Tag Archive | Spring

Sunday Update

The farm is a busy place right now, spring seed starting season is upon us. We have seed trays in the dinning room, in bathrooms, and in the kitchen. Pretty much any and all sunny windows have seeds in front of them. We start seeds so early because we do a lot of planting in the high tunnel. We will actually be putting more seeds directly in the ground in the high tunnel soon. Currently, we have carrots, lettuce and chard growing. Depending on weather forecasts we will be starting more lettuce, beets, carrots, peas, kale, radishes, and kohlrabi.

Most of our seeds have germinated really well. Every year I have some I have to plant more than once, but this year the pepper plants would not grow at all. I have a seed problem, as I have explained before, I read seed catalogues for fun. Better than any blockbuster Hollywood hit if you ask me. When I find a seed verity I like, I stick to it. I become very picky. One seed that I will not do without is Intruder Bell Pepper. These green beauties, grow amazing in my garden. Have thick walls with an mouth watering crunch. They are just sweet enough to eat like an apple straight from the plant. I know these seeds are tried and true. This year NONE of them sprouted. After panicking and having to take several deep breaths, I thought about reasons why they were not growing. I know the seed is good. They have light, the right amount of water and humidity. Still nothing. I had to walk away, then like a ton of bricks it hit me…. they were too cold. To solve this problem we put a heat pad underneath the seed tray. Like magic two days later we have germination starting. What a relief.

In addition to the seeds for the garden, I have started another round of sprouts. If you don’t grow anything else, grow sprouts. They are so good for you and give you the crunch in the winter when there is not much fresh. I grow my sprouts on the window ceil behind my kitchen sink. I use a mason jar and a wide mouth sprout lid. You can make one using window screen, cross stitch plastic mesh, or an old shirt. The air needs to be able to get in and out and you have to be able to drain the water off the sprouts. It takes about 5 days start to finish depending on the seed you use. These are alfalfa sprouts on day 3. I will have to fight to not eat them before day 5. I really enjoy them on a chicken salad sandwich, a salad, a turkey sandwich and sometimes just a pinch when I walk by!

The last two weeks have been a perfect time to prune our blueberry plants. They have just started to bud. We have several different verities that produce at different times, so they bud at different times. I have my lasted budding verity still to do, but everyone else has been all trimmed up. The cicadas really did a number on the blueberry plants last year. There was a lot that was dead and needed to be trimmed off. We have one plant that will be cut down to just one stem. You can see the pretty red stems with new buds on them. The brittle gray stems, especially those with visible cicada damage, are trimmed off.

Processing wood never stops. It is a blessing and a curse. We are thankful to be able to heat our house and cook at times with wood, however, a lot of “energy” still goes into firewood. This weekend however, I did not plan on processing wood. Mother Nature and a wind storm had other plans. An Ash tree came down on the fence in our goat yard. The blessing is no one is hurt. The bad thing is the fence took a major hit and the boy and girl goats got together for a Thursday night date. We do have some older nanny goats that we do not want to bred. Well, best laid plans, they may be kidding this year. I will let you know July 13th!

It has been a busy weekend. Still more to do as we prepare for the spring planting. We have fences to repair, chicken tractors to build, garden beds to build, pig fences to repair and rain watering systems to build. The work never ends. We are working to try and take it in stride. Doing what we can in small doses and sharing the work between everyone. I will trying to post again tomorrow with The Weekly Prep.

Spring goings ons

I finally think that Spring might be coming to Baltimore.  We are going to have a night this week close to freezing, but Spring is really trying to push through.  We have been busy!  Unfortunately busy means that I do not have as much time to write, so I am going to try and bring everyone up to date on the farm. We have many new inhabitants of the farm, 60 some I think.  I hate to say that I have lost count!  We have our “meat birds”, that we raise out for our family’s year supply of chicken.  This year we are raising Rainbow Reds.  These are a pasture chicken that does not have as much breast meat as the Cornish Crosses but still produces a 5 pound roasting bird.  We also have a couple Cornish Crosses, because they were on sale at Tractor Supply.  That store is dangerous in the Spring!  Total we have 30 meat birds. They are scheduled to go to butcher the middle of May.

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Laying hens:  Our current laying flock is getting to be of the age that it is time for them to be soup.  We have 14 birds and we are lucky if we get 7 eggs.  We have had 3 become egg bound in the last month and a half.  I hate to see them suffer and I really hate to waste the meat.  So we prefer to butcher them before they start to have problems, this way nothing goes to waste.  We keep debating whether all 14 are headed to the soup pot, or if we are going to try and wean out the ones that are still laying.  That decision is still up in the air, I hate to go a couple months with no eggs.   We are raising out new laying hens.  They are 8 weeks old right now.  We chose to raise 15 Ameraucana Chickens this year.  These birds will lay blue or green colored eggs.  I am excited to get the colored eggs, but I have to say I am not impressed with the breed so far.  These birds are very skidish.  We have never had birds that we could not easily pick up. We handle these birds twice a day and they are still very skidish.  When you stick your hand in to change the water or to feed them they freak out, flying against the walls and screaming.  The meat birds that we are raising are so much calmer than these birds and those we don’t pick up often.  Hopefully they will calm down soon.  We also have 6 random laying chickens from Tractor Supply that we used for a Urban Farming presentation. I told you that store was dangerous. They are incredibly friendly and do not see why chickens need to be kept outside, when the living room is so warm and full of kids that feed them leftovers from lunch and dinner.  They were moved out to the brooding barn this week, much to their dismay. wpid-ncm_0033.jpg Ducks:  Yes I said ducks.  These were purchased just for my Urban Farming presentation, for the 100% cute factor. One is a yellow Pekin Duckling and the other is a Black Runner Duckling.  I had already found a farm that would take them after the presentation.  This farm even had a pond for them to go live in.  Well, I am a complete softly and have fallen head over heals in love with this crazy ducks.  They still live in the living room, because the kids can not bear the idea of them being outside.   They eat their breakfast of greens while taking their morning swim in the bathtub.  They are then dried off with towels by the kids while watching morning cartoons.  The ducks have imprinted on my 6-year-old daughter and it is cute beyond words.  They follow her everywhere.  She is diligently working on teaching them their ABC’s and 123’s.  She feels all ducks should be properly educated.  Needless to say, the ducks that were never meant to live at my farm, now have names and are not going anywhere, anytime soon, except to play house in the backyard with my daughter. wpid-ncm_0001.jpg wpid-ncm_0122.jpg That is all for new animals.  We still have the rabbits.  We have 3 does still available for sale, after we sell those does we will not breed again still August.  We will maintain our breeding stock of 3 bucks and 3 does.  These rabbits are absolutely amazing.  We took one of our youngest does out to the Urban Farming presentation.  There was 50 plus people that wanted to love on her and touch her.  She loved every minute of it.  She was passed around, flipped upside down and petted for two hours.  She never ran from the kids, she let everyone one of them love her.  The only rabbits I have ever owned is American Chinchilla Rabbits, so I just assumed that this is how ever rabbit acts.  I was amazed at how many people came up to me and told me stories about how grumpy their rabbits were.  If you are looking for a rabbit, American Chinchillas are the best way to go, they are fabulous rabbits. wpid-ncm_0014.jpg Fish:  Our tilapia are finally outside!   The weather has finally become warm enough for them.  Right now we have put them in the sump tank.  I have kept the smallest of the fish in the house, so that they can get the food they need to grow. Veggies:  We have started our seeds and we have some of our over winter veggies that are growing well.  I will do another post about veggies so that I don’t go over 1,000 words in one post…. yes I know I need to post more often, I will work on it. Big BIG things are happening on our Farm.  I can’t wait to share all the details about it in the next week our so.

What’s growing

This spring started off really slow, but is now really getting going.  We are grateful for the warm days, sun and even the rain.  I have friends that make hay, they are not liking the rain, but my tomatoes are loving it.

We expanded out garden this year, but did not add a lot of variety.  We planted a couple different types of potatoes, tomatoes, beans, squash and melons… that pretty much takes up our whole garden.  We do have smaller batches of lettuce, radishes, beets, carrots, cucumbers, strawberries, blueberries, brussel sprouts, and asparagus.  We also have some stuff experimenting with in the aquaponics system.




This is a picture of my little girls fort for the summer.  We are growing lettuce in the middle till the beans get nice and tall.  It is doing really well, my daughter is going to be spending a lot of time in there this summer.


This is one of my variety of tomato plants, san mazanos tomatoes.  I was able to tie all of the plants up so that they can get the sun and rain that they need.  These plants are really looking good!


I love this upcycle.  That is a broken window in the middle.  I hung it from the frame of my raised bed and tied my plants up so that they have tons of room to grow.  I have flowers and some small cucumber buds.  I can not tell you how much I love spring.  Those are my tomatoes in the back ground.



Unworthy Jam

Sorry that it has been so long since I have updated the blog, it has been a crazy spring for us.  Everything seems to be going back to “normal” and we are moving forward full force with the “farm”.  This spring I learned that the definition of a “farm”, according to the FSA is a property, regardless of size that can produce $1,000 worth of product.  While $1,000 is not a lot of money these days it gives us something to work toward.  It would be amazing if we could produce enough food for our family and $1,000 worth of food to sell.  I am not sure that we will meet this goal this year, but we are working towards it in 2013.  So far this spring we are almost ready to harvest a couple of pints of blueberries, and we have dried some parsley.   We have lost a few crops to the chickens, who thought that raised beds make a great buffet.  The chickens have put a hurting on my broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, parsnips and lettuce.  It has been very tempting to make roast chicken for dinner but I remember I can get more meals from the eggs than the meat, so we have trying different types of fencing and coverings to protect our plants and extend the lives of the chickens.

This spring we did not grow any strawberries on the property but we did go and pick some for jam.  The strawberries this year seemed to be really watery; this made them very difficult to turn into jam.  I canned 9 jars of the thickest jam I could make and it still is not worthy of a PB&J. So now what do I do with these 9 jars of unworthy jam? Our first solution was ice cream topping, it is wonderful, but I still wanted to do more with it.  Yesterday while I was drying parsley I had the idea to make fruit leather out of my runny jam.  It worked great!!!  The dehydrator has a fruit leather tray.




I set the dehydrator as low as it would go and went to bed.  This morning I woke up to a wonderfully smelling house and the best fruit leather I have ever made.  I think that the pectin helped the fruit leather to set up really nicely.  I cut the fruit leather into strips and rolled it in some parchment paper.  All natural, homemade, dye free, gluten-free, low sugar fruit roll ups.  It is a wonderful option for jam that just did not jam. (Ice cream topping is another option).  Enjoy those berries and remember to buy local this summer.

Again, sorry there has been such a long break in postings, hopefully I will be able to get back to regular updates soon.

First day of spring

I am so happy to say that Spring is officially here!   I have already started planting and look forward to my much needed vitamin D and dirt therapy.  Some friends asked me if their garden was ruined because they have not started doing anything yet.  The answer is NO! It is never to early or too late to start planting something. Where do you start, well lets talk about it…

Some people might argue with me, but I believe the most important thing that you need when you want to start a garden is the desire to start a garden.  If you don’t like dirt, you don’t like a little sweat and time in the sun; gardening is not for you. Check out your local farmers market.  So the first step is that you want to garden.

Next you need to define what a garden looks like to you.  Not everyone needs to dig up all their grass and turn their whole property into a garden.  A garden can be as simple as a small container in a sunny window or it can be a couple of feet in your backyard.  The pallet garden beds that I wrote about in a previous post make a wonderful small kitchen garden.

Now, we have established that you like dirt, know the size of your garden area, next you have to think about what you want to plant.  Please, I beg you do not plant veggies that you have never tried before, or worse is veggies that you don’t  like.  Do not plant cucumbers if you do not like cucumbers.  Last year I planted 8 cucumber seeds and I got 110 cucumbers… if my family did not like cucumbers we would have had a problem. Lettuce, cucumbers, squash, peas,  and beans are all wonderful low maintenance crops.   For your first garden, keep it simple and don’t try to do every veggie known to man. Seeds can be bought at the grocery stores, hardware stores, gardening centers, or even Walmart.  If you were to ask me which seeds I would choose I would say Seed Saver Seeds, but I started out with Blurpee seeds just like everyone else and they worked great.

All of the crops that I mentioned, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, peas, and beans… the seeds can just go right into the ground.  Don’t worry about getting an early start.  It does not matter if the soil is perfect. A sunny spot with some dirt is all you need.  Compost, soil pH, and mulching are all things we can talk about later. In most growing locations you can plant your seeds after the weather starts to turn warm.  It is fun to plant and just watch Mother Nature take over.  Provide sun, water and some dirt and you will be amazed at what can come out of that little seed. The cool thing is most of the time the seed packet tells you what to do and how to plant the seed.

Keep it simple and have fun. Let me know how it turns out.