May 2016
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Property Update – May 2 2016

It’s been about 3 weeks since the last update. The weather has started to get pretty hot. I have to plan my days better to avoid the hottest part of the day. It’s also important to remember to drink a lot of water because it’s easy to get dehydrated. On the really hot days, I work in the morning until I can’t go any longer, then back out later in the day when it starts to cool down.

This past Saturday was nice because we had about 3 short rain showers, which gave me a chance to take a break. My favorite spot during the rain is to sit on the screened porch and watch the swale fill. I think about all the good things that are happening without any effort on my part because we spent time designing it. Time will tell how the trees grow in the swale environment, but so far all indications are very positive.

In the last update, I talked about the first 50 cubic yards of wood chips I had gotten for free. I spread all of those, and sure enough the tree company called with 2 more free loads. I spent a lot of the last week spreading more. These chip piles got wet from rain and heated up nicely. They were very fine and were starting to break down quickly. I’ve now covered almost all of the grassy area between the 2 swales with a heavy layer of chip mulch. Yesterday, I sowed clover, cucumber, and melon seeds in this new area so see how they will do.

Grassy Area Between Swales Heavily Mulched with Wood Chips

Grassy Area Between Swales Heavily Mulched with Wood Chips

That's a Lot of wood Chips

That’s a Lot of wood Chips

The old garden-turned chicken yard has grown up nicely. I started letting the chickens out late in the day when I can keep an eye on them. They are very excited to get at all that untouched area with the plants and insects, especially after a fresh rain. After we lost 5 hens to a hawk a few months ago, I’ll be careful when I let them out. I ran some wires horizontally between some metal poles to create a trellis for the kiwi vines to grow on. This will benefit the kiwi, as well as providing the chickens shade and cover from aerial predators.

Speaking of kiwi, the vines are going nuts. This is about year 6 for the kiwi vines. At the base, they are getting to be very thick. Last year, we got a few flowers and even fewer fruits. This year, the vines are covered with thousands of flowers. I don’t know if it’s because of the mild winter, or the simple fact that they are maturing. We have 4 female vines and 1 male. It is very hard to trace the vines to their base, but I’m hoping that we get male flowers. Otherwise, we might end up with thousands of inedible fruit!

The Kiwi Vines Are Loaded with Flowers

The Kiwi Vines Are Loaded with Flowers

The blackberry and raspberry plants are doing well. The ones I planted last year look to be fairly productive this year. The new ones this year have mostly survived. These plants are also very easy to propagate, and I plan to keep spreading them. The blueberries I planted last year didn’t do as well. My approach is to throw a lot of variety out there and let nature tell me what likes the area. All berries are very good for you, and in the end I don’t really care if it’s blueberries or blackberries.

The lettuce in the aquaponics system is still going, but it is starting to slow down from the heat. Right now I’m using the flood and drain grow beds to develop the root systems on the kiwi cuttings from last fall. Once they develop good roots, I’ll pull them out and transplant to pots. Next fall I’ll plant them in the ground. I plan to add kiwi to several other places on the property. Soon I’ll start some cucumbers in the grow beds and boost their production with added phosphorous.

I finished planting the trees I received a few weeks ago. There were apples, cherries, persimmons, chestnuts, pecans, paw paws, and redbuds. I put these all over the place. They were very inexpensive. I can always cut some down or coppice them later if I change my mind.

The fruit trees are booming. Our biggest peach tree has hundreds of peaches on it. We also have smaller numbers on fruits on some of the younger apple, pear, peach and plum trees. The coolest thing is that there are fruit on some of the bare root trees I planted in the swale berm last year. After one full season establishing their roots, these trees are really taking off. We planted 28 trees last year and 45 more this year. So far, we’ve only lost 1 tree. That’s a great survival rate.

This peach tree has so many peaches on it that some of the limbs are sagging badly. I’ll work on that, but it’s a nice problem to have.

Peach Tree Limb Weighed Down with Peaches

Peach Tree Limbs Weighed Down with Peaches

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