welcome, and thank you for joining me on my farm and studio in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania

Saturday, June 27, 2009

some thoughts on gardening and art

To be perfectly honest, I've not been particularly creative or productive, sculpture-wise, for the past two months or more. However, the garden is looking better than it ever has. Pondering this, I realized there was a correlation. The need to create, specifically to create something of beauty, thoughtfulness, and worth is ingrained pretty deeply. So if I'm going to garden, then it needs to be an aesthetically pleasing garden. Productive, yes, but also attractive to the eye. So combined with my love of being outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, along with a lifelong enjoyment for growing things, and you have my creative energies going into a garden rather than into sculptures. So all those pieces I've started, along with the ones that are still only an idea in a sketchbook, have been patiently waiting for me to return to them (do they have any choice, really?). And return I will, just as soon as I pull a couple more weeds and admire a few more bee-covered blossoms, and maybe check to see if there are any baby tomatoes yet...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

another good read

A lighthearted, yet thought-provoking book that actually made me laugh out loud in a couple of places. In it, the author chronicles his experiences of his first year in his attempt to "live green" on a ranch in New Mexico. From battles with his rose-eating goats, to driving a truck whose exhaust smells like Kentucky Fried Chicken, we are given an insiders view into the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows of learning to live more in tune with the earth and less in tune with fossil fuel.
Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

garden blossoms-part 2

one of the many sunflowers that are blooming

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

my kitchen windowsill

Find and enjoy the small beauties in life.

Monday, June 22, 2009

a garden weekend

The garden has grown so much in the past couple of weeks and so I wanted to share an updated photo. The "three sisters" of corn, beans, and squash are doing well after getting off to a sluggish start, literally. The slugs chewed them up pretty heavily until I left some weeds for them to go after. Now that the sisters are bigger, I've gotten rid of the weeds once again. Salad greens are nearly over, getting ready to bolt and become bitter. The spinach is already a goner. The red beets did particularly well this spring, producing much more than expected. They've been going in salads, roasted as a side dish, and now pickled. Good stuff.

pickled red beets

The sunflowers are turning their faces to catch the rays, the mustard is in full bloom and covered with honey bees, potatoes are just going crazy, growing and blooming on and on. The tomatoes have also begun to bloom, so hopefully soon I'll see some little ones growing.

Some of the herbs were big enough to begin cutting. The mint planted earlier this year has just taken off - doing its job and filling in a hard-to-mow area which has been turned into a mint bed. I think it likes it there. I was also able to cut some parsley and basil, and as you can see at left, all three have been hung up to dry in my kitchen. And by the way, the kitchen smells great! Best of all, this is just the beginning of a harvest that should last until the end of summer.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

so, how many lambs can YOU fit in a VW Bug?

Only two in my bug, but then two was all I was in the market for. Ever since visiting Shelley at River Bend Farm late last summer, and then again early this spring, I've been looking forward to getting a couple of Shetland ewe lambs. Today they finally came home with me. Their names are Aster and Apricot. Aren't they beautiful?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Checking on the garden this morning, I heard some robins making quite a ruckus. Glancing into the yard, there was my standard schnauzer, Biggie, lying on the ground and looking at something between his front paws. Realizing he must have one of their babies, I quickly took it away from him, seemingly unhurt, and deposited it on the other side of the fence at the edge of the woods. So far I haven't seen the parents taking care of it, but they sure know where it is, because when I went back out to take this photo, they strongly voiced their disapproval. The babe seems nearly feathered out so hopefully he'll make it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

my salad days

Garden salad of green leaf, red leaf, and buttercrunch lettuces, parsley, spinach, diced radishes, sauteed baby beets, hard boiled eggs, and pumpkin seeds. Topped with the Tulip Tree Hill house dressing.

Right now the garden is providing an abundance of mixed greens and spring roots, so salad is on the menu more often than not. With the exception of the pumpkin seeds, everything in the salad above was raised right here. Pretty cool, huh? Hopefully with this year's pumpkin crop, even the seeds will be homegrown next spring.

My favorite dressing right now is a creamy sweet and sour herb mixture. Here's the recipe:

Tulip Tree Hill House Dressing
In a one pint jar, add the following:
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup salad dressing
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon thyme
Put the lid on the jar and give it a good shake until well blended.
Open the jar, stick your finger in and give it a try.
Adjust sugar and/or vinegar to taste.
That's it, all done!
Please keep refrigerated.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

it won't go down without a fight

See, this is what I meant about bamboo getting sneaky when threatened. These tiny, little, seemingly innocuous, grass-like clumps are actually bamboo. This is an area well away from the main stand where I cut some down last year in an effort to stop its spread. The rhizome didn't die, it just waited for the opportunity to come back in disguise. Later today the weed killer will be put to good use. Unfortunately, some other plants may get hit in the crossfire, but that's what I meant about collateral damage. I have also begun cutting mature stalks, but there are probably a couple hundred of them and they're woody and tough. It will be a long fight - but one that I mean to win.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

what I'm reading now

Living Seasonally
by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd

A wonderfully written book that's a pleasure to read. It puts into words so much of what I feel but don't quite know how to express about gardening. You know, like when I get asked why bother growing potatoes when you can buy them for almost nothing... my answer is usually less than eloquent, like "ummm, because it feels good?" There's so much about the love of growing things that's hard to verbalize, but these two guys seem to manage it.

Also at times, when reading this book, I wanted to be them (except for the part about living in Vermont - somewhere warmer is more up my alley).

Friday, June 12, 2009

my how they've grown!

Yesterday was the first day that the broilers were allowed to go outside. At 4 weeks old, they finally seemed like they were ready. It was a bit damp and rainy, but a few of the braver souls ventured out between showers. They enjoyed pecking around and looking for nasties goodies in the grass, such as worms, grubs, slugs, etc. I've kept bantams for four years, but this is my first foray into raising meat birds - specifically Cornish Rock crosses. Compared to egg-layers, these broilers are awkward and somewhat fragile, growing faster than they can feather out (a bit pathetic, really), hence being kept inside for so long. Next year, my choice of meat birds will likely be a standard heavy breed such as Barred Rocks. They'll probably take twelve weeks to reach a good size rather than the eight for broilers, but since I'm not pushing for quick turn-around, that's okay. I'll be a lot more comfortable with the "normal" growth rate and increased vigor.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

garden blossoms-part 1



mesclun (salad mix),


Aren't the potato blossoms just gorgeous? They'd look nice even in a flower border. So would the mustard. And the mesclun isn't too shabby either. The bonus is that you can also make dinner from them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

know your enemies

I moved here four years ago and have been battling a stand of bamboo ever since. Believing we could live in harmony, it started out with me just breaking off the new shoots that were growing where I didn't want them. Apparently that made it mad. Showing its true colors, it made a dash towards the house, coming up through the deck, disrupting the stone patio surrounding the water garden, and invading the hosta bed. Amazed by the audacity, I countered with more severe pruning as well as judicious applications of weed killer. Hostilities escalated. Last summer, it ran twenty feet into the woods. That was the final straw - I envisioned a future where nothing remained in my woods except a few older trees and bamboo. No wildflowers or saplings, no place left for the native flora and fauna to survive, let alone thrive. So bamboo and I were now locked in a battle to the death. Clearly there was no way to live in harmony with this monster. Accepting that there might be some collateral damage, I vowed to do whatever it would take to completely eradicate it.

So when I found a book on bamboo at the library last week, it came home with me. I thought perhaps at the very least, there would be something about containing the beast, if not killing it outright. The book is well written and speaks so glowingly of the beauty and benefits of bamboo, that if I didn't know better, I might be tempted to plant some. Reading through the book, I finally got to the part about keeping it contained. I learned it can go under sidewalks, driveways, and even roads in some cases. The root system is usually significantly larger than what you see above ground and it can run for fifty feet underground before popping up in another location. FIFTY FEET! What are people thinking when they plant this stuff? Let me just say here that in my opinion, it is irresponsible, short sighted, and selfish to plant bamboo without adequately containing it with a permanent barrier that is up to the task. Seriously.

Reading further, it was as though the heavens opened and angels sang when I saw the following: "Killing bamboo is not easy, but it can be done." For the benefit of anyone else engaged in a similar war, I offer the following:
"Bamboo can be eliminated without the addition of any herbicides or chemical fertilizers, but these can be employed to accelerate the process. There are variations on the theme, but an effective regimen for eradication is as follows: cut the aboveground growth to the ground with a lawnmower (who are they kidding?), pruning shears, hand saw, chain saw, or other implement, as fits the situation. Water and fertilize to encourage the rhizomes (roots) to generate new growth. If necessary, limit the height of new shoots by pruning. As soon as the new shoots have leafed out, stop all watering, fertilize very heavily with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, and spray with a strong herbicide. Remove the culms (shoots) and foliage once the herbicide has been fully absorbed. Remove all subsequent shoots before they leaf out. Damaged by the herbicide and stressed and weakened by over-fertilization and lack of water, the bamboo's demise is accelerated."

Aha! A plan of attack! It will be a big job and not one I will likely get done this year, but at least there's hope. There is just one fly in that ointment, however. I have seen this bamboo, when stressed, send up tiny little shoots that look nearly identical to grasses. In the woods this will be hard to spot, but I'll stay on top of it.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


check it...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

honored guests

Yesterday was spent with my sister and her husband at the New Holland horse auction. They were going to look for a pony for their youngest daughter's birthday and I was going, well, because I like those sorts of things. When the smoke cleared, they had bought two ponies instead of just one. Their older daughter already has a small horse, but it's too big for her and they're hoping a smaller one will help build her confidence. These two are very sweet, calm, easy going, and small. Perfect for young girls just starting out. Oh, and they also bought a pony cart - which should be a lot of fun!

Since my niece's birthday isn't until Friday, and the pony is a surprise, they'll be staying in one of my paddocks until then. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

what are they?

I happened upon these delicate blue wildflowers over the weekend quite by accident. Other than the blossoms, they look just like clumps of grass mixed in among the honeysuckle at the edge of my woods. They are sky blue with a clear yellow center on the inside. I've never seen anything like them before and would love to know what they are. Anyone know?