Apr 27, 2010

Rotational Gardening

Hello Everyone,

So this morning it snowed. Not a lot of snow just a squall. Enough to coat the grass and remind us that no matter how nice the weather gets during the day it is still April in northern Maine and our last frost date is June 15 regardless how early the flowers blossom or the trees don leaves.

One good thing about the unexpected nice early nice weather this year is that we are implementing rotational gardening this year. When we first came to this property there was no vegetable garden at all. The farm had been used for commercial potato farming years ago and had been planted in hay and clover to improve it's soil quality before it was foreclosed on. So what we bought was a farm who's fields were in total dismay from not being worked for years. We've been slowly reclaiming those fields one half acre at a time.

So upon arriving on the property I proudly proclaimed that our vegetable garden was going to go behind the house and promptly began marking it out. Next was to till all that nice green turf and turn over the ground and start making a garden out of the space. Of course I knew next to nothing about gardening at the time. If i did I would have walked myself up the hill to my front field and made the garden there instead of in my back yard.

In one way it was a good thing because we actually got a yield out of the garden our first year. That in it's self shows the kind of determination we have to make this work. Vegetables do grow out of grass just not well, and no matter how many rocks you pick up when starting a garden there will always be thousands more that still need to be picked up. Our first year here we got so much rain that the extra grass we had in our garden that we just couldn't get rid of no matter how hard we tried helped soak up a lot of that excess water and actually gave us a better tomato harvest than most of our neighbors.

The second year however was a different story. We not only had the excess grass to contend with but we also started to get out of control with the weeds not to mention our soil quality was lacking since the plot used to be lawn not garden. We had a lot going against us but we still managed to sell some vegies and put up a harvest large enough for the year and to give away to friends and reletives. It just wasn't pretty to look at that's for sure.

Also during the second year we began to get more and more bugs throughout the season. This was discouraging because I refuse to start spraying chemicals in my garden. A little soap here and there fine but store bought pesticides no way. All the farmers and neighbors around here use the chemicals so they could offer no help. So I did what any good homesteader does and hit the books. Of course these were the same books that showed depictions of people digging up lawns and starting gardens that look like they belong in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine their first year, but none the less where else could I turn?

That's when I read about rotational gardening as a means to improve soil quality and as a form of pest control. The more I read the more I knew this was for us. It implaments the practices of soil conservation and amendment and it takes care of the excess bugs without using chemical pesticides. So this year we are bidding our 150'x100' current garden goodbye... at least for the next two years, and are instead penning the chicken there for the next two years. There the chickens will dig, scratch and kill all the pesky grass that just keeps coming back for us. Then they will eat all the bugs in each life-cycle form while providing my poor soil with rich free fertilizer. So when I come back to this garden spot two years from now it will be greatly improved and in need of some rock clearing but not much else. The chickens will then move to the garden spot that we will be making this year next to the apple orchard in actual farm soil.

We never documented the creation of our first garden for the website so this time I plan to take pictures and show what we are doing. Now that I won't have the competition of growing grass maybe I'll even get the time to take some more pictures of the garden growing. All in all I think this year will be a better year for the garden and I'll be keeping everyone up on how the rotational gardening is going. Now if it would only stop snowing :)

Apr 24, 2010

A Hard Month

Spring has come early here on our farm and we have been especially busy because of it. We spent the last weekend in March participating in the Agri-Business fair to try to drum up business for our property maintenance company Night and Day Property Services. The fair was a success and we handed out well over 500 business cards to interested parties, and we've begun to do some jobs generated from the venture.

We acquired a new dog for our farm. He is a Great Dane, Saint Bernard, English mastiff mix so he's going to be a big boy when he's full grown. He's super cute and friendly and his coloring is that of a Harlequin Great Dane. We named him Argos from Homer's epic poem The Odyssey. In the story the main character Odysseus is sent to fight at Troy in a war he sees as pointless and his enemy Poseidon the God of the sea refuses to let him return home to his wife and child after the battle is won. He spends countless years out at sea trying to return home and goes through many adventures with his faithful crew. By the time he does finally arrive back home no one recognizes him except his faithful dog Argos. It's more or less a tribute to our literary addiction that we have in our household.

We've also acquired two wonderful Lion-head bunnies. Our male is of a red color and he has broken in his background. Our female is a blue eyed white and she is of show quality and we are still deciding if we want to enter her in this years Houlton Agricultural Fair. We are planning on breeding them late July and keeping some of the litter for line breeding purposes. With a good breeding plan and a little luck we should have some bunnies for sale by Easter next year.

Easter for us this year was a very trying time. My oldest son Vincent came home the weekend of the fair not feeling good and as a result I had to stay home with him. The cold was a bad one and he had 3 days of a high fever but then it broke and he came out of it all right. A couple of days later my middle son Victor started feeling bad and the next day my daughter Garnet. The two little ones spiked fevers as high as 104 and after 3 trips to the er Garnet was hospitalized followed by Victor 2 days after that.

With in 24 hours of my sons hospitalization Garnet developed Acute Kidney Failure and Victor was still in really bad shape. It was raining and the cloud cover was so low that life star could not fly so Garnet and Victor were both driven by ambulance to Maine Medical Barbra Bush Children's Hospital over 6 hours away. Garnet received last rites before transporting because we weren't sure she was going to make the trip. Along the way the ambulance got a flat tire and we had to wait for another ambulance to pick us up. Despite the odds we reached the hospital at 8pm that night almost 8 hours after we left Caribou and Garnet was still alive. She was rushed into ICU and received dialysis along with a slew of other treatments including blood transfusions. Victor and I went up the the Pediatrics ward where he began his recovery and where I stayed until almost a week later when Garnet was released from ICU and put into a double room with us.

They were both diagnosed with pneumonia. The strain of bacteria that caused it is called Streptococcal Pneumonia #19A. In Victor it caused a very bad case of classic lung pneumonia that required four tubes to be inserted into his lungs so that the fluids could drain. He had to have a pic line put in so he could receive his antibiotics and get daily blood draws. In garnet the bacteria caused Pneumococcal HUS not to be confused with classic HUS. It caused kidney failure and septicemia and did not go into her lungs at all. Her HUS was so rare there have only been 46 cases in the U. S. this year. The childhood vaccine Prevnar is supposed to protect against this disease but sadly it doesn't protect against this type. However, the FDA has signed a new Prevnar vaccine into use this past week and it does protect against this and 5 other additional kinds. If you have a child under 5 it may not be a bad idea to ask your pediatrician about it. It's a day late a dollar short for my family but future children will not have to worry about this bacteria.

Garnet and Victor spent another two weeks in the hospital trying to recover from this and yesterday we were finally released. Victor still has his pic line in and is receiving IV antibiotics for the next 3 weeks from the visiting nurse daily. The nurse is also monitoring Garnet's blood pressure and kidney function although she is now no longer receiving dialysis. It will be a long recovery here at home but I am truly grateful for my kids triumphant return home. I truly believe as do the Doctors who worked on Garnet that it was by Gods grace she made it to the hospital in Portland alive. We Thank God for our family and Thank everyone who knew our troubles and were praying for us.

So it's been a long month for all of us here. I'm hoping next month will go smoother and that it will be a productive month for the farm. We've got lots to catch up on and do so it should be eventful. I hope you all had a much better Easter than mine and that we find all of you healthy and blessed. Until next time,

Thank You and God Bless.