Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer on the Farm

Our normal summers are so short that I keep thinking fall is just about here, but we are only mid-July!  We have been very warm and dry for the past 10 weeks and my garden shows it.  The pole beans are at least four weeks ahead of last year and the corn as well.  We grow a very short season corn, usually planting it about June 1st, and it matures late September.  This year we planted it mid-May and it’s already in silk.  Probably have sweet corn in two or three weeks.

Our garden with wild flowers

Our little farm was on the South Whidbey Tilth Farm Tour last week and Pam and I worked our butts off weeding everything – which we should have done anyway.  We grow using the Bio-intensive method, which uses 20 to 30 foot long raised (mounded) beds five feet wide.  You never walk on the growing beds so they don’t get compacted.  Every fall after we clean out all of the debris, we put about 12 inches of fresh goat manure (mixed with straw) over all of the beds except where we will be growing carrots.  They use to say that it was okay to use raw manure if you were not going to harvest for eight months, but latest studies show e-coli up to a year, so carrots, which we eat raw, don’t get the raw manure, just finished compost.  We have been doing this now for over 10 years and the soil, which was only about six inches deep when we began 10 years ago, is now about 18 inches deep.  Our plants are thriving in this environment.  Because our growing beds are so rich we can plant very close together and once the plants mature, we have very little weeding to do as the large plants shade out the soil, keeping weeds out and requiring less water.

Corn is doing well
At the end of the tour several of us were standing by the gate absorbing the colors and textures of the plants, and I commented on how quiet it was.  Just then a humming bird flew in, hovered in front of us, and greeted us (we have a family of four humming birds living in and around our garden) with a humming bird chirp.  We have never used anything but organic approved pesticides, and very little of those on our garden.  Our worst pest has been Canada thistle.  This is a nasty weed in the garden as it spreads by its root system.  I have been fighting it for 10 plus years and I’m finally getting it under control.

Canada thistle is an interesting plant.  It’s considered a noxious weed because it’s not native, invasive and cattle and horses won’t eat it.  Because they won’t eat this thistle it spreads like a wild fire in the pasture.  My goats love it so we have none where they live.  The positives are many: the flowers have a wonderful fragrance that attracts my honey bees and they make a very fine honey from it, aphids are attracted to it and along with the aphids come masses of lady beetles, and the seeds are loved by the goldfinch.  Unless you are willing to use heavy duty pesticides you have little chance of getting it out of your fields – which is fine by me.  Our garden is in the mist of wild pastures and forests allowing beneficial insects and birds a place to live, and when our plants need help defending themselves it’s easy for them to call in help.

I over wintered two honeybee hives.  One was very strong and one was week.  I bought a package of bees to make the third hive and it was struggling and lost its queen, so I re-queened it and our large hive, then found out the other week hive lost its queen.  Rather than re-queen that hive I combined it with the new hive so we now have two large hives.  This morning I compacted the new hive down to two deep supers and one honey supper (which is 70% full of honey), and removed a super of honey from the large hive and they have the second supper about 50% full.  Looks like I’m going to have a supper honey year, probably getting 90 lbs., vs. 30 lbs. last year.  I need about 30 lbs. for myself and as gifts, so I should be able to sell honey this year.
11 goats with three in milk

1 comment: