Garden 2018 is planted.

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:

garden
Here is a shot of the garden with all the separate beds.
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Here is another pic, the northern side of the main garden.
garden 2
A closer view. You can see the older “raised beds” are not so raised anymore, since we’ve had a bit of rain. Our clay soil doesn’t stay as fluffy as it could. It should still be better than if we were walking on it though – we won’t be since that is the whole point of this system.
greens
The greens bed. Kale, chard, and spinach. They are all growing well.
peas
Here are the peas. They are starting to try to find something to climb, so we put these strings and supports in for them yesterday.
tomatos squash
Here is the tomato bed (not part of the main garden) – I took this area back from the chickens. There are tomatoes and squash in here, and so far they are doing well.
herb garden
Here is the herb garden. It’s doing well also, but it’s hard to tell yet in this picture.
comfrey
Here is my comfrey. I fenced in the area next to the house that this is in, and now the chickens can’t get in there to eat it all.
moth 1
I found a visitor in the garden today, this Sphinx Moth. Possibly a Big Poplar Sphinx Moth or a Modest Sphinx Moth, according to a couple of websites I researched on.
moth 2
Here you can see the purple under its wings. It’s hard to tell scale on my arm here, but it had about a 3-4 inch wingspan while sitting here. They are really large.
moth 3
He was going a little crazy so I put him down on this chair, and after a few minutes he flew off. What a cool visitor.

 

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Garden Progress late May

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:

buddy outside
We moved the rabbits outside for the summer. Here is Buddy, our buck. Our does are due next week with babies.
chickens sneaking in
I am working on fencing the side of the house where the hollyhocks and comfrey are – here the chickens have snuck in since I haven’t finished the fence yet. Silly chickens.
herb garden
The herb garden (the back of the house garden) is almost ready, we just need to fence it and fix the pathways, since the chickens have messed those up. The fence will keep the chickens out. They think it’s their dust bath.
work in progress
The main garden is over halfway done with the raised bed system that we’re putting in – here you can see a hole in progress. We’ve come to the hardest part of this garden, the part that we most recently re-claimed from the yard, so it’s super rocky.
last year carrots
Here are some carrots from last year that were hiding in the garden. I found them as we were digging. You can see here why I needed to do a double-dug system. Our clay soil can be so dense that roots don’t go very deep. They should be able to get larger this year.
lemon balm
My lemon balm is doing fantastic. (next to potato bags).
garlic
Here is my garlic.
onions
The onions are coming up nicely.
peas
The peas are doing very well also. I am working on a trellis system to put over them so they have something to climb.
potatos
Here are some potatoes growing in the bags. So far this is working ok, but I think I will be trying buckets next year. The bags don’t stay as open as I’d like them to. 
seedlings 2
Here are some of my seedlings under my grow lights. I have tomatoes and squash, herbs and melons all started. I will be hardening them off here shortly.
tomato garden
Here is the tomato garden. I am taking back a section of chicken run that they really don’t use much, and I’ve dug individual holes for each tomato plant. I’m planning on putting pumpkins in this area too, so I can train them over the fence. I’m digging deep holes that will essentially be tiny raised beds for each plant. They’ll get compost next, and then filled in with loosened soil before I plant the tomatoes and things.
tree leaves
Our trees are really leafing out now. There are a few things that are just budding, but these maples are in full leaf.
the yard is green
Our yard is nicely green.

The garden is coming along nicely. I’m really glad that we’ve had such a nice spring so far.

Early 2018 Garden

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:

yard meltage
Our snow about a week after that big storm (so roughly 4/21 or so).
snow melting chickens
The chickens playing in the bit of yard that was exposed that first week
garden 1
Here is the garden about 2-3 weeks after that last snow storm. I’ve sectioned it off here for the raised bed system.
yard melt
Another pic of the yard/meltage. It’s now getting more green now than shown in this photo.
sections
Here is a section all done. I have 1-foot paths between everything, and 1.5-2 ft. paths around the edges inside the garden fence. My garden is inside my dog fence, and my dogs like to pee on the fence. The large border (plus tall grass that grows at the fence) will keep their pee off our plants.
garden digging
Here is part of the garden. The bags are potatoes – I am trying that method again this year (using feed bags) but this year I cut those shorter instead of rolling the bags. I’ll only fill them over the potato plants once or twice. The farthest corner here with straw has my garlic that I planted in the fall. I have about 30 or so garlic plants coming up now.
digging
Here I am digging the pea bed. The onions are behind me here (toward the garage).
double dug
Here is one bed dug and one almost done. I dug a shovel-depth down (roughly a foot) and then the next shovel layer is all forked nice and loose, and I added some compost to this layer and tilled that in with the fork. I then added the dug-out dirt back in, and made sure it was all nice and crumbly. The paths get buried by dirt, which blocks the weeds for the time-being.
in progress
Here I am digging with the fork again. The paths will all be mulched with straw when I’m done so we know where to step before things are growing well.
pulling out rocks
Pulling rocks and weed roots out. We have lots of rocks, and many dandelion roots.
ready for filling
Here you can see how clay-orange my soil is. I try to add a lot of composted chicken and rabbit manure to amend it.
clay soil
The big green bin is the weed bin – I fill it and then toss it in the woods or give the weeds to the ducks and chickens.

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.

“It’s Spring! April Fools!” – Winter

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.

Here are some new pictures from today:

boiling sap
Here is the sap pot. I had to boil down a bit before adding the rest of our sap – this pot didn’t hold all 2 gallons at once. We won’t end up with much syrup, but it should be delicious anyway.
more snow
Here is our driveway/side yard, which was grassy and chicken-y in my last post. The chickens were not happy that we got more snow.
more snow 2
Here is my car with snow on it – we really didn’t get a whole lot, but when you are waiting for it all to melt, getting any snow is a let-down.
buddy
My bunnies didn’t care about the snow, since they live inside. Here is my buck, Buddy.
marigold
Here is Marigold. I bred the two does last weekend, so hopefully we’ll have baby bunnies by the end of the month. Marigold was not happy about being bred. (She’s pretty skittish anyway).
Petunia
Here is Petunia. She seemed excited about mating, luckily.
wizard 1
I was taking pictures of the rabbits, and my cat Wizard started coming down stairs. He’s been hanging out more downstairs since we got him a cat tree. I’ve even found him sneaking around in the kitchen, which means he may start actually catching mice downstairs.
wizard 2
A close up of our Wizard. He is a great mouser upstairs, so we are hoping he’ll do his job downstairs too.
nova
Our Nova was curious why I was taking pictures, so I took one of her too.

 

Coming out of winter into spring

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.

chickens_dorko and brown hen resized
Here is General on the right, with one of our hens a couple years ago.
copper-maran-roo
Big Red – our Black Copper Maran rooster, this picture was from last year.

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:

happy hens
Here are some of the hens out in the yard today.
chickens spring
There was really only a little bit of yard and the driveway for them to go in, but they enjoyed it.
chickens driveway 2
Another picture of hens in the driveway.
remaining pile
This is what remains of our snowbank in front of the coop.
ducks heading home
Here are the ducks heading back home.
sap buckets
We also tapped trees this week! Usually maple syrup time is earlier in March, but we didn’t have the necessary warm daytime temperatures till this week.
sap buckets 2
We’ve been getting just under a gallon a day of sap, with 8 buckets out.

Spring is on its way, luckily. I’m glad to see this winter mostly behind us.

 

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.

Ducks in the woods

We’ve had a lot of rain (with snow intermixed here and there).  Today was a nice day, so we let the chickens and ducks out of their run.  Our yard and the surrounding woods are made up of some rolling terrain – we have some lower spots that have recently filled with water because of the large amounts of rain we’ve had.   The ducks found one of these spots (and I swear they made it a little larger with all their dabbling).  Here are some shots of them enjoying their temporary pond in the woods:

duck created pond
Here is a muddy spot that leads from the yard to the puddle/pond they were enjoying.
duck prints in mud
Here are duck-prints in the mud.
ducks 1
Enjoying the pond.
duck pond 2
As you can see the low spot / pond is quite large.
ducks 2
I wonder what they’re eating – probably worms.
daffodils
Here are the daffodils that were right next to the duck’s pond.

A nice spring evening. The ducks really enjoyed it, and so did we.

 

 

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 Beautiful Spring Day!

After a pretty schizophrenic winter, spring appears to finally be here.  We had big melts in January and February this winter, but I’m hoping the nice weather will stick this time.  This is the U.P., so it’s very likely we will get some snow again, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.  The last few days were kind of crummy – cold and rainy. But today it was finally sunny, and in the low 50s. We got some things done outside, and the animals enjoyed the sunshine.

snow remains
Our chicken coop – you can see our snowbanks are still here. Our yard is pretty much a mix of snow and muck right now. The sun should dry it out.
collecting sap
It’s Maple Syrup gathering time! There have been some weeks this winter where I heard others were tapping, but March is the correct month – when nights are below freezing but days are warmer.  I tapped them today and the sap is really running well.
tap in the tree
You can kind of see the drip of sap getting ready to fall into the bucket here.
daffodils
The ground thinks it’s really spring as well – the daffodils are coming up!
crocus
Baby crocuses are coming up too!
big red
The chickens and ducks enjoyed the sunshine today – here’s our rooster Big Red.
general and hens
Here is The General, our other rooster.
chickens in the mud
The hens enjoying the sun. You can see the muddy ground here – there is a layer of mud on top of ice – the ground has not thawed yet.  Once it does the ground will dry out a little easier.
atat outside
Atat enjoying the sunshine.  At least that part of the yard is just dead grass, not mud.

I’m hoping spring weather sticks around for awhile.

 

Happy dogs!

For the past couple years, we’ve had a small, roughly 35×30 foot, fenced portion of our yard for the dogs. Over the last few weeks we’ve been working on expanding the dog run to encompass most of the southwest corner of our yard.  Today we finished the fence. The dogs love it!  They now have 3 to 4 times the space they had before. Here are some pictures of our happy dogs playing in their much larger yard.

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Downey running, near my son’s (currently on the ground) tire swing. Atat is peeking out  from behind the tree.
happy nova
Nova running. There is enough space between the dog run and the duck pen that we can fit the lawn mower between.
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All of them, running. The patch of deep grass in front of them will be turning into my son’s small garden – we will be fencing that.
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Nova and Atat near the fire pit
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Downey exploring
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My son Daniel having fun with the dogs
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The dogs chasing each other
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More running
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Having fun
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Daniel and Atat