Friday, July 31, 2015

A Good Farmer's Husband (and the inherent perils)

Guest post this evening—this is Jay, Josh's husband. Josh is off on an adventure that I'm quite sure he'll blog about soon. In his absence, I've had a couple of small projects he asked me to do, including harvesting the garlic in the front yard and hanging it in the garage to cure with the rest he harvested and we hung together, and picking the remaining pea pods. I did that earlier in the week.

I noticed the grass was getting long in the back yard (the only grass we have). Josh does most of the mowing—heck, he does most of the outside stuff. I am the "yes dear" with the outside projects. That is, Josh says, "Let's build an orchard in the front yard." "Yes, dear." "Let's build raised beds in the back yard." "Yes, dear." "Let's add two hugelkultur beds in the back yard." "Yes, dear." And I jump in and help. I help with preparing beds and planting in the spring, and harvest in the fall. Josh does most everything else.

Anyway, I thought I'd be a good husband and mow the back yard while he's gone. While I was mowing, I noticed the ever-present Creeping Charlie was encroaching on the asparagus beds. So I circumnavigated each bed, pulling it up. Between the bed and fence it was so thick, I literally rolled it all up from the dirt like carpeting.

Then I checked out the hardy kiwi Josh planted, for which we built the trellis. I saw that it was doing a great job of vining on the asparagus, shown right. I teased it apart from the asparagus (no small feat!), and trained it up on the wires of the trellis.
Hardy Kiwi and Asparagus at war

Much better
Nettles, right?
I then continued weeding around the beds. When I got to the east end of the beds, I grabbed a weed and tossed it behind me. It felt little thistle-y. Within moments my right hand started stinging. What the...! I ran into the house and washed my hands several times with dish soap. Must have been nettles.

OK, now the Farmer's Husband knows what nettles look like. Be careful with nettles. No more nettles stings. [Yeah, I probably should have warn gloves.]

I come back outside and continue my weeding. A few seconds later, "ow, OW. OWOWOW!" I got two bee stings, one on the back of my left hand, the other above my left elbow. I went in—again—and washed, and checked for stingers. I didn't find one.

I went back out again (can you see it coming?) and got stung AGAIN by a bee—this time below my left knee. There must be a beehive on the east end of the asparagus beds. All bad things happen on the east end of asparagus beds. I took a Benadryl.

I'm attempting to NOT have my lesson be to avoid doing yard work. :o) However, we will need to do something about the bees, I think.

So, I have a lightly stinging right hand, and three stinging welts. What an adventure! However, it's very gratifying to see the kiwi vines getting trained on the trellis. I can't wait for Josh to post pictures in the future when it's really established in a couple of years. Fresh kiwis here we come!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Kiwi trellis installed

Hardy kiwis are vines.

In Wisconsin?

You betcha.

Hardy kiwis are a sprawling plant that, given time and neglect, can take down a building with heavy vines and fruit. Mine are wispy things that I fear won't survive the summer, much less the winter. But with faith and a credit card to buy new ones next spring should something die, Jay, friend Dale and I built one heck of a trellis last weekend.

The kiwis are planted on the north side of my asparagus bed. They are in the raised bed because Dale told us they don't like to be in compacted soil, so I put them where they won't be trod over.

Using cedar 4x4" posts and fencing supplies from Farm and Fleet, we put together a handsome trellis that should last for years to come.

For now, the plants are merely staked, they haven't even reached the lowest wire. As they grow, I will train them along the wires.

Kiwis are male and female, one male for up to nine female plants. I have two varieties of females, and each has it's accompanying male. They all flower and smell divinely. This will be an exercise in patience however, it will be some years before we taste the delicious fruit.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

One good thing about the cool summer

Peas and lettuce are very happy. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant however are not.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Flowers in the terrace

I took a walk around the front yard to see what was in bloom. It started to sprinkle lightly, just enough to make the flowers look a little more magical than they already are. Here's a visual tour. While I'm good at identifying my veggies, if you're able to help ID any of these, THANK YOU. I'll put a number in the caption line under each, see how many you know!








Monday, July 6, 2015

How to build community - getting a few out of the way

Now nearly half way through 2015, I've been pondering my New Year's Resolution and want to take stock and see what else I can check off my list.
  • Turn off your TV
    Done. Well, sort of. I haven't owned a television for nearly a decade, and Jay and I sold his TV when we left our apartment three years ago. And while I did own a TV for awhile, I haven't regularly watched "broadcast" or cable TV in decades. The last time I recall actually sitting down to purposefully watch TV was in Milwaukee and a gang of us watched "The X-Files" on Sunday nights. We got together an hour before for a pot luck, watched the show and called it a night. It was a delightfully social evening. I'm not a Luddite. Jay and I enjoy watching Star Trek shows and movies on Netflix. These are measured doses perhaps twice a week. No ads. 40 minutes. Together time. I can't imagine my life with any more TV than that.
  • Look up when you are walking
    I made a decision about a year ago not to look at my phone, nor listen to music, while walking around. I want to see what and who is around me.  I want people to see me. And when my head is looking down or I've got music in my earbuds, I may as well be invisible. And I'm too interested in my surroundings and the people in them to disappear.

    My neighborhood, city, state and world are too wonderful not to notice and relish.

Do you have any thoughts about how limiting television or screen time helps build community?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Welcome to Little Mifflin

Today Matt Hirsch, our next door neighbor, installed the Little Free Museum on Mifflin Street. The grand opening is Saturday, July 11, 3 p.m. on the 1900 block of E. Mifflin St., between 1st and 2nd streets.

While talking with Matt, we looked down our street and saw the Little Free Gallery, a Little Free Library (charter 2805) and our own Little Orchard on Mifflin. Taking all this in and noting the "little" theme, Matt suggested we call our block "Little Mifflin Street."


Jay, Matt and I all had the same thing in mind, one of those decorative arches like you see at the entrance to every Chinatown in America that says "Welcome to Little Mifflin."

While we won't have the grand entrance in place just yet, please come to the Little Free Museum's grand opening, which will host refreshments and the "tiniest ribbon cutting you'll ever see!"

Thursday, July 2, 2015

First cherries

Our front yard orchard was installed three springs ago, so this is the third summer for our fruit trees and bushes. We harvested our first cherries on June 20! These came off the North Star pie cherry tree, which is a tart variety and very hardy in our climate zone. It is also self-fertile, so it doesn't need a nearby partner to fruit.

The other day I noticed that birds were eating the cherries, so apparently my Wren defense system isn't fully armed yet. I did have some tree netting, and successfully draped over the tree, but I can now see that if the tree gets much bigger, this will be an impossible task.

We now have a small bowl of cherries, though honestly, I don't know what we're going to do with it. Not quite enough for a pie, to turn to eat on their own. Maybe a smoothie?