Cherry Picking Peacock Video

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Reposted from my Tumblr blog.  http://sunhfarm.tumblr.com/post/56994524503/my-peacocks-love-fruit-this-yearling-will-jump

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In the Weeds

It has been dry.  We were finally relieved with some pleasant rain showers yesterday afternoon.  Besides the obvious need to water the pants, I am excited because the rain will soften the soil slightly, so I can get out on them with the tractor to cultivate.  I have to be vigilant about when soil conditions are optimal to do so, too dry and the soil will turn to powder and blow away.  Too wet, and the weight of the tractor will compact and deteriorate the soil.

When growing organically, weed control  is a challenge.  I rely largely in mechanical cultivation, dragging blades through the soil to disturb weed seedlings.

Tractor with cultivator set up to weed around two rows

Tractor with cultivator set up to weed around two rows

With this method, timing is essential.  Weeds are opportunistic and vigorous growers.  The younger the weed seedling, the better your chances of actually killing it. Especially if it you have dry weather for a couple days after.  This is true, too in the home garden:  Rustling about with the hoe while the seedlings are just sprouts can save you much work later on.

If the weather is wet for a spell and I cannot get out in to the fields, however, the weeds can quickly grow to the point of shrugging off the cultivator, at least the type I use.  There are other designs for different situations out there.  I have had to at times resort to using a weed whacker or lawn mover if the weeds get too far ahead.

The limitation of the cultivator is that while it eliminates weeds between the rows, the seeds hiding in the row with the crop are untouched.  These must be removed with hand tools or by pulling.

results of tool-bar cultivator with Danish (S) tines

results of tool-bar cultivator with Danish (S) tines

When removing larger weeds by hand, do your best to pull the roots out as well, or they will just re-sprout, often with more branches.  Be sure to completely remove them from the garden.  Tossed into a pile in the corner of the garden or leaving them lie where they were pulled is unwise, for they will easily re-root and resume growing, usually going immediately to seed from the stress.

Regardless of how else your gardening season goes, the best long-term strategy for dealing with weeds is to make it a point to stop all the weeds from going to seed, thus preventing more weed seeds from being added to your soil. Flowers produce seeds eventually, so when weeds flower, get them out of there!

Weeds getting ready to make seeds. Center, ;eft to right: ragweed, grass, campion (white flower), pigweed)

Weeds getting ready to make seeds. Center, left to right: ragweed, grass, campion (white flower), pigweed

You can reduce the current seed load by putting some of your growing space into what’s called a fallow.  This means not growing a crop on the space, but letting the weeds sprout, cultivating them to eliminate, letting another batch sprout, and repeating the process a few times over the course of abut 6 weeks or so to sort of ‘clean out’ your soil.

A rain shower following dry weather is a great time to pull weeds by hand.  Dry weeds have a weaker grip on the soil, and adding moisture allows the roots to easily slip from the dirt. You can achieve the same effect by watering the garden then immediately pulling the weeds.  This is only a grace period, however:  Within hours, those weed roots will drink up the water and attain an iron-like grip. Again, timing is everything:  After yesterday’s rain shower, I pretty much dropped everything and ran out to pull some ragweed that had gotten quite high in the cabbage patch, knowing if I waited until morning it would be rooted in too tight to pull.  Ever.

Chinese cabbage flanked by ragweed

Chinese cabbage flanked by ragweed

 

Yellow dock

Yellow dock

 

Docks are another weed with a firm grip that pretty much shrugs off the cultivator.  Burdock is best hoed out as a seedling, and yellow dock is advantageous to pull after a rain.

 

 

 

Get to know the seeds growing in your area and their growth habits, and you can get a fairly good leg up on them with vigilance and persistence.  I don’t ever expect to eliminate every weed from my fields, for a few around are beneficial for biodiversity, water retention, and insect habitat, but I do keep in mind that ever tiny weed left behind has the potential to become a 4’x4’x4′ shrub by season’s end.  So I do my best, knowing that somehow, a few weeds always get left behind.

Kimchi

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First batch for the season using Napa cabbage.

I make it by first soaking greens in salted water overnight.  Rinse 3-4 times, then I make a paste of garlic, onion, fresh ginger, salt, sugar, chili flakes and Cayenne flakes and a little sesame oil.  Amounts depend on how big the batch of greens.  I leave in a bowl covered with a cloth and set to ferment, 2 days to 2 weeks depending on the weather.  Adapted from recipe given to me by Old Barn Hollow.

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Geese visit the garden out of curiosity. 

Garden Companions

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I enjoy the soft fluttering and gentle peeps of the turkeys as I work in the field.

Yards of Poultry

It is mid-July and the days are sweltering.  Farming is in full swing, and the days can be long and tiring.  But the farm also offers much inspiration to keep motivated.  Lawns and pastures are a vibrant green, colorful flowers abound, and all the glorious fauna have swapped their Winter shagg for sleek Summer threads.  Everything looks alive, I am surrounded by the beauty of rural life.

One of the standard images of the idyllic country life is that of chickens lazily scratching and pecking about the yard.  And, indeed, when I decided to move back to the farm, I, too, had this image in my mind.  But anybody who has ever raised chickens and let them have the run of the place has soon discovered that freely ranging chickens are messy and destructive– leaving smelly poop everywhere, scratching up flowerbeds, and invading vegetable gardens.  And any chicks that these ranging chickens set and hatch will be feral, thus embodying all above mentioned annoyances times two.

white rock hens

white rock hens

Don’t get me wrong:  Free range chickens are healthier, control insect populations, lay more eggs, and cost less to feed in the Summer.  And customers at market prefer eggs from ranging birds.  So various compromises have been devised, from fencing acres of pasture for the birds to forage on to confining them to coops for the first half of the day, then letting them range in the afternoon and evening, keeping them more intent on feeding and less likely to wander out of the barnyard.

But I still would enjoy seeing birds adorning the lawns.  I have found solution with some of my other poultry I keep.  Turkeys, geese, and peacocks are also beautiful to see, while I have found them to far less destructive and littersome.

One of my favorite joys each morning is stepping out onto my front porch to sip my coffee and being greeted by the sight of my Midget White turkey hen and her poults.  I raise other poults in the barnyard, but these the hen hatched herself and I am letting her range with them.  She takes then round the lawns everyday, showing them how to forage for themselves.  She does not scratch, so my flowers have been safe.  I find very little poop.  Passers-by have commented on how nice the turkeys are to see in the front yard.  (They, in fact, later ended up in the local newspaper, a passer-by having taken a picture of them from across the road)

Midget White Turkey Hen and Poults

Midget White Turkey Hen and Poults

In the side yard, there are geese.  White and grey Embden and Chinese.  They seem to like the area between the barn and greenhouse, which is good, because they do leave droppings with gusto.  But they are vegetarian so it quickly dries to compost.  They graze the lawn each morning and evening.  They are funny to watch and quite noisy if insulted.  But they are by far mostly quiet.

Geese in the side yard

Geese in the side yard

In the back yard, there are peacocks.  I have been raising a mating pair for two years now.  I bought them in so they are skittish and likely to fly off if set free.

Cobalt and Stella

Cobalt and Stella

Last year they hatched and now I have a pair of yearling males I am allowing to range.

My goal is to have the peafowl ranging on the lawns.

So far, the two are doing well, and I have even witnessed them practicing. wpid-IMG_20130628_192356_344.jpgOf all the birds, they have the greatest sense of humor and are hilarious to watch.

I look forward to next year when they have their trains to display.

So I have found a way to have the best of both worlds, while helping to support and preserve heritage breeds and allow natural behaviors.  Raising these birds provides beauty and adornment to my farm, with the added bonus of diversity to my family’s diet and to my market offerings.

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