I have been pretty busy this winter, but haven’t had much to post about. We had a somewhat mild winter for most of November and December, but then got pummeled by the Polar Vortex and a bunch of snow the last few months. Here are some updates of our farm:
We have a lot going on here, and I’m dreaming of spring; Doing a lot of planning for this year’s garden, and planning to order some new hens in the next few months. Right now we’re just trying to keep ahead of all this snow.
I planted garlic this past weekend. You plant garlic in the fall and get a mid to late-summer harvest. It was recommended to have the garlic in the ground 2-4 weeks before the ground freezes. It’s hard to predict actual ground-freezing date, but this is probably a good time. I planted last year on October 11, this year it was October 7th, so we are close. This fall has been really cold as well so I’m thinking we may get freezing earlier than we’ve seen the last couple of years. I planted four varieties – two porcelain garlics (Music and German White), an artichoke variety and a purple stripe variety. The pictures below will show you my planting process:
If you want to check out Filaree Farm’s site, you can find them at http://www.filareefarm.com – I’m sure other places have good garlic too, but I’ve been really happy with this company. They sell heirloom organic garlic, shallots, asparagus, and other things. They have lots of different varieties of garlic and a lot of useful information on how to grow them.
I planted the 11 cloves I got of the porcelain, 14 of the artichoke, and 8 purple stripe – so hopefully next year we will have 33 heads of garlic. I love garlic and cook with it all the time – I’m excited to see how these grow!
Summer is over, and fall is in full swing. The garden is now pretty much done for the year. I picked the last of the Kale and Chard yesterday, or at least I think this is it. I may go pick some more broccolini if it produces, but I’m at the point I get to every year where I’m pretty tired of the garden. Picking and processing things have taken their toll, and I’m now ready to just stay warm inside and not deal with a garden. I know that in a couple months I’ll be tired of winter, and again be perusing seed catalogs and getting excited for spring. This happens to me each year, I have found.
This was a weird year for gardening – most things grew ok, but there are a few things that didn’t. In the early season this year, we lucked out over last year in terms of rain – my seeds all lived and everything seemed to take ok. But this fall has been really wet and cold. We got so much rain that a lot of my tomatoes got blossom end rot – probably half of what I planted was lost, and even some of the rogue tomatoes. Thankfully I had a lot of rogue cherry tomato plants – those made up for the loss of other tomatoes. I did get a few really nice beefsteak tomatoes from the planned-plantings, but those were all ripened in the house.
My kale and chard did good; I grew broccolini this year – I had shied away from any kind of broccolli because I tend to have a lot of problem with cabbage worms. I haven’t had much luck with brassicas except for Kale. I remember my mom telling me once that broccoli wasn’t worth growing because of all the bugs in the heads. This year I tried broccolini because of the tiny heads. I am very glad I did. I grew about 5 plants, and it’s been a nice cut-and-come-again patch for us. You start the plants, and then cut off the first head that grows (which would be the main head), and then the plant will grow tons of tiny heads – those are the brocollini that you pick. I did have a lot of cabbage moths – I found worms on my kale this year which usually seem to be immune to them, but this year the worms were really bad. I think the tiny heads of the broccolini make them easier to pick the worms off. It was a bit time consuming for cleaning, but not bad. And the crops weren’t decimated, just a tiny bit munched on – surprising for how many moths were flying around. I’ve grown cabbage before and had the worms get it all before I even realized what was happening.
Some things did really well, and some things didn’t. We had too much lettuce – I will grow less next year. My tomatoes and pumpkins and squash were in the back garden, which ended up not getting as much sun as the plants needed. I think that and the rain contributed to the tomato problem, as well as the fact that my squash didn’t produce too well. We got a few patty-pans, some zucchini, and a yellow squash or two. But I had 6+ plants and we didn’t harvest nearly what should have come from that amount of plants; we should have been overrun but we weren’t. I did notice a couple of tiny zucchini rotting on the vine at the end (because of the rain, I think – I do think they had been pollinated). Next year those will all be moved back to sunnier areas of the garden.
My pumpkins didn’t do very well – I grew a tiny variety and got several, but some most of them were rotting by the time they were ripe enough to pick. I’ll probably grow a larger variety next year, in a sunnier spot. I missed having some for the freezer for this year. I had a couple pumpkins that rotted once we had picked them (they must have been on the way to doing that when they were picked) – I got one that actually is lasting:
We didn’t have a lot of luck with our vining plants except for cucumbers. I got tons and tons of cucumbers – we made lots of pickles. I gave tons of cucumbers away. And at the end the chickens got a lot of them, we got so tired of them – I grew a Spacemaster variety, and had 4 plants – next year I may grow two of them. Or one -we’ll see. I also grew an Iznik variety which is more of a salad cucumber, I believe – it didn’t have many seeds. I only got maybe 5 or 6 cucumbers from one plant.
My watermelon didn’t do very well – I grew a Yellow Doll variety and we got one melon; it was tasty but way too seedy – we won’t grow that one again. I grew some cantaloupe that didn’t get very big; I found that they need sandier soil than we have in that garden, so next year I’ll plant them in the behind-the-house strawberry bed/herb bed – it’s next to our foundation and has extremely sandy soil. I grew a tiny Tigger melon that got a few melons really late (I picked them last week when we had a freeze warning). They didn’t have a lot of flavor. Next year I probably will only grow one cantaloupe for melons and give up on the rest for now.
Our potatoes did fantastic – we got over 45 pounds of potatoes! I grew them in chicken and dog feed bags that were converted to grow sacks – I cut each bag in half, cut handles onto the sides, and then poked some holes in the bottom for drainage. I planted 2-3 potatoes in each bag, covered with some dirt (I used old composted chicken bedding from last year – it was nice and crumbly) and then once they had grown a bit I buried them to the top of the bag with dirt – then I just let them grow. I had 12-13 bags growing. I probably started with a few pounds of seed potatoes – I used smaller ones so I didn’t have to cut them. Our local feed store has seed potatoes in spring, so I was able to hand pick the individual seed potatoes I wanted. Next year I will weigh the seed potatoes so I know what I started with. We grew a red variety and Kennebec, a white variety. They are all very tasty.
If you read my other posts, you may have seen that we had a really nice garlic harvest. I’m going to be planting garlic today for next year’s harvest. I saved a couple of heads from our harvest that had really big cloves, and I also ordered some new varieties from Fillaree Garlic farm – I had been growing an artichoke and a purple striped kind, but the new ones are Porcelain garlic (I got Music and a German variety) – Porcelain garlic has 4-6 cloves per head! The heads I got are huge – almost like an elephant garlic but they are just normal garlic – I will be planting these today:
We also got a decent crop of carrots and beets, and beans and peas. I also grew edamame (soy beans) and those did fantastic – I will grow those again next year. I think the garden in general did really well, except for a few hiccups. I have already planned out next year’s garden layout – we’ll see if it holds up or if I change it in the middle of January when I start getting wistful for spring.
There has been a lot going on this August, and the garden is still growing well. We have tomatoes but none are ripe yet. We have had an overabundance of cucumbers and starting to have a ton of summer squash. Here are some cool pictures of our farm from this past month:
We’ve been really busy, and the garden has been growing! We picked all our peas and are going to replant to get a fall crop. We are starting to get beans, zucchini, and cucumbers. We’ve been picking lettuce, chard, kale, and herbs. Here are some pictures of the late July garden…
The garden is doing good – I can’t wait for tomatoes!
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.
Today was a beautiful day. We had temps in at least the 50s, and it was sunny. The snow is melting, and I planted a new bed full of perennial vegetables. Here are some pictures from this nice spring day:
We made maple syrup this year. We started collecting at the end of March, when we still had a bunch of snow. We ended our collection after a couple of weeks because we had run out of room in our freezer and fridge for gallon jugs of sap. The snow had been melting but then this last Thursday we got hit by the end of the Bomb-Cyclone storm that came up through the middle of the country – we only got 5 inches of snow here at the house though, but it made it look like winter again. Below are some pictures from before that snow hit us.
I planned on cooking the sap outside this year. I bought a big steam-table pan (I just searched for “maple syrup pan” on amazon) that would hold 22 quarts. We have a firepit already set up that I was going to set the pan over to cook the sap on; but then the day I planned on cooking everything up, it was pouring rain. I ended up just doing it on the stove using two big canning pots. It took a full day on Sunday and then the evening Monday after work, but it is now complete.
I also have some exciting news about chickens! Last April we got Bertram, our Russian Orloff rooster, from an ad on Craigslist. I was planning on ordering some chicks this year, but then I was contacted on Facebook by the lady I got Bertram from – she found me through this blog. She asked if I was interested in trading hatching eggs, since she still has another Russian Orloff and then we both get chicks from these roosters. So we traded eggs – I saved pretty much all our eggs for a week, and gave her 1.5 dozen, and saved 11 for us. I received a dozen from her chickens, as well as nine eggs for Partridge Chanteclers that she got from another lady. So I have 32 eggs in the incubator, they started on 4/6. I’m possibly going to end up with way too many chickens, but I didn’t want to waste any of the eggs I’d saved, or the ones I had gotten either. I looked at the 3 previous hatches I did with this incubator in 2016, and we usually get about a 50% hatch rate from the original set put in – typically I candle and end up taking out about 25%, and then at the end another 25% don’t make it, so I’m figuring that is about what we’ll end up with – approximately 15 or 16. We’ll have to figure out what to do with any extra roosters, but I’ll worry about that later this summer. We do need more hens since mine are becoming slackers – the youngest of my hens are 3 years old, from our 2016 hatches. From 16 hens currently, we are getting about 5 eggs per day if we are lucky. I am excited for new chicken friends – Fingers crossed we don’t get mostly roosters.
Our ducks are excited that it is finally spring – they’ve been searching for snow-melt puddles:
Spring is officially here, even though we still have a lot of snow outside. It’s melting though and our temperatures are getting warmer. The trees are producing sap and getting ready to bud. I did see a couple of daffodil leaves emerging near a tree the other day, so things are coming along nicely. I have been garden planning, ordering and starting more seeds, and getting ready for this year’s garden.
I had some seeds from last year but I had run out of a few things, and wanted to try some new vegetables and new varieties of old favorites. I had run out of peas, so I got a new variety of those. I’m growing some dry beans this year – a variety of chickpeas and a Jade bean variety. I am going to try growing some quinoa. I also am attempting peanuts – I had given up hope of ever growing them since they are traditionally a southern heat-loving crop, but I read an article (I think in Grit magazine) by a lady who owns Fruition Seeds in New York State – she has peanuts (for sale) that she received from a person who developed them to grow right here in the U.P! So I immediately went to their website and ordered some. Fruition has a lot of seeds for this type of climate – the U.P. has similar climate to a lot of the rest of the northeastern U.S. The original article I read was actually about growing things for your specific climate, and about finding seed sources for your specific climate.
I’ve been starting a few things – if you read my last post I had started onions in February. This past weekend I started my “April start” crops: Tomatoes and peppers, along with a few others. I also started some shallots – I was originally going to order starts for those but ended up ordering some seeds from Baker Creek seeds. I got a lot of really good seeds from them this year. They seemed a little pricey (which is why I hadn’t ordered from them in past years) but they have a lot of varieties of different things, and they are all Heirloom seeds. So far my sprout rate is awesome from their seeds. I ordered from Seeds N Such last year, because they had great prices, but I had a lower seed sprout rate, and a few things didn’t grow true to what they said they were (for one example, I had a cantaloupe that was more of a honeydew). Plus their seed packets were too general – for example, they’d have a name for the specific type, but the directions would be for “tomatoes, peppers and other nightshades…” on the back, not for that specific type of tomato, or pepper, or whatever. I did a small order of seeds from Baker Creek this year at first – they came within a week, and the onions and gogi berries all sprouted within a few days. Their seed packets are really big and colorful, have directions/info for the specific thing you are growing, and they actually send you free seeds as well with each order. I got a free pack of free tomato seeds when I ordered my first 3 packets. I placed two more orders (I broke my seed order into two from them, since I ordered a lot this year) and I got some free carrots and other tomatoes, and basil as well. That’s a nice bonus.
As you can see, I’m growing a lot of different onions this year. I have pretty much two whole spots in my double-dug garden set aside for them on my garden plan – there is still a foot or so of snow on the actual garden, so I’m waiting for it to melt before I can assess everything and clean stuff up.
I am going to try some perennial vegetables – sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) and crosnes (also called Chinese artichokes) – these are both root crops that are supposed to be relatively easy to grow and/or become a little invasive. I picked a spot near the garage that gets a lot of sun, good drainage, and just has been tall grass for these. They both are supposed to have nice flowers, and they will have plenty of space in case they do become invasive. I ordered tubers for these from a company called Norton Naturals out of Canada – they don’t ship till sometime in later April. In researching perennial vegetables I came across Walking Onions, which supposedly “walk” around your garden (their shoots touch the ground and grow roots) – you shouldn’t need to replant them to get onions. I think I’m going to wait until next year to get some of these though, but it’s an idea for later. I started looking into Perennial vegetables because it would be nice to have a bed or two of things we don’t have to replant each year.
I am going to attempt to grow Ginger as well – as you can see in the pic above I have some in a tray over a heat mat set to sprout soon; I think I’m going to grow them in bags like we do potatoes, only sideways. Ginger spreads outward instead of up – so you hill it like potatoes but very lightly (like an inch of soil or so at a time) and it will spread its rhizomes outward. I have a good spot in our back yard that I think will give them the heat and sun they want.
I’m planning on doing potatoes in bags again this year – we had an excellent crop last year (as long as the bags are protected from the chickens, they do fantastic in them).
Spring seems to be finally in full swing. We are tapping trees for sap and planning for new chicks soon, along with all the garden plans. Now that more is going on farm-wise, I am planning on giving you readers updates more often.
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.