Playing in the Dirt

I started the morning by adding three nuisance birds to our bag in preparation for Nuisance Stew.  Since we have a lot of Starlings and similar invasive/nuisance birds around I had the idea of eating them.  A quick Google search showed that while I am crazy, I’m not the only one.  I now have 6 or 7 birds in the fridge that will be going into some sort of dish on Monday.  We’ll see how it works out.  If nothing else they’ll make decent dog and cat food and they’re fun target practice.  Not to mention that I’m helping farmers and the native cavity nesting songbirds.

After the backyard hunting excursion we took Bella to a friend’s birthday party then picked up a few things for the garden from Lowe’s.  We walked out the door after spending almost $40 and not getting a single thing we had planned to buy.

Upon our return, the real work began.  Okay…  Maybe we ate fried chicken and watched TV first, the real work did happen – eventually.

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I dug all the old flowers, weeds, and small trees out of the previous tenants flowerbed.  The dirty bowling ball-sized rock was buried in the bed, too. I’ll put in some of our early plants in here tomorrow or Monday.  Unfortunately the bed is in the middle of Tank’s path so it will have to be fenced in.

The best part of the evening was building a little dirt pit for the kids to play in and watching them load and dump a handful of rocks over and over.

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The sod boundary walls will hopefully keep most of the dirt and rocks contained.  We’ll see.  For the moment at least the kids are enthralled and are following the rules pretty well.

While the kids played in their dirt I started digging the garden.  The neighbor stopped by and offered the use of his backhoe – which I don’t want anywhere near my garden.  I will, however, be asking for his help with excavating if my pond plans work out as I hope.  I think I’ll be able to persuade another neighbor to lend me a couple pigs to seal up the pond.  But I need to get a better handle on the garden and new chicken tractors before I go to far with that project.

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The Garden

For most of us spring is a busy season.  Mix that with a touch of laziness and sprinkle some procrastination on top and you have an un-updated blog.  It’s certainly time for an update!

Our garden was put in with the aid of our goats and chickens, enriched by a couple hundred pounds of rabbit manure, dug and turned by hand twice, and tilled by an almost-running free rototiller.  Months later it’s unrecognizable as the sun-baked, wind-blasted wasteland it used to be.

This is after the garden was tilled and raked into beds.  Bethany had a detailed plan of what she wanted to plant in each bed and how much space it would take.  The stakes are sumac trees that I drove in for cucumber trellises.

Our cucumbers quickly outgrew the indoor starter pots and had to be moved outside.  In the future we’ll try to start our tomatoes earlier and our cucumbers later.

A month and a half later the corn is twice as tall as Bella.  It took a long time to come up after planting so we were a little concerned, but once it started it grew like crazy.

We finally have little green tomatoes on most of the 20+ tomato plants.  They’re much denser than any we’ve grown before so in the future we’ll probably plant them in single rows instead of double.  It might be tough to pick all the tomatoes from these.

The pole beans seem to grow a foot every day.  They would be 10-12 feet tall if the poles were tall enough to support them.  Instead they’re growing horizontally when they reach the tops of the poles.   To the right of the pole beans, the black beans are doing very well.   They’re a bush type bean but they have a tendency to fall over so next year we’ll probably tie them to stakes.  Our lima beans are behind the other beans.  We planted them too early so they didn’t come up well.  We’ll probably get a few limas but not many.

We planted watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple melons, and a couple types of squash along the perimeter fence.  It took a little training to get it to climb but it’s doing well now.

The biggest failures in the garden are the cucumbers and peppers.  We’ve gotten almost 40 cucumbers already but all the plants have bacterial wilt and are looking pretty poor.  The plants are still growing and producing some but who knows how long that will last.  The peppers, for one reason or another, never got planted.  The initial attempt didn’t germinate, and the second attempt never really happened.  We have about 4 plants instead of the 20-30 we had planned.

All in all things are going well for our first real garden.  It’s been a learning experience and there are definitely things we’ll do differently next year, but for now we’re happy with it.

DIY Potting Soil

Saturday, we started planting seeds for our garden. We wanted rich, composted dirt. We found it… in the chicken pen. This time, however, the dirt had been through chickens and goats and also had been the previous site for our compost pile. There were also composted pine needles in the mix. Instead of breaking up the clumps the best we could, Danny tried something new: Continue reading DIY Potting Soil

In Like a Lamb

The old-timers say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, or comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion.  It’s been pretty lambish all month, so we might be in for a drastic change next week.  We took advantage of the cool, foggy morning to do a little gardening before the sun got up and going.  In July an 80 degree day is pretty nice.  In March, it’s a bit too hot for comfort.

The first part of the day was spent weeding the strawberry patch and spreading moldy hay the goats didn’t eat over the winter as mulch.  Weeding shouldn’t be such an ordeal, but last year we quadrupled the size of the patch in early spring, then never mulched or weeded it the rest of the year.  Lesson learned.  We pulled all the weeds, moved a couple of strawberry plants, and put down a thick layer of mulch.  To keep Tank from burying his bones and pieces of chicken in the refreshed garden we put up an electric fence around it.  While the fence does nothing to keep goats in, we can at least use it to keep dogs out.

Speaking of the goats, we’ve been moving them to fresh pasture every couple days.  As a hoarder (I prefer the terms scavenger or collector) I have a few pallets around.  Pallets make pretty decent fences with the addition of a few boards and a handful of screws.  It’s a bit of a job to move the pen, but only has to be done every couple days.  Good fences make good neighbors, but my neighbor is furious about this one.

The wire fence on the right is on what she considers the property line.  It’s roughly in line with my driveway, which at the front of the yard is a foot from the edge of her property.  Somehow it was determined that the wire fence delineates the properties’ boundaries.  The actual line is about 12 feet to the left of the wire fence, clearly marked by a 6 foot tall railroad tie complete with a surveyor’s ribbon tied around the top.  I left room to drive around behind the garage when I built the fence, not realizing by doing so I would be causing problems down the road.  Now I have a pallet pen there containing two happy goats, causing one unhappy neighbor.  I’m starting to understand why the Great Wall of China was built.

A while back, we had a rabbit give birth to a litter of 8.  She stopped taking care of them and they all died.  I don’t think we mentioned that on the blog.  Anyway, about a week after that, another rabbit had a litter of 8.  They’re all doing fine and are starting to venture out of the nest.  If anybody is interested, they’re purebred New Zealands.  I’ll sell them for $15 each.  Otherwise, they’ll be dog food.

The third doe had a litter of 5 last night.  It’s her second litter of 5, so if her litter size doesn’t improve by the third litter she’ll become dog food and we’ll replace her with one from a litter of 8.  We’re attempting to line breed, since it can reportedly work very well with rabbits.  As the saying goes, “If it works, it’s line breeding.  If it doesn’t, it’s inbreeding.”

We’ve started working on the garden even though we won’t be doing much planting for almost two months.  More on that in another post.