Sunday, January 27, 2013

A new year and building a new blog

I am in the process of creating a new blog for the farm.  It's still pretty basic but you can see it HERE.

FARM NEWS - January 27, 2013

2013 is my 7th year growing vegetables for you all.  It's pretty amazing how swiftly and happily the time has passed.  What's even neater is that I still just totally love doing this.  Thanks for your trust in and support of me while I learn how to grow a wide variety of vegetables (and some flowers and fruit) for a long growing season.  I do feel like I am getting better at my new job, even if it still doesn't feel like a job.

My son Robin has caught the farming bug as well and over the past year has increased his helpful, positive presence here at the farm.  He tills the soil, cuts wood, turns and hauls compost with his tractor, and does so much more than I can list here.  The main thing is that is that it is a delight to share this project with him. 

This winter is the first full winter for the hoophouse and as usual I am learning as I go.  The greens we have had have been delicious, so much tastier and fresher than what is in the store.  Rob and I have been able to enjoy fresh salad greens and some mustard, chard and kale, and I look forward to having enough to share with you all as well.  Luckily, as soon as the days get a bit longer, everything will start growing again and there should be greens for the Eggs & Extras list.  (Send me an email if you would like to be on that list of what's available on a week by week basis.  Last spring there were microgreens, spinach, radishes, mesclun, greens, and more starting in April.  I suspect that the extras will be happening earlier this year.)  Now that the days are a bit longer and the sun is stronger, the hoophouse heats up to a comfortable 65 degrees some days.  Nice!

I've started planting seeds already for growing out in the hoophouse and the field and there are microgreens growing as well.  I first experimented with the microgreens last winter because I wanted something super fresh to eat.  It turns out that they are not only delicious, but pretty easy to grow.  Essentially, they are tiny seedlings that have germinated and made their first set of true leaves.  They are great topping for pretty much anything you might prepare, eggs, salad, stew, soup or anything and they make a super tasty omelet.  Soon I will be harvesting arugula, mizuna, kale, and basil microgreens.  Each week I plant more so we can have some ready all the time.

One thing new since last year is that we now have ducks!  They are quite entertaining and different from chickens.  For example, on a snowy day when I open up their house in the morning, they are excited to go out in the fresh snow and start eating it.  The chickens, however, take one look and retreat inside.  Fortunately for the hens, Robin built them a hoophouse of their own so they have a sunroom of sorts where it never snows or blows.  The hens like to scratch around in the hay out there, looking for seeds and kitchen scraps.

2013 CROPS 
As usual, my goal is to grow a wide variety of delicious and nutritious food for as long a season as possible.  I like to grow beans, lots of cooking greens, salad greens, carrots, beets, onions, leeks, garlic, squash, cucumbers, shell beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and more.  I always like to try some new items.  This year I'll be experimenting with Malabar Spinach and hoping to produce some watermelons for a treat.  After last year's weed patch, I am hoping to have lots and lots of flowers this year.  Last year I had some trouble growing squashes and beans because of insect damage.  I am hoping that the nice cold weather we've been having lately is reducing the pest population.  Each year is different.  The weather, the insects, the larger predators, and other factors (including your farmer's knowhow and energy) all play a part in creating the yearly character of the garden.  What I have found is that no matter what, there is plenty of variety and bounty for us all.  Mother Nature is good to us.

For the past several years, Rob and I have been working the soil in the field, adding fertilizers and growing cover crops.  This year I'll be growing more vegetables in the field, hoping for more crops to store for the winter, more root crops in general, and more homegrown foods for the chickens.

See you in the garden!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Chicken Plucker, Take 2

Rob built a chicken plucker last year.  At first we tried using the motor from his ice auger, in the interest of using one motor for more than one purpose.  That worked but was extremely awkward. This year Rob got another motor and hooked it up with the plucker.  It's a big improvement!  Next step will be a belt tensioner to keep the belt tight when it gets wet.

Chicken Plucker, Take 2

It actually takes less time than this but the temperature of the scalding water got a bit low.  The first bird only took 15 seconds.  This tool does a much better and easier job on an sort of annoying task.  Thanks, Rob!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Stinging Nettles

Honest, it's nettles!

It's that time of year when we start picking and drying nettles, comfrey and other good herbs to dry for the winter.  We like to feed our hens nettles and comfrey as a winter supplement.  Both are packed with vitamins, minerals and protein.  So, for awhile, the porch looks like we are drying dope, but no, no, no!  It's nettles!

PS I don't actually know what those "other good herbs" might be but I bet that there are plenty of good things we could be feeding the hens in winter.  Do you have suggestions?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

It's beginning to look like a real farm around here.

Farming Week - Day 9 (hmmm, this is a long week.)

Sunday, the sun is shining, at least some of the time.  I want to plant and I want to sing and I want to rest and I want to be ready for the coming week.

Rob and a Welsh Harlequin
- RC poultry care
- dishes
- dug a bed for okra
- lots of weeds to the chickens
- planted okra in the hoophouse
- hoed the corn and sweet peppers
- started weeding the onions
- farm visitors (yay!)
- delicious breakfast/lunch featuring our own vegetables and chicken
- blog post
- I seem to have hit my energy wall.  oops.
- Everyone left and now all I want to do is rest but I also want to plant a few more things first.
- planted okra, with some marigolds
- planted cherry tomatoes
- thunder and lightening so I am back inside.  Now the sun is shining.  This has happened about 6 times today.

(Forgot to post this one.  The last of my daily posts from the Farming Week.  It was a good week overall except for the need to do paperwork when I wanted to be outside.  That made me stressed and grumpy for a while.  And I missed the singing in Amherst on Sunday because of being so behind.  It's a constant thing, trying to find balance between work and play, friends/family and quiet time alone, outside and inside projects.  I just keep carrying on and I do best when I don't forget to pray.)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Farming Week - Day 8

Two week old ducklings
- poultry care
- blog post
- dishes
- picked a whole lot of spinach

Before picking spinach

After picking spinach (now it's a leek bed)

- raining hard off and on.  to plant?  to freeze spinach?  paperwork?
- RC moved the ducks into a bigger space.  They love it.
- made a fire in the fireplace (June 2!)
- set out plants - tomatillos, ground cherries, snapdragons, broom corn (for the flowers)
- weeded New Zealand spinach, chard
-fun supper with friends featuring our own kale, scallions, green garlic, cilantro, sorrel, mesclun, and freshly caught shad
- lots of fun talking to a young chicken fancier.  "Chickens are my favorite animal."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Farming Week - Day 7 - Gone Gardening

- share clean up (cloths, buckets, cold paks, flower vases)
- paid bills
- ordered Tree Collards from Bountiful Gardens (I am really intrigued by these.)
- steamed eggs for "hard boiled" eggs It worked!  Easy peeling of freshly laid eggs at last!
- planted brussel sprouts, cilantro, dill, leaf fennel, plum tomatoes, small salad tomatoes
- found these guys:
Tomato Hornworm???
- set 9 eggs under the broody hen (exchanged for her golf balls, which she defended fiercely)  Hopefully, we will have chicks for the solstice!

- supper = our own chicken (Delaware) and our own kale and scallions