Posts Tagged ‘roses’

Daylight Savings Time and Ready for Spring

I have always liked the concept of daylight savings time, but when it actually comes around it always messes me up for a few days. First, I always have to remember the “spring forward, fall back” thing, to be able to remember which way to turn the clock. Then I have to fight with the VCR, microwave, clock in my dashboard and my cell phone- I am really bad with all things tech, so this is a problem for me every year. It always takes a few days for my body to adjust to the “extra” or “missing” hour-but I never did understand why they say we gain or lose an hour, when there are still 24 hours in a day. We did not “gain” an hour in our lives-if that really happened we could just give ourselves more hours in time and at some point I think it would cause some time warp in the universe. I guess it is just something that the government cooked up so we would not have to drive to work in the dark in the winter months when the days are shorter. Anyway, to me it just feels like jet lag, but without getting to go on vacation. I do like getting home and being able to get a couple of things done in the goat yard before it gets dark though.

I am ready for spring. We have had over 2 1/2 months of freezing temps every night and no rain (and remember, we get to complain because this is Southern California.) Everything has been brown and crunchy for a long time. I am starting to see little signs that spring is trying to peek out in a few places, hoping that the freeze is over. The last frost date for our area is April 9th – so we may still get hit with some low temps again, but it has been 38 degrees and above for the last 4 mornings in a row. So this gives me hope that the worst is already over. The plum tree has put out a timid row of blossoms and the mulberry tree has broken bud. I planted out some artichokes that we started in the greenhouse a few months back, and put down very heavy layers of mulch to protect them. I also put some rose clones into the ground that had been hardening off outside near the house, and have moved more from the greenhouse to the front garden to get them used to the outside temps. I have tomato starts that I am chomping at the bit to plant out but I know full well I will have to drag out the Wall-O-Waters and keep a close eye on them if I do.

I have been eying the boxes of seed packets on the kitchen shelves that I have earmarked for this planting season but I don’t want to jump the gun. I will not let myself be seduced by their glossy photos and promises of days to harvest. I know the ground is still too inhospitable to plant warm weather veggies, no matter how tempting it becomes. It will only end in heartbreak otherwise.

We are on the dark side of the moon cycle this week, so I will spend this week battling weeds, pruning the last of the frostbitten canes and branches and putting up bean poles and trellises.

The incubator is now full of eggs that are set to hatch the week before Easter and the fertility is up in all of the breeding pens now. I got the first turkey egg of the season yesterday so I am sure the other game birds will follow along soon. I have been keeping an eye on the nursery pen, and have my birthing kit cleaned up and organized, and a stack of clean towels at the ready.

Spring is always a crazy time on the farm, but I am ready!

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Winter’s “Tween” Week

December 21st  brought us once again to the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The good news is, from here on out the days will slowly start to get longer once again. This is that in-between week when we start to put away Christmas and look ahead to the new year. Christmas cards have stopped coming but the good news is now the spring seed catalogs are starting to fill the mailbox! All the beautiful winter scenes – snowmen, stockings hung by crackling fireplaces  – are now being replaced by glossy pages of colorful spring flowers and plump, ripe fruits and vegetables. Stirring our hearts and minds into that euphoric state of happiness that helps us cope with the now freezing tempetures outside. The nights have been well under 30 degrees for at least the last 2 ½  weeks now (and yes, I do get to complain because this is Southern California).

During the morning feeding I get to go crunching across the frozen grass and push my way through stiff cold gate hinges to be met by frozen hoses as I fill mangers and de-ice water buckets.  The tribe of goats stay tucked down in the thick straw inside the barn and they don’t even budge when I fill the feeders with fresh hay. Nikki (the LDG) is usually somewhere in the middle of the pile of goats, all keeping each other warm, and only just barely lifts her head and opens one eye when I peek in on the group. They all know their breakfast will be waiting for them when they decide to leave their warm nest and venture out into the morning. For now, they will sleep in until the sun crests the mountain and the day warms up a bit more. To be honest, I can get these jobs done a bit faster when the animals are not all underfoot, but I miss the sounds of them pushing and calling for their morning meals.

As I look across the gardens and raised beds most everything is brown and crunchy and weary from the cold. Most of the dead plant matieral has been pulled up and tossed into the compost piles. The pomegranate trees were pruned back hard in the last few weeks and the piles of leaves and clippings have been burned as kindling in the fireplace. This week we worked on pruning back the roses and berry canes. I cleaned out the barn and treated all of the animals for lice since they are all sleeping together in closer quarters now. We took advantage of some of our time off to trim the spurs on all of the roosters and everyone in the barnyard received a pedicure this month (I have the blisters to prove it!) This coming week I plan to clean out the nursery pen and get it fixed up for the first babies of 2012 (due the end of January). There are currently three does in the breeding pens, and four more will go in late Febuary or early March for summer babies. This morning I dragged the plastic boxes from the garage back into the house and started to pack up the Christmas ornaments. Tonight I will try to finish this job, and then start to toss out the leftovers that have been pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten about. I will eat the last of the christmas baked goods as I reflect on this season. Christmas is over, and the year is almost done. I am right in-between tired and happy this week. Not a bad place to be if you stop and think about it.

Helping Hands

I have come to discover that all work on this farm falls into one of two categories- a “job” or a  “project”.  A job usually needs to be completed in a shorter time frame, and a project can sometimes be left open-ended for a time. Both can mean a lot of hard work, and sometimes we put these things off for as long as we can before starting, knowing the work ahead of us. But just like in the song from Mary Poppins, if we try to have some fun while doing it, or at least make it interesting, it can go by a lot quicker and not seem as taxing on our minds and bodies. Also, more hands always make the work load lighter, so if you can get others to help out, it does make a big difference.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving was a “work day” on the farm that started very early for us. After the morning’s first cups of coffee, it was time to finish the project of getting the large Joseph’s Coat rose, that has been overgrown and pulling his arbor down for the last 2 years, under control. I had already spent the better part of three or four hours (on and off) cutting back the overgrowth and bagging up the canes with their abundant sharp spines. Not an easy or fun task to say the least. Anyone who has ever tackled this particular species of rose knows exactly what I am talking about. He is a wicked spiny beast that is hard to tame – even the leaves have spines!

Now it was time to get down to shaping the main part of the bush, and getting the arbor back in an upright position. Since this was way too big a job for just myself, I enlisted the help of my friend Matt Boeck from Rancho Organica in Santa Barbara. He has much more knowledge then I do when it comes to pruning back canes. So, armed with long handled loppers and pruners in hand, we marched together into the battle against this massive errant rose. It took us a solid 45 minutes of clipping, lopping, and pulling, all the while being pricked, poked, scratched, and snagging our clothes before we were able to finally get this beastly climber under our control. Then we had to reposition the huge rebar arbor and tie the remaining canes to it. At last we were able to step back, tired and bloodied from the struggle, to admire our handiwork. A long hard project finished at last! In no time Joseph will make his comeback in a controlled way, and he will be much easier to deal with and tame in the coming years. Thank you Matt!

Next, it was time for processing the Christmas turkey and a few meat birds to go into the freezer. If you are vegan or a PETA person, please skip this part of the story and read below about the goats. This bird was scheduled to be done the week before Thanksgiving, but was given a stay of execution because we got rained out that day.  Our friend Katie from Zack Family Farm came over for this job, and Christy also joined in, and we spent the next couple of hours having what we affectionately call one of our “chicken pickin’ parties.” Again, the more hands, the easier and faster the job goes, and before we knew it, this job too was completed.

Then Dr. Rose (who happens to be our dentist) stopped by for a long overdue visit, and we gave her a full tour of the farm and all the animals. After that pleasant break, it was time for the last job of the day that we had been putting off for a week – time to worm. delouse, and trim the hoofs of all the goats who are out in the field (13). Christy graciously volunteered to help me with this. We moved the milk stand in front of the empty nursery pen and then brought out all of the tools and treatments necessary for this procedure. The goats were all bribed into the small pen with a bucket full of sweet grain and locked in. It is an old trick but they fall for it every time. Each goat is then brought out in turn, and either held on a lap, depending on how cooperative they are, or placed on the milk stand with their heads in the sanction while we treat them.  Most of the younger goats don’t mind these ministrations, but some of the older does do not like having their feet worked on, and in fact will fight against it. But in the end everyone gets treated and nothing is really hurt but the pride.  We also take this time to check eyes and noses, feel to see if everyone is in good weight under their heavy winter coats, adjust collars, and try to see if we can feel movement of the babies with any of the pregnant does. We were blessed to discover that all are in good health this winter.  After all the catching, dragging, hoisting, holding, inspecting, clipping and treating, it was the day’s end and we were beat. 13 goats times 4 feet each makes for 52 little hoofs to trim, so there is inevitably a blister or two by the end! As we walked wearily from the field and close the gate behind us, we are very tired, yet at the same time there is a great sense of satisfaction in knowing that we completed this job. It needed to be done and we did it. As I dragged myself to my final reward – a nice hot shower to wash away the day’s dirt and grime – I felt good about the jobs and projects completed this day. I am thankful for all who joined in, their helping hands made these things easier and their company made the time go faster.  Thank you, one and all!

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Yes, that old saying is so true, all the rain we experienced in April has done a world of good for the roses this May.
I had a 60 foot pine tree (that had a bad case of bark beetles) removed from my front yard last winter, opening up a huge area to full sun now. The “pink garden” (the rose garden with only pink shades of roses in it) that has always only had half a day of light, is now reveling in the sunshine and blooming like crazy. I have put a heavy layer of mulch  from the goat barn down around the roses’ feet to keep them cool and damp now that the days are long and warm. All of the heavy pruning I did back in February has paid off and the plants have good shape and nice air circulation all around them. A lot of the clones from last year are producing buds for the first time and it is rewarding to see these new varieties in the garden. Moonstone and Mint Julep are  newcomers welcomed in, as well as Secret and Topaz Jewel. I am still waiting for Butterscotch and Dream Yellow to put out buds. Here are some photos of some of my favorite ones so far…..

Butterscotch

Butterscotch bud

Eden

Chris Evert

Mint Julep bud

Tineke

For the Roses

Joseph's Coat climbing rose

Yesterday evening I took my good friend (who also happens to be my tenant) Christy, and we went up the road and across the creek to our friend Shari’s house. Shari is a wonderful, albeit fairly new friend of ours. We have only known her for just about a year, but love her already as though we have know her all our lives.

Shari has very beautiful and well-established old rose gardens and has spent many an hour coaxing their beauty to its full potential. Shari can call her roses all by name, and even describe the flowers and scent in detail even when the plants are dormant. Her landhold is much larger then the front garden of this farm (where I have most of my roses) and her gardens and planting are more extensive and open. Her gardens also many container plantings, whimsical touches and many colorful birds. I will never get tired of visiting with her and looking at them. She always blesses us with a car load of new things to plant and handfuls of cuttings from her roses. Oddly enough, Shari does have an old and deep connection to the front garden of our farm, and has spent much time here in the past, so I guess that somehow makes her family already. The whim of fate would have it that she was a good friend of Natalie, the tenant who rented this farm for many years before I owned it. She and Natalie, I have heard tell, spent a lot of time being “partners in crime” at all the nurseries in town.

Natalie grew a rose garden here. Not only did she grow them, but she was one of those crazy “rose people” who could actually cross-breed them and make new colors.I bow down in awe and respect of people who can do this. I’m good with plants, and have even been accused of possessing a “green thumb” by some, but I’m not so good as to be able to create new colors and types. Natalie could take a brown twig and stick it into a pot of dirt, and I swear it would start to sprout roots while she carried it into the house! The garden she had in the front of this farm was so astounding, people would actually pull over and stop and get out of their cars and stand and stare at it. I have an old photo of it in it’s full glory that I pull out and look at whenever I want to shame myself into getting the front garden in shape every spring – “see what it USED looked like when SHE was here!”- I tell myself. It was what you call a classic “cottage garden” with mostly old English and musk type roses, and completely run wild with thousands of other types of beautiful flowers. It was a riot of colors and textures, and although it seemed random, I know Natalie knew exactly where each and every plant was placed and what the outcome of the planting would be. She was an artist, and flowering plants were her living palette. To this day I whisper a silent thank-you to her for leaving the soil in the garden in such good condition, it has remained this way for this many years because of her hard work and knowledge. To my amazement, the soil even held up to the “tenant from hell” who occupied the house for four years after Natalie, and who let two large unruly shepherd crosses “landscape” for him in the front yard. It took me two solid weeks just to fill in all the holes when I first got here. So needless to say I had to start the garden all over again from scratch, and spent the last five years just getting the “bones” down of my own design and waiting for it to establish itself.

I always had it in my mind that roses were a very difficult things to grow and care for. I was never brave enough to even try until I met Natalie. She assured me that the only real trick to growing roses, just like anything else living that you want to work with, was just to get some, love them, and that they would teach me just exactly what they wanted from me. I have since bought a cloner and learned how to use it, and now have a small collection of my own favorites (that grows larger every year.) I even happily surprised myself at one point the first time I recognized a rose I was familiar with in someone else’s garden. I like to think that at that same moment in time – somewhere out there whereever she is – Natalie looked up and smiled, and did not even know why.