Sunday, July 1, 2012

Life on the Farm is Kinda Laid Back?

John Denver said it, but now that we've been on the farm for nearly 5 months, I wonder if he knew what he was talking about. Sure, it's laid back at night, when the stars are out, the crickets are cricking and the horses are sleeping. Otherwise, there's a LOT of work to do around here. Still, I wouldn't trade it.

We bought a place with not a single out building: nowhere to store hay or grain; nowhere to store tack; no arn; no outhouse. We thought the fences were repairable, but it turns out they were largely in need of replacement and, the case of many of the interior fences, realignment. We've spent a lot of our time, therefore, tearing down old fence, wearing through gloves, digging post holes and erecting new fence. My favorite part is when we stretch that last wire and tie it off. It all looks so sharp, so cleaned up and so FINISHED! Sure, the joy is in the journey, but with hard ground, jagged wire and high summer temps (even early some days), there's a LOT of joy to be had in wrapping up that journey!

I've also spent a bit of time working on a garden. I harvested the colorful carrots the previous owner left behind in the garden, then the garlic. How she managed the carrots I don't know, given what we've learned about local fauna, but the garlic must have had a lot to do with it.

In our lower garden, we're having lots of challenges. First, we battled gophers. While I was watering my beautiful row of beans, a gopher stole three entire plants. The next morning, 5 more complete bean plants had vanished down gopher holes. That's the day I learned to use the Macabeen gopher trap; the first day I ever killed a fuzzy beast. (I thought I'd feel bad about it. I was remorseful for a moment, then burried him in his hole and thanked him for becoming compost before setting the trap for the next fat dude to crawl into my family garden.)

Next it was the heat. I misjudged the May heat index and managed to lose the sprouts when temps rose to 101 in the shade of our front porch one otherwise beautiful day. I've since installed a drip irrigation system, a surprisingly easy project in the end!

Then it was the grasshoppers. They arrived in a cloud, entirely denuded five of the little trees in our orchard, ate the garden to the ground, and carried on to the wild grasses and "weeds." My aunt, who was visiting, and I tried diatomaceous earth (no dice) then a concoction of mineral oil, garlic, castille soap and such to spray on the leaves. That slowed them down, but too little too late.

I planted the new garden, now greatly reduced in size while we continue on this steep learning curve, sprayed the new plant and everything surrounding it for a 20 feet, and all the trees. The onslaught seems to have waned.

Next challenge: keep away rabbits or squirrels or whatever it was that came into the garden in the light of day to eat all the peppers - Anaheim chillis, heirloom bells of various shapes, colors and sizes. The peppers were there when we left for town in the morning - and gone when we returned home mid-afternoon. (sigh)

Our salvation is in our tomatoes. Apparently there isn't a lot out here that likes to eat these nightshade varieties. Let's just hope we get to the fruit before the critters do.


  1. I live in the city of SLO along one of the creeks and have battled gophers. I've watched them pull basil plants underground right in front of my eyes -- wouldn't have believed it! -- and they've killed so many veggies. Now I garden in raised beds lined with 1/4" hardware cloth. I grow melons and peppers in half barrels as they appreciate the warmer soil anyway.

    I now pick tomatoes at first blush and let them ripen on my counter and they taste fine. Otherwise they were invariably eaten the night before they'd be vine-ripe. Raccoons? Possums? Rats? Who knows.....

  2. And to think I used to believe that rabbits are cute and make wonderful pets. The number of crops I have lost to their dawn appetites and bunny creativity to getting around fencing raises my blood pressure. (I now side with Mr. McGregor.) But I have never felt warm and fuzzy and gophers or grasshoppers. Sevin and gophers as compost is my vote!

  3. The only pest I have that touches my tomatoes, is my chocolate lab. He waits til they are red. Ugh, he has been watching us to close. I know its him, cause he carries them around in his mouth until they are nice slimy and squishy before finally delighting in the treat. My battle is not even half of yours, because my dog is funny enough to think he can't go past a line of thin ribbon I tied around the garden. My new adventure in crops this year is the corn. So far, Mr.Dog hasn't figured out that the 5 ft. stalks contain something consumable.


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