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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Yep, back again for another round

I started my lil blog several years ago to more or less document our successes and failures here and to share a little bit of knowledge from things we learned along the way. Then somehow I started slacking on keeping my blog updated. Now seems like I am about 5 months behind. And a lot can happen in 5 months around here. After my last post we got to drive to Arizona and see our kids and the grandbabies out there. I tell ya, nothing like 2 little boys to make a feller drive for days no matter how much it hurts the body. They are worth every pain tho just to see those happy little faces. Then November was hunting season and spent most of the month in west Ky at the lodge helping out there. Back home and then flew to Arizona to spend 3 weeks or so with the kids and those precious lil boys again thru the Christmas holiday and the littlest one, Zach's 2nd birthday. Got back to my homestead shortly after new years and here it is March already. Dang where did the time go?



We have decided that we want to get all our garden planted by mid April this year like we use to do several years ago. It was just what my dad always insisted on doing. He said if you plant early things sprout and start to come up and you get them in ahead of the spring rains and just do so much better. Never knew of a year when dad failed to have a productive garden. Last fall Rodger did manage to get our garden plot turned so it can be worked a bit earlier this year. So this gives me hope we will be able to plant earlier this season than in the past few years. I did start my transplant seeds early also. I already have cabbage up, although they are lil ones yet. I did suck it up and invest in 2 seed tray heat mats to use for the peppers and tomatoes this year. Both of those need a bit of heat to sprout well and come up. I have herbs started as well as the tomatoes, peppers and cabbage. In my herb garden it is just easier to transplant small clumps of herb plants than to try to keep ahead of the tiny weeds that tend to come up with them. As far as my experience I have less lost of seedlings and plants this way. Not to mention I know where I planted things so less chance of them being trampled when I am in there doing weeding and harvesting.

I have done a lot of research on orchards and fruit tree care this winter when it was too cold to get out and do projects outside. Well at least for me. I want to be a snow bird and go south in winter as I get older. Just no place like home tho. Anyway, we strive to use very little to no spray on things here. I am well aware that it kills the soil and depletes it over time to use pesticides. We use No weed or grass killer, herbicides, on or near any of our crops. We decided to try to go organic as far as how we care for the orchard. I did a great deal of research on Neem as a tree spray. On researching it I found that most places, big box stores and even local farm stores just sell "chemical" sprays, not really organic. But they do sell neem oil spray. Only problem with this is the neem they sell is only 1 or 2 components of true whole neem oil. So I found an online source for whole neem oil. I thought with shipping it was kinda pricey but after checking the price of the partial stuff sold at farm stores it was actually cheaper over all. If interested in any of this info visit the site www.groworganicapples.com on growing organic and www.neemresource.com for the pure neem oil. Finally this past weekend I did get the first round of neem on my fruit trees and grape vines. I sprayed with the neen and fish emulsion to give the trees a nutrient boost for leaf production. We had put fertilizer on the trees and grape vines prior to the spraying. I did find a few small branches on my peach and cherry trees with bloom. Not totally bloomed out so that was a plus. I am sure we will have some frost and cold weather before we actually get to spring so hopefully they will bloom and produce some fruit this year. The apple and nut trees are not even in green tip stage yet so they should do ok. It is strange in east Ky to have 70 plus degree weather in February so this was the problem with some early blooms. I had read a news article saying that lots of commercial orchards are having an issue with trees blooming too early and will likely suffer frost and freeze kills this year. Cant imagine the price of fruit this fall if you can purchase it at all. If news is saying lots of killed fruit it might be wise for all of us that use a lot of canned fruit, homegrown or otherwise, to stock up on canned fruit early ahead of the price increases. 

                                                       Before pruning sweet cherry trees.
                                       
                                                   After pruning sweet cherry trees.


                                 Northern side of our orchard after pruning and before clean up

Last spring I ordered some baby chicks to raise a new laying flock. I being the dummy ordered 25 Buff Orphington pullets. Love this breed. Very docile sweet hens. I had hopes of getting at least one rooster albeit by mistake but that didnt happen. So I had 25 hens. Gosh they all started laying and I was over run with eggs. It is near impossible to sell country eggs here when people can go to the store and use their food stamps and get them cheaper. So I ended up giving a friend half my young laying pullets. I kept 12 and still get too many eggs. Not that that is a bad thing. I do appreciate the effort the girls put in, but just how many chicken fruit can a house of 2 or 3 eat? Well not as many as they provide. But I have a couple people who do get eggs from us so that helps a lot. We plan to build a new run this spring for them so they can be outside a bit but as for now they have to stay inside. Too many predators and our lil girl Sasha is not old enough to know to protect them. She thinks they are for her entertainment right now. She is just a puppy at 10 months old but will outgrow that stage soon we hope.

Last spring a friend in Virginia sent me some thornless blackberry starts. Most people say blackberry shoots, I call these things trees. This is gonna be a learning curve for me for sure. She had told me to tie them upright to a stake or fence. So this I did to the side of the garden fence. Oh geez, I was tying plants all summer. Once you have them growing upright then clip the top to a manageable height. Then they send out limbs off that stem, clip those limbs to about 1 to 2 feet in length. Those limbs will make more lil limbs, clip them to about 1 to 2 feet. All the growth I got from the plants last summer will bloom and produce berries this season. God willing. But am thinking now I sure dont need 25 of those "blackberry trees" I will be picking berries till the cows come home. But thas ok, I will be thankful and consider my self very blessed. Not to mention the fact I ordered some thornless raspberry starts this spring from Starks. Speaking of which, we decided if we are gonna plant trees, and perirrenial plants we are best served to just pay a bit more and get good quality healthy starts. So I will be probably taking our a few of the blackberry plants that are smaller and putting in some raspberry plants on the end of the row on the same fence as the blackberries are now. I am pretty excited to have berries that dont leave me bleeding when I pick them. I also had to purchase some new strawberry plants. I had a good idea once but it didnt work as I planned. I had planted strawberry plants in holes in landscape fabric then mulched them. It worked great for keeping weeds down. BUT the strawberry runners were not able to take root thru the layer of mulch thus they did not live once the plant reproduced. So my strawberry bed was not able to renew itself and now it has scarcely any plants. So last fall I took out the landscape fabric and mulch, tilled the soil, added organic fertilizer and am ready to plant new plants. I am gonna attempt to find some saw dust to use as mulch this year or maybe collect pine needles. It should be much easier for the new runners to take root and keep the strawberry bed renewed very year or so.  You live and learn I reckon.

These are the blackberry bushes tied back to the garden fence. Not to mention this is November.
These things were still growing into December. When we pruned the fruit trees in early February I went by the outside of the garden fence and clipped off some blackberry limbs that were hanging way over the outside. I am sure the deer will help themselves to any plant material or berry that is hanging out of the garden. Or the crows will help themselves. I do have netting to put over small trees and fruiting berries to prevent crow lose this year I hope. They ate all the grapes on the grapevines that are to the left of the blackberries outside the fence. They are going to be trellised this spring with a T-top trellis for ease of covering with netting when the grapes start to ripen.

So now you have a little bit of a catch up post. I am certain I am missing filling you in on something important so maybe I will remember it next time. Till then, blessings from the McGuire homestead.

stella