Monday, March 23, 2009

Independence Days Update

Okay, it's been so long since I posted on my independence-oriented doings that I've forgotten the categories and what week we're on at this point. Maybe we could now call it the sporadic independence days, or SID for short? This covers the last month or so...

A quick confession: I haven't been posting as much in part because work has stepped up, but also because I lost my camera battery charger and am at a loss without photos. *sigh* I kept hoping it would turn up, but nothing. I guess I'll have to suck it up and buy a new charger. In the meantime, I'll try to get Jim to take some photos for me and upload them later.

Update: My honey's so sweet. He read my blog post at work and sent me some photos already!


First sowing of radishes, beets, turnips and kale is already up and growing nicely in the high tunnels, which will be coming down in the next few weeks.

Seed trays have germinated and live in my mobile greenhouse, allowing me to roll them into the garage on cold nights to protect against frost. Don't worry, it's anchored to the truck this year and performing beautifully. I don't want to jinx myself, but I ought to actually know which tomato and pepper plants are which this year. Imagine that! I have two varieties of broccoli, several lettuces, cabbages, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and Julia's seedlings out there now, all doing well.

This past week, I began direct seeding the market garden, which Jim tilled for me with his new tiller, making for some lovely garden soil. While I hope someday to get away from tilling, breaking new garden out of weedy old pasture can be back-breaking work, and right now, I welcome the tiller. The kids and I laid the drip tape irrigation this past week, and yesterday I began laying some polymulch for designated working paths.

I've seeded 2 varieties of carrots, several varieties of onions, second sowing of turnips and radishes, 3 varieties of kale, spinach, peas, beets, lettuces, and 2 varieties broccoli raab. Jim and Julia got 4 rows of Russian banana fingerling potatoes in yesterday.


We've been harvesting all winter out of the high tunnels, which are just the most amazing things. Everyone should have a small one in their backyard. Really.

Right now, we have all of the following available for harvest: spinach, kale, swiss chard, carrots, arugula, lettuces, 2 varieties of endive, escarole, turnip greens, thyme, citrus thyme, sage, rosemary, chives, salad burnet, parsley, oregano, tarragon, rosemary, sorrel, cilantro. The bok choi and tasoi have long since bolted, and the beet leaves are just too tough now, but Bella and the chickens appreciate them. Outside the tunnel, the kales are coming back, as are some of the napa and savoy cabbages and green onions and volunteer spinach. We'll see on the overwintered beets and carrots.


Still working on that country ham cure from December; it should be finished this week and ready to hang and age. I also preserved several half gallons of Bella's colostrum in the freezer for emergencies. Other than that, I'm working on using up my stores to make room for a new year.


Jim pulled a new fenceline at the top of our property, and he bought a pull behind tiller for the tractor, which will make life much easier for both of us. He also put a load of Delaware eggs in the incubator, so we'll see what comes of that. It's a home-made incubator, and so works questionably at best. We have a new heat regulator, so maybe that will make a difference. Last year we had no luck with the Ameraucana eggs we put in there, but they could have been sterile.

On the safe side, I placed my poultry orders, and I'll be adding Bourbon Reds to our heritage turkey line up. I also ordered more Ameraucanas because everyone loves the colored eggs and some Buff Cochins, who are supposed to be good broody hens, since I've had no luck getting any of my existing hens to go broody.

I also ordered three new packages of bees and picked up some new wooden ware that I need to start assembling. Unfortunately, both my hives were deadouts due to low numbers. They starved with plenty of honey just inches away. Very sad. If I'd combined the two hives at the end of the season, I think they would've made it through. My bee inspector came out to inspect the hives and declared them free of any disease or problems, so I'll be able to use all those frames of honey to help establish the new bees without artificial feeds, I hope.


We're starting to get everyone off the barnyard and out onto pasture. This weekend, Jim divided the turkey shelter (which they never use, but roost on top of) into 3 parts, making a nesting space for each hen. At this point, they're still not laying, but they should start soon.

This week, I separated Maya from her two remaining piglets, who are more than thriving—they are fat little snausages. I'm working on reconditioning her, as three litters in a year took too much. She's in heat again and spending lots of time right next to the fence, but we're planning on keeping her separate from Big Boy until mid-summer for a fall litter. Two litters is plenty per year... if we could just get the pigs on board with that, we'd be good to go.

We've also had two out of three of our sheep give birth, and we have 4 little boy lambs. They're all just about ready to move back out on pasture in another week or so. Right now, they're up in the barn safe and snug. It'll soon be time to think about shearing.

And speaking of births, Bella's calf Daisy is doing beautifully, so we'll be looking for a home for her soon and trying to plan next year's calving. I've been watching Bella closely, trying to detect her heat cycles, made all the more difficult because she's a lone family cow. I'm planning to AI, but I still need to figure out all the logistics of that one. She's coming back into condition nicely, especially now that I have her salt levels worked out, and once the spring grass comes in, she'll be good to go. Of course, she's shedding that winter coat like crazy and looking kind of spotty, but still much sleeker than she was.


While I'd really like to work on cooking new things, sometimes that's just beyond what I'm capable of in a week, especially busy weeks. Heck, I feel good just getting dinner on the table most nights! So, I'm turning this category into a zero mile meal challenge, and this week's props go to Jim who made a delicious chicken giambatto last night and actually got photos. It featured our chicken, sausage, onions, some of the last of our yukon gold potatoes, and garlic. I made some Southern-style turnip greens cooked in our salt pork to go with the meal and, of course, homemade artisan bread with Bella's butter. Yum!


CSA started back up the first week of March, and I've been pleased so far with what we've had to offer folks for so early in the season. This past week we distributed eggs, spinach/ kale mix, swiss chard, spring greens, arugula, carrots, tarragon, thyme, and oregano.

I'm still trying to find a food pantry that accepts fresh foods, and I'll be stepping up those efforts now that the season is picking up.


Well, I'm still learning lots of things, but this week I'll be working on organic fruit management. I have everything in place, have pruned and cleaned the beds, and now need to figure out the spraying schedule for the Surround kaolin clay. So, that's what I'll be focused on for the next week or so.


underthebigbluesky said...

am surprised you got a blog post in at all.

ah, the return of Spring.

cannot imagine how weary you are.

Teri Walker said...

My 17-yr-old son and I have been eagerly awaiting your "farm activity" updates. Each night he's been poking his head into my office saying, "Does she have a new post up yet?" No names necessary - you're his favorite blogger. We understand completely it's because you've been BUSY - we're just very devoted followers. ;)

Christy said...

Thanks for the update. You've been busy! The lambs are adorable. Sorry about the bees, some day I'll have to pick your brain about all that.

Anonymous said...

My family is interested in taking part in a csa. I believe that you do not live too far from us. Do you have space available. You can contact me at:
Thank you,
Lisa Leisher

Erin said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and absolutely love it! You have the life my husband and I aspire to! I look forward to reading more and learning a lot!

Thanks for a great blog!

SoapBoxTech said...

Oh, to not be living on the edge of the arctic circle...

Danielle said...

Thanks for all the kind comments—I do love them so! Making connections makes blogging such fun.

Lisa, unfortunately, we're filled for the 2009 season. I kept saying I was going to cut back, and I still ended up taking 10 members. (We had 11 last year, so it's hardly cutting back. lol)

Shari Ryerson said...

I’ll be anxious to hear about your fruit tree management. I have 19 trees sitting in my garage, some Surround, and my book "THE APPLE GROWER, A Guide for the Organic Orchardist". The Honeycrisp apple trees have already gone in. I had to order those from Stark Bros. I then picked up some Granny Smith, Winesap and Yellow Delicious for the north side of the orchard, and Northstar and Stella cherries for the south side.
We had strips of land plowed (about 8-10 ft. wide) and tilled in the last section of bare land on our property. (I learned my lesson the hard way when it came to keeping grass away from fruit trees.) I'm also hauling old straw/hay from the horse stable to create mulch donuts around the trees. That still leaves me some space between trees that's going to waste, SO … I've decided to plant raspberry canes between the trees. I should be able to get some sort of crop while waiting for the trees to mature.
I’m considering planting some red clover down a wide section in the middle of the field we couldn’t use (underground power lines) for attracting bees and improving the soil. What do you think?
And this fall I'll ring the trees with daffodils. I read the bulbs will act as a deterrent against voles. I had always wondered why my in-laws had daffodils scattered throughout their old apple orchard. That was some 50 odd years ago.
My local nursery said to buy Irish Spring soap bars, cut them in half and hang them in the trees. Apparently they help keep the deer away.
Keep us posted! I’ll be interested to hear what you come up with for your spraying program.