Thursday, March 31, 2011

Free Seeds from Seeds of Change!

This is a great deal.  For the price of shipping, Seeds of Change is offering 25 packets to individuals and 100 packets to organizations/businesses.  AND for every seed request, they'll give a matching donation to the American Horticultural Society.  Just click this link to get started.  Fat Bear Farm will be receiving 100 seed packets (a $300 value) for only $14.99!  I'm just thrilled to bits!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gorgeous, But Not What I'm Looking For

Ben started a few artichokes in the greenhouse last summer.  I think they were Imperial Star.  He had a lot on his plate at the time and had to bear the full responsibility of all farm projects until I arrived in June.  Needless to say, he didn't have quite enough time to nurture and coddle these finicky creatures just so.  Although we never got any chokes out of the process, beautiful blooms developed.  I would definitely grow these plants just for their blooms and foliage (and I've started so many that I'll probably plant some in the front yard for that very reason), but I do hope we get some eating out of them this year.

Artichoke bloom, 2010

We've started Imperial Star, Green Globe, and Purple of Romanga this year.  I hope that out of these three, I can find a variety that suites this region.  We have a nice-sized hoop house that we will put over them (and the eggplants) to keep the insects down (that was a major issue last year) and protect them during the winter.  I will also dig some up and store them in the basement over winter to see if that method works any better.  I have a lot of seedlings to work with, so this is a great opportunity for experimentation.  I found this article helpful, although I did not consult it before embarking on this season's artichoke attempt

Artichoke babies, 2011

It's raining today, tomorrow, and the next day.  I'll be limited to indoor and greenhouse activities.  Bummer.  I'd like to start some melons and winter squash in the greenhouse soon (very controversial, I know), but I don't know if I should wait until this gray weather passes.  I want to start them indoors instead of direct-seeding because I think I can make better use of garden space this way.  Also, I think they'll do just fine if I use the Pot Maker.  With the Pot Maker, I can either just put the whole thing in the ground (like a Jiffy Pot), or gently peel away the newspaper without disturbing the roots.  Cabin fever will probably push me to go ahead with it.  I can always plant more if they don't do so well.

By the way, EVERYTHING survived the snow!  I knew there was no reason for a full-on freak-out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Greenhouse Haiku

When it is snowing
I can always count on you
To be warm inside

I wasn't going to write today.  I had it in my mind that if I dodn't upload it, then it never happened.  I had awakened to the first (and I hope the only) spring snow.  But I changed my mind after a trip with Miles up to the greenhouse.  That place is always full of inspiration, and it just makes me feel good.  Here are some of the highlights:

My big, strong heirloom tomatoes

The artichokes have come out of their cold treatment and are happy to be back in the greenhouse.

I love this Ruby Moon hyacinth bean.

The eggplants are alive and well.


This nasturtium popped up over the weekend.

The parsley will be ready to set out soon.

I'm a firm believer that you can never grow too much basil.  I've got about fifty seedlings going.

Baby thyme

The poppies are doing a lot better than I had expected.

Get a load of these blueberries!

So while things are all hunky-dory in the greenhouse, let's take a look outside.

As I write this, the snow has stopped falling and it's already beginning to melt.  Yes!  It isn't too awfully cold out, and I'm not really worried about the greens and root vegetables in the kitchen garden.  Things are often more resilient than we think.  If they to subcome to the harsh weather, I'll just have to sow some more.  I love sowing seeds, I'll shed no tears.  The asparagus and blueberries are going to be alright.  This snow is just a minor annoyance.

Back inside, the girls are doing well.  It's so hard to get a good picture of them.  They're always fluttering about when I enter their room, and the red heat lamp doesn't help.  In addition to "Judith," "Iris," and "Eunice," we now have a "Big Beulah," and "Large Marge."  Big Beulah and Large Marge are the big bosses.  They're also loudmouths.  I admire their spunk and attitude.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Grand Asparagus Post

Dear Walker Plants (formerly Walker Brothers),
We ordered another five-hundred asparagus crowns from you this spring.  You told us that they would be shipped out on the 21st.  You shipped them out on the 22nd.  You told us we would recieve them on the 22nd.  We recieved them on the24th.  But I ain't mad atcha.  You sent us about fifty extra crowns, and they arrived in great condition.  Nobody's perfect.

Fat Bear Farm

No, I didn't send the above letter, but maybe I will.  I was so anxious to start planting that I got a  little nervous when things didn't go exactly according to plan.  I'm starting to think that tracking packages online isn't such a good idea.  I found myself checking every few hours to see if the box had left NJ, then MD, then Roanoke.  In the end, everything was fine.

These are the prepared trenches with crowns all lined up.  Notice the rocks?  I have plans for them.

Here is one of the smaller crowns.  We planted Jersey Knight.

 I hoed one side of the soil into the trench, then topped off the middle with manure.  Later, I knocked the other side of the soil into the middle.

This is our tried and true method to keep weeds at bay.  Last year we rototilled the pathways, but no need to do that this year because the weeds and grass aren't so extreme.  I put down a layer of cardboard.

 On top of the cardboard goes a layer of straw.  I would normally water it down (and water in the crowns) at this point to keep the straw from blowing away, but the wind was low and it's supposed to rain starting tonight for three days straight.

Last year, we filled the trenches bit by bit (a few inches at a time) as most sources suggest.  We also dug the trenches about one foot deep.  It took forever, and we didn't get to mulch until fall.  We ended up with a ton of weeds because we waited so long to mulch.  We went a different route this time.  I went ahead and covered the crowns with about four to six inches of soil and manure.  They should have no problem coming up through that.  I will go through in a few weeks and add more manure.  If some crowns look like they need to be buried deeper, I'll add more manure accordingly.  I've read that research shows (too bad I didn't keep track of my sources) that this method will be fine.  Planting was about two-hundred times easier this year than it was last year.  I'm thrilled.
We depend on the ABC store for our cardboard.  They're a dependable supplier, and they love it when Ben comes to pick up the boxes so that they don't have to deal with them.  We still need several hundred more boxes, so I'll be mulching throughout the next few weeks.  No biggie.

...And those rocks
I gathered the rocks from the field.   I got two loads!  *Note to self: learn more about geology.

So I could finally put a boarder around the not-so-circular herb circle.

I added chicken manure and a ton of leaves to this bed last fall, and I put down some well-rotted horse manure late in the winter.  It still needs a lot of work.  I'm going to add some more rotted manure this spring and mulch it well after all the herbs are in   This herb circle is one of my favorite projects right now.  When I get to start painting the hen house in about a week, that will also be a favorite project.  The girls are growing fast.  Must take more pictures of them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Still Waiting

Our asparagus crowns (see post below) were shipped today instead of yesterday.  They were shipped one hour ago, to be exact.  I'm disappointed, but here are some photos of what has helped to brighten my day.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Everything at Once

It's getting busy on Fat Bear Farm.  It seems as though everything is happening at once.  We have a lot of projects that are up and running, and spring has come on in full force.  Here's a just a sample of what's brewing.

Five-hundred asparagus crowns are scheduled for arrival tomorrow.  We ordered them from Walker Brothers.  I'm pleased with their customer service, and the crowns we ordered from them last year were really nice.
The first spear from last year's planting popped up yesterday.

 I love this thing.

Ben took the tractor through last weekend.  He tilled, then used the sub soiler.  I went through with a hoe today and deepened the furrows a bit. 
I hope the crowns arrive early tomorrow because I'm super-ready to plant them.

Look at me Mom!

The chicks are doing well.  They're one week old today.  We've named three of them so far.  We now have a Judith (Judy), a Eunice, and an Iris.  I can tell them apart by the patterns on their beaks, and Iris is the runt.
The door just needs a handle.  We'll have to choose and extra-special one.

Their house is almost ready.  Ben still has a few more finishing touches to add before I paint.  The roosts are up, and the nesting boxes are done.  I hope the ladies like it!

An heirloom tomato

The blueberry whips I started are leafing out.  I'm surprised at their rate of development.

Kitchen Garden
Snap peas, beets, carrots, spinach, kale, lettuce, and arugula are currently growing in the garden.  Here are some highlights:
Pea shoots

The prettiest of all lettuces

One lovely beet
I should have a lot to share with you about the asparagus this week, and stay tuned for an update on the blueberries!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Our Chicks are Here! (The Perfect Morning)

Ben and I were eating leftover salmon and bagels with cream cheese for breakfast (part of the "perfect morning") when the phone rang.  The woman on the other end said, "This is your post office, and we've got your babies."  Her voice was sweet and very southern.  I rushed to get dressed, fed the boys, and off we went.
The girls came with straw and a heating pad.

All twelve black australorps arrived alive and well.  They were LOUD, but the sound was like music to my ears.  They probably hatched on Monday and were sent out either that same day or on Tuesday.  My Pet Chicken did a great job getting our babies here safe and sound.
The little ladies started eating and drinking within a few minutes.

I had to make a revision to our set up.  As I was reviewing all my baby chick information yesterday, I realized that it was a big mistake putting down cedar chips for bedding.  The fumes from the oils in the cedar chips can irritate their lungs and cause problems as they grow up.  Easy enough to fix.  I removed the chips and added some straw.  
Now we have to think of some names.  I don't know that we'll ever to be able to tell them all apart (though I sure will try), but they are now part of the family and need names.  The rules are: no "Blackie," no "Ebony," no "Onyx," no "Midnight,"....  You get the point.
After I got the girls settled in, I took the boys for a walk in the fog.  It was beautiful.  Come along.
Can we go now?
 These cows don't belong to us.  They just graze some of the pastures here on the farm.

It's been raining all week.  But after the fog cleared, the sun came out to greet us. 
 The lilacs are beginning to open.
These cows arrived recently.  The last batch has been sent off to wherever cows go after winter (I don't like to think too much about their fate.  We don't eat furry or feathered critters.)  These lovely fellows are very curious.  They're lined up at the fence in front of our house, saying hello to me and Miles.
We have three Forsythia bushes at the house, but this one is my favorite.  It's the smallest one, but it's got a lot of spunk.

The morning was glorious.  We'll see what the rest of the day brings.