Thursday, May 26, 2011

Black Snake Down: R.I.P. Garden Helper

There are a lot of snakes around the farm.  This is a good thing; they keep the rodent and insect populations in check, and I admire their beauty.  Most of the snakes around here are black snakes, worm snakes and garter snakes, but I know there are also some copperheads lurking about.
I had the misfortune of stumbling upon a dead black snake today, and I have her blood on my hands (not literally).  She got tangled up in the wildlife netting that keeps our kitchen garden safe from deer and rabbits.  This must have happened sometime between last night and this morning.

The flies are doing their job.

 This snake is between 3 and 4 feet long!

We used wildlife netting for fencing this year because it is cheap.  We erected the kitchen garden fence while we were in the midst of building the Hen House, and we had spent A LOT of money on building materials.  We weren't sure that the wildlife netting fence would be effective in keeping our veggies safe, but it has worked impeccably well.  This was our first tragedy.

We had planned all along to buy more substantial fencing for the kitchen garden no later than next spring.  This purchase has now become even more urgent.  I don't want to see any more critters fall victim to this lethal structure.

On the bright side, that snake didn't get the chance to hurt the chickens or dogs.  I know she's not poisonous, but I wouldn't want Thurgood or Miles to get a nasty bite while "playing" with the rubbery rope toy.
I'm too much of a wuss when it comes to dead animals, so I'll have Ben move her when he gets home from work.  "How was your day, Honey?  Wanna move a dead snake for me?"

Now for something more positive...

The fernleaf fiddleneck has bloomed!   This is one of my favorite flowers.  It's extremely aromatic.

Roses are always lovely.  Miles loves to stop and smell them (literally).

 The not-so-simple nasturtium

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Putting Up Herbs

I love herbs.  You can make anything taste fancy-schmancy by tossing in some aromatic herbs.  Not much in the fridge?  Got a couple of potatoes?  Roast them up with some herbs.  Got eggs and flour?  Whip up a crust, mix up some filling, and throw in some herbs for a delicious quiche.

Freshly-picked sage and lavender

This all sounds good and well, but herbs are just too expensive at the grocery store.  It's a pricey addiction.  Our local grocery has no bulk section.  Five dollars for a tiny bottle of thyme just ain't hittin' it.  After this summer, I will never buy herbs again.  

 I've never smelled anything more heavenly.

So far, I have dried some sage, dill, lavender, and parsley.  I'll get into the thyme, rosemary, and oregano later.  I plan on freezing most of my basil in pesto.  I'll be drying herbs all summer.  I'd like to have at least one quart jar of each herb, several smudge sticks of sage, and a little dried lavender to keep around the house.

Smudge sticks, here we come!

It's going to take a ton of fresh herbs to meet my dried quota, but I find the whole process very relaxing and enjoyable.  In the meantime, we have all the fresh herbs we ever want to eat all spring and summer long.

I really like using brown paper bags with holes punched in them.  It keeps the leaves clean, and there is plenty of air flow.  I have them hung up in the old chicken room/new office, which is the only dog-free zone in the house (besides the basement) so that the herbs will remain fur-free.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Happy Hour at Fat Bear Farm

Every day anywhere from four to six o'clock, it's snack time for the chickens.  The girls just love their snacks.  They used to run in the opposite direction whenever I entered their yard, but not anymore.  They know that I bring treats.  Today they had stale granola, freshly-picked lettuce, and whole wheat bread.  Just a little, of course.  They have to keep their figures in check.

Left to right: Golden-Laced and three Ameraucanas

Black Australorps munching down in the foreground, some Ameraucanas in the upper right.

My favorite silver Ameraucana.  She's so sexy!

Two Wyandottes and an Ameraucana

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sweet Potatoes and a Lizard

It has been raining almost everyday for over a week now.  The weather has severly limited any possibilities of working in the garden.  The weeds are growing ever taller, and the grass is out of control.  At least I don't have to water anything.

 My sweet potato row

I lucked out last week and was able to get the sweet potatoes planted and mulched.  I planted 200 Beauregard slips that we ordered from Johnny's.  We are addicted to sweet potatoes in this house, and they're Thurgood's favorite.  He knows from the moment I put a raw sweet potato in the oven that he'll be getting the skin later that evening.

I found this lizard under the mailbox.  He was so well-camouflaged that I almost picked him up while I was weeding.  We have a ton of five-lined skinks out here, but I haven't seen these guys before.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Miles Monday: "Chicken" in a Tree

Miles LOVES his chicken.  It's his favorite toy, and I got it for $2 at Walgreens over a year ago.  I can't believe it has lasted this long. 

We tried calling the toy chicken different names, but it just wasn't catching on.  Miles gets so excited when he hears, "Go geet yer cheekeen!"  

So, the rubbery chicken is still "chicken," and the feathered chickens are now called "doodles."

During a high-energy game of fetch, the chicken ended up in the big cedar.  I was able to intervene and shake him out of the branches while standing on the deck.  Who knew he was such a high flier?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Up Close and Personal: The Kitchen Garden

 Amish Snap Pea

 Amish Snap Pea

 Amish Snap Pea

Bottom to top: Elephant Garlic, Georgian Fire Garlic

Brandywine Tomato

Pingtung Long Eggplant 

Detroit Dark Red Beet

True Gold Sweet Corn

Lettuce Mix

Lettuce Mix

Wisconsin Lakes Bell Pepper

Scarlet Nantes Carrot

Earliglow Strawberry

 Imperial Star Artichoke


Grandma Einick's Dill

Jewel Nasturtium

America Spinach

Sugar Baby Watermelon

Giant Double Flowered Zinnia

Amish Butter Squash

The garden and animals are all healthy and happy.  What more could I want?

Our sweet potato slips arrived last weekend, so I think I'll be putting those in today.  We ordered 200 Beauregard slips from Johnny's.  We planted them earlier in the spring last year, and a lot of them got damaged by frost.  I think it's going to stay warm from here on out, so these guys should be just fine.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Views from the Asparagus Forest

The asparagus that we put in last year is now taller than me!  We'll get our first harvest next year.  A few weeks ago we picked one pound for ourselves and a pound for Ben's 'rents.  It was delicious.  I'm so amped for next spring.

Long days weeding and mulching asparagus don't seem quite so long when I stop and look at the view.  The mountains are gorgeous winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Big Picture: The Kitchen Garden

 Miles Giles, Lord of the Backyard

My pink weeding bench.  I can't believe I need a weeding bench - I feel so old!

Can you see Miles?

Some day, all of these babies will bloom.  From bottom to top: Nasturtium, Borage, Fernleaf Fiddleneck, Dill, Zinnia, Sunflower