Posts Tagged ‘non-electric running water’

Wednesday, October 24:

Last year at this time we were in haste to develop the spring which now waters the big barn in all but the longest of cold snaps; this year we are hurrying to finish the water system that will keep the steers frost-free this winter on the monastery pastures.  One of these days, maybe, we will run out of big projects needing completion before snow flies.   Most of today was spent gathering supplies for the tire tank we hope to build this Saturday under the west pasture spring; here the water runs fast enough that we hope, by keeping the water underground before it enters the tank, to keep the flow from freezing.  That would mean being able to run the steers on grass at the monastery all winter, saving the baled hay for the milk cows in the home pasture.

The last few preparations for the winter gardens are gradually being made.  The bed is composted, tilled, and raked for planting next year’s garlic; ashes in buckets wait in the barn for someone to spread them over empty beds to be tilled in the spring.  Hoops and sandbags for the high tunnels are spread on the lawn in various states of incompletion.  Every length of row cover or clean six-mil plastic film that can be found is hunted out and examined for holes.  Only the warm weather of the last few days prevents us putting the first layer of protection on the winter carrots and salad greens.

Next to the river the poplars scarcely admit of the season by the yellow cast of their huge leaves, but on the bluffs above the maples are bare and only the oaks keep their foliage; this is shades of russet and brown, with the occasional deep scarlet of a lover’s rose.  Elsewhere the woods have lost their impenetrability, black boles standing out against a carpet of yellow.  In the ditches sumac, blood-red, flashes like a heliograph when it catches the sun, and now is the time to mark out patches of wild asparagus, clouds of ferny yellow, for spring foraging.  Our family news is like the weather, warm and cold by turns; one son has left us to return to Minnesota with his lovely family, while another proposes bringing home as his wife a woman we have long loved and admired.  We are joyful and sorrowful.

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Sunday, September 16:

The maple tree at Kenny’s is always the first to turn in the fall.  Today the top of it is washed in shades of peach.  Mossors’ place closes the bottom of the Jeddo’s run hollow like a cork in a bottle, the hills rising an abrupt hundred feet plus trees to the north and south; from there the run flows almost level across a mile of ground that, when Kenny was young, was cornfield, arrowhead-hunting ground.  Now it is cut by state route seven, the cornfield replaced with our village’s one grocery store.  The trees along the river have taken on a jaundiced look, not truly yellow, but with their vibrant summer green gone army drab, announcing their irrevocable judgment that autumn will come.  Goldenrod still froths in ditches and on hillside, more cheerful, but the meaning is the same.

The carrot beds are at the top of the big garden.  That high up the flow from the creek hose is only a trickle; if you lift the hose a foot the water stops completely.  With so little pressure it takes a long time to water the carrot beds, and we have not been as assiduous as we should be, we who have last year’s experience to tell us that carrots need to be watered often.  Yesterday we did what we have known for two weeks we should do.  We took a hose from the collection of damaged garden hoses hanging on the board fence along the drive, closed on end with a fixture, and hooked it up to the creek hose.  Laying it out along the top of the garden, we began drilling holes with a one-sixteenth inch bit and a cordless drill starting at the very end of the hose and working our way back.  At first we spaced the holes about a foot apart; when we reached a point forty feet back, we started over and drilled again, between the first holes.  Crude but effective, it makes a drip hose when laid out along the highest beds, and a sprinkler hose lower in the garden.  We shift it every few hours and finally the carrots are getting properly watered.  We hope they will respond with better germination.

Why didn’t we do this two weeks ago?

Two young pigs are on pasture at the top of West hill, enclosed with sixty feet of polynetting and watered by a hose from the spring a hundred yards further back in the woods, a hose ending in a pig nipple welded to an iron stake.  There was some doubt in the beginning whether these particular pigs were going to settle in well.  They began their lives as confinement pigs and their terror at finding themselves enclosed not by bars and a floor of rubber-coated expanded steel, but by the wooden walls of our infirmary pen on a wood floor strewn with hay, caused some of us to wonder they would be able to make the transition to woodland foragers.  Happily, they have adjusted themselves nicely, turning over a bed of soft forest mould under the side of a fallen tree and snipping leaves from the young sassafrass.  We hope they will thrive.

We have said before that trying to build a farm and learn to farm at the same time, and with no instructor, is like trying to build, without benefit of blueprint, a Boeing 747, at the same time one is taking it on one’s first transatlantic flight – solo.  Now we think a better analogy would be trying to do the above while manufacturing the parts.

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Saturday, June 23:

Still no rain.  We have had one or two light showers which refreshed us but had little or no effect on the gardens and pastures and barely registered in the rain gauge.  The temperature has been in the nineties, which to our Texas-bred minds is moderate, but our Ohio-acclimated bodies find the weather almost oppressive.  The windows are wide open to catch any breeze, and we sweat standing still.

Still, there is a great deal to be done at this time of the year.  Garden maintenance is constant.  It is like housework; no matter how often you cook, or wash dishes, or fold laundry, the next day it will have to be done again.  The hot dry weather, stunting to some garden plants, is like a tonic to the tomatoes, squash and corn, and the weeds – especially the weeds.  We have lost track of how many times we have tied up the tomatoes, pinching out the suckers at the same time, and pulling weeds as we go.  The six-foot stakes we tie them to are beginning to look too short.

Every day or so we paw through the squash plants searching for the grey, diamond-shaped bodies of squash bugs, which we drop into a jar of soapy water or just smash.  They must be related to stink bugs because they look so like, and when you smash them they smell like those aggressive anise-scented air-fresheners that overwhelm you when you step into a gas station restroom.  The smell, in addition to discouraging any predator less determined than a gardener, must serve as a warning signal to other squash bugs:   during our last summer’s war on squash bugs when we torched every foot of the pumpkin patch in a final effort to make some dent in the bug population, the air was so syrupy with their smell you didn’t want to open your mouth to breathe, and the ground was grey with tens of thousands of bugs flowing out of the garden like a tide, trying to make it to the safety of the high grass.  There was trouble in the air and they knew it, even before the demented woman started shoveling them into the fire.

At first hand-picking squash bugs makes you think life is too short to spend any of it this way, but diligent attention from the time the plants leaf out does diminish the numbers.  We are placing all our hope for a squash crop on Mr. Eliot Coleman, whose assertion that really healthy plants aren’t bothered very much by bugs reassures us despite our own experience.  We’ll coddle these plants all we can, and what is perhaps better, we are making successive plantings of the short-season summer squashes and if the bugs get ahead of us in one place, we’ll tear those plants out and hope that by the time the next planting is maturing the bugs will have gone dormant or something.  Stay tuned.

Potato bugs are another scourge, fat, shiny orange grubs that eat the leaves of the potato plants down to bare ribs, and although one doesn’t eat potato leaves and is therefore not in direct competition with the bugs, the plants need leaves in order to grow potatoes.  Twice-a-week visits to the potato patch, or even more often, give us a chance to skim down the rows looking for bugs.  When we find an area that is infested we – that is, they, not I – smash the little boogers in their bare fingers by the dozen.  The more squeamish collect them in a can of soapy water, or brush them onto the dry, cracked ground and step on them.  It is our own experience that this method of control is very successful, and not really time-consuming if you don’t have to do the whole potato patch by yourself.

Japanese beetles make good targets for young people with badminton rackets, and if hit hard enough they disintegrate on impact.

News flash:  hallelujah and glory be.  Sixteen years we’ve been in this house, is it?  Sixteen years gardening in the same places, and this year, only this year, we discover that, despite what our eyes assure us, the big garden (as opposed to the really big garden) is downhill from the culvert on North creek.  This is earth-shaking news, because it means that when we drop a half-barrel under the culvert with a fitting plumbed into the side to take a garden hose, we have running water in the garden seventy-five yards away.  Not just some water, as we have had – and grateful for it! – from the rainwater reservoir next to the barn, which catches almost three hundred gallons when it rains enough and has watered many young fruit trees and tender seedlings which might otherwise have died, but which has to be husbanded carefully in dry weather – but unlimited water, a full hose running constantly which can be dropped into a trench and allowed to soak whole areas of thirsty garden.  This is an especially grateful discovery this dry, dry summer, and was made because the stock spring has run dry – or as near as makes no difference – and we had to fill the tank from the creek.  Heretofore we have done this with the aid of a small electric submersible pump and a bucket set in the creek bed; slow, somewhat troublesome, and requiring electrical power.  Now we drop a hose from the culvert into the three-hundred gallon tank and it is full in two hours.  It takes four or five hoses to carry the water as far as the barn, but as our hoses are all salvaged from the trash pickup the system is effectively free.

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