Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chickens, etc.


Our little flock of chicks! We actually have six chicks, but only five are pictured. Trying to take pictures of a flock of chicks is possibly more difficult than cat herding. On the left side is our little Bantam chick with the fluffy legs.

We've got two cuckoo marans. These ones have been the least peppy out of the whole bunch.

We have two buff orpingtons. Their docile demeanor seems to be evident already.

Our sole ameraucana has some attitude! She is constantly running around the brooder getting into the other chick's business. I would bet money that she remains the alpha chicken, if there is such a thing. We selected this seemingly random variety of chicks for cold hardiness and for their different colored eggs (why not?). We should get chocolate brown from the marans and blue-green from the ameraucana. The others should lay beige/cream colored eggs.

Our chicken tractor is being painted right now. It will end up dark purple to match our front door. We'll probably get this done in a week or two. By the time fall rolls around, we'll have a coop completed. We're excited about the utility of a chicken tractor, especially as we are getting prepared to add another garden bed for a berry patch. We plan to plant some green manure in the new garden spot and then move the chicken tractor around the bed to let the chickens work their soil-improving magic.

The garden is free of snow at last! The grass is greening up a bit despite the dogs best efforts to turn our yard into a giant mud puddle.

The most obvious signs of growth in the garden are in my flower bed. A variety of bulbs have come up and most of the perennials are putting out leaves. The shade bed with my hostas, hellebores, columbines and ferns is still doing pretty much nothing.

Today I planted 9 tomatoes in the greenhouse. There should be a mix of purple cherry tomatoes and some beefsteak tomatoes. I also planted out about a dozen purple bell peppers.

The herbs evacuated a greenhouse garden bed into hanging baskets to make room for more plants. The rhubarb evacuated itself into a strawberry-rhubarb pie that was delicious. (The strawberries were store bought.)

Still no salad from the greenhouse. I initially planted out seedlings a week or two earlier than last year (February). This would have been fine more last year's weather, but not this year. Those seedlings froze and died and so a second group of lettuces was planted. Cold temperatures and lots of rain have resulted in slow growth.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bloomin' Tuesday

Click on the mums to go to Bloomin' Tuesday at Jean's blog. It's a nice way to see a sample of what is going on in different areas of the planet.

This spring is especially exciting for us. We built our garden last May, so this is our first spring with a garden. I am in love with perennials! Every day my husband and I walk hunched over through the garden searching for any new signs of life and commenting on every little spot of green.

I can't even remember all of the different bulbs I planted last fall (much less where I planted them), so we are constantly surprised by new flowers. Things are pretty sparse, but they are alive!

In the vegetable garden, our outdoor rhubarb is finally starting to wake up!

In contrast, the rhubarb in the greenhouse is doing great. Mmm.. looking forward to pie and preserves.

The black September currant is the furthest along of any of the fruiting bushes or trees in the yard. Right now it is still hard to tell what survived and what died. With week long sustained -12 degree temperatures multiple times this winter I wouldn't be surprised if we lost some things.

The flower bed is full of perennials and bulbs coming to life. In a few weeks we should have hyacinths blooming. The dianthus wasn't phased by the snow; it is the sage green mound in the foreground. The Shasta daisy and lavender foliage both stayed green throughout winter and are difficult to make out in the far side of this bed. Painted daisies, blanket flowers, bee balm and phlox are beginning to make an appearance.

The strawberries are coming to life despite looking as if they were flattened by feet of snow. We doubled the size of the strawberry patch last weekend and are condensing the size of the herb patch to better suit our needs/taste buds.

Here is the big picture of what's happening in our garden. The beds have green manure crops growing in them which will be tilled under before our last frost date of June 1st. Thought your growing season was short?

Next blog post... chickens!! Jeff is building a chicken tractor this week and we pick up a few chicks April 22. We're excited to expand the homestead.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Spring Update

Here are some pictures to illustrate what has been going on in our indoor and outdoor gardens. It's been going fairly slow the last couple months (hence, no posts). Primarily within the last week, the majority of our snow has melted and we've seen signs of life in some of our perennials and trees.

Our cherry trees are starting to put out some buds.

The lupine is starting to wake up. We didn't get to prune things last fall since the snow surprised us in October and hung around until just a few days ago. I will be cleaning up the garden this weekend and getting it ready for spring.

We planted a winter green manure mix last fall, but it didn't have time to grow. I'm happy to see that as the snow recedes, the seeds are finally germinating (5.5 months later!). Hopefully we can till this in by June 1st and have some extra organic matter added to the soil. With the green manure and the actual manure from last fall, our soil should be significantly improved this summer.

Clover did manage to germinate in the fall. It doesn't look like 2 1/2 feet of snow and -12 degree temperatures this winter even phased it!

There is still a foot of snow in some parts of the garden. When I look at the garden right now it looks like a wet, soggy, sloppy, depressing mess. It's hard to believe that we'll have it completely planted in two months.

Bulbs are starting to bloom in the perennial flower bed in front of the house. I planted the bulbs somewhat haphazardly last fall. Now I am thinking that this bed could use some evergreen plants as anchors so that spring looks a bit more green.

The rhubarb is my pride in the greenhouse. Hmmm.. how much longer until I can chop this down and bake a pie???

The chrysanthemum and coreopsis cuttings that I took in the fall are almost all grown up. They're relaxing in the greenhouse until I get brave enough to plant them outside. Maybe 4 weeks or so?

Also in the greenhouse, the peppermint, oregano, lavender, chives, and sage have all started to wake up. Below is the peppermint.

Inside the house, the germination and propagation station is cooking. Below are broccoli, arugula, chard and shallot seedlings for planting outside in about a month.

Tomato seedlings are a bit farther along. Some of these will be kept in the solarium and some will be planted into the greenhouse. Despite starting things fairly early (Jan 1st), the seedlings are still small. They had some difficulty with aphids which stunted their growth. This was dealt with by spraying the seedlings regularly with neem oil and a dish soap mixture.

The citrus trees have bloomed and have set fruit. A few weeks ago we noticed signs of scale and spider mites on these trees. Each tree got a sponge/toothbrush bath with diluted dish soap to remove the scale and webbing. Then they were sprayed down with neem oil. I might repeat this process again in a couple weeks. The scale is started to slowly come back, but the trees still look very healthy. At the same time that I cleaned them up, they were also fertilized with blood meal, bone meal and some beet root liquid fertilizer.