Spring Fever

Several people have written or called asking what kind of blacksmithing David does. Well, Calerin Forge is a Full Service Blacksmith shop. Many folk do not know that the smiths that shoe horses are called “farriers”, so that is an area David does not do. (We know a good 1 in Florida tho’ if you’re willing to travel!)  David does functional and ornamental ironwork; house fixtures, furniture, sculptures, hooks, hinges, and cabinet handles/knobs, some armor, and farm and garden accoutrement. It is this that we are focusing on the most these days.

        Most people think of gardens as big rectangles or squares. Here in the mountains of North Carolina, we grab every inch of land possible to tuck a plant or container into. Although we had some logging done a couple years ago to open up our space, we still are limited in our options. Like city folk, we thought, “If we can’t move out, let’s move UP!”

         David started making bean trees for our small climbing vines. With these we can grow approximately 40 plants in a 4 foot space. We have a spur of land that the dirt mover pushed out when he began to make a road, then changed his mind. On this we erected 5 bean trees and grew sugar snap peas, several varieties of beans, and this year will grow our rat-tailed radishes as well. In the center, he plants lettuces so they will not be burned by the sun. This works nicely and it’s a shared space these 2 things don’t usually co-inhabit.

        We also have 8 raised beds. We built a series of beds 8' X 4' X 2'. Using some rat wire (some call this "welded wire”) screens, we sift the dirt through these by steadily raking a hoe over the screens. Any rocks and weeds that are left we throw into the chicken yard. In this way we can sit on the edge of the bed and weed.  (This is good because David did have back surgery 8 years ago, so spending time on his knees bent over would be wearing on him).  Because we never walk on this area, the dirt is soft and easily weeded. Plants thrive in this gentle soil, and at the year's end they pull free easily, making clean up a snap! In the late fall we also use those screens to dry seeds or cayenne pepper.

        Because the dirt is screened, it is VERY soft, and easier for tender little plantlings to push out their roots. We grow peppers (several varieties) in these beds as well as tomatoes, onions, and garlic.  David also made some ramping trellises for our heavier vine vegetables.  The fencing helps support the cucumber or squash and still keep it up off the wet ground. We just have to be sure we angle it toward the sun, since this is the direction in which the plants want to grow.

        In the center of each bed, we placed an 8" flue tile on end and filled that with dirt as well. It is in these that I planted my mints: apple mint (also known as woolly mint), chocolate mint, lemon bergamot mint, orange mint, peppermint, and spearmint. There are, I believe, 11 more varieties of mint and I can't wait to have them all! Because the mints will spread almost like wildfire, you have to contain the roots. The flue tiles have worked superbly in this aspect and look rather nice too.

        In addition to the 8 long beds, we also built 4' X 4' X 2'  beds for the herbs I use most in my canning. These do (or will) include parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary, and cilantro. In the center of these, the flue tiles hold lavender. I try to routinely pick a couple handfuls of an herb to dry each week. In this way I keep the harvest regulated and my shelves supplied. A few years ago I treated myself to an electric dehydrator because we had had such a wet year that nothing was drying in the house. A bonus is that the air is fragranced naturally with whatever I am drying, which is delightful most of the time (but a bit overpowering when we dry the cayenne peppers!)

         On the little bit of flat space, we grow potatoes and tomatoes and corn. The corn we grow is for our own consumption but in the fall, we glean field corn which we shuck and pile in our corn crib which David also built from the steel spokes of cable spools and an old discarded satellite dish.  Our compost gets turned with a steel pitchfork and our raised beds are cornered with iron wraparounds. Hanging baskets hang from iron deck hangers and rail grips.

     Shovels, axes, and mattocks are maintained and sharpened by David as needed.It is SO handy having a Blacksmith around the farm!

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