Friday, December 28, 2012

Itty Bitty Greenhouse

A few weeks ago I was cleaning out my itty bitty greenhouse which tends to become the catch-all junk room over the summer for everything that can't seem to make it all the way from the field to the barn or the shed.

I took a few pictures that day with the intention of writing yet another post regarding my observation that this greenhouse is also a favorite nesting ground for a large black widow population.

Putting off this post though has made my point moot because this is what ten inches of snow did to my greenhouse while we were gone to Iowa for Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tulips in the Ground

Finally.  Just like last year, the bulk of our tulip bulbs were set to arrive the first week in December and just like last year it rained the day before they arrived.  And every fourth or fifth day after that.  I really wanted these bulbs in the ground much earlier than this but I definitely wanted them in the ground before Christmas.  Yesterday it had been five days since it rained and with seventy percent chance of rain last night I figured the ground was as good as it was going to get.  Milan actually helped me put out one bed of four hundred bulbs and I was able to get the next three beds in the ground while he was napping.  It took us right up until dark to finish mulching the beds but we got done.  Last night as the rain started at about nine, I felt nothing but relief.  Looking back on pictures of tulips from last year, despite the epic fail that it was, I am excited about spring.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Last Tomatoes of the Summer

Toward the middle of November we pulled the last green tomatoes off the last tomato plants left in the garden.  These heirloom Cherokee purples are finally ripening up and taste surprisingly fantastic.  With only a handful left, I'm sad to see them go.  Next June seems forever away to wait for a fresh tomato. I think it makes them taste even better though.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Concrete Truck

And then the concrete truck arrived.

It was time for the guys to get to work.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Waiting on Concrete

Last Wednesday evening Robert and Milan and I put the final loads of limestone screenings in the barn in preparation for concrete on Thursday morning.

Bruce and his crew arrived early Thursday morning and finished the prep and then we all waited for the concrete truck.  Bruce doesn't sit and do nothing very well but he does enjoy playing with toddlers.  And much like a toddler, Bruce is innately drawn to playing in a dirt pile, even when it's too small to use any equipment in.  So while we waited, Bruce and Milan built roads.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Toddler Chores

Milan is into being independent right now yet still too small to do certain things independently (like open the gate to the chicken yard).  He had adapted by getting himself a bucket of sunflower seeds and feeding his chickens through the fence.  Or by making the chickens reach through the fence to get the seeds that drop from his bucket as he points out seeds already on the ground.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Prep for Walk-In Cooler (part 1)

I should have been posting about this project for the last few weeks because now I'm so far behind on it I feel a little overwhelmed by it.  On a trip to Iowa a couple of months ago we decided to prioritize the farm needs for the next few years and the two projects at the top of the list were deer fence and cold storage.  After brainstorming the pros and cons of different cold storage options we decided to build a walk-in cooler that will be made cold using a CoolBot system.

For people who haven't been to our place, we live in a barn.  A large green metal building that we built about eight years ago.  We live upstairs and most of our four-legged family lives downstairs.  Over the course of eight years though our living needs have changed.  This summer one of our old horses passed which left us with two extra horse stalls downstairs that were doing nothing but accumulating stuff.  So a few weeks ago Robert decided to tear out those stalls in preparation for our walk-in cooler and more useful storage options.  I wish I had taken a picture before he started but by the time I got my camera out he had two walls torn down and things were underway.

Originally we thought we might work on both stalls separately to avoid having to move so much stuff around since one stall was full of our horse hay for the winter.  So we went ahead and had a truckload of limestone screenings brought in to raise the floor about a foot in preparation for concrete.

(This would now be known as Milan's Big Dirt Pile).  When Bruce came out to talk about pouring concrete though it soon became clear that the project would cost much less if we went ahead and filled in both stalls at once.  So out came the hay.  And since the other two horse stalls were where we put the "stuff" from the now empty stall, the hay ended up stacked everywhere.  With more stuff stacked on the hay. 

The combination of hay and the lumber (from the stall walls) stacked everywhere made it a little tight to use the tractor to haul screenings in from the Big Dirt Pile but we got it done.  

Pictures of more progress tomorrow!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Broccoli Harvest

A little bit of rain earlier this week made our broccoli heads pop!  This morning Milan and I harvested a big load of broccoli and a big load of kale to take to the Hillcrest market tomorrow morning.  With the girls starting to lay a little heavier in the last week we also have a fair amount of fresh eggs heading to the market.  Hoping for another great turnout tomorrow morning before the temperature drops on us next week!

Monday, December 3, 2012

More Bulbs

Last week we spent an afternoon working up a bed that used to have blueberry bushes in it to get it ready for flowers.  Several years ago we planted a row of blueberry bushes on the north side of our dog pen and they just never grew very well compared to the bushes we planted on the south end of the dog pen.  The biggest difference in their growing conditions was definitely the amount of sunshine each row received.  Two years ago we started another row of blueberries in full sunlight north of our blackberries.  Last spring we decided to extend that row by transplanting the older bushes that we didn't feel were getting enough sunlight.  This left an open space that looked perfect for a flower bed.  And it just so happened that I had bags of flower bulbs to fill it.  The remainder of Robert's impulsive splurge at a big box store a few weeks ago, I now have a huge bed of daffodils and dutch irises.  Now the hard part....waiting.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Speckled Egg

The holiday season has definitely taken it's toll on my blogging and I have pictures and posts backed up from as far back as October.  So tonight's post is going to be short as I wade through photos to help me tell a few stories.  I've been enamored with pretty eggs for a few years now and despite the fact that thousands of eggs have passed through my hands, I still love a pretty egg.  This egg I found last week was one of the most unusual I've seen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Feeding Critters

Milan takes his chores pretty seriously.

And this weekend got to teach his friend, Tommy, how to feed some critters.  Good visit!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Under the Row Covers

Cold temps two weeks ago completely wiped out the last of our tomato plants, sunflowers and zinnias despite Milan tucking in the flowers and saying "night night".

Our cooler season plants are still going strong though.  A little help from some row cover didn't do much to keep the plants warm but did help keep the frost off our lettuce and broccoli.

I left the kale uncovered because it seems to only get sweeter with a little frost.

We pulled back the row covers that morning to harvest beautiful green leaf lettuce to be added to my friend Eddie's farmshare baskets.

We're hoping to make it back to Hillcrest this Saturday with more lettuce, baby kale, broccoli, eggs and garlic.  Maybe even a guest appearance by monster Milan himself.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Green Tomatoes

With frost showing up a few times over the last few weeks and a freeze imminent, Milan and I spent an afternoon last week picking green cherry tomatoes.  It was kind of a free for all with goats and dogs joining us to catch the last remnants of summer.  

While I do have a lot of these stored up in the freezer, tomatoes are one thing I don't think I can ever have enough of.  And while the taste and texture of tomatoes from the home garden ripened off the vine is no where close to perfection, it is still a step ahead of store bought tomatoes.  As these ripen I like to throw them in the food processor to make a tomato sauce I mix with brown rice and ground venison and I hear no complaints from Milan or his daddy.  Yay for forty pounds of green cherry tomatoes!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tulip Bulbs

It seems my inability to pass up bargains on fall bulbs at big box stores has rubbed off on Robert who came home from work with about five hundred flower bulbs last week despite the fact that we have thirteen hundred tulip bulbs showing up in about three weeks.  With the price he got them for, I wasn't one to complain and actually had room for another bed of bulbs in the flower garden the tulips are planted in.

The tulip supplier I buy most of my bulbs through makes claims regarding how much better their bulbs are than the ones sold at big box stores.  For all I know, they may originally come from the same place.  I would think of this as sort of a trial between both suppliers although there is another variable in place between the two batches of tulips we are planting this year.  The reason our tulips from Colorblends are not coming in for another three weeks is that they recommended putting them through the pre-chill routine in which the bulbs are held at low temps for a period of eight weeks before being put into the ground.  This is recommended for areas like ours where the winter doesn't necessarily get cold enough to do this for the plants.  Last winter was so warm that even the pre-chill process didn't help much and the tulips we planted grew about six inches tall before blooming way too early for market and way too short for florists.  Tulips are by far our biggest gamble but I'm a sucker for them despite the anxiety I know they will cause me..  So, here we go again.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


As usual (good or bad) when it rains, it pours around here and we've got kale coming out our ears right now!  Yesterday I harvested kale for both online markets and today's Hillcrest market.  We've eaten kale for supper every night this week.  The goats get a bucket of kale every day.  The guy who worked on our satellite dish yesterday went home with a bag of kale.  And every afternoon Milan doggedly hauls a 5-gallon bucket from the garden to the chickens to feed kale to Grey Bird.

Luckily, the chickens love kale too. 

I'm thinking the next time someone asks why some of our eggs are green I may simply shrug my shoulders and point to the kale.