Camera snaffu is finally corrected! [aka, I'm not all that fast at figuring out computer stuff]
Here's a small pictorial from our Spring Cleaning Day.
Poo Pile composting in progress [yes that's actually snow in there on May 8th!]:
And a year's worth of alpaca poo transforms to this fabulous dirt pile:
We’re really late this year planting the garden. Usually I like to have everything planted right after Memorial Day weekend, but this year we’ve moved the garden to the back yard, near the corner of the pasture fencing, and behind the old shed that was here when we bought the property. A garden near the garden shed sounds logical! And now the hose will reach every part of the garden easily, and I can see it from the house. Dan built 4 more 4 X 12 garden boxes, and we’ve moved 3 of the 4 from the old garden in the side yard. The last box has some rogue lettuces and scallions that sprang up on their own (I love when that happens!), my huge garlic chive plant, and my really, really, huge oregano plant. I’m waiting for the lettuces to bolt and the scallions to be ready to be picked, and then I’ll figure out how to best move the oregano plant and then we’ll move that last raised bed. The oregano plant is more like an oregano bush, and I want it to continue to do well.
We filled up the new boxes with compost from the local nursery, and I’ve been busy planting and planting. I’m hoping that because I’ve planted a few weeks late, and during the week of the summer solstice, that the bugs will be few and far between this growing season. Dan put in several stakes around this new garden area, and tied white plastic trash bags to them. This is my neighbor's trick to keep away the deer; hopefully it will work for us too! What a beautiful week we’ve had, these longest days of the year, warm and breezy and perfect for planting.
Now I have 8 large raised bed boxes, arranged somewhat in a square, with a four foot path going down the middle both ways, sort of like 4 small squares with 2 raised beds in each. I wanted the paths to be wide enough to accommodate the garden cart. The north side of the garden is the side closest to the pasture fence, and Dan will probably build me a long, narrow garden box, and eventually I’ll grow vining veggies there, like sweet peas or maybe pole beans, with some morning glories mixed in. Around my veggie plants I’ve always planted marigolds and petunias, both for bug control as well as color. Bright red tomatoes are great, but we won’t see them until late August!
The little garden shed that is here was surprisingly painted purple (!). It’s in need of some repair, mostly to the roof, but basically serves its purpose. Dan even thinks he may be able to build a small chicken coop right off the back. Fresh eggs!
The best part is that I’m really close to the alpacas now. Coty and Arlo love to graze together at this far end of the pasture. I can see right into the barn and watch the others cushed in front the fan, my ‘vampire’ alpacas that they are on these hot days. I call out to them easily, and they all look up at the sound of my voice. They watch me curiously, as I work in the garden, Stella sleeping in the cool grass under the maple tree nearby.
We love autumn and October in New Hampshire is especially beautiful. The maple trees’ leaves slowly turn to glorious hues of reds and orange, making the sky look so blue and the grass and fields so green. The air is wonderfully crisp and dry and there’s always a great breeze. It’s perfect weather for hiking. This is such a fabulous corner of the country to live in, and autumn our favorite season.
This is the time of year I switch to drinking more tea as coffee really doesn’t keep one warm, we go apple picking, we split and stack large piles of wood, we rake huge amounts of leaves, we cut down the perennials, we pull up the veggie garden and till back in large amounts of compost. I go back to cooking soups and casseroles and baking bread. As the days get shorter we lament ‘oh no soon it will be snowing once again’ but we wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else but here, where we have 4 distinct seasons.
It went from normal autumn chilly to downright cold just like that this week which of course now makes me concerned that the alpacas are cold. Yes they are livestock with super thick fleece so by nature are just fine in the cold weather. Yet here we are in the house, all of us ~ me, Dan, Stella, and our indoor kitty Gracie ~ all snuggled up near the woodstove so it’s hard not to want to bring the alpacas inside!
Dan is concerned too, so the other day he came home with some straw to put down for bedding for them. We have found out that hay that is on the ground will wick up moisture and not dry if it’s been rained on, so yeah, the alpacas would get cold. The straw is hollow and does not absorb moisture, so it’s perfect for them to snuggle on. We spread out a bale and it didn’t take long for them to all cush on it. Smart alpacas! We will continue to add straw on top of what’s there, layer upon layer, to keep them dry and warm over the fall and through winter. Apparently, if done correctly, there is a composting effect, therefore creating heat which does help to keep the alpacas warm.
Off to make soup!
Late last summer we had a local logger and his crew clear about 3 acres of woods and brushy overgrowth. It was done ‘rough grade’ as Dan wanted to do the finish work himself. What a wonderful job they did! There were many, many large rocks that they carefully placed on the property lines creating a boulder style stone wall. The stumps were all buried alongside the rocks so as to be outside and around the pasture area, a farm road of sorts. It looked fabulous and then, the rains came! First a tropical storm bringing about 5 inches, and several smaller storms, and anyone who lives in New England remembers the rain and resulting ice storm in early December! All that rainfall saturated our new pasture, with ‘sink to your knees mud,’ washing out a lot of the topsoil, creating ruts and little streams, and rendering it impossible to work in it. Clearly we had a drainage problem, unknown to us before due to the thick woods. Disappointed, we knew we had to wait until spring for things to dry out before the alpacas could come home.
And dry out it did! We’ve had a pleasantly sunny and warm spring. Another local contractor has come by a few times giving us ideas on how to divert runoff and rain. We’ve seen swales before but never knew the correct term. Dan is in his glory on the tractor, digging and moving dirt and making one heck of a swale diagonally down the pasture. He’s also been making several diagonal berms down the ‘farm road’ from our driveway to the barn gate and alongside the fencing. 'Berm' is our new favorite word. We have huge piles of dirt now in the pasture, beautiful dark brown dirt! After we sift it, and add in a little compost, this loam will be wonderful for gardening perennials. Now to continue on picking up rocks and roots and york raking the whole area smooth.......And the rocks... oh my! There are more huge boulder-sized rocks, all the way down to baseball sized and pebbles. Dan will be busy making decorative stone walls for years.
We’ve been told that actually all that rain was a very good thing(!) It helps to pack down the freshly disturbed land so the grass can grow. The grass will then hold everything together. So far, this does seem to be happening! There are plenty of green shoots sprouting up all over. We are very happy and grateful for that. And soon the alpacas will be here, grazing and pronking....................