Growing Along

So we’ve got the garden started!  The hens were in the garden house for about a month and they chewed through all the roots, weeding and feeding as they went. Let me just say working chickens are entirely underrated. After they moved out we let the ground rest (and the chicken poop wash) in two days of rain. Two days after that, the ground was ready for planting and biodynamics indicated it was a good day to plant leaf foods.

We transplanted organic green onions that we bought about three months ago from the grocery store. Green onions are a grass so we kept them in a water/dirt slurry in the bottom half of an Aquafina bottle, mowing them when needed. Green onions are a great addition to most anything we eat so it worked out great. We sprouted the kale and spinach from seed and transplanted on the same day. It took about half an hour for all the work and we made a timelapse video. Timelapse makes everything look easy.

Since then, we’ve planted peas, cucumbers, celery and radish. We also started the peas and cucumbers early and from seed. The celery was an organic vegetable from the grocery store (like the green onions) that we kept in coffee cups and water until the leaves resumed growing. The radishes are just seeds yet and we sowed them directly. Hopefully they’ll pop up soon! We also sowed some more kale and spinach seeds indoors. Although the freeze date has officially passed (yay!) we have may hail dates ahead, and it’s a good idea to keep back-up seedlings so the garden can bounce back after a severe storm.

Also I’d like to share a recent failure. No mother hens have adopted the three chicks. We tried and tried with the hens but each one preferred the freedom of the flock to adoption. Oh well, so it goes. Good news is, the babies are nearing big enough to join the flock! Once they are as big as the smallest two hens then in they go. We’ll be back up to ten hens and an intact rooster. Aiming for that perfect dozen means keep buying more. Maybe Alphonse can help us out in that department. Time will tell! Until next week then, indulge in a little simple heresy.

 

Seed Starting Soon!

We’ve had another unseasonably warm winter. If this keeps up warm will be the norm and cold – a thing of the past. I visited one of my oldest friends recently, and it turns out we are both contemplating moving north to escape the heat. Neither of us knew that the other was even thinking about moving, but great minds think alike…

Until we move though – I’m going to garden here. So that means it’s time to plan and start seeds! Since I’m into the bullet journaling thing – I wrote it all down in there…

garden2017

We use the square foot gardening method. It is intensive so we have to keep the soil nutrient balance carefully managed. It needs composts now, but no manure (at least not yet). The rectangular plot is 16×4 feet. It’s the box on the left hand side of the spread. The adjacent list shows what’s planted in the plot and where.

Starting on the left you can see a to-buy, to-do, seeds to plant, and when to plant list. In the seeds column I wrote (4×4) behind peas and radish because they get their own little plots. Radish greens make the best salads. Last year the radish roots were woody and underdeveloped because the nitrogen level was elevated in the soil. It turned out fine though because the greens were plentiful and delicious.

This year we’re starting the seeds in 100% biodegradable paper cups. We’ll tear off the bottoms and move them directly into the garden, preventing most of the transplant shock.

We’re really excited to see the way this garden grows. Through successes and failures – we’ll keep you posted!

Save

We’re glutton for punishment: Spring Chicks at a Farm Store near you.

This time last year we were contemplating chickens. Now, we’re doing it again. We have nine ladies at this time, and too many eggs for our family.  That we’re contemplating more is a sure sign of chicken fever.

If (and that’s a big if) we get any chicks this year we’ll only get three; a rooster and two hens.  It would be nice to let the flock clutch on their own and sell the pullets throughout the year. We can’t do that without a rooster. Our beloved Lanchester gave his life to protect the ladies. We might be lucky and get a good rooster again! Maybe we could name him Valentine.

chicks
Photo by Elena Blokhina via Shutterstock

We still have the brooder. The tractor is already built (although it needs some improvement), and the winter run is in use. We’ve finished the heavy lifting of chicken-care on the homestead. Three babies would be a nice addition, and after four weeks they wouldn’t be babies any more.

Keeping chickens is stinky work. The kind you can’t really get out of your nose. The kind that comes back whenever you hear the word pullet. Oh, but it is worth it. The glamorous side of raising chicks is the soft sound of peeping, the warmth of the brooder light, the nuzzle of downy feathers, and the smell of fresh woodchips.

We have a v[egg]an in-house now, too. Our 16yo daughter is on the vegan train and her two main sources of protein are lentils and her homegrown chicken eggs. Plus, the mail lady volunteered to take 18 eggs a week. That keeps the pile of eggs down to a manageable mountain. Three more chicks, only two of whom can produce eggs? Seems like a fine idea.

After all, a dozen is a perfect number; especially for chickens.

Pumpkin Processing on Thanksgiving Day

Phew, what a day.  Before the day is over I just wanted to extend a thank-you to you, for following this blog, for your likes, for your comments, for your shares. It’s not an old blog, or a big blog, it’s not shiny, glittery, or sparkly, but it is very real. Thank-you, for keeping it real with me.

Although I’m tired, in many ways this Thanksgiving was less stressful than previous years. We didn’t go anywhere, nor did we host a gigantic feast. Instead we stayed home, worked, and ate as needed. Ha, sounds like a prescription for happiness doesn’t it!? That minimalist thing, in respect to saying no to self-imposed appointments is really nice. We may have found a new two-part Thanksgiving tradition! Step 1 – Stay Home. Step 2 – Be Happy!

Being *almost* out-of-words tired, here are five captioned pictures that summarize the work and joy of today, here, in our neck of the woods. 🙂

Step 1: Peel the pumpkin.
Step 1: Peel the pumpkin.
Step 2: Gut the pumpkin, reserving seeds for roasting, or planting, or the chickens, or the compost... but don't just throw them away!
Step 2: Gut the pumpkin, reserving seeds for roasting, or planting, or the chickens, or the compost… but don’t just throw them away!
Step 3: Bake pumpkin at 300F for 10 minutes, then cut into chunks.
Step 3: Bake hollowed pumpkin at 300 degrees F for 10 minutes, then cut into chunks.
Step 4: Shred pumpkin with food processor. I am so thankful for this handy-dandy, most amazing, kitchen appliance from my late father-in-law. It saved me umpteen hours today.
Step 4: Feed pumpkin to food processor with shredder attachment. Every time I say ‘shredder’ I have a TMNT flashback. Who’s with me? It can’t be just me! Anywho – I am so thankful for this handy-dandy, most amazing, kitchen appliance from my late father-in-law. This food processor saved me umpteen hours today. After shredding, transfer pumpkin in freezable containers. We went with 2cup and 4cup ziplocks because they take up less space in the freezer than tupperware containers.
Step 5: Eat pumpkin casserole and roasted broccoli-beets will vegging out on the couch with exhausted family. :)
Step 5: Eat pumpkin casserole and roasted broccoli-beets while vegging out on the couch with exhausted family. 🙂

Four of these b&w pictures are on instagram, in brilliant color, in their own little one post layout. If you wanted to check them out, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit. 🙂

Until next time,

❅ Happy Holidays ❅

A Chicken Heater + Pumpkins = Eggs

Now that we are getting blissfully cool nights the chickens need a heater. After much research and deliberation S decided on a simple design.

img_20161110_135910

Of course this design would work with an unbroken cinder block, too, haha, but seriously, we are thinking about chiseling the remainder off to maximize the interior coop space. S built and installed the heater two nights ago and the ladies seem pleased!

img_20161110_142827   img_20161110_142659   img_20161110_142931We got extra eggs the following morning, one from each of the hens! Although – full disclosure – production may have peaked because they ate a pumpkin. 🙂

img_20161110_145527

Our pumpkin patch has proliferated and we have over a dozen on the vine. We foresee continual harvest until the first frost, which may happen any day now, or not until February. Thanks climate change, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal. My mother-in-law grew up in Pennsylvania and every year she spoke fondly of frost on pumpkins. I was pretty confused about why that would be exciting until she shared her pumpkin cookie and cream cheese frosting recipe. Yum. But we’ll save that for another day. Until then, soak up some fall sunshine and smile at the bounty of your life. 🙂

Save

Last Fruits of The Garden (maybe?)

Check out this pepper. It came from the garden.

pepper

This is a Poblano-Ancho Pepper. They are green, only a little spicy, and very good for cooking. Ch and Z devoured this four-and-a-half-incher before I had the chance to cook it as it was the only one of this species we got this year. They agreed that the pepper was delicious and I managed to save some seeds. Hopefully we will have better luck next year, and we will not have to spend too much time hiding from hail and tornadoes. Oh come on, a girl can hope!

Side quest time. Let’s discuss the current weather conditions that confuse my decision-making.

October weather is a fickle thing, more fickle than weather usually is in this neck of the woods. We are under the spell of a cool front at the moment so we are experiencing historically normal temperatures (yes normal temperatures) with a high of 68F (20C) degrees. However, we will pop back up to 80F (26.6C) this weekend! The houseplants are all sending out new spring shoots, and the trees are both budding, and shedding leaves. Depending on how warm our “warmer than usual” winter is, we might be able keep the tomato and pepper plants growing over-winter. Can you believe it!? My farmer roots are showing…

Where were we?

At any rate, we hope to construct a little greenhouse. In a hail free environment we would use UV panels and some aluminum framing, but here in Hail-and-Tornadoville, we have to devise another plan. At this juncture we think 4ml contractor plastic over a wooden frame will do the trick. After some research we learned that UV panels last about 3.5 to 4 years in our area, unless there is hail damage, then they last until the first (or maybe second) storm. Contractor plastic lasts about the same amount of time for only a fraction of the price! So now we have to decide what kind of frame we want, shed-shaped? a-frame? sloped?

Once we have a better idea of what we want to do I will post some plans, of the napkin scribble variety, and we’ll see how it goes.

First Egg!

Got the first egg from the flock yesterday!

egg

It is a little pullet egg photographed in a glass beer mug. Let the laying begin!

In other news, we lost a chicken day before yesterday. Our skinniest ballerina, wisp of a hen, Meeps, slipped out, underneath the chicken wire. She vanished, leaving only some fluff feathers behind. There were a number of feathers in the yard though, from more than one bird. Either they are collectively lining the yard and coop, or, she may not have left of her own free will. We will never know. So it goes when keeping the ultimate prey animals. Now, we are down to eight.