The final weeks of June heralded in diverse harvests. The tomatoes's limbs would be torn off by their fat fruit if not for their tied supports. The green beans have produced a few pounds of beans, and the peppers are all nearly ripe. The wild blackberry brambles yielded enough berries for a rather bitter but delicious cobbler.
The cherry tomatoes have become almost rainbow as more and more of the little red fruit redden. The cucumbers, too, continue to produce, though some of the plants are reaching their end. The black-eyed Susans are still blooming steady, as are the calendula and cosmos.
The farm is starting to take on that familiar garden feeling. We harvest on a regular schedule to keep the plants healthy, but every day I get a few blueberries or cherry tomatoes while I work.
Planting & Maintenance
We're continuing to plant seedlings and nurture young plants. The second set generation of cucumbers is lanky enough to require its trellis. Many of the young peppers are tall enough to need stakes, too.
The walking onions in our home garden set bulbs on the tops of their stalks. Lilly and I collected some to see if we could grow them. So far, it seems like the bulbs that already sprouted won't grow, but the new ones might. At the land, an accidentally forgotten tray of zinnias offered another challenge. The seedlings had grown roots into every inch of soil, creating a matted tangle. The seedlings need lots of roots to survive the transfer into the garden, so I had to ease the plants apart with minimum breakage. The key turned out to be soaking them in water and wiggling them slowly apart.
We're finally installing a drip irrigation system. The system is a series of pipes with tiny holes which slowly deliver water to the soil. It's far more efficient than sprinklers and far less work than buckets and hoses.
The water spout is on the opposite side of the road than the flower garden. In order to protect the piping, we fed it through a length of PVC piping and then buried it in a shallow trench. We'll lay the rest of the piping down the flower beds.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Our flocks love their new yards and have even accepted their new members. They rarely fight or even peck each other now, though the newest ladies can often be found on the other side of the yard than the older hens.
They all enjoy the (marginally over-ripe) cucumbers, watermelon, and blackberries that we bring them. Their favorite treat remains mealworms, but they'll eat an entire slice of watermelon in less than a minute.
One evening, after an afternoon thunder shower, we came up to the land to find all of the chickens absolutely drenched. They always have access to their coops, but they must have decided that they could stick it out. Despite their bedraggled state, they ran up to the fence to greet us and search for any signs of forthcoming treats.
These two weeks have seen the peak blooming of the many mints scattered about our garden. I'm rather fond of the mint family, Lamiaceae, because the members are recognizable even before I know the species. Mints are almost all aromatic and weedy. They have opposite leaf arrangements and often have square stems. Their flowers, normally white, pink, or purple, have fused petals and are normally presented in clusters. Bees and other pollinators absolutely love them.
Lots of common herbs belong to the Lamiaceae family. Basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, lemon balm, and spearmint are all members. Other mint family members are more known for their ornamental purposes, such as bee balm, salvia, hyssop, and lamb's ear. Though mint members are frequently found in gardens, many are also wild natives. I found a red bee balm (Monarda didyma) in our field. And we have many thriving populations of mountain mint which I believe all came from a few plants dug up from a ditch.
Just as our harvests are beginning to arrive in waves, subtler aspects of our farm are maturing. Afternoon storms and nighttime showers have encouraged fungi to send up mushrooms from the soil and the hay. Plants are growing into layers, supporting each other with stalks and tendrils. Flowers are blooming on the same plants that fruit is ripening.
Insects, helpful and harmful, are moving in. Pollinators are finding their ways to each new flowers. A hornworm caterpillar made itself at home on a tomato plant. Though we noticed the defoliation, it took us a few days to find the jerk. Although hornworms are massive caterpillars, easily four inches long and plump, they are perfectly camouflaged. They can eat an entire baby tomato in ten minutes and still somehow remain hidden.
One in a Million Flowers
Between the cutting flower beds, scattered wildflowers, vegetables, and random seeds we pressed into the soil, a rainbow of blooms is opening into the summer sun. Poppies, squash, nasturtiums, irises, zinnias, sedums, chives, cleomes, balloon flowers, and mistflowers are just a few of the newcomers. Many of the blooms are on a single plant in a hidden corner of a bed, but together they are dressing the farm in it's best summer array.