Tuesday, March 31, 2015

around the farm week 12, 13

Today, I'm sharing pics I took as I went about my morning chores.

First stop, right outside the front door to pick some lemon balm for tea.  I have huge bunches of it and am so glad that I can share the bounty with others this year!

Next, I headed over to the island to pick some daffodils and got distracted by my crab apple.  I love how it is looking - so wild and free.  This tree almost didn't make it due to deer damage, which also made it a bit crazy shaped.  It came through, and I'm so glad as it's one of my favorites.

Aha!  Daffodils ready for picking and placing in a vase for the kitchen.

Now, we head down to the the coop.  I'm contending with more broody hens who are all eager to be mommas.  Here is Hopper.  She's about 6 years old now, and for the first time ever she is trying to hatch a clutch of eggs.  I'm rooting for her.

This is Mrs. Java.  She has tried to be a mom for the last two years, and has failed.  This year is her third attempt, and her eggs should be hatching in 3-4 days (I hope).  I have begun the process of integrating A.'s wyandotte chicks so I can free up one of the brooders.  I hope to get Mrs. Java moved in - box and all by tomorrow evening so when the chicks hatch, the family can bond in peace without dealing with the flock.

Here are A's chicks.  They are in the cute teenage stage and feeling quite rambunctious.  Definitely ready to join the others.

Little J's order of bantams came in.  He has always loved this type of chicken and is charmed by them.  They are really, really tiny.  These will be his pets and he's handling them often so they will be tame when they grow up.

Remember when I said Big Momma had gone broody?  Well, she's the proud mom of five chicks.  I could only get a picture of one, as the other four wouldn't come out.  They are all sooo cute and in a week or so, I'll open the brooder ramp so she and the babies can join the flock.  When chicks have mothers, they can be integrated at a much earlier age due to the mom protecting them.

On my way up from the coop, Ms. Pettigrew came to say hi and pose for a picture.

Here's a project that we are in the middle of.  Raised beds on the south side of the house.  We have enough wood to set up a 40 ft long bed along the edge between the lawn and the hillside (shown here is 20 ft).

We've been filling wheel barrels full of dirt and dumping them between the slope and the wood wall. We will put an end cap on one side, and extend the other.  We also have green house plastic to lay on the top so once this is filled in, it can act as a cold frame.  We pinned it between some boards to get a feel of what it might look like. Finally we'll have to also put a boarder between the bed and the lawn so the grass doesn't creep in.

The tomatoes that I've started inside are getting so big that they have to be planted - regardless of there still being potential for frost.  I started working on this and got 24 in the ground.  I got a soaker hose in place with a timer (wet soil actually helps protect plants in cold weather), and mulch laid on top to protect the roots.  I then put containers of green dyed water between each plant to absorb daytime heat and release it at night.  Finally, I covered them with float fabric to keep the frost off the leaves. Tomatoes can take a light freeze, but can't handle frost at all.  So far, so good.  They seem to be thriving.  Now to get the remaining 45 planted with the same protection.....

The rhubarb handled the transplanting great and are growing vigorously.  We should have a bumper crop this year!

I pulled back the floating fabric to show you how things are doing underneath.  Peas have all sprouted and the lettuce is taking off like a champ!  What a difference in growth the fabric makes!!

Calla Lilies are blooming in time for Easter.  Something is eating their leaves.  I'll have to see if I can figure out what so I can treat it.  Maybe wood ash, or soap solution - depending on what I find.

The chives have started to blossom, which means it's time to make chive blossom vinegar!!  We love this vinegar so much and are glad to get a change to replenish our larder as we used the last of it in Feb.

This gang is following me around as I take pictures shamelessly begging for treats.  Next week I'll start incubating their eggs for some ducklings so I can start fulfilling order requests in time.

And Biscuit also came over to say hi. He's not liking Totoro, or new cat.  Kind of sad, as Totoro keeps trying to make friends with him, but he's not having it.  So, I'm giving him extra loves and snuggles trying to help him feel better.

As I headed back to go in the house, this group continued to follow me looking for goodies.  I caved and grabbed some bread to throw to them.  Guess they have me well trained.  :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

around the farm week 11

The fencing order came in and we were able to get a temporary fence up around East Garden #1.

Having a fence in place has allowed me to get outdoor planting done in earnest - without worrying about renegade creatures trampling the garden.  Besides raspberries, rhubarb, and strawberries, we have added 6 varieties of peas, 3 varieties of Chinese Cabbage, and some Kohlrabi.  There's lots more room to plant, which is good, because things are really starting to ramp up.

I've started the hardening off process of kale, collards, lettuce, Pak Choi, broccoli, spinach so they can be planted soon under float rows.  They are hardy, but still need a little help from the frost.

Update on Kit - she abandoned her eggs and left the brooder.  I found her out in the yard, the walk down ramp open, and her eggs cold.  So, no chicks this go round for her.  However, Big Mamma has taken up the cause and is now setting on her own clutch of eggs.   Here's wishing her luck!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

shamrock run

This Sunday my brother R. participated in the annual Shamrock Run held in Portland.  We got to see him cross the finish line and then celebrate with a late breakfast afterwards.

I loved the energy and how everyone seemed to be out for the fun of it.  Lots of green tutus, necklaces, and various green bit and bobs worn by the runners make it a bold splash of brightness on the rainy day.

R., we're proud of you and look forward to cheering you on next year!

Happy St. Pat's Day Everyone!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

a furry arrival

Who is this?

Who is peering from A.'s bed?

It's me, but I don't have a name yet...

For my birthday, Big J.'s gift to me was a kitty.  The catalyst for this action was the passing of Flower on Feb. 15th.  She appears to have simply passed from old age, which is the best we could hope for. All of us were shocked and sad; A. was devastated.

Big J. being the caring, sensitive fellow he is, decided to do something about it, and discussed getting a kitty from the humane society.  The idea of a rescue kitty, especially an adult was compelling.  We weren't looking to replace Flower - that would be impossible.  We were simply looking for a kitty that might need a home and some love, and maybe help ease the feelings of loss.  We viewed pictures on the humane society site and picked a short haired calico out.  Big J. stopped by after work to pick the cat up, but after meeting her, realized her stand-off ways weren't what the family needed.

I have magnificent paws!

But this lady came right up to Big J., rubbed against him, and loved all the attention he gave her. After a quick call home to discuss the situation, we agreed to bring home this beauty instead.  She's five year's old and was a stray when brought in.

Don't you love my nose?

She is very shy right now, but also very sweet.  She loves pets and cuddles, and everyone is smitten. She has been camping out in A.'s room since arriving, and this morning worked up some courage and migrated to his bed where she has remained most of the day.  Needless to say - he is thrilled with the situation.

This was a touching, thoughtful gift Big J. gave to all of us, really.  Big J. likes how enthusiastic she is for petting and her slightly pug shaped nose.  Little J. is smitten with her head bumps and lion mane.  A. likes every single thing about her.  Me, I like her sweetness.

Now, to get to know her better and figure out a name.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

around the farm week 10

We are about to experience the next wave of chicks this week and next.  Russian Orloffs, Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, Light Brahmas, and Easter chicks will either be hatching (starting tomorrow most likely!!) or ready for pick up soon.

Kit is leading the charge in her unwavering love of motherhood.  She has been laying on eggs for about 19 days now and chicks hatch at 21 days!!! - sooo close!

I wanted to move her into a brooder so when the chicks did hatch, they would be safe until big enough to integrate with the flock.  Yesterday, I cut the middle section out of A.'s old rabbit hutch and moved it down to the coop.  Once I got it ready, I reached under Kit and took all the toast warm eggs and placed them, and her, inside the brooder.

She was a bit irritated at first, but settled down after a few minutes.  I think she likes having her own private place.  Just in the nick of time too!  I'm expecting her to hatch babies anytime from Thursday on.

My current chicks are growing soooo fast!  They already are getting their pin feathers in, and I'm confident I have a rooster in the bunch.  Soon they will get to have some friends to play with.

Our landscape project is coming along nicely.  The tractor work is now done and the finishing work begins!

Here's how it looks:

On the left of this photo there is a leveled spot.  This is where we will build a retaining wall, about three feet high and wide, and about 40 feet long.  This will become a raised garden bed.

Here is one of my new garden areas ready for planting.  We quickly got the raspberries and rhubarb in the ground so we wouldn't lose them.  This isn't their permanent spot, but will keep them happy until we get their areas ready.

Once I get the area secured with fencing, it'll be time to plant!

This area is to the right of above picture.  It has a smaller tilled area that I've already planted potatoes near the top.  I am debating on burning the shrub pile now before I get any more planting in, or in the fall.  I'm leaning towards now so I'll have more growing area for the season, but still not 100%.

There is a level area west of the smaller field that got leveled.  We can use this for a small patio, or more garden, or....

The main area leveled here is going to have a greenhouse on the left, and a patio on the right.  At least that's the current plan!

The last thing we accomplished this week was building a raised bed for A.  He asked for one, and Big J. cut down a tree and formed the bed lincoln log style.  He made it a little smaller for A. so he wouldn't be overwhelmed, and then filled it up so it's ready to go.  It sits north of my raised bed in the kitchen lawn.  A. is quite pleased and plans on growing goblin eggs and fennel here.

Little J. liked it too, and is deciding if he would like his own bed as well.  If so, we'll make him one along side this one so everyone can garden together!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

around the farm week 9

This week has been gearing up to a pretty big project - landscaping the east side of the house.  We plan on turning this area into a combination of things: patio, outdoor wood oven, green house, raised beds, and  more in ground gardens.  After talking it through, Mr. L. agreed to take the job on, including renting the necessary tractor.

Before Mr. L and his son started, I knew I had to secure my foot loose duckies.  I figured with the loud machinery running and the area being worked, it might scare the ducks into the woods where coyotes are known to lurk.  With this in mind, A. and I worked last night on expanding their field around the duck pond so it is double in size.  I had been wanting to do this anyway - the project gave me the push I needed.  Once the fencing was up, we then walked the entire perimeter shoring up week spots that they might squeeze through.

So far so good.  The ducks have patrolled the perimeter many times today in great annoyance, but no one has escaped.  This picture isn't great, but you might be able to see the old area where the grass is decimated in the lower left corner where they love lounging by the pond, and the new area which is all clumpy with grass.

Another thing that needed to be done before the work began was digging up the rhubarb patch and the two raspberry rows.  I hated doing this as both have started showing spring green, but I didn't want to lose them.  I'll definitely have to baby them extra this year.

Today when I came home, I found the Ls already hard at work - a day early!!  Turns out the machine came early, and since we have it only until Friday morning, they decided to get cracking.

They will terrace/level this entire area right up to the edge of the kitchen side yard.  Next to the yard's slope, they will level a three foot wide area running alongside the entire length. We will need to build a retaining wall, and then we will have a raised bed/retaining wall all along the east side of the house! Can't wait!!

This pic below is to the right of the above photo.  I wish I had some before pics - but if you imagine this spot here with scrub trees and brush - you have a good idea.  Now, all that remains is a brush pile for fall burning.

Tomorrow, the Ls will be back to continue tackling this project of tree/scrub removal, terracing, and leveling.  The place already looks so different, I wonder what it will look like by the end of the day tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

tea caddy

A. recently signed up for a wood shop class and has taken to it like a duck to water.  After a few smaller projects, he tackled this box.  He told me he was making me a tea caddy to hold all my various choices so I could pick with ease.  It was exciting to hear about the progress he made each day after class, and I was eager to see the caddy when A. was done building it.

Voila!  Here is the best tea caddy in the world!!!

I was eager to fill it with teas and added some cocoa and cider packets that the boys enjoy as well.  It sits proudly on the table where I can easily choose what I feel like having.

Thanks A. for such a wonderful gift!