Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chickadee dee dee

Just picture in your head a little Chickadee flitting about a garden. Cheeping at you every now and then. So lighthearted, so carefree, imagine it drinking from the bird bath. Aww, such a sweet image...

Now let me tell you about the real critters; the angry, violent, highly skilled birds of prey known as the Chickadee. These natural born assassins are an insect's worst nightmare. Black-capped Chickadees can devour up to 1,000 insects a day each, their songs contain a highly sophisticated communication system and they can be hand-tamed (if you don't mind losing a few fingers in the process... I kid).

So naturally when I saw Japanese Beetles chowing down on our sad little strawberry plant I immediately thought "If only I had some hungry little birdies around." Considering neither of us know the song for "Please come eat these evil bugs" in Chickadee, we resorted to another option.

This is where I offer many thanks to the wonderful Shaw Creek Bird Supply site. Using their brilliant plans for building a Black-capped Chickadee Nest Box, we were able to quickly assemble a home fit for royalty (of the Chickadee kind). Somehow we happened to have a 4' section of 1" x 6" laying in the garage and using our handy-dandy saw, brad nailer, drill and Rotozip we produced this:

Oddly enough later the same afternoon we had two black-capped cuties eating at our bird feeder. I don't expect they'll move in right away but a cozy home awaits them. By the way, if you would like to hear more about the cute, innocent, sheltered, narrow view of Chickadees have a listen to this ditty.

Wild Pumpkins!

After Halloween last year, we threw all of the leftover whole pumpkins into a compost heap that is now the pumpkin patch. We planted a few baking pumpkins this summer, just to be sure we'll have a few pies this fall. Of the five or six pumpkins we threw in last year only two seeds made it, but they came alive with a wicked vengeance.

Not only are they out-doing our other pumpkin plants in every way, but frankly we're having a hard time keeping them contained. I can't wait to hack into the first of these monsters to grab seeds for next year.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Summer of Sustainability

We're reaching the height of summer in our garden, and most of our crops are starting to produce signs that we'll at least get some small harvest this year. After having to replant the corn so many times, I'm not sure if we will get anything out of them, especially the sweet corn, but perhaps the field corn will work out since it can stay on the stalk longer. Our green beans are budding, and the squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins, tomatoes, and peppers are blooming. We have one small green tomato, our blueberry bushes have berries that are beginning to turn blue, and the strawberry plants are sporadically putting out one berry at a time. We have some lettuce and spinach coming up, and we just planted some peas. The basil and other herbs are also doing very well. Unfortunately, it appears that the apple tree has a case of powdery mildew, so we are going in search of an organic cure this weekend.

All in all, I think our first foray into vegetable gardening is going pretty well. Next year we'll get an earlier start and hopefully we'll have lots of good compost to amend the soil with. We're planning on growing some winter barley after the crops are done this fall. Once we start harvesting, we'll keep track of how much we get, so that next year we can have a better estimate of how many plants we need to be able to eat plenty of fresh veggies in the summer and also put some by for the winter. We are also in the planning stages of getting a couple of Buff Plymouth Rock chickens in the spring.

To supplement our homegrown veggies and fruits, we're getting all of our produce from the local Amish farms. We're also purchasing organic milk and butter from grass-fed cows from a local company called Natural by Nature, pasture raised angus burger from Dr. Elkins' farm, and free range chickens from Rumbleway Farm. We're weeding out most of the processed foods from our pantry, and doing our best to buy local as much as possible. Our efforts to help support sustainable agriculture may be small, but we are certainly enjoying them!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Heirloom Gardening Tool

This weekend we were presented with an amazing gift from my uncle; a home-built weeding tool based on one he uses in his flower garden.

It can be used similar to a hoe for uprooting pesky roots but on the edges the blade is sharp as a knife and makes quick work of cutting down sprouting weeds. Not only is the tool extremely functional but it is also made of family history. The handle and blade were made of farming equipment from the Bartels family dairy farm. It's made the rounds in our yard and already sky-rocketed to the top of our must have gardening equipment. Thanks Uncle David!