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Weekly Farm Status Update 5/11/14 (and a great mother’s day gift)

A lot has been happening around the homestead this week. The garden is exploding. I’ll get to all of that in a moment. First, baby T gave us the most amazing Mother’s Day gift in the world: she took her first step! She’s been getting close to it for a while, and she’s tried all weekend, and finally she did it. She promptly fell down of course, but wow! What a day to start walking!

Ok, now for the farm stuff.

Our First Market Day

Laughing Bird Farm’s first farmer’s market was a success. Not a huge success, but a success nonetheless. We learned a lot and made about $100 which is nothing to sneeze at, especially given our distinct lack of product. Here’s some of the lessons we learned:

  • Signage and displays are key. We need to work on these before next month.
  • We need more product. The booth needs to look full.
  • The kids need to wait to come out until after it starts to cool off. (I know, this one should have been obvious.)
  • Disposable tablecloths do not work well for the kind of products we have. We’ll pick up some vinyl ones before next month.
  • Most important of all, we learned how NOT to pack fresh herbs. Not that we had that many to begin with, but I ruined them all by packaging them in plastic baggies. I thought they’d be okay despite the heat and humidity. Not. I’ll do some research into the best way to package them before next month.

I forgot to take pictures, unfortunately. We were just too busy. I’ll try to snap a few next month.

What’s growing in the garden

A little bit of everything! It’s really popping. The corn’s not in yet, but the plot is mostly ready, and the seeds will go in on Tuesday or Thursday of this week. Here’s a list of the current crops:

  • Lots of herbs including basil, sage, lemon balm, cilantro, parsley, thyme, and peppermint.
  • Potatoes (see pictures below)
  • Radishes
  • Pole Beans
  • Lima Beans

The potatoes are really growing fast. They were first hilled just  8 days ago. Take a look at this picture of one of them I took tonight.

Potatoes

Yep -they had to be hilled again. This time I used straw instead of dirt. I’ll see how it works. And one of them is starting to flower.

It won’t be long now!

The Orchard

Our fruit trees and berry bushes are mostly doing well, with the exception of the Pineapple Pear tree, which has never leafed out. I’m reluctantly calling it a loss. I’ll contact the nursery for a replacement sometime next month.

Check this out, though. I discovered tonight that our peach tree tried to set fruit this year. I knew it bloomed, but this was the first time I found a sign of fruit.

Peach

There were several of these, and since the tree is too young to bear, I pulled them all off.

What’s waiting to be transplanted

Quite a lot, actually.

  • Lots of herbs
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers, both hot and sweet
  • Tomatillos
  • Eggplants
  • Swiss chard
  • Butternut Squash (a gift)
  • Zucchini (also a gift)

Chickens!

We’ve got 16 days until our chickens arrive. I guess I better get started on, ur that is finish, the coop. I’ll leave it to you to decide which one is the true statement. 😉

Until next time, happy gardening and homesteading. And happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

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And sometimes you just order pizza…

I apologize for the lack of posts. This has been just about the craziest week of my life. Here’s a rundown of some of the happenings here on the farm:

T’s been sick.

The ear infection just hasn’t wanted to clear up. We finally got the pediatrician to refer her to an ENT for tubes. Sometimes a day goes well and you get everything done. Other days you sit and hold your fussy, sick baby for most of the day. And sometimes, when she feels better a few days later and goes back to preschool, you’re so tired you go back to bed for a couple of hours after dropping her off. I’ve felt old lately, but I have to remind myself that I’m not -I just have a toddler!

The rabbits found the cover crop.

I knew they would; I just hoped they wouldn’t do to much damage before I finished installing the fence around the back. No such luck; they devastated the cover crop to the point that I might as well not have bothered planting it. Lesson learned.

I transplanted 40 herb plants.

More will go in soon. Because of the rabbit damage, I sprayed each and every plant with some OMRI certified rabbit repellent spray. I’ll let you know how it works.

Deal of the Week.

When I went to Home Depot for the spray (Lowe’s doesn’t carry the OMRI certified brand in store), I found a cart of “damaged” lumber marked down by 70%. Most of the damage was minimal or nonexistent and I brought home 5 12 foot long 2x4s for $2 each. The employees even cut them down to 8 feet for me, free of charge.

A family crisis landed a 2 year old on our doorstep.

This one is the biggie. We don’t know how long she’ll be here, but in the meantime, we have two children under three in the house, one of which is very insecure and traumatized. Both of us are exhausted. (Oh well…we’ll sleep when we’re dead.)

Floyd is turning out to be much better with children, even toddlers, than we ever dreamed. It took him about two months to become T’s staunch guardian, and about two hours to warm up to his newest charge. The girls share the room next to ours and the previous homeowner took the door between the two. We haven’t found the odd-sized door needed to replace it yet, so the rooms are only separated by a curtain. Floyd will get up periodically during the night and check on both girls to be sure they are all right and breathing. It’s really adorable to watch him shove his snout as far as he can between the bars of T’s crib to sniff at her.

Normally we cook all our dinners at home and have leftovers for lunch the next day. Not last night. Last night we ordered pizza, because yeah, that’s the kind of day it was.

More posts will come soon, I promise!

Fixing the Fence

Our plans for the week have been interrupted by a very important task: fixing the fence so the dogs can’t get out. Take a look at this hole.

Hole in Fence

This is what happens when a 60 pound dog gets desperate to escape an unreinforced chain link fence. Meet Princess, a 9 year old lab mix.

Princess

What’s she mixed with? Your guess is as good as mine. Princess is an adorable, lovable mess of a dog, just like most labs, and like most labs, she has two big faults that training has never been able to entirely eliminate: she’s a glutton and she likes to roam.

As to the former, my beloved mutt will eat anything. I can’t count the number of times she has eaten something she shouldn’t have (or too much of something that’s normally all right) and gotten sick. She’s the sort of dog you have to keep the dog food hidden from, or she’ll eat herself sick.

Her roaming tendencies weren’t a problem for the first 7 years of her life. We lived in a house with a 7-foot privacy fence around the backyard. She knew there was an outside world, but she never saw it, at least from the back yard, and she didn’t care to dig out because of that. The few times she got was through the front door, and it was easy enough to catch her in our quiet neighborhood.

Then we moved into a cheaper rental to save money to devote to our homesteading dream. This house had a chain link fence and a very interesting neighborhood. We spent countless hours and a lot of money patching her escape routes. When we bought this house in August, it had a privacy fence around a quarter of the back yard and a garage wall blocking an eighth of it. We knew we had to put something up in a hurry, and we didn’t have the money for a privacy fence, so chain link it was. We mistakenly assumed it wouldn’t be a problem since we were now in the country and didn’t have so many dogs and interesting neighbors in every direction.

Wrong. Labs love the country. They’re bred to be hunting dogs, after all. It took her less than a day to get out the first time. I looked up and she was chasing a rabbit across the field. We’ve been slowly reinforcing the fence ever since. She created the above hole while we were in the back tending to our trees. She thought she’d join us.

So, to fix the fence. We got this role of tension wire for about $20 at Home Depot.

Tension Wire

(The workbench isn’t always this messy. I promise.)

We’re stringing it through the bottom of the fence to make it harder for her to dig under. It proved to be too tough to bend around the wires and fix the gate, so we fixed it temporarily using wire from some old marking flags. We’re looking for ways to fix it permanently. (Suggestions are very welcome.)

If this doesn’t work, we’re going to concrete the bottom of the fence.

Just for fun, here’s a picture of baby T. eating her first slice of watermelon:

First Watermelon

Welcome to Laughing Bird Farm!

Welcome, everyone! Laughing Bird Farm is a small homestead in North Alabama. We are in zone 7a, with hot, humid summers and (usually) mild winters. We are just beginning our farm and will design it using permaculture principles. We hope to have a working homestead that can provide at least one income in the next couple of years.

The farm was purchased in the last part of 2013, so homesteading efforts have thus far been minimal. We’ve managed to move in and empty out (most) of the boxes, but any major efforts will have to wait until the coming of spring. This has thus far been the most brutal winter I’ve ever experienced in the south and it’s been far too cold to work outside.

Who We Are

Kelly has a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and will be creating the majority of the design, as well as taking care of the mushroom patches and teaching permaculture courses. Rebecca will do much of the gardening. Baby T is focusing on learning to crawl, and thus will not be helping with the farm anytime soon!

What We Hope to Do

We hope to get our farm up and running as fast as possible. We want to produce enough food from the land to be at least partially self-sufficient. We would also like to generate enough income for one of us to stay home and work the land full-time within a couple of years. In addition, we hope to demonstrate the potential permaculture holds as a viable solution to the many problems facing our society.

2014 Goals

Here are our primary goals for 2014:

  • Plant a large enough annual garden to help supply many of our family’s vegetable needs.
  • Plant at least 50% of our food forest. The food forest will contain a minimum of 15 trees and at least twice that many shrubs and vines.
  • Grow enough herbs to sell the excess in both fresh and dried form.
  • Start an oyster and a shiitake mushroom patch.

Our Challenges

The biggest challenges, as with most such ventures, are money and time. We have a small child and busy lives; that limits us on time. As for money, we are doing this solely out of our own resources, and since those resources are fairly modest, progress will likely be slower than we would like.

What We’ve Done Thus Far

Not much, as mentioned above. We’ve ordered all of our garden seeds and the first shipment of fruit trees and berry bushes. Most of the seeds are in; the trees and bushes should be in around the end of February. We already have a peach tree (Contender) and a plum tree (Methley) and these are varieties coming soon: Sweet Cherry (Starkrimson), Pawpaws (Mango and Sunflower), Raspberries (Anne and Caroline), Blackberries (Triple Crown), and Blueberries (Misty, Pink Lemonade, Blueray, and Sweetheart).

What This Blog Is For

I (Rebecca*) intend to use this blog as a record of our progress. It will be a diary of the creation and operation of our farm, and a way to interact with our customers and the public at large.

*I will usually be the one posting. Posts by Kelly will be denoted as such.