Friday, July 3, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

What an amazing time of year, the harvest is rolling in. The heat is getting us down some, but these long days keep us working hard. This is peak harvest time for the only two flowers I seem to be capable of growing in any quantity, gladiolus and sunflowers. I adore the elegance, height, and fortitude of glads. This is the new kid on the block this year, and vying for my favorite; it is an heirloom by the name Violetta.

What's not to love about sunflowers? You can't have too many in my opinion. I planted several varieties when I first came to the farm, five years ago, and now they just volunteer in great numbers, reliably, year after year. That's not to say I don't plant more! As you can see, they really bring in the bees, and a multitude of other insects. I understand they can be an effective trap crop for cucumber beetles, though I haven't seen many of those this year. I can sell them as cut flowers, and when the seeds mature, I can cut those that haven't already been cleaned out by the songbirds and give them to the chickens and turkeys. They are a highly nutritious, high protein and fun to eat snack! I tend to leave the volunteers in row crops that might benefit from their shady shelter from the intense summer sun, like these leeks.

Yes, they are weedy, and would benefit temendously from some rain and some mulch, I just haven't gotten to it yet.

The blueberries are doing well, it hasn't been the best year for them, but not the worst, either. Of the several varieties we have, the very large, plump sweet ones were most affected by the late frost we had, yielding fruit only in the middle of the plant, where presumably the blossoms were most protected by the surrounding branches and leaves. The varieties (unknown) with the smaller, more tart berries are producing like mad. Diversity counts, people, when planting, don't put all your eggs in the one proverbial basket!

Despite my fears, the potato harvest is going well so far. we did have some rotten ones, but the others are perfectly beautiful.
We haven't dug all the varieties we planted yet, but there are plenty of potatoes available for your independence day potato salads!

( Note: all of the above items will be available for purchase at the Hillsborough Farmers' Market tomorrow 8-12, (-; )

It is a really good time of year to be a chicken, or a pig, or, ahem, a squirrel, at the Shady Grove Farm. Produce culls abound. Sweet corn with ear worms is a special chicken delicacy, the wormier, the better. This little fellow in our yard was delighted to find a spent cob.

I have strung up the onion harvest to cure on our font porch. It is the perfect environment for them, dry and shady, with plenty of air circulation. It might just be enough to see us through the next year. Not bad, I must say. I have found two varieties I am quite enamored with: a Japanese red and a Spanish yellow.

The ticks this year have been absolutely awful. Of us all, Maybelle and farmer Steve seem to be magnets for them. Some years ago, I abandoned using the popular Frontline type products. I was introduced to the concepts of Ayurveda, whose followers believe that the the body absorbs whatever is put on the skin, and therefore, one shouldn't put anything on one's skin that one wouldn't eat! Makes sense, right? So what about one's dogs? It doesn't seem right to assault them with toxic chemicals on a regular basis, and the companies that manufacture these products recommend that you do it monthly, even through the winter, no doubt in an effort to maximize profits. I think it is just criminal, given that there are no studies to long term effects. Furthermore, I am hearing reports more and more often that these products don't work as well anymore, that the ticks and fleas are developing a tolerance for the chemicals-creating pesticide resistance, and potentially "superbugs": not a good idea. So, I did a little internet research, and came up with a concoction to try. Using what I happened to have already, to a spray bottle full of plain water I added several drops of the following essential oils: Cedar, Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Sweet Orange, and Peppermint (I understand that sage oil and rose geranium are also effective, but didn't have them laying around).
I spritzed some of this on the little lady's legs, belly, and under her chin, and not enough that you can even smell it on her, and it seems to work really well. In the past week we have found one tick on her lip, and one under her collar, where before we were removing multiple vermin each day. Herbs-use them. They want you to!

Lastly, but not leastly, I was the proud recipient of a prize. Billie Jane, over at technobillies, went on a grand African adventure, and I was the lucky winner of a flip flop key chain (slightly puppy chewed), AND a beautiful carved stone heart that came from Nigeria to Oxford, UK, and then here to Hurdle Mills, NC, USA. How about that? They have received a place of honor on my shelf of special things. They are now nestled amongst such items as a bamboo flute and favorite picture frames from my mother, a custom tiny birdhouse that my stepmother made for us, a bird's nest lined with fur from our beloved deceased dog Willow, feathers from my favorite birds, Steve's skull candle he bought one Halloween 'cause he thought it was cool, and the candle my sister gave her family and friends to burn when she went into labor with my incredibly wonderful niece! Something from everyone I care about, here. Somewhere around here I also have a perfect arrowhead that belongs on this shelf, I will thank you to remember the Native Americans that were here before us on this Independence Day. Read about Billie Jane's amazing African adventure, if you dare!

Now, I am off from from work this weekend, and this fourth-of-july weekend mission is to deal with my extremely untidy yard! -and eagerly anticipating the tomatoes that should be ripe any minute now....


KM said...

Thanks for the extensive update! Love the photos. Glad you took time out from all your goings-on to post.

Billie Jane said...

Wow Sara what a lovely post! So wonderful to see the heart looking so at home on your special shelf! And very interesting about your herbal tick remedy. According to one of the soap lady's who came with us to Nigeria, she gives her dog yeast supplements because they deter all sorts of bugs (and mosquito's). she lives in portugal where it gets pretty hot compared to here... I also LOVE the sunflowers... am planning quite few of those on my allotment. :-) x

d.a. said...

Sara, what a fantastic idea using essential oils for vermin management! Think I'll try that and Billie Jane's suggestion of yeast supplements on the dogs this winter, giving them a break from the constant Frontline usage.

Looking forward to more posts. I really enjoy your writing style!