RicelandMeadows


Fingers in the Dirt

Ralphdirt

August 10, 2017

Leaning on my cane, fingers in the dirt is a mental boost for this farmer! It’s been a while since I could “play in the dirt”, if you will. Many farm jobs got put on hold. A few jobs have been done by others. Yesterday, I was able to weed and till this section of raised bed garden. I even planted a cover crop of buckwheat.

Now, this surely is farming small, but my connection with the soil has been made whole again. This whole job took a total of about 20 minutes to complete. Before knee surgery, I would have knocked it out on the way to do something else. I was my whole focus yesterday and I was even tired by the time I had completed it!

I did this entire job by hand using garden tools made by a family business called Homestead Iron. The hand tools are forged and fashioned out of tool steel in a small shop. The shipping part of their business involves using their kitchen table. This is a family business, here in America, in the state of Missouri, owned and run by Mr.& Mrs. Will Dobkins. You can check out their website at WWW.Homesteadiron.com

I am amazed at just how nice these tools were to use. They are just the right weight. They are sharp and well balanced. They fit my hand well and the angle of the blade is perfectly aligned for working the dirt. These are made like tools were made in the “olden days”. I’m talking about the time when the guy making the tool used them too. Most of the junk tools available today are bulky, heavy, not sharp and not anywhere near ergonomically friendly. It’s easy to see that many of today’s tool manufacturers never had to use one all day long!

Friends, I am endorsing the tools made by Homestead Iron. They are tools that work for people who work too. The best part is that the guy who forges them uses them too. Each tool is hammered and shaped by one man. His wife answers the phone, sends email and ships the product…from the same kitchen where she feeds her family! This is true American work ethic in action. I urge you to check them out.

Thanks to the Dobkin’s, my day of gardening, though short, was a wonderful experience. The tools they made were a joy to use. The sun shined on my face and a little dirt worked under my fingernails making the whole experience for me nothing short of divine. Due to the recovery time from my knee surgery, I’m not able to farm in a big way yet.  Getting my fingers in the dirt sure helped my healing…mentally and physically!

 



Putting Down Roots
July 14, 2015, 8:23 am
Filed under: July 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,
Mid-July garden starting to prosper

Mid-July garden starting to prosper

July 14, 2015

Our garden is finally starting to flourish. After a slow start, lots of rain and even some hard packed soil, things are really looking up. I was more careful this year to do more companion planting. The cucumbers have benefited from the nearby onions. The squash bugs and cucumber beetles have been at a minimum. Our peppers and tomatoes look great. Even some cantaloupe plants are thriving.

I am sure these results are driven by our new raised bed system. I also think that planting the plants with “friends and associates” helps too. Each plant gaining a little from a neighbor, by doing nothing more than growing itself. There is a lesson here for us humans.

Last fall, I became re-acquainted with an old friend. I knew him casually but didn’t really know him. I also put “two and two” together and figured out where he lived. I had driven by his place and often thought that I should stop and introduce myself. It was obvious to me that whomever lived at the farmstead, shared many of my same thoughts and desires. I had no idea that the farmstead belonged to Ron and his family. I am thinking that they have found their place in the universe, just as I have. All of us have put down roots that run deep.

We came together over my sheep. It turns out that Ron’s nieces, Leah and Rachel, were looking to become shepherdesses …or the owners and masters of a flock of sheep. We struck a deal and my sheep became theirs….well except for a few that I had to buy back because I missed them 😮

As the months have gone by, I have gotten to know Ron’s family quite well. We have shared meals, much laughter and many moments of fellowship. We all share a love for farming and gardening. We all enjoy the simple things in life. We encourage each other, help one another and laugh together. I’m thinking this is much like companion planting as each of us, gains from one another by simply living nearby and sharing moments in the sun…under the Son!



Root Zone Watering
Newly planted raspberries, thirsty no more

Newly planted raspberries, thirsty no more

May 12, 2015

Spring work continues to fill our days. One of our big projects continues to take shape. We are making the raised beds better as often as we can. I added soaker hoses to the raspberry and blueberry beds. Overhead watering is not only wasteful, it opens the door to many plant diseases. Overhead watering is not like a rain storm. It can give your brambles and other plants, the equivalent to athlete’s feet…. but even the berry bushes can’t scratch themselves!

Watering plants at the root zone is very beneficial. Now that our beds are raised, we have to be more aware of the micro-climate we have created. The soil will be warmer and drier. The sun and wind evaporate the moisture quicker than in a conventional garden. This makes it easier to garden in wet times or earlier in the year, but the reduced soil moisture needs to be monitored. A plant needs a inch of water per week in the growing season.

I keep a rain gage handy to see what Mother Nature applied. I consider temperatures and wind conditions. I then try to keep somewhere around that inch. A simple trick for the novice is; place a sardine can under the soaker hose. When the can is pretty much full…that is an inch of water. That water was applied right where it will do the most good.

Keep an eye on soil moisture by feel, by look and eventually experience will make it easy to know, ” when to say when.” The best part is, spending time in the garden checking out the water makes you want to pull weeds, stake up a plant or pick a fresh vegetable. Time spent in a garden will ease your mind and feed your body as well as your soul.



Raised Bed gardening
April 28, 2015, 7:45 pm
Filed under: April 2015 | Tags: , , ,
Our garden entrance

Our garden entrance

April 28, 2015

This garden space was once used completely. Now, there are not so many of us, so the whole space is not needed. I arranged these raised beds to be able to mow in between and around the ends. I can drive down through the garden to hoe, harvest or add compost when needed. The added height will dry us out sooner and make our wet, cold springs less of a concern. It will also be easy to root zone water when needed.

I like the new look. I am sure that I can raised plenty of food for the two of us. The one side of the garden I left so it can be plowed and used for things like potatoes and sweet corn. Who knows ? I may one day only use the raised bed system and add more. This season will be our first with this set up. We do have two raised beds of strawberries. Those beds are thirty inches high, so no bending over to pick berries.

I hope this makes for easy gardening as I age 😮  I used to focus so hard on gardening that I almost took the fun out of it. I hate weeds and enjoy a clean, neat garden. I have enough to do without obsessing over a few weeds. I hope that I can stay just as focused, but in these smaller spaces, spend far less time hoeing. I think this will be fun.

I am considering small high tunnels to be used in conjunction with the raised beds. This will extend my gardening season on both ends. I think by having soaker hose to water when needed, along with the warmer soil, I can continue to raise award-winning produce, but with half the effort! I also plan to create beds for a blueberry patch, some herbs, asparagus, and some thornless blackberry bushes. In short, I’m just going to have fun with this space.

I am planning to grow concord grapes up the entrance arbor. We just want enough to make jelly and to see the nice arbor. I have planted rhubarb and onions so far, It is fun to plan for the upcoming season as well as planning for the future. This will make for a great space to spend a few hours each week once I retire. I figure if I plant it now, there may be something to see by then 😮

The best part of this project is that more than two thirds of the material was left over from other jobs or salvaged. The dirt was left over from the building of my son’s house. Compost will be applied and mixed in once we clean the manure storage area this spring. I want the very best stuff for these beds. I like it when you plant seeds then have to step back quickly, so the growing plants don’t knock your hat off !

Here we grow!

Here we grow!