29 April 2012

Some Wild Weather!

Had one hail of a storm here yesterday evening!  This was, of course, just after I'd set out a couple more tomato plants and watered the garden well, since it had been sooo dry.

Soon afterwards, the overcast sky darkened in earnest.  I heard the sirens sounding in town, a couple of miles away.  I headed in and turned on my portable police radio.  Sure enough, the local Sheriff Department was broadcasting some meteorological nastiness bearing down on our area.  About that time, the skies opened up and the deluge began.  The wind seemed to be blowing from all four directions at once.  Monitoring the radio transmissions, I gathered up a few items, and prepared to head to the basement.  Then the hail began.  It was really hammering down...with big hammers!  After many minutes, it finally began to ease up, then ceased altogether as the storm tracked off to the east/southeast.

I headed outside to survey for damage.  Several of my fledgling tomato plants were among the casualties.  Some were laid over from the beating, a few were simply broken off.  The mud was pockmarked where the golf ball-sized hail had come down.  Trees lost a lot of leaves, but it looks like my blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries were able to ride the storm out pretty well.

I was pleased to see that a young Robin, that had recently left its nest located above my workshop door, had survived.  It was hopping about with one of its parents close by.  I wondered where it found refuge, but was pleased that it made it.  Any critter caught out in that hail barrage would have took a whoopin'!

In the photos, you can see a couple of the tomato plants that got beat up, as well a shot of just a few of the large hailstones that assaulted us!  The rain total for the storm was about 1.4 inches according to neighbors.  A bunch for a half hour or so!  That's what I get for watering my plants!

You can see some of the 'craters' left by hailstones.

One of the tomato plants broken by the hailstorm.

Some of the hailstones after lying in the yard for 15-20 minutes.

27 April 2012

Cool Weather

Well, I should have known.  After listening to a couple of neighbors talk about how they had some tomato plants that had set fruit, I decided I should at least get a few plants set out.  I did.  Two nights later, I was digging around in the shop looking for boxes and buckets to cover the young plants to protect them from the frost that was forecast.

I have a dozen Celebrity and half a dozen Viva Italia paste tomatoes out.  There are also a few bell pepper and jalepeno pepper plants braving the cool temperatures.

In our area, the average date of the last frost is about 10 May.  I have a hard time resisting the urge to get some plants out early, especially when it has been as mild as this spring has been.

I know, though, from experience that plants that are set out later soon catch up with those that were set out earlier, in the cooler soil and temperatures.  Maybe next year, I'll remember that!  Maybe, I won't be in such a rush.

21 April 2012

A Good Saturday

A very cool, overcast and windy morning. I visited a farm auction this morning. Over in the Amish settlement, the widow and family was selling a lot of the farm stuff. The father/farmer had been quite a collector of farm related items. In fact, he was the neighborhood go-to guy when it came to tools, handles, hardware, harness and other repair items. There was a LOT of farm stuff!!! Wagon loads of hand tools and handles. Set after set of harness. Nails, screws, bolts, and other fasteners. Gas lanterns, stoves, and clothes irons. Furniture of all kinds and a dozen or more old treadle sewing machine cabinets. There was really too much to list!! I called my brother and he came to see as well. We agreed that our Dad would really have liked the sale and all the 'junk boxes' (they were his specialty and his weakness!). Things were going a little high, due in part to the many grandchildren present who wanted to get some of grandpa's stuff. It was a good sale and I think the family did well on it.

This evening, I scrambled to find some coverings for the tomato plants I put out yesterday! I don't think it will frost tonight (maybe tomorrow night), but I didn't want to take a chance. So now I have a row of buckets and boxes covering the new plantings. In our area, May 10 is the average frost free date, but the early spring has everyone gardening early. I had waited until I thought the danger might be past, but...here we go!

Got some Gardening Done!

After yesterday’s successful program an Vincennes University Jasper Center, I came home and worked on our garden for this year. I first headed over to the home of an Amish friend who had said I could have all the horse manure and bedding I wanted to shovel! I took him up on it and soon had the better part of a pick up load. His sister also showed me the new colt of one of their driving horses. Back at home, I scattered the manure-straw mixture around my blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. I also put a bit as mulch around a small plum tree.
Most of the plain manure went on the garden. I then hopped in the jeep and went over to the nearby greenhouse, also run by some Amish friends, to pickup my tomato and pepper plants.
Back in the garden, I ran the tiller through a couple of times to mix in the manure. Then, I measured off and made holes with the hoe for each of the eighteen tomato plants. A dozen are Celebrity and a half dozen are Viva Italia paste-type tomatoes. These should give us all the tomatoes we need for canning, juicing, and salsa.
I also added eighteen hills of pole beans, sowed five to the hill. I used a variety called Kentucky Blue, a cross between the old standby Kentucky Wonder and the popular Blue Lake (which I was not able to locate seed for). I will head over to our Martin County acres to cut some sassafras poles to use as bean poles.
Four sweet pepper plants and a trio of Jalepeno completed the day’s plantings.
All in all, it was a good day for ‘homesteading’!!

BHM Radio Appearance!

In addition to the program given at VUJC, I recently made a guest appearance on the Backwoods Home Radio program. To reach the podcast, just go to the Backwoods Home Magazine website ( www.backwoodshome.com) and click on the BHM Radio Show icon. My portion is on the 07 April program. I came on at about the 82:30 point in the broadcast, if you want to give it a listen!

The Program Went Well!

The presentation on “The Self Reliant Homestead” at the Vincennes University Jasper Campus’ Eco Club went great! There was a nice group ranging from students to citizens who had heard the program advertised on the local radio. I hope that I gave them all some inspiration to get going on their own place. The talk went for almost an hour, followed by some good Q&A. The presentation meshed well with VUJC’s Earth Week activities. After all, what is more natural and eco-friendly than a small farm or homestead? I also sold a few copies of The Self-Reliant Homestead. I enjoy selling books on site at an event. It gives me a chance to sign and personalize the book for the buyer.

04 April 2012

What a Spring!

We have had some incredibly warm weather already this spring. Temps have been in the 80's on several occasions and the farmers in the area are way ahead of schedule in getting planting done.

I have tilled the garden and sowed some lettuce and spinach seed. A half dozen broccoli plants are set out, with rabbit-deterring cages around them. I even planted some old Blue Lake Pole Bean seed that i found in the freezer where I store extra seed. It was dated 1997, so it is sort of an experiment to see if it even germinates!

The blackberries are getting ready to burst into bloom and the blueberries have already bloomed and are dropping flowers. One of the newer apple trees has bloomed nicely. We;ll see what develops. More importantly, we'll see what April brings in the way of cold snaps. Around here, our frost date is about 10 May.

A TSRH appearance

On Thursday, 19 April, I will be doing a presentation on "The Self Reliant Homestead" at the Vincennes University Jasper Campus (VUCJ) in Jasper, Indiana.  I hope to introduce some young attendees to the world of homesteading and generally informing them about some DIY information for the smallholder.  The program will begin at 12:00 Noon in the New Classroom Building Lecture Hall.  The presentation will fit nicely with VUJC's Earth Week activities.  I will also have copies of TSRH available for purchase there.