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!

It’s market day!

Today is our first ever farmer’s market! To market, to market, to market we go!

I’ll have pictures and such tomorrow.

Oh, and we have only 18 days left until our chickens arrive. Next week I have to start building the chicken coop.

Weekly Farm Status 5-5-14

Clearly, regular posting did not resume last week. I’m aiming to change that this week. I thought I’d start with a weekly farm status update since it’s been a while. Here’s what’s going on.

-The potatoes survived! Every single slip I planted came up. I had given up on them. Then I walked into the garden one day last week and BAM! There they all were. Here’s a pic.

Potato Plant

They’ve since been hilled, of course.

-The herbs are thriving, all but the dill and one of the cilantro plants, which got eaten by something (no, the fence still isn’t finished).

-All of the raspberries are up, and all of the trees have leafed out except the one pear tree. I’m still crossing my fingers, but I don’t have a lot of hope left.

-All the transplants will go in the ground this week, and so will the corn, sunflower, and squash seeds.

And here’s what’s coming up:

-Our first market is Thursday! Yay! We’ll be selling mostly homemade soaps and wild greens, along with some rosemary plants.

-Our chickens come in 21 days. I can’t wait!

The Living Room Now

After the unexpected interruption, we now resume your regularly scheduled programming. Posting may still be a little light over the next few weeks, as we still have our young visitor and life has effectively been turned upside down.

I love our house more than I can say. I wouldn’t trade it for a brand new house with all the most modern upgrades. It does need a little work, however, and I’m going to do a series of posts describing the current state of the house and what needs to be done. I’ll also do after posts for each project.

The living room is in pretty good shape. The walls and trim need a coat of paint. We also need to add baseboards on the bottom trim. We plan to use 1/4 inch round pieces to give the trim that “chunky” look.

Trim

We also need to replace one more of the room’s three windows and add insulation to the walls. The hearth and fireplace need to be painted and fixed, and Mr. Heater here has to go. He deserves a post all his own and will get it soon.

Hearth

None of these will be overly large projects. The room’s big project will be the ceiling. Check out this flashback to 1985.

Ceiling

Removing a popcorn ceiling isn’t difficult. It’s just a lot of tedious work. Tedious? I meant fun. Yes, it’s a lot of fun. Maybe if I say it enough times I’ll actually start believing it.

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!

Weekly Farm Update 4-6-14

I know this post is a couple of days late, but things have been really crazy around here. Now that spring has finally arrived I seem to be getting exponentially busier. I promise I’ll keep posting no matter now busy I get!

The weekends are the busiest time for me, because Kelly works all day on Saturday and Sunday and I’m home by myself with baby T. She’s slowly growing into a toddler and does a great job of wearing me out even when I don’t have other things to do!

Here’s what happened on the farming side of things this week:

The cover crop is in!

Not only is all of it in, but the first sprouts are up. Check it out.

Sprouts

The weather has been perfect; not too hot, not too cold, and just enough rain to coax seeds to sprout.

All the starts have been moved outside during the daytime.

All are doing well, except the dill and cilantro. We lost all of the dill and most of the cilantro to some sort of fungal illness. It happened too late to be damping off. I’m at a lot to explain it. I’ll direct seed some of each this week and see if they take right in the garden. If not, I’ll be calling the seed company.

We rehabilitated and inaugurated our firepit.

The firepit was filled with trash and weeds when we moved it. This week we cleaned it out and had some friends over for a bonfire and some s’mores. I didn’t get any pictures of the fire itself, as the smoke and record levels of pollen in the air sent me inside for my inhaler within a few minutes, but here’s a picture of the firepit the next morning.

firepit

I got a big surprise.

Last fall a friend gave me a cherry tree. It appeared dead. I’m usually pretty good at telling the difference between living and dead trees. It’s easy enough to tell if a tree is alive, but making sure it’s dead is another thing. To misquote Miracle Max, tree can be dead but not all the way dead. Anyway, I put it in a pot for the winter because why not? It only cost some potting soil. Sometimes trees surprise you. This one did. Look what I found when I checked my pots this week:

cherry tree

Hello! It looks like I may have to redo the orchard plan.

I attended the orientation meeting for our market.

We got into a farmer’s market for the summer! We’ll only be there once a month, but it’s a start. We have an assigned space and everything.

Here’s what’s on the agenda for next week:

-Start that blasted fence. I’ve got most of the materials now. I just need to get to work.

-Get all of the herbs transplanted and/or sown.

-Plant the edamame and the cool/warm weather greens like swiss chard.

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

Liebster Award: Sharing New Blogs!

One of my favorite bloggers, http://foxonanisland.com/, has nominated me for a Liebster Award for new blogs. I had never heard of this award before, but I’m honored to be nominated!

Here are the answers to my questions:

1.) How long have you been blogging for? A few weeks this time, though I blogged for a short time back in college.

2.) What is your favorite pizza topping? Black olives.

3.) What’s the one thing you could never live without? My family, of course, but as far as “things” go, I’m awfully attached to my computer. I wrote my first short stories on a typewrite. I think I cried the first time I used a word processor.

4.) What’s the best book you have ever read? I have to pick? I’ve read so many, and so many good books. Can we narrow it down at all? What genre, era, author, or subject? (Or by what mood I’m in.) If you come to my house and pick a random book off the shelf, that could very well be my favorite book. That day. I’m a bibliophile. Can you tell?

5.) What musicians are you currently listening to? I listen to a variety of artists and genres, everything from classical to hard rock. Since my daughter was born, I’ve mostly been listening to lullaby’s and kid songs.

6.) Where do you live, and do you like it there? Alabama, and strangely enough, I do. The climate is nice; it never gets cold for long (which is a plus, when your body has issues dealing with the cold, like mine does.) The growing season is 7 months long and you can usually overwinter greens and root vegetables. Most of the people are nicer than the stereotypes, and while we don’t see eye to eye with many of them, most people are content to mind their own business. That said, there are some places in this state (and several others), were I would not feel safe traveling with my family.

7.) Of the places you have traveled, what city/country is your favourite? Toronto, Ontario. I love that city and would have moved there if it wasn’t so cold. I just can’t handle freezing temps in August.

8.) Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Living here on our farm with my wife and children. I hope to publish one of my novels by then. I’ve published several short stories, but I want to get my novels out there as well.

9.) Cat person or dog person? This is a hard one. I prefer dogs and I’m allergic to cats, but I got “adopted” by a Siamese cat in college. Gabby (short for Gabrielle) is a full-blood seal-point Siamese (with papers no less!). My then roommate bought her from the breeder as a surprise birthday gift for her fiance, who had been toying with the idea of getting a cat. That didn’t work out so well. Gabby quickly took up with me, and when the roommate said she was going to take the kitten to the pound if I didn’t want her, we made it official. She’s been my cat and I’ve been her servant ever since. (I should have bought stock in the company that makes Claritin long ago.) Interesting fact: According to her papers, Gabby was born on 9/11.

10.)  What is your least favourite word? Can’t. Don’t ever tell me I can’t do something. I’ll do it just to prove you wrong. This stubborn streak has served me well, coming as I do from a very poor family and a very rough background. I taught myself to read as a child, made it through high school (with honors), not only went to but graduated college, etc, all despite and because of the numerous people who told me I couldn’t do it.

11.) Imagine you’ve moved into a new house that is painted all white; what colours would you paint the walls? We’re actually in this situation, having just bought our house back in August of 2013. The walls were all white when we moved in (except for the kitchen, which is a loooooong story). I hate neutral walls, so we’ve been slowly painting all the rooms. T’s room is a sunny yellow. Our bedroom is a dusky rose. The dining room is a sage green. The living room will be a warm white with pink undertones. The third bedroom will be a pretty lavender or lilac color. We’re still debating the rest of the house.

via Liebster Award: Sharing New Blogs!.

Favorite blogs:

I have several, actually. Here’s a sampling.

http://foxonanisland.com/

http://newlywoodwards.com/

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/

http://thekitchensgarden.com/

I’m also supposed to pass this on to other new bloggers. I don’t know that many, but here’s one I really like:

http://bridetobrick.wordpress.com/

And here are your questions:

1.) How long have you been blogging for?

2.) Why do you blog?

3.) Where do you find your inspirations and materials?

4.) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

5.) What’s the one thing you could never live without?

6.) What’s the best book you have ever read?

7.) What drives you outside of your blog pursuits?

8.) Coffee, tea, or neither?

9.) Who’s your favorite blogger?

10.) What’s your favorite color?

11.) What do you like most and least about blogging?

Help with color

One of our neighbors has a flock of chickens that includes a rooster. I’m not sure which neighbor it is because we are separated by at least 15 acres, but we can clearly hear him crowing every morning. (This would be why roosters aren’t permitted in urban areas.)

He’s normally a polite, mannerly gentleman. Not this morning. When I first took the dogs out at about 6:30 it sounded like he was shouting “I kill you!” “I kill you!” over and over again in chicken. My guess is a predator tried to get to his hens and he ran it off.  Our dog Floyd isn’t exactly the bravest dog that ever lived and this distant cacophony reduced him to hiding behind my legs.

I’m writing this morning because I would like your help with picking colors for the exterior of the house. I need to start the foundation beds soon so I can get all my pass along plants and transplants in the ground and it will be much easier to paint the foundation before I do so, so we need to pick all of the colors now. Here’s a picture of the current exterior:

House

The white vinyl siding is staying for now. The holly tree is going away. The current contenders for the door color are: red, orange, yellow, and green. The shade will be very bright regardless. I would like a deep blue for the porch. That leaves the foundation. Kelly refuses to let me just paint it white. I’m flummoxed.

What do you think?

(Disclaimer: I have NO color or fashion sense. I have been known to wear stripes and plaid together, and I can’t count the number of times Kelly has stopped me on my way out the door in the morning and gently suggested I change clothes.)

Weekly Farm Update March 28

I’m going to try to do these updates once a week. This is going to be a general post about how things are going on the farming/gardening/growing side of things.

After being pleasant all weekend, the weather started to turn horrid again on Monday. The temperature dropped back into the 20s three nights in a row, and the high didn’t exceed 40 until yesterday afternoon. I know everyone in the North would love to have those temps right now, but down here we’re just not used to it. It snowed Tuesday while the sun was shining. The weather finally improved yesterday, but we both ended up spending most of the afternoon at the doctor with little T, who has (another) ear infection.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying I didn’t get as much done in the garden this week as I would have liked to. All the rows and paths are marked and the cover crop is going in slowly but surely. I finally got the seed potatoes planted, though I have serious doubts about their viability at this point. It’s notoriously difficult to grow Irish potatoes in this climate, which is why I only devoted one 4×4 bed to it this year, but if they don’t work out I’ll try it again next year.

Most of my starts are up and growing and most should be big enough to start going outdoors next week. The mushroom spawn should be in sometime in the next 7-10 days. The blueberries are trying to leaf out and one of the pears and the cherry already have. Things are really starting to move along!

Last night we had our first meal containing food grown right on our land, though Mother Nature gets all of the credit for this one. Our dinner included a salad consisting of store bought greens and carrots mixed with wild greens from the land, including chickweed, dead nettle, plantain, and dandelion greens. If you are going to forage for wild edibles, be very careful; Kelly is a biologist and still had to double check the chickweed. The other homegrown additions to dinner were chives sprinkled on the baked honey mustard chicken and deep fried dandelion blossoms. Never turn down the latter; they’re amazing!

My goals for the next week include: start building the fence around the back, finish sowing the cover crop, and get the greens planted.

I apologize for the lack of pictures -I’ll post some new ones next time, I promise!