In my last post I had pictures of us releasing ladybird beetles (lady bugs) into the garden to deal with a invasion of aphids. Well those lady buds were mighty happy and gobbled up lots of aphids. Almost immediately they started mating like crazy. Before long their eggs were hatching and thousands of lady bug larva shown above were crawling everywhere. The adults eat many aphids but the larva (like teenage humans) eat with seemingly unending appetites. Soon the peppers and eggplants were completely clean of any aphids. It was a fantastic example of biological control! Another wonderful insect I had in the garden this year were praying mantis. They will go after almost anything except your plants. The females are ruthless though, devouring the heads of the males as they mate as I captured in the picture! As summer moved into fall the collection of the cow pies continued. This year has been the best yet. My son Quince and I had a sweet father/son morning collecting and then my last wwoofer of the season Katie-Grace helped me finish off the pile. She, having grown up on a dairy farm in New Zealand felt a tinge of nostalgia and joy in the experience. How lucky am I! Katie-Grace also helped with the last Plymouth Farmer's Market. The market was wonderful this year and my thanks to Austin Ford and the Rotary Club for their work with the Amador Farmer's Market. On September 29th, Abbondanza was part of the Farms of Amador farm tour. Wow, the people just kept coming and coming. During the course of the day between 75-100 people visited my little mini-farm. It was so good to share and to see so many people interested in the natural methods I use. My Kiwi friend Katie-Grace got to experience the grape harvest too. Here she and I celebrate after picking a bin of Missions that my late uncle Armenio planted thirty years ago. These will become a sweet dessert wine made at Mira Flores Winery. On Thursday, October 31 (yes Halloween) 40 second grade students from Plymouth Elementary arrived to visit the farm. [I have deep history with students and school gardens and I recommend after checking out this blog that you go up to the Gallery button and after clicking it check out the "school garden" page and also the link at the bottom of the information I share there. Thanks] Here I am sharing information about my bees and the "top bar hive". Just too cute as some of the little ones were in costume as bees! Fantastic attention from these little people - credit to parents and teachers. We have the ability to grow all the food right here in our county that our children should be eating. Local, in season, and obviously fresh. Why we force our schools to feed them questionable food from hundreds and thousands of miles away makes no sense to me.
Today, August 18th the hot summer sun is somewhat muted by smoke drifting in from a large wild fire to the north. It rose a large red disc this morning and still is orange now at mid-day. Today is also the first day in a month that I have not had the company of WWOOF-USA helpers. So much has been accomplished while sharing great food and laughter. For three weeks now we have been offering the abundance from the garden and trees at the Plymouth Farmer's Market. We have been busy weeding, watering,and managing insects. We have been eating extremely fresh (just picked) and local (out back) making colorful salads, sauces, pies, smoothies, and even de-hydrated kale and squash chips. Most importantly the compost pile is organized and the collection of the new pile is half way complete! Here is a gathering of images from the past few weeks: August 5th some of the staff from Taste arrived for visit and tour: Preparing squash for de-hydrator: So many beets and tomatoes fixed so many ways. Yum! Before they departed Joey & Libby had helped clear and relocate the old compost pile and set up the new collecting area. I was overjoyed. And within one day of their departure two very enthusiastic Ecology majors from UC Santa Barbara arrived to help me in the annual gathering of cow dung. A daunting task turned into fun with these two bundles of energy and curiosity. The are a few bulls in the herd but the majority are lactating cows with their calves. This makes for the most wonderful dung as these cows are truly happy free ranging. I had an outbreak of aphids in the peppers and eggplants so released a unit of lady beetles (most people call them "lady bugs") but they are really beetles and hopefully they will get things back in balance. Lauren and Stephanie also helped as did Joey and Libby remove second growth green grapes, bottom suckers, and dry leaves out of Betty's vineyard. Of course picking blackberries was essential too. Each evening we would pick and create wonderful meals and in the morning after watering we would head up the road to fill the trailer and the pick up with more from the cows.
1-24-2013.....Raining lightly today and that is good since I transplanted out over 150 sugar snap peas yesterday! For several weeks we have had clear cold conditions with morning temperatures in the twenties. I've got a fire going and thought I'd share an interesting experiment I began this past August. The late Maria Thun stated that from her trials broccoli grows best when planted and tended on "blossom " days, meaning days when the moon is passing through the signs of Aquarius, Gemini, or Libra. So in August when I was thinking of planting broccoli for the winter garden I conducted an experiment. I filled two of my seedling planting boxes with the same soil and I took a package of organic broccoli seeds and divided out tree equal groups making sure all were large seeds. Friday August 31 the moon was in Aquarius and I planted the first group of seeds-group A. On September 2 the moon was in Pisces and I planted the second group-B. By September 5th the moon was in Aries and I planted the third group-C. One month later I took the following photograph. Dramatic! Group A is on left, B in the middle and C on the right.
So I look up the date and it is already January 3, 2013, a Thursday. Brilliantly clear again tonight with the winter constellations twinkling and morning temperatures sure to aline with the past three days of 27 degrees. We had pipe busting lows of 23 and maybe lower (wasn't here to measure) two days previous. Cold and clear. The prediction for the next ten or more days. We have had a lot of rain and are "above" normal for this point in year. Typical to get a span of clear dry weather. So this early winter night I will attempt to upload images from this past season as we evolve here at Abbondanza. This image shows me pulverizing quartz I found on my hillside and Betty's. This was May 28th. Betty and I then went to help make 501 at Grgich Hills. This group of pictures that follow show of Betty and me over at Grgich Hills with Philippe Coderey being our mentor. Next on May 30th we have Kolo the third....2012 was the third year in a row that we had a fox family keeping their babies in one of our sheds. Three years ago we named the male and female adults Kolo and Kola and they had five kits. Ever since we have had foxes each spring. This year's mother looks a lot like the first year Kolo. We all get along and they are much better at catching gophers than any of my cats! June 6th shows Betty harvesting Chamomile The next sequence show me retrieving cow pat from the cowpat pit based on Peter Proctor's descriptions that we created on the compost pad. THE BEES and their flowers and water were a focus all summer. Our summer was hot and busy. Here a glimpse of the table at farmer's market, lavender beds being cleaned, and the harvest in the Blue Faerie Vineyard.
Today is Saturday, December 1. Since Wednesday we have accumulated 3.91 inches of rain and the system arriving here later this evening may add an equal amount before it leaves. Nice to see this at this time of the year. The trees and vines need it now. I've got a warm fire going and going to share pictures of the gardens and farming activities. We get all kinds of weather. This first picture was taken on March 17th, 2012. Just three days later it had turned warm and Riley came for a visit. She helped plant seeds in the greenhouse, check the compost temperatures, check out the worm-bin, and also the new top bar hive I had just gotten. On March 29, the sun was in the watery element of pisces and the descending moon in front of the earth element of taurus. It seemed the absolute perfect day to apply the Biodynamic preparation 500 as a chance of a very light rain shower was predicted in the late evening. I have been applying it to the soils here at Abbondanza since 2007. In this next photo a WWOOF helper from Croatia learns while assisting in the hour long stirring. April 3rd. Garlic beginning to shoot up.April 8, Betty at work pruning in her Blue Faerie Way vineyard. This next group of images were taken on April 9th. The first give a glimpse of the 199 one gallon pots each with a one month old tomato plant. Back on March 7th I had planted 200 seeds comprising 16 different types ( Aside from Turtle Island http://www.turtletreeseed.org/aboutus.html my two main seed choices are Peaceful Valley http://www.groworganic.com/ and increasingly becoming my favorite Baker Creek http://rareseeds.com/ Their recent catalog is a must!) This next image was nettles that had a fantastic germination rate and were waiting to be transplanted. We use nettles for teas for us and our plants. The tomatoes love nettle tea sprayed as a folier. A book I recommend is Grasp the Nettle, making Biodynamic farming & gardening work. by Peter Proctor with Gillian Cole.