Saturday, July 14, 2012

Farm Report...2012

The whole thing as of July 14th, 2012
If you compare the date of this post to the date of the previous post, you will see almost one year has passed between the two.

Sheesh!  What in the world have I been doing?  I feel a bit guilty, if only  because I actually love writing and this blog is my only outlet for doing that. 

However, I've determined not to feel guilty about my lack of posts.  As the mother of five kids, I've got enough guilt to last a lifetime without adding a neglected blog to the mix.  (Mention the word "scrapbook" to me...I might crumble.)

Anyway, looking at photos of our garden when the snow is piled high in January makes me happy, so it is time to post some shots of how things are growing on The Farm this year.

Kale (some from those early seeds),  our first asparagus & and the lovely compost pile.
 This year has been strangely, and sometimes oppressively, warm and it started in March.  In fact, March was so warm I planted some chard and kale in small pots because it just seemed wrong to not be planting something.  The warmer than normal for Wisconsin weather means that our spinach has bolted way early, the first round of peas is already done, our lettuce has been finicky and our tomatoes are HUGE!

Standing amongst some of 50+ tomato plants.
The littlest Young' un is still my garden lover.  She is out there everyday for long periods of time just wandering and running back in to report on what she sees.

Yes, she is in her nightgown in this photo.  She'd been bathed for Sunday morning and was ready for bed.  No, I do not feel guilt for posting photos of her in the garden in pj's.

Red Chard , beets , kohlrabi & and arugula

 We planted a few new things this year: brussel sprouts, beets and asparagus.   To be honest, I'd never eaten a beet before, but they  seemed like something I should eat.  Plus, the seed packets showed such pretty photos of a red and white striped beet.  We've had a few, which we grilled and everyone loved them.

The brussel sprouts will be ready in early fall, we hope.

Asparagus takes a couple of years before it can be eaten.  Who knew?  So, for now, all we can do is stare and it longingly.

The amaranth is the red plants in the center.
 Some of the plots are looking a bit sad, truth be told.  Not only has it been much hotter than normal, we are very behind on rain.  Thankfully, our area has gotten more than others in the state, but still, it is dry.  We've been watering a good deal more than other years, but it doesn't seem to be working for everything.

This plot has lettuce, carrots, spinach, yellow chard and amaranth. We've had several meals from the lettuce and chard, but things are looking a bit bleak.

Brussel sprouts, broccoli and pole beans.

So far this year, we've been eating kale, chard, sugar snap peas, lettuce, arugula, spinach, bush beans, beets, kohlrabi, 1 cucumber and 3 yellow cherry tomatoes.  Abby, my garden helper, and I ate the tomatoes.  They were our secret reward for hard work.

The heat has meant we've gotten crops earlier than other years which is nice.  I don't remember having buckets of green beans in early July ever before.

A long view...see the empty trellises in the back?

 The saddest part of the garden at this point are the cucumbers.  We've been overrun by cucumber beetles and they've taken a toll.  A good fight has been waged, but I'm not sure we'll win it.  We're all a bit sad.

A few of the plants are growing and we've actually eaten one cucumber, but the plants are very sparse and sickly. Sigh.
The PJ Farmer trying to stake some tomatoes on her own.

We have about 50 tomato plants.  I think.  There might be a few more.  I lost track.  All different varieties are present and looking great.  Seriously.  They are doing amazing.  Some of them (in the photo to the left) are well over five feet tall.  I see lots of salsa in my future.  And bruschetta.  And tomato bread salad.  And canning.

This amaranth came up on it's own from the seeds of last year's plants.  I didn't need the space and it looks pretty, so we left it.  It is huge, but still nice to look at.  Behind it are, yes, more tomatoes.

What about the chickens?  Well, four arrived in late March.  They were old enough to be laying and we got 3 eggs each day right from the start.  However, we noticed after a while that one "chicken" had a different look to her.  Abby, of course, noticed first.  She started calling her Long Neck.

Long Neck turned out to be a rooster, which explains why we only got 3 eggs per day.

Unfortunately, before we got around to calling our Chicken Guy so we could make a trade, one of our neighbor dogs got loose from his yard and got into the chicken coop.  Long Neck died defending his gals.

I'm not sure that he died bravely.  There didn't seen to be any blood or missing feathers.  He might have just been scared to death, poor guy.

So, at the present time, we have 3 gals here on the Farm.  The trauma of last week appears to have affected their egg laying and we're in a bit of an "egg drought."  Maybe they're in mourning over the death of their valiant defender...

Long Neck is buried in the garden.  If you look closed in the photo with red chard and arugula, you'll see a cross made of sticks in the foreground.  It is tied together with blue streamers.  A service was held and he was given proper rites.

And, yes, there were some tears.

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's a Jungle Out There

Wendy, Wendy, Lazy Blogger,
How does your garden fare?
With chard, kale, beans and lettuce,
And cucumbers hanging in the air.

(My take on an old nursery you recognize it?)

I haven't been blogging much, but thankfully, the garden has been doing it's thing!  Here are some photos sure to amaze.  Well, they amaze me. can a person NOT be amazed at the miracle of Creation and how things grow?

The whole garden...mid-June.  We thought it was looking great!

Some of the tomatoes in mid-June

Same tomatoes on August 2nd.

My garden buddy, who is over 3 foot tall, next to tomatoes on the right and squash on the left.

Last week, the tallest zucchini I've ever seen!  The fence post is about 4 ft. high.
The cucumbers on August 2nd.  We've never grown them going up before.  I love it!  I'm also proud to say that I made those trellises with the help of Zach, the happiest kid on the planet.  And, yes, I may have planted a few too many cucumbers.  This week all of the plants are now ABOVE the supports.  We've been eating cucumbers every day for over a week.  In the foreground, you see the lettuce and kale bed.
Another shot of the kale,  isn't it gorgeous.  It's a mix of varieties.  We are really enjoying them.  I even made all of my in-laws eat some when the 10 of them invaded our house for a week.

The sweet peas and carrot bed in front, chard and aramanth in the middle, and kale and lettuce in the back.  Again, mid-June.  Over to the right side you can see the bush beans (in the front of the bed) and the pole beans (along the fence) just peaking up from the dirt.

My attempt to add color to the Little Farm.  Ruby Red Chard (on the left), Golden Chard (on the right) and Aramanth in the center.  Considered a weed by some, an ornamental plant by others and a grown as a grain in South America, Aramanth was new to me.  I was mostly going for the ornamental use.  However, being the cheap and adventurous gal that I am, I'm sure I'll be giving the edible grain thing a try, too.  If the human residents of the Farm don't eat it, I'm sure the Gals will.
The Spaghetti Squash are actually growing!  This is a first.  We have never been able to grown many (read 2 or 3 each year) squash.  My helper and I counted 20+ growing inside and (mostly) outside the garden.  In the past week, the big on ealong the ground has grown at least 50% more.  Oh my!

The beans.  Bush in the front, Pole in the back.  We've been eating Bush beans for a week or so now.  The Pole beans are taking their time.

 We've been eating lettuce, sweet peas, chard and kale for weeks now.  The beans, zucchini and cucumbers are starting rolling in just over a week ago along with a few yellow/orange tomatoes.  Hopefully, the tomatoes will get a move on!  They huge and viney and green, but I'd like a few more actual tomatoes on the things.  Time will tell!

So fellow "farmers," how do your gardens grow?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Starting Tomatoes from Seed

Part of a the crop from LAST year.

This is the Year of the Tomato here on the Little Farm!  We've got 70 (yes, you read that correctly) 7-0, little beauties in the ground out there and they are all looking great.  If you are doing a bit of quick math in your head, you are realizing how many tomatoes we may end up with come September.

Do we have a tomato death wish?  Are we envisioning paying for the Young'uns college education through tomato sales?  Have we been tipped off to some worldwide tomato shortage by the International Tomato Advisory Council?

No.  Actually, not a bad idea....hmmmm.  And no.

We just really like tomatoes and things made from tomatoes.  We like them raw - I even eat them like apples.  (In fact, I cannot wait for to eat them raw.  I haven't bought a fresh tomato at the store since last summer.)  We like salsa and tomato sauce and ratatouille and tomato soup and "sundried" tomatoes and the list goes on. 

We also like making the above items with tomatoes we've grown ourselves.  Homemade and home canned salsa and sauce and soup is AMAZING!  Not to mention cheaper than the swanky comparable stuff in stores and, well, I know everything that goes into it.  I like that, too.

Last year, our tomatoes did pretty poorly and we actually, I am not proud to admit, had to BUY tomatoes.  It was still worth it to us, but it did sting our "farmer" pride and pockets.  This year will be different!

How's that for optimism?

One of pots with seeds that didn't make it.

We ordered several types of tomato seeds from Fedco so if one doesn't work, something else surely will.  Also, variety is one of the great things about growing your own food.  Have you ever noticed there are pretty much only 3-4 types of tomatoes at the grocery store?

After making my nifty little paper pots , we planted 93 of those pots with tomato seeds. 

Here's what we planted:
Opalka Paste Tomato
Jet Star Tomato
Gardener’s Delight Cherry Tomato
Principe Borghese Cherry Tomato
Ida Gold Tomato
Pink Brandywine Tomato
Amish Paste Tomato
Rutgers Tomato

All the duds- ready for the compost pile.

I'm especially excited about the paste tomatoes which we've never tried before!  Homemade spaghetti sauce - here we come.  I'd love your secret family recipe if you have one...

A sweet friend offered to house all our little tomato babies in her amazing greenhouse.  They did great -thanks to her diligent watering and care (she'll be getting a bunch of salsa this Fall) and came back to us all ready to hit the ground.

Of the 93 pots we planted, 23 didn't make it.  We've never planted this many seeds before, so I'm no expert on whether or not that's good.  It made me happy, whatever the germination rate.  We spent about $42.00 on seeds (ALL our seeds, not just the tomatoes).  Getting 70, mostly organic, all non-GMO tomato plants for less than $42.00 is a steal!

The final result - 70 plants and 23 bummers.

After spending a few days getting used to living in the real world, they all went into the ground.  It seemed touch and go with many of them for about a week, but now all the inhabitants of tomato land are thriving.

 So, for now, all is good.  Come September when I am up to my neck (hopefully) in juicy red goodness and I complain a bit, feel free to remind me how excited I was in June.

Welcome to the Year of the Tomato!

Close up.  Isn't it interesting how different the leaves of each variety look?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Farm Report

The Farm is 90% planted!  We're about 2 weeks behind in getting the garden, but so are most other people around here as are the REAL farmers. 

Getting seeds and plants in the ground 2 weeks late isn't a big deal in some place warm, but on the Little Farm where the growing season is pretty short, it's a bit scary.  We're hoping for a long, warm Fall.  The bounty of our garden isn't our sole source of food, but it does help make a BIG dent in our grocery budget for the year.

Time will tell.

Before the raised bed.
This dependence on weather is one of those things about gardening that has made appreciate and stand in complete amazement of those families who lived a hundred years ago and depended 100% on what they could grow for their livelihood.  How brave and courageous they were!  For them, 2 weeks late could mean the difference between full stomachs and being hungry for the whole winter.  Amazing!  What faith!

We've made a major improvement to the garden this year.  We made the entire perimeter of the garden into a raised bed.  The inside of the garden has had 7 raised beds for several years.   The new bed looks great and should help keep things a bit drier in the spring, which means we might get things in earlier in the years to come and not have to worry so much about 2 weeks late...

After  boards were added, before dirt to fill it up.
One of the great things about our new raised beds is that they cost us about $4.00 total.  Our backyard fence is falling down (thanks to the previous owners of our house who didn't sink the posts in cement).  We've got plans for a new backyard fence and plan to use lots of the former fence to make it.  However, we won't need all that wood, so we were able to use the excess to make the raised beds.  The $4.00 we spent was for a box of screws. 

As usual, it's been an all family affair. The fence sections were torn down, nails removed and pieces stacked neatly by the male Young'uns.  The slats (or whatever you call the up and down boards that form the walls) were screwed together by yours truly.  I felt so handy wielding that drill!  The 2x4's which held the slats were cut and turned into stakes by The Big Guy.  He also put the stakes in the ground and screwed the slat pieces I made onto the stakes.  The dirt was hauled from the yard waste place and put into the plots by The Big Guy and the 2 oldest Young'uns.  Whew!  It was a project - but it looks great!

Farmer Ron hard at work.  He hates it when I do this.  Can you see the flowering fruit trees behind him?  We've got big orchard news!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Teaching Old Chickens New Tricks

What's a golf ball doing in our chicken coop?  Actually, there are 3 golf balls currently in the nesting boxes of our coop. The golf balls are teaching our chickens where to lay their eggs.  It makes me laugh.

This year's group of Gals were all about 1 year old and laying daily when they arrived on the Little Farm.  As you can imagine, moving from one "farm" to another can be a bit discombobulating for a poor hen.  That is a big change, especially for a less than genius chicken.

I mean...when, early in our marriage, I moved the laundry hamper from one side of a door to another it took The Big Guy about a year to get used such a monumental change.  I moved the silverware drawer (it moved from the top drawer to the one directly below) about 5 years ago.  The males in my house are still getting used to that one...but I digress.  (I love the differences between boys and girls!)

Anyway, when the Gals moved in, they weren't sure where their eggs were supposed to go.  For the first couple of days, we found them all over the ground under their coop.  This wasn't the end of the world, we still found them easily and such.  However, a few of them were broken. 

Broken eggs!  That's like throwing away a treasure!

So, Farmer Ron stuck one golf ball in each of the nesting boxes on the top of the coop.   Ta Da!  The next day, we had 4 eggs laid IN the nesting boxes.  All they needed was a good example.  Good thinking Farmer Ron!  The Gals sure are quick learners.

At this juncture, I could point out that the Gals are, in fact, GIRLS and that said girls adjusted to this change quite speedily.  And this stands in stark contrast to how the males on the Little Farm seem adjust to things moving around, but I won't...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yet Another First from Our Last Young'un

Feeding carrots to the chickens before breakfast.
Abby Grace is our littlest Young'un.  She's very smart, really independent, astonishingly busy, pretty darn cute and extremely hilarious!  Being the fifth child in a busy household, she's also has the opportunity to fly "off the radar" a bit.  I mean, I just can't keep track of her all the time.  I try and I even have help, but sometimes she's on her own. 

Most days, Abby's unintentional alone time turns out just fine.  In fact, usually the results of her alone times are quite impressive.  For a 3 year old, she is excellent at drawing.  Her most recent picture of our dog is displayed in our kitchen gallery.  Come check it out!

Her alone times also resulted in her infamous "Caboodie Dance."  Seriously, one day she walked out of a closet (of course, I had thought she was in a different room) and told me she had a new dance.  It's hilarious!  Abby has taught all of us the Caboodie Dance now.  She and the Big Guy do it best.  They've got the moves, those two.

See how one side is a bit shorter?
This weekend Abby Grace had some alone time which resulted in a first here on the Little Farm.  Abby used her scissors (yes, she has some scissors) and decided she needed a haircut.  We've never had a Young'un cut their own hair before.  New territory yet again!

Apparently the cutting happened on Friday night.  However, I didn't realize it until after she'd gone to bed (no, I didn't notice when I was putting her to bed.  I'm a good Mom, really...) and I found clumps of hair on the floor.  That would be clumps of pretty blond curls on the floor...

Turned out they were from our sweet Abby Grace's head.

The damage was such that a rather dramatic trim was necessary.  There are still a couple of spots where it's a bit uneven (we didn't want to shave her head), but that'll work itself out in a month or two.  I was sad to loose the sweet curls.  The Big Guy was even more sad.

The results of all the trimming is actually quite cute.  Her curls are still intact!  I actually think the new do fits her spunky little personality.

Abby and I have had a talk regarding scissors and their proper usage.  She's been briefed on what will happen should she decide to perform another haircut or some other such unauthorized use of her scissors.  Time will tell... it's always a crazy, fun, sweet, exhausting adventure.

Really.  How can you resist this face?

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Chickens Have Arrived!

The Gals have arrived on the Little Farm!  They moved in last Saturday morning and have already given us 6 eggs and some laughs.  We've even had some sessions of Chicken PE classes!

This year's group are all less than one year old.  We've got a Rhode Island Red, Americuna, Brown Americuna/Unknown cross and a Black Australop.  So far, their eggs have ranged from off white to dark tan.  The dark tan eggs are easily the size of jumbo eggs from the store.

The Gals are currently living in the backyard.  Farmer Ron moved their chicken coop/tractor thingy back there from its place beside our garden.  We thought we'd let them get used our place and roam around the backyard for a few weeks.  The garden is pretty wet and sloppy right now.  When it dries out, we'll move their coop out there and let them eat all the random seeds and weeds in the garden.  We love letting them do our work!

In their coop
We're all glad to have the coop filled again, especially the three youngest Young'uns.  They have been out to look for eggs about 3 times each day.  The youngest Young'un spent a good deal of time in the backyard talking and singing to them.  Hope they like company!

Hanging out by the sandbox

I know the Gals have been given names, but I'm not sure what they are...I've heard about 20 different ones floating around in the past few days.  When they've been officially christened, I'll let you know.

Be sure to check the Egg Count in the sidebar.  I'll keep it updated every few days.  We'll see if these Gals earn their keep over the next eight months or so.