Saturday, June 30, 2012

Update & Huggies

Summer has arrived, and it seems that moms taxi is on the go non-stop.  #2 got accepted to camp after all.  Not what he applied for, but rather, military band at Blackdown.  Totally unexpected.  His C.O. worked it out for him.  Awesome.  So I have been shopping to fill his kit list before he leaves next week.  New glasses are on the way for #2 and #4.  I still don't see why they make the darn things so flimsy.  I took the boys to a movie yesterday, Canada Day celebrations at the park on Sunday, and a friend to pick up on Tuesday to go horseback riding.  I'm looking forward to a week at home to catch up with the weeds!
Hugelkultur bed is growing great.  Check out the hay field beside it.  I can barely see the currents in that mess!  But keeping up with the garden weeds is more important.  On a serious note, we have about 300 bales of hay to pick up today.  The farmers are out cutting already!  At this rate, they might get two cuts this year- which would be amazing in our climate.  Some years it's iffy if we're going to get one!
Next year's huggie is under construction.  The goats have found the perennial bed, so we are working on a short fence up the north side driveway.  The tops of the fence post trees and all the branches are now the bottom layer of the huggie, covered with green manure.  This will end up being more of a lasagna gardening huggie, lol.  I figure it will work just fine, and it means we don't have to move the manure twice.  And all of the nutrients will leach into the garden soil over the winter, rather than under a pile in the pasture somewhere.
#1 rototilled between the potatoes for me, and started hilling, last week, before I got behind on the weeds again.
The mystery survivalist plants are lillies, eh?  This isn't the perennial bed.  This is the patch on the lawn that I transplanted them from a few years ago.  They came back, and they're flowering. 
There were three cranes circling overhead as I worked in the garden one day.  I only managed to snap a pic of one.
Puppies are doing great.  They're developing their personalities, wandering all over the house, wrestling with each other, getting under foot, starting to go outside, climbing on things, eating dog food, and generally wreaking havoc.  They bark when anyone comes in the door!  It's so cute, and funny!  I can't remember another litter ever doing that so young!  I found this one curled up in the bowl this morning.  Too cute.  Life with puppies is bliss.  (although a little stinky, lol).  My favourites change every few days.  The polar bears (whites) are currently winning.

Their mother is in trouble.  She has been eating chickens.  My little hens, to be precise.  While I couldn't blame her at first- feeding ten is really wearing on her- I adjusted the doggy stew, adding more protein, and the puppies started eating it as well as nursing- she hasn't slowed down on the chicks at all.  I hope she hasn't made it a habbit.  For now she is tied up when she is outside, until the chicks get too big to escape their pen.

Our heat wave (rotflmao) has broken, with a good dose of rain last night.  I know everyone is complaining about the heat lately.  We had a week of about 28-32°C.  It was really hot for us, with humidity!  It's almost never humid here. Down to 20°C today, but the forecast claims it'll be climbing back up all week. Better than dropping!  Rage on, Father Sun.  Lots of work to do in the north!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chicken Pen Repairs

Step One: Distract the little hens with a scoop of wild bird seed scattered through the pen.
Step two: #2 removed the gate and added new chicken wire over the chain link. The chain link keeps the dogs and foxes out, but the chicks can squeeze through. #1 cut some 1X3s to go under the gate. These will slow the chicks down when the gate is open, as well as keep the gate from freezing to the ground in the winter. Reinstall gate.
Step three: Instruct the Littles to pick up baler twine, broken dishes, feed bags, and whatever other junk has been accumulating in here.

 Step Four: Remove the weeds. This patch of weeds was only a couple of plants a few years ago, but had spread to about a 12'X8' section. They might be stinging nettle? Not poison ivy, but definitely makes you itch. The chickens won't eat them. I pulled them all out.
Step Five: Get the chainsaw. A lot of the little trees were bent and broken from the goats and cows wandering through. I cut them out and the Littles threw them over the fence.
Step Six: Patch holes. The horses rub on the fence and rip the snow fence and chicken wire off the field fence, leaving gaps for the chickens to escape.
Step Seven:  Watch as the little buggers make a mockery of your work and wander around the yard wherever they please.  Good thing the dog who kills things just for fun no longer lives here.

The Bigs both have exams today, so it's back to the garden for me.  Two more days, and they are out for summer.  Yeah!

Oscar, eating the leaves off the trees we cut out.  Because, you know, fences are just there for suggestion...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bag Gardening Experiment

I've been reading/seeing a lot of bag gardening lately. People buy topsoil/potting soil/compost from the garden centre in bags, take it home, lay it out on the ground, cut holes in the bags, and plant right in them. Not a bad idea, really, if you're just starting or expanding your garden. The weight of the bags kills the grass underneath. The bags keep your new soil mostly weed free, and help retain moisture.

 I, however, am cheap. I don't need to buy soil, I just need to get it relocated from the compost piles in the pasture to where I want my plants to grow.

 Last I checked, there was only one pumpkin plant in the back field.  The weeds/grass/natural vegetation was taking over the freshly plowed mass of clay.  It'll be a lot of work before it starts to resemble a garden.
A bag garden is tempting.  But the expense, and then the plastic clean up were turn offs.

Then it occurred to me that paper bags should work just as well.

The Littles helped fill the bags.  We put squash and sunflower seed in them, loaded the trailer and took them to the back field.

We placed the bags out in spots that were more clay and less weed.  The plant roots will grow through the bags and the bags will deteriorate on their own.  No clean up.  The compost will add to the soil in the back, and maybe we'll get a few squash.  Win-win-win.

Surprise, surprise!  There are pumpkins and squash all over the place.  I guess they decided to just take their sweet time coming up after all.  There are even a few bean plants here and there.  The birds didn't get all of the seeds.  Looks like the back field will be productive after all.

Walking back, I picked a bunch of clover tops.

For a jug of of clover juice. I made a triple batch of simple syrop yesterday, and added some to the rhubarb juice. The boys love it. I think it's too sweet. The clover is sitting in simple syrop in the sun today. No lemons at the moment. I'll add some frozen, pureed blueberries to that jug tonight.
Pretty little white flowers peaking out from the bushes along the trail.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rhubarb Juice

I think my first batch of rhubarb juice turned out fairly well.  I kind of pureed the rhubarb in the magic bullet.  Kind of, because the pulp was still fairly stringy.  Strained it, and after sitting overnight, you can see the thick green pulp that made it through the strainer has settled to the bottom.  The instructions said to leave it sit for 24 hours to let it settle, but I couldn't wait to try it.  Thanks Mrs. S!

I diluted the juice about 50/50 with water, and added 1 teaspoon of sugar.  It has enough pucker power to wrinkle my nose, but isn't sour at all to drink.  I think it'll make a lovely base for a blueberry or raspberry fruit punch.

I froze the pulp for rhubarb bread this winter.  Usually I freeze rhubarb in chunks, and then when I defrost it the juice leaks out.  It makes a watery bread, and I cut back on oil and butter.  So I figure, having taken the juice out now, the pulp should still make a nice bread.

I'm sure the boys will make short work of this batch, but I'm wondering about freezing or canning a concentrate.  To wean us off of pop (we drink a glass per day each now, at supper time), I would need a gallon of juice per day.    From June to August I should be able to come up with something fresh, so I would need about 270 gallons of juice.  I can get away with iced tea about every third day for the boys.  I hate it myself- tea should be hot! lol.  But that's still 180 gallons of juice to preserve. 

As Ohio Farm Girl pointed out- I don't know how pop made it to the dinner table.  It sure wasn't like that when I was a kid.  We always had juice for supper.  We started out with juice on our dinner table.  It was somewhere along the time that #1 was a toddler that I started buying less and less juice.  And then buying crappier and crappier juice.  Keeping his thirst quenched was costing us a fortune.  And then at some point I realized that pop was cheaper, and just as crappy. 

We drink water.  Lots of water.  We could survive on water.  Husband drinks coffee in the morning.  I drink tea.  The boys, all of them, even the Littles, drink whatever's in the pot.  No, that's not true.  #2 is not allowed coffee.  Makes him yap about a million miles a minute and drives us all crazy.  Strange child.  Maybe it is an emotional thing, but I want something sweet with supper. I would happily serve wine, but that's not in the budget any more than good juice.  At least not for the moment.  I do have a wine making kit on my future gift wish list.  Someday.

Is it doable?  Not with just rhubarb, not at the moment.  It's not growing quite that fast.  But I could probably do rhubarb every third day for the growing season.  But kymber has me thinking again (she's a bad influence! lol).  Clover lemonade?  Sumac lemonade?  What else of nature's bounty have I been neglecting? 

Off to scour the net for juices, teas and lemonades available in my back yard.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Garden & Turkeys

Mushrooms coming up in the hugelkultur raised bed.  They look almost good enough to eat.  I have no idea what kind they are though, so I will just admire them.

Lots of rain yesterday, and more in the forecast for today and tomorrow.  Lots of new weeds up and growing too.  Oh joy.  But not just the weeds.

Pumpkins in my forest garden are really gaining ground!
And rhubarb is now tall and slender.
Peas are clinging to the fence nicely, and just beginning to flower.
Not growing in the rain, but the turkey poults are happy to have been set free from the turkey shed.
It's been about a week since any have squeezed through the fence dividing the turkey shack in half, so I figure the garden should be mostly safe. Of course they'll find a whole where they can slip under the fence eventually, but that's just to keep me on my toes.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Garden Update

An overview of the garden.  We're keeping up with the weeds not too bad this year.  The extra helpers really make a difference!  The funniest thing- #1 pulled a potato plant, and #2 pulled out a bean.  #3 and #4 haven't done any damage yet.  Maybe I should have had them helping all along.  Age apparently makes no difference.

Lots of volunteer potatoes are up in between the beets, mangels and carrots.  That was last year's potato patch.  The one potato plant that #1 pulled already had two potatoes on it, one as big as the ones we found in the spring.  They're a month ahead of the ones I planted.  So I think, this year, if/when we harvest the potatoes, I will try leaving one potato behind from each plant, thereby planting next year's potatoes this fall.

I planted more beans yesterday.  Not that I need them, but the frost is kind of a nice reminder that it's still only early spring here in the north.  Our unseasonably warm weather this spring, combined with seeing everyone else's blog pics of what they're harvesting, had me feeling behind the eight ball already.  But a little frost, a look at the calendar, and hey, I have time to put more stuff in the garden.  I really shouldn't be this far into the game yet anyway.

So, I had bought this package of Yard Long Orient Wonder Beans, and I hadn't planted them.  I was going to save them for next year, but pish posh, in they went.

#1 rototilled the section between the peas and the potatoes.  It was starting to look like a hay field.  I figure I can squeeze another 5-6 rows of something in there.  I will look through my seed stash and figure out what to plant.

Meanwhile, in the perennial bed,

I transplanted a couple of extra tomatoes. They're doing well. Either the fake huggies (about a foot higher than ground level) also raised them enough to protect from frost, or I have a bit of a microclimate in there. Either way, no frost damage!
Peppers are also mostly doing well. I had three planted at the edge of the big pile of compost that the frost wiped out. That's why I think it's the height. Raised beds. Who knew? lol. Definitely going to be doing more garden construction.
My poor Lady's Mantle. I bought two of these from the garden center, so they may not be as hardy as the seed that I bought. I was really looking forward to trying it out this month. It's supposed to help with lady issues. It's not completely dead, so maybe I'll get the chance to try it next month.
Does that look like English thyme to you? I lost a lot of my transplants, but this little one is doing great. Go figure. The mystery plant has spunk.
And there's a nice shot of the first lupins blooming.  Doesn't it almost look like I know what I'm doing?  And the weeds aren't completely out of control.  Although I do need to add mulch to the cracks in the walk way.  Or remove the walkway.  Since I really don't walk on it much anyway, and have decided to keep the grass between the mini beds. 

Perennial transplants have suffered some losses.  Frost, heat, shock, lack of water, lack of nitrogen- any or all could be responsible.  I added seed around the original transplants.  Hopefully I don't accidentally weed them out.

I found a patch of mountain mint in the perennial bed.  Did I transplant that last year?  I can't find the patch outside the turkey pen.  But then it was pretty close to the fence, so the turkeys could have gotten it.  Hmmm.  I had planned to transplant it.  I just don't remember doing it. 

Chives are flowering now.  I do want to get one more batch dried before I leave them for the season.  The car drying was working out well.  Since it's raining more now it may take a bit longer.

And it's raining today.  We need it.  The garden still feels really dry.  The weeds will be happy, lol.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Frost Damage

Beans took the worst of it.  There's a bit of damage in the perennial bed as well (my Lady's Mantle!!!).  This was about a week past our 'frost free' date.  Between the dry heat of early spring, and now a late frost, things don't bode well for the garden.

I am happy to see the beans in the hugelkultur raised bed didn't suffer at all.  Another plus for the huggies!  I have tons of beans up and coming, so this frost may have just saved me a ton of work, without a big loss.  Definitely more huggies going in next spring!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Beans in the hugelkultur bed
The garden is coming along nicely now.  Still lots of weeds to pull, but we're making headway.  #3 is assisting with weed pulling for the first time.  #1 & #2 pulled just as many plants as weeds at his age, and with some things, still do.  I'm impressed with his efforts.

The beans in the hugelkultur bed are bigger and healthier looking than their counterparts in the garden.  Not that the garden beans look bad, it's just that obvious that they like the huggie.  Definitely more to come in the future.

The back field is growing weeds nicely.  I've only found one pumpkin so far, and no beans.  I'm going to try a little bag gardening experiment on it.

11 Pumpkins around the apple trees in the forest garden are doing well. I can't find any in the trees. Guess I should have marked a couple for curiosity's sake.
New apple trees are planted. I had eleven bags sprout this year, with several seeds in each. I didn't pinch off any yet. I figure I'll do that in a couple of weeks after they're settled in from the transplant.
Wild roses should be blooming in another day or two.
While the blossoms on the rose bush beside the house opened yesterday.
Puppies are growing in leaps and bounds, losing their hamster like appearance. They're still sleeping most of the time, but also starting to get up on their feet, and wrestling with each other.
Wonder is back to her old self mostly. She's still thin, but she's eating and drinking lots, and once the pups are asleep, she leaves them to join the family.

The chicks have adjusted to their move into the hen house. The turkeys are aching to get outside, but I don't trust them to stay on their side of the fence just yet.

Sharlotte and Shiloh have become best friends. It is so cute to watch them running through the pasture together, although I have to say, neither one of their moms looks impressed by it. Dorie is still huge, and still no new calf. Casper is finally staying on his side of the fence- although I'm not sure if that's because the grass has finally thickened in the pasture so he doesn't care, or if it's because he can't leave. 

And that's pretty much the news here in the north.  Hope all is well with you.

Getting the Boot

These girls are getting the boot today.
They're almost fully feathered now, and sweltering in the work shop.  It's a small building with no windows that open, so it's been getting pretty hot in there in the afternoons.  They're also starting to fly out of their brooder box now, and cause trouble.  Nothing like walking in and trying to slam the door shut before they try to escape, lol.

I added perennial seed around my transplants yesterday.  Some are doing better than others.

The turkey hen hopped the fence in the garden and attacked greenhouse #1.  It'll be interesting to see what grows where now, since she seemed to have enjoyed a series of dirt baths throughout.  So much for square foot gardening.  Her wings are clipped again, so hopefully she'll be contained for a while.

Sharlotte is nursing off both Dorie and Mindy now.  What does that say?  lol.  She's still the only calf.

The only black fly I saw yesterday bit me on the neck.  Now my throat is all swollen.

Some days I seriously wonder why I got out of bed.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wonder Mutts

Wonder had her pups on June 4th.  I looked out the window and saw her laying awkwardly in the middle of the lawn while Casper grazed around her.  I went out to deal with him, and heard the soft squeaks of the first three pups.  I have no idea why she decided to have them outside.
I scooped them up and brought them in the house.  She followed after a couple of minutes.  She had the rest of them inside and has been doing a great job with them.  Too great, I think.  The first day she only went out to pee once, for about 2 minutes.  She didn't  eat either.  They seem to be eating constantly, and she is all but skin and bones.  We're giving her extra protein, and I've started adding whey protein to the doggy stew pot.  The problem though, I think, is that she just doesn't want to get up and eat much.

The puppies though, are adorably fat.  There are ten all together.  2 black females, and one black male, with white toes, tips of tails, and patches on their chest.  There is one adorable brown female, with a black nose.  The whites are a strange sight.  They are so much lighter than Ebony's yellow pups, and all of Waldo's pups were black with white patches, (grandparents).  Wonder was supposedly a lab/bouvier cross, although she looks like a hound dog.  Perhaps they'll get super fluffy and turn out more bouvier looking.  Four of them are male, and two female.  I can hardly wait for them to grow and start developing their personalities so I can pick out my keepers.  For now I'll just sit and cuddle the little hamsters, lol.

Fires in our area are all listed as out, under control, or being held.  It's been raining at least a bit every few days, and the woods are greening up nicely now.

Busy in the garden.  Almost everything has sprouted, including every single weed seed out there, I think.  I'll be busy for awhile, trying to keep ahead of them.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Walk Through My Forest Garden

Devil's Claw?

It has kind of a thorny stem, but it doesn't seem as compact as it should be.
The missing apple tree. This was started from seed four years ago. It seemed to have disappeared a month or so ago, and now it's back. I don't think it's ever going to get any bigger.
The rhubarb patch is doing really well. I picked the first bunch of the season yesterday.

 All of my zone 2 apple trees are damaged. They're all alive, but there are a few branches on each that died. And it was a mild winter. So sad. I don't think I'm ever going to have an apple tree here in the great white north. Should I trim off the dead now, or leave it for fall?

 Maybe one of these will be tough enough to withstand the weather. Only 7 years to wait.
Wild ginger? Still no flowers.
It's like a carpet through the trees. It could be valuable stuff.  I hear it's worth a right leg, lol.

The blueberries are popping up everywhere.  No signs of any pumpkins or beans yet.