Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

I had a friend come by today, and it was such a delight.  She wanted to learn how to make Kombucha so that was what we started out with, but she also wanted to spend the day on the farm.  We planted potatoes, carrots, beets, peas, beans, asparagus peas, swiss chard, tomatoes, tomatillos and winter squash!  We came in and out, throughout the day, dodging rain drops, and we fed Nellie a nice pile of weeds from the garden.  It was great fun!

My Speckled Sussex arrived today!  This is a “new to me breed” of chickens.  I love them.  They are so beautiful.  A deep mahogany with white specks on the tips of their feathers, and a thin black bar a bit in from the white, gives their feathers interest.  They are a dual purpose bird, and have Dorking in their lineage, which should make them an excellent meat bird.  I’m excited to get to know the breed.  I purchased them from Tony Albritton from Idaho.  He was a delight to work with.  I prefer to order birds from breeders, rather than hatcheries, because the time put in by a good breeder does so much to improve the quality of the birds.  Hatcheries, while important for many reasons, don’t have the time to put into each breed the way a dedicated breeder of just one or a couple breeds are able to do.  It’s worth paying extra for well bred birds, whenever you can.  I’m excited to see these birds grow out, and will be selecting a breeding flock from them this fall!

But don’t worry little Ancona’s, you have my heart, and while I may go on about the beauty of the Speckled Sussex, don’t think for a moment I don’t swoon over your stark black and white, with that gorgeous red rose comb!  You’re large white egg is nothing to be ignored, either.

Today I was clearly reminded of why I LOVE breeding.  When you have an animal that you have selected from all the animals on your farm, who goes on to outshine their parents…well, that is what good breeding is all about.  I had a rabbit, Edna, who was the daughter of a very excellent doe, who died last summer from heat stroke.  I selected Edna, and her sister Eliza from the 6 does in that litter.  I selected them for their body confirmation, with the hope that they would also have their mother’s ability to throw a good litter, and keep them alive until weaning.  Both Edna’s mother and herself have out shined Edna’s grandmother, Clementine, who never kindled more than 7, and most often only raised 5 to weaning.  She was a lovely rabbit, but not what her daughter and granddaughter went on to be.

I have to wait to see if Edna will follow through and be a good mom, now that she’s kindled this lovely litter of 8, but to have 8 on her first litter, is quite amazing.  They all seem of solid, and consistent size, too.

I love breeding!


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Breeding season!  I’m working on two breeding programs.  I’ve mentioned the Ancona chickens, but I’m also doing something with my Muscovy Ducks.  My chocolate ducks are great, but a little undersized, so I’m breeding them with some larger ducks.  Still Muscovy, but these are Black, instead of Chocolate.  I picked up a male and a female tonight.  They have come from Yellow House Farm, and I’m excited about the project.

The Black Male will be bred to my Chocolate female.  All these ducklings will be colored black, but will carry for Chocolate.

The Black Female will be bred with “Mister” my Chocolate Male.  This is a sex-linked pairing which means that  the Male ducklings will be black and will carry for Chocolate.  The Female ducklings will be Chocolate.

Next year I’ll cross this years ducklings to bring out the Chocolate color, and hopefully increase the overall size of the Chocolate line I have.

Well, in order to do this I need to new coops.   They don’t need to be large, just enough for two ducks for a few weeks.  I got my hands on the round disks from cable packaging that are 5ft across, and used them to create an adorable round coop.

There are a couple more tweaks, like a border around the bottom to keep the bedding from spilling out, a latch on the door, and a green roof!!  I’ve been reading Small Green Roofs: Low-Tech Options for Greener Living and I’m so excited to give it a try.  I’m going to start with this coop.  Oh, and a little paint on the door and the flower…so mostly cosmetic details, which means it’s done, for the purpose of a breeding coop.

Josie had a stellar litter today.  It was on the small side, numerically, with 5 kits, but they are so chubby!  Healthy, lovely, chubby baby bunnies.

Clementine kindled as well.  Just 2 kits, so I think she’s done breeding.  She is the grandmother, and soon to be great grandmother of my current breeding does, and she’s 4-5 years old.  I’m going to see if I can find her a home as a manure maker, because she probably has a few more good years, just not as a breeder.  I hope she keeps both alive, but they are inside tonight, since it’s so cold and there are only 2, so not a lot of body warmth ti share.

My seedlings are doing pretty well, considering how much attention the animals demand.  These are Loofa gourd plants that have just emerged this week!


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Welcome Spring…Oh wait.   Welcome Summer?  80 degrees in March…

I’m just going to ignore all that, and focus on getting to sleep with the window open at night…yeah that is the upside to this crazy weather.

I started some Loofa seeds today.  I tried them a couple years ago…kind of a disaster.  I’m trying again, and I’m very hopeful.  I’ve realized that hope has it easy.  Hope just makes promises.  Hope doesn’t have to come through, at all.  Hope just has to open your mind to the potential, and then his job is done.  I guess that always having to come up with new possibilities could be considered a challenge, but it’s all fluff, no substance.  Yes, hope has it easy.

Despite my clear understanding of how risky it is to trust in the unproven nature of hope, I find myself falling into the trap that is Spring.  The hope of a new season, a new growing year, hatching birds, and a baby cow.  Hope abounds…even if it’s potentially just empty promises.

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Been busy working, so not a lot of time for projects to share, but I have some coming.  In the mean time, check out the trailer for a cool movie/food experiment.

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What a summer.  I had a trade show in the last week of July that took 6+weeks of prep and the a week at the show and 3 weeks of follow up…Yes, folks that my summer…all 10 weeks of it.  On the heels of that, I taught a class in how to raise rabbits for meat!  So a week of yard work to pretty up the place, preceded that.  The long and short of it, it was a great productive summer.  I’m glad I went to the show and the class was great fun.

I had to drop some things, and the blogging was one of those.  Fall is here, the commitments are behind me and while I’m staring a busy season in the face, I feel good and am ready to hit the ground running.

Last week the canning began.  102 quarts of sliced peaces, 69 pints of Peach salsa, 12 half pints of Peach butter, all shared with my good friend Jessica.  That took 46 man hours to complete.  The day after that was done, I picked 150 pounds of tomatoes and the following day canned them into 51 quarts of diced tomatoes, and 9 quarts of juice!  That was from 10 am until 2:30 am on my own.  Tomatoes can up much faster than Peaches.  Photos are coming from my canning, but since I didn’t take any during the process, I am going to show you my finished storage cabinet…when it’s finished.

Phew.  That is a great start to the winter stocking up.  I have enough apple sauce for the year, as I over canned last year.  I did receive a request for dried apples for snacks, which I will do up, but the only big caning left is the end of the month when the Bartlett Pears are ready.  I do plan on some fun canning this year, a little chutney, some relish, that sort of thing, and hopefully I’ll tell you all about it when I get there.

I wanted to put in a fall garden, and it didn’t happen until today.  Interestingly enough, I checked the blog history to find that September 5 was when the 2010 fall garden was planted!  In light of this, I opted to not plant carrots, as they didn’t have time last year, and likely won’t again this.  I did plant from seed: radish, beets, and spinach.  Bought some starts for kale, lettuce, broccoli and leeks.  In the bed from the summer, that will stay until it’s done, arugula, leeks, basil, prize choy and swiss chard!

In addition to getting them in the ground, I built their homes!!  I took a class on building this sort of thing last year, but didn’t have time to do it for the 2010 fall garden.  I added water storage to the plan, so that should increase temps a bit too.  The hoops were from Cavaretta Gardens.  The frame for the bed is 4’x8′ made from 2×8″.  They were made a couple years ago, and were still in place.  The frame is 2×4 with metal brackets in the corners for stability,  pipe brakets to hold the pipes in place, 2 large hinges on the back, 3 mil plastic over the top, and a handle on the front.  There is a 2×2 piece that holds the hoops together on the top, that is also secured with the pipe clips.  It allows for easy access to the veggies, and should shed the snow just fine.  More catching up to come.  It’s nice to be back!  I hope you had a good summer too!

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Hey there, ole’ friend.  It’s been a while since I posted.  I’ve been busy inside and out.   The garden is almost planted, I’ve been harvesting peas, 1.5 pounds so far, as well as the greens and garlic scapes!  There are 102 tomato plants in my front yard, and I think all the essentials are in the ground.  I still want to plant mangle beets for the animals, quinoa, and sunflowers…if I’m not too late for them to do what they need to before the end of the summer.  I’m going to be checking time frames and whatever will still work will go in the ground this week, hot or not.

Inside I’ve been whittling away at some of the cleaning projects I’ve been meaning to do all winter…Spring Cleaning?  Summer, will have to do.  They are the extra things, not the day to day living area.  That’s clean enough, in a lived in sort of way.  I’m trying to clean out the closets, remove unneeded kitchen gadgets, declutter from what is left in the mudroom from seed starting.  That sort of stuff.

The kitchen has been taking a lot of my time lately.  In addition to my locavore adventures, I am dabbling in WAPF/Weston A Price Foundation/Nourishing Traditions style foods.  This week I made:

  • Beef Jerky using ground beef. (2 batches)
  • Yogurt cheese (place 1 quart yogurt in a cheese cloth, hand to drip overnight, cheese will remain in the cloth, whey in the bowl underneath.  Easy.)
  • 5 quarts of yogurt
  • Chocolate Frozen Yogurt
  • Crispy nuts: Hazelnuts, Almonds, Sunflower Seeds
  • Granola
  • Fruit bars, similar to Lara Bars. This batch contains Apricots, Figs, Coconut, Dates, Raisins, Almonds, Orange Peel Powder, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cardamon, Ginger.
  • Sourdough Cheese and Herb Crackers (2 batches)

Most of those items were made in an attempt to create easy to grab lunch items for summer fun, busy garden days and to increase the pro-biotic foods in our diets.  A couple nights ago the girls wanted to make tents in the living room.  This was around dinner time, so I gave them Sourdough Crackers, Nuts and Beef Jerky for their camp.  They were thrilled.

Today I went to a class on drip irrigation and rain water harvesting.  I’m excited to get set up here.  I’m going to start with the irrigation, which will be run from my hose for now.  I still need gutters, to make good use of the rain barrels, but I’m working towards that.  After the class I was chatting with some folks and kombucha came up.  I’ve been interested in the drink for a while and I’ve watched videos on how to start one, but at the time it seemed so complicated.  After talking with everyone today, it seems much less mysterious.  I received the gift of a scoby (starter culture of sorts) from someone who actually has some of my sourdough Starter, Irma.  I came home and made the tea, added the scoby and it’s sitting in my cabinet doing it’s thing.  In 5 days I get to taste it to see how it’s progressing and, when it’s to my liking, I can remove the liquid and start a new batch.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.


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I grew up on the land where I live now.  It has always had poison ivy.  I’ve always wondered if I was good at avoiding it, or if I was the rare person who was immune.  Well, if I was immune, it has warn off, and I have a case of it.  I’ve been using jewel weed to stave off the itch, which is working, but this stuff has got to go.  It’s only gotten worse over the years, and it’s encroaching on our living area.

Enter Nellie, our chemical free poison ivy eradicator.

I read that goats are good for removing poison ivy, so I looked, and sure enough many people online indicated their cows, also liked the nasty little plant.  I tethered Nellie near a grassy spot that had plenty of poison ivy nearby, and it wasn’t her first choice, but she did eat a fair bit of it, and moved on to other things afterwards…and this was after a quite bit of grazing on grass, so it wasn’t out of hunger.  Yay!  I hope to see her doing this a lot more.

Did you know the leaves of the Elderberry Plant have a toxin in them?  Evidently so, which worked out great, because Nellie clearly knows this, as well.  She has cleaned out all the scrub from around my Elderberry plants but didn’t touch even one obvious leaf on the plant!  Perfect.

She has been doing a great job of cleaning up the weeds at the edge of the garden.  I’m happy to report she has still not tried to eat any of the garden plants…but I’m not leaving her alone near them…especially the strawberry patch, which has several nearly ripe berries on them.

By the way, Nellie is seeming smaller to me lately.  Not like she’s lost weight, I’m sure she hasn’t, more that she doesn’t seem like such a large animal.  I think this might mean we are getting used to her…horns and all.


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