Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Three Years at Rivenwood - A Spring Photorama!

Let's start with Easter...

This is Tyson.  He was a gift from some new friends just a day or two before he met his demise...

This is also Tyson, a couple of days later.  He was a really fat turkey, but made fantastic stock.

This has nothing to do with Tyson.  These are chicken eggs being dyed for Easter with natural vegetable dyes, these with boiled onion skins.  I traded a couple dozen strawberry crowns for a pile of white eggs from some homesteading friends nearby.  We normally don't have white eggs, so the timing was perfect.

Here's the finished product.  What great variation compared to the FD&C-approved version!  The red-brown ones are the onion skin dyed eggs, the purple ones were done with beets, the blue with purple cabbage, and the gold with turmeric.  All in a grapevine basket made by my grandfather.  The variation within one color was due to trying a brown egg with each dye, and the botanical prints were just random things collected from the kitchen garden held fast with pantyhose.

First spinach thinnings of the season were combined with early wild spring greens and edible flowers to round out our dinner offerings to the potluck with friends.  (Forgot to take a picture of the finished product unfortunately...)  That Grandfather sure makes some nice baskets!  And the young spinach was top shelf.

Wide overview of the developing kitchen garden.

Asian pear, rabbiteye blueberry, rhubarb, horseradish, and comfrey polyculture below the bath house.  Strawberries would probably match up well here too, as a groundcover, but the terrain is too steep for the tedious picking involved.

A view to the south-southwest through the woods.  The chicken tractor has been picking its way along new paths all winter, and will hopefully arrive on the other end of the kitchen garden just in time to join the new spring pullets in an as-yet-unbuilt coop and yard when the latter are big enough to defend themselves against the old broads!

View through the Asain pear-blueberry polyculture back across the bottom of the kitchen garden.  White flowers in the background are native dogwoods toward the end of their bloom. We are fortunate to have lots of them. 

New white-fleshed peach polyculture under development on the near end of a strawberry-rhubarb patch.

Trusty old low tunnel hoops that will be packed up for the season by the next post.  The Swiss chard in the middle of this bed made it through a pretty harsh winter undercover.  The near greens are the remaining spring spinach seedlings that didn't get pulled for Easter potluck.  To the left is another peach-centered polyculture, this one planted last spring.

My favorite!  Dinosaur kale.  Or Tuscan kale...or Lacinato kale...whatever you want to call it.

A nectarine polyculture holding down the north end of the strawberry-rhubarb bed.  So far I've companion-planted my Prunus species fruit with comfrey, valerian, sweet mint, lemon balm, sage, self-heal, and perennial onions around the base to repel voles.  Left to add this season are yarrow, bee balm, Fanny's aster, and black-eyed Susans.  You can see the first comfrey tops of the season cut and laid down as a fertilizing mulch to the right of the rocked off area.  We'll get much larger dressings of comfrey later this season.  I just wanted to remove flowering tops for now, until they get bigger.

More of last spring's peaches and plums, with spring pullets in the little tractor in the middle ground, and pink native azaleas in the background outside the kitchen garden.

The new girls.  They are the first stage of any new garden bed 'round here.

My doe rabbit trio in the process of building a new large bed above this Asian plum.

A new Euro plum whip backed by those pretty native azaleas I mentioned earlier.  We now have quite a collection of colorful plums, and I'm just getting started...

You gotta have nuts too.  I mean, in the garden.  (Or to do what we did in the tent.  Either way.)  This is a Chinese chestnut holding down the hillside above the near-future chicken yard.  I'll be adding in some blight-resistant American chestnuts soon, a pair of pecans and an almond or two to try out in this climate, a bunch of hazelnuts, and nut pines in the dry spots. 

Bridging kitchen garden and big garden tours, I've included one shot of hard structural changes.  We added in a 120 gallon propane tank last fall that supplies a gas cooktop and a space heater to back up the old wood cookstove (which worked brilliantly all winter, by the way, for heating and cooking).  I also moved the water tank from below the house to this spot above the house, trying to get more pressure to garden hoses (and potentially a kitchen sink).  It's now ready to be plumbed into the near side of the roof for rainwater collection, which should happen pretty soon.

Picture's a little shaky, sorry, but you've seen this garden before.  Only, each year it moves more toward perennial fruit and herb production, and away from veggies.

Elephant garlic, old raspberries, comfrey, new raspberries, and a whole bunch of garlic (and a few vagrant broccolis that didn't get the message about the fruit/herb thing).

35' of raspberries in their third season.  Should get a full yield this year, and last year's wasn't bad...raspberry jam for Christmas anyone?  To go with the blueberry and blackberry of last year?

This is 35' of new raspberries planted last fall out of the other bed.  (Recently weeded, so a bit ugly, sorry.)  This will give us a summer raspberry snack while they get established.  We hacked the old crop back to get one big fall crop out of this primocane variety, instead of the summer crop it bears on old wood and fall crop on primocanes.

We're slowly building up stocks of the herbs we use most, and comfrey deserves its spot at the top of that list.  Despite recent FDA propaganda (don't worry, if you haven't heard the new slander of comfrey from the establishment, give it time), comfrey is one of the most useful plants on Earth, and one of the brightest stars in our herbal lineup from Small Batch Garden.  Lavender, garlic maybe, few plants should be loved more.  I hate the FDA.  With all my heart.

Speaking of garlic!  I'm growing a whole bunch of 3 varieties this year.  More than I probably should, considering my limited space.  But we should have an ample supply for my garlic-loving household to eat (children included), to plant next year, and to sell some for seed stock.  Funny thing, I planted exactly 365 cloves.  Accidentally.  

Big sweet blackberries coming along nicely, already in flower.  I should be doubling or tripling them this season.

Lots of great blueberries.  But this is not the big crop!  This is the snack aisle...
There's a long mound of strawberries to the right, and a long mound of asparagus to the right of that.

Aren't these pretty?  Just some native woodland irises.

View of the 'stead from down the hill.  We haven't made a real impression on the landscape yet, but we're getting there.

And that's a wrap!
I got mono a month ago - worst thing ever - and it set me back hard on spring preparations.  One more reason to focus on perennial food crops!!  I'm just now beginning to feel better, but I have every intention of kicking a lot of ass the rest of this year.  So much to do, so I better get to it.  But I'll stop back by and catch you up again as soon as I can.

Happy Spring!  Enjoy those gardens.
Tripp out.