So many of you ask about my pets - my dogs, cats, canaries, horses, donkeys, chickens, and the peafowl. I love giving you updates on all of them. My youngest dogs, Bete Noire and Creme Brûlée, are thriving here at the farm. These two one-year old female French Bulldogs are extremely exuberant, and love to get into everything.
Recently, I decided it was time to build a more suitable fence for all my dogs - one that enclosed a courtyard space behind my Winter House, where they could relax and play when not out with me or on long walks around the property. I wanted the fence to be durable, and to coordinate well with my home. I discussed plans with my carpenter, John Kowalczyk, owner of JK Home Remodeling in Stamford, Connecticut, and he started work on it right away.
Here are some photos of the building process. Enjoy.
There’s a lot of activity going on outside our workshop. My carpenter, John Kowalczyk, owner of JK Home Remodeling, is laying out the pieces for our new dog fence.
Each panel is made from wood cut right here at the farm. We’re using cedar, which won’t warp despite weather, humidity or changing temperature conditions. It is among the best types of wood for building.
This frame was painted my signature “Bedford Gray”. The team completed one frame, so I could see what the finished product would look like before they continued with the rest.
Once we were all set with the plans for the fence, Fernando began priming and painting all the wooden pieces.
These four-inch wooden boards are about 10-feet long. The fence will match all the other structures at the farm.
Each piece was cut to size – we were able to repurpose a lot of good lumber.
I wanted to use a very strong wire for the fence. This is quarter-inch steel with one-inch by one-inch squares – rabbit wire – we don’t want any doggie paws or noses to get stuck.
To fit the dimensions of the frames, Pete cuts the wire by hand.
The wire cutter is very easy to use and gets the job done quickly.
John lays the rabbit wire onto the frame.
It is measured out perfectly, so there is just the right amount of overlap on the wooden edges.
A second piece of wood is placed over the wire.
And then using one-and-a half-inch screws, John secures the wire between the cedar pieces.
John places screws evenly down the length of the frame.
After all the frames are painted, and all the wire is installed, the fence panels are brought down to the courtyard outside my Winter House kitchen. Fernando brings some of the shorter pieces.
Here are Pete and John carrying the longer pieces.
It is so exciting to see the fence come together.
The first panel is the most important because it sets up the fence dimensions – it must be straight, level and square.
Here is a view of a fence frame from the top – the rabbit wire is sandwiched tightly between these pieces.
John screws the panels together.
Fernando helps to hold the panels in place.
The same size screws are used to attach corner panels to wooden stakes, which will help to anchor the fence.
This is a seven-inch framing measurement ruler. It is used as a protractor, miter, or framing square, and is a
must-have carpenter’s tool for making precise right-angles.
One side is complete – so far, it looks great.
John installs the stainless steel latches for the gates. These gate latches are rust resistant and close very securely. The safety of my dogs is very important.
John also installed the heavy duty stainless steel strap hinges. We need several gates along the fence for convenient access from all sides.
During the summer, I also like to keep tropical plants in this courtyard, so placing the fence gates strategically will allow equipment and my big outdoor containers to be moved around easily.
Pete makes final cuts using an electric “five saw” hand saw.
A level is used to ensure all the panels are perfectly straight.
What a nice fence – but the real testers need to take a look too…
Here is Bete Noire – I wonder what she thinks of the new enclosure.
Bete Noire’s sister, Creme Brûlée, seems to like it.
My regal Chow Chow, GK, seems to approve also. This fence will provide years of safe fun for my pets.
If you grow these wonderful fruit trees, the best time to prune them is now - in winter - or in very early spring before any new growth begins. Pruning not only helps to develop proper shape and form, but also encourages new growth, promotes high fruit yield, and maintains good tree health. At the farm, I have both apple and pear trees that are pruned regularly. My arborists at SavATree visit each winter specifically to prune the larger fruit trees, while my outdoor grounds crew helps to tackle the smaller ones. And, each summer, we see the wonderful fruits of all their labor.
Enjoy these photos.
I have many, many apple trees at the farm, and a good number of them are at least 50-years old, so they were already here when I purchased the property.
My outdoor grounds crew is busy pruning the apple trees behind the Contemporary House.
They already pruned quite a bit – these branches will be chipped and reused in the garden later.
Chhewang has become an excellent pruner, and oversees a lot of the smaller tree pruning projects at the farm.
Smaller twigs are snipped off with regular secateurs. Each member of my outdoor grounds crew has their own pair.
And of course, we love Okatsune Hand Pruners, with their distinguishable red and white handles. These eight-inch long shears are made from Izumo Yasuki Japanese steel, and are angled to provide a smooth, clean cut without crushing. Ours come from A.M. Leonard.
Pruning encourages the tree to grow more of these fruiting spurs by eliminating competing suckers and unproductive wood.
Removing the competing tree branches also helps to let in light and promote good air circulation.
Here, Chhewang uses a pruning hand saw for lower branches that are tougher to cut with regular hand pruners.
On healthy trees, about a third of the growth can be pruned. Spur branches where the apple tree flowers and sets fruit are the most preferred.
The final cut on each unwanted bough needs to be alongside the “branch collar”, a raised ring of bark where the branch intersects with another branch. Growth cells concentrate in these nodes, causing fast bark regrowth which seals the cuts.
Chhewang carefully selects his cuts, making sure to electively cut branches growing more horizontal to the ground. He also makes cuts where the branches appear overcrowded.
Mature trees usually already have their shape determined, so it’s important to maintain their shape and size. Traditionally, apple trees were always encouraged to stay shorter, so apples were easier to reach.
This is a closeup of a crutch supporting the heavy branch of this apple tree. The natural “V” shaped notch in the trunk is perfect for this purpose.
This apple tree looks great after pruning. I am looking forward to many lustrous green trees heavy with rosy red fruit come autumn.
Our friends from SavATree were also at the farm, pruning trees in the pear grove behind my gym building. Compared to apple trees, pear trees naturally develop more narrow, angled, and upright branches. http://www.savatree.com
This top tool is a pole pruner, or lopper, attachment and a telescoping pole – it’s used to cut branches in high, hard to reach areas that are about an inch to an inch and half thick. The larger of the two is a pole saw. It also attaches to a telescoping pole, and is used to prune branches at least an inch-thick.
I prefer loppers and pole saws – manual tools that will give my trees a more natural appearance and shape.
Here, a pole pruner is used to reach the new growth at the top of the tree.
Any tree trimming work can expose eyes to dust, wood particles, and insects, so it’s vital to wear proper eye protection. These experts also wear non-conductive hard hats, gloves and reflective vests.
Danny Broglino is a 27-year veteran of SavATree. He has a degree in forestry, and is also a certified arborist and pruning expert. He’s been caring for my trees since I took over the property.
Danny cut branches that were rubbing or criss-crossing each other, preventing healthy new growth.
The new growth should be pruned fairly flush to the branch from which it grew.
The idea is to leave slight stubs. By removing any more, the remaining branch has too much of an opening for disease to enter.
Danny explained the two main goals of pruning trees. On young trees, pruning encourages a strong, solid framework. Branches too thick to cut with clippers were cut with a handsaw.
And on mature trees, pruning encourages fruit production.
Danny stopped every so often to assess the shape of the trees as his team worked on them.
Dead branches, or those without any signs of new growth, are also cut, so the energy is directed to the branches with fruiting buds.
After all the branches are cut, they are gathered, neatly piled and then processed through a wood chipper to make mulch.
Danny and his team come each winter to prune before any new growth starts. It’s great to know all my trees are well maintained through the years.
Today at my Bedford, New York farm, temperatures are expected to hit the high 30s with a strong chance of rain in the afternoon.
So far, this winter has been very erratic - days have been cold and blistery, as well as warm and spring-like. We’ve also had some snow. Whenever I am not traveling or needed for an early morning appearance, I always try to tour the farm before work, especially after a storm. I like to visit all the animals, assess the property and take various photographs to share with all of you.
The following images are from a recent snowfall. The weather system was light and short-lived, but it left a beautiful coating of powdery, white snow in the landscape. Fortunately, we've been ready for winter for quite some time - plants were all tucked away in temperature controlled greenhouses, while shrubs, hedges and cold-sensitive garden containers were tightly wrapped in burlap. Enjoy this gallery.
Here is the little basket house nestled in the grove of bald cypress where I store the many beautifully woven baskets I’ve acquired over the years.
This is the front of my main glass greenhouse. I love the sky overhead as the sun tries to peek through the clouds.
Behind the greenhouse is where we grow our berries. These are the red raspberries. The upright posts are made of granite and they have heavy gauge copper wire laced through them to support the berry bushes. Raspberries are unique because their roots and crowns are perennial, while their stems or canes are biennial. A raspberry bush can produce fruit for many years, but pruning is essential.
Tucked away between the Equipment Barn and a grove of weeping willows is my pinetum – an arboretum of pine trees or other conifers used for scientific or ornamental purposes.
I try to add new specimens to this area every year – you can see the many sizes of trees I’ve planted. This area includes pines, spruces and firs, as well as other evergreens.
A stately old sycamore tree – the symbol of my farm, Cantitoe Corners. The sycamore is one of the largest hardwood trees, usually growing 60 to 100 feet tall. They are also one of the oldest trees on the planet.
Here is a look through the woodlands toward one of my lower hayfields.
And one of the winding carriage roads, with well-planted stakes marking the path for our snow equipment and other vehicles.
Here are some of the newest additions to the farm – pigeons. I am happy to report they’re acclimating to their new surroundings quite well and enjoying their time in the coop’s aviary. On colder days, they also have access to a heated room filled with various perches and nesting boxes.
The chickens and geese don’t seem to mind the snow at all – they were all outside their coops clucking away, but don’t worry, their coops are outfitted with warm heat lamps to keep them cozy.
Here is a rafter, or group, of turkeys all grown up, showing their beautiful tail feathers. These turkeys were incubated in my kitchen, right on the counter, and have grown up so well here at the farm.
This tom, or gobbler, is prancing around for the hen on the left.
I love how snow collects atop the chicken coops – during bigger storms, you can see the snow-covered coops from my kitchen window.
The majestic eastern white pines, Pinus strobus, always stand out in bold dark green over the landscape.
As many of you know, I have planted a few different allees at the farm. This is the allee of linden trees. Look closely and you can see a corner of the stable on the left.
Here is the cobblestone courtyard down by the stable and in front of the carriage house where I keep my antique horse drawn carriages.
Walking through the passage between two rows of antique fencing I found in Canada.
Visitors always comment on the fencing. It is 100-year old white spruce fencing with newer cedar uprights to support it. I love how the snow collects on the fence rails.
Here is the view down the Boxwood Allee toward the winding road through the woodland – I have photos of this winding road in every season.
Fortunately, this snowfall was light, but it’s comforting to see all the boxwood shrubs wrapped in their winter burlap shrouds. The burlap protects from windburn and also preserves the shape of the shrub from the weight of the snow.
Many of the wrapped boxwood shrubs look like snow-capped domes. This one sits at the foot of the granite pergola, which supports clematis and wisteria. The pergola also provides a wonderful lookout for perching birds.
Here’s the old corn crib, which is original to the property. It sits at one end of what I call the “party lawn” – a great spot to set up a tent for outdoor entertaining.
Across the carriage road, a group of bald cypress trees, Taxodium distichum. These are fast growing North American natives. Such beautiful trees deserve a prominent place in any landscape.
And here’s my flower cutting garden under a coating of white. This is the fence surrounding the cutting garden, located behind the greenhouse. A pair of stately Kenneth Lynch garden urns at this entrance are covered in burlap for the winter.