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raccoons

Baby Chicks and Double Digging

By | farm journal

Week 10

2017

Three New Recruits

Our egg production has gone way up with the warmer temperatures but I’ve been wanting to add more green to our egg rainbow since last year. So with the arrival of the first batch of chicks at the feed store I was ready! And I love the way they bring new life and spring and beginnings right into the house in the most joyous and palpable way. And so we got three new chicks, all Americanas—Dr. Naylor, Francesca, and Turtle. And they’re SOOOO FLUFFY!

Transplanting & Re-Seeding

The first batches of transplants went into their big kid pots this week. It’s so satisfying to see neat little rows of happy teeny plants. It really shouldn’t be so surprising to see how many plants come out of a 200-plug tray when you spread them out, but it’s quite a lot!

After some time to recover from the mouse devastation (and one culprit caught) I have begun re-seeding the trays that were wiped out. Peppers seemed to be a clear favorite of those hungry vermin, and the spinach and cilantro suffered, too, along with marigolds and zinnias, but those may have simply been collateral damage being next to peppers. I reseeded as many as I could with what seed I have left, and set a tight perimeter of traps around the fresh trays.

Double Digging

We started to prep our first planting bed for peas radishes and carrots (and really really late garlic because… Do what you can!) The area this bed is going into is directly north of the Alpaca Loaf/Chicken Coop, so it’s been getting a huge amount of water from the still-un-guttered roof and now also from the greenhouse, and it was heavy clay to begin with. I could hardly get through the surface with the broadfork. So we decided to give double digging a try and add lots of compost. It took both of us half the day to finish the first 4′ by 22′ bed, but it does look rather more inviting for baby veggies now. Time will tell if we find this amount of labor pays off!

After all that hard digging we took the shovels over to the garden to compare how our mulching and manure and compost and clover have done, and the soil there is much healthier! Darker, better aggregate, less compaction… It’s going to be a walk in the park to prep those beds by comparison!

All About Seedlings

By | farm journal

Week 9

2017

The Greenhouse

We started building our greenhouse in November… It was all-consuming and fun and empowering and frustrating and it might never ever be all the way done.

The best part of it by far is the rad high-hose we installed so we can water everything without dragging a hose down the aisles. It’s THE BEST!

We’re still working on getting gas and electricity hooked up, so we’re getting by with extension cords and space heaters for the time being. We’ve got the cold sensitive plants in mini-tunnels that get tucked in at night, and so far that’s keeping everything happy.

Seedlings Everywhere!

We have a couple thousand lavender transplants slowly waking up from their winter slumbers. They all have strong root systems so we’re just watching to see them explode in growth above the soil.

Getting our annuals going has involved a bit more heartache…

First, I ordered all the seed I could think of and got so excited when they all arrived I just started putting them in trays… 100 or 200 of everything. And then I started realizing I was about to run out of real estate for seed trays and was going to overrun the garden with all those plants. Then, we went off to Colorado for a weekend and left our brave and wonderful farm sitters to deal with our shabby high-maintenance system. Most of the trays of starts didn’t make it through the hot afternoons. But the time away gave me the chance to finish our garden plan and come back with more realistic numbers for each variety we’re growing, including some to sell at plant sales, and enough to support our very informal trial run CSA that we’re putting together for this year.

Planning, Planning, Planning

This overall farm plan has proven indispensable again and again. We’ve used it for the conservation practices we’re implementing through grants from the NRCS, for our Organic Certification, for our planting numbers, and sometimes just to look at and daydream.

The solstice drawings helped us figure out the best placement for our greenhouse and high tunnel to maximize their solar gain. The high tunnel is scheduled to go up by April.

Now we’re using the placement of the high tunnel to lay out our planting beds for this coming season. I drew up hexagonal plant spacing for each bed and used it to calculate how many seedlings to start. It’s been a little challenging to know when to start a lot of these seeds since we need to have some ready for our first event in mid-April but our planting out date for frost-sensitive plants won’t come for a few weeks after that. I’ve just been working really hard to keep detailed records. We’ll do the best we can with what we have this first year and with enough notes, we’ll be so much wiser when it comes time to do this again next season.

Those two ideas have been my mantras through this planning phase. It always feels like we’re behind the curve and behind schedule. Deep breaths! Move ahead! And take detailed notes!!!

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

And then there were mice.

After several days of moping that we lost so many seedlings, I put myself back together and got excited about planting anew with more appropriate numbers. And now I’ve discovered that I have inadvertently created a five star mouse retreat. It’s the bleakest time of year and here we have this warm cozy little spot with a breakfast bar of seeds that gets replenished every day!

Those crazy little rodents dig up each seed leaving a mess all over my neat, carefully labeled trays, and eat half the seeds right out of their shells. It looks like a massacre.  A mysterious, tragic massacre. It took me a few days to understand what was happening, and my first reaction was devastation and rage. And then I tried to imagine those furry little guys coming upon this feast and holding my precious seeds in their teeny tiny little paws and thanking the heavens above for their unbelievable luck. It’s a little less painful when I think of it like that. But then I set mousetraps… because the world is cruel and confusing.

The Chicken Miracle

Almost a year ago we built this awesome new chicken coop into the same structure we built to house our alpacas, our tiny hay barn, and our planting benches. Only… we never finished securing it against predators. And the chickens never got the memo that it was where they were supposed to sleep. And we never did much about it, because for a year we hadn’t seen any evidence that raccoons or any other critters had been bold enough to come into the yard thanks to the dogs and alpacas.

That changed a couple weeks ago when Kemper woke up to the sounds of raccoons. He went running out with Remy the guard doodle and chased them off, and we collected all the sleeping chickens within reach and had them spend the night in a teeny cage in the kids’ bathroom.

Miraculously, all ten chickens were accounted for the next morning. We spent the next two days installing chicken wire and transformed the place into a fortress. Now, with the irresistible lure of chicken scratch every evening at sundown, we’re finally getting those ladies into the groove.