Monday, June 8, 2015

Today's Take - 6/8/2015

Three out of four of our broody mama ducks finally hatched out their babies this week! Blueberry & Drusilla each had five babies, Kiki hatched out three. Now hopefully they'll get back to laying some of their wonderful eggs for us.

The garden is finally starting to feed us. ;) Peas, lettuce, herbs and raspberries are starting to roll in and we're really enjoying the homegrown salads every night.

For the record -
Chicken eggs - 10
Snow peas - 8 oz
Buttercrunch lettuce - 1 head

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

BHF ~ Photo of the Day 5/20/15

Clarke's Beltony Blue Shelling Pea blossom
I was getting pretty impatient to finally see a blossom on our peas and today was the day - times three! This is the Clarke's Beltony Blue in flower. We also had a pair of blooms on our He Lan Dou snow peas. Today was a good day in the garden!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Garden Update - Mid-May

We finally finished planting in the garden today. Whew!

Some of the earliest stuff we put in is getting big and beautiful, but so far, we haven't harvested anything yet with the exception of a few pounds of rhubarb. Our pea and onion plot is looking lovely, but the pea plants, for all their vigor, have yet to set a single flower. It seems to me like we should have had our first peas by now.

Clarke's Beltony Blue Shelling peas and Yellow Rock onions
The Watermelon radishes were also a disappointment. They started to bolt before they ever even began to form a bulb! I pulled a few and found that they were all scraggly and sad looking, so I pulled the lot. We have another succession planting of them already about 2 weeks in, so we'll let those grow and see if they come out right, and if not, I guess the bunnies will have a second feast. At least they get to enjoy them!

The carrots are starting to worry me too. No signs of life from that bed yet. :( I'll be hugely bummed if our carrots don't work out, since they are one of the veggies that we go through tons of year-round.

The potatoes finally seem to have gotten a foothold. The Purple Majesty are clearly the front-runners, with Rose Finn Apple and Yukon Gold well behind, in terms of foliage. Weird, since the Purple Majesty's are a mid-season variety, but whatever - progress is progress - I'll take it.

Seeded/Planted out today -
*Cucumbers - Addis Pickle
*Pumpkins/Squash - Small Sugar, Oregon Sweet Meat
*Corn - Dakota Black (popcorn)
*Beans - Robert's Royalty (bush)
*Sunflowers - Giant Greystripe, Honey Bear
*Peppers - Pimento
*Melons - Minnesota Midget Melons (cantaloupe)
*Ground Cherries - Aunt Molly's
*Flowers/Herbs/Botanicals - Hungarian Blue Breadseed poppies, Resina Calendula, Hyssop, Bachelor Buttons, Bouquet Dill

I had planned on putting in a bed of just cutting flowers, but food plants come first, so they didn't end up fitting in. I think we're going to try to find some room somewhere to shimmy in some borage though, since the bees go absolutely nuts for it. Besides that, I daresay we're about done planting stuff, with the exception of a few succession plantings (cilantro and radishes).

Done with the seeding! Now begins the watering/weeding/cursing-at-hungry-bugs phase of the garden. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day Weekend in the Garden - Sunday

After a good, late wake-up and a lovely Mother's Day breakfast prepared by my youngest kiddo, Bill and I managed to get back out to the garden today to chip away at the nightmare that is reed canary grass, and weed and put in another bed's worth of plants.

What we accomplished today -

*Weeded and re-seeded empty spots in the beet and radish plots
*Thinned out and cleaned up the rhubarb
*Planted out 18 Bodegold chamomile cells (started indoors back in March), one 4" Flora Plena chamomile, one 4" spearmint, and about a half a packet of Resina Calendula seeds.
*Sowed about 1/4 of a packet of Bear Necessities kale in the greens bed, amongst the volunteer Russian Red kale babies from last year.

Ok - writing that down makes it seem like I/we didn't get much done. I tell you though, trying to rid the raised beds of the canary grass roots and rhizomes is a battle without end. If the goats didn't enjoy eating that grass (and it didn't make such nice free hay), I'd hate the stuff altogether.

Regardless of how much I managed to get done -or not- in the garden today, it was a nice way to have spent my special day with some of my most favorite people and critters. And eventually, maybe, I'll get some tea and salad out of the bargain as well. :)

Penny, aka Princess Pickle-butt, sampling some of our pasture.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mother's Day Weekend in the Garden - Saturday

We had a very productive day in the garden today, planting out a few starts that we got from Spring Creek Nursery, as well as some of our seed stash. Started today -

*Cabbage - Copenhagen Market, Mammoth Red Rock
*Lettuces - Red Leaf (romaine type), Buttercrunch (bibb type)
*Cilantro - Standby (the fist of several sowings)
*Basil - Thai, Genovese, Sweet
*Thyme - Lemon, standard
*Tomatoes - Sungold, Roma, Black Prince
*Peppers - Anaheim, Purple Jalapeno

If I'm not too achy tomorrow from today's exertions, I plan on planting out my German chamomile, hyssop, spearmint, calendula, breadseed poppies, borage and assorted cutting flowers. We have only just passed our average last frost date, but I'm feeling pretty under the gun about getting everything in and started ASAP.

I really need to get the corn, beans and squash in the ground as soon as can be managed as well, but I feel less guilty about putting them off by a few days in favor of crops that are either less heat tolerant (and more cold/cool/generally-crappy-weather friendly) and those that have a longer growing season (90 days and up). I suspect that we will have an Indian Summer this year, but if living and gardening in Western Washington for 40 years has taught me anything, it's that the weather and seasons defy logic and predictability the vast majority of the time.

There isn't much to do except wait and see, and so I will. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Recipe: Duck Egg Noodles

These simple and delicious, homemade egg noodles, made using our Muscovy and Black Swedish duck eggs, were a hit with the whole family! I added 1/4 cup of blanched, finely chopped stinging nettles to this batch as well, as I had them on hand. You can take or leave the addition, or substitute your family's favorite fresh herbs, kale, citrus zest or a bit of beet or pumpkin puree to mix things up a bit. 

Fresh duck egg and stinging nettle noodles

An eggy windfall - where it all begins!

Duck Egg Noodles

-3 cups all purpose flour (plus extra for rolling out)
-2 whole eggs
-4 egg yolks
-2 tsps salt
-2-3 tbsps water, more or less*
-1/4 cup blanched, well drained, chopped stinging nettles (or chopped herbs, kale, etc.) *optional*

Start with your flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle for your eggs & yolks. Gently scramble the eggs with a fork, slowly beginning to incorporate the flour/salt mixture. Once the eggs and dry ingredients are well mixed, begin adding water in small increments, kneading and squeezing the dough together after each addition. Continue adding water as needed to the dough to reach your desired consistency. Now it's time to fold in the nettles. Knead them into the dough well, until the are mixed evenly throughout. Allow the dough to rest for at least 10 or 15 minutes before rolling out. I run my dough through the pasta roller attachment on my Kitchenaid mixer, rather than rolling the dough out by hand.** 

After rolling out into sheets, I let the dough rest/dry again for at least 10 minutes or so before cutting into individual noodles.

I most often use the fettuccine attachment to make the final cuts, but rolling and cutting by hand with the kiddos is just as good a method (if a slightly messier one) for getting 'er done. 

I freeze any pasta that I don't use immediately by laying the finished (uncooked) noodles in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and popping them in the freezer until thoroughly frozen, then transferring them to gallon freezer bags for storage. If you skip the cookie sheet step, and put them straight into the bag, you may end up with a giant noodle octopus rather than nice, individual noodles. ;)  I've had mixed success with drying them, but you're welcome to give that a go if your freezer space is at a premium.

*Because duck egg whites are significantly more viscous than chicken egg whites. You will likely need more water (or other optional liquid/puree, if using) than the 2-3 tbsps called for here.

**If you'll be using a similar pasta making attachment, I recommend starting at thickness setting #1, and running the dough through again on setting #3, and lastly, #5. Eggs noodles are meant to me a little beefy and chewy, so thinning them out further is just not necessary, and makes a lot more work, in my humble opinion. ;)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Playing Catch-up

Birthday season, for the most part, has come and gone, allowing us to focus a slightly larger portion of our time and money on gettin' 'er done around the house and farm. A few developments since I've last posted -

I think she thinks she's invisible.

*Blueberry, a Muscovy hen, has made the executive decision to go bat-crap broody, and sit on a fairly-well hidden clutch of eggs. She's rarely off the nest, but based on the few quick glances that I've had of the clutch, I'd say she's got at least 15 or 20 eggs in there. If you happen to be one of our egg customers, this may help explain why the duck eggs have been fewer and farther between these past few weeks. But...

*We have another half-dozen layers just around the corner! The Khaki Campbell girls are now almost 8 weeks old, and have been integrated into the main flock. They seem to have unanimously chosen Kiki, our black Swedish hen, as their mama. "Keeks" seems mostly indifferent to her new brood, but to her credit, does not seem to mind overly much that they follow her every move. Kiki's fella, Tombo, thought he hit the jackpot when his harem grew by six laydies overnight. Alas, he was too... er... vigorous in his attentions and traumatized the heck out of the Khaki girls. And so, Tommy-boy is living in the ducky bachelor pad chicken tractor for now, where he can see, hear and chat with his gals, but not have direct "encounters" with them. He'll stay there until - a) the Khakis are fully mature, b) he learns how to be a gentleman, or c) we re-home him. We'll play it by ear.

Kiki and her little 'uns.

*Our eleven 8-week old chicks have also transitioned into living with the main flock. So far, so good.

*We've been averaging about 10 chicken eggs, and 1 or 2 duck eggs per day from the laydies.

*I planted a whole bed of carrots this past weekend. Half are Cosmic Purples and half are Red-cored Chantenay. I also started a second plot of Watermelon Radishes.

*The new beehives are doing pretty well. The Langstroth hive started to build a bit of cross-comb, which Billy cleaned up, but other than that, everybody appears to be settling in nicely.

*We're gearing up to make our first batch of soap of the season - Dandelion & Honey, provided that the bees don't begrudge us a little of the sweet stuff. The next batch on deck is Sugar Pumpkin & Spice, with homegrown pumpkin. :)

*We've had some fun and different bird sightings over the past few weeks - male and female Rufous Hummingbirds, California Quail, and a very vocal Raven.

And that's about it, I think. I need to get crackin' in the garden this coming weekend - cilantro, spearmint and kale are on deck fo' sho', with chamomile, thyme, calendula, breadseed poppies and borage to follow soon after.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Today's Take - 4/12/2015

For the record -
Duck eggs - 4
Chicken eggs - 9 (10 if you count the one that was eaten/smashed by the hens)

In the garden -
Weeded the peas/onions/radish bed, and plugged in a few more onions in the empty spots where onions failed to come up. Planted half a bed of Lutz Tall Top Beets. The carrots, kale and rat-tail radishes are hopefully going in sometime this week.

The seeds started under the grow lights are doing well. They're finally starting to all get their first set of true leaves.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Today's Take - 4/8/15

For the record -
Duck eggs - 1
Chicken eggs - 6

In the garden -
Planted the 2nd batch of potatoes today. I used "Smart Pots", similar to Root Pouches, but quite a bit thicker. The other difference from batch #1 is that I used fairly fresh rabbit poo as the fertilizer this time, rather than the kitchen scraps/goat poo/chicken poo compost mix that I used before.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Today's Take - 4/4/2015

The chickens and ducks have both been doing a nice job laying as of late. Despite one duck and several hens going broody on us, practically overnight, we've been managing to average a dozen or better eggs per day between the clucks & quacks.

We also just harvested our first garden produce of the year, some humongous stalks of Victoria rhubarb. I wish that I had some of last summer's blueberries still in the freezer, because a "bluebarb" cobbler sounds fantastic right about now. Ah well, the 'barb is in the freezer now, waiting on berry season. :)

For the record -
Chicken eggs - 13
Duck eggs - 2
Rhubarb - 1 1/2 pounds

In the Garden -
Planted 3-25 gallon root pouches with a little more than half of our seed potatoes. We're growing Yukon Gold, Purple Majesty and Rose Finn Apple. I put about 3" of our homegrown compost in the bottom of each container, followed by another 3-4" of Gardener & Bloom "raised bed" soil, with a handful of kelp meal mixed in, then the seed pa-tay-ters, followed by another 3" (more or less) of very loose G&B soil. The Purple Majesties already had good 2-3" sprouts on each of the tubers, so I'm hoping to see some foliage from them first.

I'm planting the remaining half of the seed potatoes (again, in root pouches) next to our back balcony. Come harvest time, we'll see which batch performed the best.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Today's Take - 3/29/2015

Just a quickie, since I'm crazy whooped tonight.

For the record:

Duck Eggs - 4
Chicken Eggs - 11 (5 more and we'll be running at full capacity! Yay!)

In the garden:

Planted another 20 Yellow Rock onion sets in the same bed as the first lot, since the first planting have come up a bit spottily.

Bill planted a bed full of strawberries, a mixture of Benton, Quinault and TriStar, I believe. Some of them were already beginning to bloom.

Scatter-sewed a mixture of lettuce seeds over about 6 feet of bed space. The varieties in the mix are - Merveille de Quatre Saisons, Buttercrunch, Red Romaine, Cimmaron and Rouge d'Hiver. I treat them all as cut-and-come-again, so we should have a very interesting, hopefully long-lasting bunch of salad greens this Spring & Summer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

2 Days' Take - 3/24 & 3/25/2015

The rain has been very limiting in terms of getting to play and work outside. I think I'm ready for May to be here, like, now.

Since the weather has me somewhat house-bound, I've tried to put that time to good use reading a whole mess of farming, gardening and homesteading books, including -

*The Complete Book of Potatoes
*Organic Gardener's Composting
*Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades
*Success with Organic Vegetables
*Top Bar Beekeeping
*Super Formulas - How to make more than 360 useful products that contain honey and beeswax
*The Candlemaker's Companion

I really look forward to making my next batch of soap, even if it won't be a goat milk soap this time. I'm planning on trying out a recipe for a Pumpkin & Spice bar using the last bit of pumpkin puree that we have in the freezer from last Fall's sugar pie pumpkins. Hopefully we'll be able to incorporate a little of our honey and/or beeswax into that batch as well. That is, if we're able to rob the hives anytime soon. But first, this stinkin' rain would have to let up!

For the record -
Duck Eggs - 5
Chicken Eggs - 14

Monday, March 23, 2015

2 Days' Take - 3/22 & 3/23/2015

Nothing too much happening here - rain, rain and more rain. Bleh.

In spite of the dreary weather, Scarlet and I went nettle picking on Sunday. I didn't think to weigh my take before blanching them, but it amounted to about 1/3 of a paper grocery bag full. Not too bad for an hour's walk in the woods!

Beyond the nettles. nothing but eggs. I'm hoping we'll have a good amount of them collected and ready for sale by next weekend in advance of Easter. Speaking of which, the girls and I will have to try using one of our big ol' duck eggs for making pysanky this year. :)

For the record -

Duck Eggs - 8
Chicken Eggs - 12
Stinging Nettles - 12 (+/-) loosely packed cups' worth (before blanching)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Today's Take - 3/21/2015

It was a fairly productive day today - 14 eggs collected and the two mean Muscovy drakes harvested and in the freezer. Tomorrow, I hope to get out for a bit and pick some nettles while the gettin' is still good.

We're also going to attempt to integrate our "tractor girls" into the main flock of chickens tomorrow. Here's hoping that the pecking order shake-up doesn't get too hairy before everyone settles in.

I may divide raspberry canes and  put more radishes in tomorrow, if the weather and the limits of my energy permit. It's 50/50 at this point... ;)

For the record -
Duck Eggs - 5
Chicken Eggs - 9
Ducks, butchered - 2 (dressed out weight was 5 pounds +/- each)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Today's Take - 3/20/15

Happy first day of Spring!

The Farm Stand will be open tomorrow from 10ish-7ish, and we'll have nuttin' but eggs this time around, as nothing in the garden is happening yet.

As for the eggs - boy can it vary from day to day. Two of the Muscovy hens seem to have gone broody on me already, and are doing their level best to stash their eggs in increasingly harder to find nests. Today they stumped me, and so we ended up with only two duck eggs from the two gals sensible enough to lay them in the duck house - Kiki, the Black Swedish, and Cocoa Bean, a Muscovy. Merci, mesdames. Now - if you could show your sisters how to nest in a nice, easy to find spot, that'd be great.

Whilst hunting high and low for duck eggs that weren't ever to be found, I noticed that the maple trees have begun to flower. Now if the dang rain would let up a bit, our bees could get out there and go ape on those blossoms. Maple blossom honey sounds divine!

For the record -
Duck Eggs - 2
Chicken Eggs - 7

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Today's Take - 3/19/15

Just a quickie - two birthdays, a band concert and helping my teenager get ready for her Sadie Hawkins dance have handed my butt to me this week. Blehhh.

The good news is that Spring begins tomorrow!

For the record -
Duck Eggs - 4
Chicken Eggs - 5

In the garden -
More peas popped up overnight, and the first onion green has come up. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Today's Take - 3/18/15

Whoopsie - birthday mania sort of got in the way of my posting for the past few days. But we're done with that until next month, when the birthday crazy train comes back around. In the mean time, I'll try to hold up my end and faithfully record the Hollow's happenings. :)

The plan I had for putting my slacking Ameracauna hen in the chicken tractor? That didn't happen. Instead, we put the 8 new laying hens that we just bought into the tractor and set them to work tearing up weeds for us. I think the results speak for themselves -

Day 3 - the tractor has been moved twice.

Not too shabby, eh? In addition to the yard work, they've laid us half a dozen eggs so far as well. Pretty good considering that they just went through a pretty dramatic life change.

On the same day that we got the new layers, we also got a mated pair of ducks from the same farm. The drake, "Tombo" is a beautiful I-have-no-idea-what-breed, but, in the way that good looking fellas so often are, seems to be a bit of a jerk. Whereas his lady love, "Kiki" a Black Swedish, is sweet as can be and a faithful layer of huge, pale blueish-grey eggs.

Between Kiki and the 'scovy girls suddenly deciding to lay, we've abruptly gone from no duck eggs at all to 4 per day. And in August/September, our 6 Khaki Campbell ducklings should begin laying as well. That's the thing about farming - you can go from feast to famine and back again just like that - which is why we don't take a second of it for granted.

For the record -
*Duck eggs - 5 (must have missed one yesterday!)
*Chicken eggs - 6

In the garden -
*Bill weeded 8 beds
*I planted 4 short rows of Watermelon radishes, with the plan to start 4 more in a week's time
*The peas we planted about three(?) weeks ago are finally starting to poke their heads up!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Today's Take - 3/15/15

It was a rainy, blustery day today, very fitting for the Ides of March. I really hope that the weather settles down soon, so that we can re-open the farm stand, as the eggs are piling up quickly, with even more layers coming on board starting tomorrow. :)

We're picking up 8 new-to-us laying hens and 2 ducks from a fellow farmer who recently sold her farm. That means that we will potentially be getting a total of 16 chicken eggs and 4 duck eggs per day very shortly. Exciting!

The timing is perfect, since the South South Direct Sales Farm Map just came out, and this year, we're listed. With our little farm stand now literally on the map, we're looking forward to getting more traffic, meeting new neighbors and selling them some of our fantastic eggs.

For the record -
Chicken Eggs - 6
Duck Eggs - 2

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Today's Take - 3/14/15

I was beginning to wonder if our Muscovy girls were ever going to give us an egg, when viola!, Bill found a small nest of three eggs in a pile of loose orchard grass hay in the goats' milking shed. The milking shed has been the place that the Muscovies have been hanging out whenever they manage to break out of the duck yard, which is a very regular occurrence. I should have known they were up to something!
Shortly after finding the first three, we found another egg in the duck house. Yeehaw!

The goods!

We're going to try these tomorrow, as none of us has ever tasted a duck egg before. I've been told that frying them is slightly trickier than a chicken's egg, as they can get overcooked and rubbery pretty easily. I think I'll scramble them this first time around. I don't want to take a chance on cooking them wrong and souring us all on eating duck eggs the first time out of the gate.

For the record -
Duck eggs (woohoo!) - 4
Chicken eggs - 6

Today's Take - 3/13/15

Nothing much (again) today, just three eggs, all of them brown. Hmm.... someone... or rather, 5 someones... are slacking!

I know that one of my slackers is Bedelia, a 2-year old Americauna hen. Even on a good day, when I get a blue egg in the nestbox, I can always attribute it to our only other Americauna, Snow White, who I see in the nest box each and every morning. I haven't seen Bedelia in the box a single time yet this season. I suspect that she is laying, but not where she's supposed to. I have a plan to test this theory, starting tomorrow, bright and early. Bwahaha!

Bedelia, our suspected shirker.

Snow White, reliable provider of beautiful blue eggs

Here's what I'm thinking - I have a flower bed that I need turned over, ASAP. I also have a brand-spankin'-new used chicken tractor that just so happens to be a near-perfect fit for my weedy bed. So, Bedelia and a brown egg laying pal (or two) will spend the day working the flower bed for me, during which time they will also hopefully lay a few eggs. If I end up with a blue one at the end of the day, it'll confirm my suspicion that Miss B is actively laying, just nowhere that I can find them. Exactly what I'll do with that information, well, I haven't got that far yet. ;)

Anyway, today was a three egg day. Hopefully tomorrow, the laydies will step up their game and give us a half dozen or more. A chicken lady can dream.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Today's Take - 3/12/15

Not so much in the way of taking today, rather, Scarlet and I did a little putting.

Carly-girl helped me plant out 3 1/2 dozen or so Yellow Rock onion sets. Hedging our bets just a little, we kept back about half a bag of the sets to put in in a week or two, weather depending. They already went in a good 4-5 weeks late, what's another one or two? The worst case scenario for having planted them late is that we end up with a lifetime supply of onion greens instead of bulbs. Doesn't sound too bad, all things considered.

The stinging nettles are almost tall enough to start nipping, and the Muscovy hens should (hopefully, maybe) start laying any day now. We'll have a really interesting quiche in our near future if the stars align and both greens and eggs arrive at the same time.

The chickens have been pulling their weight well, giving us 5+ eggs per day as of late, possibly on account of a) daylight savings time ending, and or b) the heat lamp running 24/7 in the brooder. In the case of the brooder light, I'll be glad that it's helping out the hens, because it sure isn't helping out the rooster. Darth Vader was crowing every 90 seconds like clockwork at 1:30 am, the night before last, on account of the time change and the extra light throwing him for a major loop. My neighbors are endlessly patient with us and our yappy critters, but I still feel awfully bad about it.

Our not-so-grand totals for today -
Eggs - 4

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

10 Days 'til Spring!

It has been a very strange Winter this year.

Not enough snow has fallen in the mountains to bank up an adequate snowpack to keep the rivers flowing happily come Summer, which theoretically means that a drought is on it's way.

I know that drought is nothing to joke about, but looking at the mud pit that is my bottomland right now... a bit of drought has it's appeal.

At the moment, it's cool but not cold, and wet-but-not-sopping outside - a pretty average day for the second week of March. The thing that keeps throwing a wrench in the works is that it has been still been dipping into the freezing temps overnight.

During the day, I get a wicked case of Spring Fever and want to fiddle in my yard and garden and plant everything in sight. Come nightfall and the steep temperature dip, I find that I'm glad that I didn't.

So far we have only planted out a half bed of peas for fear that the frost will pop back up and clobber them. I have some yellow onion sets that really should have gone in last month, but I'm still apprehensive about putting them out even now, for fear that they will freeze or be gobbled by mice before they have a chance to get themselves established. Oy.

Thankfully, I do have an outlet for my plant-fever in my grow table. We have an unheated back room with a big ol' South-facing sliding glass door that is a near-perfect location for a germination station. This year, I'm really reining myself in by only jump-starting the seeds that truly need the lead time afforded by the seedling heat mats and the grow lights. That means that I only have 4 types of seed started - Ground Cherries, Hyssop, Pimento Peppers and German Chamomile. I have direct-sewn the chamomile in the past with success, the seeds are just so small and light that they make themselves rather hard to distribute evenly, and end up growing in great clumps with large gaps between. This is my attempt at a work around for that little wrinkle.

The seeds were started 4 days ago, and when I checked them this morning, lo and behold, signs of life!

My tea-to-be! 
The Hyssop have also started popping up, and a lone Ground Cherry has sprouted. Nothing from the Pimentos yet.

Our French fry futures :)
Perhaps pushing my luck, I laid my seed potatoes out to sprout today. This year we're growing 3 types of spuds - a short-season variety (Yukon Gold) a mid-season (Purple Majesty) and a late-season variety (Rose Finn Apple fingerlings). If they manage to put on some nice sprouts in the next week or two, I'll next have to chit them and let them cure for a day before biting the bullet and planting the whole lot of them out. 

Pretty please, make up your mind, weather! Farmer Chelle is itching to play in the dirt!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Taking the Good with the Bad: Late Winter on the Farm

Saturday was the first rain-free day we've had in a while here. It seems like it has been windstorms and Pineapple Express-born heavy rains in our little neck of the woods all Fall and Winter. No severe cold this year and no snow to speak of, just endless wet.

It puts a strain on us, our garden and our critters. Trying to keep bedding clean and dry is a battle without end. Making sure that our beehives are draft-free and cozy for our little honeys is something we fret over, especially when the winds pick up.

So it seemed like a good omen - actually, a bit of a surprise - when Bill went up the hill to take a look-see at our three hives. The temperatures are still just a tad low to actually open the hives up and check things thoroughly, but observing your girls' activities can still tell you a lot about the health of the hive. Bill saw comings and goings at all three hives, a promising sign of life. Better yet, he saw bees coming in with pollen on two of the three hives, which is indicative of a happy hive, as pollen is what is fed to the "brood", infant bees.

We were pretty dumbfounded to have all three hives seemingly healthy and active, especially after one of them had the roof blown clean off their hive during one of the larger windstorms we've had this season.

Alas, if the bees' good disposition was our Yin, the sadness that awaited us in Goatlandia was the Yang.

After greeting and giving good head scratches to my goat gang, I went in search of Blue, who usually heads up the treat shakedown/scratch-fest. I found her in the goat house, looking very much like she was asleep. Our strong, sweet, sassy, irrepressibly-maternal little girl Blue, left us on an unseasonably sunny Valentines Day.

Blue was 14 years old, though we'd only had her for her last 4 years. She came to us with her little tiny buckling, Blackjack. He would be the last baby for our Bluey, and as though she knew that she'd reached the end of her new-mothering journey, she coddled and protected that little stinker to the point of spoiling him rotten. She was small but fierce.

Blue & her little man, Blackjack, chowing down.

In the years following, Blue became Auntie Blue, the maiden aunt/foster mom to many of our kids. If a doe had quads and couldn't keep up - the kids nursed Blue. If a Mama rejected/neglected a baby, Blue took them in. Even when her infant charges were nearly taller than she herself was, she nursed them when she could, fought for them to get their fair share at the feeder, napped with them in pools of warm Spring sunlight and slept close to them in the goathouse at night.

Bluey, in all her chunky glory :)
Waiting (uncharacteristically!) patiently for head scratches from her Papa

It hurts - literally hurts - to think that I'll never hear her insistent, distinctly unladylike "EH-EH-EH-EH-EHHH!" and see her rotund little form come trotting around the corner of the goathouse, in hot pursuit of snacks and head scratches. Her sassy little spark has gone, and I miss her.

So long, sweet girl.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Frog Song

The frogs in our bog started singing two nights ago. The first night, it was a dozen or so loud individuals. Last night, the full chorus joined in. We're talking thousands, maybe tens of thousands of frogs, all going bananas simultaneously. It can be deafening if you're out in the yard when they start it up, but from inside it's a kind of pleasant white noise.

Updated 2/5/15 - now with audio disguised as video!

I decided to note when the froggies started singing their song this year, to eventually, maybe, try to determine whether or not there is any correlation between last frost dates, average daily temperature, etc.,  and when the frisky frogs fire up their pipes. ;)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Spring Seeds

Look at what the mailman brought me today!

These are the first of several shipments of seeds that I'm expecting, from no less than four different companies. The trouble with having strong preferences for particular varieties is that it seems that no one seed company carries them all. Add to that that I wanted to grow a few new-to-me varieties recommended by my local Slow Food chapter and you have... a very piecemeal seed shopping experience. ;)

This is my first order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I'm particularly excited to try growing the Rat's Tail Radish since having tasted them at a few different local foods dinners. They look like a green bean, but taste like a mild radish. Neato! I'm looking forward to using them in a few pickling recipes this Summer.

As for the rest of our chosen varieties, so far we have planned -
*Radishes - Rat's Tail, Purple Plum and Watermelon
*Poppies - Hungarian Blue Breadseed
*Ground Cherries - Aunt Molly's
*Carrots - Atomic Purple, Red Cored Chantenay, Little Fingers
*Sunflowers - Giant Greystripe, Honey Bear
*Peas - He Lan Dou snow peas, Clarke's Beltony Blue-podded shelling peas
*Parsnips - Turga (a short-rooted variety)
*Peppers - Pimento (sweet)
*Pumpkins/Winter Squash - Small Sugar, Oregon Sweet Meat
*Beans - Robert's Royalty Purple Snap (bush-type)
*Corn - Dakota Black Popcorn
*Cucumbers - Addis Pickling
*Greens - Bear Necessities Kale
*Beets - Lutz Tall-Top
*Cilantro - Standby (slow-bolt)
*Chamomile - Bodegold (German-type)
*Calendula - Resina
*Pollinator-friendly and Cutting Flowers - Anise Hyssop, Gloriosa Daisy, Rocket Larkspur, Love in a Mist

We still want/plan/need to lay hands on the following seeds/starts - potatoes, tomatoes, hot peppers, lavender, elderberries, a short-season melon or two, basil, more salad greens, more cutting flowers, Phacelia (for the bees!), maybe wasabi and a few others that I'm probably forgetting.

We intend to really make a real go of our little farmstand this year. Let's hope that the weather and our backs hold up to our ambition!