Sunday, July 18, 2010

Completely Rotten, Utterly Miserable, Failure of a Garden

The garden is not going well. Understatement of the year.

It should be going great. It was an early spring. It's been a warm summer. More sun than we're accustomed to. Enough rain to keep it happy.

We were late getting Pig. Then after a few weeks, Pig quit working. Refused to dig in the garden. Would only dig at night after she escaped her pen- and then, not in the garden.

My greenhouses haven't even been started yet. It's late July. They were supposed to be up in May. I'm still hoping they'll get done so they'll be ready for next year. But not going to accomplish anything this year. As a result, the tomatoes are struggling along. The cukes died. Half the pumpkins died.

The second attempt at cukes was nearly wiped out by a temporary greenhouse- the plastic came loose and flapped over top of them repeatedly on a windy night.

The rototiller wasn't working in the spring. It was fixed temporarily, but then broke again. Still not fixed. I'm working with less than half the space I normally use. A lot of stuff never got planted. I only got half a row of beans in when I ran out of space. Green beans- the most essential part of our winter garden.

I bought the strawberry starts too early I guess. Most of them died before they made it to the garden.

The peas... the one thing that I can count on- they grow all season here- were mercilessly trampled and eaten by goats. They're now fenced in, and may recover enough to give us a few handfuls, but nothing like we're used to. They chewed the tops off the beets.

Goats also wreaked havoc on the raspberries. Fortunately they're common enough in the woods that I'll be able to make up for them by foraging, but it will be more work than our patch.

Something has also been devouring the broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. Do goats eat brussel sprouts? Do rabbits? It seems to be just a bit at a time, and they're not infested with bugs.

On the plus side- I have been wreaking havoc on the invasive purple flowers that the previous owner planted on the edge of the garden. We covered most of them over with tarps last fall, and I've been pretty diligent about yanking out the rest as they grow this year. They have large tap roots like rhubarb, so they keep sprouting more & more, but I'm hoping to slow them down by cutting off their food supply, and preventing them from going to seed. The asparagus is coming up much better this year as a result- the purple flowers were choking them out. Now I'm piling the leaves around the base of them, letting them compost to feed the asparagus. Ha ha! Take that, nasty purple flowers!

The onions and lettuce are also doing great, and the potatoes are looking respectable. I never transplanted the peppers, opting to leave them in their pots in a mini greenhouse instead. They seem happy, and are just starting to flower. I bought two garden centre tomato plants, and have kept them in there as well. They came with lots of green tomatoes already on them, have flowered more since, but nothing red yet.

Time will tell, but it's looking like our worst garden ever.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Forest Management

We live on 120 acres in Northern Ontario. The property had been logged about 7 years before we bought it, nearly ten years ago now. As a result we have huge scruff piles- piles of wood wasted by the logging company, because it didn't meet their size or type requirements- in various locations. We cut a lot of it for firewood the first two years, but now it's too old and rotten to be useful. We had two large clearings- about 20 acres- that the logging company had made. I had planned to grow oats in one and hay in the other. Now they're the beginnings of a new forest. Mostly covered in alders- these weird bushy little trees that die off after 5 or 10 years.

Between the two clearings there's a patch of poplar forest, maybe 10 acres in size. It was probably the result of a previous logging. The poplars are too close together, can't get enough sunlight, to grow up into big trees. The smaller ones are starting to die.

We've decide to fence off this section as pasture for now. It could be many years before I'm ready to plant those oats, and the horses will help keep the alders and brush down in the meantime. It also gives us another section of pasture to keep us from having to buy hay in the summer.

Before we fence it off and move the horses in though, we've started cutting out some of the larger poplars. Thinning the bush. The smaller poplars will get more sunlight, and a better chance to grow up. We'll get some winter wood, and some poles to build with- repairs needed on the garage lean-to, and still need to build a proper wood shed.

Around the outside of our pasture we also have some woodland and clearings, up to the trail that cuts through the centre of our property. We're planning to fence off along the edge of the trail, to also give us more pasture. In one corner we have the beginnings of a pine forest, but it's also having the same issues as the poplars. The trees are too close together to grow up. Another section to thin out. Hopefully in years to come we'll achieve a nice mixture of mature trees and pasture.