Pleasant Home Farm

Preserving old traditions, making new ones, and building family and community


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Planning a new flower bed: now with “junque.”

Wow! Time has sure gotten away from me. It’s been way too long since my last post. I could make all kinds of excuses: my job search, my sadness because I haven’t gotten into grad school yet, the awesome tea party birthday party we threw for our granddaughter

The set up before the party. When the girls saw it, they were just giddy.

The set up before the party. When the girls saw it, they were just giddy.

… but everyone has a life and I don’t want to bore you.

So instead, let’s move on to what’s been obsessing me lately: the planning for my new flower bed that will surround our old pump house. I confess that aside from the terraced beds in the front of the house, most of my gardening energy has been focused on veggies, much to my mom’s chagrin. (She has been trying for years to get me to pretty up the place.) My friend, Jean Smith has changed all that. She is a wonder! She gardens and blogs and has a passion for turning junk into garden art that she calls “junque”. Recently, she has begun blogging for the Detroit News Lifestyle section, too! I’m so excited for her (in case you can’t tell). Anyway, she has inspired me to look around the farm for stuff we can use to make our gardens more exciting. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

It may not look like much yet, but trust me. It's gonna be great!

It may not look like much yet, but trust me. It’s gonna be great!

The things on the left are old hay forks. They used to be used for grabbing loose hay off of wagons and pulling it up into the hay mow to be stored for the winter. These two are rusted so badly that they don’t work anymore. I’m thinking they might make good trellises for miniature roses or other small vines. I just love the architectural look of them, don’t you?

Rusty hay forks.

Rusty hay forks.

There is also an old kids’ wagon. I keep picturing it full of trailing petunias, parked in front of our huge mock orange bush.

Of course, any old galvanized container like this coal scuttle or the broken watering can or mop bucket makes a good planter, too.

Of course, any old galvanized container like this coal scuttle or the broken watering can or mop bucket makes a good planter, too.

Another exciting find is the chassis for a Victorian baby buggy. I may or may not use it with the crate that’s sitting on it in the photo:

What great cursive lines!

What great cursive lines!

But the best thing of all is this upcycled planter that Gene cobbled together for me yesterday from an old sewing machine base and a copper wash tub. I think it’s quite grand. Don’t you agree?

We will put some empty milk jugs in the bottom to help keep the weight down.

We will put some empty milk jugs in the bottom to help keep the weight down.

I can hardly wait to fill it with annuals.

I’ve been looking at garden plans, and have come to the conclusion that I need to make sure all of my in-ground plants are perennials. That will leave me plenty of time to play with planting annuals in my new “junque” planters. I can’t thank my friend Jean enough for inspiring me to look around for what I have and recycle it to make my environment more beautiful. I bet you can do the same in your garden.

Next week, I’ll share my plan for the pump house garden. See you then!

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In the greenhouse

It was warm today. I know you don’t believe me because it’s March, and I live in Michigan. But it’s true. The temperature got past 40 degrees, which meant that inside our crummy little aluminum-framed greenhouse it was warm enough to plant stuff.

When we go to market in May we like to have fresh greens available. That means we need to plant things like spinach, arugula, and Swiss chard in the ground inside our greenhouse as soon as we get a warm day. Today was that day. Gene filled the water barrel with warm water from the barn while I sowed blocks of yummy greens and short rows of purple plum and French breakfast radishes. Then I dipped the old galvanized watering can into the water barrel to fill it, and watered the seeds in. I can hardly wait for them to germinate and pop through the soil. As oppressive as every Winter feels, every Spring feels miraculous to me.

    February
    C. Goetze

    Dry dark grips hours
    summer days will steal.

    Soil like snarled concrete
    beneath my boots, frost heaved

    the earth awaits the sun
    awaits its resurrection

    in my glass house, sweating streams
    streak clouded panes like tears.

    I prepare the altar, worship
    my own faith in futures.

    Mellow soil dots my fingers.
    I make wombs for germs of miracles.

Someday we will have a big beautiful heated greenhouse like this one. Of course, we will build ours ourselves, not buy it.

I would change it so that the north side is less glass and more rock for better passive solar use.

I would change it so that the north side is less glass and more rock for better passive solar use.

In the meantime, I’m thankful to be planting in any greenhouse at all, and happy to be thinking ahead to when it will be green outside again instead of grey and white.


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Change should make sense

There have been lots of changes around here recently. I started this blog, and I graduated from college. (Better late than never, right?) Gene has been removing the floor of the old straw mow and using it to re-side the barn. We’re planning some new gardens. Although a lot of the reason we moved here was for the history of the place, no one wants to live in a museum, so we’ve made updates to the old home place since we moved in. However, some of the changes in the neighborhood lately haven’t been very positive.

Don’t get me wrong I’m a big fan of farmland. We have a fair bit of it ourselves, and before we moved here when we used to go driving in the country and see new subdivisions full of McMansions springing up out of cornfields, Gene would say, “I think that farmer planted the wrong seed.” But when perfectly good buildings with history are razed to give someone an acre or two more ground to plant, I shake my head, and in some cases, shed a tear or two.

See, by the time Gene’s grandpa took over the farm, two of his older brothers, Emil and Bruno, had settled on acreage not far from Pleasant Home Farm, and the brothers shared an orchard that they planted in the fencerow that joined their property. Uncle Bruno’s house fell down years ago, but Uncle Emil’s was still standing until last week.

Cattywhompus view of the east side of Uncle Emil's house

Cattywhompus view of the east side of Uncle Emil’s house

The man who bought it cut down the trees and burned down the house. Of course, that was his right, and he was kind enough to allow some people to salvage portions of the interior, but it was sad to see it go. It looked so much like our house. I’m sure the brothers, Arthur, Bruno, and Emil, built it together with their father Julius.
Detail view of the gable end fretwork. Our house doesn't have this kind of fancy stuff. It never did

Detail view of the gable end fretwork. Our house doesn’t have this kind of fancy stuff. It never did

A group of former students and their teacher gathered to say goodbye to Linwood School

A group of former students and their teacher gathered to say goodbye to Linwood School

Just a few days ago we lost another piece of history when Linwood School was burned down, again to clear land for more farming. It was a one-room country school built in 1900 and it educated kids from Kindergarten through eighth grade until it closed in 1968. I wrote a story about it for the local radio station. It’s been a private residence for years. It went into foreclosure two years ago, and the bank wanted it off its hands. I can understand that. So can Gene, but he went there from Kindergarten to 5th grade, and it was hard on him to watch it burn. He salvaged some maple flooring from the school to put in our library. That seems fitting.

I’ve been accused of impatience, but in this case I guess I just don’t understand what all of the hurry for destruction was. From the time that we learned the properties had changed hands to the days these buildings were destroyed was just a few weeks, even though there’s still snow on the ground and planting won’t start until April. It’s this throw away mentality that bothers me. Both buildings were still as solid as the day they were built, more than 100 years ago. I can’t guarantee it, but maybe with a few more weeks we could have found someone to move the school or the farmhouse so that they, and not just their memories, could have lived on.

Linwood School being burned by the Delaware Township Fire Department

Linwood School being burned by the Delaware Township Fire Department


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Dreaming of dirt under my nails

It snowed most of yesterday, and we still have a few flakes floating around. The temperatures have been warm for February, so the snow is heavy and is weighing down the branches of the evergreens. It’s quite beautiful. I can say that, even though Winter’s hard on me. It’s just too cold and there’s too much dark for a woman who spent as much of her childhood as she could on the beach or in the water in southern California. I could spend a lot of time complaining about how much the winter bothers me, but instead I think I’ll daydream about Spring.

Gene and I have been gardening for years. We had our very first garden behind the townhouse we shared in Illinois. It was outlined with railroad ties and chain link fence. The sugar snap peas grew up the fence and our dog snacked on them (after she finished with Gene’s hunting boots). Of course we ended up moving during the height of tomato season, and because it was military housing the garden had to go. It just about broke Gene’s heart to see the potential in those plants wasted.

Since then there have been many gardens. Our current gardens surround the house and include heirloom roses and peonies from generations of gardeners who have loved this patch of ground. We’re so very fortunate.

Our main vegetable garden is north of the house. It’s a giant utilitarian rectangle that we ring with sunflowers and bluebird boxes every summer. We have tried intensive gardening in semi-raised beds, but our bodies are not getting younger. Now we garden in rows wide enough for Gene’s John Deere tractor and some small implements we’ve picked up at auction and estate sales.

Gardening involves trial and error. It also involves research. We have shelves full of books on the subject. Many of them are very good resources. But there’s a reason I kept picking up new ones. None of them seemed to help keep me on track on a day-to-day basis during the growing season, until last year. That’s when I came across the most useful all-around gardening book I have ever put my hands on: Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook by Ron and Jennifer Kujawski. I don’t care whether you are a novice or an old hand at gardening, and it doesn’t matter where you live. This book will help you be a better vegetable gardener. It has helpful tips, along with good information about soil and tools and planning and planting. But best of all, it is set up so that you can schedule what you do and when you do it, according to your area’s average last frost date.

See what I mean? You enter the date based on your area's average last frost and the tasks are listed for you.

See what I mean? You enter the date based on your area’s average last frost and the tasks are listed for you.

On a day like today, when it’s been snowing too much and the wind is blowing colder air in from the north, just opening this book to “11 weeks before average date of last frost” helps me immensely. Oh! I need to start my cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and kohlrabi for transplants. Let’s see if Gene can turn over the compost pile and mix it with some worm dirt from the basement for me.


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Little did I know

Those are words I should probably have tattooed on my forehead. The first time I visited my husband’s family farm I never thought it would be my forever home. In my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined the fun (and frustrations) we’d have fixing up the old farmhouse, or the rewards of feeding people from our gardens, coops, pens, and kitchen. But here we are eight years after we planned our first garden together, sitting in our gussied-up kitchen discussing how and when to quit messing around with our tiny aluminum-framed greenhouse and just build a real one in the footprint of Grandpa’s old chicken coop. Ah, progress. I’m sure that by the time we finally do get that bigger greenhouse built I’ll be saying, “little did I know” again.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about all the doings at Pleasant Home Farm, where we raise veggies, pastured poultry, and sometimes cattle, do a lot of good cooking and eating, and generally try to let the seasons dictate the rhythms of our life.