Tag Archives: planning

Contrasts

 

 

Yesterday was thick, gray, looked like it was going to snow weather.  Threats of it doing so were made late in the afternoon, but it never materialized.  It was cold, hovering around 30ºf for a high.  Granddaughter had an after preschool play date with her “bestie,” so we ran errands.  In spite of the fact that it is mid winter here, the stores are all dressed in summer finery and all the winter goods are marked down, seriously down.  My wardrobe has a dress coat that isn’t very warm when it is really cold, a ski jacket that is short and white, an ugly pink, nasty barn coat that is warm but not to be seen in public. Just in time for it to plummet into the teens last night, we found a parka with faux fur hood, 70% off, rated to -13ºf (not that it ever gets that cold here).

parka

 

Somebody who loves me said, “sure,” so it followed us home.  When we headed out for our Saturday morning breakfast and Farmers Market venture this morning it was 18ºf, but a beautiful sunny day.  It was so cozy wearing my new parka to the market, the only  thing that got cold was the hand that had to deal with paying for the goodies that were purchased.

It has finally gotten up in the upper 30’s and will warm back up this week and then it will roller coaster back down again.  It will be nice to have this warmth when it is cold outside, those frigid mornings that require chipping ice off the windshield to take grandson to the bus stop, those hovering at freezing days when the wind is howling, or when a walk in the snowy woods is in order.

seeds

 

In contrast to the cold, today the post brought the summer seed.  The vegetables, flowers, and cover crop bounty.  Some onion sets, potato starts, some brassicas and chard seedlings will be bought locally, not started in the basement or the utility room window sill. The garden plan is done.  There are still two wooden half barrels that need repair and relocation to the garden to be filled.  The potatoes will be grown in the barrels. The fencing needs some work, some clean up is necessary in the lower part of the garden that will be sown in oats and flowers this year except for the blueberry bed.  The overgrown peach tree still needs the major pruning.  Perhaps this week when the weather is mild and dry.

lazydog

 

Lets end this post with 200 pounds of silly dog who was in the sun, but it moved and he didn’t.  Note the discrete use of the tail.

Winter Work Day

The calendar says it is winter.  It was gray and bleak, but 55ºf and much to do outside before the heavy rain started Saturday night and continues through Monday.  We have already been issued flood warnings along the creeks and rivers.

At the beginning of fall, after the garden was bedded down, I opened the lower end of the garden, that I had never gotten a handle on last summer, to the chickens.  For spring, I want that area to be sowed with oats and flowers to attract bees and Monarchs, so the afternoon was spent working outdoors.

A bale of straw had been purchased after our Saturday morning outing to breakfast and the Farmers Market.  There are still vendors with meat, bread, pasta, coffee, and one vendor who actually had kale, collards, Asian greens, salad, turnips, beets, and carrots that were growing in his gardens and greenhouses.  It was nice to get some fresh greens this time of year. We got some pork, bagels, soft pretzels, and a loaf of sour dough bread too.

Once home, some of the straw was added in a deep layer in the coop that had been cleaned on Friday.

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I closed off the back of the chicken run so they can no longer get into that garden area as they have stirred up the surface with their scratching.  I will go into that part of the garden and pull out the old rotting row markers and planting boxes,  weed the blueberries and re-mulch them and then run a tiller in there in the spring.  Once it is warm enough, I will seed it with the oats and flowers to keep the weeds down and hopefully attract some bees and butterflies. The oats will be useful for the chickens next fall with the sunflower seed that  I will probably mix  into that blend as well.  A mulched path to the blueberries will be left unseeded.  The oat straw can be used in the coop  once dry next fall and the patch reseeded with oats or another cover crop for next winter.  Maybe that area can be reclaimed for garden a bit at a time.

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Confused chickens wondering why they can’t get through there anymore.  They are 30 feet away from me here, so they still have a 10 foot by 40 foot run with their coop in the corner.

The cull coop run never sprouted grass after we killed the chickens at Thanksgiving and the straw that I had scattered over the bare spots was mostly gone.  I started breaking up what was left of the large round bale of spoiled hay that was near the coop, scattered a new layer over the bare muddy ground, hoping to stop or at least slow erosion there over the next few days.

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Fence lines above the garden were heavily mulched. Each layer of hay pulled off the bale revealed more grubs and the chickens were having a feast as I tossed them into their run a few at a time.  They soon forgot that their run was reduced.  More hay was added in their run, taking it all the way back to the new barrier. Pear and apple trees were pruned.

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But there is still this peach tree that needs a lot of attention.

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You can see the dried up peaches that we never saw on the tree last summer.  It is too tall and too thick.  But that is another day, after the rain and when it is warm enough to erect a ladder and attack the tree with a pruning saw and shears.  Maybe we will actually get some peaches next year after a severe pruning to get it more manageable.

The rain began as predicted right after dark.  The dark rainy evening was spent making a seed order and tweaking the garden plan.

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That is what winter nights are for.

An Afternoon in the Garden

We survived the two frost threats so the peppers are continuing to grow.  The end of the garden that never got worked this past year was finally given back to the chickens.  It took all summer, but I realized that having doubled the garden the year before was a mistake.  Without regular help on the garden, it was just too large for me to manage.  I have always done better with a garden in 4 foot squares with heavily mulched paths between them.  Having the asparagus bed in the newer part of the garden and having moved the raspberries up to that end as well, it seemed the best idea to use that for the garden from now on.  It is closest to the chicken coop and it’s source of spoiled straw for the compost, putting the compost pile where the horseradish had been planted.

To make sure that this would be enough garden for me, I used an online tool to plan a garden using a series of 4 foot square beds.  The asparagus bed is larger than that and the frame will have to be built to surround them.  The raspberries won’t be boxed.  The compost was moved from next to the chicken coop, the old compost bed will become the area for next  year’s corn patch.

Garden plan

The new garden will be 30 by 30 feet instead of 30 by 60+ feet, the blueberries are still at the far end of the larger garden and will have to be boxed off from the chickens or moved.  If I box them off, the area I designated in the new garden will be set aside for flowers and herbs.   I will plant only 8 tomatoes next year and get them well supported early, about the same amount of peppers as this year.  There will be two squares for peas, two for green beans and being in boxed beds, I can keep the bunnies out. Boxes for garlic, onions, tomatillos, sweet potatoes, and a shared box for turnips, chard, and cabbage will be in place.   White potatoes will be planted in two half wine barrels that are located within the garden but sat idle this year.  Today, I bought the first two cedar boxes, moved fencing to keep the chickens out of the garden area, pulled most of the tomato vines, and started laying cardboard to keep the weeds out of the edge and down between the boxes.  Grandson collected a bucket full of the last of the tomatoes, mostly green.  Tomorrow, I will finish pulling the vines, rake up dropped tomatoes, built the box for the asparagus, set up the two new boxes, preparing one of them to receive the garlic in a couple more weeks.  If I buy 2 boxes a month through the fall and winter, I will have enough set up in the spring for planting.

The chickens weren’t supposed to be able to get in the enlarged part yet, but they found their way through the temporary barrier and started enjoying the weeds, bugs, and fallen tomatillos. They will have about 900 square feet of new run, but it won’t be protected from the hawk.  They will have quick access back to their protected area.

The compost pile is huge with the asparagus ferns, the tomato vines, and piles of weeds that are being pulled to clean up the  garden for winter.  The coop needs to be cleaned out before cold weather and that will be added to the pile to break down into good compost for the gardens.   I will have to take the weed wacker in to the lower area and knock down some of the tall weeds in there, but they will be left to lay to break down, provide forage for the chickens and attract bugs for them as well.

Tomorrow and Sunday are supposed to be beautiful days, I’m hoping to have everything ready for winter, except pulling the peppers which will be allowed to continue to grow until first frost.

I’m hoping that this plan, the boxes and smaller footprint will allow me to enjoy the garden more next year, get enough produce to fill our freezer and canning jars.  Giving the run back to the chickens will allow me a slightly larger flock.  The coop can hold a dozen to 14 birds and I only have 8.  Before chick season next spring, the fencing around the brooder coop needs to be replaced with taller, small mesh fencing to keep mature birds from flying out and chicks from getting away from the momma hen through the fence holes.  For now, it is clean up and then settle in for the planning season, looking for the seed I want to plant, the flowers I want to grow in the newly designed garden next year.

Let the fun begin!

On my way home from taking N to preschool this morning, I stopped first at the natural foods store that sells the local organic, heirloom seed and picked up some of what I needed, they were out of tomatillo seed, plus I added two packets of flowers.  Every garden needs a mix of veggies, herbs, and flowers.

From there, diagonally across the street to the local hardware store, hoping to score some seed starter flats.  They had peat pots and seed starter mix and I knew that there were trays at home, so I settled for that.

On to our local village store, I purchased a sack full of yellow onion sets and finally headed home.  The trays were dug out of the garage and I realize that though I have half a dozen trays and a bonus of about 8 six cell starter mini starter pots, I only have one clear cover.  I guess I will have to try to find some clear plastic for the other trays. The box of stored and new seed packets were brought down and re-inventoried, pulling out the peas, turnips, kale and adding the newly purchased of packet of Easter Egg radishes and they were set aside with the onion sets for a planting later today or maybe tomorrow, as rain is due on the weekend to give them a good soaking in.

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The peat pots were lined up in one tray and 5 Black Krim tomatoes plus 9 Hungarian Paste tomatoes were started.  I am going to start with them and plant a few direct sown seed in mid May of each of those as an experiment.  A second tray with 5 of the six cell starter pots of set with 6 each Jalapeno, Habanero, Anaheim, Comfrey, and a new to us heirloom Black Hungarian Hot Pepper.  They were watered in and covered, set in the breezeway window sill.

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Once I get the tomatillo seed, I will plant another tray with tomatillos, Calendula, and some herb starts.

When the sprouts are all up, I am going to make a temporary hoop house with 12 foot flexible fiberglass poles and heavy plastic and set the flats on a thick bed of hay inside the hoop house and see how they do that way.  Even with a grow light as close as I can set it, I always get most of my indoor started plants too leggy.  I really need to build a cold frame or small green house against the stone wall on the south side of the house for starts and to extend the growing season with some greens in the fall.

It is exciting to be beginning the growing season.  I was reminded yesterday that our average last frost date is April 29, not Mother’s Day, so I have about 7 weeks to get my plants up to garden size.

Now to pull out the companion planting chart to finish figuring out where to plant the cold weather seed.  We will be eating radishes and kale in a few short weeks and peas by the time the peppers and tomatoes are ready for the garden.

Sunday musings August 17, 2014

This is the first Sunday in 6 weeks that I could be lazy.  The first Sunday where I didn’t have to arise by 7 a.m. prepare breakfast for Grandson #1 and supervise a math worksheet and a writing assignment then encourage him to practice his guitar and his Kung Fu forms.

I was tired last night.  I drove for 5 hours and once home alone as Hubby was out on his BBH riding, I turned on the Solar Charger that I installed just before leaving to charge the electric fence.  Reluctantly I touched the fence at the farthest point from the charger and nothing.  It is a 12V impulse charger, so I should have felt a zing every few seconds, nothing.  Again I read the manual.  I had attached everything correctly, but I had tried to run the wire in two directions from the charger to give me a better place to put the gate without having to bury the wire in PVC pipe below the gate.  Assuming that to be my problem, I disconnected everything and determined that the gate was just going to have to be where the charger is mounted on a wooden post and rewired the fence in a continuous two strand loop from charger to gate opening.  When I turned the charger back on, still no zing.  In walking around the perimeter, I realized that the wire was touching the welded wire fence of the auxiliary chicken pen and must be grounding itself.  That corrected and the charger on, I did indeed get shocked on both sides of the gate opening.  Now I need a third gate and a second non conductive post to hang the gate for our convenience.  The garden and chicken pens are within an electric force field.  It won’t keep the bunnies out, but it should keep the neighborhood dogs and coyotes out of the chickens and the deer out of the garden.

Once that was complete, a walk around just to enjoy the beautiful afternoon, I discovered …

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The apple and Asian Pear trees are only three years old, so I stripped most of the flowers from them this spring to give them another year to establish.  I left a few flowers on one apple tree and the larger Asian Pear tree and was delighted to find 4 apples (one was badly pecked so I gave it to the chickens) and 8 Asian Pears.  I ate one pear standing right at the unsprayed tree, Tossed the two tiny malformed ones to the chickens.  Our first tree fruit.  The peaches produced small hard peaches that all oozed sap.  I assume they were attacked by something.  I will have to do some research as I won’t use pesticide spray on my fruit, near my vegetable garden and the chickens.

Once I was finally moving this morning, after dog and chicken chores, and enjoying a bowl of homemade granola with coconut milk and a cup of coffee, I hauled the lawn mower out to cut the area inside the electric fence that is not vegetable garden, compost bins or chicken pen and also the grass inside the auxiliary chicken pen as there are no chickens in it right now and the grass was getting quite tall.

Later we must make a Tractor Supply run for dog and chick feed and perhaps to purchase the gate.  I can get our neighbor to help me hang it this week.  As I was mowing the area above my garden, I realized how much slope the yard has between the area that Son #1 and wife had established as the upper garden and where my vegetable garden is with the compost bins in between.  As we are going to remove the compost bins and just leave me a compost pile, I think we will have to terrace that area making a 4 tiered garden as we expand the garden and berry patch back up the slope.  It has been nice having the space this year for the pumpkins, winter squash and sweet potatoes.  It will be nice to have more space for summer squash and cucumbers to spread out, a place to again plant potatoes which we haven’t done in a couple of years and more room to spread out the tomatoes and peppers so they aren’t quite so crowded.  Since I have started using the heavy spoiled hay mulch system this year, there has been much less weeding to do.

Planning continues as our little mountain farm evolves.  Life is an adventure!