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Yesterday was the first day that really felt like spring.  There have been several warm-ish days recently, but most of them were really gloomy and overcast, or even raining.  Yesterday, there was sun, and it was lovely.  We all spent the afternoon puttering outside, in our shirtsleeves, finally!

Splashing in Shirtsleeves!

M enjoying the warm weather and puddles.

 

Spring is the dingiest time here on the acreage, though.  Between the mud on the kids and the mud on the dogs, the house is never clean.  Melting snow reveals all sorts of garbage that has somehow collected over the winter, as well as all the fallen and broken branches taken down by wind and snow.  Things need picking up and organizing.

Spring!

The sandbox, and a lot of leaves that need cleaning up!

 

I dug out my pruning shears and cut back several shrubs, while the kids picked up garbage, and Trevor (Hubby) cleaned up old leaves that had collected in the strawberry beds and strung fence around the grapes to keep the dogs from digging them up.   Cherry the mastiff passed away last spring, and we got another rescue mastiff about a month later; Brutus is a great pet, but it turns out he likes to dig, especially around the foundation of the house, which is a bit of a pain, and we need to figure out ways to discourage that.

Brutus

Our ‘new’ mastiff

Dog holes

Brutus’ digging is a bit of a problem.

On the bright side, my chives are up already!  In the south bed, they are up several inches, and very green; in the east bed, they are shorter and yellow-er, but they are up there, too.  We got these plants from my Mom, when she was dividing her own clumps; all three of them have thrived, which is great, because there’s something special about fresh chives in your scrambled eggs, and with the increased daylight, the hens will be kicking it into high gear soon, and we’ll be eating egg everything shortly.

Chives

The chives on the east side of the house – less growth, but more photogenic, out of the afternoon sun!

It’s kind of exciting to be thinking about planting things again.  I spent my evening planting my seed starts – we’ll plant them out in the garden in the last week of May and first week of June.  I am trying something new this year – I desperately want to grow melons, but in zone 2, it has proven difficult (impossible, so far).  I know some people here are growing cantaloupes in high tunnels, but I haven’t had any luck with any melon so far.  Part of the issue is the short season, and melons don’t appreciate transplanting; it is not generally recommended to start the seeds at all, and especially not more than a couple of weeks before planting out.  However, I don’t think that gives them enough hot days to set and ripen fruit.  This year, I’ve planted half a dozen melons in 2 liter (2 quart) pots, in the hopes that they won’t get root bound in the 6-8 weeks before our last frost date.   We’ll see if it works or not!

 

Meanwhile, we’ve got tons more pruning to do.

Valiant grape in need of pruning

This Valiant grape (still dormant) is desperately in need of pruning!

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Not *quite* two years, but close enough – yikes!

 

It has been a somewhat…eventful…couple of years, too.  Hubby went back to school to get some education in web development, and we had to sell the goats in order to find the time for him to work school in around acreage maintenance and childcare, but he got his certificate with high honors, and we’re casually looking at goats again.  I’ve had some health challenges, and have been trying to keep my graphic design / illustration business afloat through the crazy time challenges we’ve had.

 

On the bright side, we’ve continued expanding our knowledge and refining our garden, and the orchard is coming along nicely – we harvested a 5-gallon bucket of apples last fall, as well as crabapples, chokecherries, black and red currants, highbush cranberries, sour cherries, grapes, strawberries, and raspberries; we’re expecting the plums and pears to start bearing in the next couple of years, too.  We end up drowning in squash every fall, and I’m getting pretty good at inventing ways to eat them.

 

We’ve kept the chickens, too, and have added a few breeds to the roster.  We got Cochins last year, and we’re hoping that we’ll get some broody hens out of the deal, who will raise our chicks for us, and save us all the fussing with heat lamps and such.

 

I’ve got (yet another) ambitious order of trees coming for spring, and we’re looking at plowing up another garden bed, as we’re running out of room in the smaller one by the barn; I ordered some roses, too, to prettify the place, now that we have most of the fruit trees we really wanted.  Perhaps I will find some time to post about our growing, picking, cooking, and preserving again this summer!  Meanwhile, here is a little photo of the kids, who are also growing like weeds:

The kids, reading

I can’t believe I’ve got a child old enough to read!

 

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Whew, it’s been a busy summer…and fall!  Between gardens, goats, chickens, baby, and business, we’ve been living at a dead run since about May!

The pile of squash leaves after the frost (and one wheelbarrow of harvested squash)

The pile of squash leaves after the frost (and one wheelbarrow of harvested squash)

As a quick update, Hubby’s garden turned out great – moving it up close to the barn was a wonderful idea – it got a lot more attention when we were walking past it twice a day, and most everything thrived, including the squash, which went wild and started taking over the lawn, and the mangel beets, which we’ve never had any success with before, but managed this year to grow one nearly as tall as toddler M:

Finally a success with mangel beets!

Finally a success with mangel beets!

The goats loved those beets, too!  Too bad we only grew a few test plants.  Perhaps next year…

 

One drawback to having the garden so near the livestock was discovering just how much damage chickens can (and will) do to developing squash.  While it didn’t cause us too many issues in the end (we pulled in two wheelbarrows of pumpkins and spaghetti squash, plus a bit!), it was disappointing to see at the time:

What free-range chickens will do to the pumpkin patch...

What free-range chickens will do to the pumpkin patch…

 

We had planted a couple of garden beds to flowers, just to keep the grass and weeds from taking over, as we wanted to reduce our garden workload as much as possible.  I was pretty happy to be picking myself a bouquet of glads for my birthday – an unplanned bonus.  Hubby may be digging me more flower beds when we get serious about the garden again!

 

These guys grew with a surprisingly minimal amount of fuss and attention

These guys grew with a surprisingly minimal amount of fuss and attention

 

Fortunately, Baby J has turned out to be quite a laid back baby, and we’re doing much better in the sleep and getting-stuff-done departments than we were with toddler M at a similar age.  This is not to say we’re accomplishing a whole lot, but rather, our extensive baby preparations have allowed us to more-or-less keep up with the basic work, rather than falling terribly behind!

 

Baby J

Baby J

 

Hopefully now that winter’s finally here (it’s been hovering between -25 and -30 for close to a week!) I will be able to get to some of the stuff that’s been on the back burner during our busy seasons…including blogging!  I don’t promise to get back to weekly posts just yet, but you will be hearing more from me than in the recent past.

 

Now, off to figure out the breeding roster for the goats!

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Well, things continue to be hectic around our place, with garden harvest and the rush to finish outdoor projects before the snow comes (our first frost will probably be next week already).  It’s hard to type while holding a baby, and it seems that if I am not pulling onions or cooking dinner or trimming goat feet, I am pretty much always holding a baby!  So, instead of a rambling blog post, here are a few pictures of the things that are keeping us busy:

 

squash harvest 2014

 

squash is taking over the garden!

squash is taking over the garden!

random hens

 

Grapes in Saskatchewan?  You bet!

Grapes in Saskatchewan? You bet!

 

so cute!

so cute!

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Riches

We knew it was going to be a busy summer, and it has lived up to expectations.  A toddler and a new baby, on top of the goats, chickens, garden, and regular maintenance work has us feeling like we’re going 100 miles an hour, all the time!  Hubby has even wished out loud that winter would just hurry up already, so we can rest a bit.  I completely disagree, and want summer to go on and on, but then again, I haven’t been doing any of the heavy work.

 

Our garden has exceeded expectations.  The squash is taking over the lawn, and we have so many beans and zucchini that I’ve been selling them to colleagues.  For a garden that is less than a quarter of the size of the original, it is really producing!  We do need more space – we did not grow potatoes or corn this year, and the garden bed is packed so tight that we have to do quite a bit of watering, but the yield so far is still more than I expected.

 

2014 garden

 

A shot of the other side of the garden, where the squash is really going nuts:

 

squash in the lawn

 

We also have raspberries coming out our ears.  I love raspberries – they are one of my favorite fruits, but they are always expensive, and often hard to find, outside of the little $5 clamshell packets from California.  So, our first year here, I planted lots of raspberry canes.  I probably overdid it.  No, I definitely overdid it.  We ended up with two 80 foot rows of berry plants, that have since grown together into one massive raspberry patch:

 

raspberry patch

I don’t really mind, though.  We have more berries than we can pick or use right now, but what we don’t use, the birds and other wildlife will appreciate.  In fact, I hadn’t really thought about it, but that huge raspberry patch is excellent habitat for a whole lot of critters, ranging from the fairly enormous “ohmygod what on earth is THAT” bugs that I’ve never seen before, but which were out in abundance this year, to spiders and even finches.  While I was picking, I came across a bird’s nest with a baby bird and all!   I saw it just in time to avoid knocking it off its perch, so I carefully marked the spot so that I could come back with the camera, then avoid that bit of the patch until the little bird had grown up:

 

goldfinch nest

I am pretty sure this is a goldfinch nest, mostly because they are the only common bird around here that I know of that nests in the fall.

 

Looking around at all of the bounty we have here to use and share, I truly feel rich.

 

raspberries

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As promised, a return to your regularly scheduled programming.  Around here, the regularly scheduled programming seems to be…winter.

 

snowy walking

You’ll notice, though, that there is a little bit of ground showing under the trees, which is somewhat encouraging, at least.

 

This is the time of year when I would normally be pulling out all the stops with seed starting.  Generally, we re-arrange the living room to make space for all my seed flats.  This year, with the baby coming, I agreed to keep the gardening (and therefore the seed starting) to a minimum.   This is not the sort of agreement I tend to be any good at sticking to, and Hubby was well aware of that, but…

 

lonely flat of seed starts

I’m sure you’ll agree I have showed remarkable restraint.  That’s a pretty lonely half-flat of starts.  It’s the only one in the house (so far), believe it or not.

 

On the bright side, the tomatoes are starting to peek up!

 

tomato starts

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Spring is coming.  No, really, it is.

 

spring flowers

With the weather forecast to finally come up to around the melting point, after months of -30, the announcers on the radio were all talking about people planning their gardens.

 

I planned my garden in December, and ordered my seeds in January.

 

The rural life encourages long-term thinking and planning, I think.

 

If you want eggs in November, you need to order the chicks in February, plan and build your coop and run in April, collect your day-old chicks in May, feed and protect them through the summer, and butcher your excess roosters in October.

 

chick in the grass

 

If you want carrots in November, you need to plan the garden in winter, order seeds before May, plant in spring, weed all summer, harvest in September, and monitor the root cellar through the winter.

 

carrot harvest

If you want goat kids (or milk) in May, you have to plan your breeding the January prior, reserve a buck, get the buck in February or March, raise the buck through the summer, order enough hay in June for all your spring kids and mommas, breed in November, and feed and monitor through the winter.

 

aurora the goat kid

Every year, we’re planning next year’s kids, or chickens, or garden.  We assess what’s working, and make notes about what to do differently next year.  We budget our money and our time, and make breeding, planting, and construction plans based on when we think we’ll have enough of each to get our projects done (though we’re almost always over-ambitious with both).  We think months, seasons, even decades down the road!  We planned our work for this spring, summer, and fall, last summer and fall, knowing we’ll have less time and energy than usual with the new baby.  We made our planting and breeding plans accordingly.  While I’m sure there are folks just starting to think about their gardens now that the weather is starting to turn, we’re way past that stage…we’ve got the seeds in the basement, the garden map figured out, and the seed-starting stuff will be coming out of storage soon to sprout the early tomatoes…

 

…because spring IS coming soon, you know!

 

honeysuckle flowers

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