Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wednesday of Few Words: Greenhouse Goings-On

Yesterday, a hummingbird was feasting from the hanging baskets, which have filled out and look  spectacular!
See that birdcage?
A tiny bird (a finch?) is building a nest in it!

Yellow hibiscus tree.
Ruth hooking up the strawberry  aquaponics to water hose from the  fishpond.
Strawberry aquaponics in gutters.
Water cascades from one level to the next.
Set up for private  Christmas-in-May dinner party last weekend.

Monday, May 16, 2016

May Days

This is so my favorite time of year!!!
Frogs lazing in the aquaponics beds-- we hope to get the  new catfish for the aquaponics pond next week.
Chickens scratching in the compost piles
and under theWillys.  That truck is beginning to look rather rooted to the landscape.
We had a frost warning Saturday night so  Mae and I covered all the  tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and squashes with flower pots and cups. The garden reminded me of an ice fishing village on Lake Bemidji.  We did get some frost, but nearly all of our plant babies made it through.
The last few daffodils of spring blooming next to the greenhouse.
Cherries are developing on the  Montmorency tree. LOTS of cherries!  I may have to wrap this little tree against birds this year.
Impulse grape vine purchase --Now I have to figure out where to plant them.
The Egyptian Walking onions grow HERE.
The view from the greenhouse hammock.
LaFonda is so happy to be living in the big pasture again. I think it is her favorite time of year, too. It is so  crazy fun to see a grown, old lady  cow romping and leaping and kicking up her heels.
I have been tempted by the siren song of the greenhouse hammock, but I have resisted so far. Too much to do!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Year of the Greenhouse

A year ago February,  we decided we needed a real greenhouse, something that could be used as an attractive  event site in case of inclement weather, as well as a great space to to grow plants.  I went to Craigslist, typed in "greenhouse" and this one came up. It was exactly what I envisioned: the right size, a good price, in our former town, and the sellers' names were also Roger and  Susan - it must be destiny. We happened to be the first ones to inquire, just moments after they had posted the  listing, and  we worked out a deal and a plan.
 Since our site is steeply sloped, we did lots of earth moving in preparation.  Huge, heavy concrete berms on the southwest corner were back-filled to the  brim with rock to make the floor flat and to provide good drainage in our heavy clay soil.
In April, when it was warm enough that the polycarbonate panels would be flexible and not break when  straightened, we began to dismantle the beautiful greenhouse. We were naively envisioning we might be able to take it down on Saturday, erect it on Sunday...Ha!!

Re-erecting the  greenhouse was  MUCH more finicky that setting up a new greenhouse.
Even with many capable (and patient!) friends helping, it took many weekends. Frequently during the week, fierce winds would undo all our hard work, popping out the hard-fought panels and blowing them all over the pasture.
During the summer, we had to pretty much suspend greenhouse work to complete our Commercial Kitchen project, which was also taking much longer than planned.  We managed to finally get the greenhouse fully erected and enclosed before winter set in, although it was too late to grow anything inside.
This spring, Rog installed the wood stove so he could work on cold days and began  construction of a clay and cordwood floor, partitioned by brick pavers.
This project of course justified the need for our newest big farm toy, a cement mixer.
The  floor is made from a mixture of clay dug from our farm, sand, portland cement, straw and water, with bricks and cross sections of logs. My  conservative estimate is that Rog spent 200 hours putting in the clay floor.
 In a final big push to get the floor done before the ReBlossom Boutique we hired some  hardworking young fellows to help apply preservative to wood, mix  the clay and level the wood.
Rog slowed up long enough for me to set in a small mosaic sun in the center of the floor.
Raising a bit of dust in the middle of the night cleaning the clay off the wood before a final coat of linseed oil.
In the meanwhile, I  created a mosaic glass window for the peak of the greenhouse. Vintage glass dishes are glued to a 5.5-foot diameter double-pane round window scored from the ReStore. Hanging it was a production -- it weighs about 300 pounds.
Found a cool  hall table at a thrift store and painted it with clay paint for the greenhouse.
Some hanging baskets and other plants start to make it feel like a greenhouse.
The gorgeous completed floor.

Setting up tables the night before the TedX speaker dinner.
The greenhouse has now successfully hosted  the ReBlossom Boutique, when was filled with vintage and re-purposed  items for sale in an Earth Day festival two weeks ago, and a lovely dinner for the TedX speakers last week. But I think my favorite event was last Saturday, when Rog and I moved the double hammock into the sunny greenhouse and enjoyed a delicious, well-earned nap.

I was going to  write "the end," but then I realized this is just the beginning of the greenhouse adventures1

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Time Flies When You Are Having Oodles of Fun!

The past 6 weeks have been a blur of spring activity, and I have not had time to  do my morning camera walks around the farm. Worse yet, I have totally missed taking photos at many significant events.  But here are a bunch of photos, in no particular order, to catch you up on spring at Squash Blossom Farm.  This is my very favorite season, green and blossoming and burgeoning.
The honeybees arrived early, have been successfully installed in their hives and are already hard at work. I have two Langstroth hives and  a top bar hive this year. Plus, our farm assistant Ruth will be keeping a fourth hive at the farm.
It is peak dandelion and creeping charlie bloom for the bees right now,
and the apple trees are blossoming.

Mae, one of our wonderful WWOOFers from last summer, arrived to  intern with us for the  entire summer this year. That makes all of us, two- and four-footed critters alike, extremely happy.

The Northern Lights magnolia in bloom behind the Willys truck.
Abundant  blossoms on the Service Berries (aka Saskatoon or June Berries.)
We have been harvesting rhubarb for a few weeks.

The garden was tilled a few weeks ago and we have begun planting.
Our first veggie bed is going to have a fun, curvy layout of rows of greens, cabbages and marigolds. Here is the "before" photo - stay tuned for the "after." We are so lucky to have Mae as our intern, a gardener with an artist's eye, happy to tackle these crazy ideas.
I have been searching for "Contender" peaches for several years, a variety of peach that will grow in Zone 4, but no local nurseries carry them.  This spring I found a few trees at Walmart, of all places, and planted two at the edge of the garden!  I do not always have the  best luck with fruit trees, but I am going to baby these trees so tenderly.

We took off the walls enclosing the fish gazebo and opened it up for summer.  All of the goldfish and  koi survived the winter and are looking fat and sassy. We are still deciding whether to add  tilapia or channel catfish this year.
Ruth, our farm assistant,  replaced the drip irrigation lines in the  aquaponic system with hard pvc pipes (to reduce clogging from algae) and we planted the pond towers with pansies, lettuces and strawberries, which are beginning to really grow now.
The green wall is planted with nasturtiums, parsley and lettuces and  will be connected to the pond as soon as we can get to it.
We have been  blessed with some great spring rains to boost the  growing. Also some pretty fierce winds.

The silly garden decor bicycle got a new coat of turquoise paint. Magenta baskets to come.

The little yellow magnolia bloomed seriously and gloriously for the first time.
The waxy, fragrant blossom were about ten inches across when open!  Pretty exotic for Minnesota.

The cows finally got to go into the  pasture. The first few days I only let them in for a few hours, but now they have full access and the grass has become tall and lush. They are so happy.
 Our first event of the season was the ReBlossom Boutique, for EarthFest, the last weekend of April.  Ten vendors  sold their  recycled, upcycled, vintage and garden wares, plus we had live music, wood-fired pizza and kettle corn.  I took this photo when our first vendor to arrive, Teri, started setting up her stuff, and never had a chance to pick up my camera again!  More than a thousand people came on Saturday, exceeding our wildest expectations, and we had hundreds more on Sunday despite the rain, What a glorious, fun weekend.
Rog and I are serious Ted Talk fans, so we were honored to be asked to host the TedX Zumbro River speakers for dinner the night before the big event in Rochester last week!
 We also baked 1200 (!) savory and fruit turnovers for the audience at TedX event.  I really did not have a very strong sense of what we were getting ourselves into - it turns out that 1200 is a LOT of hand-made turnovers. To give you an idea, there are 134 turnovers in this photo.We  formed, half-baked and froze turnovers for 4 days, then thawed, baked and packaged them all the  night before.

At 5 a.m., Mae was actually still smiling as we finished  packaging the last batch of turnovers for delivery a couple hours later.  Ruth was also here baking turnovers until the wee hours of the morning. We are so fortunate, and so grateful, for Mae and Ruth's invaluable help.

Our season has barely begun... we are just planting the gardens now, we will be at the  Farmers Market beginning next weekend, the CSA starts  in 2 weeks, we are planting a Food Forest at the end of May, and in June we will open for Summer Sundays at Squash Blossom and host three weddings! We have a fire in our belly - it is going to be a crazy, fabulous summer!