Archived Posts from this Category
Archived Posts from this Category
[Jo] (Oh, these amazing New Mexico skies…)
It could have happened to any one of us–but Wink did it, Wink did It! While loading stuff into the barn loft, he inadvertently backed out of the barn, nearly taking down the barn door. It didn’t fall, but it bent pretty good. We mulled it over for a couple of weeks (with the barn wide open), and finally decided to call around for a repair estimate, thinking that replacing the door would cost a thousand or more. The estimate came in at $500, but for a variety of reasons, the contractors weren’t able to do the work. Aly grabbed a hammer (at this point what is there to lose?), and in a couple three hours over two days, we beat that door back into shape, got it back in the tracks (with Eric doing the dangerous stuff), and it’s going up and down just great. Sometimes you just need a success story…
We started working on the greenhouse–the scaffolding is up, holes drilled through the steel (thanks Colt), And the back posts are in. Yay!
We’ve been lucky in our friends–so many are so generous with their help. We couldn’t have gotten this far without them. Jim (below) is not only skilled with tools, he’s knowledgeable as well.
And family, always family–Aly & Israel, the girls, Eric. Gilly’s been coming every day to help (Bel is still here but school’s in and she’s teaching again). Gilly’s getting good on the sawmill, and has been ripping into the loft, unpacking boxes and carving out a sewing room. While Anna can’t contribute as much to the brawn pool, she tries to make sure we have a good dinner after the sweatin’s over, while still riding herd on the kids.
Wink has dispatched over a dozen squirrels, and Eric’s tried popping them with the air gun he got for his birthday, but it seems two more appear for every one that goes into the compost pile (we’re taking all the veggies back–one way or another). We planted a big bed of corn, squash, and beans, and there are NO beans, one half eaten squash, and maybe a dozen corn plants. They actually excavated and ate the seed after eating the emerging seedlings for a few days. Aaahhhhh!!!
But we’ve managed to snag a few meals from the beds that were heavily protected. So far we’ve picked a good bit of yellow squash (which the squirrels don’t seem to like), a few spaghetti squash, some cucumbers (disappointingly bitter–they don’t like these but neither do we), a handful of tomatos–mostly cherry, some potatoes, several meals worth of peas, some red onions. To come (and looking promising)–eggplant, cantaloupes, watermelon, snap beans, and five varieties of pumpkin.
I managed to bag some berries (literally covering each cluster with remay tied with twine), and we’ve sampled the Hull blackberries–delicious–if only there were more. I also covered the grape that set one tiny cluster of fruit, and am hoping to get a taste, if only to see if grapes are viable for us at this altitude.
We seeded some cold weather veggies. Looks like we’ll get a good bit of lettuce, radishes, spinach, and maybe even kale, and cabbage.
Yet more varmints!!! Where will it end?!?! A few cool days (rain at last) meant the house was closed up, and an unbearable odor emerged. Turns out mice have been tunneling in the insulation, hoarding food (dog food–you’d think the dogs would get after them!), evidently raising generations of young judging by the nests, poop, and stench. We ripped the insulation out, sterilized everything, foamed every crevice, and are hoping that does the trick.
We’ve spent the whole last month getting ready for the boy’s birthday bash. The house is clean,
the garden is aglow.
The guys build a roasting pit for the pig (well we opted to just get some really big pieces of pork this year).
Anna & Bel create a truly awesome Wall-E (Bruc-E) cake. We cook for three days. Lots of beer, homemade lemonade, a pinata, Gilly’s new boyfriend (the really big kid scrabbling under the pinata).
For a wonder, it didn’t rain. We had a great turn out, and everyone brought tasty dishes to share. Eric gave a touching speech that left everyone smiling as we cut the cake, then did the tour and had to be hunted down so the kids could whack the pinata.
Brucie was determined to come to the party naked, and after some serious tribulation, he compromised, and agreed to wear his underwear. Imagine our relief. The only consolation is picturing how embarrassed he’s going to be looking at the pics ten years from now. But he had a wildly fabulous time. He was so excited by the pinata that he pried a flagstone out of the path to elevate himself two inches. Still about two feet short.
Bel organized activities for the kids, and Gilly sent Junie soaring…
Our pest problems only seem to worsen as the month advances. In addition to squirrel depredations, we discover gazillions of grubs in the raised beds. They didn’t bother the peas, or the lettuce (what was left of it), but they ate the roots off the red onions–our one promising crop. Never ones to shirk a dirty job, Gilly and Junie dug them out.
Even the chickens couldn’t deal with the sheer quantity.
Gilly’s beau, Colt, invited us for dinner. He’s building an hour north of here, nearer to Santa Fe. He’s doing pretty much what we’ve been attempting. Off-grid, solar, rainwater catchment. Only he’s not using any heavy equipment–hammer, wheelbarrow, lots of sweat. He put up a yurt first, and is now adding on. And everything has been trundled in on a path that’s .2 mil long–up and around the side of a hill! The views are amazing. And he’s a good cook.
Bel and I try to get starts to plant the fall garden. We spent one whole day making soil blocks, and seeding them (a xmas present borrowed back from Aly). Must have planted 25 varieties of cool weather plants, but very disappointing. Suspect grasshoppers are nibbling in the greenhouse (we spread grasshopper bait in the spring, and our fruit trees have done much better.)
We continue to wage war on squirrels, get caning materials to start reseating our grandmothers chairs, continue cutting beams for the building projects, etc, etc, etc.
The kids are growing, the chickens are growing, the garden is growing–good thing this is a farm.
The weather is getting balmier. Still have to protect all the tender starts, either in wall o waters, screen “teepees”, even juice bottles full of water offer protection from the wind and cool nights.
The squirrel wars have accelerated, scalps are being taken–Wink recreated an old Boy Scout project, and built a critter trap–and it works.
But we still are putting up netting, digging out old screens to barricade the beds. After doing some research on ground squirrels we decide to do whatever it takes–they can have family colonies with dozens of members. We find tunnels everywhere when we figure out what to look for. We put hot wire all around the fence. They dig under the gate. Still we harvest a few strawberries to the kids delight.
Eric and Ian are running the sawmill whenever they’re up here. We still hope to have the greenhouse up this year. Plus we’re putting in the barn loft. Bel moves up for the summer, and she and Wink start working on the beams.
We get this project done in record time, and by the end of the month have started moving all the stored stuff that has been jammed into the ground floor of the barn. We take some time to pack and repack, (and throw some stuff away that should never have made the move, or been stored for five years!) But we found a lot of good stuff too. Winks bee stuff. Gilly’s sewing stuff. The 1981 issue of Bon Appetit that has the family pfefferneusse recipe that Anna has been struggling to recreate every xmas. Good stuff. Lots of mice nests…
Wink spends a lot of time trying to get a nap in.
The guys spent a good bit of time working on the adobe block machine. Still don’t have it up and running, but excited by the possibilities–hope to use some adobe in the greenhouse as a trombe wall, and to make the permanent chicken coop, and of course, walls.
We took an afternoon off to visit the Wildlife Park for the World Championship Horse Shoeing Competition. Aly and Israel set up their vermiculture booth, and Gilly, Wink and Jo visited.
The lilies finally bloomed. Wow.
Got the chicks outside into chicken tractors (not yet mobile). The kids loved the transition, and it was good to get them out of the barn. Ever more time spent on planting. Took the MG garden tour at the end of the month and was inspired to ever greater heights. Our battle with the ground squirrels begins. Mushrooms popping up all over–no big deal when something started digging them up, if only it had stopped there.
Eric prepped and planted a huge swath of oil sunflowers–even bought a seeder–hoping to get a good idea whether it would be feasible to grow them at our altitude in sufficient quantity to press for bio diesel. As the seedlings emerged, each little leaf was neatly nipped off. Soon, his pristine planting was a sea of cut off plastic juice bottles, tin cans, plastic netting–to no avail. Eventually we gave up. Eric’s thousands were reduced to a couple of dozen gnawed plants. If only it had stopped there.
Our trees set their first fruit and we were wildly excited–apple, peach, cherry. Knowing we’d thin most, we still hoped to sample one or two bites. Day by day, the tiny green fruits disappeared. Then the melon leaves, the broccoli, the lettuce….
Wow, May! Things are blooming, the vegs are coming up, the suspense about what survived the winter is just about over–yeah! The chaste tree is leafing out though there was significant damage. The purple robe locust is flowering true to the graft.
All the fruit trees survived except the two granny smith apples, and one of the nectarines has four little fruits (which will almost certainly drop, but hey…). The jujubes look to be at least in the same shape as last fall–the grapes and berries have all come through. I think their poor roots have finally gotten established in our heavy clay. We’ve spent the last month planting, apricots, strawberries, plums, peaches, another cherry, all my veg starts. We finally brought all the blueberries up and got them planted against a rock wall that should offer them some protection from the wind, along with two Japanese maples, and two hazelnuts. Been wanting to get that wall started for ages. Now I know why Wink delayed. Thanks be for the tractor!
Our big family news is that Bel finished her masters in special ed from UNM. She was so giddy that she practically ran through the ceremony–yep she’s a blur. But graduation was great, and we got together for a family dinner after.
New on the farm–our chicks arrived. We got 10 white leghorns, 8 cuckoo marans, and 7 anconas. All good layers, multi-purpose birds. They’re growing fast, and starting to peck each other, so need to get their permanent quarters built. Brucie wants to hold them “in my little hand.”
Lots of little tasks–getting the tropicals out of the ABQ greenhouse, setting out the surviving water plants, putting up the fountain, cleaning up all the winter debris and revitalizing all the beds. We knocked together a squash bug cover (recycling old plywood from concrete forms and a couple of screens)–wanted to set out my squash before July, the commonly agreed upon date for beating squash bugs.
Lots of pics–will take a while to load–but it’s worth it!
It’s been six months since my last post. Where does the time go!!! So–what has happened in the last few months? Snow…we had a white Easter–no egg hunt for the kids, but the hills are blushed with green–the threat of wildfire has dropped to moderate (from one day to the next, we’re back at high risk). My tulips and dafs are finally out, and I saw my first hummingbird of the season today. The fruit trees are flowering–in between freezes–it remains to be seen whether we’ll get any fruit set. I’m putting out a biological grasshopper bait, an organism that attacks only hoppers, in hopes the apples will get to keep some leaves this summer. Time to hook the windmill back up. For the second time, I tried to screw the pull rod in before the clamps came off. Luckily Israel was home, and he and Aly came to help us disassemble the rods so Wink could address their new spaghetti like configuration.
Hard to get much done when the weather doesn’t cooperate; on the other hand, sometimes you just need a play break.
Throughout the winter we tried to find indoor projects–we put a door on Anna & Eric’s bedroom–’bout time. Wink planed our own pinon pine into beautiful planking, then overlapped them in a very artisanal way–looks great–lots of help from Gilly. Also did some finishing around the door frame, and debarked some ponderosa pieces and fitted them between the roof beams to experiment with a ceiling finish.
It’s been a furry season. Junie tried on Wink’s new hat, and ….
Charlie got a new roommate.
We sifted charcoal out of the woodstove ashes (on windless days only) to add to the soil when we got the new raised beds in.
The pantry was begun…
I ordered way too many packages of seed on the assumption that all the beds would be in. When it became obvious that the big greenhouse wasn’t going to get built in time, Wink designed a mini greenhouse. We’ve been delighted at how well this little unheated lean to has worked. Two layers of plastic has enabled it to stay above freezing with only a candle burning at night during the worst weather. I’ve already started setting out the hardier bedding plants even tho we could still have freezing weather till mid May.
Students from the UNM sustainability program volunteered several times this spring, helping us put in four raised beds, and work on the forestry project. They all seem fascinated by what we’re doing out here. Eric has been a guest speaker at their class.
Many thanks to Professor Maggie Seeley, and Sustainability 134!!!.
When she’s not working up here with us, Gilly has moved to a new job managing a Papa John’s Pizza. She’s enjoying it much more than her previous job. She has lots more free time, and has been able to direct some of her energy back to her film work, and had a gig for a couple of weeks last month! She lives in ABQ with Anna & Eric, and has the childcare hours to prove it!
Anna & Eric’ big project has been to get their house ready to be listed. They’ve put a lot of time, money, and energy into that little house, and hope the current economic conditions won’t hurt too much. Keeping a house and garden neat enough to show with two small children named Chaos and Entropy underfoot is not easy. And Eric has had to move all his bio diesel gear to a co-dieseler’s garage.
Aly has started a vermicomposting business with Israel. After some fits and starts, she’s getting ready to do a home & garden show. She also brings me wonderful cuttings from her other new job at the garden center. They’ve been clearing out and pruning some old beds–photinia, red twig dogwood, roses–lots of new cuttings in my mini greenhouse!
The show was a great success. Aly & Israel sold all their worms, and took orders, too. They’ll be at the Kite Festival at the Wildlife West Nature Park, May 2-3.
She also brings me wonderful cuttings from her other new job at the garden center. They’ve been clearing out and pruning some old beds–photinia, red twig dogwood, roses–lots of new cuttings in my mini greenhouse!Bruce helped plant and water the cuttings. With good help things only take twice as long!
With the warmer weather, we can’t keep up with all the chores, so if you don’t hear from us well…also we’re experiencing new phone difficulties. Are trying to get a landline in, but we have to dig a trench two feet deep, and a half mile long–through rock…
[Jo] The days and months fly by! What happened to August and September? Today is October 14th, and we had our first snowfall of the season, preceded directly by our first hard freeze. For once we were on top of it, and got the irrigation lines drained and winterized. Wink and Eric have been working on enclosing the lines directly connected to the windmill, and had made some headway, but a heavy rain flooded the site, floated the rastra, and left a muddy mess (not pictured). So the windmill is protected by hay yet again.
What else have we done? Got the concrete poured into the footer for the greenhouse.
Got the hoophouse (seen above behind Jim & Eric) finished in time to protect my chinese hat shrub.
Scored a lot of plants at auction–some so big they had to be lifted into the planting holes with the tractor. A chaste tree, flame maple, river birch, washington hawthorne, 5 big hedge roses, 2 euonymus, a red twig dogwood, and lots of small wildflowers to pop into low water zones. Putting in posts for the pergola. Got a georgous yellow climbing rose to add to the trumpet vines, Virginia creeper, kiwi, et al. The bones of the garden are beginning to show through, at least this back quarter of the courtyard.
But let’s go back and catch up on the rest of the summer. Rosie and Bob came for a lovely visit in July.
We had a goat roast in August. Eric did the deed , more to satisfy himself that he would have some experience for his upcoming elk hunt–in the event he got one (alas, he didn’t). Good food, good friends.
The flowers this summer were beautiful, both wild and planted. We had a stunning “black” hollyhock, and too many others to mention. The raised beds produced a small amount of cukes, tomatos, peppers, melons…and a beautiful strawberry popcorn that we’re drying now. It looks like all 40 of the asparagus plants will do well–two more years till harvest! The orchard and vineyard plants made it through the summer, and we have some ideas about getting the grapes to come out stronger next spring. We had a lot of surprises this season. Lots of plants that looked dead as a doornail most of the spring and early summer finally struggled out when the ground warmed up–two pecans especially surprised us. I thought they were dead last year!
We did some mud plastering inside–cut our own lathe, then smoothed the clay over it. Didn’t use enough sand though–had a lot of cracking–but that will be covered up with the finish coats.
Anna is shopping around, looking for a source for a red clay adobe. We want to work on the earthen floor this winter. Our clay is ok, but sooo brown. Something terracottay would be much prettier with our colors.
Doing this kind of work is soooo much fun with little ones around. There’s a huge crop of pinion this month, and I took Bruce with me to gather the nuts. I had to crack them for him to eat, and they’re pretty small so he was clamoring for the next before I had time to pick up more than two nuts for my bag–pretty slow going, but a great way to spend a couple of hours on a lovely fall day.
Today we cut alligator juniper on the sawmill into mud plates for the greenhouse, then put the planks into the hoophouse to dry for a couple of weeks. Progress, little by little. We’ve been plagued by health issues this last year. So much of what we do involves heavy labor…we started this project in good health…something we’ve always taken for granted–but no more.
[Jo] I am so excited to finally begin the greenhouse. I can’t tell you how many plants I’ve lost, many tropicals laboriously trailored from Tampa, cuttings, seedlings, grafts. It’s truly disheartening to invest so much time, moneyÂ and effort in something, and see it die in a matter of a few days. In this climate, a greenhouse is not a luxury, but a necessity. We are learning that many plants that would normally be planted in the outside garden, like tomatoes,Â that may look great and even set fruit, can’t bring it to maturity at our altitude. Everything in this environment is an experiment. What succeeds and what fails tells us what will have to be grown in a protected environment.
Eric digging the greenhouse footer
The greenhouse will be attached to the side of the barn, with the roof just slightly below the barn roof. It will be fifteen feet wide and sixty feet long–”it’ll do for a start.” We’ve been collecting double paned sliders for four years for the glazing. It’ll be tall enough that winter sun will penetrate well into the back of the structure. It will have doors in the middle, and on the two sides, with ventilators to keep it from overheating (though I’m having trouble believing that will be much of an issue). There will be a misting bench, a bottom heated propagation area, 500 gallons water catchment off the roof, a mix of inground and container beds. The greenhouse will face south looking out over the outside raised beds. It will have a door into the living area of the barn, and windows between the two will deliver light and heat to the living area.
[Jo ] Finally, a year after we moved in up here (roughing it tho we be), we can brush our teeth in theÂ bathroom! We love the sink. The juniper pedestalÂ was cut from our own property and Aly and I beat the concrete basin into shape. The pics don’t do it justice–it really is beautiful, and the exposed copper is stunning. Wink outdid himself. Eventually it will have some cabinetry and shelving, but now we’re making do with a tv tray to hold our toothbrushes–and that’s ok!Â