Friday, July 31, 2015

something secret

i wake in the night
to a sharp crack of thunder
followed by a low and soothing rumble
and stay awake
as the rain comes
beckoning to me
enticing me to rise
as if the storm is something secret
just for me
from somewhere
away beyond the clouds
the full moon
casts over everything
a silent pewter glow
and i stand
for a while
in the open doorway
breathing in the sweetness
and listen to the ducks
murmur softly to one another

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

in case you haven't heard...

...they're quacking.

beans, beans, beans!

the beans are really starting to come on now.  i think green beans may be my favorite vegetable so this is a pretty exciting time of year for me.
i had my coffee with the scarlet runner bean vines this morning.  they usually don't set any pods until late in the summer but they put on quite a show with their blossoms all summer long.  they make the carpenter bees very happy.

i picked a gallon of beans late this morning.

purple podded pole, rattlesnake, roc d'or, and italian snap

Monday, July 27, 2015

Saturday, July 25, 2015


since neither of us has to go anywhere for work we often lose track of what day of the week it is.  today was definitely a saturday.
after all the morning chores were done staal and i spent the afternoon yard sale-ing and then had a little relax in the hammock when we got home.  it was not a terrible day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

the schaedel place

a ramble through the hills                                  
years ago
one never knows
what will take root
my love
are a man with an interesting mind

rain in july

we had a good rainstorm yesterday, beginning around 5:30 or 6 in the evening.  started with a rumbling sky and dark clouds moving in.  we got quite a downpour.  staal and i were out trying to get things covered up and we both got soaked within a couple of minutes. 

storm rolling in

the ducks had a great time bathing, dabbling in puddles, and drilling in the mud as the rain was coming down.

we collected quite a bit of roof runoff in the rain barrels and holding tank and i found about 3/4" in the rain gauge this morning.

 everything is looking and smelling very fresh this morning.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"good morning peepers!"

making feathers

the ducklings are looking a bit motley these days as they're busy shedding fuzz and making feathers.  runner ducks have several genes for color.  they can be white, black, fawn, penciled, gray (mallard), etc. and breeders are always tinkering with developing new colors.  i've always loved the deep brown of the chocolate runners.  so when i decided it was time to get ducks i ordered chocolate runners.  out of the 17 ducklings i received 3 are chocolate runners.  i'd been a bit suspicious from the moment i opened their shipping box.  3 of them were definitely brown.  the others were a kind of brownish gray.  as they grew the grayish ones became a bit lighter gray and developed black spots here and there.  i contacted the hatchery to find out why some of my "chocolate" runners were gray with black spots.  well, it turns out, it's because they're blue runners.  they're all beautiful, chocolate or not.

a chocolate surrounded by blues showing off some sleek new belly feathers

a blue runner with new feathers just above her wings

they all seem to be feathering out at their own pace

can't wait to see them all dressed up.

berry begging

i take the bowl you made for me                         
and go out to beg berries
from the blackberry vines
fasting and barefoot
it is a meditation
an exercise in mindfulness
and self-restraint
i step carefully
to avoid damaging the vines
and my bare feet
moving slowly
heeding hundreds of prickly warnings
each fat, sun-warmed berry i gather
is a temptation resisted
i give thanks for each one
as it drops into my stained hands
and place it gently in the bowl
tonight, love, we will share their sweetness

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

the sunflower

the sunflower looks down at me
its golden petals dance 
in the whispering breeze
and i weep
because i still do not understand
or is it
because i do?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

fun playing duck herder

the ducks have pretty much outgrown the brooder and i've been working on getting them used to being outdoors.  i've also been working on getting them used to being walked/herded out to the gardens to work.  runners were developed by breeding ducks selected for an ability to move easily and quickly over fairly long distances on land.  their legs are actually a bit farther back on the body than other ducks which allows for the upright posture and decreases the amount of waddle in their gait.  rice farmers in southeast asia have used them for centuries to eat pests and manure the rice paddies.  each morning the ducks would be walked from the villages to the fields where they would spend the day foraging and then be walked back in the evening.  in addition to moving well on land runners also tend to stick together, like sheep do, when being moved which makes getting everyone where you want them pretty easy.
this morning i walked the ducks out to the orchard garden with me so they could manure and clean the bugs out of some beds i'm preparing for fall planting.  

they're getting more comfortable with being moved around but are still a bit hesitant about going through doorways and gates.  they did pretty well with the greenhouse doors today.  sometimes i walk behind them and steer them a little and sometimes i can get them to just follow me.

here's a short video of them following me from the orchard garden on our way back to the kitchen garden:

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

3 weeks old

the ducklings are about 3 weeks old now and today was their first day out working in the garden.  i've been taking them out of the brooder and into the greenhouse for their baths everyday but today they had their bath in the kitchen garden and got to do a little bug hunting while they were out there.  they were a little nervous at first but they relaxed after a few minutes and had a great time exploring, bug hunting, and bathing.

checking out the big world above

relaxing a bit but keeping close together

after they got acquainted with their new surroundings they decided the water looked pretty good.

i let the ducks hang out in the garden while i mucked out and scrubbed the brooder and then did some watering in the garden.  it was nice listening to them talk to each other and splash around while i worked.

Monday, July 6, 2015

today in pictures

here is some of today in pictures...

it was not a terrible day.

polyculture and why smaller isn't less

32 vegetable beds, 36 fruit trees, artichokes, grapes, blackberries, blueberries, herbs, flowers and eggs.  it works out to around 0.057 acres (not counting aisles/space between trees or animal housing) of our 6 acres in cultivation.  the number doesn't sound like much but there's a lot going on out there. 
if we were only growing one kind of crop on 0.057 acres we probably wouldn't have much to show for it at harvest time.  and since we're growing food for home use it doesn't make sense to only grow one kind of crop.  we like variety in our diet and i'd get bored only growing zucchinis and tomatoes.
polyculture is a very good way to pack a lot of crop diversity and productivity into a small area of cultivation and it also allows for some creative solutions to the challenges of making the most of a small space.

1 of the 15 varieties of squash planted this year

not only do i grow a wide variety of vegetables and fruits but i'll often interplant many different things in a single bed.  the beds in the kitchen garden are a mix of onions, herbs, asparagus, lettuces, greens, beans, strawberries, sunflowers, etc.  there are annuals and perennials happily growing together.  

1 of 7 varieties of pole beans twining up 1 of 3 varieties of kale in the kitchen garden

to get as many varieties of fruit trees as possible into a small area i decided to grow the apples, pears, and figs as espaliers on free-standing trellises.  and to make the most of the space under the trellises i put in 3'x3' vegetable beds next to each tree.  each of those beds has been planted with a mix of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. 

borage planted next to one of the espaliered fig trees and the edge of a 3'x3' veggie bed to the right

this 3'x3' bed has strawberries, two varieties of kale, 3 varieties of lettuce, 2 varieties of pole beans, asparagus, sunflowers, sage and oregano

sunflower and scarlet runner bean sharing a trellis with 1 of 4 varieties of pear tree

to have a steady and reliable food supply it's important to have a good foundation of perennials to rely on if/when there are gaps or failures in the annual crops.  in addition to the fruit trees, we've got asparagus, several kinds of perennial herbs, artichokes, perennial onions, leeks, grapes,  jerusalem artichokes, perennial kale, tree collards, perennial arugula, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries.  and i'm always on the lookout for other perennials that will work for us.

perennial onions (potato onions) and perennialized leeks with lettuces, greens, herbs and sunflowers

we're lucky to be in a climate where we can grow and eat out of the gardens all year.  and with the wide variety of plants we're growing there's always something ready for harvest, always something in flower for the birds and insects, and always something new that's ready to go in the ground.

a pair of buckeyes enjoying the onions

it may be small but there is a lot of planning, researching, creative thinking, and physical work that goes into this little place.  it's me and a shovel and a wheel barrow.  it's demanding and challenging.  and it's the most rewarding and enjoyable life i can imagine.