Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Old Age and Health Issues

I read a post today from an aquaintance that she and her husband would like to give up the farm due to "old age and health issues."  Unfortunately, I think she is younger than I am!

My DH had a hip replacement last Tuesday.  The weather in our area has been snowstorm after snowstorm after snowstorm.  We have been waiting on spring to come.  Finally, on Saturday, the snow ceased and the temperatures soared up to the mid-60's.   He was riding down our dirt road on the tractor, with a walker up behind the seat in case he had to walk home.  I could say something here about being irrepressable, but I will refrain.  After his joyride on the tractor, he insisted that I rototill our garden, so that I could plant the onion sets/plants that had arrived in the mail two days prior. 

I think he has cabin fever from being confined in the hospital. 

He needed to move a car out of the way in the garage in order to get the rototiller out.  He started walking out to the garage with his walker.  Having two replaced hips myself, I knew that he was overdoing it already, just to walk through the uneven ground to the garage.  I knew I could not dissuade him, so I got the other set of car keys and walked quickly to the car to take it out.  After I got the car out of the garage, he started the rototiller (I have a hard time pulling the starting cord.)  I walked it over to the garden.  Luckily the ground was smooth in the section I rotated into onion plants this year, having been tomatoes under a weed barrier last year, and the tilling was smooth as I walked through the garden.  We have a Troy Built "Pony" model tiller, and when I bought it, the seller demonstrated walking alongside it and holding it with one hand.  I was able to do this in the garden plot.  The problem was, that when I reached the border, the tines found the sod of the lawn, and the tiller lurched out of my control, before I released the controls.

After he watched me running twice through the garden, he said "Get out of the way!" and grabbed the tiller controls.  I knew this would be too much for his healing hip joint.  I started screaming at him "NO! NO! NO! and turned the control to "Stop", but he immediately turned it back to run.

He took a turn through the garden up and back.  Then he stopped the tiller.  I knew this was going to be a problem.  It is the eternal battle of the sexes, brawn versus wisdom.  Wisdom won out, or maybe it was pain.  He ended up staying in the chair on Sunday with ice pack on his hip.  The tiller is still in the yard, since I can't start it to move it.

My own knees were swollen on Sunday. I have already had two hip replacements, and I am pending knee replacements, they are bone-on-bone.   I did not feel like planting onion sets on Sunday. But today, I took a couple of arthritis-strength Tylenol, and some Alleve, and I braved the elements to actually plant the onions. 

I used a long twine attached to a staple to mark my row.  The first row, I tried to get on my knees to plant, but it proved to be too much.  I stretched out prone on the ground, and used my fingers to create planting holes for the onion sets.  I scooted along with my leg, as if I were swimming along the lawn.   It took a long time, and it was uncomfortable.  I decided to try a different method for the second row.  I set the twine marker over about 8 inches, then used a hoe and a rake to create a furrow.  I set the plants about three inches apart in the furrow. I used a lot of my yoga poses to bend over and set the plants in the furrow.  After I completed the setting, I used the hoe and a rake to firm the soil around the plants.

This was fairly successful, less painful and took less time than scooting along the ground.  I repeated for the third row, just as it started to rain. 

Hopefully some of them will survive.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

St. Patrick's Day 2018

Today is the traditional day to plant peas and potatoes in my part of the world, if it is warm enough. Here is the view from my window - there is still snow on the ground.  Although it is sunny today, the ground is still frozen, so I will wait a little longer.   The last frost date here is the end of May, counting backwards 6-8 weeks for starting seeds indoors, would be the first two weeks of April.  Early season crops like radish and lettuce might also be planted earlier.  I am getting anxious!  Haven't ordered any seeds yet, I guess that is the next step.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Invasive Species Awareness Week

This is Invasive Species Awareness Week - and I have noticed the garlic mustard in my flowerbeds, drawing in the warm spring sunshine and building up sugar in its roots.  Time to get these plants is now, while they are small.  Don't wait for them to build up root systems and potentially spawn off new plants! 

The good folks at Ohio State University Extension service have created a number of Buckeye Yard and Garden Line bulletins about invasive weeds.  Here is a link to one on bittersweet, which many people like for interior decorating. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

This year's garden

Since I spent six months recovering from a hip surgery and a hip surgery revision, my husband refused to till up the "big" garden in the back of our yard this year and only tilled a small 25 x 20 space closer to the house.  

I've got tomatoes, cabbage,  peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, potatoes, green beans, radishes, a few beets, some lettuce, snow peas, and onions.    They are planted pretty intensively.   But somehow the weeds still manage to come up!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Michigan soil is very sandy.  The water table is high, but any water I put on the garden runs through it because of the sand.

I had some landscaping done around the house, and I took all the old dirt, full of weed seeds, to the vegetable garden.  Because the landscaping had been repeatedly mulched, my reasoning is that the mulch has broken down over the years and will provide beneficial organic material to the sandy garden soil.

I am anxious to start my seeds. It has been a cold, wet spring and I think it is high time to get the seeds either in the ground (radishes and peas) or in the seed-starting trays (tomatoes and peppers). 

Due to medical condition, I am restricted from many of my favorite vegetables.  No more rhubarb, swiss chard, spinach, kale, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries for me.   I am debating whether to put them in my garden anyway.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Yellow Transparents are ripe!

I picked two half- bushel baskets. Yellow trasparents are the best apples for pies, in my opinion.  Plus they always remind me of my childhood, climbing the apple tree in my grandmother's yard.  Not sure if I will have time to bake an apple pie tomorrow.  Tonight we are going to watch The Hundred- foot Journey.  Maybe I will be inspired.

Well, maybe they are a little bit overripe.  Good thing I talked Ed into coming up to now the lawn! I just wish someone could explain why the biggest and nicest fruits are always at the top of the tree beyond the reach of my picking pole.

When we arrived last night this little guy was stuck to the picture window, I guess he was catching flies attracted to the light.  I rarely get an opportunity to observe frogs so closely!

Sunday, July 13, 2014



We have an orchard. It was a long journey, and I am still on the road.  We have an orchard and yet, I do not manage the orchard. I am 57 years old, and it is still an orchard dream.

  I dreamed of having an orchard when I lived in Johnny Appleseed country in Richland County, Ohio.   Unfortunately for me, like Johnny Appleseed, once I planted an orchard, I moved on.  

I lived in an apartment, just out of college, and with a good job.  No room for a garden, only pots on the fire escape in a downtown apartment.   I lived there a few years, until there was a murder outside my window.  I scraped together my assets and moved on. 

I had enough money for a down payment on a mobile home (almost).  I borrowed the rest from my grandmother.  My grandmother had a lot of money in the bank, the result of having been parsimonious during the Great Depression and afterwards.  She lent me the money I lacked, and I paid her the going interest rate of 4%, knowing that she and my grandfather had worked at jobs for $.25 an hour or less to earn that money. I made sure I paid her on time and with the full amount of interest that she might have earned in her savings account. It was proud day for me when that debt was paid off in full.

I lived in the mobile home for a few years.  I paid my “mortgage”, and I paid my grandmother, and I paid the lot rent, and I paid the utilities. Unfortunately, I learned about the “rule of 78”.  That means that you pay all the interest up front, and when you are halfway done paying off the mortgage, you still owe the original amount of the mortgage, in principal.  My naivety.  Their profit.   My kids came along.  I paid my husband’s credit card bills, my naivety. His profit.  I paid the grocery store.  All the time I longed for a patch of land to call my own, where I could have an orchard.

My new husband and I bought a house on 2 acres.  I rented the mobile home to a coworker.  She was a great renter, paid on time every month.  The new house was next door to a home with established apple trees, and had 2 young trees already planted. I was really looking forward to my orchard.  The neighbors were great, they were friendly, and the property backed up to a private park, with ATV trails to the lake.  We got a membership at the lake club and life was good for me and my kids.  Maybe not so good for my husband and his girlfriend.  They went through a lot to convince me that I should not be married to him anymore.  OK.  So it is. I get the house (and the apple trees) and he gets a reduced amount of child support.  My renter moves on to a new job, and I sell the mobile home.

A job change means I get to move to Michigan. No fruit from the apple trees in Ohio yet.  OK.  I will move, because I need the job to survive with my kids.  We move.  Michigan is different.  Way different. We are in a “metropolitan area” instead of a small town.  The neighborhoods are measured by “Mile Roads” and the further north of 8-Mile, the better the neighborhood.

My back yard is really small.  It backs up to the middle-school track, and is just around the corner from the park, so the kids learn to live in a metropolitan area.  My oldest daughter was in elementary-middle school and the youngest was just starting kindergarten. There is no room for an apple tree, but a family of skunks make its home under our porch.

 A job opens up back in my hometown (same company.) With only a small hesitation, I take it.
We move back home.  Thomas Wolfe said “you can’t go home again” and I fear he was correct. My friends from high school and previous school activities had moved on.   I planted three trees, one Liberty, one Enterprise, and one Freedom.  All three are disease-resistant varieties. 

I start dating again, and fall completely in love with the love of my life.  Unfortunately for the apple trees in my back yard.  They were just starting to bear fruit, and I had to move again. 

 But, as it turned out, he owns an orchard in Michigan!  There are Northern Spys, Grimes Golden, MacIntosh, Steel Red, Yellow Delicious, Red Delicious, Greening, Yellow Transparent, Jonathon, one Wagner, and one Red Astriken. There are also pear trees and a single Damson plum tree.  The trees are old, and haven't been properly pruned for many years. 

His back yard in Ohio had a MacIntosh apple tree.  For some reason, it did not bear well.  He said it is because MacIntosh is a variety that has a heavy crop one year and a light one the next.  We never got the heavy crop. 

Fast forward, the factory closed.  We move to Michigan.  There are two Cortland apple trees in the backyard.  I did not even realize they were real fruit trees until 2013, when I harvested a bushel of apples from each tree!   It was the first time I got a real harvest from an apple tree that I owned!
I am looking forward to learning more about how to manage the orchard.  There is poison ivy everywhere, and I am wondering if goats would be advisable.  

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