Right before it rained yesterday, we set up the two 16 family Purple Martin houses in the orchard. With any luck we’ll get a few to hang around with us this year. The birds of Half Hill Farm will eat literally thousands of insects a day this year, far more than we can kill with pesticides. They won’t catch everything, but birds play an important part in the balance of life on the farm.
Besides the Purple Martins we hope to host, we also have four bluebird boxes, but there are other birds I’ve noticed working the property.
Northern Flicker: There are about 20 of these beautiful woodpeckers feeding on ants and beetles in the grass. As you walk through the property, you can see their yellow undersides and distinct white spot on its tail as the fly ahead of you.
This week I helped a friend go through his mother’s attic at their historic Century Farm in nearby Readyville, TN and was reminded of a different time in our nation’s history.
Mary Dee Ready Cates grew up there during the Great Depression and appeared to have kept every scrap rag and glass jar they ever used. I was amazed at all of the American name brands on stuff she kept that simply don’t exist anymore. Steve gave me several of these old two and one quart blue Ball Perfect Mason jars pictured above that we found in the rafters around the chimney as well as an old pressure cooker Mary used to can food. They were some of the only items made by American companies that still exist today.
It’s an era that’s easy to romanticize in hindsight, but for many rural citizens in Tennessee at the time poverty was its own Great Depression. My grandmother told me her family knew there was a Depression going on but already lived so hard it didn’t bother them as much. They made their own clothes, toys and food. Things like oranges and chocolate were luxuries. For her family, the lessons of the time weren’t about being prepared as much as it was about being humble.
During the Great Recession, you would never have known we were a nation at war struggling to pay our bills watching the media’s reflection of a consumer culture in complete denial. If it weren’t for our investments in national infrastructure and social safety nets since the Great Depression, that would be a very different story.
We are fortunate to have so many choices today in how we struggle as a nation. Do we value the lowest price and the easy way out of hard work in exchange for the not so hidden costs to our communities, or do we heed the lesson to value something bigger? Humility, living modestly and sustainably, are values that are as important today as they’ve ever been.
We removed an old barnyard fence that was originally designed to keep livestock out of the garden area. It added another 400 square feet to the garden.
I removed some old cedar posts that were used to keep the soil from washing away and replaced them with another short rock wall. This time we used a hand truck to move very large stones weighing over 100 lbs. each.
Vince went ahead and planted a lot more seeds to account for the extra space. We’ll now have space to start herbs this Spring.
We’re supposed to have some awesome weather this weekend here in Middle Tennessee, so I spent some time today building a fire pit where we burned some brush a couple weeks ago.
We’ve got a couple of farm projects this weekend to get us ready for Spring, but sometimes you have to make time to sit and stare at a fire, drink some good beer, and listen to the coyotes howl.
The Winter hours have really kept us busy on the farm. We cleared an acre of fallow pasture, planted apple trees and blueberry bushes, made tons of compost, got seeds ordered and planted, and created garden beds. Thanks to the Rodale Institute and our certifying agent we are now in the inspection phase for USDA Organic Certification.
Our values are our certification at the end of the day, but recognition for going the extra mile doesn’t hurt. Our reward is knowing this labor of love will ensure the food we grow meets the highest quality standards our community deserves.
How to build a firepit using manufactured stone
Here is a very popular tutorial I did for those who do not have access to real stone or want the look of manufactured blocks. Each photo in the series is captioned with instruction. Like us on Facebook to see future projects.
Organic peppers: Jalapeno, Peperoncini, Orange Bell, California Bell, and Sweet Pickle Peppers
After finding the temporary greenhouse temperature dropping below freezing, we decided to use this germination pad. It will keep the soil between 70-80 F degrees. We ordered a much larger 2ft x 4 ft pad for more starts we’ll plant later this week as well as for re-potted plants.
The soil we’re using consists of an OMRI-listed peat, soil from our orchard field and garden compost. We’re also using Jiffy peat cups for transfers.