Tuesday, March 20, 2012

PR here we come!

We are signing off for two weeks to go on our Honeymoon! We will be spending the time in Puerto Rico and some of our plans are taking us to a homestead up in the mountains of San Lorenzo! We will be back with lots of pictures, fresh inspiration, and probably some new ideas for our place.  Have a nice couple weeks! We will!

In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves in the comment section.  Paula, have you met the Eager Gridless Beavers?  Who's homestead is better?  Springtime gardening, DeKalb Chickens, Doulaing, discuss......

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Our final inspection for the shop was today and...... we nailed it!  

To celebrate our first officially sanctioned structure, we've made a video chronicling the inception and execution of our happy little building!


Saturday, March 10, 2012

The best laid plans....

Not to say we have good plans. In fact, I have been thinking about making a whole section titled The Hall of Poor Ideas.  I will say that one of our strengths, together and separately, is the ability to roll with it. To make lemonade, if you will.

Two days ago we were presented with an opportunity wearing the disguise of a setback.  Some of you may remember this post from September 2010 when we put a water hydrant in the yard. This has served as our only water since that day and has served us well. That is, until several days ago when the entire she-bang broke in Johns hand. We have been putting pressure on a plastic joint underground and we failed to give the hydrant a support and so the plastic snapped and the hydrant pulled out of the ground and the area flooded.  Yep. The Hall of Poor Ideas. Maybe a better title is the Collection of we-had-no-idea-what-we-we-doing. Whatever it is called, that first water hydrant belongs there.

After some consideration and dirt kicking we decided to take this golden opportunity to not only fix our mistakes but to also move the water hydrant. We intended to bring water to the greenhouse eventually so now was the perfect time. While we were at it, we added a second hydrant close to the orchard and a main line headed towards the house foundation. We were not planning to do this anytime soon but....  Lemonade.

This is our new main water line side by side with the amazing conglomeration that was our first try.

I actually had a lady tell me that she might put this in her yard as sculpture but she surely would not use if for a water line.  Awesome.  Now we have a brand new metal piece system that I am sure will hold up to the amount of pressure coming at it.

We did have some trouble this time around getting the parts to be drip free and when I went to the hardware store to get a new part I learned that metal parts and plastic parts don't really like each other very much. The threads don't line up well and the plastic is easy to strip going into the metal. I bought a metal nipple heading into the connector and, voila, no more drips.  This basic knowledge would have saved us about 3 hours of drip trouble-shooting.

Here are the steps taking the water to the greenhouse.

Our lovely neighbor, Dane, has a tractor with a backhoe and he is always willing to help us out at very little cost. John and I often joke that the advertisement for our land should have included " neighbor has back-hoe".  This project would have taken us a week of digging but the entire adventure lasted only two days.  God love Dane.

Finally, here is our new hydrant near the orchard. You can see we cut the bottom out of a 5 gallon bucket and submerged it with the hydrant and a 4 x4 treated post. The bucket is filled with gravel to create it's own little infiltration pit. The post will keep the hydrant from rocking and putting pressure on the plastic connector deep in the ground ( meaning, hopefully, we should not have to do this again).

We have also been rocking on our list of things to do and knocking them out.  John is dying to tell you all about the shop infiltration pit and I can not wait to show you our completed list. It will all get done before our honeymoon to Puerto Rico! We leave in ten days! AHH!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pruning, spacing, and weighting....

John wrote in a recent post about our trip to a local nursery for a fruit tree pruning class and I would like to share with you all some of the specifics about what we learned.  The first lesson was that there is no set prescription. This really makes the whole process seem much scarier somehow but this week I dove in and pruned, spaced , and weighted.  Now I am waiting.  The best thing we heard is that you can't really go too wrong. Trees thrive by being pruned and pushed and unless you whack it down to the ground, the tree is going to be fine.

By far the most interesting thing we learned about was weighting and spacing. Ideally you are creating a tree with branches that point in all directions and go out at a 60 degree angle. So you want to weight the branches that are trying to grow straight up and space the branches that are too close together. I had no idea about this.  I had heard of pruning, but the idea of trying to move the branches was completely foreign.

First, the reasons to prune are simple.

  •  to increase fruit production. You want to encourage the tree to give you the best fruit, at a height you can reach from the ground, and with each limb growing strong enough to hold the fruit and not shade the limbs around it.  
  • to promote healthy growth at the best times.  If you are looking to encourage the growth of the tree then you want to prune in the winter when the tree is dormant. In this way you give the tree room to send out more branches and spurs as they start to get more energy in the spring. If you have an older tree and are trying to tame it then you would want to prune and thin in late summer. Then the tree uses its stored energy to thicken existing branches. 
  • to allow maximum airflow around the fruit and limbs.  Airflow aids against disease, mildew , and insects. 
We also learned about the different types of trees and what their needs are based on how they produce fruit. Apples and pears produce fruit from spurs that dot the branches. Plums and peaches will only produce fruit on last years branches and cherries are their own crazy story.

With apples and pears you want to prune the branches so that each branch has a fair amount of spurs evenly spaced and pointing at all different directions. If you keep all of the spurs then all of the fruit will be small and not very juicy. But by choosing the eliminate a good amount of the spurs you encourage the remaining spurs to put out large juicy fruit and by making sure they aren't all facing the same way you are giving the fruit room to grow.

I will confess to understanding less about where and how to prune the plum and peach given that ours are still too young to see what would be considered "last years growth". I do feel confident about the cherries though. They HATE being pruned. The wounds do not heal well and it makes them prone to disease. With cherries you should weight them to encourage the branches to bend over.  The reasons are three-fold.  You will eventually have cherries that you can reach, you can bend them away from each other thereby increasing airflow, and having them bend makes throwing a bird net over the whole tree easier. I am sure many of our readers know the sorrow of watching birds get your prize cherries just days before they are ripe.

So I set about to prune and space the apple, pears, plum, and peach and weight the cherries. Here is how I did.

 I made weights with zip lock bags and sand. Here is one of the cherries, all bent over with sandbags. You should only need to leave these things in place for a few months. After that the tree will stay where you pushed it.

I made simple spacers by notching a scrap 1x2.  This is the plum. I am trying to create one main "king" branch and push all the others to go out at a 60 degree angle.

This is the cutest spacer in the world. Once the branch gets stronger and stays in this spot, I will keep increasing the size to attempt to get a nice big gap between these two branches.

This is what happens when you go too far. Boo.

This is how you fix it.  The black electrical tape will keep disease at bay and let the branch heal. The color is important. The black color holds the heat and helps the tree. Supposedly, when this heals, it will be the strongest joint on the tree.

The final work on the pear tree. It has a spacer pushing a branch away from the other and a weight pulling it down. ( and the sad tape)

With any luck we will have set up our trees to grow this summer with gusto. May they all grow the right direction and set deep roots!