. Bright Meadow Farms

Monday, April 17, 2023

April Fools

 So, it is the 17th of April.  

The daffodils were open for Easter, but some of the blossoms are starting to fade away already. The crocuses and hyacinths have come and gone.  Today I noticed that most of my tulips are blooming.  

The forsythia in my neighborhood have been blooming for a week.  Today my order for 10 forsythia bushes arrived from Jung Seeds.  This is a busy week.  I don't know when I will plant them.  Last week when the temperature was in the 70's would have been better. 

I noticed that the redbud trees are blooming today.   

The dandelions are also blooming.  My husband spritzed some of them in my flowerbed with Roundup. He also spritzed the thistles in my vegetable garden, which are getting thicker every year.  I've been hand-pulling them, but I think that just makes them multiply.  There is a reason that God cursed Adam with pulling thistles when he ejected Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.  My husband is eyeing the violets in the lawn, but I think they are beautiful and begged him not to spray them. 

The crabapple tree outside our bedroom window has started to bud out, but most of the blossoms haven't opened yet.  

And, today it is snowing. We had the air conditioning on two days ago and today Ed's got the fireplace going.  


Sunday, March 26, 2023

Planting more seeds

 Today the temps are in the fifties and the sun is shining.   Yesterday the wind was blowing in 50 mph gusts and it was cloudy most of the day, with intermittent showers.   

There is standing water in my garden, so I won't be putting in any seeds today, but I did plant a tray of tomatoes.

My husband likes the Big Boy tomatoes
  He always tells me that I only need two plants, I just need to take better care of them.  I planted eight 4-packs, doubling up on seeds in some of the pots.

I like Early girl.  I get a surge of dopamine when I see the tomatoes starting to bear fruit.   I only planted one four 4-packs of Early Girl.  When I opened the seed package, I saw right away that it was treated seed because it was shocking pink.

Some of the seeds I planted a few weeks ago are up.   The kohlrabi. 

The alfresco salad mix

The Burpee Mesclun.  It looks pretty weak.

And finally, a tray that was unmarked.  Looks like a tomato or a pepper plant.  There was a marker labeled "pepper" on the floor so I'm going with that.

The marigolds from saved seed look like the seeds rotted.  I don't think all of my heating mats are heating properly.

I also planted an entire flat of Roma tomatoes today, 72 in all.  

Look how many seeds are left in the packet!   

I'm also planting these peppers today.

Friday, March 24, 2023

0hio Master Gardener Program

 I signed up for the Ohio Master Gardener program again this year.  

If you've followed me for a while, you might remember that I did this about 15 years ago in Crawford County because the classes were not available in Richland County.  

That was before I learned that my job was at risk because the Mansfield GM plant was closing.  I transferred to GM Headquarters in 2009.   That was a bad time for the country, economically.  What's good for General Motors is good for the country, and what's bad for GM? Well, there was a government takeover of GM's bankruptcy proceedings. 

I survived.  I became the subject matter expert for a software project, and then eventually transitioned to being the business analyst before I retired.  But I was living in Michigan, and in Michigan, everything I learned about gardening in Ohio was null and void because the soil in Michigan is different. 

So, when I learned that Richland County was offering a Master Gardener class this year, I signed up.  It is not offered every year and if the next one is ten years down the road, I may no longer be physically able to participate. 

I loved the botany class. Photo Credit to Steve McKee who founded the Gorman Nature Center, and who came to lecture us on Botany. 

Our current assignment is to prepare a presentation on gardening problems.  My small team decided to do Japanese knotweed.  I found out that I was confusing Japanese smartweed with Japanese knotweed.  Both plants are in the buckwheat family, but they are not the same.  
I have a weed problem in my garden with Japanese smartweed.  Japanese knotweed is an invasive species that grows along road cuts and stream banks, and has moved into the Cuyahoga River Valley.  The same family includes Vietnamese Cilantro, which looks remarkedly similar to my garden's smartweed, and buckwheat. The knotweed is a very invasive plant, it has underground rhizomes that have been proven to sprout from a root one meter underground.  


Saturday, March 18, 2023

And, 2023 begins.

 I planted some seed trays yesterday.

I am going to experiment with making a photo of the seed packs in my garden log. 

Mesclun mx from Burpee
Last year's seed

Microgreens (Kohlrabi) from Ferry-Morse

I planted two packets of this arugula from Burgess Seeds.  I received this at a master-gardener's training session from the lecturer, who said that the owner of Burgess Seeds is a friend of his.  I see that it is also from 2022. 

Eggplant from Territorial.  It is also seed from last year.  I have never had any luck at all with eggplant.  This variety is supposed to be ready in 80 days.  We'll see. 

More seed received at the Master Gardener's training session.  I planted about 5 six-packs of this heirloom tomato.  The seed packet does not indicate the number of days.  I usually try to mix up 60, 70, and 80 day varieties so I have tomatoes all summer. 

I start my seed in flats under lights in my husband's garage.  When he is in the garage, it has heat and light, and when he is not, only the plant stand lights are on.  I do have heat under the flats that is on all the time during the season.  

Today I will be planting seeds I saved from an ancho supermarket pepper and tomatoes that I particularly liked.  I am aware that you can never be sure about saved seeds, especially if you did not plant the plants yourself.  Have they hybridized? I am willing to take a chance. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Mid-State Wool Grower's Cooperative

 Since I am in Columbus with my car, I decided to visit the Mid-State Wool Grower's Cooperative in Canal Winchester.  With my bike, it would have been too far.  But since I am travelling in air-conditioned comfort today, I stopped by without an appointment.  

They were very gracious.  My first impression was that it was a large industrial building. 

As I opened the door, I saw a "store" on the left.   Many of the items sold in the store are also available on their website. 

I spoke with a woman behind a desk, who was probably very busy doing her work.  Nethertheless, she spoke with me and told me that they mainly operate on consignment, they receive wool from approximately 2500 shepherds or shearers from Maine to Arizona, and then grade it, consolidate it, and ship it to mills in China or elsewhere.   The theory behind the "co-op" is that if multiple producers band together to consolidate their marketing or purchasing power, they will come out better economically. 

Depending on the grade and quality of the wool, the producer receives between 2 cents to 20 cents per pound for medium wools and up to 80 cents per pound for fine wool breeds like Merino, Rambouillet, Targhee and some Corriedale.  In addition, if the producer has filed the proper application with the Farm Service Administration before selling to the co-op, they can receive a federal subsidy.  This year it is 40 cents per pound.  

For reference, I found this information on wool yield per sheep for a  typical Corriedale. "The fleece from mature ewes will weigh from 10 to 17 pounds (4.5-7.7 kg) with a staple length of 3.5 to 6 inches (9-15 cm). The yield percent of the fleece ranges from 50 to 60 percent." and for a Merino, "A Saxon Merino produces 3–6 kg (6.6–13.2 lb) of greasy wool a year, while a good quality Peppin Merino ram produces up to 18 kg (40 lb). Merino wool is generally less than 24 micron (μm) in diameter."   So, the yield from a single sheep can range from 5 to 20 pounds, and varies between 2 cents to 80 cents per pound, or in economic terms, between 10 cents to 16.00 for the wool from a single sheep.  It can take from one to five minutes to shear a sheep, plus of course travel time for the shearer. Or time to load the sheep and take them to the shearer, as some do to consolidate small flocks at one location for the shearer's convenience, since the shearer is the scarce resource.  

In the warehouse, I spoke with Stanley Strode. 


He had a few minutes to talk to me before unloading a truck. He explained that wool comes into one side of the building and is shipped out the other.  The received wool is placed into the large bags you behind him,  and then later after grading the wool, it is packed into bales and stored in the warehouse awaiting shipment. 
It takes about six bags to make one bale.  The various grades of wool are sorted into the warehouse bays. 

I asked him if COVID had affected the business.  He said that yes, apparently there was less worldwide demand for fine dress wool suits when people were not working.  "Demand, demand, demand, that's the name of the game" and that is how commodity prices are set. 

We talked about the availability of shearers.  He said there is only one full-time shearer that he is aware of in Ohio, Sam Cunningham in New Concord.  The rest work as a second job, so availability could be limited.  I later found a list of "wool handlers"  on the website, where Sam's name was listed,  along with another page listing the various methods of marketing wool through the cooperative. 

I left the warehouse and returned to the store.  I purchased a brass sheep bell.  As I talked to the woman at the counter, and she asked me where I was from, I learned that she grew up in an area only a few miles away from my home, and even closer to my grandmother's family, in the old German Church area north of Crestline off SR 586.  I told her my grandmother's name was Klahn, and there is a Klahn road in that area.  Her name was Kris Kinnamon Doyle.  It is truly a small world.  

  She was very nice and talked me into buying a 1-pound bag of medium-grade roving for $13.00.  She said they sell a lot of it to local spinners.  It is quite soft, and I  will be trying it out soon. 

How does your garden grow?

 I had a big rush to get my flats of seedlings planted before I left on my bicycle trip.  Since I returned home last night to recover from pushing the heavy bike against a headwind on a 90-degree day, I thought I would walk around my garden this morning to see how things are going. 

Here is what I found.

Hosta, iris, clematic doing well on west side of house. 

I believe this is Lupine.  Need to verify.  I love the blooms. Later in the year it will have big black pods.

My beans that were planted just before I started my trip have sprouted.

I don't know if the snow peas will have a crop, since I did not plant until mid-April. They like cool weather, not 90-degree days. 

The first strawberry is almost ripe.  I need to do some weeding, but I won't be here. 

I am trying eggplant this year.  Never had success in the past.  We'll see how it goes. 

Cabbage.  Like the peas, cabbage likes cool weather.  I may not get any heads unless I am dedicated about fertilizing and watering when I get home. 

The deer have visited my garden.  Looks like several of them, unless they came, left, and came back.  My daughter and her boyfriend have promised to help my husband put up my deer fence.  It is 8-foot tall plastic 1-inch mesh. It should keep them out.  We take it down every year and then put it up again in the spring. 

The tomato transplants are surviving.  They probably like the weather. I am afraid these may all be cherry tomatoes, I forgot which seedlings I planted. I re-arranged them in April and lost the plant markers. I also have some peppers. 

I picked a bunch of asparagus last two weeks, and now it is time to let it grow. 

I put a border of calendula around the flower beds this year.  The hope is that they will re-seed themselves. 

I planted a small bed of marigolds for color as I drive in the driveway. 

I've also planted a bed of zinnia.  I've been told that they don't like to have their roots disturbed, so starting them as seedlings and transplanting may not be the best approach.  They seem to have survived the transplanting so far. 

I'm raising a pot of herbs (cilantro, basil) and three pots of jalapenos on the deck.  The flower is Lantana, which is a tender perennial.  I hope to move it indoors in the fall and overwinter it. The far right purple plant is transdescantia, which I started from a cutting from our January vacation. Hope it does better on the deck than it did indoors.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

A balm in (Mount) Gilead

I recently visited a sheep farm in Mount Gilead, Morrow County, Ohio, as part of a "Yarn Trek by Bicycle".  For information on the bike trip, see this post.  

Roger Cox, along with his wife Jan, was named the 2022 Ohio Charles Boyles Master Shepherd of the year by the Ohio Breed Improvement Association.  They raise mostly Katahdin sheep,  which is a "hair sheep" breed.   This means that they do not have to be shorn every year, as they naturally shed their short wool.  You can see the new coat growing in on this sheep, and the old one shedding off.

The wool is not useful for making yarn, as the fibers are too short for spinning.  I suppose if labor was not prohibitive they could be combed and use for felt or perhaps some industrial purpose, but the economics mean that most shepherds just let the sheep shed into the pasture, which is actually good for the soil.  Everything is recycled. 

The Coxes have over a hundred ewes on their acreage.  Many of the ewes have more than one lamb. Roger explained that his lambing rate last year was over 200%, meaning that several ewes had triplets.  In fact, there was one mother who had quadruplets this year!

Roger has had sheep since he was ten years old, in 1956.  He started with Hampshires, also a meat breed, and has had Dorset/Cheviot crosses.  He and his sons also raised and trained Belgian draft horse teams for some extra income, and later, also raised mule teams.  He started with the Katahdins in 2004, and gradually increased the flock of Katahdins as they were successful, eventually dropping other breeds.   

The Coxes have mostly specialized in breeding stock, instead of concentrating on selling meat for processing.   I remarked how I almost never see lamb at the grocery, except mostly around Easter, and he told me that most of the lamb from the processor  makes its way to cities with higher Muslim and Jewish populations.  I do like lamb, having eaten it especially the year I spent in Spain as a student. But I rarely buy it, since I never see it on the shelf.  Jan mentioned that I should check with Pinhook Meats in Lucas to see if they might have some, as they do some processing for area shepherds.

Roger explained that they chose to concentrate on meat breeds, because the wool industry in this country just doesn't really makes economic sense (my words, not his).  It is difficult to find and schedule shearers before or during the busy lambing season, and it costs more to shear the sheep than the wool brings on the market.  Yet, wool sheep must be shorn, because they have evolved along with humans in a codependent relationship.  The heavy coat of wool is hot, and occasionally the ewe may even smother her lamb by lying on it and not feeling it through a thick coat of wool.  Hair sheep eliminate this problem.  The Katahdin breed, like other hair sheep, has a less gamey taste than some wool sheep.  The breed was developed in Maine by a breeder named Dr. Piel.   (Ironically, the word "Piel" means "skin" (not hair) in Spanish although I have no idea if the breeder is of Spanish heritage.). The breed takes its name from the highest mountain in the state of Maine.  The breed is parasite-resistant, wool-less, and generally have multiple lambs per season.

There is a lot of hard work to do on the farm.  In spring, lambing season begins in April and lasts for about three weeks.  Roger practically lives in the barn for those three weeks, as with 100 ewes, there is always some work to do.  In addition, there is worming each sheep for the barber pole parasite, mucking out stalls, rotating the sheep through the various paddocks, training the border collie, and occasionally plowing a paddock to reduce the risk of parasites. Not to mention mowing the pastures, baking the hay, and keeping the lawn mowed.   Very busy life for a 76-year old! 

Rotational grazing has been a practice that the Coxes have turned to and found that it is very good for the land. They keep the sheep in one paddock for 5 days, then keep them out of that paddock for about 30 days.  This lets the grass recover, and also helps with parasite management.  They raise some cereal crops, and also, purple-top turnips as it is nutritious and also has a high nitrogen content when turned into the soil after grazing. 

The Coxes have three sons and a daughter, and one of the sons, as well as the grandson, has followed him into shepherding. Two other sons are employed in ag-related industries, one in a local factory, and his daughter works in admissions at the Ohio State Branch in Marion.  It is heartening to see a family farm that is passed down through multiple generations.

We spoke briefly about current events and how inflation is affecting everyone.  It is reminiscent of the early 1980's when a high rate of inflation and unfavorable economic conditions sent many farmers to bankrupcy. Some lost everything, including one of the Cox's neighbors.  I pray the current economic situation resolves soon.

The Coxes were very kind and hospitable people.  They made sure I was rested and hydrated from my bike ride before we launched into our discussion and tour. And they insisted on feeding me before I said goodbye.  Roger mentioned how blessed their family has been to increase their flocks and provide a living for his family.  He gives back to the community by occasionally mentoring younger shepherds and getting them set up with livestock.   I can see that he and Jan have worked very hard to achieve their goals.  They introduced me to their granddaughter, who was busy painting with water on the patio floor while we talked.  Her creations evaporated, but provided her with endless material for artistic expression.  I really enjoyed my visit with the Coxes and feel that they are friends, even after knowing them such a short time.

Edited to correct Spanish translation of "Piel" from hair to skin.  I spoke Spanish too many years ago.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Garden visit - Lexington, Ohio

I visited the Shady Lane Alpaca Farm as part of my Yarn Trek Bicycle Tour.  Incidentally, I got to talk to the owner, Jean McClintock, about her raised bed gardens.  

They are doing quite well, her beans are at least a week ahead of mine.  I do not have raised beds and I was unable to plant earlier due to the wet soggy spring we have had. 

Jean also pointed out the solar panels on her home.  This is a venture she is partnering with a local company.  They install, remotely monitor, and maintain the solar panels, retaining ownership for the first ten years.  Then the homeowner "owns" the panels.  Extra electricity is sold to the utility company, providing a savings on utilities.