Tag Archives: planting

Homestead Happenings #6 ~ of planting and cleaning house

This week has been great. We’re back into our spring/summer groove full swing – the kids are outside 4-6 hours a day, the windows are all open and the screen door is getting used again. I’m actually thinking about when I’m going to squeeze in some mowing time (which reminds me, I need to fill the gas can). I’m so excited to be minimizing my indoor time and enjoying the big outdoors.

We made a trip to the laundromat earlier than usual this week due to impending rain, hoping to actually dry the clothes on the line instead of hang them up and watch them get rinsed again… and again. So I’m standing out there, going back forth between the bag of wet laundry in the back of the durango and the clothes line, and I suddenly realize how beautiful this afternoon is. It’s a perfect 70 degrees, just a slight breeze, some sun with occasional clouds to give me some shade, and the birds were singing away. If I could spend my summer in that moment I would be very happy.

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The chicks got a taste of freedom for a few days before I shut them all in the run for a while. We’ve been busy planting this week (peas in one box, onions and radishes in another, and the tomato and bell pepper starters in a third, with the last two boxes covered with row cover cloth) and the hens are known for digging giant holes in my garden – not very nice for little seedlings. So with some supervision we let them all out and the chicks behaved themselves, sticking fairly close to the coop.

Unfortunately, this means no more cuddling with the chickens until we have larger plants, but I guess the kids and the chickens will survive without each other.

See all the tiny tadpoles here? We actually have bigger ones living in the well now, but they are camera shy and dive deep anytime someone comes near. The kids have been having fun watching them grow since they were little eggs. By the way, we’re not using the water from the well now, not since it stopped getting refreshed with water from the early spring melt. We’re using up stored water, and making plans to set up our rain water collection system for the summer again.

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The kids and I will have left the house, er, camper, every day this week except one. This is highly abnormal for us, as we usually make two trips a week into a neighbor town and that’s it. This week we’ve had a family dinner, the laundromat, a private school so Buddy could take a grade placement test, a friend’s house, tomorrow we have a funeral (for my great aunt who died over the holidays), and Saturday is RAD Kids.

Thankfully, most of our traveling is not long distance, so we still have plenty of time at home to finish up school, do some yard work, and of course rest and play.

Somewhere in there, Papa has been sewing more bags for Bags On Sticks, I crocheted another tank top for my niece, plus a bunch of other stuff.

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(blossoms on our cherry tree!)

I haven’t spoken much about my experiment healing my two cavities, but I have some good news to report! I have been taking cod liver oil capsules every day, drinking raw milk almost every day, and swishing coconut oil every day. This week I added OnGuard, a doTerra essential oil blend also known to heal cavities, brushing it right onto my cavities with my toothbrush.

While I can still see a small dark spot on the worse of the two cavities, the sensitivity is decreased so that I can comfortably eat on that side, which I had begun to avoid doing. I’m taking this as a sign that my body is healing! I won’t know for sure how effective these remedies are until my next dental cleaning in November, but I’ll keep using my home treatments until then and let you know what the results are when they’re in.

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The trash bin doesn’t look any different this week so I haven’t included any pictures, but I did cut out the pine for the cover. After Papa picks up some hinges I’ll be able to attach the cover to the bin and share with you the nearly-finished product!

Some of my perennials are doing really well. You can see the comfrey, chives, and rhubarb growing well in the photo below. The blueberry bushes are loaded with buds. I can see some of my medicinal herbs sprouting up in the garden behind the chicken run, but I’m going to wait a little longer to start messing with the beds so I don’t kill any of the fragile perennials, or any that have strayed from their designated spots.

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My shining moment this week came when I unearthed the spot behind the shed that had been buried by junk. You can see in the photo below what it looked like last October, pretty much unchanged up until this week.

There were piles of scrap plywood, insulation, chicken wire, plastic buckets, crates of old oil, and miscellaneous other “what do I do with that” stuff. I didn’t know if I could find a place for everything, or if I would be able to correctly identify actual junk from potentially useful junk without Papa’s resourceful eyes. But I did it.

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In said spot you can now see very few things stored – a couple of windows, a table, and a roll of fencing leaning against the shed, along with the lawn mower and a wagon. Hallelujah! But don’t ask me what I did with all of it or it’ll spoil my secret.

Just kidding. Some of it will be going to the dump this Saturday. Some of it, like sheets of useable insulation, were slid under the shed, plywood into the other plywood pile we had going. A lot of it was simply a matter of sorting things back into their proper places. I’m very pleased.

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Well that about wraps it up, folks! I’ll just finish up with a few more fun pics of the kids, and an actual picture of myself – without a child in my arms, imagine that! Haha.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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wrapping up the harvest season

Fall has officially arrived, and Jack Frost has been thinking about returning. No hard frosts yet, but the garden is certainly feeling the cool temperature, as demonstrated by the much reduced growth of produce. So, after a successful year of gardening we are wrapping up the harvest season; enjoying the beauty and flavor of work well done, and at the same time thinking about the next growing season.

It seems that if we want to keep doing this, we ought to remember what we liked and didn’t like about our garden this year, so we can make it even better next year (for short history of our gardens, read this). While accomplishment and lessons learned are still fresh in our minds, writing down these thoughts will help us get off on the right foot next year.

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How did the garden is turn out?

In roughly 180 square feet we grew ~

  • enough peas to eat them fresh from the garden until we stopped enjoying them
  • enough green and yellow bell peppers, and basil to cook with and eat fresh through the growing season (and we’re still eating them fresh from the garden)
  • approximately 10 quarts of green and wax beans plus many dried beans for seed next year
  • enough tomatoes to can 11 quarts of spaghetti sauce (a lot of tomatoes!), plus more than enough to eat fresh as desired
  • enough cucumbers to make 9 quarts of pickles plus enough to eat fresh as desired
  • 1-2 meals worth of turnips
  • beets, which we didn’t eat because they stopped growing (more on that below)
  • 4-5 meals worth of carrots
  • enough small onions to make several soups with
  • 8 small squash – would have been more, but we had mildew issues (see below)
  • enough sun chokes to fill a 5 gallon pail, plus some

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(digging up the sun chokes)

What aspects of our garden are we pleased with?

This is our third year gardening on this land since we moved here, and for the first time we have been able to can a significant amount of food. Granted, we couldn’t survive the winter off our own produce, but we could eat spaghetti once a week through the winter, have green beans twice a week, when you add in the other 10 quarts of green beans we picked at my grandparent’s, plus pickles on a regular basis, sunchokes as often as we want, and a meal with squash on special occasions.

Putting in the garden was a lot of work this year because we had to move the entire garden space, and I had to shovel enough dirt to fill most of that square footage myself (one thing I’m looking forward to not doing next spring!) Despite the time crunch to get everything ready before the seedlings were ready to transplant, and before the rest of the seeds needed to get in the ground, we had a really good turnout, and overall I am very happy with the results.

We love the new garden set up. We love the garden boxes. It looks great. We have easy access to the space. There is room to grow (another three boxes going into the fenced area next year). Very pleased, to be sure.

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What did we grow?

Because we wanted to focus on growing plenty of our favorite veggies, we decided to choose about ten types, and do the best we could with those. Among those types of veggies, we experimented with new varieties we hadn’t tried before, based on what varieties were said to grow best in our type of environment (namely, cool and usually wet).

These varieties were ~

  • Golden Ball turnips (Heirloom since 1863)
  • Kentucky Blue pole green beans (Heirloom since 1877)
  • Kentucky Wonder pole wax beans
  • Boltardy beets
  • Atomic Red carrots
  • Garden Sweet Burpless cucumbers
  • Green Arrow peas
  • a kaleidoscope mix of sweet peppers
  • Sweet Dumpling squash
  • Subarctic Plenty and Early Girl tomatoes
  • Copra-Long Day onions

Those varieties which I did not specify further information for were all, I believe, either organic or heirloom, but I didn’t write down which. All except the Early Girl toms, which came from my grandparents, were bought from a fairly local seed company.

We were also given a good size piece of sunchoke root, which we planted near the chicken coop. It flourished very well, so well in fact, that it blocked out the sun from our blackberries which were also growing near the chicken coop. Is that why they call them sun chokes? ::: smile ::: Because of their shading properties, I transplanted it to the tomato garden, since I plan to put next year’s tomatoes in one of the three new boxes, and they will now provide shade for the boxes I plan to plant peas in next year. Which brings me to…

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What do we want to do differently next year?

We were pleased with the varieties we chose this year. Some, like the peas and pole beans, we chose for their space-saver or high production rate reputation. Others, like the turnips and squash, we chose for their known longevity in cold storage. In experimenting with varieties, we are looking for those that we, number one, like the taste of, but also those that will give us plenty to eat throughout the winter, even if we can’t can or freeze them.

At this point I think we will use the same varieties, except for skipping on the Subarctic Plenty toms and going straight for the Early Girls, and mixing up the peppers a bit so we can make salsa. I will also be experimenting with growing more produce per square footage.

However, there were two issues we need to work out so that next year’s crop is improved. The first is changing up the fertilizer for our root crops. We only used store-bought humus and compost made from our leftover food, green compost, and chicken manure. It worked well for all of our crops except the beets, turnips, onions, and carrots. Those were mostly useable, but very small. I think they need some more minerals suited to all root crops, so this winter I’ll be researching cheap and natural ways to enhance root crop production.

The second issue we faced was mildew on the cucumbers and squash. They say mildew grows best when you are trecking through the garden bed, moving plant disease around, and also when you water the leaves from above. The cukes and squash were in a raised bed, so moving disease around couldn’t have been an issue, but I did water the leaves as well as the dirt during dry spells. I’m not sure why that would be an issue when they obviously get wet during rain storms, but next year I’ll be sure to water from below! Crowding of the plants could be a potential risk-increaser, so I may have to think about thinning out the seedlings in that particular box.

I did try a little experiment on the mildew. I read that spraying about 1 part milk to 3 parts water on the leaves will prevent mildew from growing because of all the antibodies in the milk. I did this a couple of times, but unfortunately by the time I realized what that fuzzy white stuff was all over my plants it was too late. The milk was not enough to fight it, and the resulting lack of photo synthesis led to increasingly smaller squash and cucumbers as time went on. In the end I pulled the plants, and lost a lot of potential produce. Next year, I may also start using the milk method as a preventative.

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(you can see where I transplanted the sun chokes in line with the remaining tomato plants)

How are we preparing the beds for winter and coming spring?

To make planting season as easy as possible, I wanted to do as much prep work as I could this fall. For the pea box, I pulled out the trellis and chopped up all the green compost (vines) with a hoe. After they began decomposing I used the hoe to mix the greens into the soil, loosened it all up, and covered it thinly with sawdust which Papa gets for free from work. In similar fashion, I have already turned over the first of two pole bean boxes, the turnip and beet box, and the cucumber and squash box, although for the later I did not turn under the greens because of concerns about spreading mildew (I don’t know if it works that way, but wanted to be cautious). I either used dried grass clippings or sawdust to cover the beds, whichever was more readily available. As each plant stops producing food or seed for planting next year, I will turn the beds. Sort of like the old-fashioned process of flipping mattresses, I suppose.

In the spring, I plan to turn the shavings and grass under, and mix it all up, adding a little more soil and this year’s compost into the mix. Because our soil is quite heavy, adding all that green compost should help to loosen up the dirt and make it easier for seeds to thrive.

There is also a possibility that we will be building the framework this fall for a greenhouse, which could also give our root vegetables a better chance if we started them there in the early spring. That framework would also provide a safe place to hold our solar setup, plus Papa is working out a plan for using the back end of the greenhouse as a sort of root cellar. Hard to explain, pictures are sure to follow at some point, but needless to say, while we are wrapping up this year’s harvest season our minds are also busy at work thinking about how we can make next year even more successful.

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What does your garden look like this time of year? Do you use a greenhouse to extend your growing season? How do you prep your garden for the winter?

after the rain

It has been a long, long, long week and a half of cloudy, rainy, windy weather here, and while we’ve been able to sneak outside for brief periods of time to work and play between showers, today was really the first sunshine we’ve had for a while. Being Memorial Day, Papa was able to stay home, which helped to make up for the fact that our well-laid plans for the weekend were thwarted. Two weeks ago we planned a sleepover for the kids at my dad and stepmom’s from Saturday morning to Sunday morning and Papa and I were going to use that time to take a few loads to the dump (45 minutes away) and get cracking on the garden boxes, among other things.

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Then the rain started. And it continued. And we thought, well, if it just rains a little, we can still work outside. Then we got the truck stuck in the mud, and the wind became so strong that the turbine topped out the voltage meter for most of the day. Not the safest conditions to be working outside.

After doing our fair share of complaining we ended up spending several hours wandering around Good Will and Books a Million, having lunch and coming home to mostly hang out. I say mostly because I did take a couple hours to do some serious organizing in the storage camper – more progress made there.

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(Papa had to take the porch apart to reuse the plywood on the shed, leaving this horrible mess to take care of too!)

Sunday wasn’t the best weather either, and Monday morning the sun came out and shined on the muddy, sopping wet yard. But the sun was such a refreshing sight, especially to me, as I have still been up at night with Chickie, now cutting four molars at once. I needed the sun.

But we also needed to work, so as soon as breakfast was over everyone was out the door, and Papa and I managed to get a good amount done by lunch – he building two boxes for me and then working on the shed, and I shoveling loam and compost for the tomato garden.

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After lunch (we splurged on pizza from the general store) I came inside to the dirty dishes, toys, and laundry I had left that morning, the kids all needed attention for different things, and those tomatoes weren’t going to plant themselves! I started getting that sinking feeling that I was in way over my head. How on earth was I supposed to plant and maintain a whole garden when I couldn’t even get the seedlings I have started in the ground?!

It was then, in my teary-eyed state, that Pal began gently singing his version of the ABC’s and then asked me if I felt better. He gave me a big hug, and I decided that the best thing would be for me to call it a day outside, even though it was not yet two in the afternoon, and help the kids to find things to do and get the place straightened up. If the tomatoes didn’t get planted that day, they would eventually.

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In the midst of this I was texting with Auntie, and my mom called to offer to take the kids for the night so I could keep going if I wanted. Part of me wanted to say no because the kids had just spent the night at my dad’s, but I really did need to get those plants taken care of, so off they went with hugs and kisses and plans for pancakes for supper.

After finishing the dishes I went back outside, transplanted most of the 40-ish tomato plants, transplanted the bell pepper plants, and  fixed the trellis for the peas that are beginning to sprout.

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Papa finished assembling and staining the facia and soffits, tacked down the tar paper again that the wind had blown off more than once, and installed the drip edge. Then he put in the three storm windows that were once on the porch. The vinyl siding he started putting up Sunday night.

Actually, the siding provides an interesting story. Originally we did not figure in siding when pricing out the shed. We wanted to keep it as cheap as possible, reusing materials and only buying what was necessary to get it weatherproofed. Papa figured that if it was wrapped it would be fine until we could come up with the cash for it. But even though I understood the reasoning behind this, and came to support it, I really wanted the siding done. Without it, it would be just one more project that wasn’t complete.

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So, my dear husband estimated how much vinyl siding we still had from our old home renovation project, and priced out how much we would need to buy of the same color to finish the shed. We used money from our house fund to pay for it. And, while it isn’t the house we are building, seeing a finished, permanent structure on our homestead will be motivating as we build our home. To me, and Papa agrees, that is worth spending a little extra on the finishing touches of the shed.

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The weathermen say this week should be sunny almost all the way through, and possibly sunny on the weekend, so other than a wedding midday, we should have plenty of time to work. Auntie says Fridays and Saturdays are good days for her to spend a few hours with the kids here, so it looks like that will become part of our routine.

Tomorrow I’ll pick up the kids first thing in the morning, wash the laundry on the way home, and spend the day playing with the kids. After Papa brings home nails for the nail gun I’ll be assembling wooden tomato cages and wrapping the ones holding the smallest plants with leftover tar paper to help protect them from the wind.

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So, it seems interesting, and encouraging to note, that despite the difficulties of homesteading, and the number of times I cry about my fears of not getting things accomplished, it does seem to work out in the end. This will be a never-ending project really. I mean, when does a homesteader actually reach the end of the work? It doesn’t happen. This is an ongoing thing, and I have to remember and regularly remind myself that it is okay if I don’t get things done when I want them to be. Hey, last year I planted tomato seedlings in July, so I guess the end of May isn’t so bad!

a short history of the gardens at AFN, and hopes for 2013

Papa and I are no experts in gardening. When we tell people we are living off-grid, it seems like it is expected that we are growing and preserving most of the food we eat, but that is far from the truth. We have dabbled in gardening for a few years, but have yet to produce enough to store more than a few jars of beans or tomato sauce to eat through the winter. But we have a dream.

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(photos feature our produce from 2012)

Our dream is to produce a large amount of the food we consume. Not because we want to leave small carbon footprint, or to be part of the latest self-sufficient trend, but because we want to eat healthy food, and we want to do it as inexpensively and independently as possible. But we subscribe to the one bite at a time theory as well.

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We can’t grow a huge garden with Papa at work 40 hours a week and me homeschooling and caring for four children at home. A huge garden off the bat is not practical, financially responsible (until we know what we are doing), or good for our family’s emotional well-being. Gardens are a lot of work, which is why we have stuck to a little bit at a time over the past few years. Here’s what our history in gardening looks like ~

2008 – Had bad luck planting flowers in the ground – trouble with sun exposure, moisture of the soil, and chipmunks. Decided then and there that a vegetable garden would not be a wise investment.

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2009 – Began harvesting from my comfrey plant for multiple medicinal uses – making ice packs for kids boo boos and diaper rash salve. Great success. Planted a small raised garden on the new property with vegetables. Harvested radishes, then we had torrential rain that drowned everything and we had vehicle troubles that prevented us from getting to the land frequently enough to care for it.

2010 – Planted a small hanging garden at our old house. Six – five gallon pails holding herbs and tomatoes. Began experimenting with composting. Preserved herbs as salves and tinctures.

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2011 – Planted and harvested a large perennial cooking and medicinal herb garden. Grew tomatoes, green and wax beans, peas, onions, greens, bell peppers, and carrots. Had a decent enough turnout to eat fresh veggies into the late fall. Preserved canned tomato sauce and dried onions, as well as many of the herbs into teas, salves, and tinctures.

2012 – Harvested perennial herbs to use as needed. Grew tomatoes, green beans, onions, and greens. Ate some fresh, tried to preserve some, but had trouble with frost due to a late start in the garden (something to do with having a baby I think).

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What will 2013 hold for us? I hope more vegetables! This year I do not have a newborn, and I have a much better plan on how to get outside early enough and frequently enough to work the garden before July! I hesitate to say whether we will preserve much or not. This is a learning experience, and gardening takes a long time to become accustomed to, but I do expect to harvest more than in previous years based on what we have learned so far.

A couple weeks ago I recommended the book, Garden Way’s Joy of Gardening by Dick Raymond. If you want to garden you really need to find this book! I borrowed it from the library, and filled it with slips of paper so I could go back and take notes (off to my home management binder they go!).

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This week Girlie and Pal planted most of our tomato and bell pepper seeds for me. We started them in a 72 call peat moss filled seed tray. As soon as the snow melts Papa and I will be moving the garden boxes to a new spot that we believe will offer better drainage. There will be quite a bit of rearranging out here, and we are both anxious to get the garden in, even though we won’t be putting much in the ground until May.

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To keep things simple, and hopefully more likely to be preserved, I limited my seed choices to those I knew would be easy to grow and eaten frequently. We purchased them from a local seed company. You may notice there is no lettuce or broccoli or other leafy greens on this list. Those I hope to plant in late summer when pests won’t be so abundant, as we’ve had trouble with them. I know there are ways to fix that, but I don’t want to give myself too much to handle this year. Anyway, here’s the list:

  1.     Kentucky Blue pole green beans
  2.     Kentucky Wonder wax pole beans
  3.     Boltardy beets
  4.     Atomic Red carrots
  5.     Garden Sweet Burpless cucumbers
  6.     Green Arrow peas
  7.     a Kaleidoscope Mix of sweet bell peppers
  8.     Sweet Dumpling winter squash
  9.     Subarctic Plenty tomatoes
  10.     Copra-Long Day onions
  11.     Golden Ball Turnips

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The seedlings we’ve started don’t look too exciting right now, as tomatoes and peppers can take a while to sprout. They say we are on a warming trend now, so I’m crossing my fingers that it won’t be much longer before we are sharing pictures of outdoor projects!

garden in July

We have been neglecting the gardens this year. Who knew that an out-of-home job and a fourth child could have that effect?! (tongue in cheek of course).

I had hoped to get on the planting earlier this season, but both Papa and I have had a lot vying for our attention and the gardens have become quite unruly.

A couple weeks ago my mom came to help watch the kids while I got our starters planted, finally. We have tomatoes, green peppers, broccoli, and swiss chard. Then Buddy, Girlie, and I went back out last week and planted peas and prepared another spot for seeds.

Most of last year’s crops were planted in July, so I guess we can get away with it for a second year in a row.

I also attempted to fill the solar dehydrator with medicinal perrenial herbs we have, but discovered the plywood has made a nice home for the ants, so that has been put on hold as well.

A little bit at a time we’ll work on it, but I had to point out how sad it looks because even though we do live off-grid, let’s be honest, this is not what self-sufficiency looks like! I have great respect for Pa and Ma Ingalls.

april showers bring may… tomato sprouts?

It’s that time of year again, when gardeners pull their shovels, hoes, and forks out of the tool shed and start playing in the dirt. Despite the 20+ hours of overtime Papa has been working each week, he has been making some nice progress on the gardens here. I can’t say I’ve been much help. Although I do believe our garden is important I have had a hard time getting into the mood, what with children, housekeeping, homeschooling, arrends, spring cleaning, and well, you get the point.

But this isn’t a post about excuses. Actually, I intended to show you some examples of the work Papa has been doing to make our gardens look a little prettier this year, and offer proof that our tomatoes are in fact sprouting. Today I can do you neither because the sun hasn’t been shining around here, making picture taking difficult. The pictures shown here are from last year’s garden landscaping.

If self-sufficiency is the goal, it doesn’t really matter how pretty your garden is as long as you have edible food and herbs growing there, but while our piles of scrap wood and junk may fool you, we really do want our yard to be presentable!

Last year Papa laid out dock sections and painted them to create a walkway. He also added stone edgings and frames to a few small gardens. This year he’s rearranging the dock sections we have left and installing circular garden boxes he made out of water barrels. Fill in the gaps with landscape fabric and bark mulch and you have a more intentional looking garden area that provides both nourishment and beauty.

Around the time of Chickie’s birth in March, Papa set up the bulk of the greenhouse, which is currently providing shelter to the tomato and sweet pepper sprouts. It still needs the gable ends finished, but it will get done with time.

Some of my medicinal herbs are coming up again. The comfrey is growing faster than ever. Thyme, yarrow, calendula, mint, anise hyssop, and some others are showing their spring leaves. And, I fear I may be killing my second aloe plant. Is it that hard to maintain or is it just me?!

We’ve added a few new plants as well – lambs ear, parsley, and rhubarb that was transplanted from my step grandmother’s garden.

Most of our veggies we will start from seed, except for onions which are bulbs. We had planned to use a local seed company, but because of other things vying for our attention we ended up purchasing them from a farming store nearby out of convenience.

I am making an honest attempt at spending more time outdoors though, and planting flowers is near the top of my to-do list. We may not be rich, but a few packets of flower seeds will do wonders to a humble home.

Are you planting a garden this year? Tell us what you’ve got planned! If you have written a gardening post recently, feel free to leave the link in a comment below.

Marigolds, chicks, and ducks

Yesterday when Buddy was treasure hunting behind the garage, he found a few pretty purple flowers, which I shared with you in my last post. He told Papa he wanted to plant some flowers, so we told him we could plant flowers when we started the rest of our seeds.

Being rainy, there weren’t too many projects Papa was able to do today, so he got us all working on starting the starters. First came the marigolds in special pots labeled “Nemo” and “Daphney”, then came the oregano, rosemary, coneflower, peppers, tomatoes, and onions. We have about 8 more varieties of herbs to plant indoors, which Papa and I will be working on later this evening.

What is a day of farming without new chicks? Papa took Buddy to “the chicken store”, a.k.a. the Tractor Supply Company, intending to purchase six Golden Comet pullets to add to our collection of layers. Because we are required by Maine state law to purchase six at a time, we fully anticipated bringing home six chicks, but as it turned out we were able to buy six Red Comet chicks for the price of four, because two of them were runts, so Papa picked out two ducklings as well.

The kids were very excited, of course. While the two men were off on their assignment, Girlie and I prepared the chicks’ (and ducklings’) new home, a rubbermaid tub we used for the last batch of chicks. When they arrived the chicks and ducklings jumped around their home, were held a few times each I’m sure, and settled in for a nap.

Unfortunately, one of the runts has already passed on. We knew she looked sickly and as time went on she was responding less and less to stimuli. We talked to Buddy about the possibility that she might not live through the night, and he was fine with that, provided that we give him the chance to hold her after she died. He did, and he put her in the brown paper bag that we’ll bury her in tomorrow. She was just a chick, and we didn’t even know her, but it’s still sad. I told her runt “sis”, she has to get stronger and live well for her lost friend, but we have a feeling she won’t make it much longer either.

Quite a day of farming adventures really. Life, death, learning, adjusting, and moving on.

Enjoy this video of our six chicks and two ducklings when they first came home.

Update – Both runts died, so we’re down to four healthy chicks and two ducks, and I forgot to mention that Buddy named the ducks (of unknown gender) Maiko and Teaka!

Building starter trays

Ah, yes it is time to start getting our garden stuff out and into action. This time we will be going full bore as if our lives depended on it. Recently we made an eBay purchase for 300 4″ plastic pots and plastic trays with 480 individual cells, and it was delivered to us all neatly stacked together taking up maybe a couple square feet. I sat proudly and thought to myself “Yeah…..we are gearing up for this homstead project” as I gazed upon our growing arsenal of self-relient STUFF. Yet, there was a nagging thought barking in my left ear saying “What are you going to do about getting these seeds started in time when you don’t have any trays to put the planters in, no money to buy them, and really have not a decent location to put it all at this point?”. To get this clear it was not Mama barking in my left ear but a reality check smacking me around!

So after kicking a few ideas around in my head I came up with a solution that would not cost more than $30.00 and hold 680 individual starter pot/cells. I, being king of cheap, decided to use a sheet of luan plywood , 1×4 #4 grade pine (my favorite solution for everything duct tape won’t fix), a few 1 1/4″ screws, and six trash bags to build my six waterproof trays. The day was 4-4-11 and I remembered, “ahh haa!” I had a Lowe’s coupon to get $10 off a purchase of $50 or more expiring that day. However, I did not want to spend an extra $20 just to get $10 off because it seemed too….something or other. Needing to start a fire I went outside to split some wood while pondering what I could do and still be finacially prudent, when “CRACK” the head of my splitting maul fell right off and into a slushy puddle. “Oops! That sucks!” I yelled, and looking up I saw Buddy staring through our door at me with this cunfused gitty look on his face. I went back inside only to have Buddy, trying very hard not laugh, start muttering some alien words describing what just happened. Agreeing with his laugh I too started laughing and said, “well I’m gonna be going to lowe’s. Who wants to go with me?”. It really didn’t matter who wanted to go because it was Girlie’s turn to ride with Papa anyways, so off we went.

The trays I built are 25″ by 33″ and 2 1/2″ deep and have a separated trash bag liner which is secured using staples. I dumped a gallon of water into one and found that it has about a 5/16″ water table height. This good to know for watering purposes. The tray also held water without a problem, even as I sloshed it around during the trip to the drain. Eventually I will most likely build some sort of greenhouse rack system for the trays, but for now we have something to start with.