Time for an Update

We are finally making progress on the clean up from last year’s storm damage.  The arbor that had been attached to a raised garden bedstorm damage to arbor 2016 gardens 2 has been re-built – YEA!!

The third of our large garden plots is now established and planted with five rows of potatoes and several of sweet corn.2016 gardens 1  Squash will be planted on the edge so we can train the runners to go up the hill eliminating even more mowing (we hope).

The other two plots have been worked up, one is planted in sunflowers and native corn, while the second is all grass seed for this year’s meat bird pasture.2016 gardens 3With the coop moved into place, we just have to fix the roof (more storm damage) and we’ll be ready to brood chicks next month.

Two years ago we planted 300+ asparagus roots and six apple trees.2014 view This spring we had blossoms on our trees and three or four light harvests from our asparagus bed! Then the temps dropped below freezing a couple of nights.  That took care of any apples and asparagus for this year. 2016 gardens 4  No real harm done and next year should be a bumper crop!

It looks like we will have plenty of raspberries . . . 2016 gardens 5 but we will definitely need to cover them with netting.

There has been no shortage of weeds this year, especially thistles.  We try to pull all the unwanted vegetation, but Mother Nature has cultivated a lovely crop of milk weed for her Monarchs.  2016 gardens 11

They have really flourished around the pond which needs to be rebuilt.2016 gardens 12 We think the display camouflages it nicely.

One area we have neglected to pull weeds in is the closed in run for our little garden chickens.Dotts weed retreat 2  These three bantams have made a path to their little outdoor shelter which is kind of cute, but I’m pretty sure those will be the next weeds to go.Dotts weed retreat 3

Included in all of our storm damage last year was the loss of our gazebo.  Since our patio has absolutely no shade . . .Gazebo prep 1 we purchased another gazebo and were lucky enough to find the same one on sale this spring.  Now we just have to finish planting and we’ll have shade to relax in while enjoying our garden. 2016 gardens 15With a fourth raised bed in place and a fresh load of black dirt, we should have the remainder planted this week, just in time for out young helper to spread the bark mulch.

Recap of the 2015 growing season.

The last of the carrots have been dug, garlic along with spring flower bulbs planted, and the garden toys are tucked away for the winter.  This seams like a good time to sit back and reflect on the busy year we had on this small scale farm operation.

With such good weather in April & May we were able to get into the gardens early and the kitchen garden is always the first up for tilling.Spring tilling 1

Someone once asked me “what’s a kitchen garden?”  For me it is the garden located right outside my kitchen door.  It’s great to have fresh herbs and produce so close at hand.2015-07-23 12.25.28

2014-09-05 17.35.14. . .  and the view of the gardens and small chicken coop from the kitchen really makes my day.

East of the kitchen garden and in front of the big chicken coop run is a plot of grass and weeds.  We decided this area would make a good “chicken garden”.  It was tilled and planted with all sorts of goodies for our layers to forage through in the fall.Spring tilling 2

Over the summer months the layers were pastured out by the old willow that came down in last year’s wind storms.  The iconic willow left such a big and cool looking stump, that we decided it would be a neat place for our fairy door and the chickens to play around on.  willow bush1

This became one of their favorite spots over the summer . . . 2015-09-04 08.58.34that big old stump provides them lots of shade and good cover from hawks.

This was the first year we were able to really map out and plant much of our rotational gardens, giving us a better idea of what we can get out of the allotted space.   Rod planted three successions of sweet corn and we set up our first road side stand.2015-09-06 15.20.51

We really didn’t know what to expect by way of customers and the amount of corn our planting would yield, so decided to just put a sign out on the edge of our property.2015-09-06 15.21.58  We had lots of corn left, I was able to freeze eight dozen ears and the chickens did their part by eating the corn that was too old to sell.  Next year we’ll add a sign out on the highway that should increase sales.

 

Our chickens will also benefit this winter from the harvest of millet and native corn, which was grown in the garden the meat chickens were pastured in last year.  The native corn was so beautiful I took some along to sell at the UFO Art & Craft fair this year.2015-10-31 09.33.29(1)

For the most part, I’d say this was a very successful year for our small scale farm.2015-11-14 14.33.27

  Over the past couple of years we’ve sold our meat chickens and eggs.  It was nice to be able to focus on the sale of our produce by adding sweet corn, potatoes, carrots, and leek.  Next year we should be able to add asparagus to that list.

In pursuit of many interests.

We’ve had a busy couple of months.  In January I took on the role of Vice-Chair of the Green County Democratic Party, and have LOTS to learn.  I’m enjoying the challenge but it has taken some of my time from things like perusing Facebook and posting to our blog.

It hasn’t been all politics these last few months.  We recently attended a model train show for information regarding a garden train set up.  Rod would like to run one around the perennial bed in front of the house.  We picked up lots of ideas and a new toy.Train Set 1  He’s starting small and indoors.  The plan is to purchase enough track to eventually put my trunk back where it belongs and snake his “Broadway Express” around items that reside under our stairway.  In fact he has decided it would be fun to paint a sky complete with clouds and sun under the steps.Train Set 2

I had intended to share ideas on how to combat winter boredom in the chicken coop, but as I mentioned time got away from me.  One thing that helped our birds this winter was their sun room, which may not have been pretty but it sure did the trick.  On those bitter cold days (that were sunny) it was almost 40 degrees in that outdoor run.Once the snow was gone we were able to start pulling off the plastic walls and happy chickens began to venture.

  The girls also had a dirt box inside the coop this winter and LOVED it Bathing Box . . . after all who wants to go three or four months without a bath!!  To top off their spa like accommodations they are treated to a regular supply of fodder which is grown in our solarium.Growing fodder 1

Rod starts with a small amount of organic potting soilGrowing fodder 3 then sprinkles a liberal amount of pasture mix.Growing fodder 5

After about five days the trays on the heated mats have sproutedGrowing fodder 9, Growing fodder 10the ones without heat took another four to five days.

Even with all the nice sun and dome covers.Growing fodder 6

The chickens weren’t the only ones to receive fresh grown treats from winter gardening.  Rod potted a couple cherry tomato plants last fall and had success. wintered tomato 1wintered tomato 2 It may not have been a bumper crop, but we had enough for a nice salad and a few other mealswintered tomato 3

There was room in the pot of parsley that was brought in and we had lettuce seed left over.winter lettuce There isn’t much but it’s just right for sandwiches.  And just check out this snap dragon and pansy.wintered snaps wintered pansies

I’m so ready for SPRING!!

In search of the “First Sister”.

 

While doing my garden research this last winter I came across the Three Sisters Garden, a method of companion planting used by many Native Americans.  We are trying to cut down the amount of mowing by developing various gardens and this looked like a good way to utilize the area between Rod’s work shop and the original row of asparagus. Three Sisters Garden 2

 Once the area was tilled and raked, I made 13 mounds and planted the first sister.  In this garden we’re planting Golden Bantam sweet corn, purple pole beans, and acorn squash.Three Sisters Garden 10

A few weeks ago Rod had planted two rows of Native American corn along the back side of our bantam’s coop/run.  I decided to try a variation of the Three Sisters Garden here.  As you can see this was planted in rows rather than the traditional mounds.Three Sisters Garden 7

Three Sisters Garden 9

Looking down the rows

The other two sisters planted here are a pole shell bean and Lakota squash.Three Sisters Garden 11

Three Sisters Garden 8

Squash in front with pole bean between corn rows

Meanwhile back at the mounds the first sister has grown . . .Three Sisters Garden 3 along with a bumper crop of weeds!  We’ve had so much rain, it has been next to impossible to work in the gardens, and so began the search for the “First Sister”.Three Sisters Garden 4

With the mounds cleared of weeds, I proceeded to plant the other two sisters.Three Sisters Garden 6

A dressing of shredded mulch to help keep the weeds down and we should be good to go.Three Sisters Garden 5

There is lots of good information online regarding the Three Sister companion planting method.  Various ways to lay it out and suggestions on when and where to plant each sister.  It will be fun to see how these two gardens turn out.

Perennial edibles get an A+ in my book.

The land surrounding our house was so overgrown that we had no idea what we were going to uncover once we started to cut down the tall grass and weeds.prepurchase front field

Before Rod ventured in with the riding mower set to it’s highest cutting level, we did several walks through finding fencing, boards with nails, and all sorts of other hidden surprises.  During one of these walks a friend discovered seeded out asparagus.  We began searching through the tall grass and found an entire row of plants!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Who would have thought in amongst all that tall grass and weeds was such an edible delight!

Shortly after that day, Rod was mowing another overgrown area below the front of the house and found another nice patch of asparagus – YUM 🙂OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I see this find as a good omen.  Before we even started looking for land we made plans for the produce we would raise.  Establishing asparagus beds that would supply us and our customers was one of the first things on our list.  Our tasty discovery is supplying us nicely, but more is needed for our customers.Asparagus harvest

It’s been almost three years since we bought this place.  Much of that time has been dedicated to repairs and improvements on the house, work shop, and lots of poultry infrastructure.  This is the first year we’ve had the time to establish our gardens.  First plantings this spring are five rows of asparagus (310 plants) and six semi-dwarf apple trees.2014 view

Our first apple blossom. first apple blossoms

New little asparagus sprout.newest asp

We’ve also established a blueberry patch. blueberry patch

Our next “perennial edible” projects will be to expand on the raspberry hill (started with plants donated by my niece)raspberry hill and establish a small grape arbor in front of our solarium. Thanks goes out to our friend and fellow gardener Michael, for that last idea. 😉

 

 

Sustainable Seed Straters 101.

Last year a couple of friends and I got together in mid February to start our seeds for the spring planting season. Seed Starting 2013

I know . . . WAY too early, but we had cabin fever and I was anxious to see how starting my seeds in our solarium would turn out.

Yup way too early, but my experiment with newspaper starter pots was a success.  This year we have added another member to our “seed starters” and have held off a month.  It may still be a bit early, but we are gathering this weekend so I need to get busy.

I love these starter pots since they are bio-degradable, easy to make, and very inexpensive.  If your thinking of starting your own seeds this year, rather than purchasing peat pots, you may want to give this a try.

You will need newspaper (opened my sheet is about 22″x11″), ruler, pencil, scissors, small cylinder (I find a 6 oz. tomato past can works well), tray for your seedlings.  I’ve gathered my tools and supplies now it’s onto the work room.Prep for seed starting

I measure for my strips marking at 3-3/4″ and 7-1/2″ across the sheet.Sustainable seed starters 1This will give me three strips (3-3/4″ x 22″) per sheet.

 Using my marks as guides, I draw out my two cut lines . . .Sustainable seed starters 3

 

 

 

 

. . .and cut.Sustainable seed starters 4a

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrap the strip around the t. paste can starting about 3/4″ from the edge of the can,Sustainable seed starters 4b

 

 

 

 

leaving 1-1/4″ to fold in.Sustainable seed starters 5a

 

 

 

 

 

To make the bottom, beginning where your strip ended, fold the extended paper (4-5 folds) around the bottom of the can. Sustainable seed starters 5b

Slide the pot off the can and place it in a tray.Sustainable seed starters 9

We use the 21″x11″ trays you find at the local garden shops.Sustainable seed starters 10As you can see from the picture, the tray has holes for drainage so we nest this into a solid tray.

Well . ..with one tray done and two more to fill, I better get busy if I want to be ready for our seed starting session.Sustainable seed starters 11

When you can’t plant the garden, you buy the seeds.

Well here we are, March 1st and I find myself looking out the window at the falling snow as we fill the jug of hot water for the small coop that houses our four bantam chickens.  I expect the snow, but what’s with the January temps??  I sure picked the right winter to join my husband in retirement, but now I’m ready for spring!!

Actually I was preparing for spring already in January when the seed catalogs arrived in the mail.seed selection  I really enjoy sitting down to a cup of coffee and making out my list of “must have” seeds.

Before I end up with an order that reaches well into the hundred dollar range, it’s time to visit the”seed box”.

seed surplus

 I found this plastic tackle box at a yard sale.  It’s great for keeping things close at hand when working in the garden. Not only do we keep our seeds in the tote, but the tray insert is a great place for our plant tags, marking pen, nipper, scissors, twine, and other small useful items.

Looks like we have plenty of seeds, but it wouldn’t be spring prep without ordering just a few . . . right??2014 seed orderMother Nature – let the spring thaw begin . .  no really, PLEASE WE NEED WARMTH!!!