Friday, April 30, 2010

L & G2 Report~ week 4

busy week, of course. even though it's only May 1 (!), I'm taking advantage of the warmer weather and our close proximity to the creek and planting more and more things out.

yesterday we planted the cherry and grape tomatoes in the little "kitchen garden" right outside the back door. it's very handy to have those tomatoes so close- with everyone coming in and out that door, it really helps keep the tomatoes picked. also, it's close and easy to cover them when the frost comes. some of the tomato plants even have blossoms on them!

the spinach and lettuce in the high tunnel are doing super! we pick and pick and pick, and still there is more...

the 2nd, 3rd and 4th plantings of lettuce, spinach and radishes are coming along very well. we'll have an abundance of lettuce for many weeks to come.

the peas in the high tunnel have blossoms! how amazing is that? i guess soon we'll have fresh peas as well.

the raised beds are really coming along nicely, and with the rain we just had this week, so are the weeds! the peas, beets and carrots are all up and strong.

today we'll try to get the remaining 100lbs of potatoes planted: 50 Yukon gold and 50 red Pontiac.

both the tractor shed and wood shed have a robin's nest. the girls like it when daddy lifts them up to peek inside at the eggs. (I'm glad the nests are in the sheds this year. last year a robin built a nest on the front porch, and that was a nuisance.)

Thursday G and i traveled down home, and i took the opportunity to stop at our favorite greenhouse. i came home with 2 flats peppers, 2 flats of tomatoes, 2 flats begonias, 1 flat gazania daises and 30 grape, cherry, pink and yellow tomatoes.

i guess it's pretty obvious what we'll be doing next week!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Livestock and Garden Report 2: Week 3~ chicken overload!

chickens, chickens, chickens. seemingly everywhere!

the meat birds are growing quickly, and their wing and tail feathers are coming in. the girls and i took a walk down to the creek and gathered some gravel. we spread the gravel on newspaper for the little chickens to fill their gizzards with.

they went crazy! i left the gravel in the brooder box for about an hour,and then put their high protein food back in.

just today we moved them outside into the special brooder house. even though the weather today is not ideal to move the chickens outside, they were stinking up the mud room royally, and i couldn't stand it anymore. (12 days is my official limit for chickens in the house.)

there are no pictures of the chickens as they look today; they are not nearly as cute now! the 102 birds are all warm and cozy in the brooder house: lights, hay and fresh food and water. we're on the countdown now to 8-10 weeks. they'll be ready for the table (or freezer) around the middle of June.


however- these little guys are cute. sort of. we put 25 eggs in the incubator beginning April 1.

they started hatching out right on schedule. i can honestly say that I've never seen a chicken hatch, and they sure look different than the ones that we get in the happy meal box from the post office!

although they look very frail and scraggly, most did just fine, and we are now the proud parents of 14 buff orpington peeps.

this was just a trial run, to gain experience with the new incubator. these chicks are for sale, and if i don't sell them on craig's list, we'll send them to the auction on Monday.

when i hatch out my new flock of laying hens, I'll fill the incubator. (42 eggs) that will give me around 20 hens. (optimistically speaking, of course!)

right now we have 18 turkey eggs in the incubator, and they're due to hatch around May 22. so if you want pastured, fresh turkey for thanksgiving or Christmas, just let me know...

do you think i could call myself a chicken farmer without stretching the truth too much? or sounding too presumtious?

so i really should have known better than to take these chickens that someone gave us.

the buff Cochin is really a nice and friendly bird, and the zebra hens are so pretty.

however, chickens are not known for playing nicely with others, so now we have these 4 hens that we need to house separately from the rest of the flock.

so far their only saving grace is that they are hens. we can use the extra eggs. right now, that's about the only thing that's keeping them from the stew pot.

that, and guilt.

they're so pretty.

and friendly.

i must be getting soft in my old age.

we finally found local blue potatoes. although i must say that they are really more of a purple.

but as long as we can convince the fresh produce consumers of northeastern PA to celebrate a red, white and purple 4th of July, we'll be just fine.

the highlight of the week had to be the farm equipment auction. besides an odd sunburn, i got several useful things for the garden. two 300 gallon tanks, which we'll use to store water. (we plan on using the water for the garden in a dry spell if we need to)

and this handy-dandy Honda water pump.

i got a very good deal on it- and the pump came with the intake hose and another hose (like a fireman's hose) too.

both girls helped me plant some cucumbers and squash in peat pots.

we mixed a starting medium of bottom land soil, a few rabbit pellets, peat moss and vermiculite. after picking out the rocks and sticks, it was very nice to work with.

I'd like to get these plants out as early in May as possible, to get a head start, and also to *maybe* have the first cukes and squash to sell. (I'm learning that it's all about being first with the market garden. everyone has cukes and squash in July and august. perhaps i can push the season a bit...)

the flat of peat pots went right into the high tunnel until the seeds sprout, and develop the first set of real leaves. then I'll put them in a raised bed, as well as the "flat" garden.

one nice thing about having so many seeds to start is that there are lots of opportunities for the little girls to help. even if a few seeds get planted too deeply or spilled, it doesn't matter. there are so many seeds (and even successive plantings) that I'm sure it will all work out just fine.

if you look over in the right hand side bar, you'll see this really cool little orange cultivating tractor. I've been hoping that Dave will get me one- birthday? Christmas? anniversary?

it's not to be, i suppose...

this is what came for me in the mail last week. a push cultivator- much like an antique Planet Jr.

i can see that it will come in handy for cultivating between the garden rows, in an effort to keep the weeds down. it's also a space saver, since it's much narrower than the roto-tiller (obviously) so i don't need to allow as much room for weeding between vegetable rows.

here I'm cultivating the onions in the lower garden. the picture is so blurry because I'm going faster than a speeding roto-tiller.

here is the "completed" row cover/hoop system over the broccoli and cauliflower.

i must say that this week I'm not thinking such warm and fuzzy thoughts of our friend Herrick Kimball. the clothespin thingys don't work the way we thought they would. they were a ton of work (just ask G) and they pop off at the slightest breeze- if you can even get them to shut!

however, in the row right next to the hooped row, the floating row cover is just... floating. imagine that! it seems to be working just fine, and as we were laboring with aching backs to finish the first row of brassicas before dark, Dave and i looked at each other and wondered aloud just why we were going to all this trouble?

anyway... lesson learned.

come back next week for the Livestock and Garden Report: 2 to see how things are going around the little homestead.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

April: Jesus in our heart and home

besides being one of my favorite nativities, this tiny Holy Family made of pewter reminds me of a dear friend who cared about me at a very difficult time in my life.

besides this thoughtful Christmas gift, she gave me the greater gift of her time, her friendship and constant encouragement, woven with understanding.

but most of all, she gave me the gift of listening.

and sometimes, that can be the greatest gift one friend can give another.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Livestock and Garden Report~ Round 2: week 2.5

first thing this week the girls and i headed down to the lower garden to plant potatoes. i feel as if I'm in a potato race, since i want to have potatoes to sell before the 4th of July. hence the rush.

Dave put the middle buster on the tiller for me, and i made several furrows. (48" apart)

it was still early for local seed potatoes, so i used some of my red Pontiac and kennebec from last year. the girls helped me put the potatoes in the furrow.

this week I'll be planting more potatoes: yukon gold, more red Pontiac, Superior and the blue ones. (still elusive, but getting closer to actually tracking them down!)

on Monday, Dave came home with a late Easter present for the girls:

a tiny wheelbarrow!

they both had fun helping to put it together, and even managed to NOT loose any of the nuts or screws!

they both promptly got to work hauling around stones and other random things.

bright and early on Wednesday morning we got a call from the US Government. (actually, it was really the Towanda postmaster)

our 100 Cornish cross cockerels were in, and i needed to come pick them up. i went to the back door of the post office and rang the bell. after giving him the secret password, he handed over my happy meal box of chickens. the brooder box was already prepared, and after a quick stop at the feed mill, i brought the chicks home and got them all settled in their new brooder box.

so far all is well; and I'm loving the new brooder box. although it takes up most of the mud room, I like how easy it is to take care of the chicks.

both girls often stop in and visit with the peeps. B asked me "when they get bigger, are we going to eat them?"

why yes, yes we are!

she's a true country girl at heart, and makes her daddy proud!

in many (and random) places, we have catnip growing. spooky sure is enjoying it! i plan on potting some of it up to sell in the produce stand this week. (the catnip, not the cat!)

several of the raised beds are planted, and the peas are making a timid showing. i had to water daily this week, as we didn't get rain until Friday night. the girls, of course, are glad to help.

Dave bought 50 black raspberry bushes, and had diligently (and fervently) worked to prepare their bed. we got them planted on Friday morning.
and wouldn'tchaknow, the hose is almost long enough to reach the raspberry bushes. all but the last 4, that is!

the peach trees in the orchard are blooming, and the plum will not be far behind. unfortunately, neither the cherries nor apples made it through the winter, so I'll be making a call about that this week.

Dave also ordered grapes, so it looks like we'll be having some fruit to add to our veggie sales some day!

the next priority was planting the 2 flats of broccoli and cauliflower. after laying the black plastic, Dave and i planted the 144 brassicas in an evening.

using the idea we found here, we modified it a bit and made row covers for both rows. (finishing this project is a priority for the beginning of this week) G helped cut the re-bar and the PVC. he also helped haul off the 3 wheelbarrow loads of rocks we collected.

interestingly enough, i had never even heard of the word agrarian until we discovered Herrick's blog!

and lastly, as Dave pointed out, even the migrant workers get a break! A and B are always happy (and ready) to help daddy eat his tasty cakes!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Livestock and Garden Report: Round 2~ let's just call this week 1

it's been a flurry of spring activity around here. the wonderfully warm weather this week has allowed us to be outside getting lots of our time-sensitive projects done. (as a matter of fact, the Things To Be Done As Soon As Possible List is nearly done! the only things remaining on that daunting list are find some turkey and duck eggs to hatch and start the strawberry beds. Dave is building the brooder box tomorrow.)

Dave plowed and disced the lower garden yesterday, so hopefully by Monday we'll be planting potatoes and maybe onions as well. I've been having trouble tracking down blue potatoes, but i haven't given up yet!

already in the upper garden i have red and white onions planted, as well as 1 row of beets. in a few weeks I'll plant more beets. I'm going to try to be more organized about succession planting this year. it's so easy to start off like gangbusters after the winter's hibernation, but harder still to manage everything efficiently for the long haul. we did hang up a black board in the mud room, and i have all my garden notes and reminders on that. i plan on also having a large calendar to write dates of plantings and projected harvests.

this week Dave and G finished the 2nd pig tractor, and none too soon! 4 pigs slamming around in one small space is very crowded. not to mention messy. and muddy. we've been getting plenty of slops from the local restaurant that is the favorite hangout of the gas workers, so that's why we decided to get 2 more pigs.

i didn't take any pictures of the pigs. i guess we've been raising pigs so long now that i figure if you've seen one pig, you've pretty much seen them all! red. hairy. smelly. curly tail. big. sound familiar yet?

the big push this week was hauling the dirt from our farmer friend, Jay. G and Dave built 12 raised beds, and we filled them all with a combination of our bottom land soil, the dirt from the cow pasture and vermiculite. if you've seen or read the book Square Foot Gardening, you'll have an idea of the general direction we're headed.

the best part of hauling the dirt was borrowing the farm truck from our other farmer friend, Doug. G got a kick out of the truck, too, and could be observed on more than one occasion with a big grin on his face as he drove it around to unload dirt.

oi vey! the stories i could tell! suffice it to say that it was a driving experience that will give me some colorful stories to tell my grandchildren someday~ the highlights of which would include wearing a garbage bag skirt to keep me dry while driving the truck in the rain. and the absolutely best part: using a fire hose to fill a gas tank that would prefer an eyedropper. the gas guys standing in line for their lunch time hoagie won't soon forget that.

the high tunnel is doing well, and has some lettuce and spinach ready to harvest. the cold frames are full, too, and hopefully we'll have continuous harvests of lettuce, spinach and radishes until the hot weather.

G and i finished raking the vermiculite into all the raised beds, and i have 4 beds planted with peas and carrots. i can honestly say that even after only one day of gardening in raised beds, I'm a huge fan! the dirt is wonderful, it's easy to pick out stones and plant the seeds, and since the beds are so small it does not feel overwhelming. (like the long rows in the lower garden often do)

we're doing a buffet of gardening techniques this year: raised beds, square foot gardening, traditional garden, small scale farming and wide rows. we're still experimenting to find the best combination of what works well for us, and what will help us to be both productive on a large scale and efficient.

we have 25 buff orpington eggs in the incubator, and they are all due to start hatching out the evening of April 21. this clutch is just a trial run, since we've never used this incubator before. (i can vouch for the convenience of the automatic turner, however, and can't imagine remembering to turn the eggs 2-3 times a day!) i plan on filling all 42 slots in the incubator to hatch out my new laying flock later this spring.

on Wednesday our first batch of 100 Cornish cross roosters are due to arrive, via the United States Postal Service.

so if we think we're busy now, just wait until then!
p.s. ~ i finally finished the post about the drywalling in the girls' room. so if you've been anxiously awaiting news about that project, be sure to read the previous post!


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