Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Monday, April 4, 2011

April Fools Photo Update

The Hub - part tool shed, part chicken coop, with a decent view of the four garden "rooms" arranged radially around it. Clockwise from lower left: the tractoring/laundry/play yard, the orchard/milpa, the staple garden, and the kitchen garden.
 I promised myself I would deliver a lot more photo, and a lot less gas, this month, so let's just dive right in, shall we?

Mick and Pepper enjoying a beautiful April day.  You can see the pecans starting to leaf out in the foreground.  'Round here, that means that winter is officially over!

Call this resilience planning.  See the tiny whip of a tree in the foreground?  It's a sweet black cherry called 'Lapins,' and it's supposed to be tolerant of some heat.  On winters like the last two, with 1200+ chill hours, I can keep all the fingers on both hands and all the toes on both feet crossed that we'll see some fruit.  And who knows what the climate might do!?  Best to have a tree of fruit-bearing age just in case things get funky in the colder direction.  We'll have plenty of oranges and olives too...(actually we already have 7 tiny olive trees and hardy citrus root stock going!)

The milpa.  What you see heading out is a production tomato and basil bed, the apples, then another garden bed, then pears, another bed, then peaches, another bed, then plums.  Feels good to have this garden full of fruit trees.  My friend Nathan in Vermont says that little bare-root nursery stockers statistically outperform the big potted fruit trees you get from a local dealer.  My rows alternate sources so I guess we'll see for ourselves.  Trees are planted on 15' centers in both directions.  Annual production around the trees will decrease every year.  The ducks will live out here, and the 15 gal black tubs you see are for them.  They will bathe and poop in there, and then I'll dump them under the young trees and move them to the next row.

Panning left from the other fruit trees there is this row of 4 varieties of figs along the orchard fence.  Very small figs, obviously.  I will plant muscadine grapes on this fence as I come across them.  In this region you shouldn't have to pay for muscadines.  They will serve as turkey, duck, and goose forage, as well as human enjoyment!  Had a damn decent muscadine wine made just down the road recently.  Surprised the hell out of me.

Production garden.  Here is a nice bed of garlic (just artichoke this year, I'll do better next winter), then potatoes, then onions, then...I'm shooting for self-sufficiency in a few staple crops this year - potatoes, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and dry beans.  I should be able to wild harvest enough blackberries for the year too, although I have planted 3 thornless varieties that should fruit from April till frost, plus thorny boysenberries and red raspberries.

Didn't show up as well as I had hoped.  The second year grapes I dug up from Small Batch and brought to Tonic with us are covered in little clusters of potential grapes.  Bunch grapes aren't reliable here in the sultry south, according to the locals, but I can't help myself.  I have 5 varieties that "can't" be grown here, and the flower clusters are promising at least.  I'll keep you posted.

This is my blueberry patch.  The light green bands are buckwheat.  The blueberry bushes are all still pretty small, obviously, but we are getting a surprising amount of fruit this season, considering you can't even see the bushes.  Five of 28 bushes didn't make it to leaf out, mostly in the foreground of the photo.  I'll just replace them next winter.  I also have 3 supposedly everbearing blueberries called 'Sharpblue' in the kitchen garden along a main pathway.

Oooh, look, a fig!  The only one on this young Black Mission fig.  This is the first of the "birthday trees."  When you visit my garden on your birthday you get a fruit tree planted in your honor, inscribed on a permanent metal label - this one belongs to my aunt, Beverly Sparks, who is Assistant Dean of Agriculture at the University of Georgia.

It was REALLY windy when I took these pictures.  There's the little Black Mission fig again, to the right, and the little tree by the rabbit tractor is a loquat, another warm climate fruit tree with yellow-orange fruit and a dark stone.

This month's hardscape project, I moved the flat brick floor out of the shed and laid a front porch instead.  The 6-lite half "glass" door is probably the original back door to our house, before the office and second bathroom were added on.  It's now "glazed" in chicken wire.

Strawberries with a green pea backer.  Eventually I'd like to pave the whole kitchen garden with these bricks.  (Ahem, I'll be expanding the beds into the pathways between now and then.  Laying brick pathways is a LOT of work!)

Small berries starting to form, and daughter plants are running.

Green peas sporting their first blooms.

Early spring-planted broccoli forming heads.

This isn't all of my mushroom logs!  Not sure when I'll find enough time to innoculate them all.  We're picking up a soapstone woodstove in Atlanta this weekend, so some of it may become firewood instead.

Again, harder to see than I'd like, but these little guys just arrived this week at our farm - 4 American Buff Geese, 4 Welsh Harlequin ducks, and 3 Blue Runner ducks.  The blues are really cute, especially the way they walk like penguins.  The geese are for keeping the play yard mowed and fertilized around the rabbit tractors that can't keep up, and the ducks are for pest control and egg and meat production.  Waterfowl are expensive!  Hopefully I can sell instead of buy soon.

There was a rain-collecting depression at the garden entry that was begging to become a brick step.  More bricks to lay, and a bat box to hang.  Probably missed my window for attracting bats this year.

Isn't that a beautiful thing?

Little mushrooms and rosemary guarding the entry gate.  You should always plant rosemary by your garden gate.  Why?  It's written!  That's why...

A happy dog, Nightshade, who is also a new addition this month, after losing our tom turkey, is waiting for his human.  Ella is still waking up from her nap.  Haven't lost anything since Nightshade arrived.  The long pile is the beginnings of my ever-present hugelkultur, this time made with lots of half-rotten logs like it should be, instead of twigs and branches.  Although I bet that hugelkultur in Macon is ready to go!

Now Ms. Anna here has been the real boon to our quest for self-reliance this month.  She's a 3 year old Jersey who lost her calf about 6 weeks ago.  We got her two weeks ago from a nice old professor in Alma.  She's giving me a little over a gallon of milk a day right now, but she was only being milked every other day to keep her flowing before she got here.  I think we can get that volume up a little and become self-sufficicent in dairy products too.  There's a bit of a learning curve in the milking department, so don't just assume you can jump right into dairy production!  You'll learn about controlling sucking flies pretty quickly too!

The coming cheese cave.  Just need an external thermostat.

Mon petit chou.

My grandfather's neighbor lost a big pear tree recently in a storm.  I think it will be great for flavor in the cob oven I'm building.  Hopefully soon, it's starting to get warm.  And we need to move cooking operations outdoors.

It says "Pesticide-free Zone."  If you need pesticides you're doing something wrong. 

Ever our message.  And we finally hung a star to advertise to those who know that herbal medicine is available here.  Jess is getting pretty good.  She just devised a fly spray for the cow, made from witchhazel and essential oils, that beats the socks off of permethrin.  Works for me too, and it's gentle enough to spray on my face...so we planted a little witchhazel in a shady corner of the garden...
Till next month!


  1. thanks for the pictures. It is fun seeing where people live. The broccoli was beautiful. I didn't know that a star was a sign for an in house herbalist. I will have to keep that in mind when the time comes. I liked all the bricks. We have an old chimney that needs to come down so will have a lot of bricks to use. Lots of ideas filling my mind.......

  2. Okay, now I am jealous your plants outdoors are ahead of my plants in the greenhouse.

  3. Zen, our garden is still so rudimentary, just the bare bones falling slowly into place, so I'm flattered that you think it's worth looking at. Give me 5 years! And careful with that star - the most common interpretation is that you're a witch!

    Nathan, well, we ARE in zone 8b, and you in VERMONT! Tiny difference. But I had a few small tomatoes get burnt back last night when it got down into the 30s. Not terribly cold, just really wet from that nasty storm the night before. Bad combination apparently...

  4. Couldn't the star just make me look patriotic? Surely every one will know that I am too lazy to be a witch. You know how difficult it is to not offend hundreds of deities? It is hard enough for me to not offend just one!

  5. Tripp,
    Jill read your blog this weekend and was so impressed she wants to start a blog now too!
    She also is excited to see your place.

  6. Zen, I do indeed understand your quandry. Lots of god offending opportunities to be had for the resourceful! No way I could keep up with so many extras...

    Nathan, tell your sweetness Jill that I'm awfully flattered! And that I can't wait to check out her blog. New post forthcoming today, after farm chores, and I'll post the link to my podcast interview with Northern Homestead in the sidebar too. Somehow Jason made me sound smart!

  7. Thought of two more areas to explore, Nutrient density farming, and preserving the resident digestive enzymes present in all life forms.