Cricket Song Farm

Cricket Song Farm

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"OH, THAT'S what all the croakin' is about"

 "OH, so that's what all the croakin' was about" replied my son as he walked by the small 6'x4'x4' pond in front of the little red house and observed the tiny "polyfrogs"( as we call them at our house) swimming around.  The masses of eggs that are laid and fertilized in the pond were just hatching and the little polyfrogs were thick as flies on a cow-pie.  Every summer we have an abundance of toads that are grown and released into the gardens.

They grow tiny hind legs first, followed by the front legs breaking through the skin
 just a few days later.  

When all four legs are present the tail begins to shrink.  They spend most of the day out of the water
sunning themselves on the mossy rocks. 

This Kestrel Hawk is eating his fill of the tiny toads.  I have also seen the big beautiful Red-Tailed Hawk and other species enjoying a snack.  It is the natural cycle of the food chain and by the time the toads are mature, there are still hundreds left to  place all over the gardens.  
I use the lids off old garbage cans, half buried as mini ponds strategically placed through-out
 the gardens.
The toads are transferred to the mini ponds and hopefully find their way to a new home, burying themselves in the cool dirt under the vegetables, and finding plenty of bugs to eat.

 When we get the early summer rains, the old irrigation pond at the edge of the farm fills with water and the croakin' starts all over again.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Compost made easy

Over the years of puttering in my garden, I have read many book and articles about composting.  Some books require you to have a college degree in Science to understand what they are referring to, some articles don't give any information and leaf you guessing just how to make compost.  So I have sorta come up with my own equation.  If you are a math major, please don't leaf me a comment about the numbers not making sense, or if you are a Biologist, I'm sure I am not using the correct terminology, but to this ole farm gal it makes perfect sense and also perfect compost.


1/3 DRY/BROWN INGREDIENTS/ CARBON  (weigh less per volume than greens)
1/3  WET/GREEN INGREDIENTS/ NITROGEN  ( weigh more per volume than dry)
1/3 GARDEN SOIL, add in a little finished compost for good MEASURE and of course a shovel of dry manure sprinkled over the soil

OR flip the numbers; 3/1 ratio (3x's) the amount of  dry ingredients to the wet, 3/1 ratio (3x's) amount  wet ingredients to the soil amount.   This will result in about a CARBON/NITROGEN ratio of  30/1.  Which is perfect ( for us non-perfectionists) for great compost.

Here are some suggestions of items to use:

                                                   the simple way I make compost.

1. Place some sticks or corn cobs on the bottom.  Place dry ingredients (about a 6" layer) over sticks-- this allows for good air flow.

2.  Place green (about a 2 " layer) ingredients over dry.

3.  Shovel dirt, manure, and soil over top.  Repeat layers until your pile is at least 3 feet square.

                                                         Easy as 1 to 3!
keep moist and turn the pile every few weeks

click here form more information

a note about tree leaves:  
 if using tree leaves as part of your dry ingredients only use the leaves from 
ash, cottonwood, cherry, elm, linden, maple, popular, willow
these varieties are much richer in nitrogen and calcium
than other leaves

Make leaf mold  in the fall by placing your leaves in a big black garbage bag, adding a little water to moisten the leaves.  Tie the top shut and throw in a corner or an out of the way place in your garden.  Leaf them for 2 years to rot; apply to your garden as a mulch or till them into the soil before planting.  If you run over your leaves lying on the grass with a lawn mower, catching them in the attachable grass clipping bag,  transfer and store the mixture of grass and leaves in a garbage bag, (do not add water) the nitrogen in the grass will speed up the process and in a year it should be ready for use.  If they get slimey and smelly, dump them in your compost pile and cover with a thin layer of dirt.  The air flow should take care of the problem.

Compost can be added to your gardens before planting or as a mulch.  I generally till it into the soil so the plants will draw in the nutrients it provides.  When the plants are up, I apply a dry/carbon (straw or old hay) as a  thick mulch that is left to break down over the winter and tilled in the following spring.

Happy belated EARTH DAY!
Did you do- or not do- something that will make a difference?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Planting by the MOON

                                For those of us who recognize the influence the moon has on our gardens,
         here is a simple, basic guide.


Just after the full moon, in the waxing gibbous, is a good time to transplant seedlings.  It is a time of increased root growth, the plant will put it's energy into growing a stronger root to support the vegetation above ground.

Plant chard and other leafy greens in the first quarter of the moon

Planting by the moon can be very daunting if you try to plant according the best date; incorporating time zones,  Zodiac Signs (water, earth, fire, air) fertile or barren, and don't forget NEVER plant on a Sunday or when the moon is in transition. 

Planting Simplified
 When the Moon is Waxing ( growing larger)
 1st Quarter: plant vegetables that produce leafy greens and form seeds outside the plant
2nd Quarter: plant  above ground vegetables that produce their seeds within the plant
When the Moon is Waning (becoming smaller)
3rd Quarter: Plant root crops
4th Quarter is a resting period this is a good time for tilling and weeding

 an earlier post about planting potatoes according to the waning moon

                The moon is WANING, it's time to plant the POTATOES

another post about the Blue Moon that only happens every few years

                                                               BLUE MOON

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Wrinkles don't lie

O.K. I will be the first to admit it.  I am over the hill, I hit "mid-life" years ago, but in my mind and heart I am still 36.  An age when I felt great, had long, thick, natural curly hair, could shear sheep with out them getting the upper hand, could rope a steer, break in a new horse, milk morning and night, and  have time to be a full time mom of 5 children, help them with their homework, grow 5 acres of organic vegetables for several Farmer's Markets and CSA, have a home cooked meal on the table every night, run a chain saw and swing a heavy splitting mall to cut and stack the wood for the winter, and............on and on..................Shoot, I can still do all of the above, however it does take me a little longer, my bad knees slow me down just a bit..... my thin, scraggy hair won't stay out of my eyes making it difficult to shear sheep (I think it is a good excuse).  My hands have given out after 30 years of hand milking  5- 10 does daily, (think maybe I will have to get milk from a big brown eyed doe in somebody else's yard ).  The other day I was out swinging the heavy splitting mall and swung something out of place that shouldn't be (those pick-up beds full of cut and split wood for sale are beginning to look more appealing).  As far as roping a steer, I'm sure I still could...... if it would stand still long enough.  I cook, but eating after 5:00 p.m. gives me indigestion so supper usually is eaten at lunch time.  As far as 5 acres of garden........well, I still try but it usually turns out to be a game of hide and seek, trying to find the vegetables among the weeds that have gotten ahead of me.  Yes, when I look in the mirror I see the wrinkles. Years and years of working in the sun has taken it's toll.  I see the laugh lines etched in the corners of my mouth.  Life on my little farm has dished out plenty to laugh about.  The squint lines around my eyes from full, bright, sun-shinny, wonderful days on the farm and in the gardens are etched deep in my skin.  Yes, I have wrinkles and I am dang proud of them.  I have worked hard and........... I HAVE EARNED THEM!   I love my wrinkles and wrinkles don't lie, but they look a bit odd on a 36 year old.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Over the past 23 years of raising market gardens and providing for a CSA we have used a lot of cattle panels.  We found that they wouldn't hold in our large steers if they really wanted to get out . And the rams would just beat them with their massive horns until there were holes big enough to get out of so they could join the ewes.  However, we still purchased quite a few panels for our farm.  They do keep the goats in and allow for feeding outside the fence so feed is not trampled and wasted.  Also a buck cannot climb over them if you stack them two high creating a sturdy 10 foot high fence.  But generally we use them through out the gardens.

  Three or more panels arched, tied together, staked with t-posts, and covered with plastic make a nice little green house.  I also use these arched panels over my lettuce beds covered with black shade cloth to extend my harvest.  One of the best uses I have found is to bend the panel lengthwise into a small arch and cover with plastic.  I use these tunnel covers placed end to end over all my tender vine crops, cucumbers, melons etc. this is the only way I can extend my season long enough to get a harvest.  Remove them when the weather has warmed sufficiently.   Put arched panels in an area sheltered from drying winds , growing vine crops or pole beans up them can save space in your garden and allow for easy harvest as the fruit hangs down inside the arch.

notice the panels arched on the right and left sides of this photo
this area in one of my gardens is protected from wind on 3 sides
pole beans were grown over the panels
a thick layer of straw was placed under one of the arches
it made a wonderful, cool spot for the kids to read
...........sadly the kids have all grown and left home

feeding the goats on the opposite side of the panel cuts down on feed waste

we have also used them for:

*wood racks on a trailer

*compost containers

*planting potatoes in straw
  (as a round container and also laid flat holding down the straw over a large block planting of potatoes)

* cut in half and folded, not arched the panels for a 4' high trellis
 (leave 4 feet open on end )
MAKE a salad garden underneath, cucumbers on one side, tomatoes on the other and lettuce, spinach, carrots and chard planted under the trellis.  Cover with plastic to give the vines more heat in the early spring.  The vines of the cucumbers shaded the soil to allow for lettuce harvesting all summer.  Only place one panel ( not side by side) so you can access the middle easily from both  several of these throughout your garden....

make a pasta sauce themed trellis with tomatoes, plant basil, parsley and other herbs underneath

summer squash plants do well grown up them and plant melons or cucumbers underneath

I plant these mini patches so the side of the frames are placed facing the east and west which allows the plants on the inside to get plenty of southern sun. 

*covered panels with plastic and duct tape for quick cold frame covers placed over a double row of hay or straw bales, make these as long as desired.  When it warms up during the summer, the bales are opened and spread as mulch along the plants.


*we made a large 26' by 60' green house using 2 panels joined end to end with staples on a high center wooden beam, supported, by tall cedar posts. ( We used 10 sets of 2 panels to make it 60 feet long).  The panels were also supported and stapled in the center, with more wooden beams, on both sides and then stapled them to large cedar posts laid along the ground.  We covered it with fiberglass and boarded up the ends.  Using a good quality 3/4 plywood the wood was cut to the shape of the arches and the edge of the panel stapled to the plywood.  Framed in a door and made a screen door to fit.  We had this greenhouse for many years until one of our renters tore it down.  Sorry it was about 20 years ago, I don't have a photograph so I tried to do a sketch for you. 

During the winter my Angora Rabbits were moved into the greenhouse.  They helped heat the structure.  Heavy mil plastic was wrapped around the support beams and stretched across the top from side to side to form a green house with-in a green house.  A heat lamp was hung inside the inner green house and plants were grown all winter.  The rabbit droppings were spread through out the green house and tilled in at spring time.  We built this when only fiberglass was available.  I would not recommend using it because it did not hold up in the wind.  The corrugated plastic you can buy now at home improvement stores is my choice for green houses or sun rooms.

Nope, cattle panels are NOT just for COWS.
What have you used cattle panels for?

 Thanks for stopping by,
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Kick off your boots, sit a spell and read about the adventures on our little
organic vegetable farm.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

FarmHer JILL, FarmHer JILL, how does your garden grow?

FarmHer JILL, FarmHer JILL,
chewing on a sprig of dill.......
How does your garden grow?

With water and sunshine,

compost and mulch,

and pretty little plants all in a row.