Farm Update, March 2013

We have been blessed with absolutely glorious weather the last little while. The whole family is rosy-cheeked and my hubby and son have matching farmer’s tans. At the end of March?!!!

We have been making hay while the sun shines like crazy.

There have lots of small tasks completed in the last little while, and some enormous ones, too. We’re all sore and sleeping hard at night!

Veggies

We’ve made a wack of soil blocks and the broccoli, kale, and other cole crops are all poking their heads out in the greenhouse. The leeks were broadcast sown in a tray and are well on their way. With any luck today I’ll get the tomatoes started as well.

seeds in soil blocks

The potatoes will finally get into the ground today as well, come hell or high-water. We’ve got 50 pounds of organic seed potatoes . . . The estimated yield from that is 500 pounds. I’m not sure where we’re going to store all those yet, but my hubby works best under pressure. I’m sure there’s a root cellar of some description in our future. (Probably around potato harvest time.)

We scored a ton of rhubarb cuttings from our neighbours, and it is growing like gang-busters. There was one existing rhubarb plant in the garden, so we won’t have to a couple years for a harvest – thank goodness! Strawberry-rhubarb anything is my hubby’s favourite.

rhubarb

We’ve also staked out a spot for the asparagus patch which I’m hoping to order this week. That harvest we will have to wait for.

Soil

I planted the peas about a month back and they are just,  just, making their appearance now. Our rock-hard clay soil is proving to be more difficult to manage than we expected.

So (despite our commitment to frugality) we bit the bullet and had 30 yards of organic garden soil brought in and 6 yards of gorgeous compost. The organic garden soil is a pretty skookum product – greensand, glacial rock dust, lots of organic matter and importantly for us – a fair amount of sand. Hopefully this will help fend off the garden’s tendency to become a lake / raging river during heavy rains.

We are using the soil as a top-dressing. Once we get growing in the soil and get the biological activity ramped up, the worms and other critters will do the work of incorporating it for us.

The kid and dog seem to think we’ve had the huge mound of dirt delivered just for them. They’ve been playing plenty of King of the Castle and the mound has kept them blissfully occupied while mama and daddy work.

Kitchen Garden

We’ve found the basic ideals of permaculture to be very helpful in our understanding of how to garden and farm. One of the big ideas is to keep crops you use more regularly or ones that are more tender and require more care as close to the house as possible.

(Also, I’m lazy and don’t want to schlep all the way down the driveway to the garden to gather herbs for supper.)

So we’re putting in a small kitchen garden just off the back deck, which has easy access from one of the kitchen doors. A good measure of where to put a kitchen garden is how far are you willing to walk outside in your slippers. The grass (ok moss) has been tilled up and composted and we’ll put slightly raised beds in later this week.

Berries

One of the fun parts of buying the farm is we can now qualify as “wholesale” buyers of nursery stock. In our neck of the woods, blueberry plants usually cost about $15 each, at best $9 if you can catch a sale. Strawberries are generally sold in sets of 5 for about $5-$7.

We’ve scored 20 blueberry plants for just over $3 each, and the strawberries are $23 for 100. Yes, 100!

Our veggie garden’s west end terminates in a small seasonal creek. The margins haven’t been maintained well, and that coupled with the fact the whole garden slopes westward means it’s subject to some serious erosion with fall and winter rains.

blueberry plants

To combat this we’ve planted our blueberries just in from the edge of the creek, running parallel with the edge. I’m hoping the small hill they’re planted in, along with their roots and mulch, will help stabilize the bank and keep the soil in place. We also plant to plant some sort of soil-holding, bee-attractive plant along the leading edge, probably something like catmint, which forms a low mat of perennial roots and the bees love.

Clearing

We had a neighbour in last week to do some serious damage to the blackberries engulfing the section of the farm we want to be the hub of compost and other work. What a difference a day with a backhoe can make!

IMG_4149

It looks a bit severe now, but holy smokes what a difference. He reclaimed a ton of land, took down a line of trees that were choking our back field of sunlight and air, and was able to bury some of the roots and stumps in the back field which is nearly always water-logged. I’m hoping this rough-and-ready hugelkultur will help combat that and give the field a better chance at storing all that water without becoming a lake. The back field was also graded and we’ve got lots of wood now for the wood-burning stove we plan to install this fall.

graded field

{ Hugelkultur is a permaculture technique of burying wood to create a sort of underground water-resevoir / heavy-duty compost that you then cover with soil and plant on top of. }

Our neighbour made us a work area for chopping and storing wood, a zone that will become a material depot (we’ve now found free sources for both hog-fuel and horse manure who will actually bring it right to us!) and a compost centre. The area lies to the east end of the veggie garden and we’re going to extend the veggie garden from 84 feet long to 100 feet long to meet up with it.

Of course, these kind of projects fall into the “getting worse before it gets better” category. Clearing the brush revealed the contents of an entire bathroom and a huge row of fence between our place and the neighbours that is virtually non-existent.

Chicks

We split a chick order from McMurray Hatchery with our neighbours. We don’t have a ton of hatcheries here in Canada, and virtually no direct access to heritage breed chicks. It cost $75 for health papers to bring the chicks across the border, so pooling the order meant that not only did we only need to make one trip south, we halved the cost of importing them.

We got a selection of heritage breeds, 10 of each of 6 breeds. Not the most practical, but I’m feeling flippant about my chickens this year. I just want lots of lovely, friendly girls in the garden. They are growing like stink and eating me out of house and home. I can’t wait to get them outside eating grass!

Ducks

We also picked up a flock of Muscovy ducks at the sale barn. I’ve never had Muscovies before and I absolutely love them. They’re the only creature I know of that will eat our humungous west-coast slugs, the forage like champs, lay beautiful, rich eggs and don’t quack! They are quite comical on their daily stroll to the creek to eat roots and bugs and my son loves filling up their water trough and watching their crazy daily bath.

muscovy duck eggs

We hoped they would set their own eggs but so far they seem uninterested. Instead we’ve got the brooder full and hopefully we’ll have some duck for the freezer before long. I’ve heard Muscovy is wonderful eating.

muscovy duck

Farm Dog

We lucked out and picked up a Great Pyrenees puppy about a month ago. We’ve been looking for a livestock guardian dog for quite a while, but my goodness they’re expensive! 12 to 1500 dollars for a dog?? Plus we’d have to pay to fly it from who knows where? Sheesh.

livestock guardian dog

We found our sweet girl just by fluke not far from home. So far she’s not doing such a great job of minding the ducks, but she’s doing a really good job of minding my son and I. He’s in love.

And last but not least . . .

A bun in the oven! We’re expecting our second baby at the end of September. I’m anxious after my ridiculous birth-experience with my son and am struggling with my decision to have a doctor care for me instead of a mid-wife like last time.

However, the time is going fast with all the work to do and my lovely little boy holding my hand and telling me “it’s ok mama” when I’m suffering from morning sickness. He is determined it is a baby sister in there . . . We’ll have to wait and see!

7 thoughts on “Farm Update, March 2013

  1. solarbeez

    I’m glad to hear someone else trying the Hugelkulture bed. I stuck a bunch of twigs, logs, and stumps into a bed also, covered it with soil, but haven’t planted it yet.
    May I make a suggestion on the wood burning stove. We love ours. It heats the whole house and we can cook on it too. It’ll heat water if need be or bake your bread. It’s called the Baker’s Choice and can be seen here… http://solarbeez.com/2013/01/23/slow-heat/ The fire box is big enough to hold 9 inch diameter by 18 inch lengths of wood.
    Congratulations on the bun in the oven…does this mean you’re not going to have enough time to blog? Or you’ll have more than enough subject matter to write about? Either way it’s great! I hope the grandparents will be close enough to visit often. We sure like our little grand kid visits.

    Reply
    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      This is our first time with Hugelkulture, I’d love to hear how yours goes. Our soil is ridiculously heavy clay here, and with all our pacific northwest rain it has become a lake in the winter time. I’m hoping the hugelkulture will solve two problems – deal with all the scrub from all the cleaning up that needs to be done and help store water / improve the drainage. I’m optimistic. Some permaculture techniques we’ve tried have been fantastic failures, but this seems pretty straight-forward, so he’s hoping.

      As for the wood stove – I’ve seen those and they look wonderful. I wonder if we’d be able to get them here in BC? I am SO looking forward to some sort of wood burner. Our house is 120 years old and just made for that type of heating.

      And I have no idea what the new baby will mean for the blog. I’m sure my hubby would prefer I spend my time working the farm or actually working for money. . . We’ll see how it goes. Luckily my family lives about an hour away, so my boy gets to spend a day a week at Grandpas and Grandmas. They all love it. My dad says “keep ’em comin’!” 😀

      Reply
  2. grammomsblog

    Congratulations on the pregnancy! I’m sure you’ll figure out what is going to work best for you.
    Your farm looks wonderful! Rhubarb, cherry blossoms, beautiful good earth, puppy, darling little boy………..you can’t ask for anything better!

    Reply
  3. Pingback: birth, death, a near miss and other amusements | The Slow Foods Mama

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