A walk around the farm …

I took a walk around the property yesterday to see what flowers are blooming.  I took some pictures of what I found, and of some other features on our property.  I also put in some new trees today! I hope you enjoy the photos:

purple flower
These are in our yard – My mom planted them years ago, and has told me before what they are. I can’t remember the name though. These are some of my favorite flowers that come out each year. They’re like little purple fireworks.
Daisy
Here is a daisy. These grow all over the place.
Lupines
Here are some lupines. We brought a couple over to our yard from another yard years and years ago, and it must have been that a lot of other people did too. These grow everywhere now between our house and town (about 15 miles away).
Thimble Berry Flower
Here is a Thimble Berry flower. I have seen a lot (and large) flowers this year, so I’m wondering if we’re going to have a good crop. The plants are wild and grow across the street. I’ve tried to transplant them to our yard but they have not taken. Thimble Berries are delicious.
The unused plot
Here is the back view of our Across-The-street part of our property. When I was a child, my parents had goats fenced in here, but now I call it the “fern Jungle” – I’d like to reclaim it at some point, and put some more gardens and beehives in.
The hall
Here is a better view of the “hall” – our old building. It’s just an old storage building that is starting to fall in. We are planning on someday taking it down.
the homestead
A view of our house from across the street. Our property is on both sides of the road.
044
And here are our new trees! We pulled them from across the street today. Some were growing behind the hall in the woods, and a few were growing right next to the hall.  They look a little sparse but I think with more room they may grow better.
043
There are 6 trees – a few are spruce, and there are two that I think are Eastern Hemlock.

 

 

The garden is now planted.

I got the garden in a few days ago. It looks a bit sparse yet, but it will fill in soon. So far I haven’t lost anything I’ve planted – sometimes I have to replace a plant or two. I have extra seedlings for most things though.  I doubled my garden space from last year, but I ended up running out of room for some things I had planned on growing.  I didn’t plant any corn, or peas.  Corn doesn’t usually do too well (we get a few good ears) since we can’t grow enough to get a really decent crop – maybe that’s a project for a few years down the road – making a corn patch somewhere.   I planted 4 watermelon plants, 2 cantaloupe, and 2 pumpkin plants – so those took up a lot of the room.  I think it will be a good garden though.  Here are some pictures:

garden planning
Here is the night before I planted everything. I got my pathways ready (a bunch of cardboard strips – once weighed down they make great weed-free paths and they break down over time.
seedlings
The seedlings waiting to go in.
tomatoes
Here are the tomatoes. I put 16 plants into the garden, 8 different varieties.
tomatoes 2
Here are the tomatoes the next day – a few looked a little floppy, but a nice drink of water perked them up.
watermelons
I’m trying something new this year – these are the watermelon and cantaloupe plants. We’re using animal feed bags as weed-proofing. I cut a hole in the middle and planted each seedling there. We’ll see how this works. I saw a tip about this somewhere, probably in Mother Earth News magazine.
herbs and etc
Here are rows of herbs, cauliflower, and peppers. I started to run out of room at the end so they’re a bit cramped, but I think they’ll grow ok. It may just be a bit hard to get to them all once grown.
garden 2
Here is the planted garden. I have a lot of things I put in as seeds, such as beans, zucchini, chard, and other stuff.
planted
Another pic of the garden. It will be nice to compare this pic to one taken a few weeks from now.

I’m glad the garden is in. Now I just have to keep ahead of the weeds.

Getting the garden ready

larger garden
The newly upgraded garden space.

I’ve been planning this year’s garden for awhile, since sometime in February. Over the last few years I’ve learned some things about gardening in the U.P.  We have a shorter growing season, so I can’t plant pumpkins or other things that need 110 days, because I most likely won’t get that long.  Luckily there are a lot of shorter-season versions of those kind of vegetables out now.   I grew some smaller, shorter-season pumpkins last year.

I’ve learned that even though our last frost is (usually) in May, it’s better to wait to put things in the ground. I used to garden in southern Michigan, and I could start my garden at the beginning of May.  Here around June 10th is probably best (or after the first Full Moon in June – which is June 9th this year)  – we are well past the last frost dates, but the soil also takes awhile to warm up – a couple years ago I put things into the ground mid-may, and my plants just languished there – some wilted from the cold, some died outright, and I had a lot of replanting to do.  I’d rather just put the whole garden in once, than have to replace everything.

I doubled our garden space for this year – the last couple years I had a 10×30 bed, this year it is 20×30.  I started my seeds in early May, and have some nice seedlings that are now hardening off on the back porch. I tilled the garden yesterday – there are some grass clumps that need to get taken out, and then I’ll re-till it again before planting, which will happen next weekend.

seedlings
Some of my seedlings. I also have a bunch of tomatoes and peppers.

I have three flats of seedlings, and I am making seed tapes for small seeds like carrots, using newspaper.  I cut strips of newspaper and then used a water/flour paste to glue seeds at the correct interval – I can lay the tapes down, cover with a bit of dirt, and then the seeds won’t migrate.  I won’t have to thin them either. I also have a bunch of stuff that I will be seeding directly into the garden, like corn and beans.

I’m excited for this year’s garden.

Late April in the U.P.

We had a wonderful warm day yesterday. Our temps here got to about 67 degrees F. It was nice and sunny, so I let the chickens out of their yard for the day – we have had rain for the last week until 2 days ago, so their run is really muddy.  I wanted to give them a chance to hang out in some grass. They really enjoyed it.  So did we. We got some of our yard work completed too. Here are some pictures of our nice day yesterday.

yard chickens
Here are the chickens and ducks enjoying the sunshine.
yard ducks
The ducks sunbathing.
sunshine roos
Our rooster Big Red watching over everyone.
rasp trellis 1
My raspberry plants were a (very spiky) mess. I had some old scaffolding laying around, so I created a support system. The fencing on the ground is protecting my strawberries from dustbathing chickens – they think my garden beds are great dust baths.
rasp trellis 2
Here is a closer view of the new raspberry support system. Hopefully I’ll get some yummy berries this year.
potatos
I’m growing potatoes in old feed bags. Here they are. I’m trying this out, we’ll see how it works.
onion patch
This is my onion patch. I planted it last week when we had a break in the rain. It’s hard to tell from this picture but they’re growing pretty well so far. Again the fence is to keep the chickens off for the day. I only put it down when the chickens are out of their run.
baby bunnies
Here are two of our 3 baby bunnies, they are starting to eat their mom’s food instead of just her milk.
wild leeks
We picked wild leeks (ramps) yesterday! I made a really good omelet for dinner with them.

We had a wonderful day outside yesterday, prepping for today when the weather was  supposed to be cold and rainy.  Instead we woke up to:

 

 

 

this morning
blegh.
today 2
more blegh.
today 3
It looks pretty, but it’s April 23rd. This is the U.P. though.

It’ll melt today or tomorrow, and then we’ll wait for our next sunny day. Spring is trying to be here. It just has some days off, I guess.

A Nice Autumn Day

It was a bit chilly today, but the sun was out.  We have had colder temperatures lately, and the garden is mostly done. We had a couple of watermelons that just were not growing anymore.  My son asked if he could pick them today, so I said yes. I figured they weren’t ripe, but when we cut into the largest one (the one we’d set up a sling for, from previous posts), it actually had some pink to it. And it was surprisingly sweet tasting. So this was our first ever successful watermelon:

watermelon
Our watermelon, cut up.

For some reason (maybe the sunshine), I got the bright idea to let the chickens and ducks out of their run today.  We have had so much rain, and it rains so often, that we just haven’t gotten a chance to mow our lawn in the last couple weeks.  So I thought, since they’ll eat grass, and they’re hanging around in a semi-wet / muddy run, maybe they’d like to hang out in the yard for the day.  It wasn’t that unwise, I suppose.  It was just a cluster trying to get them back in. They wanted to hang out in the woods, and they found the sand pile for some much-needed dust baths, and didn’t want to give that up so easily.  They didn’t really do much “mowing” for us, but they enjoyed themselves. We got some good pictures:

yard-birds
The slow spillage into the yard. We just left the door wide open – it didn’t take them very long to figure it out.
yard-birds-2
Here they are, wandering around. They don’t usually stray too far from their home.
chickens-everywhere
Here they are near the sand pile.
s-chickens
Basking in the sun.
dirty-ducks
The ducks had fun too. They rooted around a bit – you can see one of them has a huge mudpile on her bill. I tried to catch her to clean that off but she was not cooperative. It came off later.
general-and-the-girls
Here is the General with some of his older-hen harem. They were weeding / de-bugging the strawberry patch.

We also moved the adult rabbits to their winter home, inside our entrance shed/mud room.  We got some new cages, and my husband has been putting them together and setting them up for us.  Last winter was really hard with our old setup, so we wanted to make it easier this year. Here are photos:

rabbit-cages
Here is the setup in our shed. They are all about chest high. We had to make sure they are taller than our dogs’ noses.
wind-day
Here is wind (now “Day” – we somehow changed their names in recent weeks).
fire-night
Here is Fire (her name is now “night”)
buddy
Here is Buddy (he was Earth).

The cages are pretty nice, we got them from KW Cages. They have a slide-out tray for easy cleanup, which should make it really nice. The rabbits are getting settled in – they weren’t so sure at first but  they seem to be relaxing more tonight. We have a gate to the shed, so we can keep the nosy dogs out (Especially Atat, who is almost as tall as the cages, and very curious).  I think this will work well for winter.  We’ll get them set up outside again in spring.

Harvesting the garden…

This year’s garden is starting to wind down. Our growing season is not typically very long. I’m hoping we’ll hold off on getting a frost for another month, but a lot of plants are done producing anyway. I pulled out our yellow squash, and picked most of the tomatoes. There are a few straggler tomatoes left on the vines. My son harvested about 8 ears of corn from his 10 or so plants.  We still have a few things waiting to be picked, like beets, kale, chard, eggplants, and zucchini. Take a peek at our recent harvest:

tomatos
I grew five varieties of tomatoes this year: Early Girl, Druzba, a Blue type, Cherry (very tiny) and some Romas. We got a good crop of them this year.
canned-tomatoes
My first attempt at canning tomatoes! I think it went alright. The half pint jars were a little small, I have realized. I will do pint jars for the next batch I can.
green-tomatoes
My canning book talks about picking tomatoes green and letting them ripen on the counter, maybe so they all ripen at the same time? We picked most of what was left. I keep worrying about frost anyway, so this way I don’t have to rush out and cover anything.
yellow-squash
One of the last yellow squash we picked. We got a whole lot of these. I had three plants, which was too many for us this year. We froze a lot of this.
backyard-sunflower
One of my sunflowers from our back yard. This was several days ago, when it was still standing tall, before we got days and days of rain…
weepy-sunflower
Here it is today… looking very sad.
watermelon
The watermelon has not grown a whole lot. I think it’s supposed to have stripes as well. It’s still hanging in there. I will let it sit as long as possible and see if we get an edible melon.
tiny-pumpkins
Our tiny pumpkins. The plants are done for this year. I really like these, and will grown them again next year, along with a little bit bigger variety.
tiny-eggplant
A tiny eggplant. These plants grew wonderfully, but didn’t flower until late August. Now they have tiny fruits on them. They are not ripe yet. Hopefully they will get bigger and ripen before we get a freeze.
kale
Our Kale, still going strong. I’m going to attempt to leave these, and see if they will come back in spring. I have heard that Kale (and Chard!) will grow as perennials. We will see if they come back in spring. I have been cutting, using/freezing, and then waiting for more to grow, like cut-and-come-again style. We have a lot of kale frozen for winter.
garden-9-28
Here’s my garden today. It’s still very green but there is not much in terms of vegetables left.

Clucks and Quacks… and chocolate eggs

Yesterday, my plan was to harvest all 10 ducks.  Their pen was a big muddy mess, and we’ve been planning on doing it for months but things get in the way. Early yesterday, I got everything ready. I culled the three males first, and then one of the seven females.  We decided to skin them because it’s (supposedly) easier than dealing with duck wax and everything to get the feathers out, and then you don’t have all the duck fat to deal with.  As the day wore on, and I was working on the fourth duck, my husband thought maybe we should stop at the four we’d done. He said “why don’t we try putting the rest of them in with the chickens?”  I agreed to that – doing all 10 was a daunting task – just the four we did wore us out and took a big chunk of the day. The big reason I wanted to harvest them all was their horribly messy pen – they make lots of mud, and slogging through that each day to feed and water them, and to get their eggs, was really hard. The house we built was really low also, and they loved to lay eggs way at the back, so we’d sometimes have to crawl in there to get the eggs.  We would put new bedding in each night and by morning it would be sopping wet, so you’d be kneeling on sloppy old mucky bedding to get the eggs.  The remaining ducks, now in the chicken coop, are not getting a pool.  I may fill a small one (not in the pen) and let them play here and there, but they are not getting one in the run.

So far, the ducks are doing well with the chickens.  Their pens were always right next to each other;  they’ve been neighbors all summer, so they were somewhat used to each other already.  We were worried the chickens may pick on them, but the ducks are larger than even our largest rooster, so the chickens are mostly keeping their distance.

Tonight, the ducks were starting to get the hang of the bedtime routine, and it was easier to get them to go in the coop with everyone else.  We collected the chicken eggs and found that one of the Black Copper Marans is now laying eggs! We got a small, chocolate colored egg.

chocolate egg
A normal sized chicken egg on the left, and our first chocolate egg on the right.

The old duck pen is going to be reclaimed back into the yard.  It’s a soppy mess right now, since we drained the pool and then it rained last night, but I piled up all the “furniture” on the duck house, and then seeded it with a “chicken forage blend” which has clover and other stuff that will do nicely in our yard.  Our yard is a little bit of grass, and a whole lot of other stuff anyway, so this should work fine.

old duck mess
The old duck yard, after I seeded it and put on some straw to keep the seeds in place.
seeded
Here you can see there are some big puddles. We’re going to have to fill some of the holes the ducks dug with some top soil. We’ll eventually take the fence down and use it somewhere else.

We’ll see how this works with the ducks and chickens together. So far it’s going ok.  If it doesn’t we’ll start talking about taking out the rest of the ducks. For now, they lay a lot of eggs, so they are “earning their keep.”

Mid August Garden

The garden is starting to really produce now.  I have already harvested one tomato! An Early Girl from my grafted plant.  That tomato is the only one that has ripened yet, but a lot of others are on their way. We are getting beans and squash and kale and chard – lots of it. I’ve started freezing beans and zucchini already. I have gotten some nice cucumbers already and have started some refrigerator pickles.  Here are some pictures of the garden lately:

garden mid august resized
Here is the garden
garden mid august 2 resized
View from the other way. On the left the dark leafy and green leafy things in the foreground are beets.
foxglove resized
A foxglove plant.
corn resized
The corn in my son’s section of the garden is coming along nicely. It’s almost my height.
artichokes 2 resized
My artichoke plants are really doing well.
artichokes resized
Some of these artichokes are getting ready to pick, I think.
zinnia resized
Here is a zinnia in the garden.
tiny watermelon resized
A tiny watermelon. This plant is actually planted several feet away, and wound its way through the tomatoes to the fence. I knew it would wander but I didn’t know it would go that far. I’m not very experienced with watermelons.
sunflower tall resized
This sunflower is towering over my head – it’s probably a good 7 feet tall or so. It does not yet look ready to bloom. This is a giant sunflower, so it will get one very large flower head. And then it will droop way down.
nastrurtium resized
A nasturtium in the garden. My son insisted we plant these in his part of the garden because the flowers are edible. He likes to eat them.
processing vegs resized
Here you can see beans and squash chopped and ready for freezing. In the basket on the upper left is kohlrabi and cucumbers, and a test carrot (I pulled one up to test how they are doing). I’m trying to freeze and process things as they are harvested so I don’t feel overrun with too many vegetables.

 

 

 

Mid-summer on our farm

Here are some pictures of the goings-on around our tiny farm:

zucchini
My zucchini and yellow squash are going nuts. These plants are huge!
zucchini with cat
Here you can see them with Wizard in front, so you get a little more idea of scale. There are 5 plants in that mess, plus some sunflowers sticking up in back.
ducks
Somehow our duck door got left open – they were starting to spill out.
ducks 2
More duck spillage.
chickens
Here is a picture of the chickens. I love the variety of colors we have.
dogs
My husband got this cool picture of our dogs. Atat’s tail is curled around Downey. Nova thinks the camera is some type of food.

Farming is hard sometimes

We currently have a lot of roosters. We had 3 adults, and I’m not yet sure how many up-and-comers from this year’s hatches.  I really wasn’t noticing the crowing, until last week my neighbor said something – he mentioned that the roosters were getting a bit annoying.  His mentioning it made me notice it, of course.  So I figured out who the worst offenders (at that time) were – it was mostly our older roosters Wonky Top and Splash, and one of our younger roosters from our first batch.  I thought about it and realized that the only reason I had kept so many was for breeding purposes, which have now been accomplished. I have 14 chicks that were all from my chickens, so my older roos have spread their genes.  We culled the three worst offenders, for now.  We were planning on taking out some of the younger ones anyway, but I hadn’t planned on Wonky and Splash (since we named them), so that was a bit hard.  We kept our best (and quietest) year-old rooster, General Dorko.

dorko
General Dorko, the Dorking rooster.

It has been quieter on the farm lately… or it was, until my silly little bantam roosters started crowing more.  They are very small so their crows are little (it sounds like a regular rooster sucked some helium first).  They are really tiny, so in terms of meat it would be a lot of work for not much payoff.  I think I may sell them along with the hen.  Her eggs are going to be small – the bantams were a bonus when I bought my hatching eggs anyway. They are cute, but not really what we’re trying to do here.

bantam roo 1
Here’s one of my bantam roosters.
bantam roo 2
Here’s the other rooster
bantam hen
Here is the little hen

With all the harvesting we are having to do, I feel like I’m killing something every weekend.  Actually, I literally have been lately. I need to figure out timing for future years.  We did 5 rabbits a few weeks ago, then a duck (we skinned it instead of trying to mess with waxing / scalding – the meat was delicious). Then the three roosters last weekend.  And I have a backlog of “animals we need to cull soon” – ducks, chickens, and rabbits.  I have to do some rabbits later tonight.

Next year, we are not planning on hatching any chicks, so that will help.  We won’t have ducks, since we are going to take them all out this year, and we don’t plan on having them ever again since they are ridiculously messy.   The rabbits are relatively easy (no feathers to pluck) but it still sucks having to actually kill them.  And they are eating a lot, or at least this batch is – I don’t know if it’s the summer heat or what.  We were trying to decide whether to keep rabbits at all anymore, and I think that we will, at least one more year to see where we are at (if it’s actually saving us money or not). But I won’t breed them again this year, and I need a different schedule for next year – maybe a batch in spring, one in the fall, or something.  Summer seems too hard on the does. We will be retiring Fire (our black Rex doe), because this last litter was only 3 bunnies – I don’t know if something is wrong with her or not, but we will be taking one of the younger bunnies we have and raising it up to be a breeder. I’ll probably sell her to someone as a pet.

I enjoy farming, I just need to figure out a better balance in terms of timing.