Thursday, May 30, 2013

Just One Bite

Folks, it is the time of year when flying critters of the insect variety start to annoy us. We do our best to live in peace with bees, wasps and yellow jackets (although I have childhood trauma from the later), but mosquitoes, also known as mozzies, are a particular nemesis. One tiny little stab results in a sometimes huge welt that itches like for mad for days.

Prevention is the key. This year I have been experimenting with an essential oil blend from Young Living called “Purification”. We usually use it on the dogs to repel ticks, which it does. So I tried it for repelling mozzies, too. It works! And wiping just a bit on my hair and clothing every other day does the job. Only I forgot yesterday… and today. While out milking this morning sure enough I got zapped. I felt the little blood sucker jab me on the inside of the wrist and blew him off immediately, but just that second was enough for a welt and itching to begin. I seem to be pretty sensitive to them. My first mozzie bite of the season. Oh yay.  

Last year I heard that a dab of lavender essential oil helps, and it does, relieving the itch for a couple hours at which time another application is necessary. However, I recently read about an old-time remedy involving witch hazel. Being the kitchen herbalist I am, it just so happens I have a bottle of witch hazel extract on hand. So I employed it this morning.

I am thrilled to report that it works! The itching stopped immediately, really! And the welt subsided somewhat, something the lavender oil didn’t help with. I found it took a dab two times per day to keep itching at bay, but then after about 3 days there was no more need.

I call that success!!!

Black Gold

We struck black gold… SOIL that is! The kitchen garden has been underway for the past several weeks - drawing the plans dreamt of during winter, deciding what varieties we just had to grow (or attempt to grow) this year, ordering seeds/plants, and site prep work. 

Once the surface was broken through, there it was… beautiful black soil!!! The friability, or colloidal content, is terrific – compacts when squeezed in your hand yet breaks up. Just half an inch down and there is moisture despite it being a dry spring (the last measurable rainfall was one month ago). Soil quality will only get better from here. 

Although avid gardeners, neither of us has ever grown a vegetable garden in such a northerly location or such a short growing season. And we don’t have a greenhouse. So we chose the earliest maturing varieties suited for northern locations, heirlooms that originated in places like Siberia. Many items will be an experiment. But every year is different and somewhat of an experiment anyway no matter where you are! 

Talking about experimental, we’re constructing a couple hugelkultur beds in the garden. This German word means “mound culture”. These are basically mounds of raw wood (logs, branches, twigs, etc.) anywhere from 4-6 feet high, about five feet wide, any length, covered with soil. We’ve read hugelkultur popularity is on the rise because: 1) it effectively utilizes downed timber/debris from woodcutting or storms, or in our case slash piles from past selective logging; 2) eliminates the need to burn such thereby putting it to good use; 3) it fits in well with permaculture practices; 4) since rotting wood holds onto moisture like a sponge, after the first year water needs are reduced; and 5) as the wood breaks down it adds nutrients to the soil much like a “nurse log” in the forest. Sounds pretty cool, hey! 

Yes, it is a lot more work initially to build them, but the end result seems well worth it. Depending on how it goes, in future we may convert the entire garden to hugelkultur beds. We’ll keep you posted on the progress.
There are many major Ranch projects going on simultaneously, each equally important. However, priorities are different. The kitchen garden is a food system which will provide most of our fresh food for summer/fall, preserved food for this winter, herbs for nutrition and medicine - so getting it into shape and growing is at the top of the list. 

Once the dirt work is complete (Tom’s forte), I, Krystal, take over with the planting, and then daily maintenance is mostly my pleasure as well.  Although, I must here admit a strange quirk about myself – I am fascinated watching how plants grow, and so enjoy the green lushness and bounty, that harvesting is sometimes difficult for me! That’s when I know Tom will step in and help.   ;)

I can almost taste the delicious vegetables already!