Sunday, May 31, 2015

Rainy Day

So, May 2015 was the hottest May on record around here.  It was plenty hot, thats for sure.  I am enjoying the cooler temps and steady light rain today. The garden is liking the moisture also.

I will make use of the wet weather as an excuse to stay inside and get some things done in the house.  Though I am trying to avoid stripping wallpaper... I am always trying to avoid that... NOT my favorite thing.

So not much doing outside, though I did a bit of much needed weeding.  And walked aroind with the camera. Here are a few photos... our flower beds arent much for panoramoc views, but some close ups arent bad.
This is a rhubard flower.  Its ginormous!   Each of those flower clusters are about 2 feet tall.  

Some late blooming daffodils.

Ok, just happy to see all those potatos coming up!

The hens are hanging out in the shelter of the chicken tractor.  Which is more than I can say for the goslings, who apparently dont have the sense to get out of the rain. 

We scored these great wood frame windows at the dump.  They will become part of the greenhouse when we can get around to building it.

Pansies... always one of my favorites

Bleeding Heart, aptly named..

Siberian Iris.... 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sweet Cherry Tree Dreams

Thanks to a gift from my mom (thanks!) my dreams of picking sweet cherries off our own trees might be a reality next year.

 These two cherry trees will be the center of attention in the spring when they bloom on this small slope near the house.
my poor picture taking barely caught the other tree on the far left but its there. Two varieties are required for pollinating. these are "Stella" and "Bing". The plan is to clear and mulch this hillside and plant a variety of blooming perennials and maybe some fruit bushes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Toad Serendipity

This little toad was sitting in the tray of marigold seedlings when I came to water them.  I guess he enjoyed the shower and the perfectly sized little cubby to sit in.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Chicken Tractor:Why It Fits Well with Our Plans

The chicken tractor, ie, "Meals on Wheels", is a mobile chicken coop. Its at least twice the floor space of the permament coop, but even more important, we can use this to accomplish several things at once.
1.  Free range the hens so they get a wholesome, natural diet of insects, weeds, and grit.
2. Protect them from predators, and from their own silliness ( like hanging out in the road, or across the street.)
3. Help prepare a new plot of garden.  Chickens do a marvelous job of tilling, weeding, bug control, and fertilizing.  And they work really cheap. 😊
4. Protect the rest of the planted areas from all of the above activities. 

We have 3 or 4 areas to rotate this coop, so once the girls have eaten an area down, we just move them and the electric fence (which is all one piece and very easy to set up and  take down.)
Our homestead doesnt lend itself to a permanent coop if we want to rotate the pastures where the chickens will graze. so moving the coop around is perfect for us.  Until deep winter, this will be home.

The chicken tractor has been moved to its first location.

The solar fence energizer, and Steve's finger.

Part of the new pasture that will be garden space next year.

The tarp provides rain protection, and the overhang helps a little too. I plan to add some clear plastic onnthe back, but we dont need it for the next few days.

Another view.  

The girls are all in the enclosure now.  They quickly went to work digging and finding bugs.

Some are inside.  Roosts come off for moving, and nest boxes  are just simple milk crates on the ground.  This is like camping, only for chickens.

Busy eating weeds and  bugs. We have not electrified the fence yet.  We will turn it on tonight when we put them to bed.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tractor Tractor Fence

who knows what chickens are thinking? These  y oungsters all decided the wood pallet where we stored firewood seemed like a good place to take a nap.  Go figure.

This is the "fence" portion of the title.  Steve installed the dog door, made a ramp to it, and put up a small fence for the dogs.  Now they can come and go from the house.  Eventually, we will fence all of zone 1 around the house, but not until after the heavy equipment is done with the barn build.

And this is the Tractor Tractor part of the title.  First, the new John Deere lawn tractor.  We decided mowing 7 acres with a push mower wasn't going to happen.  This also will be useful to pull things around the place.   Behind the John Deere, is the new (unfinished) Chicken Tractor.

Here's another view of the Chicken Tractor. What is it you ask? It's a mobile chicken coop.  I call it "Meals on Wheels".  This coop can be moved to several different locations, and the electric fence will be installed around it.  This way, the girls can have fresh pasture, and eat bugs and weeds to their hearts content, but still be contained and safe from predators.  When we found them across the street in the meadow the other day, we knew it was time to get this done.  

Dinner time!  They were waitaing for Steve when he came out the door. They absolutely know that the food bins are inside that door.  

Following Steve.  

The geese also got an upgrade.  A ramp leading to their swimming pool.  We considered a diving board. ... :-)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Growing Fast

At just 4 weeks of age, the goslings are larger than the hens.  This breed of geese will get to be 16-18 pounds when fully grown.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Signs of Life

I am forced to use cell phone pictures for now, so I apologize for the not so great quality. 
Today I planted the grapevinesnd the hops.  Both of these looked like bare sticks mostly, but close examination showed tiny buds or roots beginning to grow.  Many things are popping out of dormancy now.  This is a great time of year.

First strawberry blossoms.

Hoop houses cover the heat-loving tomatoes and peppers.

These romaine lettuces will be allowed to mature to full size.  I have found that keeping straw underneath them helps them not be gritty when you go  to eat them.

The garlic is looking good, and interplanted with it are lettuces and spinach.

My entourage.

Raspberries are showing some blossoms.

And a few of the blueberry bushes have actually set fruit.

This is Floyd the rooster.  I think he is going to be especially handsome.  The youngsters are about four months old now.

So far we have planted
 apple trees
one thing remaining is a cranberry vine for down in the boggy area at the bottom of the hill.

Those are the fruit crops, well, except for hops.  I am still hoping for a cherry tree.  And investigating some nut trees that might be workable.  Even though it will be several years for some of these crops to really begin to produce, we have to get them in.

Busy Times

I have been busy planting.  Much of this main garden is planted, or at least seeded.
It's been a few days since I posted. That is partly because the office computer, which is where I can download photos, appears to be on it's last leg and that is where I need to download the photos from the camera.

Also, we have just been crazy busy trying to take advantage of the good weather and accomplish some of the  tasks around here.    Poor Steve, I think he is glad to go back to work on Monday morning after working so hard all weekend here.

 In the garden right now are onions, leeks, garlic, cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, lettuces, spinach, kale, chard, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, and beets. Basil, carrots,  and dill are seeded around the tomatoes and peppers. I can talk about companion planting, or "stacking" in another post, but suffice it to say that some things do better planted along side other plants.  Still to come are sweet potatoes (where that plastic is laying down, heating up the soil) a few more peppers, eggplant, the summer squashes, cucmbers, sweet corn and pole beans.   I am also laying down wood chips along all the garden paths.  This helps hold mositure, and will add valuable organic matter to the soil as it breaks down.  Plus, it helps keep down weeds.

The cucumbers, zucchini, and some of the winter squash, in their flats in the cold frames. I should be able to plant these in the ground later this week. That's a stray lettuce there. I cut it back, and that's part of our salad tonight.

With the aid of a crane and a bucket lift, the radio tower that has "graced" our back yard finally got taken down.  The previous owner was the emergency responder for the town, and operated a ham radio relay here. 
Unhooking one of the sections to be lifted off by the crane.
Next, Steve and Carl had to remove the rubber roofing off the old shed prior to demolition.  Most of the shed will just get bulldozed and stacked in a burn pile. We didn't want this rubber in that mix.  I found a home for it. This sutff is incredibly heavy. That big roll weighs a couple hundred pounds.
Steve installed a shelf for the old grain mill.  It is solid cast iron, and needed a hefty shelf!  
Steve cleared and tilled an area on the south facing side of the "white house" ( an extra outbuilding here that we haven't decided how to use).  Here, the hops will be planted. As many of you may know, Steve brews his own beer, so we thought it would be fun to grow some of our own hops.  Hops are a climbing vine and need a tall trellis or support. We will attach hooks and heavy duty twine for them to climb on.
 I cobbled together a hoop covering for the strawberry bed. The chickens (aka "the excavators") have to be fenced out of anything we don't want dug up and scratched to pieces.  That's a hundred strawberry plants in there!
Some flower seed starts in the cold frames. I will plant marigolds and nasturtiums around various garden beds, as they help deter certain garden pests. 
Angus and Gracie.  Notice the wheelbarrow next to them. They have decided the wheelbarrow is their safe place.  When I have to use it, they get anxious and follow me around, wondering when I am going to bring "mom" back.   One day, I just had to quit what I was doing and put the wheelbarrow back to rest, as they were getting too hot and stressed trying to follow me around.  I love these guys. They have figured out how to get in and out of their swimming pool by themselves, so they now take frequent cool dips in the water.  
The grown hens hang together most of the time.

The orchard is in full bloom. Apple trees left untended, as those two old ones have been, often produce every other year.  Looks like this is an "on" year.   Steve had to go down the hill there and cut up all the many apple limbs from last fall's pruning.  He stacked the good firewood for later collection, but we needed to get a mower down there and the limbs were in the way.

The pastures are greening up nicely.