Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Busy as Bees... and Lady Bugs!

New timber frame barn  (replaced barn that burned) and rooftop veggie gardens

Our new timber frame, Amish built barn is nearly complete - we even recently held a powerpoint workshop presentation for my other company, Moss Acres inside the barn on a sunny afternoon, using chunks of scrap hemlock to block the light from outside.

Lady Bug Love in the Garden
May is a busy month at any farm, but particularly at Old School this year as this month has seen many important steps forward taking place.

Dave Campeau & Dave Benner plant asparagus

The majority of the garden has been planted with a wide variety of vegetables, including 400 asparagus plants.    

These get planted in a trench about 8" deep.  They were a foot tall in 10 days !  It takes two years until you can really begin to harvest, and even then you must only take every other spear.

The bee hives are set up and are awaiting "nukes" or in other words, break away colonies, each with a new queen from existing hives.   We are a bit worried about bears going for honey, so we will be adding barbed wire to the electric fence posts in this corner of the 1 acre garden enclosure and then continuing it around to enclose the hives on all four sides.

Dave gives Al's dad Dave a bee hive demo 
We placed the hives near large Norway spruce trees that will shelter them from the north winds in winter time.   Only a few of the shallower sections of the stackable hives have been put in places.  The other sections and "deeps" which will hold much more honey will not be put in place until the colony really starts cranking out comb and honey production later in the summer.  We believe our bees will be prolific producers of top quality honey, as our hillsides and river valley are loaded with black locusts, shrub honeysuckle, and autumn olive among other plants bees like.   We also have planted a lot of buckwheat as a cover crop in the garden - another bee favorite.  We are hoping for somewhere between 100 and 150 lbs of honey ultimately per year from each hive.

Of course our twin six year old boys, Owen and Coleman have been spending quite a bit of time at the farm and this means one thing - FUN.  From building toad houses (for pest control) in the garden, to riding around illegally in the back of our pickup truck "Hoss", the boys are really enjoying the spring season and all their adventures.  They even found an unidentified large turtle with red legs (one of which was missing).

Toad houses may encourage insect eating amphibians to inhabit your garden.  We don't know if this will really work, but it was fun for the boys - we will keep you posted!

Turkey Polts are now two weeks old and are soon ready to go outside into their coop and free range during the day.

Every young man likes to break the law once in a while....

Al with "ramps" - a mild wild leek with bulbs
As an admirer of American Indian ways and traditions (my wife, Deena and I were married by a tribal elder), I plan on using this blog as a way to share my knowledge that I acquired from my dad about edible wild foods.  Two weeks ago I focused on the "fiddlehead" - the restaurant delicacy found here in our area along the banks of the Dyberry.  This time around we have two more wild foods to share - "Ramps" (wild leeks - also on finer restaurant menus) and the lessor know "lamb's quarters" - also know less favorably as "pigweed" - the early germinating weed in many gardens.  I picked a "pocketful   a couple of days back while taking a stirrup hoe (an amazing weeding tool) to the garden.  When steamed or

 boiled, these young shoots give Spinach a real run for the money.  A pretty good deal when "weeds" become food.
Lamb's Quarters - A delicious & nutritious "weed"

Some other steps forward:

Our old unused small "duck house" got moved via our old broken down trailer and my station wagon from the orchard up above the house down near the small pool near the pasture where our Icelandic sheep will soon be frolicking.  This structure will be used to house the solar water pump that will provide water to our sheep and drip irrigation for our 1 acre garden plot - all powered by the sun.

Dave was able to get the new locking hubs onto our truck, Hoss, and we now have full 4WD capabilities.   In his excitement he backed into a pear tree in our orchard by accident - hard to fault a McGiver-like guy for a small driving mis-hap.  The tree appears to be fine....

Plans are now set to rent a mini backhoe and dig a small trout pond adjacent to our spring house - this will be 6 - 7' deep and will keep trout year round, providing quality fish dinners and eliminating the swampy area adjacent to the spring house.  I already put one trout I caught in the Dyberry into the large basin in the springhouse - she awaits the pond to be dug....

A biking destination in the making...

I must have seen over 100 bikers memorial day weekend....our 8 miles of flat road along a trout stream are becoming well known.  We are contemplating making a room or two available during the summer for bikers, fly fishers, and/or Farmstay enthusiasts - if you have an interest, please let us know.

Very happy hens in their new coop - with a young rooster to right eyeing up his gals.

My view of the Dyberry - and when I turn to my right...
the man who taught me to fish...farming after hours has perks !

We are seeing a LOT of ladybugs this year... Unfortunately also a lot of potato beetles (the boys  love to smush those)

Next blog will have 6 sheep in this photo 

Five years ago I innoculated a few sugar maple logs with Shitake mushroom spores - I almost tripped over  this log!

GET one of these.  Johnny's Seeds has this Swiss made model .
Owen Benner scores with a Jitterbug.

The moss garden patio expansion for the moss workshop held at the farm - learn more about moss at:

Volunteers needed:   If you or anyone you know is interested in staying in a nice home for the summer and eating what you raise while learning and working on the farm, please get in touch with me at    Dave could use a hand and this is a great opportunity to pick up a few farming tips from a local legend - Roger Hill, our farming partner and local farmer/artist.  When it comes to soils and farming in general, Roger is hands down exceptional.  Plus he's a really nice guy :)

Interested in growing your own food? Check out Backyard Farmers at

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