So much is going on around here I don’t even know where to start. The warm weather seems to have triggered a rush of things to do and the to-do list is always longer than the hours available in the day. But we have been extremely productive and so much has been getting done. It is all very fun and exciting, but also totally exhausting.
Let’s start with the chickens:
The pullets are getting close to laying now. We are at 19 weeks of age on Monday. I have seen the rooster breeding one of the pullets this week and he doesn’t breed hens that aren’t currently laying, so I think that one is getting very close. Plus, her comb and wattles are much redder than the other’s.
It will be so wonderful to not have to buy eggs anymore! I can’t wait. And I already have two dozen a week sold, with several other deals in the works.
The eggs in the incubator are doing well. All 7 are still alive and growing. We have some definite air sac issues with the shipped eggs – shipping is not good for eggs. But I am very hopeful that the chicks will survive despite their mal-formed and mal-positioned air sacs. We have a plan for the surprise egg that is 2 days ahead in incubation. We are going to move it to it’s own section in the incubator at 18 days. It wont completely stop getting turned, but it should decrease the amount of turning quite a bit (in our bator each section needs to be full of eggs for them to get proper turning). I also think I will increase the humidity a bit when that egg hits 18 days, but not the full amount that is supposed to happen. If it works, it works. It’s worth a try.
Now on to the cows…
We have not had any inquiries yet about Charlotte. But from what I have heard milk cow sales pick up after Memorial Day with kids out of school and summer started and such. So I am hoping to get some calls soon.
Charlie is continuing to grow. We have not decided yet when it will be time to send him to freezer camp. With feed prices what they are we need to weigh the cost to feed him with the amount of food we will get off him. Ideally, we would keep him until fall, but first cutting hay prices will help us determine the right plan. First cutting will be coming in in the next couple of weeks.
And the rabbits…
Little Miss Fuzz Tail failed to get pregnant for the second time. She has been re-bred. Third times the charm, right?
Arania was due to kit yesterday. She has always done well before, so we were expecting it to go smoothly, but it looks like maybe she didn’t take. She’s never gone longer than 31 days and today is day 32.
Her last litter of kits is 11 weeks old. They were ready to butcher last week, but we have been so busy we haven’t gotten to it yet. Hopefully in the next few days we can get to that.
And last, but not least, the garden. This is where all the time and energy has been spent the last few weeks.
We have made great progress with the construction. It is not finished, but it is closing in on it.
We put up the fence that separates the garden from the kids’ yard. It is about 3 1/2 feet tall. Just enough to designate where children and dogs play, verses where plants grow. We used some logs that weren’t useable for anything else around here, so it made for a cute, and inexpensive log fence.
We also got the asparagus beds built. Which leaves only the top layer of terracing and raised beds to be built before mid-June. Yay! We planted the asparagus as well. It will be a couple of years before we reap the benefits of that, but it will be worth it.
A lot more planting happened this weekend. Over 1,000 carrots, about 75 beets, more spinach and lettuce (for succession plantings), and some more onions (these ones around inside the garden beds for pest control).
We have been having some stumbling blocks with the garden as well. I was planning to put out the cabbage, parsley, and chive seedlings this last week. They were all strong and looking great. I had hardened them off for 10 days. Thursday afternoon I had a sudden and massive die-off in the seedling trays. I have no idea what happened. It wasn’t just those that were being prepped to go out, my tray of marigolds and comfrey had a massive die-off as well. they hadn’t even been started hardening off. I have no idea what happened. The seedlings were all very strong and looking great – better than I’ve ever had before. It is very, very frustrating. I have never had good success starting plants inside, and here it was going so well only the crash and burn at the last-minute.
So, fearing that it was some disease spreading through the plants, I decided to take the ones that were still strong and alive and hurry up and get them outside and out of the trays away from the dead stuff and the tray dirt. I even put out a few herbs that aren’t supposed to go out for a few more weeks and put them in wall-of-waters for protection from the cold. I was hoping to save something. After the transplanting I still have basil, rosemary, and parsley alive. The chives are very very dead. The cabbage are holding on by a thread. What is with me and starting seedlings inside?
Another garden stumbling block is our dirt. We purchased a bunch of dirt to fill the garden boxes. It was a topsoil/compost mix. We carted it down the stairs to the garden by 5-gallon buckets. 8 cubic yards of it. Not fun. But we figured worth it. Well, it is much more clay-like than we would like and it is forming a major crust. Nothing that I planted last weekend has sprouted yet, and I am also worried about the carrots and beets I planted this weekend. They are not good at sprouting through crust. I went looking for ideas to help this situation. I found that I should use a nurse crop of radishes (we hate radishes) or put a thin layer of straw over it. We opted for straw. So this morning, after planting and thoroughly wetting everything, we put a thin layer of straw over every section of the garden that had been planted. In our climate it is not ideal to mulch at all until well into summer, since it is so cool here. But I figured that a very thin layer wouldn’t effect that much and if the plants can’t sprout through the crust then it doesn’t matter what the temperature is anyway. By the later afternoon sun everything was pretty dried out and I moved some of the straw away to peek under it…it still looks like it’s got a pretty major crust. Sigh. Oh well, we will just leave it and see if we can get anything to sprout. I really hope the dirt issue doesn’t ruin the garden for this year.
In addition, my squash and pumpkin seedlings were getting big and some had some little flower buds starting on them. Seeing that the weather isn’t going to frost this week, and since I was going to put them out next week anyway, I decided to put them out too. I put them out in wall-of-waters, I do that every year so that I can put them out 2 weeks early. Some years I get a small crop, some years no crop – our season is just SO short. But I keep trying anyway, and keep dreaming of a real crop! This year we are trying something different with some of the squash. First, we did what we always do, and put a few in the garden with wall-of-waters around them. But the rest of them (11 in all) were put on a compost heap. My husband has been reading about composting and trying to figure out how to best utilize the 4,000 lbs of cow manure we have to deal with per month. He read somewhere that you can make a big heap of it (with the bedding and stuff mixed in) and plant your squash and pumpkins on it. So we figured it was worth a try. We will see how it goes. It is not inside of any fencing, though I don’t think anything will eat the leaves. I’m more worried about things getting to the fruit before we do when it comes ripe. I’m sure raccoons and maybe even deer and bears would like pumpkins and squash. We will see!
Lastly, as a break from all the hard work, and to add some fun to it all, I painted some more old-fashioned signs to decorate the garden (the previous ones are decorating the coop). I found the wood up in the old wood pile that has been here for decades. They add a nice atmosphere and make use smile.
So here are some pictures of it all:
The pumpkin patch/the compost grow heap
The garden, with straw over everything that has been planted to help with crusting and with wall-of-waters protecting sensitive plants. Plus, my terrace decorations :-). No, they aren’t labeling what is actually in those beds, just decorating it to make us smile.