Sweet Harmony Farm

  (Deerfield, New Hampshire)
Simple joys of the alpaca life ...........
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The deer ate my green beans ...............(071709)

Last week I went out to check the garden, after all those days of rain.  My transplants looked fine, seeds were sprouting, and then I noticed that the tops of most of the bean plants were gone!  A few sunflower tops were missing too.  I looked around for tell-tale signs of a wood chuck and instead found deer tracks!  The deer never bothered the garden last year so I just assumed that all would be well again this year.  I decided to leave well enough alone.

Today is another day of an entire week with beautiful sunshine.  No signs of another deer attack.  In fact, the green beans all have green leaves again, and the sunflowers seem to have new leaves sprouting again too.  How odd, yet isn’t Mother Nature wonderful?  I spent quite a while weeding, and weeding, and enjoying all the plants that have managed to sprout up.  I’m going to have to re-seed spinach and Swiss chard and carrots.  The rain must have washed most of the seeds away but at least there are sprouts here and there.  The teeny oregano plant from last year is a huge bush now, about to flower.  And the tomatoes!  Lots and lots of green tomatoes are growing, with dark green leaves on the plants, and I even was able to eat a red cherry tomato.  In July!  How fantastic.  I staked them all up with bamboo poles.  The zucchini plants have really bushed out and have plenty of flowers but no zucchini yet that I could see.  The chives have blossomed and are falling over; I’ll have to stake it too.  My lone eggplant is not looking happy.  There are lots of tomatoes and lettuce that have re-seeded from last year up and about too.  Looks like it will be a good garden year after all.

The ground was actually dry.  I’m going to have water the garden for the first time since I planted everything .......................

 

Seeding the pasture (071309)

All the work that Dan has done to help with drainage seems to be paying off.  We are continuing to have excessive rain, but as time goes by, more and more of the pasture area is usable, i.e., you can walk without sinking halfway to your knees!  Our little ‘farm road,’ which is the road that’s been created from the driveway down to the pasture is now relatively solid, despite all the rain, as is also the yard area around it.  The main gate to our pasture, near the barn, stays dry as well.  Parts of this pasture and the swale itself still get quite mucky and slippery, but they too are drying out sooner and sooner.

So with this relative good luck, this past weekend we decided to seed the pasture.  There are shoots of green grass sprouting up here and there, but we need to speed up this process pronto.  Dan lightly rototilled on one side of the swale, and lightly tilled with the york rake on the other side of the swale.  This is to test which method will seed faster!  We’ve never been much into building lawns; we’ve always prefer to just rototill up the grass and plant more perennials.  So it’s rather ironic for us to be out there with our teeny little lawn seed spreader, walking back and forth spreading seed.  Much alpaca information will say that brome grass is best.  We decided on a simple ‘horse pasture blend’ of grasses.  This blend was closer to the native grasses that grow here naturally.  Once the pasture is well grassed, we plan to regularly overseed with brome grass in spring and/or fall.  After we seeded, that night we found ourselves in the unlikely position of actually hoping for a light rain!  And it did rain, lightly, just perfectly!  We then spread out mulch hay to protect the seed from hot sun and keep the moisture in.  There is also a perfect forecast for the next several days: sunny, warm but not hot, dry air, and no rain.

An added benefit to the mulch hay is that there are plenty of grass seeds in it.  One tack supplier we recently spoke with said that all she did was spread out mulch hay – no seed – and her pasture came in beautifully!  We have our fingers crossed for the same good luck.

Salsa Soup (070609)

Here in New Hampshire we have only a short season for fresh off-the-vine tomatoes.  As the plants grow we impatiently wait to harvest them.  In the meantime, please enjoy our quick, pantry-style spicy tomato soup.

 

  Ingredients:

Olive oil
A couple cups or so of the usual soup veggies, chopped: onion, celery, bell    pepper
1  large can 28 oz fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1  7 oz jar tomato paste
1  12 oz jar salsa
4  cups chicken-style broth
Large bay leaf or a few small ones
Parsley, freshly chopped or dried
Chopped scallions for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste, if needed

 Saute onions, celery, and bell pepper until somewhat softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add can of fire roasted tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir well until tomato paste is blended in.  Add salsa, broth, bay leaf, and parsley and stir well again.  Cook over low-medium heat stirring occasionally, until heated through.  Add chopped scallions when serving.

 Great with grilled cheese!

 ***Once the tomatoes and other veggies ripen (!) you can substitute fresh ones for the canned, as well as freshly made salsa.  If you don’t have your own garden, remember your neighbors at the local farmers’ markets!

The Birds (063009)

Don’t worry........ this is not an Alfred Hitchcock type entry!

A fun thing about living here is all the birds!  Ever since we’ve moved here, we’ve been focused on creating our pasture.  We did move several hundred perennials over here from our former home, but otherwise have not done too much to attract birds. And they are plentiful!  We’re enjoying all the usual backyard birds:  robins, chickadees, goldfinches, cardinals, hummingbirds, juncos, house finches, sparrows, blue jays, mourning doves, downy and hairy woodpeckers, etc.  We’re surprised and excited to see the others that have showed up:  indigo buntings, Baltimore orioles, scarlet tanagers, evening grosbeaks and rose breasted grosbeaks, bluebirds, northern flicker woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers, catbirds, bobolinks, and more.  They have me running to my Peterson’s bird manual so that I can identify them, when they stay in one place long enough for me to do that.

Even funner than just seeing all the birds is that some just love to nest on the criss-crosses of the log ends.  So far it has just been the robins doing that, and one mourning dove pair did once too.  It’s ‘normal’ for us now to walk by certain corners of the house as quietly as possible so as not to disturb momma robin and it’s great to just stand quietly and look at the 3 or 4 beaks peeking out of the nests.  And, now, we even have a bird friend nesting in the rafters of our little barn!  We haven’t identified her yet, probably some kind of finch, although the 4 little heads looks like juncos.

There are always tons of birds around throughout the day, singing their beautiful songs and chit-chatting. Sometimes they do all get quite squawky and we start looking frantically for the most likely cause – a hawk.

Don’t get me wrong; we absolutely love hawks.  They are also gorgeous birds and are amazed to watch them fly and soar.  BUT, we get protective over the little bird nests!  We just have to stand nearby and the hawks will fly away once they notice us.  The hawks have to eat, but not our baby birds!   

Our fencing is the 5 foot, woven wire no-climb type, with pressure treated pounded posting.  These posts are perfect for setting nesting boxes and bat houses on, which we will start doing as time allows. Oh, have I mentioned the bats? ................

Rain, rain, go away! (062409)

Here in the northeast it has been raining for the past week and it seems like it’s getting to be time for us to build the ark.  I’ve been reading a rather funny thread on alpacanation about all rain we’ve been getting here in New Hampshire, Maine, and the entire Northeast.  I say funny only because I just thought it was a funny topic to start a thread on.  But, here in the Northeast excessive rain is certainly a real concern for us alpaca farmers.  The rain brings out the slugs, gross little creatures, which bring along the meningeal worm, hosted by our cute wildlife, the white-tailed deer.  M-worm is of particular concern for alpaca farmers as it is a deadly disease, and here in the Northeast we routinely de-worm as part of our prevention program.  (Note to self:  get chickens, sooner rather than later.)  And of course, any of us with new pastures from recently disturbed soil, as well as anyone with clay soil, is having additional problems with mud, mud, and yes, more mud!!

Not to mention all that standing puddle water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and all the yucky diseases they carry.

So times like these make me appreciate the dry Southwest more and more, and like I already mentioned, make me start thinking about building that ark.

Or perhaps at least I should remind myself of the good things about rain........  The most obvious benefit is it waters, usually evenly, our lawns and gardens.  In a previous post I mentioned that I had planted seeds and transplants for our little vegetable garden.  I’ve only had to water once, the day I planted!  Most of the seeds are sprouting, but by now, they could certainly use some sun! ............  A related benefit is that I don’t have to be out there watering morning and night, and subsequently feeding the mosquitoes while I stand there.......... Another benefit is that is replenishes our wells.......Rain runoff from our roofs fills up our rain barrels, to water the gardens............ The birds have plenty to drink naturally, rather than me filling up birdbaths.  Water attracts birds to your yards, and birds eat many, many, bugs; no need for pesticides! 

But we’ve had many, many inches of rain and we’re more than ready for sunshine!  Those of you who practice yoga, please join me daily in spirit for a Salute to the Sun!!!!

Working the pasture, making it ‘paca’ ready..............................(061709)

Late last summer we had a local logger and his crew clear about 3 acres of woods and brushy overgrowth.  It was done ‘rough grade’ as Dan wanted to do the finish work himself.  What a wonderful job they did!  There were many, many large rocks that they carefully placed on the property lines creating a boulder style stone wall.  The stumps were all buried alongside the rocks so as to be outside and around the pasture area, a farm road of sorts.  And then, the rains came!  First a tropical storm bringing about 5 inches, and several smaller storms, and anyone who lives in New England remembers the rain and resulting ice storm in early December!  All that rainfall saturated our new pasture, with ‘sink to your knees mud,’ washing out a lot of the topsoil, creating ruts and little streams, and rendering it impossible to work in it.  Clearly we had a drainage problem, unknown to us before due to the thick woods.  Disappointed, we knew we had to wait until spring for things to dry out before the alpacas could come home.

And dry out it did!  We’ve had a pleasantly sunny and warm spring. Another local contractor has come by a few times giving us ideas on how to divert runoff and rain.  We’ve seen swales before but never knew the correct term. Dan is in his glory on the tractor, digging and moving dirt and making one heck of a swale diagonally down the pasture.  He’s also been making several diagonal berms down the ‘farm road’ from our driveway to the barn gate and alongside the fencing.  We have huge piles of dirt now in the pasture, beautiful dark brown dirt!  After we sift it, and add in a little compost, this loam will be wonderful for gardening perennials.  Now to continue on picking up rocks and roots and york raking the whole area smooth.......And the rocks... oh my!  There are more huge boulder-sized rocks, all the way down to baseball sized and pebbles.  Dan will be making decorative stone walls for years.   

We’ve been told that actually all that rain was a very good thing(!)  It helps to pack down the freshly disturbed land so the grass can grow.  The grass will then hold everything together.  So far, this does seem to be happening!  There are plenty of green shoots sprouting up all over.  We are very grateful for that.  And soon the alpacas will be here, grazing and pronking....................

First Blog Entry (061509)

Welcome to Sweet Harmony Farm’s first blog entry. 

As I sit here typing it is yet another cloudy, rainy day, after a week of cloudy, rainy days.  I am looking out the windows at beautiful green grass on our back lawn, filled with many clumps of blooming white clover and yellow dandelions.  We even have clumps of what looks to be red dandelions.  They are so cute, and Dan always mows around them.  Both our lawnmowers and the weed wacker need repair so the grass is getting long and seems to have gone to seed.  We’re thinking that’s a good thing!  It should help fill in the patches of bare ground.

Last week I planted seeds and transplants in our little garden so the rain has been welcome.  Last years’ oregano and chive plants are huge and spreading. The tomato, zucchini, eggplant, and basil transplants that I planted with them, the ‘Ratatouille Bin,’ are doing wonderfully and so far no little critters have dug them up.  (Note to self: pick up large container of cayenne pepper to sprinkle around the plants!)  Something from the year before always sprouts up in the current year on its own, and this year it’s tomatoes again, and surprisingly a few lettuce plants.  I’m still waiting for the veggie seeds to sprout:  green beans, carrots, beets, kale, and swiss chard, and a whole of bin of sunflowers.   We have 4 bins, all made with 4 x 8 pine boards and filled with compost, a total of 128 square feet, so it’s not that big, but plenty to keep us busy.

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