So, after this marathon of posting, you all are just about caught up. One last post to wrap up some odds and ends, and you’ll have a pretty solid picture of what’s been happening around here for the last couple of months.
Back in April, I mentioned that we started to plant some fruit trees. What with so much rain lately, they have really been flourishing, although I apparently haven’t taken a picture of the orchard as a whole. We ended up with two pear trees, three peach trees, two plum trees, and five apple trees. We have some peaches and a couple of plums growing, as well as just a couple of apples.
The orchard does back up against the woods, so some deer damage was not unexpected. Still, it was sad that they came out and nommed off all the little apples! That was several weeks ago. Maybe it’s a good thing that only one apple is left, because it does seem to be weighing down the tree!
After that little incident, we tried to take precautions to protect the trees in the future. We can’t really afford to fence in the entire orchard right now (although that’s the long-term plan – not only will it protect the trees, it will also give Waylon a place to play), so we strung fishing line around the perimeter of the orchard, 5-7 strands ranging from about a foot off the ground to about 7′. Supposedly, because the deer can’t see it, running into it really spooks them. I don’t know how true that is, but I do know that they haven’t molested our trees since.
One must-have of every good homestead, as anyone knows, is a compost bin. Using some of those handy pallets my brother got at work, Tom built me a very sturdy and happy little compost bin. The divider in the middle is so you can add to one side, then the next year add to the second side while using the first side for dirt. What with all the digging out of random stuff and weeding and mowing and pruning going on, there is plenty of stuff to add to the bin!
Both Tom and I have a strong desire to plant plenty of fruit, maybe because fruits are generally perennials, so planting them feels like you are planning not just for this summer, but for years to come. We got a good start with the orchard, and this year we also made progress with planting a blueberry patch. Next year, we’re hoping to plant raspberries and blackberries as well.
Back in the day, before our time, where our flagpole is now used to be a swimming pool, so there is a round, flat area. Inspired by that space, plus random pavers and other things lying about, Tom decided to make a compass blueberry garden, with the paths running N/S and E/W. I already had two blueberry bushes, both of the Top Hat (a dwarf) variety (back before I knew about cross-pollination). We’ve picked up a few bushes on clearance at Tractor Supply, and the rest at a local greenhouse.
I love blueberries, and we tried to get a variety of heights, types, and harvest times. We still have one empty spot, and one bush that doesn’t look like it’s going to make it, so we’ll still have a few slots to fill in next year.
Still, we plant nine or ten bushes this year, so that’s a pretty good start!
My two Top Hats both produced plenty of berries this spring, and several of the other bushes have done so as well. While we don’t really have enough to do much more than snack on them, it’s still always fun to actually get produce back!
When Tom started digging out the water garden, he realized that we had a lot of dirt that needed to go somewhere, and it was actually pretty decent dirt, so we didn’t just want to dump it down over the hill.
Originally, we were going to wait until next year to plant some vegetables, and Tom wanted to plant them the traditional style – directly into the ground. However, it appears that the entire pad in front of the barn, with the exception of where the ground was leveled for the pool (now the blueberry garden) was once gravel, so if you dig any deeper than the sod, you’re suddenly contending with about 6″ of gravel. It’s rather dreadful, and has made planting trees (like the aspen in the background of the blueberry garden picture) a real hassle.
So, all that to say, we decided that we were going to have to go with raised beds. The fact that they are a bit more expensive out of the gate was an added incentive to wait until next year for veggies.
Except… all that dirt we dug up for the water garden…!!! So then it seemed like it only made sense to go ahead and box in a raised bed… except then there wasn’t quite enough dirt so we had to get some… and then we got a flat of vegetables on a great sale for $10 except that was a LOT of vegetables and they didn’t all fit in that one bed… so we had to build a couple more… and… well, we’re raising vegetables this year!
In the larger bed we have tomatoes and peppers. I’m quite bad at vegetables and not super awesome at spacing them, plus our bed ended up being just a *bit* too wide (we’re going with about 18″ narrower when we build a couple more next year.
We’ve been living in a rainforest the last couple of weeks – seriously, almost 10″ of rain in two weeks – so everything is growing like madness.
We have lots of baby tomatoes and peppers, so hopefully we actually get some veggies!!
Tom’s brother gave us a couple of boxes with a bench between them that he had built but didn’t need any more. We ended up taking the boxes and setting them up between where we park the cars and the blueberry garden. You can see an empty box in the picture with the brand-new raised bed, and here it is with some stuff in it.
Like we did with the deeper containers in the side garden, we filled the bottom half or better with straw, and then dirt on top of that. Even if we grow the tallest cucumbers in the world, their roots probably aren’t going to be 3′ deep.
Tom built a teepee on top of each one and then ran some heavy wire around the outside so the plants can grow up.
We also have some bush beans and bush cucumbers in a smaller raised bed, and another small bed of peppers (and yes, ALL OF THOSE VEGGIES were in ONE $10 flat!). They are also flourishing, thanks to so much rain.
One other random project we’ve been working on is getting the upstairs of the barn back into usable space. I don’t know if any of you have this tendency, but we seem to get an area cleaned and organized, then move onto another project, and then the original area becomes messy and confused, and then we go back and add more shelves or improvements to reclean and reorganize, and it just keeps cycling around. For instance, the lower room, which looked beautiful this winter, is an absolute disaster right now – and Tom is in the process of building more shelves, so it will be the next big thing organized (again).
Anyway, the upstairs of the barn was pretty messy with various projects going on. Tom worked hard cleaning it up over the weekend, and also building some protective cages around our brand-new windows!
I didn’t get a picture of the upstairs as a hole, but the space is back to being usable for playing basketball, pool, or darts again, which is pretty exciting. The windows help a lot with ventilation. While it will still be too hot to play up there on really hot days, it should be perfect up there on more mild days. In the future, we’re still hoping to install a couple of windows on the other side of the barn, as well as an exhaust fan.
One thing I’ve really been trying to do this spring is plant a lot of perennials. I’m sincerely hoping that next spring will involve a lot less expense and labor. I especially love coneflowers and daisies of all types. They’re low maintenance, have long bloom seasons, and look lovely as cut flowers as well.
The fun thing about lots of different perennials is that you can get them for free from people who need to divide theirs. Mom gave me a bunch of coneflowers and daisies (as well as some bee balm, lemon balm, and chives), and our neighbor gave me some coneflowers as well. Everything that I’ve transplanted is taking off, and I am super happy that coneflowers are starting to bloom (the daisies are budding up now, too!).
So that about brings you up to date on all the craziness around the McCafferty homestead! As you can see, it has been a seriously busy spring. This morning (June 29) is a perfect day to be alive – cool, no humidity, moderately overcast, and the dirt is just right for pulling weeds, which is what I’ve been doing in between writing this post.
Life, my friends, is good. Stay in touch.