Every summer, just when the pears begin to start to ripen, a rock squirrel (sometimes more than one) shows up on the farm. They must travel down from the BLM land that is just up the road from our homeplace. Anyway, these little ground-dwelling squirrels really LOVE pears!!
The first year they were here they lived under the front porch of our house and that was fine. They are very very cute and personable and I watch them from about 3 feet away out my studio window as I work at my computer. So, that is just what I did, and Chris and I laughed at some of their antics.
The next year they were still under the front porch and then we realized that we could hear them doing some major re-construction to the crawl space under our house! They had burrowed through the foundation wall, which isn’t all that difficult to do on the foundation of an old farmhouse like ours, and were setting up housekeeping downstairs. My goodness, but they can make a lot of racket raddling around the furnace ducting and the pipes. It only took us a couple of days of this to determine that this was not going to do. We bought some live traps at the hardware store, and set them up with some cantaloupe bait. We thought there was one squirrel, but it turned out we had three! We took them back up to the BLM land and let them loose. Problem solved, their front door hole going under the porch was filled in and all was good.
The next year, the squirrel was back for the pear harvest. Out came the traps and the squirrel was relocated before it could invite its friends and relatives to join in the pear bounty. So, this has gone on for about 5 or 6 years now. By being aware of when they show up, we have prevented the situation from becoming a real problem.
This week, I noticed the rock squirrel is here for the pear harvest. They must be migrant farm worker squirrels, because I am quite sure they follow the harvest of not only pears, but other fruits, black walnuts and pinon pine nuts and so on. Anyway, I’ve put the squirrel live trap out again with the melon bait. That was two days ago and this little squirrel is so far not been caught. I am having fun watching it do its harvesting work out my window, but don’t be decieved…we will catch this little friend sooner than later and it will be returned home up the road. I have no intentions of keeping this fellow on as a house tenent!
This is our good friend Professor Longhair! He has been in our family for the past 10 years since he was a wee kitten. He is one of three cats that are part of our family and he really loves to eat flowers…no kidding, this cat goes out into the garden every morning and finds one (only one) rose and eats it! I’ve had cats my whole life and I’ve never had a cat that intentionally ate a rose each morning. Anyway, Professor became ill two nights ago and he is having quite a struggle. We are not sure if he had a drug reaction to some medicine he was given or if he had a mild stroke, but in either case he is struggling to heal. Can you put some good cat energy out there into the Universe on his behalf? Today he is a bit better and Dr. Jeremy thinks there is a strong chance his body will heal and recover. So, Professor is occupying our thoughts a lot this weekend as we help him in his recovery process.
This is how I grow my potatoes each year and this is one of 5 barrels planted with German butterball potatoes. This is a fantastic method to use when growing potatoes because you get very high yeilds in a small space and they are wonderfully easy to harvest. It is too late to plant potatoes for this summer’s harvest, but here is the process so that you can think about growing your potatoes this way in future.
Start with impecably clean trash barrels, or other similarly large containers, and cut several 2-3″ holes in the bottom. This barrel has three drainage holes cut into the bottom. Once that step is finished, cover each hole with a rock or clay pot shard that is just slightly larger than the hole. This will keep the soil from washing out of the barrel, but will still allow water to drain out of the barrel following waterings.
Next you will add a layer of garden or potting soil to a depth of about 6-8 inches. Then cut up your seed potatoes into chunks around 1-2 inches in size, making sure each chunk has at least one potato eye in it. The eyes are where the potato will strout from. Space the chunks out about 4 inches or so apart on top of the soil layer and once that is complete, cover the potatoes with another 6 inches of soil. Water and wait patiently for your potatoes to begin to grow.
As soon as you see the first first inklings of potato leaves starting to pop out of the soil, quick cover them with another 6 inches of soil. Wait some more until the leaves begin to poke through that layer and add another 6 inch layer of soil. Continue repeating this step until you reach the top of the barrel, leaving 3-4 inches of head room at the top, which will act as a water resevoir each time you water your barrel. Keep the soil moderately moist and your potatoes will grow to look like those in the photo above.
When the potatoes tops turn yellow it will be time to harvest your potatoes. Drag your barrel to an area in the garden where you can benefit from some extra soil. Now, dump over and out your potato barrel and search carefully through the dumped soil for all the potatoes you have grown. Once you are sure that you have found all of the potatoes, you can rack the leftover soil in to your garden where it will be available for planting something else.
The potatoes you harvested should be handled gently as they will bruise easily. Gently wipe off any extra soil and then lay them in a spot where they are out of direct sunlight and where they will be protected from moisture. This is the curing process that allows the skins to toughen up enough for storage. Do not wash your potatoes, as this will inspire them to mold. After about 1 week or so you can store your potatoes in a dark cool place, not in the refrigerator and not in bright light. Do you best to store them in shallow boxes so that they are not stacked on one another too deeply. The air circulation available to shallow boxes helps them to store better. Stored around 40-60 degrees the potatoes will hold very nicely for several months. That said, I have a difficult time storing my potatoes below 75 degrees for parts of the year, but they still hold for quite a long time. At some point, Chris and I are still hopeful that we can build a root cellar and this will be tremendous for helping us better store produce like the potatoes. Until then I have an oak slated storage shelf unit that sits in my studio, which is the coolest north side of our house. It works well enough for the time being.
This old wheel hoe belonged to Chris’ Grandad. It works well even after all these years, but here is what happened to it. One day after we had finished using it in the garden I leaned it against the seed room outer wall. This is where my lavender hedge is planted. I intended to come back later and put the wheel hoe in the little garden house where our garden tools live. Well, I didn’t get back to do that right away. In the meantime the lavender and the red pineleaf penstemon began to bloom and it all looked so charming that we decided to leave the wheel hoe where it is for now. If we need it for gardening, we will use it, and when the gardening season is finished it will go back into the little garden house to protect it from harsh weather, but for now it looks quite lovely where it is. This way we get to enjoy it several times a day as we pass by. It reminds Chris of his grandparents. It makes me wish I had been able to know them too. They were farmers, like us! I guess it is in the genes, aye!!