Tag Archive | garden

Garden Surprise

I’ve managed to surprise myself with the success of my garden this year. I don’t have a very good track record as a gardener, overall. I think there are several reasons for this. I didn’t grow up in a family that gardened, so I never learned the process when I was young. My first introduction to gardening was my father-in-law Francis, who makes every piece of gardening look easy because he’s so skilled. It didn’t exactly give me a realistic first impression! As a result, when Avery and I set up our first garden, we were a bit overly ambitious. The final nail in my gardening coffin is that unlike Francis, for whom gardening is a combination of recreation and meditation, gardening is definitely a chore for me. I absolutely love having my own fresh produce, but the process of maintaining the garden itself is something that I do because I want the end result, not because I enjoy going through the motions.

The long and the short of it is that the past two seasons have really been quite poor in the gardening department. This year, for whatever reason, we’re finally having some actual success! We’ve grown enough pickling cucumbers for several batches of pickles, we’ve had enough extra peppers to freeze for winter stir-fry, and extra zucchini which mostly goes to the chickens and pigs. Despite growing my favorite Tante Alice slicing cucumbers from leftover seed I feared was too old to germinate, they’ve been wildly successful as well, giving us plenty for fresh eating and for sharing. My early volunteer pumpkins from last year’s poor abandoned pumpkin patch are actually producing fairly heavily. It really makes last week’s Lughnasadh feel like the beginning of autumn after all!

Even the setbacks – and there have been plenty, certainly – have not gotten out of control as in years past. We did lose a lot of zucchini plants and one early pumpkin plant to squash borers, but luckily have been able to get good production just by having so many plants in the first place. Our deer problem calmed down a bit after initiating the dryer sheets/scented soap approach, and the pumpkins/winter squash are finally gaining ground. Hopefully they will bounce back enough to get us a good yield come October or so. I’ve planted a mix of decorative and culinary squash, so hopefully at least the decorative ones will make an appearance in time for Samhain!

Heartened by my lack of complete failure, I’m doing my best to keep on top of things and even think ahead for next year. I’ve got a small mobile chicken ark with four hens in it that I’m moving into the beds from the zucchini that succumbed to squash borers. I’ve seen it suggested on some forums that the chickens will scratch up and eat the pupae in the soil, decreasing the egg-laying adult population next spring. Of course I’m not sure how well this will work, but either way they will work the straw mulch into the soil and provide plenty of fertilizer, so I really have nothing to lose by trying. I’ve already started putting rabbit manure into the bed I plan to use for my fall garlic. I can’t wait to see what it will do for my crop!

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Livestock season is here!

Beltane is just behind us, and while we have no cattle to drive to summer pastures, livestock season is definitely here! Our chicks hatched last Friday, seemingly in honor of the holiday, and are enjoying learning their way around the world. We had two hens setting, and when the babies hatched they didn’t bother to keep them separate. As a result, rather than two hens with broods of 7-8 chicks each, we simply have 15 chicks with two mommies. Predictably, no one in the barnyard thinks twice about this arrangement. Everyone is happy as can be! Both moms are busy shepherding the babies around and teaching them how to eat, drink, and generally be chickens.

IMG_4144Mama #1 is a Welsummer, and Mama #2 is a Speckled Sussex. The eggs were collected from our wide assortment of hens. There were two roosters in the flock, a Speckled Sussex and a Barred Rock/Maran cross. As a result, the chicks are going to be a grand assortment of mutts, but that is part of the fun. Someday I would like to keep a few pure flocks to preserve some of my favorite heritage breeds, but for the time being, we will take what we get! The purpose of this mini-farm is to be a learning experience and trial ground for different things, after all.

I also was finally able to plant my herbs and move the bay tree outside for the season! I can’t believe how much it’s grown. Take a look!

bay tree year 1

March 2013

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May 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This winter I lost everything else I was trying to keep alive, even the rosemary that survived last winter. So, we started from scratch with parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, mint, and lavender. I still need to pick up some chives, since we use a lot of that as well, but this will get us started at least. I love how accomplished I feel once the herb garden is started. Despite the rough winter, it is still one of my few mostly successful gardening endeavors.

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Stay tuned for more exciting undertakings in the coming weeks! There is still a lot of news pending!

Spring on the Farm

Winter has abruptly left us and spring is finally free to arrive! For me the most tangible evidence is in the huge influx of eggs we’ve been getting from our poultry as the days lengthen. We have big plans for the farm this year. A lot of things were put on hold last year because the potential existed that we might need to move in mid-summer. That precluded things like a big garden, or a large hatch of ducks or turkeys, among other things.

This year, though, we know we’re not going anywhere, and that means that we have endless options! Right now I’m working on getting one of my two Muscovy duck hens to set. I’ll be putting some eggs under a couple of my chickens as well, if they’ll cooperate. I’m also scouring the local advertisements for some turkey poults and a couple of piglets to raise for pork. That last is very exciting, as it will be our first foray into raising meat other than poultry. With chickens, turkeys, and pork products of our own in the freezer, that means the only meat we’ll need to buy from another source is our beef. That thought is incredibly liberating.

Unfortunately since we got rid of our trio of breeding turkeys last year, thinking we might have to move, we’re starting from scratch in the turkey department. Last time we had Bourbon Reds, a heritage breed with lovely brown and white plumage. They got very large and were very delicious, although our Tom did develop quite an attitude. This year I’d love to get more Bourbon Reds, or perhaps some Narragansetts, which are very striking in a barred pattern.

Our original batch of juvenile Bourbon Red turkeys (and their Lavender cross sidekick)

Our original batch of juvenile Bourbon Red turkeys (and their Lavender cross sidekick)

There are plans for the garden as well, although it will be more modest than our first attempt when we moved into this house. I do want to take another shot at pumpkins, and I’ll be planting garlic in the fall.  Our previous crop of garlic was one of my rare successes when it comes to flora (as opposed to fauna). We’ll have some tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, onions, lettuces and other greens, and of course the herb garden – another area of unexpected success, at least as long as they can remain outdoors in the summer. I have, however, managed to keep my bay tree alive all winter for two years now, and I’m pretty proud of myself for that! I’m looking forward to finding out what new and unexpected accomplishments this year has in store for me, and I hope if you’re reading this, you are too!