Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Project Mania

Our family has really knocked a lot of projects out this weekend! We've built, planted, mowed, bushwhacked, pruned and so on, almost non-stop during the daylight hours since Friday night. I guess that this better-late-than-never spring of ours has finally snapped our farming spirit awake. :)

Bill is thisclose to finishing the new coop and runs. Scarlet and I chipped in where we could, but the coop has been Bill's baby from day one, and I'm glad (and I KNOW he's glad) to see it up and running. The girls are going to paint the coop eventually, red or white, we're thinking, with the back side of the coop (the side facing the street) painted in chalkboard paint so that we can have the girls write up what we have for sale on any given day. Won't that be cute?

Today Scarlet and I put the rest of our peas and carrots in the garden, and sowed one row of French Breakfast radishes. I'll sow another in a few days or a week, so that we have a slight reprieve between waves of ripe radishes. They'll be mostly for the bunnies anyway, so it'd actually be pretty hard to grow too many of them, the way they're eating these days, but I've also seen a few recipes for roasted balsamic radishes that have me intrigued, so I might end up eating a few myself.

The last few things that I need to shimmy into the garden are beets, beans, corn, sunflowers and basil. The wax beans, pole beans and corn are germinating and getting a head start indoors on the seedling heat mat and under the grow lights, while the radishes and peas temporarily occupy their eventual space in the garden. I'm running out of room quickly! I'm debating putting some of the giant greystripe sunflowers in the flower bed, even though we're growing them for food. The little buggers throw a lot of shade when they're big though, so I have to consider carefully where they will work best. Hmmm...

Later today I'm going to plant a tray each of beans and corn to start indoors under the grow light. I sure hope that they transplant well, as I can't remember every having bought either of them as starts in the past. Another garden gamble. ;)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This week in the Garden 5/28/11

We're still chipping away at getting our garden in. Today Scarlet and I planted-

-2 rows of Atomic Red Carrots
-3 cilantro plants
-8 arugula plants
-2 rows of Mesclun Mix lettuce
-2 rows of Red Romaine lettuce
-2 red celery plants (from the school plant sale - woohoo!)
-1 Purple Sicilian Cauliflower (ditto on the plant sale. These weren't exactly flying out the door.)
-1 Lemon Thyme
-1 Spicy Orange Thyme
-1 Hardy Marjoram
-1 Italian Parsley
-1 Dwarf Curry

In Scarlet's Flower Bed-
-2 packets Autumn Beauty sunflowers
-1 packet Lemon Queen sunflowers
-1 packet Annual (wild) sunflowers

I'd meant to get all of the carrots in today, but between what we did plant and exercising the goats, it just didn't happen. The root crops have presented a particular difficulty with our soil. The carrot seed packet suggested that you loosen the soil a foot down for the carrots to penetrate easily. A foot down! Even though we tilled the garden just last week, the rain and hail that we've had off and on since, combined with the clay that was turned up, have made for a very dense layer that doesn't yield to the hoe all that easily.

So instead of digging a foot down, Scarlet and I hoed up little hillocks of soil, and topped them with off with some NuLife Organic Container mix that I have been using for everything this year. I buy it by the bag (or four), but I swear I'd buy it by the ton if they sold it that way. My plants are loving it! I do wish that we'd been able to use our own compost as amendment instead, but on account of our compost only being 9 months old, and the no-heat summer that we had last year, things just didn't break down as much as they should have. The NuLife will hopefully be a fair stand-in.

In addition to the fancy soil, I plan to mulch the holy-heck out of everything just as soon as I can, using my goat pen cleanings. Bill has a friend who raises sheep and uses his poopy straw around his tomatoes and recommends it highly. Sounds good to me.

So all in all we have summer and winter squash, pumpkins, lettuces, tomatoes, celery, herbs, cauliflower, tomatillos & ground cherries all in. Coming soon, weather and physical well-being permitting - more carrots, peas, beans, beets, giant sunflowers and radishes. We're going to sew a few waves of radishes in the spot where the corn will eventually go, since they only take about 20 days to mature, and our soil isn't nearly warm enough yet to plant corn out. I'm actually going to try starting my corn inside to try and skirt the bird/rodent seed pilferage issue. We'll see how that flies I guess!

After we fiddled in the garden, Scarlet and I took the mama goats for a walk up to the chicken yard to munch down some brush. Unfortunately, all they seem to want to eat is the grass, so I had to cut the Scotch Broom down myself and truck it up to the less-finicky wethers who gobbled it down like candy.

Hoooo-wee I'm one tired girl tonight, but it sure does feel good to get out in the dirt and play! :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our First Garden

Bill and I (mostly Bill) managed to get our garden plot prepped, tilled and fenced yesterday, and today put in our first few plants. So far we have-

6 Cinderella Pumpkins
5 Sugar Pumpkins
3 Amish Pie Winter Squash
2 hills (4 seeds each) of Burgess Buttercup Winter Squash
2 hills (4 seeds each) of Early Prolific Yellow Straightneck Summer Squash
2 hills (4 seeds each) of Cocozelle (zucchini) Summer Squash
2 Stupice Tomatoes (indeterminate variety)
4 Principe Borghese Tomatoes (determinate variety)
2 Siberian Tomatoes (determinate variety)
1 Purple Tomatillo (I learned my lesson from last year - one plant's worth of tomatillos is all that we can handle.)
2 Aunt Molly Ground Cherries

In the next few days I hope to get our carrots, beets, herbs, lettuces, beans, peas, sunflowers and celery in. Since we didn't do the mondo-sized garden that we'd hoped to put in, we're just going to have to shimmy things in where we can and hope for the best. We're holding off for a bit yet on putting the corn in, because the soil temperature needs to be at least 65 for the seeds to germinate. That could take a while yet, but we at least have a dwarf, short-season variety that was developed for growing in Alaska, so we may just have a fighting chance of actually getting some corn this year after all. Fingers and toes crossed!

I have just 8 tomato plants in so far, and am wondering if that will be near enough for canning? I haven't picked up a cherry tomato yet either, so maybe I'll have to cruise that farmer's market this weekend and see what pops out at me.

I also have a few oddball seeds that I bought on a whim that I'm not sure will find their place in the garden this year, with space being as limited as it is. Number one is the "Homemade Pickles" variety of cucumbers that I have tried to grow, unsuccessfully twice. Do I bother wasting precious space on a potential flop? I also have some Romanesco Broccoli and Giant Prague Celeraic that I'd like to try, but their relative unpopularity in our kitchen make them a somewhat dicey proposition, considering the garden space that they'd require. My only fail safe here is that if the hubby and kids won't eat something, odds are either the goats or bunnies will. On the fence here. Hmmm....

Anyway, the plants that did make it into the garden today are some of our most core veggie staples, so I feel pretty good about the progress we've made so far, small though it may be. I know that we won't have veggies enough to sell this year, but with any luck we'll at least have enough to can, dehydrate and freeze for ourselves for the coming year. Now as to whether or not we'll come out ahead in terms of what we've spent on tiller rental, deer fencing, plants and seeds, I'm a little doubtful that we'll recoup our investment this first year. But monetary savings is not my chief motivation for growing my own. I get such satisfaction and joy from nurturing my little seeds and starts, and even more so from harvesting them. I'm a nerd for the numbers, so I keep track of every pint and pound that we grow. Having my little checklist of jars and freezer bags full of homegrown goodies is satisfying to my mother/provider instinct/imperative like nothing else.

Now I just need a little blessing from mother nature and some decent weather to see my little plants on their way.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Things I learned in Kinder.... Er, Garden Building

Today we got the garden patch ready (a little late but it's been so cold no biggie...) and here's what I learned.

Lesson 1. Renting a $2.6K piece of equipment for two hours is a good idea because I'll only need it once per year.

Lesson 2. Being cheap and agonizing on the right kind of deer fence is not a good idea because it'll make you go back to the feed store you started at.

Lesson 3. Investing time, dollars, energy and work into protecting your garden from deer will encourage you to hunt in the fall. Furthermore, where I live in the county I can't shoot deer with a gun but I do know how to use a bow! Bambi eats my plants and is delicious.

Lesson 4. Happiness is finishing 9 fence-posts in an hour. A one man auger is my new friend.

Lesson 5. Hot pink duct tape makes a good visibility flag.

Lesson 6. Wanting to finish something in one day is a good thing because you can spend subsequent weekends upgrading instead of stressing about being able to put the garden in.

Lesson 7. Beer tastes better after a long day of manual labor.


BHF ~ Photo of the Day 5/22/11

Two of the seven Long-Toed Salamanders "rescued" and relocated by Scarlet, just ahead of the plow. I think someone has been watching a few too many reruns of Billy the Exterminator. ;)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Putting the Goats to Work

Well, since the milking thing hasn't worked out that well so far, today Scarlet and I tried another angle on getting the goaties to earn their keep. We brought them out on the leash to eat down some tall grass, Scotch broom and out of control alder saplings up by the chicken's yard.

They were initially pretty freaked out by the proximity of the chicken yard to the road. They flinched and tried to bolt the first few times that cars passed, but eventually learned to disregard them. Then there was Bill with his circular saw, working on finishing the new coop. The abrupt whir of the saw spooked them good. If you could call two panicked, madly fleeing goats a stampede (you can't), then I'd call it a stampede. Like the cars though, they got used to the sound of the saw and eventually all ventured a sniff, only to be shooed away by a mildly annoyed Papa.

They ate 'til their bellies were full and they could no longer ignore the cries of their babies calling them back to nurse. We walked the girls back up the hill to the pen, or rather, they walked us. We didn't make a huge amount of headway on the brush, but I think we'll keep chipping away at it. I think the goats enjoyed the outing, and I liked getting to sit in my lawn chair in the chicken yard, sipping coffee and playing shepherdess for the day. :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Eggs for Sale!

$4.00/dozen for our beautiful, free-range organic eggs. Brought to you by these lovely laydies-

Amelia, Rose & Anabelle

Miss Cotton


Drop by or give us a shout at livysmom27 at yahoo dot com to get your farm fresh eggs! :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spring, she has finally Sprung!

And about darned time too! It's only 4 weeks until the official start of summer, and we're only just now having multiple rain-free, even sunny days in a row. The weather here is weirder and more unpredictable every year, which plays hell with my mental faculties and my planting schedule.

Thus far, I've only put a few of my hardier plants out - the peas, potatoes, raspberries & rhubarb are all in, to be followed shortly by pretty much everything else this coming week. Bill and I have made peace with the fact that we won't be getting the "big" garden in this year like we had hoped, as we're running quite late, and are already overwhelmed by a never ending project list. That seems to be our story at every turn - two steps behind and projects popping up double time. UHG.

I'm not going to let the dream of the big garden and it's cobbled paths and deer fences die, I'm just going to have to send it to the back of the line for now. We bit off a lot with this farm, and for the sake of our family's collective blood pressure, we're going to have to let a few things go for a while.

Things that have been put on hold or scratched altogether- turkeys :(, meat chickens, cheese making, doing something with the bog, the big garden, keeping bees.

The things that are still on - expanding the egg-laying flock (done!), getting goats (done!), milking goats (stalled :\), building a big new coop (almost done!), putting in additional orchard trees (in progress), squeaking in a small kitchen garden (this weekend), & fixing the pasture fences (God knows when, but it HAS to be done.)

Not to mention our wine & beer making, canning & preserving, fishing, foraging, etc. We always have a full plate!

At least the weather is on our side now. If this no rain thing holds for another two weeks or so, I think that the bottomland might finally dry out. No more wiping out in the mud with an armful of hay - imagine it! ;)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Wheel in the Bog Keeps on Turnin'

We lost two more roos this past week. Uhg! And we had house guests at the time who wanted to know, (perhaps interpreting our seasoned acceptance of a farm animals untimely deaths as a something like callousness toward loss?), how often does a critter kick the bucket around here?

Too often.

We're learning as we go, and even though we try our darndest to give our critters the longest, happiest lives possible, shit happens. Like our surprise litter of bunnies, born in January. Had we any idea that Goldie was in fact a boy and had impregnated Cinderella, we could have moved them inside or at least better prepared the hutch for the babies' coming. But we didn't and we couldn't, so we lost them.

And now it's the chickens that we're struggling with. Our last Polish rooster just up and died, as did Queenie the Turken, who turned out to be a roo, but didn't live long enough to receive his name change. :( We're not sure what's happening. We've just started letting them out in the run daily, and we've recently switched them up from crumbles to pellets. Is it too much change too soon? Who knows.

To answer our guests' question, we did a hasty, grim count of our critters that have passed on since we established this little farm in August. I believe we arrived at 29 souls. Sheez! That's more animals than we had altogether when we moved to this place.
Most of that number are chickens, including the evil roos that did not die naturally, but ended up being someone else's dinner. Only one was a goat, and she was stillborn, though she looked tiny but perfect to my biased eye.

All of the passings have been met with sadness, but I think that over time I've become somewhat tempered to the gutting despair of a loss by the recurring guilt and shock of it. You can't have a stay-in-your-pj's-and-cry day every time a chick doesn't make it. The kids don't tend to take it as bad as they used to, but every once in a while a "special" animal dies and they lose it a little. I hope that they are never hardened or take lightly the passing of a life, but I do hope that their little spirits aren't dented by this life too much either.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lucky #13

Gert finally had her baby. Just one, a little girl, at around 11pm last night, Mother's Day. Kinda nutty considering that our bunnies we're born on a friend's birthday, Chardy's baby goats were born on another friend's birthday, Fritzen's on Valentines Day, and now Gert on Mother's Day. Weird!

We're still mulling over names for the baby. Bill likes Lucky, as in Lucky 13, but I'm maybe a little too superstitious to name anything Lucky.

Anyway, mother and baby are both looking good. Gert has been very protective of her little bambina, bleating and lunging at the other Mamas and babies that come to check them out. Very un-Gertie-like, but understandable for all that.

Here are some snaps of the proud new Mama and her sweet little girl -

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gertie the Pregnant Goat

For the past four months, we couldn't tell whether or not Gertie was pregnant. We deduced that she was by her increased appetite and the fact that she didn't come back into an obvious heat, but with the nature of goat bellies being bloaty and round, it was too close to call.

Around four weeks ago, it finally became obvious that Gert was expecting. Her middle is now at least as wide as it is tall, and her udder has magically appeared, chock full. Her little bum-bum area looks fit to burst, but it has for about two weeks now, so we're on pins and needles looking for that for-sure sign that it's "go time".

Jen thought she saw Gert's belly contracting yesterday, but by the time that I got up to the pen, they had stopped. I managed to wrangle her and lay hands on her sides, but I couldn't feel the babies kicking. I'm worried. I really don't want to miss this birth, since it will be Gertie's first, and since I fear (hopefully irrationally) that these kids might be in trouble.

So I slept like crap last night, starting at every little squeak and creak, worried that Gertie was delivering unattended and scared, or that newborns were wandering around the pen wet and cold. Thankfully she has held on through the night. I would very much appreciate it if she delivered these babies in the daylight hours, but I know we're on her schedule now, so I'll come when called, whenever that may be. Hopefully soon!

Pictures are forthcoming. I just got an awesome new camera that I haven't figured out how to download yet. ;\