Having a swinging good time in the orchard

Being outdoors is an incredible experience and I love to take in nature. I love watching bees collect nectar and pollen, birds searching for worms and trees blowing gently in the wind. One of my favorite places to watch this phenomenon is our small home orchard. To make this experience even more amazing I treated myself to a Lakeland Mills log swing this past spring. It went together like clockwork and after a couple coats of stain I’m LOVING it:

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Now after a long day of work in the garden I can pour a nice glass of lemonade and relax in my comfy swing. The only thing missing is a set of outdoor pillows. Hopefully we can find some this year on one of the big store close out racks.

Creating a planting container from an old stump

In my quest to build a homestead on a budget I’m always looking to re-purpose stuff. Several months ago on our way home from dinner we saw the remains of a tree our neighbors had cut down. The tree was hollowed out at the base and I thought it would make an awesome flower pot. So we tossed the stump into our trunk and took it home.

The next day after inspecting it I noticed that the insides were filled with some nasty gik. So I filled it with wood and dry leaves and set it on fire. The inside of the stump burned for a couple of hours which hopefully killed whatever disease was resident. The stump was then rolled into the orchard and filled with soil. Here’s what it looks like now:

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We added a few ice plants to the front and attempted to grow butterfly weed in the back. The butterfly weed never took but the ice plants thrived in the pot. This spring we will keep an eye out for some drought tolerant perennials on the discount rack to finish it off.

My goals for 2017

2016 was an incredibly productive year for our homestead. I got a ton done but there is definitely more to do! Here is what I want to get knocked out in 2017:

Plant more fruit trees:
– 1x Winblo Peach tree
– 1x Challenger Peach tree
– 1x China Pearl Peach Tree
– 1x Korean Giant Oriental Pear tree
– 1x Au Rubrum Plum tree
– 1x Emerald Beaut Plum tree
– 1x Williams Pride Apple tree
– 1x Rubinette Apple tree
– 1x Sunflower Paw Paw tree
– 1x Shenandoah Paw Paw tree
– 1x Chicago Fig tree
– 2x Goumi Berry bushes
– 1x Anna Kiwi

Hands on projects:
– Build a large strawberry bed
– Create 1/2″ drip irrigation meshes for my hugul beds
– Connect underground PVC lines to 1/2″ drip meshes
– Install permanent treated 2×2 trellises for tomatoes and peppers

Plant more perennials:
Plant Jerusalem Artichokes
– Plant a mixture of ever bearing and June bearing strawberries
– Re-work our perennial flower bed
– Plant a hedge of fragrant Osthmanus bushes

I’m sure I’m missing things but this is a decent start. Having a list to work off of is always handy and ensures that nothing gets lost.

The landscape value of blueberry bushes

I’ve become a bit of a blueberry nut. Over the past few years I’ve planted 11 bushes and I’m planning to add 4 jelly bean brazelberries to one of our ornamental flower beds this spring. Most people thing of tasty when they hear about blueberries but their landscape value is just as awesome. Our fruit trees have shed their leaves and gone dormant but that’s not the case with our blueberries. They are putting on brilliant red and orange foliage which gives a nice pop to the orchard:

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Our blueberry bushes have been disease and pest free, produce great fruit (we got 5 – 6 gallons last year) and the honey bees adore them when they flower in spring. Here are the varieties I’m growing:

Brightwell
Climax
Ochlockonee
Powder blue
Premier
Sunshine Blue
Tiftblue

Other than giving them high quality fertilizer in the spring, adding mulch and installing bird netting I haven’t done anything else to get the amazing results we’ve had. FWIW: Last year we used cheap bird netting from Amazon and I found it incredibly hard to work with. This year I’m going to splurge and get some high quality netting from American netting. This netting comes highly recommended on the growing fruit forum so I’m pretty certain it will be easy to work with and last for quite some time. This post is making me hungry. Time for blueberry pancakes!

Learning from bees the hard way!

Yesterday I got the brilliant idea to check honey stores on one of my hives without smoking them. That turned out to be a terrible idea!!! They ended up stinging me three times so I will definitely be suiting up for ALL future “quick” inspections. FWIW: Honey bees put out an attack pheromone when they feel threatened. When I opened their home they did what their instincts told them to and stung the crap out of me. This definitely taught me who the boss was! Bees 1 – Average Dude 0.