Saturday, May 21, 2011

Toukokuu - The Planting Month

The moon I have been waiting for all winter has arrived.

The long evenings of summer arrive in May, well ahead of the heat of summer. Unless it is raining I rarely go inside until well after sunset. There is more than enough time to spend indoors during the winter.

This year I seem to have created an unusual amount of work for myself however. In some ways I'm just like a plant. The trees and grass are putting on a growth spurt with all the energy they have hoarded in their roots over the winter. Likewise, once the snow is gone and days are long, I am energized to take on all the projects that I have been thinking about all winter. Suddenly there is a demand to get moving and get going. That is probably the reason I have never gotten into spring steelhead fishing. But come fall, when the days are shortening and the summer's work is mostly behind me, I can spend hours and hours casting for steelhead at Lake Superior. It's good that we have have both spring and fall.

David nailing a rafter onto the sheepfold. My plan is to nail 2x4 purlins across these on 2 foot centers and put on a metal roof. What is there about asphalt shingles that they have lost their attraction to me? Weight, work, time and pain, that's all.

Yes, I could have sheathed these walls before raising them, but I decided to do the labor intensive part early and the costlier part later.

Planting 50# of seed potatoes.

You can stretch your potatoes by cutting them in pieces.

A field cultivator behind a tractor fluffs up the soil and creates small furrows, which makes planting potatoes ridiculously simple. Just toss the spud into the furrow and rake the soil over it.

Marja covered them up with a pronged hoe. If we decide to plant larger quantities in the future I think I'll make a drag to pull behind the tractor to automate the job. Machines are good servants but bad masters. Our industrial, vertically integrated agricultural system has largely turned farmers into commodity producers dependent on large corporations for all their inputs.

That would probably dramatically change if growers were allowed to butcher and sell their own animals, sell milk directly, etc. Of course that would mean that consumers would have to take responsibility for what they choose to eat or drink.

Our vinyard, six grape vines. Hoping that they are truly frost hardy to zone 4 like the sales lady said they were.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Building a Sheepfold

I wound up building this wall three times. The first time I had a friend helping me who reversed the top and bottom plates so that all the studs were angled. That in itself should have alerted me to a design problem, but we simply knocked off one plate with a sledge hammer, flipped it end over end and renailed it. Fortunately we didn't have time to put it up that evening. The next day I realized that I had marked the studs incorrectly. The studs are 16 inches apart, but I neglected to center them on the 16" increments. When you are marking them you need to remember to subtract 3/4" and put your pencil mark there. It has been several years since I built a wall so it slipped my mind. Plywood comes in 4' wide sheets and you need to nail adjoining sheets to the same stud. If you space all of your studs a full 16 inches apart the plywood will end right at the edge of the stud and the next sheet will be resting on air.

Finally, the first wall was standing. Note the water puddle inside the frame. We had a lot of rain this week.

Getting set up to nail together the second wall.

Finally, all four walls are up. I hauled a half dozen bucket loads of sand in with my tractor to level the floor and provide a drier substrate. The tall wall will have a large opening for sheep to use during inclemet weather. I'm planning on anchoring the fence to the wall just to left of this doorway, which would allow me to enter without opening a fence gate, which can be a problem when the snow gets deep.

This is actually more of a hayshed than a sheepfold. From what I've read (my knowledge of sheep is almost all from books at this point), sheep would just as seen stay outdoors in all but the worst weather and don't need much of a shelter. Hay bales on the other hand need a good roof over their head. But sheepfold has a nicer ring to it.

And yes, it is going to have a slanted roof.

Collateral damage. Trees and pastures are somewhat inimicable. A few trees go a long way, so I had to do some selective cutting with my chainsaw. Next fall after there is snow on the ground I plan to have the mother of all bonfires.

I moved the beehives near the chicken coop. This past week my buddy Paul delivered four packages of bees, three of which I installed here. The fourth went to another friend who is just starting as a beekeeper and lost his first hive during the cold weather.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring Planting

According to the book, you should plant your strawberry plants about a foot and a half apart in rows three feet apart.

There's a lot of bending, kneeling and shuffling when you do it by hand...

...but with 200 plants we managed to put in ten rows about twenty or so feet long in several hours. I was happy that we hadn't ordered any more.

A final pass with the disk before planting blueberry bushes.

The book says to plant your blueberry plants about 8 feet apart with 8 feet between rows. We only had 12 plants so we put them in two rows of six.

That leaves a considerable area of ready tilled soil unplanted. However, I have placed an order for six grapevines, which should be planted even farther apart. This plot has a hump and I don't think the higher drier ground would be that good for blueberries anyway. But if all goes well, we can add more next year.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Vappu - May Day

The foundation of our future sheepshed/hayshed. Sheep don't need much shelter, but if you're going to feed them hay over the winter it has to be under a roof.

Our frog pond. We dam up the culvert under our driveway to create a temporary pond for the spring peepers. Thus far however it has been so cold that they haven't been singing that often.

Mallards have taken advantage of it however.

Our permanent pond is filled to the brim this spring.

We've had as many as seven geese at the pond at one time, but none have nested on the island yet.

Surprisingly you can approach them quite close if you're sitting on a tractor. Last week I hooked up my new disk harrow and tilled some of our gardens. Seeing what a disk can do for the first time really puts a smile on your face. I suspect I'm going to have to find more things to plant.