maples because all the mulch is dug out within a day or two. I might just lay some cedar logs temporarily in the dirt bed to discourage the diggers.

The chickens have been molting the last few weeks. The internet claims that molting can last 8 to 12 weeks. We have feathers all over the place and some of the chickens look pitiful. Growing back feathers can be encouraged with a high protein diet but our hens prefer all the treats that the pond builder gives them. (They will run to him when they see him and are much more cooperative about returning to the coop with him at the end of the day.) I’ve had to institute a no treats rule in the hopes they will eat a little more of their regular feed. One hen’s comb has paled to a pink shade while she molts. It’s interesting that the lower order hens have much shorter combs. The real annoyance of molting hens is that egg production has gone way down. Collecting only two or three eggs a day is pretty normal right now.

Sourdough starter. I started some sourdough when I first moved to the farm and then gave up on it after a few months. Since I’m on the fermentation bandwagon, I have restarted making sourdough and it’s working out well. I always disliked throwing out half of the sourdough starter during the daily feed so found some recipes to use the discard. Waffles and biscuits are very good. Haven’t made any bread yet but am going to try the 6 quart dutch oven instead of the bread cloche.

The koi are staying warm. Even with the three nights of frosty temperatures, the pond water is registering 60 degrees. Our recently built cover needs a few more modifications which will make it easier to clean the skimmers and feed the koi. It’s harder to see the koi so I may need to make time to put the GoPro in the water occasionally to keep tabs on them.

While I’m not looking at my koi as often, I am seeing a lot of lovely koi on the internet. US koi dealers and koi hobbyists head to Japan in the fall for ikeage (pond harvest), koi shows, and koi buying. The yen may be weak but that doesn’t automatically translate into super deals. I have purchased a young female kohaku from Torazu and entered an odakan for an Omosako shiro utsuri. The odakan consists of a number of koi, some for bid, some with a fixed price. In my case, I had a dealer place a request for a koi and I’m sure there will be others who might want this koi as well. There is a drawing and if you win, pay up. If you don’t win, nothing lost. I should find out within the next 24 hours if I was lucky. I hope to return to Japan during this time frame in the next few years. Koi and changing colors in beautiful gardens sound lovely.

Meanwhile I’ll be checking off my farm to-do list.