Saturday, May 29, 2010

Livestock and Garden Report 2: weeks 8 and 9

look: words and pictures! and all on the same day!

we're so busy with the gardens, that it's really hard to find the time to sit at the computer. usually, if i have "free time" I'll spend it quilting, getting ready for classes at the local Ben Franklin.

however, we decided today that i should really try to blog more, as this is a good place to write down notes and things we've learned so we can be better at this next year.
this is the portion of the garden that we call the chicken triangle. for the last 2 summers, we've run the chicken tractors on this space. just this year Dave "reclaimed" it for gardening. on the far right you can see the row of onions. moving along to the left, is the row of broccoli and cauliflower, then cauliflower, red and green cabbages. lastly, there are 3 types of sweet corn.

here you can see some of the raised beds, the high tunnel and the upper garden. these raised beds have beets, 3 plantings of carrots (danvers half long and Nantes core less), as well as sugar snap peas and shelling peas. also on the very bottom are the cold frames with garlic, basil and cilantro.

just today we were working all day in the upper garden, getting that planted. we were a little later than we would have liked, due to tiller problems, and running the chicken tractors over the winter rye.

in the upper garden:

*15 hills butternut squash
*15 hills acorn squash
*15 hills cantaloupe
*15 hills watermelon
*30 hills combined of cucumber, yellow and zucchini squash, all in staggered plantings
*red and white onions
* Kentucky wonder pole beans
*yellow beans
*sunflowers, in staggered plantings
*green beans (to be planted in the next few days)
*bush cucumber (tomorrow)

these are more of the raised beds, with head lettuce, beets and sugar snap peas. the peas have not blossomed yet, so it will still be a bit before we're eating those... the lettuce will be pulled and sold in the next couple days, and then that box will be planted with more bush cukes.

here is our first, (and largest) harvest of broccoli! we were both really happy, and almost immediately wishing that we had planted more than one flat of the broccoli and cauliflower. we'll have enough to sell, and some to freeze.

Dave has been fanatically stalking the ground hogs this week, and has been rewarded with a tally of 7 groundhogs and 1 rabbit! the girls are so excited when they hear the shotgun blast, and run outside to see if daddy has gotten another groundhog.

thankfully, inquiries as to whether we will be eating it for dinner have been kept to a minimum!

with every one's work schedule, it is mostly G who helps me in the garden. however, despite the fact that A is not yet quite 4, there are still some jobs that she can do, and is expected to help. this week she trimmed off all the flower buds from the onions. (actually, she rather enjoyed this job, since it involved scissors...)

the high tunnel is going fine, and though we're still getting the hang of managing it well, it's churning out its share of early crops.

there to my left (your right) is the lettuce. we were totally inundated with lettuce, but now that the weather has turned hotter, i pulled it all and fed it to the chickens before it could get bitter.

we have a few tomatoes planted in the center row, but right now the bulk of my tomatoes are in improvised topsy turvy planters. i used 3 gallon buckets, and drilled 7/8" holes in the bottom. others i planted the tomatoes on top, and have just let them cascade over the sides. both types seem to be doing equally as well. additionally, we are using root beer bottles for vacuum waterers. (a friend's idea) again, that seems to be working fine, with the water seeping out slowly but steadily, keeping the plants from wilting. (previously, i was watering them 3 times daily!)

also, just today, the girls picked and ate 4 cherry tomatoes! woohoo! I'm sure looking forward to fresh tomatoes again.

the wide row of peas that i planted in the HT produced well, giving us several quarts of peas. the girls enjoyed sitting on the lawn and shelling their own peas to eat fresh. ( i liked it too, as it gave me quite a bit of peace and quiet since it kept them busy for awhile!)

last week we worked mainly in the lower garden, getting all the rows planted. all hands on deck that day!

we have 2 rows of roma tomatoes (150 plants), as well as 1 ½ rows other varieties:
*early girl
*big boy
*new girl
*super steak

the potatoes are very happy, and we've already hilled them twice.

we also planted several varieties of peppers:
*green (red) peppers- one flat
*green (yellow) peppers -one flat
*lilac peppers (just 6)
*cherry bomb
*Hungarian wax
*Anaheim chili

since we've not had much rain lately, it's been a backbreaking family chore at times to keep everything watered. A loves to help - anything involving water and or dirt is fine by her!

we also got the sweet potatoes planted- all 100. although we were very disappointed at how droopy some of the slips were when they arrived, we planted them anyway. (gurney's is replacing over half of our order- we expect the plants tomorrow.)

the sweet potatoes will spend their summer under the mini hoop row. this will serve 2 purposes: keeping them a little warmer, as they are a southern crop, and protecting them from marauding varmints.

finally, here is our watering system for the lower garden. it's undergone a few tweaks since i took this picture, but basically, we gather the run off water from the hillside, and then use the pump to water, both with hoses and the sprinkler.

more on the water next week, as it's even better now!

thanks for stopping by- my posts have become so few and far between that it's a wonder anyone even reads anymore...

Monday, May 24, 2010

have cat, will travel...

it's still a toss up whether our cat, spooky, is truly long-suffering or just deeply needy.

she is very tolerant of the girls, and the way they carry her around.

but the look on her face in these pictures? i wish i could know what she's thinking!

Livestock & Garden Report 2: Week 5 and 7

finally ~ the explanations to go with these pictures! i had finally taken the time on Saturday to sit down and write, and just as i hit publish, everything disappeared!

so now, i guess I'll try again. I'll give you both the explanation and the update, all in one fell swoop...

Dave turned our old "chicken triangle" into more garden space. last fall we laid mulch, and early spring Dave was out tilling the hay under. the soil is still fluffy (and rocky) but we're glad for the extra dirt.
A helped us plant sweet corn ~ 3 different kinds: yellow, white and bi-color. all will mature at different times ~ 63, 72 and 85 days.

although it's not enough corn to sell, we will have plenty for ourselves to eat.

the corn is now up about 2" and just this morning i was able to cultivate it for the first time. when it's early, and the dew is still on the stalks, it's easy to see the rows. as the day goes on, the rows just fade into the dirt.

the potatoes in the lower garden are all up ~ all 300 lbs of them! we definitely expanded our potato farming from last year, but it was such a successful crop.

both the kennebec and red Pontiac i was able to plant from our own potatoes, thus saving us the cost of buying more seed potatoes. with the exception of the 200 lb. of seed potatoes i bought ( 50lb. red pontiac, 25 lb. blue, 50 lb. superior and 50 lb. yukon gold), we have not needed to buy any potatoes for our family to eat for almost a year!

now that the potatoes are gone, however, we're on a potato fast until the new ones are dug, hopefully around the beginning of July.

the little high tunnel worked very well, and really gave a boost to the cauliflower and broccoli. the tunnel is off now, (we're using it for the sweet potatoes down in the lower garden) and the plants should be large enough to fend off a marauding bunny.

there are a few slugs, though, but early in the morning Dave takes the girls out to squash the slugs and snails. B is so cute as she earnestly hunts for slugs, and then shakes salt onto them with the saltshaker!

the chickens are coming along very well, and are nearly half-way to butchering day.

every once in a while one (or two, or three...) will get out, and the girls are happy to help put them back in the hoop house. since chickens absolutely do not herd well at all, they need to be caught. both girls know how to catch the chickens by the body so the wings don't flap all over. they gently put them back.

all three girls A, B and M help feed the chickens. (G feeds them in the morning) here B is hauling the feed sack down in her little wheelbarrow.

100 birds eat 100 lbs. of food in less then three days, so we're kept busy either running to the feed mill or mixing the soybean meal into the food.

the meat bird grower that we buy is 22% protein, but these high octane birds need 26% protein. so, for every 100 lbs. of grower, we mix in 6 lbs of soybean meal. since the soybean meal is 47.5% protein, that gives the food (and chickens) the extra boost that they need.

this is the first year that we've supplemented the meat birds food this way, so I'll be interested to see if it makes a difference in the butchering weight.

right now all 4 hoop houses are running on the garden, so the chickens can help eat up the winter rye that is still growing. however, now that the danger of frost is past, we will be tiling the upper garden this week, so the chickens will need to be moved somewhere else.

the peas in the high tunnel are finally producing! just yesterday we had 2 quarts!

i sold one quart, and the girls sat in the yard eating the peas fresh yesterday after their nap. i was pleased that the peas did produce, since originally i was worried that they would not be pollinated, but that obviously was not a problem.

A and B still go get the eggs together, and besides being sisters, they are best friends.

this is the parting shot of the Indian runner ducks. we had been keeping them cooped up, since they would most likely eventually get into the lettuce, peas or spinach.

we were feeling bad that they could no longer roam about freely, so we sent them to the auction. hopefully they have a good home, and weren't some one's Sunday dinner!

we had a hail storm, quite fierce, and the girls we fascinated by the little ice balls. no damage was done to the crops, thankfully!

the peas are much larger than this now (that's what happens when it takes so long to post!) G and i staked them with sumac branches. i like the way that looks, but next year we will probably just use wire and stakes.

this salad box (radishes, lettuce and spinach) is producing profusely, and it's nearly impossible to keep up with it!

A found a toad while planting corn with daddy, and after she and B were done looking at him, they set it free in the high tunnel.

hopefully he'll gorge himself on the slugs in there!

this little spring hole is handy for watering the animals. it was just a wet spot in the yard that Dave dug out, and the girls like to sit on the edge and play in the water.

these are the two 300 gallon water storage tanks that we bought at the farmer's auction.

Dave plans on hooking them up to the drainage system in the lower garden, and then we'll have an easier way to water the plants down there.

he's in the process of working on that now, and i should be able to show it to you by the end of the week.

Dave has the row of horseradish planted, and they seem to be establishing themselves well.
a neighbor showed up with a plastic bag of root cuttings, assuring me that Dave wanted to plant horseradish. somehow, though, Dave has no recollection of that conversation!

the pigs are getting bigger and fatter, which is a good thing, since the butchering dates in June and July are rapidly approaching. it's hard to tell in this picture, but the red pig is significantly bigger than the white striped one.

and the parting shot: B and i lovin' on the cat. see, we do take the time to smell the roses pet the kitty!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May: Jesus in our heart and home

the kitchen is often a place that we can't decorate very much for the Christmas season. however, I'm happy to have this nativity plate, and put it on my counter to remind me of the miracle that we celabrate on Christmas morning.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

why i rarely have time to write in my blog anymore...

the college kids came home last weekend (what a wonderful mother's day present!) and even though we have some extra hands to help, it's still very busy around here!

here's the list that i wrote on the mudroom blackboard. it's almost done, and we're working very steadily to keep ahead of things.

I'm finding that i have several choices concerning blogging:

#1: i can write about what i should be doing
#2: i can write about what i am doing
#3: i can be out there doing what i should be doing

lately, it's been #3, so the posts are few and far between!

watching a miracle ~ up close!

even though I'm all grown up now, i sometimes want to dig up the seeds I've planted to see how they are coming along. (what are they doing down there, anyway?)

I'm sure that A and B are equally as curious.

this morning we did a quick little project so that they can see the miracle that happens every time we plant seeds.

first, i used a wide mouth pint jar, and some leftover cotton batting that i had from a quilt I'm working on. i rolled up the batting neatly, and put it into the jar.

after i soaking the batting with water, i helped the girls push bean seeds down inside the jar- abut 1 ½" down.

we put the lid on (just until they sprout) and set it on the kitchen windowsill.

B was proud to tell M what they had done. now, we'll all have to wait patiently!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

what the heck is a CSA anyway?

I've probably mentioned before that my goal is to eventually become a CSA, and support 10-12 local families with fresh produce, meat, flowers and eggs weekly.

usually i stumble around when asked to explain what a CSA is, and never really feel that I've managed to explain it well. last month (in the local electricity publication, no less!) there was an article that explained this concept very well:

"Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, as it's commonly called, is a way for people who like to garden and don't mind hard work to build a family business on a small acreage. it's also an excellent way for consumers to have access to fresh, locally grown produce.

each spring, more CSAs sprout up across Pennsylvania as word spreads about the unique method of farming that involves a farmer offering "shares" of her crop to the public. they buyer-usually known as a member or subscriber- receives a share of seasonal produce from the farm each week during the growing season. risk is also shared- in an exceptional growing season, members will receive more produce, while boxes will not be as full when Mother Nature intervenes in a negative fashion.

CSA owners benefit from the system because they know what their seasonal income will be and how much to plant because they pre-sold the shares during the slow winter. CSA members benefit because they are assured of getting fresh produce from someone they know."


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