Posted in Goats/Chickens, Uncategorized |
August 16, 2011
Its been hard to get off the mountain this week, really its been hard for the last several weeks. Not having internet or a phone and being a mile up a dirt road and having so much to do really makes it hard to take the time to drive away and communicate with the outside world. The past few days have been sunny with cool breezes but this morning it rained, hence me going to use the internet.
Josh and his dad have been busy figuring out the high-tunnel. Josh will write a more detailed report about how it has been going, but so far we have found level ground using a hose, water and some clear tubing, they have figured out how to drill the holes for the pipe and connect them together, and last night at 8:00 they got the first bow done so now the rest theoretically should go faster.
They also made a farm cart that has proven to be incredibly durable and able to withstand some rough work. Everything else has continued to grow while we’ve been busy, our tomatoes are in full swing now and we have boxes covering every flat surface with tomatoes of different sizes and stages of ripeness.
My goats had a bout of diarrhea last week, I believe brought on by consuming something in the pasture their stomachs were unaccustomed to. I gave them baking soda, and some Dynamite Miracle Clay and within 24 hours they were pooping berries again. The pigs are happy, we have to move them faster now as they go through the pasture so quickly. Their tails are always curled up in curly-cues and when we go out there they make happy excited little grunts and squeals. We’ve decided we are going to keep Ham for ourselves, he is the smallest of the lot and also the one I am least attached to. Really I could have eaten Ham or Bacon but Pork-Chop I would have had a harder time with, just because she is so cute and has a bigger personality than the other two. We got Cole Ward’s video about butchering our own meat. It is cheesy but very well done and worth the time and money if you are interested in cutting your own pork, lamb, or beef.
We have also just been approved for a kick-starter program to build rice patties in september! We’ll let you know when our page is up on the web!
Posted in Uncategorized |
August 10, 2011
We’ve had a good few days of soaking rain. It has kept us inside doing the necessary inside things like starting starts like broccoli, spinach, cabbage, kale, and Tatsoi and doing some planning for next year. This coming week we should have our high-tunnel going up which will be a great help to our slow tomatoes. They are ripening just taking their time and ours.
We got one more garden bed built this week which is exciting and helpful. The rain did put a bit of a damper on the construction of them since our soil will become cement if manipulated while wet. The pigs however do not stop in the rain and have been doing a marvelous job at turning the soil up for us. This picture is from about a month ago and they are a bit bigger than that now taking on more of a hog look and less of a piglet.
The Goats and chickens are also doing their jobs. We moved the chickens from following the pigs to following the goats and they seem to like that much better, although they seem to like being in the goat pen more than their own and I am constantly having to throw them back over to the other-side when I am trying to milk. The goats are doing a nice job devouring the woody material and are finding the better pasture of out front a bit more palatable than the stuff the pigs are still working on out back.
The rice is turning a lovely shade of golden brown and drooping to the weight of the seeds. I tried one of them today, they are amazingly hard, similar to putting a small rock in your mouth, but once you get into it it softens up and is easier to chew, not much of a taste but an exciting mouthful.
That’s all for now enjoy the sun and the rain!
Second week of August and our tomato plants are still holding off on turning ripe. We’ve been harvesting cherries and glaciers off the plants but all the big guys are just hanging out in their green skins refusing to show any signs of reddening. Thankfully we will have a high-tunnel up to cover them by the end of August so their season will be extended to hopefully make up for this late start. Everything else is moving along nicely. The rice is beginning to turn a golden brown, the carrots and beets are being enjoyed for dinner most nights, and the second planting of beans are starting to need picking. I’ve found my favorite bean to be the Maxibells, they are a long, thin green bean that to me have the most excellent of flavors, I have yet to see how they turn out frozen or dilly-ed but I will let you know the results.
I made my first goat yogurt on monday. I looked up how to make yogurt without a yogurt maker and found a variety of methods, water baths, warm sunlight, microwaves and crock-pots. I opted for the crock-pot since my mother has three or four of them stowed away under her kitchen sink, and I don’t have running hot-water, a microwave or enough warm sunlight to keep something warm for a length of time.
I started by heating the milk to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. I just heated mine right in the crock-pot. It took about half an hour to reach the temperature but since we have solar electricity it made more sense to use that than the propane stove. Once it reached temperature I had to cool it back down to 112. I wondered why I had to go through the trouble of heating and then cooling and learned that heating it to 185 makes the whey proteins denature and coagulate to enhance the viscosity and texture, in other-words thicker yogurt. When my milk was hot enough, I poured it into a stainless steal pot, covered it and set it on the cold floor of my kitchen to cool. Once we were back down to 112 it was time to add my culture.
I used a Y5 sweet yogurt culture from New England Cheese Making Supply. The culture came with easy and simple directions for rehydrating the culture in the 112 degree milk for two minutes before stirring and letting sit for another 6-8 hours. 112 is the temperature most comfortable for the bacteria in the culture to eat the milk sugars and ferment to make delicious tangy yogurt.
I poured the milk back into the crock-pot poured in the culture and let it rehydrate, then stirred it turned the crock-pot on low and waited. After about half an hour the crock-pot was nice and warm again so I turned it off unplugged it and placed it on a chair, wrapped in a dark shirt, in the full sunlight.
I continued to check it periodically through-out the day but the sun and the crock-pot were keeping the temperature right where it needed to be 110-112. I ended up leaving it in the crock-pot all night for a total of 18 hours, way longer than my simple directions told me. In the morning I opened my pot and peeked inside. It was most certainly ready. I lined a steamer with butter muslin and poured my yogurt into it.
It had a lovely creamy texture to it and when I scooped some up on my finger it had an amazingly sweet flavor aligned with tanginess familiar to yogurt. I added maple syrup and granola and had a delicious speedy breakfast. On my way out the door I placed the steamer in its pot, lidded it and placed it in the fridge. When I returned I found a whole new yogurt had formed. It was a thick strained yogurt as thick if not thicker than the greek yogurt so popular in stores these days. I immediately plunged my finger into the creamy mass and indulged in its dessert-like nature.
I would deem the crock-pot yogurt excellent. A bit tedious if you can’t be home to check it every hour or so, but fun and delicious.
Anyone have any other inventive ways of making yogurt? Anyone have yogurt makers that they really like? Anyone have a yogurt culture or brand of yogurt they find works best for making yogurt?
August. The beginning of the bounty months. Our tomatoes are beginning to ripen, the peppers are hanging heavy on the plants, the carrots are getting ready to pull and the beans always need picking. We just bought a huge chest freezer to begin freezing our beans and other veggies for the winter market. Just in time really, as we have been pulling 15+ pounds of beans a picking from the first planting and I am watching the second secretly hoping they hold on ripening until these beds have finished, they won’t so we will have to make lots of dilly beans and do a good amount of freezing.
This week was the first week of milking full time for us. Hey-Zeus only nursed one side of Esther and I was too unprepared to fix the problem when I should have so he left us with one udder that fills up full and another that used to hang kind of flabby. I did a bit of research to find out if I could rectify this and if it was permanent or not. It isn’t. Next time she freshens it should fill evenly. I also learned that if we milked the smaller side more frequently we could boost production on that side. We have been milking her four times a day since Wednesday of last week. Milking both sides in the morning and evening and the one side at noon and right before we go to bed. There has been improvement, her one side is beginning to develop tissue again and be a little more competitive with the left side.
I also did some research into natural udder care, which proved to be a little disappointing at first since everyone wants to use bleach and hard chemicals to protect against disease and infection. I kept looking and finally came across a blog of a farm that used BioKleen Grapefruit seed dishwashing soap as an udder wash, and Grapefruit Seed extract diluted in water as an antibacterial rinse for their dairy cow. Graprefruit seed extract is pretty powerful stuff but if ingested it is not harmful It isn’t harsh on her udder, but I do have to be careful about where I pour it because it will kill both harmful and beneficial bacteria so too much in the septic system wouldn’t be very good. Their website has good instructions on how to make the mixes and a recipe for a natural udder salve: Freedom Acres Farm
Esther truly enjoys having her udder rinsed with a cool wash cloth and I’ve been putting on coconut butter to keep the skin nice and moist. She seems to be a happy girl now, and has become incredibly friendly, almost a completely different goat.
We made our first Chevre on saturday with a gallon of Esther’s milk and a culture from the New England Cheese Making Supply. We were too impatient to wait for all of it to drain so we squeezed some and mixed three kinds, black pepper, garlic-herb and maple syrup. They were well enjoyed by the family and thanks to them for the photographs of our lovely first cheese.
Our rice is also very happy. The hot sun these last few weeks has made it explode in seed heads that are beginning to sag and droop as they get closer and closer to ripening. I wonder what these two old trees think about a rice patty growing below them. I can imagine them as an old couple chuckling to themselves about young-uns and their crazy ideas.
The air here has been thick, heavy and hot for the last week. Even at night when we are used to having cool breezes to put us to sleep the air has been sticky and stagnant. This morning for the first time the air was cool again, I put on a sweater on my way out to milk Esther and didn’t come back with it sticking to me like I have for the last few days.
We sold Hey-Zeus on Saturday. The actual moment when I separated him was pretty painless. I’ve spent so much time holding him and carrying him that he and Esther didn’t really think much of it. Neither of them said a word when I walked away, he munched on my hair while she placidly nibbled the grass her tail wagging to keep off the flies. He bleated once when I placed him in the back of the truck with the young ram, but Esther was too far away to hear him at that point. She was silent all evening, I was afraid to check on her because I thought my presence might spark a memory. It did. The next morning when I came to feed and milk she was silent until halfway through milking when she usually would bleat for him and he would respond. No response. She tried again more forcefully but still no response. Soon she had stopped eating all together and would bleat and wait bleat and wait and dance on the stand wanting to be free to go search for her kid. I let her go when I was done and she just stood on the stand looking at me, as if to say “well, where did you put him? You had him last!” I’m not as brazen as maybe I should be or will be, I am sad that he is gone, and I have a hard time watching Esther looking for him and calling for him. I know they are animals, and that they are not supposed to have the same emotional spectrum that we humans possess. I know this is part of owning a milking animal, that at some point whether it is at birth or later on the babies will have to go, be separated from the mother. I just wish there was a better use for boys than the soup pot. It seems so terribly sexist that at his birth I felt a tinge of disappointment, a boy. If I was a different person maybe I would have imagined what he would taste like and licked my lips in anticipation. Somehow I don’t think this will ever be me but maybe next time I won’t let myself get so attached.
We milked her together last night, Josh milking while I distracted her with sunflower seeds, vetch, salt and minerals. She was good for the most part, she made several attempts to put her foot in the milk pail but the way we are milking our arms block her legs so she didn’t manage to get anything in the milk. Isla seems totally unaffected by the missing herd mate. Somehow she seems calmer though, less in need of affection, more content to munch her hay and grass. Less competition maybe? She’s not worried that someone else is winning over my affections.
After milking we made dinner, a soup with new purple potatoes, fresh garlic, a green onion and left over greens from the market on Saturday. I first spent far too long peeling the garlic, it was mesmerizing the feel of the petal like encasing around each tiny bulb. I finished eventually and squished them with the flat of a knife and let them sit while I prepared everything else. I sautéed the onion and garlic then tossed in the potatoes and mixed them together. I added enough water to cover the potatoes some fresh ginger and a little of braggs liquid amino. When the water was hot I added four big handfuls of greens so the pot seemed almost full of them, I stirred them into the hot water so they broke down. I added more water to cover the greens a few leaves of fresh mint and basil pinches of salt and pepper, then covered it and let it cook until the potatoes were soft and tender. We had two bowls each of the soup an ear of fresh sweet corn and a glass of cold goats milk with maple syrup for dessert.
Sorry no pictures, I’ll add some tomorrow!
It has been a sunny humid week here in the hills of Tinmouth Vermont. Conditions our rice seem to have enjoyed very much. I’m not sure why I was as surprised as I was to see the first seed head popping out, but I am pretty sure I squeaked a little and maybe even did a little jig, as well as I could with buckets for feed and milking. That was back at the beginning of the week and since then the rest of the patty has erupted in exciting stalks of potential rice!
Hey Zeus is growing as fast as the choke weed. I neglected to look up disbudding when he was born and now it is too late to have them removed. After doing research into the process I am a little on the fence about whether or not disbudding is the way I want to go with my goats. I’ll have to read some more but right now I’m not feeling like fighting nature. He is available for sale and I can get his paperwork together for those interested.
The fruit is getting heavy on our trees. The peach tree had so many peaches on it two years ago that it actually snapped, last year it didn’t have as many but this year it is back in full, so we are keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t over extend itself. The berries are also coming into ripeness, and we have been gorging ourselves on black-caps, blueberries and the first raspberries. I made a delicious zucchini crisp the other day, I made a basic apple crisp with black caps included but instead of apples i diced up zucchini, topped with ice cream you can’t tell the difference!
Any thoughts on catching rabbits? Anyone interested in our bucking? Anyone else have a good way to hide zucchini? or a creative recipe from the garden?
Baby animals, weeds, and the weather.
The week has flown by for us here at Breezy Meadows. I apologize for the single picture post last week the insanity of having a kidding, 16 turkeys arrive and 32 chicks all in the same weekend was a little overwhelming. So far everyone except three turkeys are doing great! We’ve lost three chicks to what I think is suffocation, even though they have plenty of heat our turkeys just seem to want to be on top of each-other which ends in unhappy turkeys. I’ve been keeping a closer eye on them and whenever one looks a little week in the knees I separate it for a few hours and they seem to perk back up. They are heritage breed turkeys burbon reds and Spanish blues, we are selling them as chicks so if anyone is interested in raising their own thanksgiving turkey let us know.
These are the chicken chicks I’ll get some pictures of the turkeys up soon
I had Esther’s milk for the first time this morning. I was surprised by how creamy it was. Esther definitely thinks I am weird, whenever I am back there she gives me this look, which now she gives me all the time, sort of disapproving and confused. She really makes me think about milking and just how intimate and strange it is. She doesn’t get that dreamy look in her eye that some people talk about, she just looks back at me and bleats worriedly and tries to step in the milk pail, which she often succeeds in doing.
We named our little buckling Hey-Zeus after the other famous immaculate conception. Esther of course did not immaculately concept, she was actually supposed to be bred, the farm gave me the wrong goat! I can’t say I mind, it is such a sweet surprise to have him bouncing around. Now that he has finally gotten full control of his legs he is jumping on everything he can find. For more baby goat pictures check out the gallery
In that picture he is standing on the new milking stanchion that Josh built me. The design comes from Fiasco Farm which is a great resource for all things goat. Esther did pretty well her first time on it. Isla was the main problem she kept trying to put her head through the stanchion with Esther, I think she thought she was missing out on something. I wonder how she will do when it is her turn to be in there.
The pigs learned about electric fence this week. We put up a wire around the inside of their pallet pen so that they would learn that boundaries will electrocute them. Now they are out on two strands of wire next to our chickens. The chickens whose fence is not electric have been going over to visit the pigs and josh found them making a mini parade the pigs routing about one by one and the hens following scratching in the newly turned soil left from the pigs. Since the chickens are still at least half the size of the pigs they haven’t been bothering them, we’ll see what happens.
It rained a great deal this week. This kept us from weeding and from doing much of anything in the garden. When the clouds finally parted and the sun came out we found that the weeds had been busy in our absence, we’ve worked on pulling them out but the wild pasture next to our garden has been slowly crawling over the bank of our beds and has now begun to work it’s way through the onions and on its way to the peas. I think we need to build a moat.
Our specialty salad mix is getting more and more popular at the farmer’s market. We sell claytonia, garden cress, lambs quarter, orach, baby spinach, baby kale, baby beet greens as well as mache and arugula. They are all the same price per pounds so people can mix all their favorites together. Starting in the next couple of weeks we will also have amaranth available to add to the mix which is another uncommon green, that is colorful and delicious. If you want to try some of our salad mix in action visit the Domestic Diva for a scrumptious salad with her homemade dressing.
Also if you aren’t aware of it Solarfest Tinmouth’s very own renewable energy festival is happening here in Tinmouth in two weeks. Josh is going to be giving two workshops on home garden season extension as well as the permaculture mind-set. Check out their website to read full descriptions of his workshops as well as others.
Anyone have any advice in keeping goat feet out of the milk? Anyone interested in an oberhasli buckling? He is very very friendly and if given the chance will jump on your lap and come home with you. Anyone have any good goat milk recipes?
All around the world in places with thin soil and mountains or hills you can find terraces. It makes a lot of sense. Controls erosion, encourages soil building, much easier to work on and they also are very pleasing to the eye. Some of the oldest of these terraces can be found in south east Asia where the same terraces have been farmed for thousands of years. The majority of them farmed as rice paddies. I read a book a few years ago that changed my perspective of my future farming practices. It was called Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations. The book details the rise and fall of the most prominent civilizations and how they were effective by erosion and the salinization of soils. Today we are loosing topsoil around the world at very high rates. Per ton its one of America’s top exports. We wont have any place to go to find new soil so I want my farming practices to grow soil along with our produce.
Meadow likes to make fun of me but often times when the clouds are low and there are stray wisps that sink into the valley our Vermont hills remind me of some tropical rain forest in south east Asia (mostly because I don’t wear my glasses so distant trees are a block of green mostly). Besides the fact that we have snow and lots of it and that the sun is not quite so hot here we have many things in common. Here in vermont we have lots of hills and mountains and most of the time the soil on them is quite thin. So why is it that so much of their hillsides have been converted to terraces while ours have not. And why are we trying to grow wheat and corn on these slopes when a well managed rice paddy can yield double. I figured it was for two reasons one rice can’t grow here and we don’t make terraces because our ancestors have lived with out terracing moving on to a new place when the soil goes sour. But then I learned of some folks who were growing rice and had a successful crop in southeastern vermont. They had experimented with a hundred or so varieties and found a few that were from the very north of Japan that worked.
This got me excited. I attended a session at the NOFA winter conference of growing rice and started to learn more about paddy building and rice in general. I contacted the USDA seed conservation group and ordered my research seed which is basically the only way you can get the seed because importing rice is a tough thing to do because of pest outbreaks in the past. When get seed from the USDA they give you a small amount 5 grams or so and its your job to grow out more if you need it. This meant for our first year growing rice it would be on a pretty small scale. Which is good because then if I messed up the consequences would not be as bad. But then the seed came a bit to late to have it ripen in time. So I ended up having to wait a year to start our seed grow out.
Finally when this spring rolled around I was ready to get our rice ball going. To speed germination you soak the rice for 10 days or so then planted in transplant trays. I planted 3 seeds per cell to make sure I got a few plants per cell. The germination rate was pretty good and I ended up with 140 plants in 80 cells. After I had seeded them I wished that I had done it in two trays. It was so stressful when I decided it was time to move them out into the cold frame and then out to harden off. If I messed up and they got to cold I was out of luck I used up all the seed I had. I would have to wait for yet another spring to come.
We had two horses living up at the house this winter and there paddock is pretty flat. Every year there stall gets cleaned out and the feeding area outside gets scrapped up to compost. This year after I scraped it I made a first draft of a paddy and a warming pond using the tractors front end loader. I made a 13×13 area with raised walls for the paddy. The warming pond I made deeper and skinnier. The paddock when it was built was scraped down to subsoil and is very clayey so of course right after I made the paddy it filled with water making the leveling process a bit more challenging. The toads and salamanders found it only after a few days. Our pond must be at capacity, the water ripples when you wake along the shore because of all the tadpoles and salamanders swimming to the deeps for safety. This led to the second problem of the leveling process, Tadpoles. I couldn’t drain the paddy completely or I would kill the hundreds of tadpoles that had taken up residency in my little paddy. I tried to avoid crushing them and used a board and a level to get pretty close to level. You want the paddy to be close to level so the water covers the rice the same no matter where it is.
I finally got the courage to set the rice plants out into the paddy. I added some organic potting soil to the spots where the rice was going to be planted to make sure it had a nice boost of nutrients and so it would root better. The rice was planted on a 1×1 foot grid pattern with 2 or three plants on each spot. Closer plantings can work but I wanted to make sure they had enough space. Next year with a bigger paddy I will do more experimenting with spacing and yield.
The rice is in the growing stage now. The plants are growing fast when the sun is out. We have had a lot of cloudy rainy days so they have lots of time to plan their strategy of getting taller once the sun shines. The next stage will be the heading stage where we hope to have more warm sunny days. Cold and cloudy weather during the heading stage means trouble for seed production.
We have been keeping water in the rice paddy for three reasons. The first is that we have a really good seal on the paddy so very little water seeps out. The second is the amount of rain we have keeps filling the dang thing up. The last reason is the toads just keep on mating. I can hear them calling out for some loving right now. It will be the third set of little guys produced since the paddy was built. Ben Faulk who will be giving a talk on rice growing at this years SolarFest has paddies that leak so his are not constantly flood and he has had three years of success.
The rice will be ready to harvest by mid to late September. We will have plenty to plant and a bit to eat. We still have to work out the best way to process them into brown rice for selling at market. In Japan they make lots of small scale equipment for rice growers but they are quite expensive to try to get over here. If enough folks start growing rice we could go in together to buy one and share it around as needed.
Our plan is to have at least a quarter acre of rice next year. That should yield around 1250 pounds of rice in a good year. We would then go up to around 2 acres in the following years. With two acres of rice we could be producing between 7000 and 10000 pounds of rice a year depending on the year. I’m still trying to figure out what size our final rice area will be. It mostly comes down to time management. We still will have our forest garden orchard/ market garden and animals to manage. I’m sure I’ve missed things that I want to talk about. Once the rice starts heading I’ll post another update with more pictures and thoughts. Check out the gallery for more pictures.
.Posted in Rice | 9 Comments June 25, 2011
We now have three goats!
We have pigs! Four of them, three for meat this fall and one to keep as a breeder.
We named them after meat products so as to be reminded daily of what these adorable little kiddies will turn into. Bacon, Ham, and Porkchop are the meat pigs and Gregina (Greg for short) is the breeder. She is the balck and white one We got them on wednesday and they have already turned over most of their temporary pallet pig pen. Their little noses are just so powerful.
We were able to build three new beds during the dry spell we had and have gotten some of them seeded with beans. The rain and the clouds made all our plants a bit antsy but now that the sun has begun to shine again they are all growing like crazy.
We are hay mulching our potatoes and it seems that everyday they need more hay on them, even if we bury them in it.
That’s all the news from the hill, we are hoping the weather will continue to hold and the sky won’t throw us any golf ball sized hail anytime soon, and that the deer with her adorable baby fawn will stay out of our garden and rice patty.
Any new animals on your farms? Anyone have any good pig stories they want to share?
It’s been 8 weeks since I first noticed Esther’s udder was developing. Her udder has grown since then and is impossible to miss resting gracefully between her legs.
We can’t do anything but wait and see if she kids sometime this month. I check her twice a day even though it is still early and play with both their udders to get them used to the idea of me being back there. Isla seems to be following her sister’s example and has a small udder of her own now.
They’ve begun to expect the pasture rotation at the end of five days. They don’t save the best for last and when the best is all gone they look to me expectantly. When they see us coming with the clippers, and when we start throwing chickens into their pen, they start bleating excitedly. They don’t stop until we lift up the fence and they stuff their mouths with as much green as they can and the only noise they can make are muffled little bleats of happiness.
Both their coats were looking dull and Isla simply refused to gain weight. I gave them Miracle Clay which is a natural dewormer made from mineral deposits and have begun giving them whole oats and sunflower seeds, as well as bringing them salt and minerals everyday. In two weeks both coats have become glossy and soft again and for the first time Isla is beginning to look bigger than a large kid.
We’ve had several irrational storms come through this past week. Now the weeks full of pulling hose and spending hours watering seem miles away. I guess its natures way of telling us not to get too comfortable, and to keep us from getting to cocky in predicting the future. Despite the torrent of water that went unused, and our toppled goat house I love these big storms. There is something so magnificent about them, and in a small way I feel like I am being included in this grandeur, just by being allowed to watch.
Anyone get washed away by the weather or wishing they were? Any guesses on the pregnancy or precociousness of Esther? Anyone successfully keeping pigs and goats together? (We aren’t planning on doing this but I would like to if Esther isn’t pregnant)
First week of June.
Time to plant.
Back in the winter I pored over seed catalogues, drooling at the variety of potential available to me. If you’re not careful with those catalogues, you may find yourself over indulging in what your eyes want but what your land and time management just can’t contain. The herb section is the worst, I don’t know enough about flowers to get terribly excited about them, but the descriptions for the herbs make it seem ridiculous for you to not plant at least one of everything somewhere. I ended up with well over half the herb section, as well as 11 varieties of sunflowers, 500 daisy seeds and a handful of other flowers to use for bouquets. Each one came packaged in their little white packets with simple directions on planting and growing them printed on the side. I was overjoyed to see them. I organized them into three sections first, second and third priority. First priority I had to start 8-10 weeks before transplanting, second priority 4-6 weeks and third I could direct seed. The third priority was much thicker than the other two and I never thought about what that would mean until now, June. I spent the majority of this afternoon poring over my seed packets and trying to figure out where all these intelligent little pieces of botanical life are going to fit into my narrowing garden spaces. I must have 15 varieties of perennial herbs some that spread some that grow tall some that need space, some that need sun, some that need shade and some that need nothing at all but to be strewn on top of the soil and left alone to do their thing. The space I have had in mind has gone wild with golden rod, and blackberry canes and I am daunted at the idea of taming it for my domestic uses. Tomorrow I will have to buckle up my boots and tackle them into behaving, at least for a little while.
The farm sprouted this week. Potatoes, beans, corn, fodder beets and rape have all come up in the orchard. We’ve had a little trouble seeding carrots and beets on our raised beds but some of them have arrived tiny green leaves pushing through the hard clay mound we deposited them in weeks ago.
This week is the last week of my after-school garden club and I am on the hunt for twenty-one, food grade, 5 gallon buckets for the kids to plant container gardens to take home. If anyone happens to have a stock pile of them and lives in the Rutland area give me a call: 235-2025.
Anyone else feeling overwhelmed by their seed packets? Anyone finding, or making new places to plant?
(Shoe photo from www.myyardrocks.com)Posted in Growing Food | 1 Comment June 3, 2011
Here is a recipe for a Salad that I have recently acquired an addiction for. It is very simple…
1/4 – 1/2 pound spinach
1/2 cup fresh chevre (goat cheese) or if you like chevre as much as I do put enough in so every bite can have some in it!
1 apple sliced into bight sized cubes
Balsamic Vinegar and Olive oil as dressing
(I use about 2 1/2 tbls of the vinegar and 2 tbls of the oil)
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss all the ingredients together and serve!
Alec made it for us one night and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. We’ve been using Brown’s Orchard apples that still have a crisp bright presence in the salad even after so many months of storage. I hope you get a chance to try it and enjoy it as much as I do. It can also be made with lambs quarter if you feel like eating the weeds from your garden!
This week at the market we will have:
Baby Kale New!
Cattail Shoots (tastes like cucumber and is great raw, on salads, or pickled!)
Lambs Quarter New!
Wood Boiled Maple Syrup
—Comfry, Bee Balm, Violets, Pink Ajuga, Holly Hocks, Motherwort.
Hope to see you in Rutland Tomorrow Market starts at 9:00am and ends at 2:00pm.
I don’t know where it is all going.
The temperature has been rising; we’ve been in the 80’s for several days now. Maybe I’m moving slower in this heat, my winter skin still not fully shed, but my summer brain listing all the beds that need weeding, the plants that need transplanting, the boxes that need making for market, and then I turn around and my house has gone and made a huge mess in protest to my neglect. We had family up this weekend, which was the only reason I remembered the house in the first place.
I managed to get it presentable by the time they arrived, there were still a few dishes that needed to be done and some dirt that could have disappeared, but there were lovely flowers on the table and fresh towels in the bathroom. As part of the holiday weekend Josh’s dad took it upon himself to put in a real door out to our garden. I say real door because it has a doorknob unlike the other doors in this house that use weights to keep them closed. The project ended up taking more than just an hour since our house is less than plum, but by the time Monday afternoon rolled around we had a lovely new door out to the front garden. I couldn’t be more thankful for all the work that was done this weekend, we got the door in, Josh’s sister and step mom helped me weed one of my herb beds and prune some of the overzealous lilacs we have growing around the house. I have to say it was a bit of a relief that they were all so eager to work on something, with so much to do it is so nice to have a family that is willing to pitch in even if it is a holiday. I hope they all had fun, and I apologize we didn’t have time for badminton.
Yesterday afternoon Josh and I transplanted our Tomatoes and Peppers into their permanent home atop the hugel bets. Josh declared it to be summer and we rejoiced behind our bug netting hats. We’ve also been reveling in the beginning of produce coming in. Asparagus, radishes, chives, orach, cress, spinach, and the abundance of edible weeds such as lambs quarter, plantain, and my new favorite chickweed. Josh’s sister turned me on to the plant, and its sweet flavor somewhere between a green bean and a pea pod make it an absolute delight to snack on in the garden. We are also playing with cattails.
I’m still not sure the best way to sell them, they have this succulent soft core that goes fairly high up the stock, but to sell just the core would be hard because it is so soft it might not hold up to five hours in the open air. We’ll see what happens. We sold them in bunches of three at the market and just told people to peal the fibrous skin back to find the cucumbery goodness within.
We also had morels at the last farmer’s market, wouldn’t you know my brother has them growing in his yard and around his pond. We were able to harvest ten good-sized morels from his place and then we found another 6 along our driveway. The morel gods have spoken. I made a tasty lawn salad with toasted morels and ricotta cheese, here is the recipe.
4 cups lawn greens (lambs quarter, dandelion greens, plantain)
You can substitute any cooking green like chard or spinach into this
½ cup ricotta cheese
4 ramps (now that they are past you can use 5 scallions or 2 leeks since they have come into season)
2 good sized morel mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
Rinse all your greens under cold water and make sure you get all the tough stems out. Sauté the ramps (or leeks/scallions) in 1 tablespoon of butter until translucent. Add the greens and sauté them until they are soft and have lost some of their bitterness. (If you are not a fan of bitter greens blanch the dandelion and plantain in boiling water for about 2 minutes before sautéing) Place the greens in a bowl and add the ricotta, salt and pepper and set aside. Chop the morels into rings about as thick as a nickel; place them in the left over tablespoon of butter and sauté until crisp and brown. (You should always cook morels for at least five minutes before consumption never eat them raw). Top the greens with the morels and serve.
We planted our rice amongst the tadpoles, salamanders and frogs in our patty. So far it is growing strong and making a lovely home for our water loving friends.
Potatoes have also gone in, our Adirondack blue potatoes from Fedco had rotted because our house was too warm (keep your potato seeds in a cool dark place!) but we had almost 20 from last year that we didn’t get to eating and had grown long purple spuds, we put them in the ground near our old chicken coop and hope for the best, I do love my purple mashed potatoes.
How is planting going where you live? Have you left the threat of frost behind yet? Did you lose any plants to the huge storms we had last week? Do you know of any other tasty lawn treats you want to share?
It’s our third week of hunting. We’ve been successful in bringing in the Wild Ramp, The over abundant dandelion, the fiddle head fern, the wood sorrel, the clovers, and even some cattail shoots. Some of these, like the fiddleheads and the ramps, have seasons that are about to end or have already ended, but for some the season has just begun.
Hunting for a Morel is like hunting for a fairy kingdom. You want it to exist, but you spend so long looking for it and thinking you see it, that you begin to think that maybe it only exists in tall tales or for small children. To find a Morel you have to be prepared for a good amount if disappointment and a lot of walking. They like to live in hardwood forests, especially near Ash, Elm and Cherry trees and they also supposably like old apple orchards.
They come in a variety of colors; the one most commonly found here is almost indistinguishable from the color of light dried leaves, a pale tan color, or the “Blond Morel”, Morchella Esculenta. One technique for spotting them is to get low to the forest floor and look up to see if there is anything poking out of the leaves or if the leaves are pushed up at all. That technique so far has not brought me any morels, but I feel very stealthy as I do it. I believe a morel knows when you are looking. It will tuck itself up under ferns, maneuver a leaf to be conveniently placed, or simply disappear.
Josh and I hiked for three hours around our property, hunting. We had to take breaks to rest our eyes from searching the leaves and fallen trees for our small fungal prize. We stalked around the brook peering with our untrained eyes for any protrusions from the leafy floor. We found pinecones; upright sticks, false morels, and even places where the leaves had been pushed up but when you moved them there was nothing underneath. We continued through the picker bushes, over the newly cleared pastures around the fallen trees from last years logging, all the places where a morel might want to live, and still nothing, nothing but decoys. Josh had been trying to give up the whole time thinking maybe it would trick them into coming out. I was sure we would find some but every time I had a good feeling about a place all that would come out was a globular false morel. We were on our way back when my eyes began to cross and I realized I wasn’t doing a very good job anymore. We were 500’ from our front door so I decided might as well just walk on the road and enjoy the last few minutes of our walk. That was when it happened, I gave up, and as I began to relax into just walking I looked down to the side of the road and froze, then I screamed. “Josh! JOSH!” I didn’t know what to do I thought that maybe if I moved it would run away. My heart was pounding, I couldn’t believe my eyes, they were real, they existed! Josh arrived and he approached it, of course nothing happened, it is in fact a mushroom and as far as I know they don’t bite. I know it sounds silly attributing mushrooms to magical creatures but I have to say I am beginning to believe in the holy morel divinity.
Our morel was there waiting by an old ash tree, did it know I gave up? Would I have found it if I had kept looking? Can mushrooms sense defeat? Can they chuckle? I for one am off to pray to the great fungal deity.
This week on the farm has been a busy one. We’ve been planting, transplanting and seeding, building an egg mobile for our chickens, playing with goats, going to the market and hunting for wily wild edibles. Last Saturday was the first market where we brought something we actually grew this year. Cress, spinach, and radishes were the bounty for this week.
Last week I made pickled ramps. To my surprise I sold every single jar I brought. I made more this week and before the market had even started I had a woman wanting two buy to more jars from me. I have to say they are pretty delicious and coupled with sharp cheddar cheese they make a mean snack or appetizer.
Esther and Isla have been devouring the pasture’s greenery, Esther continues to make me want to believe she is carrying kids. Her udder has grown from the size of a grapefruit to about the size of a cantaloupe. Her belly has gotten more taught and when I pull up I feel like there are small hooves kicking or tiny heads head butting me, but I might be imagining things.
We finally got the chickens out to pasture, I put them in with the goats last week but Isla wouldn’t stop eating their tail feathers while they were trying to lay their eggs so I put them back in their coop for the week. Then a few days before were going to move them into their new pasture we had one of our bard rocks killed by a hawk. Since the chickens are so large they can’t carry them away so I went to down to feed them a treat to find a chicken carcass with its heart torn out, apparently all they want is the heart and possibly some of the more delectable intestines, everything else isn’t worth the risk of getting caught I guess. Josh buried it in our compost heap where the other chicken was buried this winter.
My now six hens have their own pasture behind the goats pecking away at what the goats have left behind and lounging about in their swanky new hen wagon.
The apples have finally bloomed so I can change our website photo to spring! We are hoping for no frost since our peach tree has also bloomed and last year the peach crop was destroyed by the late May frost. It has been a wet spring and all the rain has slowed us down, the black flies however are in hyper drive, I go to sleep itching and I wake up itching I’m hoping that once I am bit enough times I will become immune to their irritating effects.
We harvested cattails this week, not enough to bring to market but enough to eat ourselves. Their shoots taste surprisingly of cucumbers and we have been eating them plain and in salads. We want to try pickling them to see what the result will be; I think it will be delicious.
I’ll be putting up some recipes for dandelions and other wild edibles this week. Anyone have some they would like to share? Anyone else finding new fun wild things to eat for dinner?
This week seemed to go by very fast, I’m not even sure where all the time went. Somehow though, it also seems like the week has been so very long and now on sunday with a week ahead of me I find myself wishing I could have another hour in the morning before my days start. This week’s post will be mostly pictures. I apologize, I promise to do better next week.
Our fruit trees are ready to bloom the next sunny day we have!
Our goats are eager to move to their new pasture, this is the line between their old pasture and their new one.
Here they are chowing down on the new greenery.
Josh and Alec have been busy building hugel bets in the dry weather we had this week. We have almost twice the amount of growing space that we had before, and they look beautiful.
Josh built two paddies for our rice and the toads have taken up permanent residence. They all moved out of the pond and have layed strings of black beaded jello eggs all throughout and singing up a storm.
How is spring progressing for you? Anyone else undertaking some ambitious garden projects this wet spring?
Finally the sun has been shinning long enough for the ground to dry out and for us to start building another round of hugelbeets. Last year we built 7 45 foot long beds which are now growing different greens, peas and onions. We have plans to do 3 more 45 ft beds and then around 25 23 ft beds. The 45 foot beds run close to north south. We did this to best accommodate the rolling high tunnel we are planning to get up soon. The shorter beds will run east west creating a few different microclimates on each bed. We also are arranging them that way because that is what our tractor can build. If the rows all ran the same way north south we would run out of room to move the tractor around while we are building.
Last week I piled up the horse manure and hay from the horses winter coral into a nice big pile. We use this for our first soil layer of the beds. It was pretty late when I had finished and I left the key in the wrong position. So when I went out yesterday to start up the tractor it was dead as a door knob. I also had parked it in a terrible place so we couldn’t go down and jump it. I had to run around Tinmouth trying to find extension chords and a charger. Then waited. And waited, and still no charge. Luckily we have so much stuff to do on the farm if one thing doesn’t pan out there is always something else to do. Today we finally got it started by dragging it with the other tractor and bump starting it. We lost a day which hopefully wont bite us in the tush. It looks like its going to rain for a week straight so friday we will be trying to harvest and build as many beds as possible.
The area we started with today is already prepped from last fall when we took of the top layer of soil and piled it up ready to be added to our final layer. I ran a few lines last fall to square the beds in the space that will be under the high tunnel. I measured off these lines to make an 18 inch row and a 3 foot bed. The row always end up being smaller once we pile on the soil but there is still a good amount of room to work with. I hammer in sticks to mark the 4 corners of the bend then mark a center line. The center line helps me keep the first layer of big wood in a almost straight line while leaving room on the sides for brush and soil.
Once the lines are marked I start added wood. For this bed we had smaller lengths of wood that were cut last year. These were small enough to carry while other beds we dragged larger lengths into place with the tractor. With these smaller pieces I like to do two on the bottom and resting on them. I normally shove smaller bits in the space that is formed between them.
Once that is done we add smaller pieces of woody material. For the smaller logs I go straight to brush size(smaller than 1 inch). When there is only one log in the center I add larger pieces 1-3 inch pieces to fill in the bottom gaps. We are still experimenting with which formula or ratio works best. We will let you know in 10 or so years. Trying to get the brush layer to play nice is a challenge especially with smaller beds. We do some manicuring to the branches before they get piled on. Branches that curve to much or have smaller branches that jut off in weird directions get cut so they play at least a bit nicer.
I then hop into the tractor and start hauling manuring mixed with hay to start adding to our soil layer. If we run out of the horse poo we have neighbors who can supply us with organic cow manure. We added a bit more of this mix onto the beds this year compared to our last building adventure. Their are some thin spots on the first beds that we wanted to avoid this round.
Once we shovel the manure mix on the the bed we add a layer of soil that was taken off earlier. Our soil on the garden site is pretty shallow so we don’t have as much as I would like. Every year we plan on adding compost to the top of the beds making the soil deeper and replenishing nutrients.
We only managed to finish one bed and the second one is ready to be covered but I shut off the tractor and it didn’t start back up so we were done with building for the day. I hope tomorrow we can do a quick harvest then be back to building.
There are a few more pics in the gallery
.Posted in Farming Tech, Growing Food, Hugelbeets | 2 Comments May 8, 2011
Posted in Foraging |
May 4, 2011
We did it. First farmer’s market of the season accomplished. It got a little hectic on friday trying to be ready for it, and we might have had the starting time wrong and got there a tad late, but it was all right. Our foraged harvest was well accepted and we sold a good number of daffodil bouquets. We found a foragers haven, ramps, fiddleheads, gooseberries and morels all in the same spot. (not all ripe at the same time of course) While we were harvesting our share of the wild edibles, (we made sure to only take 1/3 of a plants bounty) I realized how content I was to be sitting in the woods digging away at wild leeks surrounded by living bouquets of dutchmen’s britches and violets. There is something very soul satisfying about gathering food from the forest. It is also more exciting, because you never know what you are going to find, or you know what to find because you have a secret place to harvest from.
I’ve been reading several books on wild edibles, Acorn Pancakes, Dandelion Salad, and 38 Other Wild Recipes by Jean Craighead George is one of them and there is another older book which I don’t have with me but was a guide that gave the edible and medicinal uses for each plant as well as the traditional native american preparing of each wild fruit or vegetable. I’ll be sure to give you the name of it when I put up my next post, it is a great resource. After reading these books I am just amazed at how we are surrounded by such a wide and varying selection of edible goodies and yet we have decided on such a select few plants that we want included in our diet, some of which don’t even grow in this climate. There are long lists of root vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, and even blossoms that grow along our roadsides, in our ponds, are thrown into our compost bins, or cover the floors of our woods, and we either ignore them, appreciate them for their beauty, or treat them as weeds. Well I am bringing back some wild to our diets. We’ve started with the normal edibles, ramps, fiddleheads and dandelion greens, but this week I plan to bring some stranger yummies to the table. You’ll have to check back in to see what we find.
Of course everyone should be careful when dining from the outdoors, since it is an unfiltered menu and some items may be poisonous or toxic if consumed in too high a volume.
We’ve got over 100 berry plants in the ground, raspberries, gooseberries and currents. We also planted our peach trees and sweet cherries. The sweet cherry that my parents planted has bloomed! I hope it isn’t premature, we are most likely going to get a frost again soon hopefully the buds will survive. We also planted some asparagus about 100 plants, two varieties. I can’t wait for two years from now!
We built a goat palace. It is designed so that the pigs and goats can live together and have some personnel space. My precocious/pregnant goat didn’t seem to want to jump up in like little Isla did, but after we set up a little platform with a ramp I find her sleeping in there or just lounging all the time. There are walls on it now, we used some heavy white tarp from my parents arena that works well and keeps it light enough to move by hand.
That’s all the news for now! I think my blog posts will begin to happen on sundays more than saturdays just because saturdays are going to be so busy for us.
Anyone out there a wild edible fanatic? Anyone tried any weird wild vegetable this week? Have your local farmer’s markets started? Anyone else have secret wild food havens that they go to in the spring to harvest their crop? I love to hear from you!
In our farming practices we try to align ourselves with natural processes, but sometimes we make the choice to move further away from them. This is the case for the high tunnel we are building. It adds the potential for year round growing and warmer overall temperatures throughout the year. Since I love experimenting and being cheap I decided to design my own high tunnel and build it myself.
For the unfamiliar a high tunnel is basically a unheated greenhouse. They come in many shapes and sizes and are normally covered in a polyethylene film. The have been used by grower to extend season of high value crops such as tomatoes or peppers. They have been more recently used to extend the growing season of many farms well into the winter for salad and cooking greens. Elliot Coleman is one of the main leaders for year round growing in New England. His book The Winter Harvest Handbook is a good introduction to winter production systems.
The two main shapes for high tunnels are quonset hut which is basically a half circle and gothic which has straight walls that curve up to a peak. I decided to go with a a gothic style for two reasons. The first is they are much better at shedding snow then the quonset style. This is due to the shape at the top of the two structures. The quonset style ends up have a pretty large flat surface on top where snow can collect which can collect of lot of snow. The gothic has a smaller or no flat spot on the top so snow cant build as much. The second reason is the vertical space in a gothic is much greater because of the wall design. This makes for more growing space inside the high tunnel compared to a quonset.
The problem with this is that there is not very much information about building gothic style high tunnels on the net. Almost all the information is for building quonset high tunnels. I ended up looking at lots of pictures and designing a basic framework in SketchUp a really easy to use 3D modeling program. It gave me a rough idea of how much pipe I would need and what degree bends I would have to do to make the correct shape. Of course the design changed many times before getting to the version we are actually bending now.
I contacted the folks at Ledgewood Farms who sell high tunnels and asked them for their metal supplier. They passed along information on Sonco Tubes where I made an order for lots of metal tubing. I ordered the pipe before we made the decision to move back to Tinmouth. I ended up storing the pipe till the fall because I didn’t think building it for one season then moving it to Tinmouth made much sense. This spring I started working on a new design for our new garden layout and then I had to figure out how we were actually going to bend this stuff. The final design is 22′ wide and 48′ long.
I found some information on bending pipe online using jigs made out of metal or wood. I figured it made a lot more sense to make one of these then buy a really fancy meaning really expensive tube bender. My design called for bending 1 5/8 inch tubing for the walls and 2 inch tubing for the peak. From my 3d design I knew I needed a curve with a radius of 5′ 3” for my wall bend. I put a piece of plywood onto an empty hay wagon and measured out 5’3” and made an arc with a pen and a length of string. I then made a jig out of pieces of wood along that arc and made a stop so the pipe would be bent in the same place every time. I did not account for spring back with this measurement. When ever you bend a tube the metal will rebound back after you make the bend. This distance back it goes depending on the metal and the type of pipe or tube you have. I made the radius of the bend smaller by moving the pieces of wood in away from my arc line the same distance as the spring back but in the opposite direction. Once I did that the tube bounced back to the 5’3” arc line and we were ready to bend.
The peak bend was a heck of a lot more challenging. 2” tubing is really tough to bend and its really really tough to bend to a small radius. The design called for a peak bend of 11” which is really tight for that size pipe. The smaller the radius the bend is the more likely you are to get a kink in the pipe. This makes it much weaker. I built a jig using layers of plywood. My plan was to bend smaller pipe to a slightly smaller radius and then use the pipe as a jig for the 2” tube. I ended up kinking the smaller pipe because I didn’t smooth the plywood jig enough. The degree of the bend on the out side of the bent pipe was still okay so then it was time to building a jig using these two new pipes. The picture shows our final version of the jig. There were many many many more that did not make it. Most exploded from the pressure of the bending tubing. I finally gave up using the 2” tubing and when to the smaller 1 5/8” which was a heck of a lot easier. Instead of doing one bend we made two bends one on each side of the middle. This gave us the smaller radius we needed without kinking the pipe.
We have one side of the bows bent and all the peaks are done. We are going to bend the rest of them next week. The high tunnel is going to be mounted on wheels that are made for gate fences. This will allow it to cover double the area at a lower cost. It also allows a more flexible planting schedule. We will have tubing on the ground that the wheels roll on and the high tunnel will be connected to support rods that will be hammered into the ground to keep it in place. They should be delivered next week hopefully along with the poly film covering.
More pictures in the Gallery
.Posted in Farming Tech | 4 Comments April 30, 2011
The warm weather is winning. It was in the 80′s this week, my delicate winter skin got an unpleasant surprise when I wore a tank top in the hot sun for 8 hours last wednesday. I am still sitting tenderly to keep my back form touching the chair behind me. The warm weather brought more than sunburns though, blooms! Green seems to be everywhere now and the spring flowers are showing off shamelessly with bright colors and flashy new petals.
We adopted an orphan last thursday. My mother has made a name for herself being a good foster/permanent parent for orphaned or abandoned animals. Last spring it was a litter of 4 day old kittens that she bottle fed every three hours until they were big enough to see and eat on their own. The year before that was a puppy that was found running around the water treatment facility in Poultney, VT, who is now full grown and a sweet little dog named Lily. The year before that was two ponies, the year before that a pregnant mare, and the list goes on. Last thursday we got a much smaller addition to our list, a tiny little road island red chick found on a motorbike at a repair shop in West Rutland. Even though the sex is impossible to know we’ve all been to referring to it has a he. Here he is in his second favorite place,
In fact this blog post is being written with him nestled into his very favorite place, my hair. As gross as some might find it I do indeed have a baby chicken in my hair and when he nestles into my cheek it is tremendously adorable. I’ll also have you know that as of now he hasn’t pooped in my hair he comes out and poops on the shirt I have around my neck, he is a very considerate chicken.
He is also a very lonely chicken and when left alone will cheep incessantly in that piercing high tone that would make anyone want to put him in their hair. He goes right to sleep though the moment you take him out of his cage, he just wants some company and some love, and I find it hard to resist.
Although we have an order of chicks being incubated for us by Layed in Vermont we might have to just go buy some industrially produced chicks just to keep him company.
Besides chicks, we’ve also ordered 15 heritage turkey breeds to sell for thanksgiving. This idea was inspired by the other new member of our farm family, Alec the intern. Alec came to us through a family connection, looking for work of the agricultural variety. I informed him before he arrived that we were just starting and very small, but he still seemed to want to come out to Vermont to live with us in our lincoln log cabin and play in the dirt. We are excited to have him, he is interested in working with poultry so we are getting 15 turkeys and possibly some broilers for the fall.
Market is next saturday! Although all our seeds and starts are coming up we will not be able to harvest anything we’ve planted for the first market. Next year we will have our hoop-houses so this will hopefully not be the case in 2012. In order to still be present we are going to spend thursday and friday next week hunting for ramps, fiddle-heads, and other wild edibles. Since it is mother’s day weekend we will be digging some plants to sell as gifts, Lilacs,(white, deep purple, japanese purple, and violet colored) comfrey, hollyhocks, and maybe some northrup roses. So if you need a gift for mother’s day we’ll be in Rutland next saturday selling potted plants as well as spring flower bouquets that you mother will love!
No news on the goat, just going to have to wait and see. We moved them out into new pasture and they have spent this week foraging on blackberries, saplings, and goldenrod sprigs. They seem happy and healthy as well as ravenous for anything green.
As some of you may have noticed we are in the middle of trying to move our flicker photos onto our website to make it easier to view our images. So if you are looking for pictures from this week go to “Our Farm” on the menu bar and then click on the photo album entitled “Spring Flowers.”
Anyone else have baby animals showing up at their houses? Any other flowers being particularly showy this year? Is this wet weather effecting anyone else’s spring plans? I love to read what-other people are doing so don’t shy about leaving a comment!
Thanks for reading, and happy flowers!
So spring is still being cruel. Snow this morning and frost for the last three nights. We had an insane wind storm that blew the top of our composting toilet,
…scattered all the plastic in the garden
….and lifted our solar shower over the goat fence and into their pen. It was one hell of a storm.
But besides all the crazy weather that refuses to warm up we have some excitement to keep our hopes up for the warmer months to come. For awhile now I’ve wondered why my goat Esther was so much rounder than Isla.
They both seemed to eat the same amount of food and do the same amount of exercise but Esther just seemed so much bigger. I’ve been handling my goats since we got them, rubbing their stomachs and sides and getting them used to the idea of having someone milk them. Esther was always harder to handle than Isla but recently she’s gotten much friendlier. So as I was going about my routine I found that her teats were no longer just little nubs sticking out of her belly, they were thumb sized and hanging from an udder that filled my hand.
Not wanting to give into wishful thinking I did some research into the possibilities of udder development in a non-pregnant goat. Turns out it is possible. The term used is a “precocious” udder. It is common among goats especially ones that come from strong milking lines, which would apply to Esther. Usually a goat that has a precocious udder will be a very good milker giving over a gallon of milk a day. However there is no way for me to tell if she is indeed pregnant or precocious. I’ve poked around her belly, much to her disgruntlement, and can’t find anything to determine the verdict one way or the other. We will just have to wait and see. If she is pregnant than she would be somewhere around her 15th week which means in another month or so we should no wether or not we will have a baby or just a good milking goat!
Market starts in two weeks, so far our radishes are about….oh half an inch tall and they are in the lead. Our peas are also poking through the ground we planted some on top of our hugel beets and then the rest along the outside of the goat/chicken pen. Our chickens kept trying to peck the pea seeds through the wire mesh but we were able to placate them with grubs and other goodies found in the dirt. Our onions have been planted, we seem to have over seeded and now are waiting for the ground to dry up a little more so we can build some more beds.
Does anyone out there have any experience with precocious goats or pregnant ones? What is coming up in your gardens? How has this crazy weather been effecting you and your spring plans?
We’ve stepped backward into cold again. The poor daffodils that tried to blossom in the warm sun of last week are cursing themselves for thinking it was safe enough to come out of the safety of their buds. We’ve planted peas, arugula, claytonia, spinach, and mache outside. Our onions were going to go out yesterday but it was so cold we decided to wait, also the cat got into the cold frame and flattened all of them so we thought we would give them a few days to straiten themselves out.
I find it humorous that even though it is in the 20′s and freezing we still haven’t made a fire. We didn’t even think about it we just never put more wood in once it got warm and when it got cold we just bundled up. I think somehow in my mind I feel like if I make a fire I will only be satisfying winter’s cruel sense of humor.
We had to fence the goats and chickens out of the orchard because they had gotten a bit too overzealous with the munching of woody material and started in on the trees. They don’t seem to mind, they have kept on devouring the blackberries and roses that are on their side of the fence. I for one do not understand how a goat’s tongue keeps from getting skewered by the many many thorns found on these plants. They don’t seem to notice them at all.
That’s all I have for now, more photos coming soon!
Posted in Uncategorized |
April 2, 2011
It is melting. We had a week of snow and freezing and muck and now it is finally melting away. We’ve planted our peas and radishes out in the garden beds. We had to stick some very cold fingers into partially frozen ground to do it, but they are in and with this warm spring sun on them for the last few days and the projected 75 degrees coming on monday I think they should germinate happily.
Spring has brought all the undesirables with it as well, mice, ants, and ticks are the ones we are dealing with currently. We have cluster flies year long in our log cabin and spring brings nothing new in their persistent buzzing. We hadn’t had much of a mouse presence in the house besides the occasional gnawing in the roof, but the warm weather seemed to have brought them out. They got into our seedlings and flats of germinating seeds. Some of our pepper starts were devoured and they even went so far as to dig up all the seeds nestled in the potting soil waiting for germination. It was a sad day for baby plants, and for the mice family in our house.
We’ve caught four mice and the gnawing in the roof has stopped as well as the eating of our plants and seeds. We put the traps inside boxes with little mouse holes cut into them. The idea is that the mouse will be naturally curious about what is inside the little hole that smells like sunflower seeds, the trap will be more likely to snap its head since it won’t have enough room figure out how to get the goodies off the platform, and if the trap doesn’t kill them instantly they can’t run away with it and stink up your wall. It seems to have worked.
Spring has also been busy with meetings. We have become part of a growers collaborative in Rutland, which is trying to figure out a way to market local produce to local restaurants, schools and prepared food vendors. Josh is now on the board of the Vermont Farmer’s Market as well as the Solarfest Board, and we are involved with the Farm-to-School program here in Tinmouth. Lots of exciting things happening in the area and lots of young farmers taking part in it. There are five new farms joining the Rutland market this year we are one of them, Evening Song Farm, Tangled Roots Farm, Alchemy Gardens, Purple Burdock, and us. Having a community of other young like-minded people is amazingly encouraging especially this first year. If anyone here is looking for a CSA in the East Wallingford area Evening Song Farm still has some spots left. Go to their website for more information: www.eveningsongcsa.com.
The snowdrops are blooming soon to be followed by many more happy faces. I encourage you all to check out the other young farmer’s websites underlined above and read their blogs, we are all doing similar things in similar places.
Anyone else have some frustrating mouse stories to tell or clever ways to eradicate house pests?
Happy mud season!
Posted in Farming Tech |
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The walk-in shell is finally done. It took awhile since nothing was quite square and I kept having to run to the hardware store. I also had no idea what I was doing for the most part.
Most of the time spent in the past weeks was figuring out how to make blocks of styrofoam become little particles of styrofoam. Meadow and I had gone to pick up a pickup truck loads worth of styrofoam blocks in Hartland, VT. It was from an old business and the guy had 14 yards of the stuff. We are headed back to get another load which will hopefully be all we need to finish up. I had been hunting for a wood chipper/shredder but in winter they don’t pop up on Craigslist very often. I ended up building a prototype shredder using a hardware cloth disc mounted on a long nail attached to a drill. It worked really slowly and was really messy, I needed a chipper and quick if this was going to work.
I built the floor joists and created a closed cavity underneath it with a plastic liner. Once I had some shredded styrofoam it would fill this space insulating the shack from the ground. The cavity ranged from 8 inches to around 16 inches and we think the r-value is something like 3.5 or 4 per inch. That would put the floor’s r-value above 40. Once I had the floor down I put up felt paper on the two existing walls which will help reduce air infiltration because the boards where spaced around an inch apart.
In the front floor bay I made an enclosed space with the plastic so I could test out the shredder and see how well the broken up styrofoam would fill the space. I had bought a flexible dryer vent and made a manifold to attach it to the shredder. It involved lots of duct tape and as I learned quickly would not work because of all the times I would have to take it off. I placed some hardware cloth inside the output vent of the shredder to try and force larger pieces to stay within the reach of the metal teeth. The set up worked okay for a few rounds of styrofoam but then it got clogged and I had to take the whole thing apart. I went through a few attempts like this and the plastic bubble started to get filled. I decided it worked good enough and covered the whole floor with two layers of plywood. I cut a whole to accept the vent and started reworking the shredder. I switched from putting it in the chipping bulk side to the side used for larger pieces. I also Figured out a way to mount the plastic manifold using string so it was much easier to take apart when needed. Once I made the switch it was smooth sailing and I had the floor filled to the brim in an 2 hours or so.
After that it was time to think about putting the exterior walls for the other two sides up as well as the interior walls and ceiling. I decided that the front wall would not have a cavity and would just be two panels sandwiched together. Just in case I needed to run electric or if we expand it to the rest of the bay we won’t have to deal with the loose styrofoam. The other wall is made of plywood and a few verticals to support it. The interior walls for the blown cavities are rigid insulation that Marshall already had around. They are just under 4 inches and the space between them and the exterior walls range from 4 to 5 inches which would get me around a R-value of 30+. The Ceiling is rigid panels with styrofoam blown in the 6 or 7 inches between the rafters which should be around a R-value of 40+.
I called up Green Mountain Bottle Redemption and they were able to supply me with the 2000 2 liter bottles. Each bottle can be filled with 4.409 pounds of water and should take 72 btus to freeze. We will let nature take these btus away from the water on chilly nights. If I would have finished the shell earlier I would have added salt to the mix which would take the water’s freezing point down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit adding even more btus. But the nights wont be that cold hopefully for the rest of the winter but I will try experimenting with it next year. With the 2000 bottles plus a tank that holds 50 gallons its around a million btus which hopefully will be enough to get us through till it gets cold enough. Most of the vegetables will be picked on friday and sold on saturday so our cooling load will not be to high this year. I’ll be keeping track of the temperature as the season progresses and will be able to chart the performance of the walk in. Then next year we can make the changes that will be necessary if any are needed to keep it cool. This year we will probably miss a really good freeze but the amount of thermal mass in the walk-in should keep it cool.
There are a few more pics on our flickr page.