Pre-Spring Prep Work

by Angela aka Farmer Jane on February 11, 2013 · 1 comment

Over the last four days we’ve started doing a little pre-spring prep work. We allow (for the most part) everything to come to a stand still outside from late fall through late winter.

As the weather starts to warm up:

  • We burn weeds
  • Repair broken water lines
  • Sharpen tools
  • Clean up the property
  • Prune fruit trees
  • Spray dormant oil on fruit trees
  • Remove layer of mulch around each fruit tree and fertilize

While I’ve been working around the property, Dom has been obsessed with fixing my Durango.

Last year the air conditioner started acting up, and when the compressor died, it caused the Durango to seize.

Our friend was kind enough to fix the compressor for us and get the car moving again, but a whole cascade of problems seemed to engulf my poor truck in a never ending list of things that needed to be fixed.

When I picked Shoshie up at the airport for Christmas, I said to her, “Uh? I just wanted to warn you that my car has emotional problems, so if it stalls, don’t be worried.” LOL And with that, the car conked out. It seemed like every time I would warm the car up, pull down to our gate to open it…the car would die. Right there! I couldn’t even leave the property, nor was I able to get it started again.

We were so frustrated.

Dom has worked on the truck every chance he’s had. He’s done so much to try and make it work, and each new action brings the us closer to a fully operational SAFE truck.

This weekend while he was working on the truck, Simmi was keeping him company (driving him up the wall) with her nonstop questions, jumping around in the truck, moving from one seat to another, turning the music way up and being her cute self. She enjoys listening to Spanish music more than anything else.

Anyway, Dom took the truck for a test drive and so far it works great. It had no emotional problems at all.

After the truck was running smoothly, Dom joined Noah, Anthony and I in taking care of the pre-spring clean up.

I also harvested 45 pounds of Jerusalem artichokes (Sun chokes) on Sunday. About two years ago in the spring of 2011, I planted Jerusalem artichokes that I had purchased from Sunflower market. These were for eating, not planting…but I didn’t care! I rooted them in water first, and planted them out in our poor, sandy, mostly alkaline soil.

They popped up in late spring, grew to over 9 feet tall with beautiful yellow flowers and then died back in winter.

I didn’t harvest them the first year. I wanted to wait and give them another year before attempting harvest.

With Jerusalem artichokes, it’s best to wait until after the first good frost to harvest some of them so that their flavor will develop.

Jerusalem artichokes can be invasive, but out here where we don’t get a lot of rain fall, the chokes won’t spread as far.

When the plants start to die back at the end of summer, you can usually trim down the stalks, but I recommend keeping at least one foot stalk in the ground. It will help you find the Jerusalem artichokes when it’s time to harvest. When I started digging through the first patch of artichokes, I was thinking to myself, “when the heck is this gonna stop?” I kept digging and finding more and more. The deeper I went, the more I pulled out. I used my hands only because I didn’t want to damage the delicate skin on the chokes.

Out here in the high desert, usually in the deeper parts of the soil you’ll find something called Jerusalem crickets, or “Child of the earth.”

We’re not quite sure why they are called Jerusalem crickets, just like we don’t understand how Jerusalem artichokes got their name since they aren’t from Jerusalem. Not to mention that the tuber isn’t even related to artichokes in any way.

Come to think of it, Jerusalem crickets aren’t exactly crickets either. LOL They do pinch though! I was a little apprehensive about sticking my hands through the soil as I harvested the Jerusalem artichokes because I thought I might get bit by one of the Jerusalem crickets, but it never happened. It turns out they are more interested in getting back into the earth than defending their territory. They also did not damage or chew on any of the chokes.

Jerusalem crickets tend to enjoy rotting roots and decaying matter, so I feel confident we could do a mass planting of chokes and not worry about losing our crop.

So, what does one do with 45 pounds of Jerusalem artichokes? I plan on taking almost all of it and planting them out in a new area. I did leave a LOT of chokes in the original garden plot, but I found an even better place to grow them that will allow for us to make chokes a major crop to sell in the next few years.

I only spent about $5.00 on six tubers two years ago, and look at the return on my investment.


This week I’ll be preparing one of our large bermed areas for planting. The berm is approximately 60 feet long and 6 feet wide. Perfect! We did have Western Soapberry trees growing in that area, but some of the trees were just too small to make it in our rough climate. We’ll get more soapberry trees (at least 3 years old) next year.

Here are some photos of what the Jerusalem artichoke plant looks like and also photos of the last few days of pre-spring cleaning:

Jerusalem artichoke April 29, 2012

Jerusalem artichoke September 30, 2012 (most of the yellow flowers have died back)

Stalks were trimmed

Most of the tubers I harvested weren’t still attached to the roots

See the hump in front of Noah and Anthony? That is the bermed area that’s 60′x6′

Here’s another shot of the berm. I took this photo a few days ago before the area was really cleaned up. I’m so glad its done! See the middle burn area? That is the new location for our duck habitat. The area will be a fenced 20′x20′, have a small pond and duck house.

Don’t try this at home folks…check out Noah’s (on right) grip on the rake! LOL I’ll have to ask him if he has blisters between his fingers today.

Noah usually does a few funny poses for me when we work together. It keeps things fun.

We had a few really windy days where I couldn’t burn any weeds, but that didn’t stop Simmi from making a homemade kite out of a white garbage bag and stick! She was squealing with delight as the wind would pick up and make the bag shake and vibrate. Too cute!

Here’s a very short video of Simmi enjoying her garbage bag kite and listening to music:

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Melonie K. February 11, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Tell Simmi I looooove her ladybug boots! :D


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