When we moved here in August, I planned on starting a blog immediately. So many things happened so fast, I wish I had started. I'll try to keep each post short, except for this one which will be to get up to speed :-)
We bought an old house on a small piece of property and are living 6 miles from our 23 acres at Crooked Creek property where we will build our homestead. We are planning to build a passive-solar, earth sheltered home off grid without a mortgage. I hope to document our journey, failures and successes here.
A couple of weeks after we moved in, a huge Black Locust tree fell in and through part of the house. We knew when we bought the house that we needed a new roof and thanks to the little twister that came through, insurance bought us a new roof.
Right now we are experiencing the explosion of Spring. In a matter of days the trees went from a hint of red, to a hint of light green, to a full explosion of leaves and then the grass shot up almost overnight. I took 7 work days off and had 10 wonderful days off in a row! I was fortunate in that I took that time off of work right as Spring hit. I only took the time off because our tree orders (a total of 100 trees) were coming in and 4 types of vegetables needed to be planted so raised beds needed to be built. More are due to be planted in a few weeks and then the rest of the garden goes in June 1.
The animals had the time of their life last week. We were out every day working on projects and the dogs were just wonderful angels. Rufus (the pot-bellied pig) was finally able to get out and walk around some since the ice melted and this is the happiest he's been in months. He makes a sweet, soft little grunt when he is this happy and is always willing to plop over on his side, as his mane stands on end, when there is expectation of a belly rub. While we were working here on the garden, all the animals surrounded us. Some were munching on grass, Rufus just happened to mostly eat grass in front of the compost bin and would lick the outside wood hoping something would taste as good as it smelled, the cats rolled on their backs in the shady spots, the dogs always napped or explored nearby. I'm sure from the road we are quite a sight with 11 helpers around us.
Last week we picked up some reclaimed lumber from a friend of ours. They are beautifully distressed and look like they have been in a fire on some spots. We used that to make some of our raised beds and the rest were built out of some of the large trim work we took out of this house. We had difficulty finding compost and some of the first friends we made when we moved here gave us a TRUCK load of their own 3 year compost! It was beautiful and perfect. They even helped shovel! I'm sure there will be much more about them later. We ended up buying a dump truck load of soil and amended it with mason's sand (sharper edges and retains water, increases heat around plants that need more of it like tomatoes. Round river sand does not retain as much water because of the shape but is still better than no sand.)
The soil on top of the hill at Crooked Creek where we are going to build is partially rocky, but it's good soil. That is where the bigger trees from St. Laurence nursery were planted. They are already doing great and have sprouted leaves in the last few days. When the St. Laurence trees first arrived, they were heeled in to a trench laying on their side to keep the roots protected and moist until their hole was ready. It's quite a chore digging holes deep enough by hand in rocky soil. After some of the trees were planted, there was the additional chore of watering the newly planted trees by bucket since there is no running water there. While walking around the property we found over 300 feet of black tubing in 1/2" and 3/4". When we found a used 325 gallon sap tank for close to nothing, we bought it and moved it to the top of the hill above where the trees were planted. We first tried pumping water to the tank with a 9,000 gallon per hour sump pump (from my former floods) and a reluctantly purchased generator. The water wouldn't go above about 25 feet, that wouldn't even get to one tree. It took so long to get all the tubing setup and no matter where we put the pump the water wouldn't go any higher. That's when I learned all about "head" for a pump. Apparently they are rated for how high they can pump the water.
The same friend that gave us the reclaimed lumber, loaned us a very small 1981 water pump from an RV. We hooked it to a truck battery and that water slowly, but surely made it up about 50 feet to the water tank. What a wonderful sound after days of walking up and down that hill in the heat to hear the water pouring into the tank. We were very surprised that it would get so hot this soon after the ice melted, it was close to 80 degrees some days.
The rest of the smaller trees from Madison County went into a small tree nursery here near the home so I can take good care of them until they have a hole ready for them at Crooked creek. They are small trees and they would be safer here away from deer that like to nibble on them. Also in the tree nursery are about 11 apple trees I whip grafted. I took too long after the class to graft them and though the root stock is doing well and sprouting leaves, nothing has sprouted from the scions yet. Next year I will not leave them so long.
I was fortunate enough to meet (through the friends that gave us the compost) one of my new teachers who is one of the largest, if not the largest, organic apple growers in NY. He has over 400 varieties, has saved apples species from extinction and he has been teaching me me how to grow and graft apple trees. That is where I got the scions from. With new eyes after my grafting class, I found apple trees every where I looked at Crooked Creek. There are large, old, gnarly apple trees and more 1 year rootstock than I could possibly count. Jeffrey is careful as he mows to leave as many as possible. One of the oldest apple trees on the property had no worms on it this year, maybe it has some natural resistance to them. That will be the tree i bark graft to this fall. It's roots are also right on the bank of a stream so it receives water most of the year.
Thankfully it cooled down some today and the long awaited rain came along with the most beautiful fog in the hills. It looks like a painting. Tonight I transplanted some seedlings to bigger containers. All the seeds that needed starting early are in tofu containers and water jugs cut in half. They are on an old wooden book shelf we bought from a neighbor. Jeffrey put wheels on it and we keep it in one window in the morning and move it over to the window on the other wall in the afternoon. The Bell peppers look the best! They were kept warm by the wood stove when they were first planted, but since it has warmed, the sunny window is keeping them in the 70's which is right where they should be.
The first picture is the view of the valley going from Crooked Creek to our house. The second is showing a little red left on the leaves at the start of Spring.