Monday, April 27, 2015

Sad News

Well, you may have already guessed this.  And if you've liked my Facebook page, you already heard the news.

Attempt #2 at hatching out my beloved Swedish Flower Hens was a complete failure.  Day 21 rolled around on Thursday, and there wasn't a peep or  pip.  Day 22?  Same thing.  Day 23, nada.  After Day 24, it was time to throw in the towel...well, to chuck the eggs, in any case.


Well, what is a chicken lady to do?  Trying a third attempt at hatching eggs seems silly.  I can't afford the ridiculous cost of a day-old chick, so it seems like my SFH dreams need to wait.  Again.

Of course, I need some chickens.  It feels far too weird to not have any chickens on this Farmlette, like my right arm is missing or something.  So, I did a little research and opted to order some chicks from McMurray Hatchery.  They've teamed up with The Livestock Conservancy and offer rare breed chicks, often from the Threatened or Critical lists, which come as day-old healthy chicks WITH a guarantee (eggs do not come with one, if you were wondering.)

Around about May 9th, a box full of fifteen lively Silver Penciled Rocks should arrive.  They are lovely birds, with particularly flashy roosters.  They make good mothers, lay lovely brown eggs, and are good dual-purpose birds for meat use.  With any luck, I'll wind up with a small flock and a muffled rooster (using a no-crow collar, of course) that will happily keep me in eggs and roasters for years to come.

Until those elusive Swedish lovelies come my way, I think I'll be pretty happy with my lovely Rocks.  They are cute as chicks, too, don't you think?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

All in a Day's Work

Saturday was a lovely sunny day.  A bit windy, but full of bird song and the smell of fresh earth.  I worked on the front raised bed garden, which always seems to slide into decreptitude right at the end of summer.  It's rather crummy soil under the rich compost-filled beds that I've put in--chock full of chunks of concrete, stones, and a bare inch of diggable dirt.  So, the raised beds are a necessity.  Sadly, the invasive roots of persistent weeds like quack grass seem to wheedle their way in at a moment's notice.  It needed a good dig-out, and then a new four-inch thick deep layer of mulch around them.  The mulch will squish down (it's so nice and fluffy now), and hopefully deter any new weeds from settling in.

I took the opportunity to plant in some of the brassicas I've been hardening off in the cold frame for a few weeks.  It's a tad early, I suppose, but they've been doing really well and I can always pop a bit of fleece over them if it gets frosty some night.  Brassicas don't seem very bothered by the cold, once they get going, and frankly, I needed the space.  There's a few semi-hardy seedlings which really need to get moving outdoors in I can free up some spots under the indoor lights!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Chitting Away

I got my box of potatoes from Moose Tubers the other day, and I am so excited.  I opted for one of their variety packs this year, and I got five varieties that I have never tried before.  In the box there was one pound each of French Fingerling (a fingerling variety, duh), Magic Molly (a purple potato), Red Pontiac (a rather fat type of red potato), Peter Wilcox, also known as Blue Gold (blue skinned with a golden interior), and Augusta, a good floury white potato.

They will rest on the porch, growing some nice little shoots, for a couple of weeks and then I will plant them in the large galvanized barrels that I use for my potato growing.  I'll sterilize the containers with a bleach wash first, and then fill them with a mix of composted hay from the Bunny Barn and a good all-around soil mix for containers by Pro-Mix.  Park them in the sunshine, and they should be happy as clams...well, potatoes, at any rate.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ruth Stout Smiles

Ruth Stout, you are one of my garden goddess inspirations.  Thanks to you, I have a reason for hoarding copious amounts of mulching material. 

Well, I have a good reason to do that, anyway.

The other day, during a break in the rain, I prepared two beds a la Ruth.  The Bunny Barn needed its spring cleaning, so I emptied out a good 1/3 of the mulching down hay-mixed-with-poo and layered it on 10 inches thick (give or take) on my corn bed.
And then, since I was still feeling ambitious, I took the black plastic off the bed I had solarized last summer and added a foot-deep layer to that, too.
Eventually, I'll plant out gourds in this bed, which should happily scramble along the fence all summer.

After a few weeks, the layer of mulch will likely squash down a little but it should be thick enough to smother out any persistent weeds.  Well, the quack may rear it's ugly pervasive head, but hopefully it will be weak and spindly and easy to yank out due to the lovely thick and moisture-laden mulch.

Ruth Stout would be most pleased, I think...and possibly envious of the hearty amount of rabbit poo (which I lovingly refer to as "rocket fuel").  I can hardly wait to plant things out in my lovely mulched beds!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


You know how it seems like fallen branches multiply at the end of winter?  I decided to transform my surplus supply into two new hugelkulture beds.  The idea behind these beds is that the wood bits absorb water and start to rot down, which provides a great source of nutrients as well as moisture for the growing plants above ground.  Right now, there's a mass of branches, small logs and other woody debris layered in the base of two eight foot-by-four foot beds (remnants of my torched chicken tractors).  On top of this, I'll add some half-done compost, and then on top of that layer, I'll add nice rich topsoil.  Both beds will be slightly mounded in the center, which will promote good drainage. 

Into each of these beds, I'll be putting my new blueberry plants.  They should be arriving as bare root plantlets later this week, ready to be popped into the ground and wake up with the growing season.  They should love the good drainage and constant moisture, as well as the acidity contributed by the rotting pine branches and needles.  I'll be mulching them with a layer of cocoa beans mixed with pine bark mulch, which should also boost the acidity.  I'll dress them with Blueberries Alive! organic fertilizer, which I purchased from the Gardens Alive catalog.  Hopefully, they will be extremely happy and reward me with a bumper crop of blueberries in a couple of years.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Beware, Sexy Vampires!

My wee little 4 foot-by-4 foot garlic bed is coming to life!  It always makes me so happy to see my garlic appear in the spring.  It's an act of faith, poking garlic cloves deep into the garden bed in the chill of fall.  Will they rot?  Will they be consumed by voles?  Will the dang kitties dig them up, looking for a comfy place to take a wee?  But lo, green spears appear and grow taller daily.

I've got four different varieties in there, although I can't remember the names right now...I've got them written in my garden journal and I'll have to look them up before too long.  With luck, I'll find one or two that work well and I'll save and plant on as my own homegrown seed garlic for next year's crop.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sweet Angelica

Last spring, I started some angelica from seed.  After planting it out in the small herb garden in the backyard, it didn't do very much--it seemed happy enough, but lacked any serious ummph. I wasn't sure it would return after winter...but look at it now!

This is just one of three very healthy clumps, all growing lovely hollow stems and fat vanilla scented leaves.  It's already six-to-eight inches high, and will grow to at least two feet tall before it's done stretching.  I envision some candied angelica in my future...and sipping shrub through an angelica stem straw?  Perfection!