Saturday, January 31, 2015

New Compost Bins For The Farm; New Classes Coming

Our farm is over 5 acres, considered a very small size in the farming world.  It is amazing how much you can grow and produce though on even 1/2 acre of land or even in a back yard as gardeners know.

With this much land, lawn, vegetable fields, fruit trees, shade trees, leaves, roses, flower fields, shrubs, chicken pens-well you get the idea, it is amazing how much debris we can accumulate over the seasons.

We had been composting, fairly will-nilly in the back with Frank making piles of this and that, moving it a couple times a year.  Sometimes when the piles got too large or the tree limbs and branches were much too large to ever break down in our life time, we would do a once a year field burn.

This year we got serious and built a traditional composting area with 3 large bins. I know some details about composting, but we needed to educate ourselves as much as possible before we started.  We looked on line, read, purchased some composting books and away Frank went to building.  The bins had to be wide enough so the tractor could get into to toss and move the green, brown and limb wastes. We lined the bins with 1/2" hardware cloth to contain the debris yet leave opening for air to circulate.

Everything seems to cost so much, particularly wood.  We noticed that a local hardware store had "cull" lumber.  They put out stacks of wood that is somewhat damaged or getting too old or odds and ends of various sizes and lengths at a much cheaper price.  Frank has an eye to spot great deals for building materials in the "cull" section of the lumber piles.  He purchased most of the wood needed for the bins from the culled wood; we had the peeler posts from the days of having kiwis; but we did have to purchase a 100 feet of the hardware cloth which cost over $100.  It is now finished and we added our first piles of leaves from the driveways; and various plants pulled up still left in the vegetable gardens.  So nice to have a well organized and well planned area to get really serious about composting.
We broke down and purchased a larger sized chipper/shredder to break down the fruit tree limbs and larger stalks of plant materials.  Frank has that next to the bins so it is ready to use with each load he takes out there.  AND he added a water faucet next to it so we can keep it watered. Frank is a handie guy to have around!!
A couple of new classes have been scheduled here at Windmill Farm.
February 18, 2015-Health/Wellness/Weight Loss workshop.  A one time class of information with various speakers coming to talk about different aspects about the New Year Resolutions of being healthy and loosing weight.  6-8:00pm, cost is only $5 to pay for the handouts and light refreshments.  A list of the speakers will be provided soon.  Space limited so if you can attend, better email, call or Facebook me that you are attending.
March-Beekeeping Class-date to be determined, a local beekeeper business will be talking about the life of bees; what it is like running a bee business; how do you get the honey; and honey tasting.  Going to be a great class so look for the date soon.
April-Learn how to make flower crowns and boutonnieres.  These are all the rage right now for birthdays, weddings of course, anniversaries, just a great skill to know how to do.  Professional florist will be teaching this class, date coming soon.
May-Mother's Day event will be a Chalk Art writing class.  Another very popular skill to learn.  Everyone is using chalk boards to write out events at a business; at all parties; weddings; back yard get togethers; dinners where you want to highlight a menu.
Hope you enjoying our experiences building our compost bins and if interested in our future classes, keep coming back for details or "like" us on Facebook, we post information there almost every day.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Upholstering An Antique Wingback Chair; Getting Through a Fog Funk

Drizzle and fog here for several days in a row.  I go outside to work in gardens but it is just too wet, too cold, turn around and come back into house.  Bella is very happy to sit on windowsill and watch fog too.
I raked for a while all the leaves around the driveways, but they are still piled up waiting for Frank to finish the compost bins.  He too, is hating to be outside right now so he is mostly working in his shop putting his 1947 Ford tractor back together.
I did accomplish something worth while though yesterday and cleaned out my garage.  I made a big stack of thrift shop items; a few items to sell on our local yard sale Facebook page; and Frank helped me put up all the Christmas decorations back up into the garage rafters.
I sorted through all my canning jars, organizing them by size so they will be ready for this spring/summer.
I put away all the baskets, boxes, chalk boards; any items that we used for our Wellness Program produce displays we did this summer and fall.  Seems like everything ends up in the garage.
There is this really cute table I purchased this past summer that I was going to paint and put in the house.  It came from the very old JC Penny Store in Gridley which has been closed up for over 30 years.  It has a great shelf below and Frank put rollers on the feet.  Only problem is I want to use it in the house someplace but it is a pretty big size. For now, it is a great work table to work on garage projects.
The garage is all open and clean so I am going to start a new upholstery project and do it in the garage instead of the house.  I need Frank to make me a short stool with carpet on top and roller to place the chair on to have it elevated and so it can rotate around.  Frank gave me a new power nailer/stapler for Christmas so I want to try it out on this project.  Some women love jewelry, I love garden items and tools!!
My biggest problem is what to use for fabric on the chair.  I want to use what I have to save money so two choices are: 1) washed canvas drop cloths; or 2) sage green linen fabric.  Both fabrics I have on hand, I purchased 5 drop cloths from Harbor Freight this summer using a 20% coupon off when they were having them on sale.  I got them for almost $5 each.  Was originally going to use them for drapes going across my sorting shed to keep out the wind on the one side that is open or keep out the sun when it is hot.  I never got that project done so I have all these that I could use for fabric on the chair.  The green linen fabric was purchased on sale and I got 10 yards of it so I have plenty.  Just not sure what room this chair will go into, probably the family room and I don't have green in there. I had made this slipcover some time ago and actually considering using a floral fabric so the chair can be used in several rooms.
My final choice would be to go fabric shopping and look for something new, but since fabric stores are at least 30 minutes away, we are talking a couple hour trip away from the farm when I should be doing work here.
The chair may need new batting or webbing so I just better take it all down to frame to see what I need and then go fabric shopping.
I guess you can tell, my mind and body work so much better when the weather is warmer and the sun is out. Think I am in a bit of a fog funk

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

McCoy-Weller-USA Pottery Vases

Our farm grows and sells not only vegetables, fruits and herbs, but flowers are a huge part of our business-and it is growing.
I have always loved vases and collect a few special types, mainly McCoy Pottery vases from the 1920s, 30s and early 1940s.  There are many, many books out on McCoy Pottery, my very favorite color is "Aqua", sometimes called green. And I like the finish called "matte".  
They come in gloss and I have some, but my favorite, favorite ones are aqua, matte finish.
When I started out collecting many years ago, you could easily find a piece here and there at yard sales, antique shops or estate sales. Mostly for under $5.  I tried to buy only perfect ones, no chips or cracks, but if it was cheap enough I would purchase them as long as they would hold water so I could put my flowers in them.  In my house, the color aqua seemed to work well with any color flower, in any room that I place the arrangement.
Once the selection and availability of finding them dried up at sales, I made the mistake of looking for them on Ebay.  Yes, I found lots there and even for a while buying from Ebay, I was able to find some very good buys especially if the pottery wasn't marked "McCoy".  
You see, I didn't care if it was marked McCoy or not, it was the look, color, function-vases.  Many vases in my collection have USA or Weller on the bottom too. Some have no marks.

As with all addictions, they lead to excess,  so I needed a cabinet to put all my vases into so they could be shown off.  If I saw a yellow McCoy vase that was cheap, I would buy it with the thought that it was worth it because they were becoming collectible.  When I saw white ones, I thought how wonderful to mix my flowers between an aqua vase, or a yellow vase, or a white vase.  Get the picture???
Luckily, my addiction did end due to the higher and higher cost of McCoy and Pottery vases in general and rarity in finding them.
My cabinet that is full of the aqua vases are still the show stopper whenever anyone new comes into my dining room.  The one thing everyone has to do is touch one, it is that matte soft finish; the beauty of their lines; the discovery of the unique colors that blend from water blues, to dark aqua, to more green, each having a look so special.
Swallows on this vase
I don't go to McCoy anonymous; I have stopped buying off of Ebay; but I still do the occasional yard sales and antique shows if I have the time.  I try not to specifically think about looking for the pottery vases, but if there is one there, it does go into my hand to check for chips, cracks, color, texture AND price.  There is always room for one more flower vase!
Do you have any collection addictions?  Would love to hear about them.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

January Flower; Pruning; Great Idea for Organizing your Garden Shed

It is January and that means Snowdrops!
If you are having a birthday this month, your birth flower is either Carnation or Snowdrops.  It is hard to believe something so fragile and beautiful could bloom in this cold winds, some places snow.
January also means cleaning and organizing-starting fresh.  I saw this photo in a blog I read myself using a pallet to hang garden supplies, too cute.  Easy, cheap (or free if you can find a pallet)
Frank was asked by the local hardware store Ace to build a cabinet to be used for storage; to show different materials they sell; and can have hanging pots on this.  Frank did a panel of galv. steel (one piece we had); regular 2x6" fencing; tree poles sliced in half; lattice.  The door opens to have shelves.  Our friend works in the gardening section and she wanted something to use to hang pots on when all the spring flowers arrive.  This will be so cute. OH, and he put rollers on it so it can be moved inside or out as a display.  Frank did such a great job and it was a big hit when it was delivered to the store.  He is a keeper!!!  Here are photos showing each side.

 This is the time of year that we prune all our fruit trees.  Nice to get out when weather is decent; and with pruning, we get to look at each tree to inspect the general health of the tree, prune down the inner limbs; trim the height.  Most orchards are growing trees shorter and shorter so picking can be done with very limited use of ladders.  This helps farmers with workers comp costs.
Are you interested in learning how to prune or water your trees?  I received a flyer from Bald Mt. Nursery in Browns Valley, Ca. 
They are giving a prune class on two Saturdays, January 17th and 31st 10:00am.  Classes are about an hour long.  He said he will show you how to prune fruit trees; spraying, mulching and setting up watering systems for trees.  It is FREE!!  Their nursery is beautiful - 3 generation business.
Heading back out to prune more trees!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Gardening vs. Farming

Ranting time.  If you have followed my blog, you know I am generally a positive person.  This post is a rant, so get ready.

I saw a recent program on TV the other day about a contractor and designer working with a couple to fix up a house.  It is new on a different network than the usual HGTV stuff so I gave it 10 minutes of my time.  What perked my interest was that the couple wanted to purchase a house with enough land to "farm" in the Bay Area.  Those two ideas seemed like a contradiction of terms so I DVRd it to watch later and sped past 90% of the worthless part to see what the outcome would be.  At the end, the couple was so excited to start working on their yard to start farming and the program showed the house and "land".
Well, the back yard, in the middle of a city, was about a space 20 feet by 20 feet.  I was happy they wanted to grow vegetables on their property, but to call growing plants in a few pots or on a few raised beds does not mean "FARMING" to me.  That would mean vegetable gardening.  I have since heard "farming" used many times on TV programs, and people talking about what they are doing, like it is the new event to be doing, the new buzz word to be farmers.  Yet each time, the people are growing a few vegetables here and there in a very small space.

Definition of farming: "the science or practice of agriculture; the business of operating a farm. the activity or business of growing crops and raising livestock."
Definition of gardening: the activity of tending and cultivating a garden, especially as a pastime".

Now I am not opposed to ANYONE growing their own food, hurray for them for being interested and for doing it.  But let's call it what it is, not to give an impression that they are going to the back 40 acres to water when they are turning on a hose to put water in a few pots.

I don't know why this bothers me.  Maybe because it degrades what farmers/ranchers really do, the amount of real hard work that it takes to farm products that will ultimately be supplied to the public.  Farmers and ranchers don't have days off; they work when the weather is horrible, in fact, probably are working WHEN the weather is the worst because that is when the farm animals and crops need their attention the most.  And to get to the crops, farmers have to drive out either on a 4 wheeler, or a truck or ride a horse or walk.  They don't look at their crops or animals from their back door slider.
One TV person said they had to plant their "crops".  What I saw was a 6 pack of lettuce they purchased from a home improvement store and that was their planting, that was their "crop".
I love it that people are interested in anything related to planting, watering, weeding, growing, eating what they grow.  
But please, don't use the word "farming" unless it really indicates what you are doing.  You can be gardening your vegetable plants, that is admirable and indicates to your friends and family you are doing good things.  Please don't say you are farming your crops in your back yard, a few raised beds or pots or containers because it puts what you are doing into the same category as the the person who got up at day break when it was 20 degrees to go feed 1000 head of cattle or sheep; or had to thaw out pipes so they could water their animals or water their crops.  Don't say you are planting your farm when you buy a couple of 6 packs of plants from the local hardware store, when that actually may imply the same as the farmer who purchased 100 lbs of watermelon seeds or has 40 - 250 plug trays of tomato plants to put in the ground by noon.
So I am through with my ranting about these TV programs.  I think the best thing for me to do is just don't watch!!!  Well Downton Abby season is starting, that is much more interesting.
Thanks for listing to me-