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Archive for the ‘My Maine Home’ Category

Kirkie of Instagram

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

I’ve recently been inspired by #catsofinstagram to share original pics of Kirkland. Check out her “stare”…

Hair-and-makeup team: her and her (she loves to preen).

Hanging Out in the Barn with Friends

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

My (new) friends R & J visited me all the way from Nashville for a few days last week. We laughed so much and J gave me some ultra cool Instragram user tips. Check out my photos… (p.s. I cannot wait to visit them so we can tour Loretta Lynn’s house/museum in Hurricane Mills, TN)

Dear Winky

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Winky Lewis, an amazing Maine based photographer whose whimsical images are each one more fun/beautiful than the next, came by my home for a photo shoot a couple weeks ago. These are just a few of the images she captured. (p.s. I never like how I look in pictures, and I really do in these – anyone else have the same insecurity?)

*The chair in this last one is by Eric Ritter, I’ve been obsessed with his Morphology (outdoor/indoor) pieces for years. He lent me the bench for the day, but I’m going to have one made (they’re all custom) so I can sit and watch the bees (during the summer).

Week in Review

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

I came back to a whole lot of weeding on Saturday  and ended up clearing out enough room from one of the beds I was able to transplant the tomatoes (had my first one tonight and it was delicious!). I also came home to cucumbers (another first along with corn, sunflowers, watermelon and acorn squash)..woo hoo!

Plans are moving forward to go to New Orleans next month to pickup Bacchus. Since I made the decision to adopt him I’ve gradually been getting more excited and adapting to the idea of having a dog again.

The girls are fifteen (weeks) going on sixteen and should begin laying in about four weeks (with any luck after I get back from Louisiana). I’m looking into poultry netting to expand their outdoor run, at least during the daytime while home…but options are $$$ so I may need to get creative. I do (for those who’ve asked) let them take turns in the yard while I’m doing yard work.

It’s been a long week getting up at 6:00 a.m. and not tucking in till 10:00 p.m. when I try to stay awake to read (if I’m lucky I last about ten minutes).  I’m staying on top of my workouts and thanking Hilery every day for my physical transformation (stronger, slimmer, faster).  Thank you Miami Dolphins for not keeping her in Miami!

Speaking of football, my beloved Bears take to the field soon for their first preseason game against the Broncos. I’m bummed Urlacher will not be on the field, but looking forward to seeing what Campbell can do (I am not a Cutler fan). Undeniably, I’m also pretty interested in seeing Manning on the field again.

Mulching with compost and straw

Cucumbers, sunflowers, watermelon

Spider web in the garden, one of nature’s wonders

Bacchus

The girls

Week in Review

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

The girls turned 13 so my understanding is we’re about seven or eight weeks away from EGGS!!! Since chickens like to lay in cave like spaces off the ground I built their laying boxes today.  My first “Luck and Pluck” construction project all my own.

The Buff Orpingtons are super friendly, if not a little skittish. “Sylvia” the smallest and the yellow footed one (the rest have pinkish feet) “Isak” are always jumping in my lap or running right to me when I come to the coop. The Australorps are sweet, but not inclined to let me pick them up and their claws are sharp.

The girls decided to take a field trip when I entered the coop with wood and tools. After letting them play a bit I just picked each one up and put them back in – and thankfully they cooperated.

With these in all I have to do is hang a wooden rod across for them to perch on at night (there are a couple thick sticks neatly attached to the wall by my old handyman….which were the perfect height when the chickens were young, but as adults they like to perch higher up).

Kirkie and the chickens get along fine, provided there is fencing between them. I think Kirkie is more perturbed that mama’s attention is spent elsewhere than anything else. The chickens also get nearly daily visits from the two large wild turkey families (their young ones are so cute).

My first homegrown sunflower, my favorite flower.

Corn continues to grow, because I’m watering it. Have you read about the sad corn situation nationwide due to the drought?

For work I visited a couple dairy farms. Wait (a couple weeks) till (I can share) you can see the pictures. The owners and their families were so nice and they each have such interesting stories. At one I got to meet the calves. I couldn’t get over the barns full of hay bales.

Harvested Gold Rush Bush Beans from my garden for dinner. Delicious boiled with a little bit of salt!

Raised Bed Gardening and Organic Mulching

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

When I decided to purchase my home it was in great part a response to my growing interest in gardening.  As much for the purpose of feeding myself as for aesthetics. I have always found solace in beautifully designed gardens, and specifically with those featuring a number of raised beds.

Raised-bed gardening is a common and practical method for growing vegetables for a number of reasons.

1. Soil in the beds is deep, loose, and fertile. Plants benefit from the improved soil drainage and aeration, and plant roots penetrate readily. – For more information check out this website on organic gardening.

2. The beds are isolated and you can rotate the varieties of vegetables you plant in them each year. *Rotating discourages insect pests and pathogens from remaining in the garden soil over the winter and infecting next season’s crop. Everything you ever needed to know about crop rotation and a WHOLE LOT MORE is here.

3. They are an accessible way (especially for beginner gardeners) to to maintain an organized and beautiful garden. Jennifer Bartley’s book Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook is wonderful for designs of how to organize a garden with raised beds with information on planting design, container gardening, companion planting….One of my most referenced gardening books.

Raised beds can be supported with wooden boards, stone or simply (and most inexpensively) raked into hills six to eight inches high. The Backyard Homestead from Storey Publishing is a solid resource for beginner gardeners/homesteaders. This illustration is on page 23.

When planting certain crops i.e. melons and squash, I’d read and been told to apply a floating row cover (lightweight, permeable white “garden like blanket” requiring no support) to the area (in this case bed) immediately after transplanting to act as Eliot Coleman describes “a physical barrier against insects.”

To help me create my first raised bed I employed Daniel Rennie, a Food Corps service member looking for part-time work, for a half-day. In addition to being a terrific instructor (admittedly he did most of the digging) he is the one who advised me to apply for the Maine Master Gardener Program (I am for 2013).

Here’s his lesson on using straw as mulch (I did this on my own this past week):

USING STRAW AS MULCH FOR ORGANIC GARDENING

Getting straw to mulch in and around entire bed. Tuck plants right in and cover all the soil. This will keep down weeds and conserve moisture in the soil.

To protect the mulch from wind drifting and being moved by water, it must be covered with a netting. The mulch should cover the entire seed or bare area. The mulch should extend into existing vegetation or be stabilized on all sides to prevent wind or water damage which may start at the edges.

Here’s what I’ve learned on my own about straw and organic mulching.

Straw is a by-product of harvested crops (barley, wheat) and is a naturally occurring substance. It’s usually available in abundance and it replenishes itself. Straw mulch is truly a green, organic mulch to choose for your garden. It is great for weed suppression, retaining soil moisture and adding organic matter to the soil when it breaks down. Some people use it to line chicken coops.

There are two cardinal rules for using organic mulches to combat weeds. First, be sure to lay the mulch down on soil that is already weeded, and second, lay down a thick enough layer to discourage new weeds from coming up through it. It can take a 4- to 6-inch layer of mulch to completely discourage weeds, although a 2- to 3-inch layer is usually enough in shady spots where weeds aren’t as troublesome as they are in full sun.

FYI (because I keep getting “straw” and “hay” confused)

Hay refers to grasses or legume plants cut down fresh and baled for animal feed. Hay bales are usually greener than straw bales, the plant material finer. Hay smells really nice, too. You would not want to use this stuff as mulch, or you’d end up sprouting a yard full of alfalfa or whatever. It’s also more expensive than straw, about three times as much, depending on the grass type. No one would use hay as bedding.

And now…to my Green Hubbard Squash, Blacktail Mountain Watermelon and Sweet Reba Bush Acorn Squash. These are what I planted in my new raised bed. Their growing requirements are similar – all are vine crops and need plenty of growing space.

Dig a hole, put a layer of mulch in, put the seedling in, put mulch around the seedling and cover it.

And tools …

A pitchfork (very common farm tool, multiple uses).

A potato rake (goes by other names, I just don’t know them…but any hardware store in Maine will know what you are talking about.)

Kirkie aka Lioness or Mouser

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Hunting for field mice while I do garden/bee/chicken/yard chores.  She is 12-years-old, a rescue from of all places Tijuana. Her sister, as she reminded me for so long went to Ben Affleck. Now that she’s got her own barn and field I think she’s feeling pretty equal to her Hollywood sister.

Corn

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

I’m trying to grow corn for the first time.

Seedlings of Fisher’s Earliest Sweet Corn, grown from High Mowing Organic Seeds.

I’m growing in containers this year as I could not get a raised bed up in time (spring 2013 project!). While the corn seems to be doing fine so far, it is best grown in blocks to ensure pollination. It should grow to five feet (about halfway there!). At best I’ll get four ears of corn from each stalk. Sweet Corn is yellow, but there are orange and purple corns – not sure what those would taste like.

Learning to Dig My Own Damn Holes

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

As my friend D said to me earlier this week “Sharon, you need to learn to dig your own damn holes.”  Yes, I do!  I’ve been too reliant upon others to dig or help me dig them so I’m on my own now digging, buying compost and potting soil, filling pots, (soon for the squash) putting down row cover… I’ve purchased a book on planting fruit trees (I’ve got four – two dwarf apples planted, a peach and cherry needing to go in the ground), am getting a copy of Elliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener and contacted the University of Maine Cooperative Extension regarding applying for the Master Gardener program in 2013 (I’m on the mailing list for an application). I’ve planted peppers, eggplant and corn in containers and am going to get the tomatoes in this week. Weather permitting I’ve got to take care of the brussels sprouts, watermelon and squash. I’m determined to put in an extra bed next year for squash and pumpkins. For now though, one thing at a time. Or, perhaps I should say one mistake at a time….it’s how you learn. By luck and pluck, my newest blog category will document how I, as a young neo-homesteader learn the ins and outs of country living from bees to chickens by luck and pluck and a whole lot of expert advice. Get ready for a ride folks!

Last week’s transplanting of corn grown from seed to 5  gallon pots for this summer.

Sustainable Ways

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

A few ways I’ve made my home more sustainable…

Hanging clothes on the line to dry, and using dish towels vs. paper towels. They are prettier and can be reused. Great gift for a new homeowner.

Harvesting rain water in a rain barrel. I use the water for the chickens and to water some plants. You can get materials at a Lowe’s and/or a local hardware store. (I recommend having a professional do the gutters, it doesn’t cost that much compared to what could happen if they are installed incorrectly.)

I use a gray water system for dishes during the warmer months. This is a kind act towards my soon to be replaced (this fall) septic system. The excess water goes to water non-edible plants in the yard.

Forget air conditioning when you can open up your house and let the breeze flow through. Whoever built my home was smart – it’s cooler with the windows closed downstairs and just the barn open so the air circulates ’round the house. After insulating my attic the upstairs bedrooms are cool enough with windows open and only require fans on nights the temps hover above 80 (can count those on one hand).