Monday, February 28, 2011

Work in Progress: New Kitchen Garden

I've been working on the backyard veggie garden since last autumn.  Now that all the beds are beautifully dug, I'm mulching between the rows with newspaper and straw to keep the weeds down, the moisture up, and the worms happy.  We did something similar in the asparagus field, but used cardboard instead of newspaper.  Newspaper is tricky.  It flies away with the slightest breeze.  So when working with newspaper as mulch, remember that water is your friend.  I spray the newspaper with a hose after laying every few sheets, and it does the trick until I can get the straw down.
 I love using this method.  I would normally till up the earth before putting down the mulch, but I think it's okay that I skipped this step because the grass hasn't started growing yet.

I was thrilled to see this morning that the Columbine I transplanted during the driest days of last summer has come back!  Also, the artichokes and basil in the greenhouse have germinated.  It has been a pretty good day.

Friday, February 25, 2011

After the Rain

We had the perfect rain.  It was more than a drizzle without ever turning into a downpour, and it lasted almost twenty-four hours.  I took the boys on an extra-long walk this morning to investigate.

It was a beautiful morning for the blueberries.

Some of the pea seeds needed to be put back in their place.  I had planted them an inch deep and pressed them in pretty well because this very thing seems to always happen.   A few of the buggers decided they wanted to work their way up to the top, so to speak.  I showed them who's boss.

I don't know what this is, but it's the first to bloom at Fat Bear Farmhouse.  She's growing just outside of the rock border in one of the front yard gardens.

I think this is an ornamental cherry (there are no other cherry-look-a-likes on the property for to pollinate).  Anyway, we'll find out this spring.  There will probably be lots of surprises this spring.  Because we moved to this property in June, we've yet to see all of spring's bounty.

The daffodils are doing their happy dance.

I had a great time in the greenhouse today.  I decided to plant a few back-ups.  It can get really cold in there at night, even with the heat on .  Everything has been fine so far, but some things are germinating more slowly than I'd like.  Also, if there's a crazy disaster and the heater gives out, I don't want to be without my early tomatoes and peppers.  So I'll be putting today's new seedlings under lights in the grow room (it's our extra bedroom that we also use to ferment beer and everything else that needs a space, like our soon-to-arrive chicks) at home.  Just in case.
I so love my Pot Maker. 

Planting party

 Little salad babies

High technology set-up

We have several piles of poo and compost rotting away at the farm.  This lovely lot is the most pampered, and all our work is paying off.  The compost is finally heating up again!  We've been turning is religiously and watering when necessary.  I think this rain will give it a great boost.
 From left to right: goat poo from the neighbor up the road, chicken poo, and kitchen scraps

  Rain clouds departing

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Brand New Pair of Shoes!

And not a moment too soon.  I ordered a pair of green Birki's last week, and they arrived yesterday. 
Yes, I spent almost fifty dollars on rubber shoes, something I never thought I'd do.  But, I have no regrets.  Last summer, I destroyed a great pair of trail shoes after repeatedly weeding the asparagus field and harvesting blueberries.  Those "waterproof" shoes couldn't stand up to the intense morning dew.  The glue melted off of them in a matter of several weeks.  
It's supposed to rain today (50% chance) for the first time in ages.  We had a good amount of snow this winter, but all that moisture is long gone.  We need a good soaking.  It's also supposed to rain tomorrow (70% chance).  So, my Birki's I will wear.  I think they will hold up to the rigors of farm life.  They're just seamless hunks of rubber, I guess.  The best part is that I can slip them off, hose off my feet and slip them right back on without worrying about the moisture.

Since rain is in the forecast, I'll be baking today.  I usually try to get all my baking out of the way when there is no possibility of getting anything done out of doors.  However, when I plan on using the mud oven, I bake on nice days. 

The boys are almost out of treats, so I'll be baking some today.  Here's the recipe:

 Peanut Butter Morsels
1 1/2 cup oat flour (grind old-fashioned oats in a blender)
1 cup brown rice flour (grind brown rice in a blender)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tb. honey
1 egg
1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Mix all ingredients
Moisten your hands and form 1" balls of dough
Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and press the center down with your thumb
Bake for 20 mins. or until golden brown (I like to flip them over after the first 10 mins.)
Allow to cool completely and place in a glass jar with lid tightly sealed
These treats stay fresh and crunchy for at least a week if stored properly.  Miles Giles and Thurgood Morsel go crazy for them.  The recipe is easily modified.  I sometimes omit the vanilla and cinnamon and replace the water with some sort of meaty broth.  I also add a little mashed banana or sweet potato sometimes.  Have fun with it!  The dogs will be overjoyed that you baked for them no matter how they turn out.

It's raining!  I just brought the boys inside, and they're having a good nap.  It looks like it will be a very peaceful day.
Miles Giles on the couch (check out that pouty lip)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Three of My Favorite Things

As I was poking around in the greenhouse this morning looking for signs of new life, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the hops is coming up.  We put in three varieties last year, and all of them did very well in the greenhouse.  Hopefully, they'll start producing this year.  It would be so awesome to use our own hops in an IPA.  I couldn't get a good photo of the little guys this morning, but I've included a pic of two varieties as they were last year.
Willamette and Nugget Hops

We ordered most our seeds from Seed Savers Exchange this year.  Previously, we had gone with Johnny's Seeds and Seeds of Change, but we really liked SSE's varieties and prices.  I think we made the right choice.  So far, all of the seeds I've used look extremely healthy.  Actually, I've never seen such robust-looking seed before.  They're very clean and have an all-around fresh look.  We ordered our garlic from SSE last fall, and it's doing really well.  We chose Georgian Fire and Elephant garlic for a contrast of flavors.  Garlic seed is pretty expensive, so we won't be eating any of it this year.  We'll plant everything we harvest.
Georgian Fire or Elephant garlic.  I can't remember which we planted where.

In other news, I got to see a Big Brown bat this morning.  I love bats.  My neighbor was cleaning out his basement when he found the guy.  We know it was a Big Brown bat because my neighbor is a member of the Bat Conservation Association.  I wish I had taken a photo, but I missed my chance.  The bat was still in hibernation mode when he was discovered, but he came to his senses and fluttered away into the forest in a matter of minutes.  One point for the Bat Conservation Association.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dog, Toad, Chicken

Weekend Recap
We worked hard, and we played hard last weekend.  Two of our good friends came down from the mountain for a visit Saturday.  We fired up the mud oven that I built last summer (she still needs a name), had a pizza feast, and went on a little adventure on the Kubota.  On Sunday Ben worked on the hen house while I prepared some vegetable beds.

Today in the Kitchen Garden
We have a personal kitchen garden in the backyard between the dog's yard and the woods.  It is my new favorite place.  Ben and I moved into this house last June, so we put in all the beds last fall, and this our first time planting a kitchen garden at this house on Memory Lane.  We used to grow miscellaneous vegetables in the asparagus field, but there won't be enough room there this year.  It will also be a lot easier to manage the garden now that it's in our backyard.  I had so much fun today.  I planted Amish Snap peas, Mokum and Scarlet Nantes carrots, and Detroit Dark Red beets along the fence.
Thurgood Morsel kept me company.

It Happens Every Spring
My heart skipped a beat as I flipped up my shovel at the very end of the last bed I sowed today.  Up with the scoop of dirt came a huge toad.  He was at least eight inches long from toe to toe.  Too bad he only escaped with three feet intact.  I didn't think he would make it at first, but I'm too squeamish to perform a mercy killing, so I abandoned that particular piece of earth to allow Mr. Toad to gather his bearings.  A few moments later, he crawled out of his hole with great determination.  I hope he survives, but if not, he'll make a great meal for some other farm or forest friend.
I try to make light of the situation, but maiming an animal or taking a life is not something that I can just brush off.  I still remember the toad I stabbed with a pitch fork last spring.  I was mulching blueberry bushes and the poor guy wasn't as lucky as this year's spring toad.  Instead of destroying a limb, I forked him in the heart.
See the lower right foot?  No you don't.  Toad, I apologize.

We Have THE Best Neighbors
Our next door neighbor used to keep Rhode Island Reds.  His coop is now vacant, and he has passed the torch to us.  We are now the CEOs of the Memory Lane Egg Production Association.  Too cool.  He gave us our first coop accutrement.
I briefly mentioned our intentions to can a lot of food this summer, and the same neighbor gave me these jars this morning.  Eleven of the twelve have never even been used.  Thank you!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Signs of Spring


Where I'm from, we call these "daffodils."  Down here, they're "jonquils."


The weather has been beautiful (it's 75 degrees at the moment), but I must remind myself that it's only February. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Overwintered Spinach

Just before the bitter cold of winter set in, I planted a few spinach seeds in greenhouse in the bed with the hops.  We keep the heater off until it's time to start seeds at the end of winter, so it gets pretty chilly in there.  The seeds germinated slowly, and I thought they would just fizzle out. Although I had given up hope, I doused them with a bit of water last week.  A few days later, they perked up.  Then I doused them with a bit of fish and seaweed fertilizer.  Now, the spinach is thriving!  I'll be sure to plant a lot more spinach in the greenhouse this fall.

Work in Progress: Hen House

One Dozen Black Australorp hens will arrive next month.  Ben and I (mostly Ben) have been working away at their new home since January.

Two very generous men put on the roof for us along with this set of stairs.  That was a huge help.  They will be paid with free eggs for life!

We orded day-old chicks, so they will spend the first six weeks indoors under a heat lamp.  That gives us until the end of April to finish the construction and painting.  Completely manageable.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It Begins

What better time to start a farm blog than at the beginning of what is sure to be a very eventful season?  This little guy reared his head yesterday.  A Speckled Roman tomato.  I'll be using these for sauces and soups.  I've also started four other heirloom varities: Brandywine, Moonglow, Persimmon, and Black Sea Man.  Persimmon is my all-time favorite for flavor.  I've never planted Moonglow or Black Sea Man before, so I'm not sure how they'll taste.  I so regret leaving out Cherokee Purple this year, but I wanted to try some new things.

This the asparagus patch we put in last year.  I pulled back the mulch and topped it off with a few inches of very well-aged horse manure yesterday.  There are 500 crowns in this section, and our first harvest will be in 2012.
This is where we'll put in 500 more asparagus crowns this year.  They should arrive next month, and we still have a lot of preparation to do.  We put down some chicken manure last fall, and we'll tuck the crowns in with some of that beautiful 10-year-old horse manure.
Ahhhh, and the blueberries.  All 400-and-something bushes have been pruned, and they are just waiting for the right time to bloom.  The deer, wild turkeys, neighbors, dogs, and I are anxiously awaiting their arrival.