Tuesday, July 29, 2014

llama manure and bucket rides

staal and i had a great time at our neighbor's place this morning.  mary darlene lives across the road from us down a ways on a little dirt drive.  she's a really sweet lady---the first person we met when we were in the process of buying this place, she was quite welcoming.  since i'm starting some new veggie beds for the fall and need some manure i thought i'd take mary darlene up on her offer---she keeps llamas and horses and generously offered some of their deposits.

glorious bounty from the heavens

i made friends with one of mary darlene's dogs, teddy (aka dufus).  he's just a big, playful puppy.
maybe next time i'll see if he and zane get along well enough to have some fun.

teddy, taking a break from licking me to pose for a picture

mary darlene insisted on bucket rides...

thank you, mary darlene.   and thank you, llamas.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

powdery mildew

the weather we've been having lately---hot days, cool nights, with a bit of humidity---has been conducive to powdery mildew growth on the squash leaves.  when i was growing squash in catheys valley they'd always get a little powdery mildew at some point when the summer really started heating up but it was never much of an issue---conditions didn't stay favorable to its growth for long and the plants would outpace it without any intervention from me.   i don't know if the weather up here is just more favorable to powdery mildew growth or if this is just a bad year but i've had to help the squash plants out a bit.   i've gone through the squash patch a couple of times and cut off the worst affected of the leaves, collecting them in a plastic garbage bag and putting them in the trash (rather than composting them).  i've also used foliar sprays to keep the situation from getting out of control.  the first spraying was with baking soda diluted in water (4 tsp/gal with dr. bronner's magic soap as a sticker) and the second spraying was with milk diluted in water (5 cups/gal).  the baking soda spray changes the pH on the leaf surface and makes it inhospitable to mildew growth.  the proteins in milk when exposed to sunlight are thought to have antimicrobial properties so i thought i'd give it a try too.  both the baking soda and the milk are best applied as preventatives but they seem to be working pretty well at keeping the situation from getting any worse and the plants are putting out healthy new growth (and we're still getting plenty of fruits) so if i keep a close eye on things i think complete disaster can be avoided.

powdery mildew on yellow crookneck squash leaf

powdery mildew compromises a leaf's ability to photosynthesize and eventually completely destroys the leaf.  if enough leaves on a plant are affected fruit production declines or stops and the whole plant can even die.

things were looking pretty bad for a while...

i did use the "wait and see" method for a while.  i like to let things resolve on their own if possible.  it became clear pretty quickly that the mildew was moving faster than the plants could handle and i'd have to do something.  

getting ready to spray

i think i would have moved a bit faster with my intervention if i had noticed the outbreak at the very beginning---many of the squash plants have what's called silvering on their leaves, a natural silver pattern on the upper side of the leaf, which can make it difficult to spot powdery mildew in it's earliest stages because the two are pretty much the same color.

healthy squash leaf showing silvering

things are starting to look pretty good again.

the yellow blotches on the leaf pictured below are areas where powdery mildew was growing but has been killed by the foliar sprays.  interesting to see how the mildew sort of bleaches out the chlorophyll.

recovering leaf

there's still some mildew here and there but overall it seems to be quite manageable at this point.

squash plant getting happy again

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

handy well pump

we have two wells on our property, a deep well with a submersible pump (this is the one staal set up with the storage tank) and a shallow well on the east side of the property that looks like it had a jet pump in it at one point but was abandoned some time ago.  it's about 80ft deep with the water level somewhere around 30ft.  staal's been thinking about ways to use this well for a while and recently decided a hand-operated pump was the way to go.  the submersible pump we have in the deep well needs electricity to pump water so if the power goes out we have to rely solely on the water in the storage tank---the hand pump is a nice emergency water source.
the pump staal bought is made by a guy in fort bragg, who sells his pumps online (here:http://handywellpump.com/  ) and ships them to his customers with instructions on how to install them.  we bought pvc pipe locally but you can also buy it with your pump kit.

examining all the pieces and parts

the installation (instaalation) went pretty quickly---just part of a day and some of that time was spent waiting for the glue to dry on pvc connections.

all of the above ground pump parts are metal (galvanized and stainless steel) but the pipe that goes down the well and carries the water is pvc.  there is 1/2" pipe that attaches the pumping mechanism that sits in the water to the pump handle above ground---this is the pipe that actually carries the water.  the 1/2" pipe is run inside 1 1/4" pipe which acts as a guide as the 1/2" pipe moves up and down during pumping.

1/2" pvc pipe inside 1 1/4" pvc pipe with fittings glued on to attach lengths together

gluing the threaded connectors to the pipe ends

once the glue had set the installation could begin.  the first length of pipe was screwed on to the pump cylinder and a safety cable attached to the base of the foot valve.

attaching safety cable to the foot valve at the base of the pump cylinder

i helped staal raise the pipes into position above the well.

20 ft length of pipe positioned to go down the well

each pipe was set upright and secured to a tripod (that staal built) so that the lengths could be screwed together before being lowered into the well.

pipe secured to tripod

lifting the outer pipe out of the way so staal can connect the inner pipes

connecting the outer pipes

staal cut a slot in a piece of wood to hold each section of pipe by its fitting until it was ready to be lowered into the well---commercial well drillers use a similar contraption made out of metal.

we put 50ft of pvc down the well and then attached the upper pump assembly and well seal which connects the stuff in the well to the stuff above ground and keeps debris out of the well.

well seal with attachment point for upper end of safety cable

upper pump assembly and well seal

attaching upper end of safety cable to bottom of well seal

at first the well seal was getting hung up on a tight spot in the well casing and we couldn't get it all the way in.  staal trimmed the lower section of the seal with a saw and i worked on it a little with a router bit in my dremel---between the two of us we removed enough material to get the seal past the tight spot and seated properly.

trimming lower section of well seal

well seal in place

with the well seal in place and the upper pump assembly secured we couldn't wait to try it out...

staal making water

the pump arm is adjustable and takes very little effort to operate even in the full stroke position.  it produces quite a bit of water in a short time---staal filled a five gallon bucket while he was lubricating the joints on the pump arm.  
hopefully we'll never be in a situation forcing us to use this pump but it feels good knowing it's there if we need it and i'm sure we'll use it now and then anyway just because it's fun.

pump glamor shot

Friday, July 18, 2014

peace and quiet? (goodbye, gizzard)

funny how we grow accustomed to things,
or don't,
to the sights and sounds and smells of everyday,
funny what we cling to, what we notice,
or don't,
the meanings, the joys, the sorrows we assign this or that,
funny what we accept, what we cherish,
or don't,
the thoughts and feelings we experience,
funny what we'll do for love,
or won't

no cock's crow this morning,
and i wonder,
in the morning's silence,
if his hens miss him too

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Atlides halesus, the great purple hairstreak

yesterday morning, while i was out doing some watering in the kitchen garden, i spotted a butterfly that i had never seen before.  he was thirsty, attracted to the water running out of the bottoms of the pots.  he was looking a bit ragged with somewhat faded and tattered wings though still quite striking.  i took some pictures and staal helped me identify him---Atlides halesus, great purple hairstreak.  they're not a very common butterfly to see so this was a pretty special treat.  

Atlides halesus, great purple hairstreak sucking water out of the door mat in the kitchen garden

(you can see pictures of better looking specimens and find information about the great purple hairstreak here:  http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species/Atlides-halesus )

i found a website that collects, stores, and shares species information and occurrence data on butterflies and moths of north america.  they allow people to register and submit sightings of butterflies and moths and i figured since the great purple hairstreak is kind of a rare critter to see i'd submit a sighting report (this included the photo i took so that an expert could verify the identity of the butterfly).  last night i got an email saying my submission was correctly identified and would be added to their list.  you can see it here: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/sighting_details/988980
there are lots of great pictures of butterflies and moths, maps, and lists of sightings by region so if you have an interest it's a great resource.

Monday, July 14, 2014


for me there is not a more cheer-inspiring flower than the sunflower.  their bright, open faces radiate a deep, living joy---they make me smile.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

an orchard

about a week or so ago i got around to putting some fruit trees in the ground.  some of them will be grown as espaliers on trellises and some will just be kept small and kind of bushy.   we don't eat much fruit but we do enjoy it so my plan is to grow a wide variety of fruits but not a huge quantity---basically lots of small trees so we get a taste of everything we like but don't make ourselves fat and sick on fruit sugar.  smaller trees means easier pruning and harvesting too---i've never been much for ladders in the orchard.

so far i've got 13 trees planted on the east end of the garden between the squash beds and fence.  i'll probably put some more trees in on the west side along with some blueberries, artichokes, and other perennials, then fill in the center of the garden with more veggie beds.  

here's how things are looking...

looking south

looking north

each tree was planted in a wire basket (staal was a huge help making the baskets) and each hole was partially filled with small oak logs (that staal cut while trimming the dead wood out of the trees and making our 6 fire safe and sexy), grape prunings, dried weeds pulled from the veggie beds, horse manure, and some rock dust (to supply some minerals the soil test showed to be needed here).  the process is sort of a modification of hugelkultur like i did with the raised beds in the kitchen garden.  as the logs rot they'll slowly release fertility to the growing trees.

hole being prepared for planting

'bartlett' pear getting cozy

the trees are looking good...

'black mission' fig
while staal was courting me, he used to send me fruit from his trees in isleton.  i'm not the kind of girl you send flowers, but a box of pears---the man knew what he was doing.  he sent me some of his 'fuyu' persimmons and got me hooked (on the fruit and probably on him as well).  so i planted a 'fuyu' here because i love them and because they remind me of the love parcels staal used to send.

picture taken in 2012 by anna friedland---staal picking persimmons from his tree in isleton to send back with her to the ranch in catheys valley

newly planted 'fuyu jiro' persimmon
i enjoyed planting and working in the orchard at the friedland ranch in catheys valley and have wanted an orchard of my own for years...pretty exciting to be making that happen now.  many of the trees starting this orchard were purchased with a gift certificate given to us by fred and kerstin friedland (thank you) when staal and i were married.  
i don't know how i wound up so fortunate---i try not to question it and just be grateful.  when staal would come visit before we were married he'd listen to me go on about chickens and gardens and orchards and tell me he wanted me to have it all.  he took me to look at house after house---to find a place where we could be together and i could have a garden.  and when i fell in love with this sunny little place he did everything he could to make it ours.  and now he takes care of this place and he takes care of me and lets me spend my days grubbing in the garden and listens to me go on about chickens and gardens and orchards.

thank you, staal.  i love you.

staal and our new 'fuyu'

Friday, July 4, 2014

snake beans

this year i'm growing a variety of pole bean called, rattlesnake.  i don't care much for the name but  they're beautiful and delicious beans.

rattlesnake pole bean

this morning while i was out harvesting i found a gartersnake just below the trellis the rattlesnake beans are climbing.


garters are pretty mellow snakes and good to have in the garden---they eat insects and small vertebrates.   hoping the cats will leave this guy alone.