Monday, April 27, 2009

Peas, we are going to have peas!

As mentioned in our last post Meg's Sugar Snap Peas are blooming big time. As of today it looks like hundreds of blooms are opening. The Snow Peas are starting to open also, but the rain beat them down a bit. These peas were planted on January 24th. It gets hot here early, the past three days reached 90 degrees.

A close up of the pea blooms.

Half the pea patch.

The entire Sugar Snap Pea patch.

This is for Heather, the guard dog at the farm we buy local meat from. They have two of these dogs the other guards the pullets out in the pasture. Those 5 gallons buckets behind the dog were full of eggs to the top of each bucket.

I didn't get any photos but the Henrii Clematis just opened about 15-20 blooms today.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Piedmont Farm Tour

Today Meg and I visited 7 farms on the first day of the Piedmont Farm Tour. Sponsored by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. Since we live in northern Orange County we wanted to visit farms nearby us.

We started off at Pine Knot Farm a third generation minority farmer that is certified organic and grows vegetables and organic tobacco. They use large tractors and were just getting ready to plant as the fields had been too wet until now.

Just tilled fields, that back field grew organic tobacco last year.

Greens ready to plant, resting in the shade.

Whitted Bowers Farm is in their third year of operation, they run a 52 acre organic biodynamic farm. This biodynamic stuff is new to me, the plants looked great. Check out the website for more info.

Basil from the greenhouse.

The biodynamic mixer, it holds 250 gallons of water that they mix for at least an hour.

The delivery truck.

The tour buggy, made in 1905, a but bumpy, OK a lot bumpy but lots of fun.

Bluebird Meadows They have a farm blog I have been following for some time, you can find their posts in my blog roll. With only three years in the farming business I'm impressed with all they have done thus far.

Some of the best looking strawberries we saw today, note the crimson clover cover crop between the rows. We saw more butterflies species at this farm than any other farms today.

Lettuces looking ready to pick.

Wild Hare Farm Lots of flowers here!

Clueless on this flower, never seen it before.

Wild Hare Farm

Maple Spring Gardens The mother of all farms on this tour thus far. Ken has apprenticed at least two of the previous farmers posted above. He has an army of apprentices so his gardens are kicking out produce.

Broccoli the best looking crop we saw today, in fact the Swiss Chard, kale and Bok Choi were huge as well.

Bright Lights Swiss Chard, more than three times the size in our garden!

Broccoli WOW!

The peony patch, Ken told us he bought a Park Seed special pack of 10 unnamed plants 25 years ago and since then divided the plants twice. Must be an impressive display in a few weeks.

Captain J S Pope Farm They raise over 400 Dorper sheep and lambs. We ate lamb burgers grilled on site, pretty tasty if you ask me. They had a tractor with a tram driven by a 9 or 10 year old boy. The tram was packed with visitors so we walked the farm. Captain J S Pope started this farm and was in the war, Civil War that is. The farm house was built by him, I should have taken photos, sorry.

The livestock

Yes a real outhouse!

Four Leaf Farm and in walking distance from our house. Meg has known them for years from the Carrboro Farmers Market. This farm little as it is with only 1/4 acre of intensive farming it was my kind of place with both flowers and plants for sale and a vegetable garden.

Cucumbers in the greenhouse.

Tim with his Kiwi patch!

The vegetable garden

This lemon tree in the greenhouse gave an aroma that took over the greenhouse!

The most impressive peas on the entire tour, but wait Meg's Peas are a foot taller and have been flowering since Thursday!

Meg's peas in flower from yesterday, they doubled the flowers today. Not from the farm tour.

Helga gave me a tour of the shade garden, this Yellow Lady slipper was lovely!

The gazebo garden at Four Leaf Farm!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mallards and Poppies

Spring is progressing here in North Carolina! We have been getting a number of spring birds here including Blue-gray Gnatcatchers everywhere and Red-eyed Vireos calling most of the day. The biggest news is 2 sightings of Ospreys flying over head, one close in seen from our screened porch. And as you see below a pair of Mallards have been dabbling at the pond several hours a day. Yesterday we had 3 yards of mulch delivered and we got a good look at them flying off. Good to see them flying as that probably assures us they are not ducks from the pond next door.

Here is our first Clematis bloom Dr Ruppel, found on Friday. We planted this one three years ago, finally it is taking off, two more blooms in a few days are expected. The other clematis next to it planted at the same time looks to be blooming with maybe thirdy blooms in a few days as well. My 10 year old Clematis Henrii will have 50 or more blooms by weeks end too!

We planted this Oriental Poppy a few weeks ago and here is the first bllom!

Yesterday we planted two more Camelias, Greensboro Red and Debutante (pink) and 3 large blooming azaleas. Also some Mexican Sunflowers and yellow Coneflower purchased at the Hillsborough Farmers Market.

Last night Grumpy our one-eyed, asmatic, upper fangless and nuetered orange tabby got into his second Saturday night fight in two weeks. We might be dropping him off at the vet tomorrow if he doesn't perk up by the morning. Last week we dug a cat claw out of the back of his head.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dutchman's Breeches and Penny's Bend

Over the weekend we had Internet problems, still dropping off too much. Meg and I went on a nature walk at Penny's Bend Nature preserve on the Eno River on Saturday. Dutchman's Breeches, Dicentria cucullaria was one of our targets. We found an entire hillside covered with Dutchman's Breeches most had already bloomed, yet I managed to get these photos.

Below is an Eastern Comma Butterfly I found on Friday here while strolling the grounds.

The Gemmed Satyr below was also found at Penny's Bend, our first for the season.

Painted Buckeye is currently in full bloom, usually our hummingbirds return when these are blooming. We saw lots of buckeyes in bloom but no hummingbirds.

On Friday I also found this Twin-spotted Spiketail next door. These are spring flying dragonflies one of the biggest we see in the spring. I saw one flying, but never saw it land. This one a spotted perched and it allowed all the photos I wanted, they are not at all wary when resting.

Our first salad greens from the garden on Saturday night. The greens included mixed salad greens, mustard greens, arugula and curly kale. On Easter we made a salad for 8 and all was eaten up right away.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tilling dirt and chopping up roots

Here are some wild morning glories that sprouted in our new garden bed. The soil was tilled up and placed in the garden back in early February. I figured chopping up the roots would just add organic matter. But I was wrong the chopping just helped the morning glories spread to every part of the garden. Usually when tilling I try to remove as much root material as possible, especially wild onions and mints. This time you can see the results below.

Above are 6 pieces of morning glory root I pulled up by hand. You can clearly see how new plants just took off from the small pieces of root.

I recall a long time ago at our river camp on the Ohio River it had wild morning glory roots 1 - 1 1/2 inches wide that came to surface every time the river washed away the soil. You could break off the roots like sweet potatoes, I had read that Indians ate the roots like potatoes in fact.

On a brighter note here is a Bleeding Heart from our garden today. A mild freeze is expected tonight, but there is nothing in our garden to worry about yet.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Harvester Day!

Today my friend Roger and I went to explore Piney Mountian Creek in a Duke Forest tract that I'd never been in before. Right away before we even got started walking I noticed several large American Beech trees and said this would be a great place to find a Harvester butterfly! We had left Roger's car downstream along side the road so we could just bushwack our way downstream perhaps 3 miles to his car.

The woods were beautiful with beech trees everywhere in a mixed hardwood forest. At one of the first sand bars I found an Harvester with my binocs. We took photos only to find another. Soon we had found 8 male Harvesters in the wet sand at sand bars. Later on we found a grove of mature beech trees and spied an harvester, then another, we ended up with 5 at this spot. Soon we had found in total 19 Harvesters which is a North Carolina second high count for this species! 25 is the high count record in Granville County back in 2006.

Typical male Harvester on a sandbar. Male imbibe minerals to aid in the reproductive cycle.

Harvester do sometimes perch upside down like this one.

Harvesters are the only butterfly in the US that is carnivorous as the caterpillar feeds on Woolly Aphids and not plant matter like the other butterflies.

The best way to find them is to look in beech forest along streams and rivers. All except one harvester today perched on the twigs of American Beech as you can see in the above two photos. They tend to chase each other around at eye level or higher and will perch sooner or later if you watch them long enough, usually a minute or two.

male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail perched on a sandbar

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Free Manure and Hellebores!

Friday Meg and I went and picked up a 10' trailer full of horse manure. The manure was free , we were given the phone number of a horse farm not a mile from the house by the owner of Treefrog Nursery up the road. Because of the rain we have been having and my bald van tires the van got stuck twice behind this farm. Luckily they pulled us out with the tractor and loaded the trailer with 4 scoops of manure for us! Good neighbors no question!

Here is one of the two Camellias we purchased at Treefrog Nursery. The other is a double with huge red blossoms. This plant is around 3 foot tall. We still need to get about 5-6 more camellias.

Meg's sister brought her parents over today and she gave us these two huge hellebores from her garden in Chapel Hill. One plant had 18 blooms the other 20, seeds galore too.

These hellebores were in 3 gallon containers, I'm impressed such a nice gift.

While planting 2 camelias and 2 hellebores, I dug up the pignut hickory seed sprouting. I potted it, we'll see if I can grow one myself.

The morning included a hike with the Duke Natural History Group at Occoneechee State Preserve. I found this Brown Elfin on Spring Beauty. I'd never seen Brown Elfins near the Eno River at the park always found them along the Brown Elfin Knob Trail. Meg found 5 other Brown Elfins, in all we had 7 a pretty good number.

All that white among the grass is Spring Beauties, so beautiful don't you think?

And the prize of our morning Oconee Bells, Shortia galacifolia a new plant for me. Likely planted in this location as it is about 500 miles out of its range. We climbed a water fall to get to see and photograph them, not an easy task with my camera in tow.

For those of you that are bird watchers we also had our first of spring birds. Heard calling an Ovenbird then along the Eno River we heard then saw a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.