Farm updates early August

Everyone is very busy around here – the garden is giving us a lot of vegetables, and showing us a lot more to come. New pictures below:

bee balm
Here is some bee balm (bergamot) I didn’t know I had – I planted it last year but it didn’t actually show up / bloom till now. In the spring I had what I thought was Moldavian balm coming back, but then it bloomed into these. It is really pretty and the bees love it.
bee on the balm
Here is a bee enjoying the bee balm.
atat and downey
Our dogs, Downey at Atat (Atat is in front) playing outside. They miss Nova but they seem to be taking her loss ok.
goldendrod
Here is some goldenrod that is in my hollyhock bed / weed garden. The bees really like this as well.
hollyhock
We have hollyhocks again! The chickens had decimated them, and so last year I fenced the bed and planted some new hollyhocks – only a couple plants lived till this year, and now one is blooming.  (The fence got knocked down a bit by snow falling from our roof, so it’s a little bent in- hence the hollyhock is actually growing through the top of the fence.)
big tomoato
A monster tomato waiting to ripen. I noticed my cherry tomatoes are starting to turn, so hopefully we’ll have some ripe ones soon.
cantaloupe
Here is a cantaloupe, I have found there are at least two growing. I grew this kind last year and I don’t think we even got one melon. I changed the location this year and they seem to like it.
chilis
Our first peppers are getting big – these are a “Sugar Rush Peach Hot pepper.” They should be orange, sweet and hot.
pumpkin
Here is one of the pumpkins we have growing.
rooster
A couple of our young roosters. The one in the center – I really like his coloring so I think this is probably the one we’ll keep (along with Bertram). We have many contenders this year for “2nd rooster.” We are waiting to see how annoying they get with their crowing, and if any get really aggressive. Mean and annoying roosters don’t stick around long.
rooster band
And here are a lot of the roosters. Most of (if not all of) the chickens in this picture are boys. The gray one on the left might not be, and the buff one on the left with her head down is most likely a hen. We had a white rooster also but he was crowing incessantly and he was not on the “keep” shortlist, so we took him out last week. We now have 28 chickens. 7 or 8 boys, we think, besides Bertram. We might list some of these guys on Craigslist, but it is hard to get rid of roosters.
short corn
Here is some of my corn. This is an “Art Verelli’s” variety.  I had read that the stalks don’t get very tall, and these are about 4 feet tall – so very short for corn. They already are forming ears. My other variety is a regular sweet corn variety and that one is still just getting tall, with no ears yet.
squash
Here is one of my grocery store pumpkins (I think a Hubbard squash, actually). They were supposed to be heirloom squash so I saved seeds, and here we are.
summer squash
Our summer squash are starting to be prolific. You can see our light zucchini, the yellow squash, and our patty pan squash here. I also have one plant that produces dark green zucchini.
watermelon
Our watermelon is doing good – I need to make some kind of sling for this one – I’m worried the weight will break the stem eventually.
sunflower
Here is a bloom from our second sunflower to bloom – I have many blooms on our first one, but this is the 2nd plant to give us a show.
garden
A picture of the right side of our garden. The weeds have caught up with me a bit, but my plants are not being overrun, so I’m just not worrying about it unless they are. (There is carpeting in the path, that was an old rug we cut up in an effort to keep weeds out of the main path).
garden 2
A better pic of my main garden as of yesterday.
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Poultry in Summertime

Our chickens and ducks have been enjoying this summer. We let them free range when we are home, and they love to wander around our yard, looking for yummy things to eat. We currently have 4 ducks and 29 chickens (14 adults, 15 chicks/almost adults). Here are some updated pictures of the flock:

older ducks
Here are our older lady ducks. These two and the new ducks still hang out in two pairs, mostly. We can tell them apart because these ladies have dark-stained bills, the newbies have orange bills.
newbie ducks
Here are the new ducks, they were running away when I tried to take their picture. Another way to tell the pairs apart is that the male (in back, here) quacks softly, all the time. So you always know where he is in the yard.
Esky
Here is Esky (short for Escape Artist). She is one of our oldest hens, and the only one who lays white eggs.
esky daughter
Here is Esky’s daughter – she has the same comb as her mom, and was born the next year (so is about 3 years old)
brahmas
Here are our two Buff Brahmas, they were enjoying a dust bath. They along with Esky make up our 4 year old hens.
bertram
Here is our older (2 years old?) rooster Bertram, patrolling the yard.
food
Here are a bunch of chickens coming for treats. The black hen at the front is an older lady, and most of the rest are chicks from this year. You can see some of the coloring now – some of the chicks have really amazing feather patterns.
orloff son
I believe this is a young rooster, and he looks like a young Bertram.
chicks
Here are more chicks – they are all different – some light, some bright orange, some black and gray. We have a lot of muff-necked chickens now.
red and brown
Here is one of the really cool looking ones – orange and black with a muff neck.
white roo
Here is one of our young roosters. If you look back at our chick pics, this one was the one with little cat-eye eyeliner. He likes to come out of the coop each morning and crow before Bertram does. Bertram doesn’t seem to mind just yet.
buff hen
Here is a Buff-Orpington looking hen (she seems docile like a hen, anyway) as well as the back of our older Brahma’s head.

 

The Farm in early July

This summer’s garden is going well.  We have had a weirdly dry year, compared to the last few. I have had to water things to make sure my seeds sprout. (I’ve had seeds drown and wash away in previous years). Everything seems to be growing pretty well though.  The chickens and ducks are doing well too, and seem to be happy with the summer weather. Here is a photo tour of our little farm:

roses
The roses are blooming. My parents planted these many years ago.
roses 2
Here is a better view of the roses.
peonies
Peonies. These smell really nice.
columbine
Here is the columbine I found in the roadside ditch last year and transplanted to my front flower bed. It grew back this summer and bloomed, so it must like its new spot.
bleeding hearts
Bleeding hearts (this photo is catching the end of the bloom for this year).
hens
Some of my older hens hanging out near the shady side of the house.
chicks
Here are the chicks – they are doing well although we lost another one about a week after my last post. (I was on vacation, my husband said that he counted at night and one was missing, with no trace). We have luckily not lost any more since then. So we now have 15 chicks (29 total chickens). They are almost full sized so hopefully that will deter whatever took the two we lost. They free range in our yard, so they were behind the chicken coop here.
bright chick
This is one of the chicks. Possibly a hen, we are just starting to figure out who is what. We have at least three young roosters, based on them crowing. We’ll have to decide what to do with them later this year.
comfrey
My Comfrey is doing well. I put in 3 plants a few years ago and they keep coming back and spreading a bit. They are pretty and the bees like them.
strawberries
Some of our strawberry harvest! My patch did really well this year, I got at least 6 cups of strawberries.
potatoes and squash
Here is a side view of my back garden – the potatoes are on the left, summer squash on the right in the middle of this picture. Strawberry patch is behind the summer squash.
cauliflower and brussels
My cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, and lettuce on the right.
butternut
Butternut squash plants. I put in a fence trellis for them to climb – the trellis is resting on the main outside fence of the garden, with enough room for us to go in and grab fruit if it ends up hanging under the trellis.
garlic
The garlic are doing really well. I harvested some scapes the other day.
corn
Here are some of our corn. I have two patches, two different kinds – these are a Golden Bantam variety.
peanuts
Peanuts! These are growing well, as far as I can see. Our summer has become hot and humid lately, and they seem to like that.
onions
My onions. These are doing nice.
main garden
Here is a picture of the right side of the main garden – the other corn patch is in the background. Then coming forward there are peanuts, peppers/green onions, and cucumbers/shallots.
tomato fencing
Here you can see my tomato trellises. I set it up right this year (instead of using sticks like last year). I just used welded wire fence sections, and pounded some stakes in and attached the fence with wire. I tied the tomatoes up after I took this pic – most of my tomatoes are determinate varieties but they still get pretty big, and droopy when the fruit comes in. Some are indeterminate though. They are starting to get flowers now. I can’t wait for tomatoes!
grape vine
A grape vine my uncle gave me last year. I had it in a pot until late fall and I realized “oh, I’d better get that in the ground before it snows.” – I put it in not knowing if it would come back, but it did. It’s in a good spot too, right at the fence at the northern side of the main garden, so it can grow there and not be in the way.
sunflower
Here is my tallest sunflower so far – it’s about 3.5 feet tall currently. I have 14 or 15 sunflowers coming up that I’ve found so far.  I planted several seeds, but I have some rogues coming up as well.

More Ducks!

My ducks have been seeming to want male attention. They keep bugging my rooster; they will bob their heads and quack while surrounding him. He has not seemed interested at all, so I figured I should try to find an adult male duck to add to the flock. I put an ad out on Craigslist, and was contacted by someone who needed a home for his pair of Pekins – a male and a female. So we now have two more ducks. Pictures are below of the ducks together, and some updated chick pics:

004
Here are all four together.
012
The orange-billed ducks in the middle here are the newbies, they are about a year old.
006
My older girls have the darker bills – they are about 3.
007
Everyone has been getting along well. Yesterday they went in their pool, taking turns – the new ducks went in first, swam a bit, and then the older ladies went and took their turn – the pool only fits two of them at a time. But I thought it was cute that they are taking turns.
017
Here they were hanging out their first full day here. We got them over the weekend.
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The chickens were hanging around them as well.
018
Here are the chicks – they are getting very big. They are about half the size of the adults now.
021
You can see Atat in the background – the chicks were investigating him a little. (The dogs are separated from the chickens by a fence).
008
Here is one of the chicks.
008
Here they are hanging out on some boards at the edge of the woods.
010
Another picture of them in the woods.
009
This orange one (I believe a Buff Orpington, but they are all mixes of breeds). 

Everyone is doing well.  We did have an unfortunate event happen with the chicks.  I typically count everyone when I put them to bed.  We put everyone away on Friday night and found that one chick was missing. We counted and re-counted several times, and looked all over. They usually hang out together.  I figured if someone was stuck somewhere they would have been chirping – they are not quiet at all when they are unhappy. We think something, possibly a hawk, came in and got one.  There is no sign of that chick.  So now we have 16 chicks. In my 5 years of owning chickens, this is the first time that I’ve lost any to a predator,  so we’ve been pretty lucky.

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.

 

Late Summer around the farm

We’ve been up to a lot this last month – it still just keeps raining way too much, so everything tends to be sopping wet.  Some veggies are finally starting to produce/ripen. I’m hoping the rains don’t hurt the harvest – I’m worried about tomatoes splitting. Oh, and we’ve also already had frost warnings – some areas near me actually had frost a week or so ago, but we lucked out at the house and didn’t get any frost.  Here are some pics from the last few weeks:

late august
The garden mid-August. You can see the soaked muddy ground here.
sopping wet garden
Another pic from mid august.
toad
We found a visitor in the garden. He was huge! I wish the picture had turned out less fuzzy.
chickens
Here are the chickens coming to see if we brought them any treats.
bubble
A bubble – my son got a bubble wand from a birthday party, and we took some photos.
potatoes
Here is about half of the potato harvest. We harvested the last 4 (out of 8 or 9) bags. We really didn’t get a lot – I will try a different method next year (and keep the plants away from the chickens) – the food bags didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. I think we planted more seed potatoes, weight-wise, than we harvested.
fuzzy raspberries
A fuzzy picture of our raspberries. I put them in a couple years back, and finally got a decent crop, BUT they don’t taste like raspberries. One berry had a hint of raspberry flavor. I’ve tried letting them ripen more but those just rotted, so it’s not that they’re not ripe enough. I’ll have to research this variety more. They are good, just not what I want them to taste like.
cherry tomatos
Our first ripened tomatoes of the season, on one of the cherry tomato plants.
early girl
Early Girl tomatoes – these are the next to ripen – this pic is from a few days ago but I noticed one is a little pink today.
black krim
Black Krim tomatoes. These will get red on the bottom when ripe. They keep this nice dark color on top.
blue beauty
Blue beauty tomatoes. They are more of a purple tomato when ripe.
zinnias
Some beautiful Zinnias.
more zinnias
Another Zinnia.
uestion mark
A question mark made from potatoes – my husband set these up, using this silly shaped one we got.
large pumpkin
A large pumpkin waiting to ripen. It’s supposed to be an 8″ pie pumpkin variety, but this one is a bit larger than that.
small pumpkin
Here is a smaller pumpkin.
train depot
We sold some hens today – our 3 year olds and a two-year old. We’re trying to bring our food bill down for the coming winter. Here the ladies are waiting for their ride this morning. We now have 22 chickens (20 hens and 2 roosters). And 3 ducks.
early sept sunflowers
I took this really nice picture tonight – The sunflowers have some really nice flame colors.

Thanks for checking out our late summer pictures. Hopefully this rain will let up a bit and we’ll have a nice fall harvest.

Mid season harvest

Today I harvested my onions.  The onion bed got away from me for a bit, so they were entrenched in a jungle of weeds.  I went to weed tonight and realized that most of them were probably not going to grow much bigger – they didnt have much of a chance this year. I planted them and then the chickens thought the onion bed was a fantastic place to dust bathe, so I put up a makeshift fence, and then the weeds tried to take over a couple times, and then the chickens found a way in again, and I just decided better to harvest now and actually get some onions.  I’ll find them a better spot next year. This is actually the first onion harvest I’ve had – I tried growing from seed last year and they didn’t really take. This year I planted sets.  Here are my onions:

onions
My onions – I got about 12-15 of them, of varying sizes.

I am growing potatoes in chicken food bags this year. I planted 9 bags with seed potatoes, but I noticed some of the bags had fallen over.  One looked really bad, the leaves on the plant were a bit yellow, so I checked to see if they were ready:

potatoes
Here are the potato bags. The remaining 8 bags are doing great.
tiny potatos
Here is the harvest from one bag (3 seed potatoes originally) – this is a very small plate.
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Here is the largest of the harvested potatoes in my hand.

As you can see, they have some way to go before we should harvest any more.  I also have potatoes growing in the strawberry patch – I had planted some there last year and I guess we did not harvest all of them.  (Another reason I’m growing them in bags).  I may try tubs next year, it would make it easier to add more dirt as the plants grow.  The bags were a little hard to fold up higher, and if they get moved the opening can get too small to let rain in, which is what I think happened to the one bag before it fell over.

I also harvested a bunch of greens today – mustard spinach, which was a seed packet I bought for this year – it has a really mild mustard flavor; and some kale and chard.  I only have a few plants of each, but I harvest the outer leaves as they are ready, and the plant keeps producing all summer. It still gives us a lot of greens.

I also found my first bloomed sunflower of the season (growing in the onion patch, of all places – a re-seed from last year’s flowers).:

sunflower
My first bloomed sunflower of 2017. I had to take the picture from right next to the house so I could get the actual bloom – it was facing the house because the sun was over that way. The plant is about 3 feet from the wall.

We usually have a nice hollyhock patch growing next to our shed – this year I’ve let the chickens and ducks wander the yard, first because their fenced run was too wet, and then we continued because they didn’t destroy the yard like we were worried they would – we only let them when we’re home because they like to wander near the road – we need to be home to shoo them back.  Anyway, they’ve messed up the hollyhocks a little.  A few of the plants grew well before the chickens could get to them, but any that were low enough for them to munch on got munched. So we have about half of what we normally would.  Next year I’m going to put up some kind of barrier.  Here is the first bloomed hollyhock for this year:

hollyhock
Here is our first hollyhock of the year.

The garden is in full swing, and we’re starting to really see the results.

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.

 

As fall turns to winter…

We had a pretty mild autumn this year.  When I was growing up here, we were lucky if we didn’t have to wear snow suits under our Halloween costumes.  Snow has come later the last couple of years.  We finally got a couple inches the other night, the weekend before Thanksgiving.  For most of my chickens, and the ducks, this is their first time seeing snow. The chickens are not very excited about it – the ducks seem to like it a little. I think they will enjoy it more when it’s deeper – we really only got a dusting.

We’ve had a busy fall – we are now down to 41 chickens, and 6 ducks.  We took out 6 roosters a few weeks ago, and now we still have 6 remaining roosters.  There are a couple on the short-list for freezer camp, but we may wait till spring to take them out.  Below are some pictures of what our fall looked like, and of our new snow.

last-week
Here was our driveway a couple of weeks back.
today
Here is what our yard looks like now.
today-2
Here is the back yard. We didn’t get much snow, but it’s enough to say Wintertime is here.
hekyl-and-fluffbutt
Two of our roosters, Fluff-butt and Hekyll.
ducks-in-snow
The ducks – they weren’t sure what to make of the snow, but they seem to be enjoying hanging out there.
hiding-in-the-coop
Most of the chickens are staying in the coop – they seem confused by the snow.