My  DIY  House and Garden at the Farm in the Pines

 

Everyone has dreams. I dreamed of a farm...with raspberries.... where I could do just about what I wanted everyday. Where I could play at being an artist, grow delicious and healthy vegetables, build stuff and let my imaginings come to life.  In 2016, I decided to do it- at 67 years old, why wait?  

 
Once the decision was made, I scoured real estate listings on-line. The property must be more than one acre, be within 3 hours of my home, and have a house with good water and a solid roof. And it had to feel right. When I first saw this property, surrounded by huge pine trees, with a one acre clearing and a house that was dilapidated beyond description, I have to say I was a bit hesitant. It's beautiful but maybe more of a challenge than I thought I could take on. In the days after the initial preview, I slowly changed my mind and fell in love with the land and the possibilities. The Farm in the Pines is a great joy for me- to maintain and improve, to develop and share, a place to really feel at home.
 
2016 was mostly about the house, establishing a raspberry patch and lavender garden. The renovation was exhausting and exhilerating and mostly complete within a year. 2017 saw a garden room addition to the house- a potager of sorts- for fresh vegetables, perennials and outdoor seating for guests. 2018 will include a perma-culture/no till  planting of market flowers, squashes and herbs. It's hard to stop as long as there is ground to fill!
 
My name is Sandy and I have worked as an interior decorator, couture seamstress, contractor, house flipper, herbalist, baker and Realtor. This is the story of how and where all the pieces of my life come together, naturally.                        

 

Newsletters from the Farm
 
A Happy Thanksgiving ~ 23 November 2018


It's hard to imagine that it's been 2 months since I last wrote about the farm, the time just slips away. At that time, I was extremely excited to share the best raspberry season ever! I was picking a full bucket every day and had plenty for customers. The people who came to pick-their-own were delighted and I was having so much fun meeting new folks, making a little $$$, and appreciating my farm life. Then it started raining and we had 8 out of 10 days of rain which brought misery to the raspberries (you know how delicate they are), bashed the berries, compressed the canes so they lay flat on each other and before they could dry off or get a breath of cool air, the berries started to mold. Within a few days, by October 13th,  the crop was finished for the year.... just like that (snap!).


There were plenty of fall chores to keep me busy and I finally found someone with a tall ladder who could finish painting the high parts of the house trim and the one, last side. I had done the rest last year, but not having a tall enough ladder, the project stalled until I met Steven.


He did a great job AND dealt with the bats which hang out behind the shutters (the shutters are off in this photo). This was a huge check on the to-do list!


 
The bathroom renovation was finished in late fall.... I really didn't mean for it to happen. I knew from the beginning, this bathroom was a gut job, but I didn't want to get involved with it. I'd really had enough with the dust and inconvenient living conditions that I endured for the first year when everything was torn apart. But little by little, the condition of the bathroom and contrast to the other parts of the house started to get to me and though I had painted the walls and tile floor which made the room feel cleaner, it didn't really make an improvement.

The "escalation of improvement" (I promise I never started out to do the bathroom, it just sort-of happened)) started when the toilet wasn't working properly so I called in the plumber to change out the inners of the tank. While you are here, I said, maybe you could change the hand held shower- it was old and didn't flow well. It was amazing, but just having those two items working at optimum was wonderful (it's shocking what we will put up with as things deteriorate gradually...hmmm... or is that just me?)

Then, a week-or-so later, I was in Home Depot and noticed two broken boxes of water resistant plank vinyl flooring. (one might ask why I was in the flooring department....hmmmm...)  I asked the salesman if they ever discount broken boxes (with some missing pieces) and he agreed to give me a 50% discount which meant I could do the bathroom floor for under $50... definitely too good to pass up. The next weekend I finished getting it down, and I was so grateful to have a clean, new floor. 

But, as I'd stand in the doorway, admiring the clean and  beautiful new floor (which actually matched the floor which runs through the rest of the house- big thumbs up for a totally random purchase), I couldn't help look up at the cracked, roughly spackled ceiling which created a play space for spiders.  I imagined they'd have contests to see who could make the longest web string, who could catch the most tiny bugs or who would laugh the hardest when Sandy cleaned the web trace off the ceiling every month! So.... I bought luan (1/4" plywood), cut to 16" x 80" size at Lowe's and figured I'd install it over the existing ceiling, board and batten style.

For the record, I can say unequivocally, that I am perfectly capable of carrying a 16" x 79" board over my head and getting it in position to nail while standing on a ladder by myself. But, the length I was working with was 80", and that was borderline. The side which was put to the ceiling was held with contractor glue (and nails) and I had a little problem when I missed a step on the ladder, fell down all while holding the glued piece over my head, screaming into the quiet of my house NO, NO, NO DON'T FLIP AND LAND ON MY HEAD. I do not know what one would do with a calamity like contractor glue on hair. Anyway, from that moment on, I was very careful not to get glue on my head and the project finished out nicely.

So then the vanity and sink looked so out of place- chipped and discolored- so I ordered a sink vessel on Amazon and faucet to match. I had a board to make a countertop which I cut to length, stained and sealed. The plumber came back to install the sink and I glued on the back splash tiles which had been purchased 2 years ago for a different project.

 

At some point this bathroom took on a life of its own, and now I couldn't be happier with it. I'm thinking the house is done, inside and out!  But we know that's never true....



I was driving to the farm and was so happy to see one of my hand made sunflower thermometers at the end of someone's driveway about 30 miles from my house. It must have come from Sheep Thrills in Lafayette since she sold 3 of them. I can't tell you how fun it was to see!


   
With all the rain we had, fall dragged on for weeks, never offering the pop of take-your-breath-away color I love. But the tree in my garden did its share to usher in a new season. 

I wanted to take this opportunity- on Thanksgiving Eve- to let you know I appreciate that you follow along with my farm story and that it's fun for me to share it with you. I hope you have a beautiful day tomorrow and enjoy many blessings.
Love ~ Sandy 

If you happen to be near Lafayette NJ, Sheep Thrills on Main Street has a nice inventory of my hand made crafts. Raspberry jam, garden signs, dried flower bunches and wreathes, 2019 calendars, garden aprons, harvest trugs, knit items and more. Thank you!
 
 
Copyright © 2018   Bringing the Farm Home    All rights reserved.
Contact Me  Sandy@BringingTheFarmHome.com
 
 
Fall Harvest  28 September 2018
 
 Again, and finally this year, "Bringing the Farm Home" has meaning. Each week as I travel back after my days on the farm, the car is loaded with more and more home grown goodness! It's a special treat to have fresh vegetables galore, tomatoes in the freezer (ready to make into sauce any time I want), bags of frozen raspberries, fragrant herbs hanging in the kitchen and flowers- I have a house full of flowers!



I remind myself of Ferdinand the Bull who liked to sit and look at flowers, inhale the sweet perfume and day dream a bit. I can get lost in the garden and loose track of time- to figure out a favorite is hopeless, they're all so beautiful.... My favorite may be sunflowers.


 
Who knew there are so many varieties- short ones, tall ones, single stem, multi stem, yellow, orangy, redish, white... so many. It's a real pleasure for me to be able to study the variations.
But maybe my fav are zinnias...



So prolific, a cut-and-come-again flower which never disappoints. When left on the plant, they become porcelain-like and the colors- OMG, so pretty. I do love the pink ones...



but the white ones pop in arrangements and look so fresh and cool combined with other flowers. They may be my favorite.

Flowers for drying have done beautifully, too. The gomphrenas are gorgeous, especially planted next to the celosia. It really brightens the garden.



The dried flower harvest was only dampened- literally- by a shortage of statice which got drowned out in mid-summer when we had 7" of rain in 10 days.The drying rack works perfectly and stores so much product.


(photo by Paula Campbell)

See what I mean when I say I get lost in flowers? I was talking about the harvest! It's raspberry picking season! And it's a bucket of fun!



I put the U-Pick road sign out last week and already have enjoyed receiving several pickers- some new and some from last year. The berries need to be picked every day so it's good to have enthusiastic help!



I love making jam and as long as there are berries, I'll be jammin'!



I wanted to have gourds to give to children who pick raspberries and the deer fence around the raspberry patch makes a perfect trellis. The children can see how they grow and pick one to take home. From just half a dozen plants, started from seed, I have 4 different shaped-colored-sized varieties which is fun to see.



One of the most necessary items on the farm are my work boots- not as you would expect! Not heavy leather with long boot laces and treads like an off road vehicle. But these rubber ones! I can slip them off when coming into the house if my arms and hands are loaded with harvest.  They're a necessity on dewy mornings and I'm sure they're sturdy enough that if I step on a snake, I won't even feel it (if that's not true, I don't want to know!).  It's crazy how the simplest things can become so special- I love my boots!  

I wanted to thank my brother Frank and my friend Sheila who both identified the bee/bug/hummingbird I saw in my garden earlier this summer.



I'd called it a humming bee, but it turns out it is a hummingbird moth and they're quite common. If you'd like more information, CLICK HERE.

Each day "feels" more like fall- the air is cooler and just a bit less humid. Farm chores shift to cleaning up the planting beds, putting away the garden art and making a plan for next year's planting. Berry season will probably go through October, so if you're in the area, stop in and get some berries. It soon will be "leaf peeper" season and there's lots of eye candy to enjoy in the area!
 
 
Garden Update   9 August 2018



It's fairly typical that gardens reach a high point, somewhere in mid to late July when the plants are growing robustly- sending off fruits, flowers and beauty at a rapid pace. Bare places in the garden seem suddenly filled with green as branches begin to touch and flowers mingle to give the garden a mosaic of color.
Then comes August with unending and insufferable heat, sometimes drought and demanding conditions on the garden keeper. Afternoons are just too hot to do much outside and even the plants have lost their aggressiveness for growth. Drip irrigation keeps the roots moist, but the leaves respire and are wilted by the end of the day. Nightly overhead watering is a must. It's like the plants need a cooling shower to feel their best.
So that's where we are on the gardening calendar- both me and the plants are feeling the non-stop 85+ degree days and it's exhausting! But it's a good time to reflect on some garden progress and measure- with an eye towards next year's plantings- what's working and what's not.



I'd read that some people were having good success by growing their yellow squash and zucchini inside a tomato cage, so it would grow up, rather than crawling over the ground, to save space and keep the fruits cleaner and less prone to slug tasting. While it is a space saving idea- see the nice row of basil I have in front of the squash which wouldn't have been possible space-wise if the squash had been left to roam- the plants are less productive than those planted without cages. A hint as to the nature of squash is that these varieties don't have tendrils so maybe they're just not meant to grow up.



I thought it would be fun to have fall gourds to give to children who come to pick at the raspberry patch so I have a few plants at the outside of the new perma-beds. These gourds have tendrils and they love reaching out and using the tendrils to pull themselves up a trellis I have set behind them. They seem prolific and rampant and natural climbers where as the zucchini and yellow squash are not. Next year the zucchini will be free-range!



The first of the berries are ripening on the Annie canes and they're yummy. The Heritage variety has thousands of flowers and is just setting fruit thanks to the hundreds of bees who work tirelessly to pollinate the crop.
Last year I was concerned that there were not enough bees but this year we have bees of all sizes and shapes- including a flying something I'm calling a humming-bee.



Whereas bees tend to lite or pass by rubbing on flowers while they gather nectar, this creature hovers like a humming bird. It's just about 1.25" long and has a long snoot which he sticks into the flower. I've never seen one before and there were 3 in the flower garden, immensely enjoying the bee balm which is in full bloom. If you know what this "bug/bird" is, let me know.  



The raspberry patch has been pruned to make picking easier- the canes were quite out of control.

  
Before                                       After

This is the third berry season, and I'm hoping to have a fantastic crop.



One of my goals this year was to grow great tomatoes- without cracking or blemishes and that would taste as good as the famous Jersey tomatoes. I can't say how many articles I read over the winter- sooo many- and integrated them all in my mind to bring the best tomatoes I've ever grown.
The secret to growing a fine tomato crop is to "prune the suckers". Many instructions included pictures of the "suckers", how to cut them, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what was a sucker and what was a branch that would ultimately make a tomato. Then I read an article that said cut all the green branches off under a flowering cluster leaving all the energy of the plant for top growth and fruit development. Ah-ha, now it made sense, so that's what I did.


Though it looks strange and a little nakedy, the fruits are sun ripened and delicious. The plants grow more green at the top and make more flowers for more fruit continuously. I planted companion plants of basil and alyssum among the tomatoes and I'm really happy with the results.



Having so many flowers is awesome- enough to give away and to sell at the road stand. One man thanked me for "the honor system"- he said it made him feel good to be trusted. It is a great pleasure to share the many good feelings that stem from this little farm.
 
Copyright © 2018   Bringing the Farm Home    All rights reserved.