Saturday, March 24, 2012

March Activity

We have had days and inches of rain recently (praise God!), but as our neighbor Uncle Bruce commented, he doesn't know why those weathermen keep saying we need it.  We have mud and puddles a-plenty!

Today was not, perhaps, the best chosen day for planting, but working around a teacher's Monday-Friday schedule and another erratic schedule, today was it for planting.  Our shoes, tools, and gloves were 5 pounds heavier at the end of the morning with the heavy mud.  At least we weren't tilling or plowing in this muck... the tractor might still be sitting.

And our day in pictures...
More onions (3 rows of Walla Walla to the east of the others)

No potatoes growing above ground yet!

Garlic and tree onions, growing well.

Tree onions springing back after the tilling.

Children's garden
Plenty of potatoes here already!

All-Blue, 12 hours after cutting.
They look very purple rather than blue, but either way, great color!

James purchased a 400-gallon fuel tank and stand for $40.
Well done, James!
No, no tractor came home with us from the auction, although it was a close call!

While James was bidding like a mad-man, Bear Cub Q played in a mud puddle created by a gaggle of girls.  By the time James and Dan brought back the tank, I had no choice but to hose down Bear Cub Q outside, as he was mud from head to toe.

We also helped paint the chicken coop at Second Hand Ranch.

James and I have two matching sunburns, the quite horrible ones that will blister for me but never for him.  The kids have a touch on their necks, but James and I have thoroughly burned faces and arms.  When will I learn to avoid the first sunburn of the year? Sunscreen needs to come out before it's hot!

It was a good day.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Koi Pond"

 Ah, the joys of owning an old home on clay soil with a high water table

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Onion Planting

This year, many onions are planted in the original potato patch in order to prevent the growth of disease specific to potatoes.
Red Candy Apple, 4 rows
Vidalia, 8 rows
Red Creole, 2 rows

Last fall's planting of garlic and tree onions is thriving.

First potato sprouts!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.
katie z.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Potato Planting

Last week's plowing cut today's work down from 10 hours to 96 minutes.  (Last year, tilling, composting, moving the compost, digging rows, and planting took nearly 10 hours.)

First, James and my M., my sister, marked the rows with yard sticks and a broken hoe.
Each line is approximately two feet apart.
(Remember it from last year?)
 Next, James, my dad, my sister, and I began digging trenches for the potatoes.  Dad and I worked under the "dig a row, plant a row" banner while James and M. dug like machines!

Not too long after, some new-to-the-Ranch friends came with another trusty shovel and strong back.

On with planting!  Each potato is loosely 12" away from the previous.  Loosely because we didn't measure.
After covering the potatoes with SIGNIFICANTLY less labor than last year, we celebrated with a little lunch.

Tuna salad and egg salad on homemade bread.

Welcome to Purgatory!

Many thanks to our friends and family who made such short work of planting!  Dan and Myle, we missed you.

There's still plenty of space for more goodies.  We're thinking onions.  What else?

And, one more important item of business:

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

Potato Preparation

Start with seed potatoes.  Lots of seed potatoes, if you're as crazy as we are.  This year, we're planting
31 pounds of Kennebec (2011's champion)
10 pounds of Yukon Gold (2011's least productive)
15 pounds of Purple Viking (2011's middle in productivity)
15 pounds of Dakota Crisp, new to us this year
5 pounds of Red Norland, another new potato to us.
(76 pounds!) 

Also, 5 pounds of All Blue will be coming in a few weeks.

You also need a good, sharp knife.  I used a knife from my kitchen..

 Each of my potatoes was cut into smaller pieces, about the size of a hen's egg, and each piece had to contain at least 2 eyes, although some contained plenty more.  I noticed the Yukon had a bad habit of being full of eyes at its narrow end, but then the bulk of the potato had no other eyes.  Does that coincide with productivity in any way?
Some people recommend cutting the potatoes several days in advance, then lying them out to dry and heal, but I cut mine the day before since I don't have space for 76 pounds of seed potatoes to lay out.

After cutting into pieces and discarding any moldy/rotten parts, I loaded the potatoes back into their bags and into the back of the van for moving to their planting sight.

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.

katie z.

Monday, March 5, 2012


 Saturday, "plowing day," in three parts.

Part I, 8 am delivery of 6 tons of compost at less than $15 a ton.  It was chilly, in the 30s, but once we started working, I had to take off my winter coat.
6 tons of compost.
Preparing to sell our mower, as we have no tractor for it currently.

After Mike the compost guy left, we began felling red cedars.  Why, you might ask?  Red cedars are considered a noxious week and make it hard for us to plow up larger plots for our food.  When we bought the land over two years ago, the previous owners had cut and burned the largest of the cedars.  Our original plan had been to burn our front 20 acres, thus killing all the cedars and any other not-so-pleasant undesirables, but county regulations had other things to say.  Since we are within a mile of an air strip, we are not allowed to burn.

Plan B?  Axes and bow saws.  Next time, I'm using loppers.
Excellent camouflage, no?

Our tree hauler!

Early in our tree piling, before James used it as a resting place,
 only to discover I had also been cutting down honey locusts!
 Unfortunately, I failed to snap a picture of James as he felled cedars with one blow.
The end of the pile, over 100 trees.
 Intermission, we attended a nearby auction when we learned that the man with the plow would not arrive until 12:30.  It should be noted that we (James in particular) are not to be trusted alone at most auctions.  Last time, we bought a tractor that nearly killed James.

This time, being more prudent, we only bought a tool box and a fence post driver.  (I really appreciate the Google search engines for things like this.  Fence post driver?  We called it all kinds of things as I didn't know its proper name!)

Part II, in which I fail to take pictures of the tilling.  My dad asked that we plow this year, as our heavy clay needs to be broken up, but he found a man who thought we only needed tilling (again... James still maintains we never needed to plow) since the ground was soft from all the rain.

Wow.  The two plots look amazing.

Supervising the plowing and assisting with his own hoe.
Doesn't the drive look lovely with gravel?!
 After plowing, we showed the girls how to plant sprouted potatoes left from last year's harvest.  It will be their own little garden to care for, and will hopefully keep them busy!

Next week, planting!  We have 6 varieties of potatoes, including All-Blue.  We're going to make a party of it!

Until next time, remember, this is not paradise.  It's Purgatory Ranch.