Windermere Farms & Apiaries History

A History of Windermere Farms and Apiaries

Windermere Farms and Apiaries was begun in the valley below Lake Windermere. Beside horses grazing and an occasional bush hogging not much else happened until the late 70’s when all the horses were removed and the city put in sanitary sewers. Then in 1980 I had the stable yard plowed up and planted purple hull peas. They were taken over by weeds so I decided that until I could get equipment farming was out. Horses were brought back until early 2003.

In 2000 and 2001 I got serious about gardening and took a piece of the yard and put in a l garden. I built and worked the compost bins and roller.
We ate wonderful lettuce all the way up into December with friends camping in the field.
In February 2003 I started moving my activities to the field by putting in an initial planting of 100 American Bittersweet plants and in the fall of 2004 I erected a trellis system on which to manage them. I also purchased a used Kubota and planted my first strawberry patch of 500 plants next to the bittersweet.
In March 2003 I planted an Orchard.
And I put in some vegetables on the north end of the field in front of our horse stable that was in a state of collapse.
Since I was going to start farming the valley I needed it cleared of the trash trees that had pushed their way into the field during 50 years of neglect.
With the help of some loggers we began to make it suitable for agriculture.
The barn was shortened by two stalls when a tree could not be controlled by the logger.
During the fall of 2005 a leaf collector was bringing me loads of leaves that I mixed with horse manure and by March of 2006 it had cooked down to this pile that I incorporated into the rows for some of the crops.
By the summer of 2006 I had some nice fields of Purple Hull Peas,
and was putting in irrigation main lines,
getting my irrigation pond dug
and setting my water storage tank on the hill top about 35 feet above the valley floor.
and getting a melon patch in and selling my first crops from a truck on the street and from pick your own customers.
I also experimented with support systems and plastic mulches to see if they were easier to maintain than the wire cages or stakes.
I have been keeping bees since about 2000 on the south end of the field and they produced a nice supply of honey and comb honey until the small hive beetle came in and destroyed about 5 hives. In 2006 I moved what was left to the to the North end on some of the cleared high ground behind what was left of the horse stable.
The Bittersweet came in for the first real crop in the Fall of 2006.
We heard of the new farmers market in downtown Memphis so one September Saturday morning we took a load of bittersweet, corn and butternut squash to The Memphis Farmers Market at the old Central Train Station. Everything was a hit! And we were now at home at the Memphis Farmers Market.
Looking down from my house on the southwest of the valley in December of 2006 you can see the field with two nice loads of horse manure to the left of the 5 new rows of 1000 strawberry plants that were put in on Sep 30, 2006 by hilling with my bottom plow and then compacting the hills by rolling a log and then putting the plastic down by hand.
We were a great drop off location for the line trimmers who brought us load after load of chips from their trimming activity. We used most of this on 2008 crops. Several other piles are still cooking.
Our strawberries made it through the Easter morning freeze and we had a wonderful crop. Our grandchildren had a feast.
During January and February 2007 I was able to set up a 12 x 24 hoop house to use for growing my own plants
The bittersweet didn’t fare so well. It was knocked down by a 28 degree night along with most of the blueberry crop from our 150 rabbit eye plants.
We went to the Memphis Farmers Market all the growing season of 2007 with vegetables from our certified organic fields.
We planted row middles with buckwheat when possible
In September 2007 we planted 2500 organic strawberry plants by hand and then struggled to keep them alive in the heat
And we increased the size of our Northwest water tank too since we ran it dry irrigating the north fields.
Our Blueberry plants are showing their presence in the fall from the balcony or our house.
We did another erosion control project on the Southwest side to stop water from cutting the field in half every time it rained. The new tank holds the water for the dry times and lets the overflow out to the side of the field.
My neighbor, John Martin had a friend with Himalayan blackberries and brought some plants over and put up a fence along the creek to train them on.
A fall rain filled the NW pond.
Everything is cleaned up for winter, strawberries on the left and the cover crops are planted and waiting for spring 2008.
Then winter covered blueberry hill with a blanket of snow in February or March 2008
And we began a little shed to house a 8 x 8 walk-in cooler and a pea sheller from timber cut off the land and milled at a friends sawmill.
And before we knew it the strawberries started putting on blooms and we put on frost protection.
It sure is nice when spring finally comes. We see the martins making their nests and the bees working the blueberries.
We put up a high-tunnel to cover our tomato plants for rain protection
And picked strawberries,
We had a booth all season at the Memphis Botanic Garden
and at the Memphis Farmers Market at Central Station. Some of our grandkids came to help.
They helped pick some fresh fruit too.

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