Seed Exchange

Hey gardening friends! I’m going through my seed collection and purging stuff that didn’t work for me or that I have extra of. Yours for a kind word. I’ll list what it is, where I got it from, and approximately how old it is. If you want it, leave a comment. I’ll cross out anything that’s claimed. This stuff all germinated for me last year.

Garden Cress, Baker Creek, ~2013, 1 package
Watercress, John Scheepers, ~2013, 3/4 package
Chives, Burpees, 2014 (about half a package)
Black Plum Tomatoes, Baker Creek, 2015 (about 25 seeds)
Purple Peacock Broccoli, John Scheepers, 2015, (about half a package)
Honey Nut Mini Butternut Squash, John Scheepers, 2015, (at least 20 seeds)
Love-In-a-Mist Mixed Colors (flower), Baker Creek, 2015, 2 packages
Mystery peppers, home grown, 2014, 1 package

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The Great Soay Road Trip

My awesome friend Andrea is switching her ruminant herd over from dairy goats to fiber sheep and discovered that there was a really cool Neolithic sheep breed, Soay Sheep, still in existence and available from a farm a few hours away. After a successful crowdfunding campaign, she and I road tripped to the farm to pick up the nucleus of her new herd. Let me tell you, the rural Piedmont is really pretty during a wet summer, if direly humid. We sadly couldn’t find the Tank Museum we passed signs for but that’s okay because it gave us lots of time to visit the farm the evening before pick-up to sort out sheep and pick which ones were going home with us.

When we arrived, we first got to meet the owner’s majestic floofs (AKA Samoyed dogs). They were a lovely pink thanks to the marvelous red dirt of North Carolina.

3 white Samoyed dogs on a lawn

Then we got to meet the rams.

Four small dark brown rams with tightly curled horns clustered in a fenced corner

The boys were separated out so we could see how they looked and to make it easier to catch out the ram we were taking home. The ram we ended up taking home, Ferrington, is in the far left corner. He’s a bit smaller than the other rams, but not by much. These are small sheep in general, smaller than Greta. When it came time to snag them for travel, the adolescent lambs were light enough to pick up and carry to the truck, so 20-30 pounds I’d guess.

The lambs were pretty sure we were horrible sheep eaters.

a tight group of dark brown lambs all facing the same direction and looking over their shoulders at the same thing

the flock of lambs moving in the same direction out of a corner away from a person

3 lambs less tightly cluster and facing the camera.

Since the sheep were pretty skittish around people, we had to be clever to get Ferrington separated out without the use of a dog. We moved the big boys over to the herd of adolescent lambs that had been penned in an adjacent enclosure. Then Andrea tried to give me sheepdog instructions to help move the sheep. I am not as smart as a sheepdog, it turns out. However, thanks to thumbs, I managed to slam the gate closed between two pens in order to prevent Ferrington from peeling off the lamb herd with the other rams. Boy was he surprised when he smacked into that gate! Bipedal superiority!

Here he is with a pair of lambs. He’s good at posing.

Ferrington and two Lambs facing the camera

Ferrington. A dark brown ram with almost black chest and head and pale tan patches around his eyes. His horns wrap about 270 degrees around from their starting point and come in close to his jaw.

Ferrington. Same as above but with head turned to the left for a fine profile.

The next day we loaded sheep in the car for the ride home. We took home Ferrington, two ewe lambs, and two wethers (neutered males). They were bedded down with food and water in the back of the truck and pretty much just chilled for the five hour ride. No complaining, even on the one or two occasions where we had to hit the brakes hard. Apparently goats are much worse in the car. Andrea claims it’s because of the free preaching and bluegrass cd we picked up at a truck stop. They also liked Willie Nelson.

Lambs and Ram lying in the back of an SUV

lamb extremely close up to the camera with lambs laying down in the background.
My hands weren’t interesting to check out, but my camera was to this lamb.

The sheep were delivered safely and introduced to the goat herd with little incident. The goats are a bit horrified by them, but they’ll get over it. The resident sheep are very happy to have other sheep around.

Here you can see relative sizes of Soay sheep and dairy goats of various heritage.

a bunch of dairy goats of various sizes around the small Soay sheep

A very successful trip!

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This summer’s garden

This summer’s garden is ridiculous. It helps that we’ve had a shitton of rain compared to the last few years especially, but I think it might be a bit more than that.

Last year’s early spring garden looked like this:

View of garden from porch showing two triangular raised beds on the left, a stone path in the middle, and a triangular bed of raspberries on the right with 3 large turquoise pots around it

For this year, I kept the two triangle beds on the left but got rid of the raspberries bed on the right. They mostly just shaded out everything until they died back mid-summer and then the squirrels at all the berries anyway. I added the surviving canes to the blackberry patch in the woods out back. I don’t know if they’ll do anything long term, but I hate to just dump still-living plants. After digging out the old, old wood that made up that bed, I filled up everything with new soil. I also acquired a bunch of heirloom apple trees that I’m espaliering against the fence. I think one of them will end up not getting enough sun, but that’s okay. The other major change was rather than using wood scraps and large pots as a way to keep Greta from charging the fence and fence-fighting neighborhood dogs, I actually set up a dog exclusion fence. I picked up a bunch of no-dig fence panels from Lowe’s. They were super easy to install and I really like the look. Early spring garden looked like this:

Garden Left, Early Spring. Two triangular beds with a stone path between, young plants, azaleas and whiskey barrel pots on the perimeter

Garden Right, Early Spring. Square garden bed with young plants and two turquoise pots at opposite corners. 2 sides wood fence, 2 sides metal fence.

Greta walks up the stone garden path between to metal-fenced garden sections.

The metal fence panels on the garden left didn’t quite fit the space I needed them to so the opening on this side is filled with a potted pineapple. The leaves on that fucker are pointy as hell and I don’t recommend running into it. So far Greta hasn’t tried it. The fence is also keeping her from jumping up on the whiskey barrel pots that have my heirloom figs in them. They made it through the winter well and are putting out some great growth now. I ran into a similar problem on the garden right and moved the large turquoise pots to fill there. Thankfully those seem to stymie her in this configuration and she hasn’t tried to go over them yet. It helps that the azalea in the one is bigger. Also I’m getting better at getting her to go in the house when I hear people coming. Jerkdogs are fun.

I got my shit together in a serious way this year with seed starting. I had a spreadsheet of what I bought and when to start it and actually followed it! I had really good sprouting success with almost everything I tried. In these early pictures you can see summer squash, zucchini, mini butternut squash, three kinds of cucumbers, celery, basil, tomatoes, tomatillos, and mystery peppers. I kept the seeds from a pepper I really liked and decided to give them a go. No idea what they’re going to turn out like because I’m sure they’re cross-pollinated by like 5 different kinds of pepper. It’ll be an eating adventure.

So those pictures were from mid-May. Here’s mid-June.

Garden Left, Early Summer. Same as above but with plants grown 3 feet tall.

Garden Right, Early Summer. Square garden bed bordered by black metal fencing filled with plants between 3 and 5 feet tall

The tomatoes and tomatillos are five feet tall. The squash has grown over and through the metal fencing. The cucumber has grown over its trellis and over and through the wood fencing. I’ve found cucumbers basically embedded between the slats in the fence that can’t be removed. Everything is growing marvelously well. Well, except the artichokes. They’ve done fuck all and I’m okay with that. I didn’t plan on the plants being this huge. I’ve never seen them this huge. I think it’s the combo of rain and new fancy soil. Maybe it was also my awesome compost? It can’t just be the source of more mystery squashes. (so many squashes.) I haven’t even hardly been putting aquarium water in the garden because it’s been raining so much. I did finally figure out a soaker hose system for the different beds using a modular system from Gardeners.com. Super simple to set up and while they say you’re supposed to use it with a hose to get the right amount of pressure, I’m having just fine results using a 55 gal barrel up elevated about 2-3 feet above the garden.

I don’t have pictures of mid July yet but I should take them. Things are going really well. The tomatoes have started getting ripe and the squirrels haven’t quite twigged to them yet. Either they can’t spot them in the giant mass of plants, or don’t realize they’re ripe because they’re not traditional reds. They’re a purple plum tomato and look a bit odd. I’ve pickled many a cucumber into dills and bread & butter pickles. The peppers are just starting to fruit now and I started the pole beans late as I wanted them to start way after the bush beans from the front yard. (so many beans.)

So all told, it’s doing fantastic.

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