Friday, April 10, 2015

Busy Day

Well, today was a busy one.  It's early in the planting season.  Heck, this time last year, I had just planted some Tomatoes in the Greenhouse.  This year, I planted on 2/14/15, and the Tomatoes are in their 2nd up-potting.

Seed Viability was an issue, I think next year I will need to splurge on seed, though I am planting enough that I should be able to save some seed, it may not be enough.  Most of my seed is a few years old, and they say it will last 3 years some of mine is past that date.

The greenhouse has Tomatoes, Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Peppers.  All doing well.  Today was all about planting seeds in the ground.  I figure, if the weeds are growing, flowering and seeding already, my cool season crops can do so as well.

Today I put in Carrots, Kale, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Arugula, Green Beans, Dry shelling beans, and Peas.  I also started Hama Melons, Acorn Squash, more Broccoli (a family favorite) and Basil in the greenhouse.

I had always heard that a farmer is most concerned about the I get it.  If I plant right, I may get two cool seasons in, sandwiching around the hot season.

The cool part of this year, is on my walks around my small city, I am seeing many more homes, ripping up lawns, and putting in veggie beds! I have also seen and increase in backyard chickens! Viva La Revolution!

I know what I'm doing is right, when my wife told me tonight that she has been spoiled.  You see, she grew up eating food that had processed or powdered chicken base for seasoning.  She had to buy it when we saw it.  Now she can't eat it, she says it's too salty.  Well the first ingredient is Salt.  She much prefers food made with homemade chicken stock.

Sure that's really a DUH statement, but I just saw an ad on TV for Monsanto, and what I saw was sheer propaganda.  I hate getting political, but after all they have done, all the lies, it's sicking.

Well enough of that.  I will keep planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, cooking, canning, and freezing my harvest.  Monsanto got one part right, food is love, and because I love my family, I will continue to grow food.  Not organic (which is a label; shouldn't non-organic food have to be label GMO, oh wait, Monsanto is throwing money against such laws that would make that so.)  No, my Grandmother grew food.  I will grow food.

Today wasn't the nicest of days, yesterday was gorgeous, today cold (a storm front is moving in) but I was outside, playing in the dirt.  And the best part; I had this kid in a candy store grin on my face the whole time.

So if you're on the fence about gardening, start small.  Buy a tomato seedling, and plant it.  Care for it, and this July, when the tomatoes are bursting and beautiful, go out just after the dew has settled, and eat one.  I swear, you will never go back to store bought again.
Just sayin'

Go out and play in the dirt all!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Close Call

Wow, what a day here!  72 degrees on March 26th must have been a record.  Spent the day outside, weeding (man those weeds got a head start here) and when I came inside for some water, I noticed on my weather station, the temperature in the greenhouse was 114 degrees!  911 could not come to soon, so I ran out there, gave all my wilting seedlings plenty of water, and moved them outside the greenhouse while I opened the vents and door.

By 6:00 I was able to move them back in the greenhouse where temps had come down to 80 degrees, closed the vents and door and locked them up for the night.

Everything had perked back up, and disaster was averted.

Check your seedlings folks, they are just like little kids at this stage!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring has sprung...But where was winter?

Wow, if you blinked you missed it.  Winter either didn't come to the Pacific NW, or it went by and I simply didn't notice.

What I did notice, was all the activity around me, birds, squirrels, the hens continuing to lay prodigious amounts of eggs....well, I have been busy.

Weeding, prepping garden beds, and starting seeds in the greenhouse.

I'll be honest, saving seeds...well not my strong suit.  Oh, don't get me wrong.  I can harvest the seed, divide it, prep it, dry it, put it into containers...nope, where I fall down is storage.   I can't find a spot to keep them at a consistent temperature all year long, dark and dry.  As a result, I get inconsistent germination when I do plant seedlings.  So to compensate.  I plant way more than I will ever use, and hope 1 or 2 come up.  Usually way more come up than I thought.  This year, has been hit and miss.
 The first 3 rows are: Red Bell Pepper, Green Bell Pepper and Jalepeno Pepper.  Cauliflower did really well and my one lone Broccoli.  Eggplant is the last row and :( not so much as stub showing...
 This is a shot of both beds.  They rest on 1/2 inch insulation, and a heat mat under the tray.  The green house is otherwise unheated, so at night it gets to about 45 F and during the day up to 90 if I don't open the vents.
This is a tray of Tomatoes.  First row Brandywine (only one out of 4) Next is SunGold (also one out of 4) Gills AP (2 of 4) Yellow Pear (2 of 4) and finally Isis Candy (none) and Celery is the last row (also none)

Oh, I'll get by.  I planted 4 of everything in late February and early March.  I planted Brandywine Tomatoes, SunGold Tomatoes, Gil's AP Tomatoes, Isis Candy Tomatoes, and Yellow Pear Tomatoes in Late February (also red and green bell peppers).  Early March was Jalepeno Peppers, Eggplant, Broccoli, Cauliflower and Celery.

Well as of this writing, some of the Tomatoes have sprouted, a few very nicely in fact as you can see from the photo above.  The Cauliflower exceeded my expectations as the seed was almost 4 years old, and all 4 of them sprouted.  The Broccoli though, same age, only one....

Needless to say I think I need to work on a better storage system for these seeds.  What I am considering is a Faux root cellar.  Basically dig a hole in the ground, so the bottom is below the frost line.  Around here, frost line is 3 inches.  So I will dig a foot deep hole.  Some folks then just put a container in, and fill it with sand or straw to keep vegetables.  I am going to build forms, and pour a concrete base and walls.  Then I will keep my seeds in glass spice jars in the hole.  I will then cover it with a plastic Tote Lid, and rocks to keep critters out.  Thats the idea I'm floating here.

As for the girls, well they love their new home.  And my original thought was 3 of them could lay at the same time on the nesting shelf.  Well, at the start, they all wanted to lay on the Left side of the shelf.  Now though for the past week or so, they are also laying on the right side.  So, two can lay at once.  Which was what I had before with the two nesting boxes.  And yes, they do get a bit vocal when one wants to lay, and there is no spot, but thankfully my neighbors understand, and of course free eggs help out there.

As for eggs, we are getting 4 -5 a day! And as I said, no layoff over the supposed winter we had. So we have been giving them out; keeping the neighbors happy :) and getting creative with cooking.

Shameless plug here for a new blog of mine.

My wife challenged me to do a blog a-la Julie and Juliet, using up eggs by making cakes from a specific book we found.  If you like baking, and or music, stop by and see what it's about.

Enough of that.  Just wanted to update this post now before everything explodes and I have zero time for blogging.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Hen's got a new home!

So, I have not been as diligent in my blogging here as I would have liked.  It is an art, a skill, and mostly a habit.  One that I will need to cultivate.  

So first step, report on where the homestead is at.  As someone once said, a picture is worth a thousand words:

 The old coop now standing empty....
 While the old coop was still functional, it wasn't as easy to clean as I originally envisioned when I first built it.  Leaning over to clean out the corners, was messy and hard on the back.  That really wasn't the motivation that got me to make the new coop though...keep reading.
 The new coop was in the spot where a tired old rhododendron that was dying was.  I pulled the rhode, and cleared the site.  The coop is 6' deep by 4' wide.  And tall enough that I can walk into!  The pen is 6' wide by 6' deep.  Over all the chickens have a bit more room than they did with the 2 level coop before.
 This is a view of the interior, looking through the door to the nesting shelf.  Rather than boxes, I am going with a shelf, as 3 birds can nest in the same spot as two boxes, and the birds aren't that picky.  There are two roosts.  The birds will all sleep on the top roost, but can use the lower roost to jump up to the top one.  Their access door is just under the nesting shelf.
 The girls in their new pen, exploring!
 Here you can see the Chicken door, open during the day and will be closed at night.
 I've got this thing for Dutch Doors, so I put one on my coop.
 The coop sits between the fence, and one of the storage sheds.
Last view of the sheds and the new coop.

So really what prompted this move?  It's not really complicated.  First of all, the old coop sits over a sprinkler system we have, but haven't been able to use.  But mostly, it's part of the learning curve.  Think about it, we are never perfect the first time we try something.  We practice and we get better and better.  In homesteading, much of what we do is trial and error.  The first coop was good, but not great.  Do I think this one is Great; well right now YEP, but probably later on I will see things that need changing or alterations.  I already know I need to build a new watering system as the old one was tailored to the old coop.  But being a homesteader...I will reuse much of that system in the new one.  Much of this new coop is made from reusing materials for earlier projects that just didn't pan out the way I planned.

Now for those of you who can count, you may go over one of the photos and see only 5 birds.  One bird my White Rock (the only white egg layer I have ever owned) started eating eggs!  But only the eggs from my Golden Sex Link (the large dark brown eggs.) I did a bunch of research on this, it wasn't due to calcium deficiency, as the layer feed has oyster shell crushed into it, and I supplement by giving powdered egg shell back into the feed.  More so, if it were a deficiency, she wouldn't be targeting only one egg.  This was behavioral.  Now, being a behavioral psychologist, I never suspected I'd take a chicken as a client....needless to say it wasn't successful (a joke from my schooling days; How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb....just one, but the lightbulb has to want to change) needless to say, the chicken didn't want to change.  So now the chicken resides in my freezer (nothing goes to waste on the homestead.)  

Daily we are getting 4 - 5 eggs, still, but we have had a warm winter so far (January day temps have been 48 - 60 F.) We froze a bunch of the eggs earlier expecting a drop-off, that hasn't happened yet.  So looks like neighbors will be getting eggs here shortly!

I hope the chickens take to the new coop; tonight their first night in, I had to push them into the coop, and then put them up on the roosts.   I just went and checked and they are all perched on the top roost so far so good.

Good night all!