Saturday, June 27, 2015

Miss Broody Gets Her Eggs!

I have had a broody hen for a few weeks now and I have no rooster. She is a Buff Rock which is one of the breeds I choose for this specific trait. I had been taking her out to eat and drink daily hoping to break her but everyday she just boomerangs right back to her spot in the nest box hording any eggs available. So today while at my friends' big annual birthday party for their kids I was talking with them about how raccoon have killed 5 of their chickens recently. Long story short I brought home fertile eggs from them and now my broody can live out her dreams. She has made herself a nice hole in the hay I piled in a large dog crate, hunkered down, and has not moved since I stuck her on her eggs. So, if all goes well we will have chicks in about 21 days! Wish us luck!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Homesteading with Children

I did a post on this before nearly two years ago now. Then I had just the two kids and I actually think that I felt like it was more challenging to get my chores done. Go figure. Whether it be continued maturation or better coping skills, I am now in a better place with keeping our tiny homestead going on a daily basis. Yes, my dad sometimes beats me to watering the horse, but other than that, I am pretty on top of things!

First of all, I have changed my mind set a tad. This isn't just my homestead, it's our family homestead and I fully expect my kids to participate as they grow and are able. I'll admit, frequently I shoo them off to play while I focus and 'get'r done', but when my time constraints are a bit more lax, I try to take the time to teach and let them help. This is simple things like letting my three year old daughter scoop her tiny hands full of soil and spread them on a new garden bed, my seven year old collect and count eggs, watering plants or just tagging along while I work. They are sponges at these ages, give them good things to soak up (not their mother's frequent use of a certain word that is interchangeable with 'dung'. Guilty).

But, what about the baby?? Um, well there is something called nap time! I get 1-2 naps out of the little mister. During his morning nap I usually take Mini and Puzzle Boy out with me to play and get fresh air and I get the majority of my garden and barn chores done. Extra projects like weeding a large area, cleaning out the barn, etc. gets done during an afternoon nap where both the baby and three year old are napping. In this case I have my oldest "babysit" for me. Now, I am right outside and I check in frequently, and really all I am requiring of him is while he takes his afternoon down time is to yell out the window when one of his siblings wakes up. When they do, I come right in. This has worked great! He feels important and so big and I get some fairly distraction free time to get my work done. If things need to be done between naps than the stroller or Ergo baby carrier get used. And, Cherrios. Lots of Cherrios!

Another thing that I have started doing is having a 'mother's helper'. Poetically the girl I have help me is the girl who I watched when I was her mother's helper! Isn't that just the cutest? She has been awesome and while I don't have her every week, it helps tremendously when I have something big to do like move the horse's fencing to fresh grass or get all the cleaning that I have ignored forever done.

And, lets be real for a minute. Do you think any of us with young children that homestead get everything done in a day that needs done? The correct answer is... of course not!! I will openly admit that I ignore my housework a lot and then have a nervous break down at the state of things an play catch up. Sometimes I only wash my eggs once a week right before I sell them (which is safe as long as they are dry and at room temperature). And, sometimes, all I do for chores is chuck feed at the chickens and water them and the horse. Yep, I don't even collect the eggs on those days. You know what though? That's ok. I am not perfect and neither is my homestead. Let's give ourselves a pat on the back for getting what we get done regardless. As long as everyone is healthy and cared for, the weeds and dust will be there tomorrow.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Harvest Monday: June 22, 2015

Left to right: peas, lacinato kale, beet greens, broccoli greens, broccoli heads, rainbow chard, onion tops.

This week was primarily still just greens but with the exciting new addition of peas and broccoli florets! They were delicious and went into a lentil pasta primavera along with the kale and beet greens. I love deciding what's for dinner from what needs picked. May it continue!

Now you see it................................................................................. now you don't!

When I was harvesting the broccoli I was expecting the stems to be tough enough to have to really snip hard with my shears. Nope, sliced like butter. And, oh man, what that broccoli sweet and tender! Not one trace of bitter. I am trying to figure out how I can get another bed in over at the barn garden so I can grow more broccoli as a fall crop as well as peas. About the peas, this spring was an experiment with intensive planting using pea brush. What I liked was it stayed well contained and it did seem to work well but I just don't think it's for me. I find picking like a scavenger hunt because of the density. Not a fan. So, I am going to find a spot to plant a fall crop of peas to put in the freezer for winter.

Unrelated to harvesting, we finally got the pole bean support up just in time for the plants to start sending up searching vines.

And there has been a mysterious death in the corn patch! As you can see below, it looks like someone snipped the plant off. No other plants were harmed and I saw no signs of insects. Strange. While I was a bit bummed, I took this opportunity to spy on root development...

Cool, huh? Those are some happy roots! Too bad the plant got shanked over night.

Well, have a good week fellow growers!

This post was shared on Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mid-June Update

Baby Amish Paste tomatoes as of June 16th!

I realized that I never did a list of what I am growing this year for varieties and the like. I think I also need to acknowledge the fact that I change my mind a lot. I keep going back and reading what I posted this spring making sure I am not too redundant, seeing what I wrote about my plan and it is so far off from what is going on now. I adapt I guess! So here is a list of what and what varieties are growing this year:

*Currently Growing*
Garden Peas, Lincoln (OP)
Cabbage, Melissa Savoy (F1H)
Broccoli, Thompson (OP)
Cauliflower, Snow Crown (F1H)
Brussels Sprouts, Gustus (F1H)
Kale, Lacinato (OP)
Carrot, Scarlet Keeper (OP)
Beet, Early Wonder Tall Top (OP)
Swiss Chard, Bright Lights (OP)
Lettuce, Blushed Butter Cos (OP)
Lettuce, Black Seeded Simpson (OP)
Onion, Clear Dawn (OP)
Onion, Copra (F1H)
Onion, Rossa di Milano (OP)
Herb, Comfry
Herb, Mammoth Dill
Herb, Cilantro
Herb, Greek Oregano
Herb, Broad Leaf Sage
Herb, Stevia
Herb, Resina Calendula
Herb, Chamomile
Pepper, King of the North Bell (OP)
Pepper, Early Jalapeno (OP)
Pepper, Long Red Narrow Cayenne (OP)
Pepper, Hungarian Hot Wax (OP)
Tomato, Amish Paste (OP)
Tomato, Rutgers (OP)
Tomato, Super Sweet 100's (F1H)
Cucumber, National Pickling (OP)
Cucumber, Super Zagross (OP)
Corn, Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored Popcorn (OP)
Pole Bean, True Red Cranberry (OP)
Pole Bean, Kentucky Wonder (OP)
Squash, Spineless Beauty Zucchini (F1H)
Squash, Spaghetti (OP)
Squash, Waltham Butternut (OP)
Pumpkin, Rouge Vif d'Etampes (OP)
Pumpkin, Howden (OP)

*Fall Garden Additions*
Spinach, Winter Bloomsdale (OP)
Spinach, Giant Winter (OP)
Kale, Red Russian (OP)
Beet, Chioggia (OP)

*OP- open pollinated
*F1H- F-1 Hybrid

Many of what I am growing this year is new to me or I have yet to grow it successfully. I am still a fairly 'young' gardener experience wise so I am still in the process of experimenting with what crops and varieties I like to grow and grow well in my garden. Oh, the possibilities! My mind is running a mile a minute as I write this. Much to my husband's head shaking I pretty much live and breathe gardening right now. God bless him, he puts up with my constant chatter about what came up today and future plans. Most of my problem is that I have this feeling in my gut that we will need to rely on what we grow to feed us in the very near future. Not only because food is becoming more expensive but because eventually the farm land that is feeding this country now will give out. Even organic (commercial) farms are taking more out of the ground than they can put back. This is not a choice for me anymore, it is my children's future.

The chamomile for tea and tinctures and the calendula for salves are blooming. A little lavender plant I picked up today at a local nursery which I planted in a pot so I can bring it in in the winter.

Now that I have stepped of my soap box, lets get on to the updates! The first thing I am so excited to share is how I am implementing 'Back to Eden' gardening methods right now. I was letting my brain get in the way by thinking I had to start this kind of garden right (meaning having a flat area covered in newspaper, compost and then 4-6 inches of chips and left to do it's thing for the winter). But, the more I was researching, reading and watching videos of tours of Paul's garden, I realized I was forgetting the most important part. All things are possible through God! Friends of mine have been taking down trees and chipping the branches since last fall and had said I was welcome to them anytime. So as I need I have been collecting the wood chips and bringing them back to the garden. Because I made free form raised beds the sides were just dirt which meant that moisture was being lost from more than just the top surface. I covered the sides of the beds with 2-3 inches of chips and about an inch on the top because some of the plants are too small for it to be deeper. I will add another inch or two as they grow taller. When I am done Everything will have a layer including the pots and greenhouse beds. Most of what I am using is aged about 9 months and has already started breaking down, the ones on the potato bed are new. I know a lot of people make the argument against using wood chips as a mulch because it will rob the nitrogen from your plants, but this only occurs if you are either tilling the chips into the soil (NO!) or if you are planting directly in raw wood chips that are not yet well into the composting process. This style of gardening will not appeal to everyone but I firmly believe that it can work for anyone. It is simple, almost too simple and that is what trips most up I think.

Super Sweet 100, basil and a marigold. I'm growing this as a 'snack' plant near the house.

Next is what's up! Everything I planted on and shortly after the Memorial Day 'get the garden in' is up and flourishing. We had a few set backs (pre-wood chips I might add), with too much moisture and I did lose a couple of cucumber seedlings that had come up right before the 5 days of rain. It continued to be overcast and showery almost daily after and I am a bit worried that we are in for a wet summer without enough sun. The greens will love it but the crops I am really counting on (tomatoes, peppers, onions, squash, beans) will not. Praying for sun and low humidity! Hahaha! That might be as much for the plants as it is for me ;-)

Beets and carrots are showing signs of root swelling beneath the soil line and the broccoli is getting bigger!

A nice look at the jungle of greens and where I trimmed leaves from a broccoli plant. Looks like the beet greens could use another harvest.

Things I am going to be working on indoors is planning the fall garden! I will be in Arizona mid July so I want to be able to come home and not worry about when to plant what. I will be on call for births before I leave til the end of August so I really need to get organized so I don't miss my planting mark. I've always had good intentions of having a productive fall garden but I seem to always lose my steam by August or so and just say heck with it. No more I tell ya! I am actually considering forming another bed or two just for fall crops. But, I won't pull the trigger on that until I am sure I do not have room anywhere else. Frankly, I have a lot I need to grow for fall crops more in quantity of each crop. I need greens, cole crops, carrots and beets to get up through the winter. I will dry a lot of herbs and grow as many as I can on my (new!) south facing kitchen window. This year is my experiment to see what amount I need to plant next year by how fast we run out with normal use.

Dill is growing wonderfully and comfry is being harvested weekly. I just put the last harvest of leaves in oil to infuse to make salves.

Cabbage and sulking lettuce I might pull; young cauliflower and broccoli that are growing heartily; peas that are about a day or two away from first harvest.

Just a little longer than they will be perfect! These are so sweet it's like little bursts of sugar. I am watering the bed every other day while they are filling out.

Bell peppers are budding and the onions are thickening finally.

I need to just marvel at and share how green all the plants in the barn garden are! I'm not sure if it is the horse/chicken manure compost or the Coast of Maine composts, but I have never witnessed such a color in anything I have grown myself. That and the blossoms on the tomatoes are gigantic. HUGE! I haven't seen that before either! What's more is that I was using a high quality organic fertilizer last year and didn't experience this kind of growth and health. This year I really just focused on soil diversity from different compost sources and am blown away. As much as it is tempting to stick yourself in a class of gardening style (Back to Eden, Square Foot, Biointensive, etc.) I think that like most things in life we need to just chuck the stereotypes and 'boxes' out the window. Gardening is not a science to me, I know most would disagree, and there is no right or wrong (except using toxins, that's just not cool). It drives me nuts when people nay say on certain styles simply because they read somewhere it's 'wrong'. Be a rebel! Do it carpet cleaner style and try new things in a corner of your garden you don't care about with spare seeds. No one is going to come get you if you mix different methods. I do it all the time and from the looks of the start of this growing season, I'm so glad I did.

The kiddos playing and hanging out by the barn garden with me while I puttered. Puzzle Boy never smiles until after I snap pictures! Happy Boy on the other hand flashed me a whopper! Oh, and do you see how big my daughter is next to her big brother who is four years older?

Potatoes getting ready to flower. They have to have quadrupled in size in the last two weeks! I have not watered since putting the wood chips on and I have never seen such beautiful potato plants. I snapped a leaf off and it was so moist it dripped.

Hot peppers preparing to bloom as well. I just pruned all the peppers and they have responded with better color and good growth immediately. I love pruning!

Zucchini and the squash/pumpkin/pole bean bed.

Sunflowers are coming up strong both in this fence line garden and the playhouse garden. All the herbs are exploding and need harvesting except the lemon balm which I just did Sunday.

Large garden bed with (in picture order) blackseeded simpson lettuce, lacinato kale with onions in the background, chard, cucumbers (which are still recovering from the rain damage) and corn. Pallet with onions which are a bit behind the onions in the large bed for unexplained reasons.

The tomatoes were staked today. The first picture shows the unsupported lean, second the nice straight stem after, third shows the figure eight method of tying. I also like to tie mine in a bow to make adjustments easy as they grow.

Last I will show you my new fence line behind the garden. After the horse decided to bust out yesterday morning from his pasture over yonder, I decided he needed the electric fence again. So, the little brat is on 'barn arrest' til further notice. He obliged me with a jail bird pose.

So there you have it! Another one after the fourth to come.

This post was share on Green Thumb Thursday Blog Hop.