At my last post, we had gotten a whole bunch more snow in mid-April. Within 2 weeks of that, the snow was pretty much all gone. Now we’re well into spring, and I’ve been busy digging, and planting, this year’s garden. I started seeds inside for tomatoes, some herbs, and flowers at the end of April, and have started potatoes, onions and peas already in the garden.
I came across a book in our house (one of my mom’s, probably) called Backyard Bonanza, a little pamphlet book from the 70s; it’s about the French Intensive, double-dug raised bed method. It’s essentially doing double-dug raised beds, without using lumber to surround the bed – you have beds that are permanent, and double dug, where you don’t ever step on them again, surrounded by permanent pathways. The compaction on the pathways will eventually keep weeds down on them, and the double-dug method gives your plants enough room to put their roots really deep, so you can plant a lot more vegetables in less space. I’d read about double dug beds before and thought “that’s too much work,” but I decided to try it for my main garden this year after reading this book. It’s really not too bad, since I have time – I won’t be planting most things in there until June, so I’m doing a bed a day every couple days, to let my back recover between, and not work too hard. Here are some pictures of the garden and the farm this spring:
This garden will have 11 of these raised beds this year (it would be 12 but the garlic was already in for the year – I’ll re-do that one in the fall after I harvest the garlic). So far I’ve dug 3 beds, and planted two of them. I have 8 more to go, but most of those will be plants that will go into the garden in June. I also will have the herb garden and tomatoes in the back in other plots. I’m stealing some area back from the chickens for my tomatoes and squash this year, since they usually have the whole yard to roam in, minus the dog run. I’m excited for this year’s garden.
Our two female rabbits were due to have babies on Memorial day weekend (about May 27th). We moved the rabbits to their outside cages around May 21st, for the summer. Marigold, my usually skittish bunny, immediately started pulling fur once she was out there (we gave them both nest boxes when they were moved.). Petunia didn’t pull any fur at all even when they were due.
Marigold became less skittish while outside, which is really strange – I figure maybe because they don’t see the dogs anymore – their cages inside were in our shed so the dogs would move through there sometimes. Marigold had a litter of 11 babies on about the 27th of May – quite a lot, and it was her first litter. A couple days passed, and Petunia didn’t have any babies, so I thought maybe the pregnancy didn’t take – that had happened the month before when I attempted to breed them. I wasn’t sure what to do, but just figured I would wait.
On May 30th, Petunia had 6 or 7 babies – we found them and they were either killed by her or stillborn. We thought maybe she had been spooked by something outside, or something. Later that day, we went out to feed the rabbits and she had died. I’m not sure what was wrong with her, but I read that sometimes they can get a baby stuck and then go septic really fast. That is possibly what happened.
Marigold has been a decent mother, but we still lost many of her babies. We had a bit of a cold snap over the first few days of June, like in the 40s at night, and here and there we’d find a dead baby bunny – it looks like one would get separated from the group of them and get cold. I have been making sure they are covered up with fur and all together in a group, but we still lost a lot of them. We are now down to three babies. She has been really good at feeding them though, since those three are all growing really well. So at least we still have the dad, Buddy, and Marigold and her three babies.
Here are the three babies and their mama, Marigold:
It is a sad tale, but the remaining rabbits are all doing well so it has a somewhat happy ending.
Phew! We finally got the last three double-dug French-Intensive beds finished and planted tonight. We had a bit of a hiccup a few weeks back, when we hit the part of the garden that used to be a driveway. The soil in that bed was extremely rocky and we had to sift the soil to get all the rocks out. Once that was done things moved a bit faster. I also got the other gardens planted in the meantime. Here are some photos:
We are progressing on our garden plans for this year. We’ve had some really warm days, and the nights are starting to warm up now, so planting for some things has started, and other things will be put in the ground soon. We are almost done with our raised bed garden that we’ve been working on, and we are getting the other beds ready as well. Here are some pictures of the goings-on for late May on our farm:
The garden is coming along nicely. I’m really glad that we’ve had such a nice spring so far.
We got hit with a big snowstorm yesterday (as did most of the upper Midwest, and other parts of the country). We probably got somewhere over 10 inches of snow, but it was very windy so it settled in drifts – some spots had no snow but in other spots there were swaths of snow that were over 3.5 feet tall. Because of the way it settled I really am not sure exactly how much we got, but it was a lot. And in mid April it is definitely unwelcome. I was looking back at old notes and realized that at this time a couple years ago I was putting my ducks in the pool outside to swim – it was 70 degrees that day. Last year I was putting in the onions. THIS year, I haven’t even seen my yard yet – there was a small bit of driveway exposed for awhile but that is all so far. This coming weekend we’re supposed to be up in the upper 40s, so this snow is all going to melt and become a big mudpile. What fun!
We also added a new rooster the other day, since my old roosters both are gone. The hens need someone to watch out for them, so I decided to look for a new one. I found him on Craigslist. He’s a Russian Orloff, and I’ve named him Bertram. The name stuck in my head when I got him, so that’s his name. It fits pretty well, actually. Here are some pics of the new rooster, and our yucky new snow:
Oh, so an update on my last post about syrup. I was still cooking it down when I posted that day; right after posting, I decided to put the sap into a smaller pan to finish the cooking. I chose too small of a pan, and ended up making maple sugar instead! The temperature got too high with the small pan. I thought I had made hard candy, but over a day or so it ended up crumbling. It’s quite nice in tea, but it was not what I was going for. After that day, we had some cold temps, so we didn’t get any sap for about a week. This past week (before the storm) was really decent – we were getting 1/2 gallon per day from some trees, and one tree actually gave almost a gallon per day for a few days. Temperatures dipped Saturday when the storm was heading this way, so I just pulled the taps in for this year. I ended up with about 9.5-10 gallons of sap through the week, and cooked them down yesterday:
I made sure to check the temperature this time and didn’t cook it to candy / sugar stage.
We got more snow yesterday. Which happens here in the U.P. We got an end-of-March storm, which only gave us about 4-5 inches of snow, but it came with a little cold snap. Our maple sap collecting has gone awry because the temperatures dipped. We went to get sap the other night before the snow started, and there were little icicles from the taps into our buckets. Tomorrow is supposed to be warm enough for the sap to flow, but otherwise the next week is not supposed to get much above freezing during the day. Ideally you want temps in the 40s during the day and 20s at night for optimal sap production. When I looked at the weather, it said those temperatures should come back around April 10th. I decided to cook up what I had today – we had just over 2 gallons collected so far. We’ll still leave the buckets up for now and see what happens.
It’s officially spring, but here in the U.P. we are just starting to come out of winter. We still have a lot of snow, although this week we’ve had decent temperatures during the day (above freezing) so the snow is melting and turning driveways into mud. They freeze at night, luckily, so I was able to go to work this morning – my car wasn’t stuck in my muddy driveway. We are supposed to get a little bit of snow this week (3 inches, I heard) which is typical. Spring is usually like this.
This winter has been really hard – we lost both roosters. Big Red died in January, and The General died just a couple days ago. They both got really bad frostbite this winter – Red had it so bad his waddles got really swollen. General’s toes got it really bad. I’m not sure if they eventually both died because of frostbite complications, but it’s possible. They both seemed to recover (and be feeling better) before they died, so I’m not sure. With chickens it’s sometimes hard to tell. The frostbite came when we had a really bad cold spell in January. The ducks sometimes make it hard to keep the moisture out of the coop as well, which can contribute to frostbite in the chickens. Roosters with larger combs/waddles are really susceptible, and both of our boys had them. We are very sad about losing our roosters. Now we have 19 chickens (all hens), and three ducks.
Today we let the chickens out into the yard for the first time this year – there is actually a bit of grass/muddy driveway for them to hang out in, instead of just snow. The ducks found a big icy puddle to dabble in – they loved that. Here are a few pictures from today:
Spring is on its way, luckily. I’m glad to see this winter mostly behind us.
We’ve been harvesting tomatoes left and right. We’ve gotten a little bit of zucchini. It’s funny how you plan for the year and things just grow how they want, with no regard for your planning. Last year I was overrun with zucchini and yellow squash, so this year I grew one plant of each. They have not done well, so I’ve gotten 2 zucchini and it’s already October. With the amounts of rain we had this year (and it’s not done) the garden has been a little hit or miss for some things. Here are some newer pics of our garden:
The garden is starting to wind down a bit. We still have a lot of stuff to harvest, but most of it will be ok if we get frost. Carrots and beets are still getting larger, and I have some Kale to pick. We also have peas and beans, but I’m letting those dry on the vines. I’m hoping I get enough peas to make a little bit of pea soup. I usually don’t let them go that long (they are so yummy picked earlier) but I want to give it a try.