It's always good to have a wander down by the river at Struan Farm. Things happen, things change, particularly depending on the time of year. It's a relaxing place to meander, I find the sound of rushing water peaceful and meditative, think Clifford does too!
The Awanui flowering cherry trees are blooming! We planted these two years ago at Struan Farm, on either side of the track that goes from the Homestead through the Cottage paddock to the pond. It's a beautiful lane of trees this year for the first time, really. Makes me glad that I carted buckets of water to them during this past summer's drought. Perhaps this is the thanks that I get, and I'll take it as that.
This was reminding John of his time at the University of Washington, since apparently there are flowering cherry trees around the campus. Some discussion of calling our flowering cherry track "U of W Lane," but don't think that's sticking.
Clean up efforts continue at the pond at Struan Farm and its surrounds. I've been eyeing up ten years or so worth of fallen leaves under the oak and black walnut trees outside the Cottage. The trees are beautiful in autumn--the oaks typically turn red and the walnuts a brilliant yellow. But it must be said that the ground below hadn't seen a rake for about a decade. The volume of fallen leaves was such that it killed the grass, so definitely time to remedy the situation.
You will know in seeing this that the nests of leaves around the trees wasn't my preferred approach. My "helper" suggested that I rake the leaves into circles around the trees to avoid having to pick them up. He works full time during the week, and the last thing he really likes doing on weekends is picking up after my major clean up projects. I understand and am (somewhat) sympathetic to that, so have done what he's suggested. Just hoping that winds don't undo six hours of work, and thinking maybe a temporary burn pile in this paddock might solve everyone's problems. My people will talk to his people and we'll sort that out. Grass seed has been spread.
John continued his concreting efforts this past week, grabbing another pile of recycled bricks and tackling another section of edging in the back of the gardens at Struan Farm's Homestead.
He's done with this initiative, at least for now. Comment was made that the Homestead driveway would look pretty spectacular edged with limestone rocks...That would be major, and isn't happening any time soon!
This past autumn, when I planted the second installment of tulip bulbs inside the front gates at Struan Farm, I planted some clusters of special "parrot" tulips. These are now starting to bloom, and look great.
Here's a pic of the Homestead's roadside wooded garden, right near our front entrance. I'm really happy with how the bulbs have worked out. We'll do a third and final installment of the tulips next autumn.
Sort of, but not really. Clifford and I needed to head north for two days last week, so Spud went off to Auntie Anna's to be looked after. While his cardboard box, aka "home sweet home" travelled with him, he had a lovely big pen nestled beside a big tree, and a proper tarp roof. Seems he was quite happy with these arrangements.
When the lamb courier <John> went to pick him up and bring him home, Anna asked if she could keep him. She'd fallen in love with him, and he was settled in.
Sigh. We have alot going on getting ready for the official farmstay opening, and so Spud has stayed with Auntie Anna. Everyone's happy and he's being well looked after, but I'm just a wee bit heartbroken!
Yes, we are watching the grass grow these days at Struan Farm! The lawn seed spread at the new house two weekends ago is starting to grow. We're a wee bit nervous about all of the rain we've been getting over the past week, although there have been some breaks between the storms and some sun.
It's such a fine balance, really. Can't have too much rain, you want sun and warmth for growth but then some moisture as well. We'll have a lawn, eventually!
Following the official unveiling of "Lake Field" at Struan Farm last week we've come to learn more about the actual place and how Rosanna Marmont, the artist, came to paint this scene. Thought I would share this with you, in Rosanna's words:
Yes, Lake Field is a very real place. Lake Field is the largest field (16 square miles) on the 96 Ranch where I frequently go to work and paint. These fields have been named by the cowboys who manage them and tend to reference the most defining feature of the field. Lake Field used to have a lake in it that has since dried up, leaving behind a vast saline flatland which is surrounded by a series of hills, gullies, and stream beds. Last spring I repaired the fences on the boundaries of this field, some of which are about 100 years old from the original settlement of these areas. As the people who live here say, if you look at the barb wire in the wrong way it’ll snap. You can also see old routes carved into the hill tops from where the buffalo assumedly stood to get away from the mosquitoes, which are thick almost all summer long.
The process of walking this fence line took a full week of 12 hour days, during which in the evenings I began painting ‘Lake Field’. The painting looks westwards over the hills towards the flatland, which is not yet visible. I wanted to capture the feeling of working in this area. All you can see in every direction is land, and one fence line ahead and behind you. For me it provides an almost religious sense of isolation and a relief that nature is a force so much larger than ourselves.
Sadly this is not really the case in the province of Saskatchewan where the ranch is located. I think as little as 10% of native prairie grasslands still exist. The rest has been cultivated for soy, wheat, canola, etc, heavily sprayed, turned over year after year. Most people understand prairie to be a field of wheat. Native prairie grassland continues to be transformed into cropland, usually with exception only of areas too rugged to cultivate which remain as cattle ranches.
Somewhat cute to look out from the new house and see "the Boys," John, Clifford and Spud, wandering around. Despite my initial concerns about him, Spud seems to be thriving, and now follows us around when he's out of his pen. Sometime this week we'll put him out in the main paddock, but continue to bottle feed him.
I started off this blog post thinking it would be about a table arrangement of beautiful spring flowers from the gardens at Struan Farm. The daffodils and bluebells are going wild, and the tulips are starting to pop. It's hard not to be happy about all that and want to share them with you, so here they are:
But then I started looking at the flowers more closely. And you know what happened then?
On closer inspection, this is still a post about an arrangement of beautiful spring flowers, just from a totally different perspective than what I'd originally envisioned!
John continued his concreting mission this past weekend, finishing up some brick edges around the Homestead gardens at Struan Farm. This makes mowing up to the edges much easier, also means I don't need to get down on my hands and knees with the clippers given my fetish for tidy edges in the gardens.
Our native kowhais are in bloom right now at Struan Farm. There's a large one in the Homestead gardens, and at least two in the QE II Trust block up by the new house. While they are lovely native trees, I'm telling you about them because the tuis (native birds) LOVE them. Kowhai flowers are popcorn at the movies for tuis.
At one point this past week I looked up from raking in the Old Orchard Paddock and counted ten tuis gorging themselves on kowhai flowers in the Homestead tree. Seriously think this is a record! Basically they strip the flowers off the tree, the remmants of which fall to the ground. Sort of like leaving your empty popcorn bucket on the cinema floor, under your seat, after the movie?
And for those not familiar with tuis, these NZ native birds look black, but are an irridescent blue/green, with a tuft of white feathers at their necks. They are members of the honeyeater family, and feed mainly on the nectar of flowers. Interestingly, they are important pollinators of many native trees. During summer we put out a bowl of sugar water in the garden at the Homestead, which they enjoy (and remind us when it's empty!).
Very excited to see the Thomson Concrete truck drive past the Struan Farm entrance gate as I was working down at the Homestead paddocks this week. The troughs for our veggie gardens were being delivered to the new house! I downed tools and rushed up to make sure they were offloaded where we can then move them into place (yep, Aaron and his digger to the rescue once again).
Six in all, with extra drainage holes in the bottoms and feet to rest upon. This was the compromise solution following a rather robust debate over the use of treated vs. untreated wood for raised veggie garden beds. We also looked into using poured concrete for raised beds, to be done at the same time the sidewalk out the back door and edging around the garage and workshop are done, but the associated labour cost for the boxing made these more cost effective.
This little fellow stood beside the fence to the new house at Struan Farm a night ago and baa-ed, baa-ed, baa-ed. John assured me that he'd just lost his mum, and not to worry, they'd find one another. These things do happen. However, I found him alone in this same area yesterday afternoon. He was wobbly and looked like he hadn't eaten. So I scooped him up after listening to see if mum was around, got the bottle and lamb's milk back out, and gave him a feed. He's hanging out in the pet pen, sleeping in a big cardboard box that he seems to like.
His name is "Spud." I'm trying not to get too attached, particularly since ewes often reject lambs when they know something is wrong with them. He may not survive. But we'll look after him regardless.
Happy to report that a surprising amount of "stuff" has been accomplished at Struan Farm over the past week. The fresh metal/gravel for the Homestead driveway got delivered and spread:
While the grass seed for our lawns at the new house got sown, by Aaron with his useful little hopper on the back of a quad bike:
He also used this to sow grass where we've taken out the old drive and parking spot at the Homestead, and for the old tennis court area, take two. (The grass seed we spread there last year just didn't grow, too much rain at the wrong time, weeds ensued. Redo required!)
And on top of all this, various and sundry piles of wood and concrete posts and corrugated iron were consolidated, out of sight, while the old bathtub and rusty harrow and axel sitting at the back gate were carted off to the scrap metal dealer! It was a major feng shui cleansing, to say the least...
It seems that rocks and Robertsons go hand in hand, even now. As we've updated the gardens at Struan Farm and made them our own, we've kept some of the established rock gardens John's parents had made over the years, changed others, and taken some out entirely.
John and I laughed about this apparent family tradition as we worked together this past weekend, concreting the rock wall near the new parking space at the Homestead. We decided that other family members might have taken a more precise or artful approach to the project than we were. I had never used concrete before, so this was all new to me, and not sure I'll make a habit of it!
Next the grass behind the wall goes, and a garden of flowering shrubs goes in....I'm onto it.