Monday, April 30, 2012

New Kids on the Flock

Whew!  What a busy weekend!

After spending all day Saturday in Seattle, where Cookie medaled in 6 of her 7 dances at the local feis, we decided Sunday was a good day to make another few addition to the family.

I Will Hug Him and Squeeze Him...
and comb my hair next time Cookie takes a picture of me with the ducks

 We adopted 2 Silkies (mainly show birds, but we are planning for future enrollment
in 4-H come Fall),

2 Polish, &

4 Barred Rock hens.

Ever since we moved in, Moose has been dreaming of ducks in our pond.

Once we saw these guys, we completely forgot all our rules for responsible animal keeping and adopted 3 of them.  (Then promptly rushed home to place Storey's Duck Keeping book on hold at the library!) :)

We chose one of each of the "assorted ducklings".

They are now hanging out with our chicks in the brooder.
Cookie made up a great name for them...whenever she gets a hankerin' to visit them, she announces that she'll be "out with the Chucks".

Looking forward to seeing how this little experiment works out in the coming weeks!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sweet Little Surprises

Life's full of sweet little surprises around here...

Every time i go out to the greenhouse and i see these girls and their babies, it makes me smile.

This beautiful bleeding heart is near our shoppe door.

The robins' nests spring up all around the deck of the house.

P.S.  Happy Birthday, Mom!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

UFH April Challenge :: Gardening

Happy April!  Just a few weeks away from LAST FROST DATE for us patient folks in zone 7b!  Yippee!  There were many different challenges this month:  from starting seed to building trellises to pest management ideas to growing food for your flock.

And since none were really that difficult, i figured i could fit them all in. 

First challenge :: Start Something New from Northwest Edibles

What isn't new to me this year?  The whole "greenhouse growing on an honest to goodness farm" is keeping us extremely busy, yet perplexingly happy.  Unfortunately, most of the land was used for alpaca rearing, so it will be a quite a few years before the soils are healthy enough to plant in again.  Thanks to intrusive maps provided by The Google, we have been able to deduce where the garden has been on this property in previous years and are concentrating efforts in that area first--with a bigger project i'll talk about in the upcoming weeks.  (You know me...always full of big ideas, this one.)  :)

In the spirit of fairness however, i picked up a couple packet of seeds that produce new to me squash:  Austrailan Butter Squash, a seed from Azure Husbandry, and Jarrahdale heirloom pumpkins from Botanical Interests.

These babies are potted up right now in the greenhouse, waiting to emerge from the soil still.
Looking forward to next year, when we will hopefully have enough soil in the raised beds in the Abominal Growman that we can just direct seed these types of plants.

Second Challenge :: Trellis Building from

By fortuitous chance, we cut down all the bamboo that the previous owners planted here at the farm.  Who knew we could grow bamboo in places that receive a fair helping of freezing temps during the winter?  While wondering what we'd do with such a heaping mass of yard waste, and pondering ideas of eradicating it from the property, we had an epiphany--home grown garden stakes!  In doing a little research on line, i found that bamboo canes should be cured before using.  Apparently, there isn't a risk of them re-rooting, as i had previously thought, since they only spread by rhizomes.  Curing is basically so that they will harden up and not crumble after a year.  Recommendations i read from bamboo crafters forums were to cure for 4 years!!  I will leave some of the canes Moose harvested to dry for a year or two under our shaded hoophouse, however since we have an endless supply, i am going to use most for the peas and beans this year.  Eventually, if i find that we can reuse canes year after year, i may add this "trellis products" to our future farmstand. :) 

Third Challenge :: Pest Management by Seattle Urban Farm Co.

What could be better than a list of ways to curb those pesky critters in your garden?!?  And thanks to the gents from Seattle Urban Farm Co., they've shared a few ways to fight back against those unfortunate critters known as pests that chow our gardens to bits as if they were at an All You Could Eat Seafood Buffet.  (e.g.: "The gardener called...they're running out of brassica starts!")

I decided i would start a bunch of beneficial flowers from seed and use these to try to curb the pests this year.  It worked in previous years in my former garden.  Starting things like zinnas, sunflowers, cosmos, and alyssum...with a little Honey Bee Mix from Territorial thrown in for good measure.  Was thinking of nasturtiums too, but i am too chicken to try trap cropping aphids in the greenhouse--especially when it looks like we'll be leaving the doors open for ventilation during the summer.  (Can you believe the temp in our little greenhouse, where all the starts are, was a whopping 101 degrees F on Saturday??  Sheesh...our greenhouse hit the hundreds the same day Arizona did!!)

Fourth Challenge :: Grow a Row For Your Flock by N.W. Blooms

This challenge is multifaceted.  Since we already source our chicken feed locally and they are now free-ranging throughout a portion of our property with access to our composted kitchen scraps, the challenge that was left of creating space to grow food for your flock.  Another interestingly timed challenge, because i am designing a garden bed out in the front of the house and while i was scheming, i thought it would be cool to include some grains to use as treats for the chickens and birds. 

Our front whole farm here is already pretty nicely landscaped, however the front yard has too many roses then i care to deal with.  I was going to leave them be, but decided that really, a hand full of roses is really all anyone needs unless you are a rose gardener.  Which i am not.  I have a kid to homeschool...i don't have time for frilly, petulant flowers no matter how beautiful they can be with the proper care.

Another thing i don't like about this many roses is that their proximity to one another and sheer mass quantity limit anyone to really stop and smell them.  There are thorns GALORE out there!  A problem that became painfully evident when we were planning an Easter Egg hunt of our neices and nephew.  I prefer that people be able to wander my garden...without giving a pint of blood.

I was thinkin' if i remove some the roses, then the space behind the rose garden could be spruced up a bit too.  You can see it's all chick weed now, which does provide a healthy treat for the Chicas. 

But i want more.

Could you see amaranth weeping over the white picket fence? 
How about a healthy stand of majestic sunflowers?
Maybe some enchinacaes, hollyhocks, and currants thrown in for good measure?
And a smattering of self-seeding annuals like poppies and calendula thrown in?
I am researching flowers now to create my own "seed mix".

There are a couple trees in the is staying there due to the sheer mass of it, however this one in the picture above may be a ginko...i am uncertain.  The former owners seemed to have an affinity for ginkos and apples. :)  Was thinking eventually maybe a nut or fruit tree would look devine out here and would help eventually shade the west side of the house. 

The front garden sweeps around to the north and is planted with an enormus amount of lavander (hooray!) and lilacs.  This totally stays...the bees will be so happy!

Another visitor in the garden has me thinking....
Barn Kitters ::  The Meow-er!  We call her the Walkie-Talkie
some cat nip might be a welcomed addition to our property--maybe away in another area, so she's not visiting the proposed birdy garden so much!! :)

How are your gardening projects coming along?

Have you heard about the Urban Farm Handbook Challenges? PNW authours Annette Cottrelle and Joshua McNichols have designed an ingenious series of monthly challenges, related to topics in their awesome book, that draw each of us closer to self-sufficiency. There are varying degrees of participation, yet much to be learned from not only the authours, but the participants as well. If you are interested in learning more about a more sustainable way of life, please visit Annette's website, Sustainable Eats , and sign up for the challenge. Or just follow along.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Oh, What Have I Done???

Are you sure you only want four, Pop?

Is it a bad thing to have 103 tomato plants taking up one-fifth of your greenhouse?

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Girl Could Get Used to This

Enjoying sunset....

to the tune of frogs, cows, and a sweet little barn cat that likes having long drawn out
mewing contests with us.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

You Cannot Resist The Fish

Guess who i found yesterday??

I watched her meander across the driveway and under the shoppe where she likes to hang out now.

The past week, i have been on a mission to win her over.
It isn't going to be easy...or cheap.
I'm bribing her with tuna.
And have you seen the price of tuna in a can lately?  Sheesh!

Me thinks it's going to take a case or two....

because as cute as she is....

something still tells me that she'd like nothing better than the chance to scratch
my eyes out while i sleep.

"You do not fool me, o furless one!  I know your type, you rube!"
In other news: i found her first kill this morning in the driveway!  A little field mouse. 
Cats 1, Critters 0

An Army of Aphid Exterminatours

As soon as we started using the heat in the greenhouse to keep it above 50 degrees F at night, we developed an aphid infestation the size of Manhattan!

So we called in the troops.

A container of ladybugs has yielded positive results.
I released them over the course of three evenings (whether you are releasing them indoors or outdoors, this is the recommendation to imprint their new home on them), keeping the remainder of the beetles in the refrigerator in a state of hibernation.

When you release these guys, you'll want to provide a little saucer of water for them.
I am barely covering the lid from a yoghurt container with water for them each day.

Watering your plants before works too.  They'll find their way to the water droplets on the leaves.

One thing to note for next year is to clear the cobwebs from under the tables before releasing this beetles.  A few have gotten tangled up in the webs, poor things.

As for the aphids...they seem to be dimenishing in quantity.
When i find new ones on my seedlings, i move the beetles around and then devour those little aphid nuggets quick as lightening.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ok, So I Didn't Kill Them All...

Last week, what was left of the tomato seedlings started sprouting their first set of true leaves.

In case you are new to seed starting, when you plant a tomato seed, the first leaf-like structures that emerge from the seed are known as cotyledons.  Tomato seedlings prefer that you wait for the true leaves before you transplant them.

These Ones Are For You, Pop
 I am experimenting with a potting soil from our natural food market.  It comes from a farm south of here in Yelm, WA.  It consists of peat, perlite, and worm castings.  I am hoping the worm castings will behave like a fish emulsion that propagation books recommend at this stage in the game.

Count so far:  8 Saucy Pastes, 23 Purple Cherokees, 21 Black Princes, and 19 Italian Heirlooms, 16 Isis Candy.

More to come....

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ain't Nothing Like Spring

Coming home from errands with an arm-load of tulips and a growler of locally made apple cider while the sun is shining.
Can't beat it! 

Monday, April 9, 2012

RIP Tomatoes

Dear Tomato Seedlings,

I am not worth of the dirt under my fingernails.  I have failed to understand your exact needs, and now because of my black greenhouse thumb, half of you will never reach your God given potential. 

I vow to learn from the mistakes i made that cost you your life. 

  1. Do not leave tomato flats on a heat mat after they have sprouted.  Especially in a heated greenhouse.  Especially when the outside temps reach 60 degrees F.
  2. When planting in a greenhouse, experiment with heater and vent/fan timers BEFORE you sow anything.  These devices are quirky little buggers!
  3. Check moisture levels twice a day!
  4. Have ladybugs on hand to deal with aphid infestations.  Grrrr!
Hoping that you can find it in your poor, shriveled hearts to forgive such a rookie like me.

I promise to do better next year!


Friday, April 6, 2012

Success in the Greenhouse

Just arrived home from a trip to visit my folks and look what greeted me

A Virtual Tomato Forest
 I planted these babies just before i left on my trip, and trusted Moose with their care, after a quick and dirty Seed Watering 101.  I couldn't believe it when he mentioned 2 days after i left that they were sprouting already!  By my estimates, these seeds (sourced from Irish Eyes, Uprising Seeds, and Renee's Garden) sprouted 3 - 5 days after sowing!

I planted two seeds per spot, so once the first true leaves develop, i will need to get busy repotting these 140 seedlings.  There was empty space, i planted some pepper plants.  You know me and my "learn by doing" attitude.  Later, i read that it is better to plant tomatoes and peppers separately, because the pepper take longer to sprout, increasing your chances of tomatoes getting too hot.  I'll learn better next time, i will. :)  Wondering what happens when i tomato gets "too hot"?

Cal-300 Pepper Seeds from Ed Hume
 I swore i wouldn't buy anymore Ed Hume Seeds.  Even though he is a local, he doesn't have a bustling organic seed selection.  However, for my purposes this year, i purchased his bell pepper seed to see if i could successfully grow peppers.  And i now...who knows what we will be eating, but i can't bare to sacrifice these little plants!

These first starts are chugging right along too. 
However, this morning i found large quanitities of aphids growing on a volunteer gerainium
in the greenhouse.  Arrgh!  My first test.  I found a few of them attempting to colonise the broccoli starts today, so i am off to find ladybugs this weekend.

Today i started more lettuce (my first attempt was an epic failure--due to old seed, me thinks), spinach, and swiss chard.  This little space will be filling up fast!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Place and Yours :: The Neighbourhood

Cookie and I took a walk last week for the MP&Y challenge.  We've been so busy, that i am just getting around to it now.  Need to start marking my calendar, i tell ya. :)

On either side of our road are drainage ditches where we can
see lots of native wetland plants.

Skunk Cabbage

Cat tails
Walking the road is wonderful.  Most people from town will give a wide berth, and a friendly wave, to walkers on the country roads in our area. 

Toward the end of our street is Pussyfoot Creek.

Most of our neighbours are just plain cute!
They've been having babies like crazy this past month.

The Indian Plum is flowering...

It was so much fun taking our first walk around the 'hood, especially because our human neighbours are so kind.  They don't think twice about stopping and talking when they see you.  You learn so much about the area--one of our neighbour's is a photographer that specialises in photographing show horses for breeding documents.  Who knew a job like that existed?!?

Cookie thinks these cat tails look like marshmellows