The other day we were driving up our road and the smell of milkweed filled the car. The field where Meadow’s mom keeps some of her horses in the summer has huge patches of Milkweed that are in full bloom. It reminded us of our second summer here and how there seemed to be an endless stream of Monarchs and their caterpillar offspring. There were a few unlucky caterpillars born on a stray milkweed plant in the rice paddies. They would eat all the leaves and then we would have to rescue them from their plant island. This year I haven’t seen one. They’ve had a rough couple of years with tough weather and the loss of habitat. With corn or soy prices being high farmers have re-plowed fallow fields reducing the chance that the winter mommas find a place to lay eggs in the spring. In Mexico illegal harvesting has taken many of their trees. With all this trouble for these little flying marathoners we get a nice excuse for our unmowed lawn. When visitors come by the farm we can just say that we are making habitat for the butterflies.
A few weeks ago I found a momma chicken with five brand new chicks. She had been hiding in a brushy area away from all the other chickens. She some how managed to not get eaten and just kept on sitting. All five chicks are still going strong. Meadow moved her into the front of the house with our other new birds and the 3 baby goats. That momma chicken is really good at protecting her babies. When ever one of the bigger chickens came over or a goat she would puff herself up and start doing this hopping, clawing, flapping thing that drove them away. She even does it to us when we are bringing them breakfast. You would think she would figure out that we are the good guys.
I finally got all our new trees planted yesterday. With our new plow I built swales and a raised area for planting. It was so much faster then the last few years of plantings. We had a total 900 trees to plant this year. 200 Chestnuts and 700 Hazelnuts. In about 5 years we should be harvesting our first real nut crops. In the mean time I’ve planted some annual veggies in the beds to make use of the newly opened area. Once they are a little bigger I’ll seed a cover crop of clover, turnips, and a few different annual grasses. Next year we will be planting elderberries and gooseberries along one side of the trees. They will start producing in 2 years and will tolerate the shade of the trees once they are larger. In the mean time the animals will be happy grazing between the rows and help fertilize the new trees.
This year’s rice looks better then any rice we have ever grown. It is greener and bigger then in previous years. The technical grower at Cornell told me that three years is usually the time it takes to have a paddy come into real production. It just happens that this year is our third year with the paddies so it seems his production was correct. We’ve obviously learned a lot over the past few years and the animals really helped us out last fall with fertilizing.
Meadows Garden Camp started this week and went really well. She has set up a green challenge where the kids have to eat a certain amount of veggies every day and after 6 weeks they will get a sweet frying pan medal. If they go even more above and beyond they can get a brand new shovel. The first day she had resistance but all but one kid tried it out. The second days lunch ended with an unsolicited salad eating contest. I think some kids are going to get some shovels.