Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Drowning in Asparagus and Loving It!

The 2010 asparagus is enormous.   I guess we have the manure to thank for that.  It's taller than me and has beautiful, thick stalks.  I'm so excited about the first harvest next year!

The 2011 asparagus is growing strong.  It won't be harvested until 2013.  I still have to finish mulching between the rows, and I have a lot of weeding to do in there.

Also growing in the asparagus field, we have our sweet potatoes.  I put in 200 slips, and they look great so far.  Sweet potatoes are a staple in this house, and harvest day is a true celebration.  So, we're impatiently waiting for October to come.

 The top of the row is freshly mulched.

I mulched the bottom of the row weeks ago.

We'll store the roots in the basement.  They did very well in there last year.  We only planted 100 slips last year, and we ran out of potatoes several months ago.  I hope 200 will be enough.  If not, we'll go for 300 next spring. We are so fortunate to have the space to accommodate our obsession.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Do I Hear Something Chirping?

There are several nests around the farm that are full of tiny little miracles.  Pictured below are two of the nests that are low enough to look into.  

This bunch is living in an apple tree.  The tree is young and protected by a wire cage.  It makes a very safe home for the family.

Mama bird did not like me getting so close to her babes.  She swooped down and knocked into my rear end with such huge force that I yelped and ran away.  What a great mother!

This nest is a masterpiece made mostly of moss.  The builder also incorporated a good amount of dog hair (long, white dog hair that obviously came from Miles and Thurgood).  It sits on top of our porch light.  It is well sheltered from the elements.  The light bulb went out months ago, and we rarely use the front door, so the birdies have found themselves a very peaceful spot. 

Giant eyes, giant beaks!  Can you see the St. Bernard fur in the nest?

I wish I could identify these sweet creatures for you, but I have very little ability in that department.  I can tell you what they aren't.  Neither nest is of robin, bluebird, blue jay, cardinal, crow, or oriole.  Beyond that, I haven't a clue.  

I hope all the hatchlings survive.  I'm so excited to get to watch them grow.  I amazes me that day-old chickens can walk around and basically take care of themselves while these guys are helpless without their mothers.  

I'll try to get more photos as they grow, if the mothers let me.  I'm not sure I want another thwop on the butt! 

Friday, June 24, 2011

I Now Know What I Would Write on Their Birth Certificates...

We've had chickens for a little over three months now, and it has taken this long for us to settle on names.  We thought about giving them old names (some of them family names, some of them just for fun).  None of those names stuck.  Now that I've spent a ton of time socializing with the ladies, I feel like I know their personalities well enough to assign them names that will hold true.
So, here they are:

The Ameraucanas
Stevie Martin (strikingly silver)
Paulie Newman (dull silver)
Roberta Redford (red)
Alex Baldwin (lighter red)

The Golden Laced Wyandottes
Rahmona Emanuel
Nancy Pelosi
Denise Kucinich

The Black Australorps
Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire Chapters One-Eleven

Please excuse the blurriness.  The girls are always in motion and difficult to photograph.

Roberta Redford [check out that mohawk!]

Nancy Pelosi

Denise Kucinich

Rahmona Emanuel

Paulie Newman

Stevie Martin


Alex Baldwin

I can easily distinguish between all of the Golden Laced Wyandottes and Ameraucanas.  They all have different personalities and they are physically unique.  However, I must admit that I have found it impossible to keep track of which Australorp is which.  So, I simply call each one of them "Precious." Together, they are Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" Chapters One - Eleven.  It works.

Foreground: Rahmona Emanuel, midground: Stevie Martin, background: Preciouses

Stevie Martin with Rahmona Emanuel

Please don't tell the girls, but I do have my favorites.  Actually, I have one favorite in particular, and I think the feeling is mutual.  Stevie Martin LOVES me, and I have fallen in love with her.   While all the others are completely focused on the treat of the day during happy hour, Stevie sticks right by my side.  She's always the first to run up to me, and she eats out of my hand very gently.  Nancy and some of the Preciouses have warmed up to me enough to eat out of my hand, but all of them pinch my skin with their beaks.

Rahmona Emanuel, Alex Baldwin, and Roberta Redford

Stevie Martin, Rahmona Emanuel, and Alex Baldwin

Preciouses, Roberta Redford, and Alex Baldwin

As far as the Ameraucanas go, Paulie is the least gregarious.  She pretty much keeps to herself, but she's gentle and somewhat curious.  All of the Wyandottes are sweet and outgoing.  The Australorps are more interested in one another than they are in me.  They have a tight-knit family group.  The Australorps roost together, and the Wyandottes and Ameraucanas roost on the opposite side of the coop.  It seems that they've found a system that works for them, and they all know to play by the rules.  They have their cliques, but they also know how to share space and resources.

I always knew that I wanted several chickens, but I had no idea that I could become so attached to each and every one of them.  They're not even giving us eggs yet, and they've already paid us back for all of our efforts.  The entertainment, affection, and relaxation they bring to the farm is priceless.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Flowers at Fat Bear: What's Blooming

Besides all of the fruit and vegetable plants that are adorned with blooms, here's what's up:

Bees love Borage. 

They just can't get enough of it.

Grandpa Ott Morning Glory 

 Heavenly Blue Morning Glory

 Giant Double Flowered Zinnia

Jewel Nasturtium 

Cardinal Vine

 Dill, a great beneficial.

I'm obsessed with butterflyweed.   It's not quite there yet, but so close.  I planted this from seed, like all the other bloomers. 

Butterfly Delphinium 

Mikado Poppy

Snap Dragon 

Violet Blue Salvia 

Coreopsis, also a bee-favorite.

Rose Queen Cleome 

Bells of Ireland.  It's a shame they're not perennials.  The smell is intoxicating, and they last over a week as a cut flower.

So much is in bloom right now that I'm sure I left out some stuff.  I'm really looking forward to seeing the Red Milkweed flowers.  I hope they'll be covered with Monarchs!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's Officially Summer: A Kitchen Garden Update

Summer is finally here, but we've had summertime weather for at least a month already.  Thanks to the early start that my greenhouse provides and the unusually warm weather, the kitchen garden is way ahead of the schedule I had set in my mind.

A row of beneficials, top to bottom: Sunflowers, Zinnia, Dill, Fernleaf Fiddleneck, Borage, Nasturtium.

These are my tomatoes and strawberries.  Behind the tomatoes are later tomatoes and then the melons.

I've already told you about the tomatoes in my last post, so now for the rest...
The beets and peas have been enjoyed by the humans, hens, and the handsome furry ones.  I froze the rest.  We like to eat root vegetables roasted with herbs all fall and winter, so the sweet potatoes and carrots will soon join the beets in storage.  I've also planted another set of beets where the garlic was.

I froze over 20 pounds of Detroit Dark Reds.

Our pepper plants have taken off.  The Hot Portugals and Orange Bells, in particular, have a lot of fruits developing.  Hot sauce, here we come!

These Hot Portugals will turn bright red-orange when ripe.

The Wisconsin Lakes sweet peppers will soon be red.

I'm letting the day-neutral strawberries fruit now.  We've had them for over two months, so the plants have had enough time to establish themselves.

Seascape strawberry

This was our first try at growing garlic.  We planted elephant garlic (really a type of leek) and Georgian Fire.  I'm happy with the results.

Garlic harvest

This garlic will cure for a few weeks in the sun.

I've done four different plantings of corn.  The True Gold corn is the most mature, and growing fast.

I've planted some Queen's Island Blue squash amongst the corn.  I hope they make fast friends.

There's nothing like the aroma of butternut squash roasting in the oven.  I'm so glad that I planted my winter squash early this year.  Maybe we'll actually get to have that butternut squash soup!

Left to right: Pie pumpkin, Butternut squash, Amish Butter squash.

Waltham butternut squash

Pie pumpkin

Pie pumpkin vine

Pumpkin blossom

I planted cucumbers where the peas used to be.  I'm going to make sweet pickles this year.

Northern Pickling cucumber blossom

The eggplants have been struggling to overcome the flea beetle feasts, but I think they'll make it.  Overall, we've been extremely lucky so far when it comes to pests.  Besides the flea beetles and a few slugs, things have been relatively uneventful in that department.

 Pintung Long eggplant, riddled with holes.  The new growth looks good, though!

We've even got some eggplant blossoms!

All of the apple trees are doing well.  Ben planted them last year, so they're still babies.

The Yellow Transparent is the first to fruit.

The artichokes are truly an experiment this year.  I'm going to attempt to overwinter the strongest ones.  I doubt we'll get any 'chokes this season.

This artichoke plant will be a keeper, for sure.

Blueberry season is nearing, so I'm trying to get all my ducks in a row as far as the kitchen garden and asparagus are concerned.  Lots of weeding and mulching to do!  My hands are dirt-stained and blistered, just the way I like them.