Saturday, February 25, 2012

Peach Tree Chilling

I love peaches and have wanted to have a peach tree for years.  There was not room for one in our tiny yard in town.   So when we move here to the farm, I had high hopes of planting one.  The first year we were here, we were too busy just trying to cope with tending 5 acres to worry about planting trees.  The second year, we sort of had things under control, but got busy and, before we knew it, it was much too late to plant trees.  But, last spring we had our act together enough that when we noticed our local Atwoods store had fruit trees for sale, we bought a couple of them.

Unfortunately, if you've read this blog this past year, you know that it was the hottest, driest and worst summer on record since the 1930s!   But, knowing how much I loved peaches and wanted those trees to survive, my wonderful husband kept them watered for me.  If it had been up to me, I'm sure they would have died.  They are planted a good ways from the nearest water hydrant.  So, watering them entailed stringing a hose out there to them or carrying water to them.  In either case, not a fun job in 100 degree weather.

Today I noticed they seem very much alive and even have buds that are beginning to swell.

Here is a closer look at the buds I mentioned.

I'm somewhat concerned that it is going to bloom before our last frost this year.  I doubt that I will have many, if any, peaches this year since the trees are so small, but I sure won't have any if the blooms are all killed by a frost.

So, I did a little research about what makes trees bloom early like this.  What I found is very interesting.   Apparently, all fruit trees need to go through a certain number of hours below 45 degrees and above 32 degrees in order to produce a successful crop.  This period is called the "chilling hours" for that species of tree.  If the chilling hour requirement is not met, then the tree is likely to bloom too early and a late frost will kills the blossoms.

The best source I found on this topic is the following link:

Hopefully, my trees will receive the right number of chilling hours and reward me with luscious peaches......if not this year, then maybe next.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Warning Signs

You have probably noticed the warning signs on practically everything you buy these days.   They have become so prevalent that we are somewhat calloused to their meanings and to the reasons they are present on objects in the first place.

That is not so much the case with the warning signs on the machinery we have here at the farm.  In fact, most of these signs are downright eye-catching and in some cases humorous.  Our tractor has three such warning signs.  Take this one for example:

This is cautioning you to not raise the front-end-loader bucket too high if you have a heavy load.  Otherwise, it could fall back on you.  That is a scary thought!  And, even though the meaning is clear without reading the fine print, it still looks as if the guy on the tractor is trying to catch whatever that is that is falling on him and I have to laugh a little every time I see this one.

Here is another one.

Again, the meaning is clear.  DO NOT drive on steep slopes.  The fine print on this warning sign adds some other information.  (You can read the words if you click on the picture to make it bigger.)  For example, it says that if you have to use the tractor on a slope, then you can move the wheels farther apart to lower the center of gravity and make it less likely to tip over.  It also says to use the seat belt.  I am embarrassed to say that I was not aware the tractor had a seat belt until I read this sign closely.  Finally, it mentions the ROPS.  That stands for Roll-Over Prevention System.  This is a curved bar that can be mounted on top of the tractor to protect you in case of a roll-over.

Finally, there is this sign.

Of the three signs, this one is the most sobering for me.  Perhaps it is because I've heard news stories of people being electrocuted when a ladder or piece of machinery they are holding onto touches an electric wire.  Fortunately, I don't think any of our electric wires are low enough for this to happen.  But, it is good to have the reminder.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Ever Alert

I've posted many pictures from our wildlife camera and quite a few deer photos were among them.  Today I was going through the pictures from the last few nights and was struck by how vigilant the deer always are.  Here are some pictures of a group of three.

Notice that at least one of them is always on the alert, head up, ears pointing toward whatever danger they think may be lurking in the darkness.  It is rare to see them all eating at one time.

There seems to be this group of three that come together.  And, there is a pair that appear to hang out together.  Here they are.

Again, it is the same story, one or both of them is always on the look-out for danger.  If I scroll through the pictures on the camera fast, then the deer appear to move in a jerky manner as if they are actors in an old movie.   It is really quite comical.

But, then I got to thinking about why these deer seem to be so on guard.  There are really no predators for them to fear around here.  The major predators of deer are wolves and mountain lions, and these animals vanished from this part of the country many years ago.  Of course, we hear about the occasional mountain lion sighting.  But, naturalists generally agree that these animals are just passing through and not here to stay.

It seems that, even though their natural predators are gone from the scene, the deer still retain that innate instinct of survival that makes them alert to danger, even though it may only be imaginary.  Humans possessed that instinct at one time and I suppose we still do to a small extent.  But, thinking along these lines made me wonder what it would have been like to have lived in this country 500 years ago when large predators still walked these parts.  Certainly, humans were one of the predators, but they had to be ever alert, like these deer, in order to not fall prey to one of the others.  I imagine it was pretty difficult to get a good night's sleep in those times!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Compost Ingredients

We save all our kitchen scraps for our compost pile.  We have a plastic container which holds about a gallon that we keep in the cabinet under the kitchen sink.  You can see a picture of it if you look at my post from July 9, 2010.  Here is a link to it:

When the bucket gets full, we take it out and dump it in our compost pile.  The other day I took the bucket out to dump it and was struck by the variety of materials in it.

On the surface this looks pretty gross, but these are all great ingredients for compost.  There  are old rotten bananas here, broccoli that has been in the frig too long, radishes, potato peelings, coffee filters along with coffee grounds, a couple of cherry tomatoes, kale that is past its prime and house plant trimmings. 

After I dumped these onto the top of the compost pile, I grabbed a bag of leaves and dumped on top.  This creates a series of layers of different materials.  If you were doing this for a home garden, you would want to turn the pile using a pitchfork every 2-3 weeks to mix these layers together.  However, since we just use this small compost bin as a holding place until we can mix them into the larger pile we have out in the field, I don't worry about turning it.

Composting is a wonderful way to recycle your kitchen scraps.   If you don't have room for a compost pile, then just try burying your scraps in your garden.  They will eventually decompose and add nutrients to the soil.