Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A cacophony of green black walnuts

Things are quiet in the country unless you have a metal roof with a black walnut tree nearby.

Visitors sitting on our front porch jump out of their rocking chairs when a slight breeze drops a green walnut or two on the metal roof of our garage. It can sound like a pistol being fired or at least a pot hitting a tile floor.

If this season's premature walnut blitzkrieg is any indication, we are in for a good black walnut season. Last year's was the best in recent memory of the old timers. I gave away more than 100 pounds (husked but not shelled.)

I picked up the two dozen or so walnuts in the photo in just one pass around the garage. That's just from one tree. We have about 25 mature walnut trees on our property.

If I offer any of you black walnuts this fall, don't even asked if they are shelled. You know the answer.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Locally grown

While we won't make the cover of Subsistence Farming magazine anytime soon, it was nice to have a big family meal with a few local delicacies.

The morel mushrooms which I fried and served on toast were harvested from our place in April and then frozen. Betty added our raspberries to her peach/raspberry deep-dish pie.

I'm glad I waited to plant a vegetable garden. The silt and runoff would have destroyed anything planted in the garden spot. I hope to get an earth-mover in here soon to solve our drainage and runoff problems. It has been too wet to do anything like that for the last couple months, but the summer dryness is starting to take hold.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Raspberry surprise

The fields have been so muddy I haven't been looking in on the berry patch much, but I received a nice surprise yesterday when I found some nice looking raspberries. I didn't think I would have any the first year.

Speaking of berries, we went on a hike in the Smokies yesterday with our son, Lem, and his friend from Minnesota, Alice. We hiked to Andrew's Bald from Clingman's Dome where the altitude is getting close to 7,000 feet. We were amazed to find flame azaleas in full bloom and the blueberry bushes just beginning to get a little fruit. At that altitude the area seems to be about six weeks behind us.

I saw blueberry bushes seven-feet tall. It makes my puny little flatland blueberries look like pavement-crack weeds.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day to us turkeys

Coming up our driveway on our way home from a nice Father's Day dinner with our daughter's family, we caught two wild turkeys pecking around in the front woods.

Blog entries may be a little light this week since our son is visiting from Minneapolis.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Oh . . . well

It started out innocently.

In my May 18 post I told about an above-ground and freeze-proof water faucet that I installed down on the lower level near the garden and berry patch. It worked fine, but I started worrying that I would hit it with the tractor or someone turning around before making the switch-back up to our house would do the same.

I thought about making a wooden box to go around it, even toying with the idea of making it look like an outhouse. Nothing seemed to fit until I extrapolated that water actually comes from a well and so what I needed was a rustic stone well with a cedar roof.

Three tons of rock later, I have my well. It's my first masonry job and looks halfway professional. You really can't screw up stacked rock because it is uneven by nature. I hope to plant some ivy and other climbing vines around the base. The handle and rope mechanism actually work, but it's all for show of course.

And so we have our wishing well. Betty is wishing I wouldn't come up with such projects, but, remember, it could have been an outhouse.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gravity tomatoes on the cheap

Who among us has not seen the info-commercial about the upside tomato plant? Just send those fine folks $19.95 (plus shipping and handling) and you will receive a magic hanging planter to grow your upside down tomatoes.

I've got a gravity tomato and it cost me a buck, plus a tomato plant. Here's what you do:

1. Get a plastic bucket with a handle. Drill a 7/8 inch hole in the bottom of the bucket with a spade bit. (You can just use a sharp knife if you don't have a bit.)

2. Take an empty 2-liter plastic bottle and cut it into 3 inches down from the neck.

3. Insert the bottle into the hole in the bucket with the neck sticking down (see photo at left).

4. (This is the tricky part.) Carefully feed your young tomato plant through the neck of the bottle. This will take some time and patience.

5. Fill the bucket with potting soil and hang it in the sun. My tomato has been hanging for seven days. It seems to be doing fine.

You will want to use a small variety of tomato such as Rutgers. Also, remember that a plastic bucket dries out quickly. You may have to water a couple times a day in extremely hot weather. You can also try cherry tomatoes or different types of peppers.

I wish I could say I thought of this myself, but I found the idea on the Internet. The site is www.gravitygarden.com.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More bush-hogging . . . boring

The second 8-hour day of bush-hogging has left me dull and uninspired. I would have finished today, but I got the tractor and bush-hog stuck in a ravine and had to call my neighbor to pull me out with his tractor. Larry has a real farm tractor, a 60 horsepower diesel that can pull a small mountain.

Another hour or so tomorrow, and perhaps I can get my inspiration back.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A no-fooling work day

I started bush-hogging at 8:30 this morning and went for 9 hours with about 30 minutes off for lunch.

Technically, I have a John Deere rotary cutter. "Bush Hog" is the registered trademark name for the popular tractor implement made in Selma, Ala., but nothing better describes how the cutter chews up undergrowth. My hog will take down 3-inch saplings without any problem.

For cleanup around the trees and for areas that are too steep for the tractor, I use a Stihl blade trimmer (seen on the cutter). I can handle saplings up to 2 inches with it.

Another 8 hours and I should be hog clean.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bluebird not so happy

In my post from Friday I told about the bluebirds frolicking in the yard after a rain and how happy they seemed. They aren't too happy when they wind up in the wood stove.

For some reason, bluebirds are intent on building nests in the metal cap that covers the pipe from our breakfast room stove. The cap looks bird-proof to me, but they find a way in. Occasionally, one will drop down into the stove.

Nelly, our Boston terrier, is quite the bird dog. She alerts us when we have a bird in hand, so to speak.

I usually manage to get them out without harm, just a beak full of soot.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Another rail against the vines

The recent rains have brought the vines out in Deerfield in their full detestable glory. The tree in the photo is at the bend in our driveway that goes up to the house. I remember specifically cleaning all the vines off the tree in the spring of 2008.

I need to slow down on the building projects and start vine whacking and bush-hogging again. I've spent the last few days on a spur of the moment project that sort of got out of hand. It's almost complete. I'll have a post on it soon.

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's a family affair

I sat on the front porch one rainy morning this week and was treated to a show by a pair of bluebirds that have made Deerfield their home. They stay near the house and play tag in the front woods. I'm pretty sure it's the same pair that live in a small house we have attached to a fence post near our driveway. They had four eggs in the spring. We didn't want to disturb them further, so we did not see the babies.

Where you see one, you will soon see the other. They pick at each other, chase each other and frolic like there's no tomorrow. Wait . . . could these be the bluebirds of happiness?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Don't confuse your tigers and ditches

I had always known the bright orange day lily that you see many places in the south as the "tiger lily."

Actually, this lily is a common wildflower that is often confused with the oriental tiger lily. The patch of lilies you are looking at near the entrance to our place in Deerfield is more properly known as a "ditch lily."

It defers from the tiger lily because it propagates by means of tuberous roots instead of bulbs.

Ditch lilies prefer wet soil which is the reason you see them along ditches. They grow in any type soil and need no fertilizer or tending. My kind of flower.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Have hydrangeas, will travel

On one of my trips back to Indiana in the fall of 2006, I dug up two hydrangea shoots that we had rooted by turning down a stem and placing a brick on it. I carefully packed them in good soil and got them in the ground as soon as I got back to Deerfield. The mail-order hydrangeas had done well in Indiana on the northwest side of the house. The flowers were always blue and full.

Fast forward to the spring of 2007. The spindly bushes are barely alive with very few leaves. In the spring of 2008 there was a little new growth, a few more leaves but not a sign of the first flower.

Here we are in the early summer of 2009 and the hydrangeas are finally coming to life. They still are on the puny side, mind you, but the half dozen or so blooms were a pleasant surprise.

A gentle reminder from Ma Nature not to give up.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Christmas in June

Walking through the woods early this morning, I kicked at some brush that seemed out of place. To my surprise, it was a big of clump mistletoe that evidently had fallen from one of our tall trees during our recent wind and rain storms.

The piece was about as big as a wash tub. I saw where it had attached itself to the tree.

When I was a reporter in Pine Bluff, Ark., one of the first feature stories I did was about a young man who made his Christmas money by shooting mistletoe out of trees. He was a crack shot with his .22 rifle and scope. He would take the bunches to downtown Little Rock to sell. He said he made $400 or $500 every year. This was in 1968 when $500 could buy you a nice Christmas.

I have seen mistletoe in our poplar trees, usually at the tip-top, in the winter. I'm going to try to keep it alive, but no doubt it will die. Parasites live on the edge and don't do well if tended to.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pardon me while I trim my fence

On my post of May 13 I noted that my rustic fence in the backyard made from fresh-cut hackberry trees was sprouting new growth. I thought it was a short-term situation.

Almost a month later the fence posts are still "alive." I think the growth is from all the rain we've had and vestigial capillary action in the bark, but I'm no arborist. There's no way a hardwood tree can live without roots. Is there?

I trimmed the green off of all the posts. Die, fence, die.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Beware of the 'devil's apple'

The most ubiquitous wild plant in Deerfield is the mayapple (podophyllum peltatum). The herbaceous perennial plant shows itself in March and grows madly until June.

We have several woodland patches of mayapples larger than the footprint of a small house.

The fruit of the mayapple (shown in photo) does resemble a small green apple, but don’t let it fool you. If ingested in quantity, the fruit is poisonous. The roots are highly poisonous.

Other names for the mayapple are hogapple, Indian apple, umbrella plant, wild mandrake and devil’s apple.

I’ll bushhog most of the mayapples in the next few weeks, but they will be back next spring in spades.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Day 4: Woodshed complete

Despite almost three inches of rain in the last 48 hours, I managed to put the roof on the woodshed. The roof is a composite metal which matches the garage roof. It's the first time I've ever worked with a metal roof, but it went up fairly quickly.

All the structure needs is stain, but I need to wait for the treated lumber to cure a little.

Oh, and I have to cut and split enough firewood to fill it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Feeding time

We'll take a day off from woodshed construction to see more Deerfield wildlife.

Neighbor Larry submitted this photo of a quartet of baby birds that has taken up residence on a porch post near his front door. Larry put nail spikes around his porch soffit to keep birds from nesting, but it didn't stop this clan. Their nest is built on top of the nails, so Larry gave them a little Styrofoam for a cushion.

We don't know what kind of birds we have here, just that they're hungry.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Day 3: Woodshed construction

The roof trusses and lathe went on quicker than expected. I cheated and cut the trusses out of 2 X 8 lumber. That's much easier than building them with 2 X 4s.

I ordered the metal for the roof. It should be ready early next week. All that's left after the roof is to stain the wood. I'll let the treated lumber dry a little since it takes the stain much better if it's not wet.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 2: Woodshed construction

The 2 X 8 rim joists were added today and the 1 X 6 flooring. Temperature hit 90 today, but there was a little breeze, so it felt cooler than yesterday.

Rafters and lathe on which metal roof will be attached. This is where we get into angles, and I will start wishing I had paid more attention in geometry.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 1: Woodshed construction

Construction of the woodshed started with setting the 10 foundation posts. The 4 tall posts are set in 24 inches of concrete. The shorter posts are set in 15 inches. When digging post holes by hand, I never dig in the hard red clay any deeper than is necessary.

When finished, the shed will be 16-feet wide, 4-feet deep and about 8-feet high.

Of course, I had to start on the hottest day of the year so far.

Rim joists and floor.