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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
A nice spring evening. The ducks really enjoyed it, and so did we.
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.
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:
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.
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.
I’m hoping spring weather sticks around for awhile.
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.
There has been a lot going on lately around here. After my last post, no more chicks hatched. We ended up with 22 hatched out of 42 for that batch. I candled the remaining eggs – 10 were empty, and 10 just didn’t hatch. And then a day or so later one of the chicks who had hatched died. So we now have 21 small chicks, and 4 larger chicks. I’m done with hatching for the year – we now have 43 chickens including our adults.
Here is one of our larger chicks, Escape Artist’s daughter:
We vaccinated the chicks for Marek’s last weekend. The older chicks were given it at the same time – may be a little late but it’s better than nothing. We only had the one vial and didn’t want to try to split it up, especially since this was the first time we’ve ever given it. My chickens from last year were all vaccinated at the hatchery. I don’t know if my 2-year-old chickens were vaccinated. Either they were or we don’t have Marek’s disease here, but I have heard that it is all over the place. I’ve read that it takes 2 weeks for the chicks to build up any immunity after being vaccinated, so next weekend we might move the older chicks outside. We were going to add another little chicken house for the youngsters, but we’ve decided we will do a split coop again – we have the room in the chicken house, with two separate rooms, and fenced runs on both sides, so we can keep them separate but all safe and comfortable. The smaller chicks will have to go out later – they are still too small. I’ll have to integrate them with the larger chicks when they do get moved, but there are so many smaller ones I think they’ll be able to hold their own against the 4 larger chicks then. Here is one of the smaller chicks:
We lost one of our ducks this week. We had a male (we think) who had some trouble with his feet – he wasn’t really able to keep up with the group when they were moving around, we had noticed. In their pen that didn’t matter so much, but earlier this week I was outside and noticed he seemed to be stuck in the pool. I don’t know if he got sick, or just got stuck in the pool and got too cold. I took him out and set him on the grass in the sunshine, and dried him off a little with a towel. I hoped he would get better, but he died a little while later. Here are our remaining 11 ducks:
The ducks always run away when you get near them. The chickens, much smarter, come running because they know people=food. Here are my chickens out today:
Our trees are starting to fill in. Springtime is in full swing, except we are in the U.P. So we got snow flurries today, and it didn’t even get in the 40s. It’s supposed to warm up in the next few days though. Here is our cherry tree in bloom:
Since spring is here, I’ve been planning the garden. We are using the same spaces as last year, and I’m making a new space for my son. He had a little flower-bed area last year but it didn’t get enough sunshine. I gave him a big square, about 8×8 or so, that used to have weeds and asparagus, and some old rhubarb. The rhubarb and weeds were the only things that really grew there. So he’s helping me clean it up. And we started our garden plans:
And we started seeds last weekend:
My strawberry patch is doing well. I put some new plants in this year. The old ones are growing well and spreading, and the new ones are doing ok. I need to make a cover in the next few weeks or so, to keep tiny creatures from stealing my berries this year.
My son and I were taking a walk last weekend and came across something extra delicious. I have been telling him and my husband about morels since we moved up to the U.P. and have not been able to find any. We found 4 in the woods last weekend. Not many, but it’s enough to show them what I was talking about, and let them have a taste. We haven’t had much rain this year, but now we know where we might be able to find them – I have been checking in that area again but haven’t seen much else, either because of the lack of rain, or because forest creatures are finding them first. Here are the morels we found:
Our main hatch is due tomorrow – 42 eggs in the incubator. Our chicks started hatching last night. So far we have 8 in the brooder, and another one was just hatched a few minutes ago. There are a few more pipping now. So far, we’ve had 3 bantams, 3 easter eggers, and 3 of our homegrown eggs hatch. There is a maran that is half hatched as of the last time I looked. Here are some pictures:
Also, my rabbits have both had their litters – they were born yesterday and last night. I have not counted them yet so I don’t know how many each had. So we have lots of babies on our farm at the moment.