It has been an unexpectedly joyful year here at my Amishland Farm. It's now a year later and life really is a “bowl of berries." I say berries, not cherries, as the saying goes, since my property is filled with wild raspberries and blackberries. Of course, I didn't get to eat many as the flocks of woodland birds gorged themselves silly on them first. I watched a huge pileated woodpecker up close the first week I was living here and have followed his compatriots ever since. I have countless woodpeckers who are happily ensconced in the numerous dead trees. Man, those guys can get loud. The owls here are scary loud, too.
The waterfall played its sweet music even through the summer's drought. I just set up my chaise by the waterfall and ate my breakfast, lunch and dinner there. The antique rose threw out monster pink blooms all season long. The azaleas did well there, although obviously planted by someone colorblind as they clashed with each other as well as that rose. Oh, and the blanket of gold by the stream, it was old fashioned trumpet daffodils all the way up the rocks.
Come May and June the woods filled with pink and white wild roses in bloom. We always called them “dog roses” when I was a child.
I fulfilled my long time dream of having “rose covered cottage.” I planted two climbers called “Fourth of July” in the front of the little stone 2 story cottage, so adorable it could be in a Thomas Kincaid painting. They are supposed to grow up to 30 feet high! This first season they attained an 8 foot growth, already smothered in the most wondrous cerise, red, and white striped blossoms. No two roses are alike as though they are tie-dyed. Oh, and fragrant, too.
Living here on my new farmette my biggest fear as a gardener is the deer chomping down all my hard work. There are 100 acres of undeveloped woodland right behind my home and cottage. With the record breaking cold we have had here in Amishland this winter, I luckily had not seen them. That is until the “deer hoedown” the other night. They are deep-woods deer and very skittish but so hungry they came and ate birdseed. Duke and Earl, my cats, watched them and then threw themselves at the window which sent the party scattering. I swear they just disappeared right before my eyes! This party has been every night now. The spotlights help a bit, but me screaming like a banshee is the most effective.
I put in 9 large raised beds for the main garden as the soil here is, unfortunately, non-existent. Just big ol' rocks and slippery clay that turns to cement in the heat. This was an opportunity to have the best soil ever. I put in several dump truck loads of humus, peat moss, mushroom mulch and organic topsoil. With help from my 76-years-young helper Bill, (he’s worth three 25 year olds any day!) we mixed it all together. Bill also “scored" solid cherry boards from an Amish sawmill and built my beds. Just the prettiest, fanciest raised beds ever!
Later, Bill helped me to put up the 8 1/2 foot high deer netting fence, even painting the wooden uprights on top of the fence posts green to match. Of course, that meant the whole fence was invisible. The idea is that the deer walk into it and it spooks them. I thought that sounded foolish, until I repeatedly walked into the near invisible netting and spooked myself! Yep, it works great, at least on (dumb) humans! I'm hoping this year it will continue to discourage my deer.
Planting time was fairly on schedule and I put in about 150+ of my own rare tomato seedlings. I had lovingly grown them in my heated upstairs bedroom crammed on card tables under shoplights. Nope, tempting as it was, the cottage was just too large and cold, being stone, to try and heat as a greenhouse. Maybe, as I say, when “I am rich and famous” I can afford to have a real greenhouse or heat the cottage. But a hoop house might just be a possibility this year.
The weather started out mild and forthcoming but then we had record breaking heat and drought all summer. Just weeks of weather in the high 90s and even weeks over a hundred degrees! And no rain, no storms, nothing. Just watering the garden was very time consuming (although cooling) to say the least. I couldn't set up soaker hoses after the fact, when the plants were already up and more than 6 feet tall. It was so dry that all the poor frogs from the nearby woods starting living under the plastic mulch. I had to be so careful where I walked! I gotta say they were so happy and danced around, I swear, every night under the moon, while I watered. Frogs really are the most entertaining creatures. They ranged in size from one inch to whoppers up to 10 inches across. It actually became one of my favorite things to do on hot summer nights, splashing in the water with those guys.
I also put in 6 “Amish bathtubs”- those big 50 gallon barrels cut in half lengthwise. They are great for greens, carrots and lettuce. I upcycle windows discarded by a local builder and use it to make hotbeds and cold frames in the spring and fall time.
I put in some new bulbs this past fall and some of my irises from my previous home but I had to leave all of my other heirloom bulbs. I have a fondness for black flowers and blew too much money on the brand new black petunias. I put them in my 2 “southern vernacular” tire planters. I ran out of time for making the flower gardens I had planned but hope to do it in a big way this season. More black flowers and those crazy colored coleus like the “Kong” line with the monster leaves. And a shade garden again (last year's just fried up).
So, as I sit in my farmhouse, writing on this February freezing day, I will keep warm dreaming about my future vegetable gardens, sauntering through, nibbling those “love apples” and basking in the sun. Yes, life really is a bowl of berries!!