I was trying to wait til our last frost date (May 28,) but I think our straw bale garden is ready for planting now!
1) Conditioning bales to be planted directly into (shown as the 3 small squares.)
2) Using bales to create a raised bed frame, which we then filled with compost (bottom, left.)
We also have the 3 whiskey barrels and our original garden bed (located just under the stone wall.)
Construction of both straw beds was quick. Most of the time involved was moving compost from the bins into the framed bed. We cheated and are using 1st cutting hay instead of straw because we had it handy, and fully expect to deal with some weeds later as a result. We will condition the bales for the next 2-3 weeks (following instructions found here) and they should be ready for planting by May. An added benefit is that at the end of the season, the composted bales can be spread over our yard to enrich our non-existent soil. Only drawback so far is that the goats seem to like playing on them. Hopefully they won’t be so tempting as launch pads once there are plants growing in them.
If you’ve been following our Twitter feed, you may already know some of this month’s highlights. But just in case, here’s a quick rundown:
At at 8:00am on March 9th, we set 37 eggs (14 Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, 15 New Hampshires, & 8 Swedish Flower Hens) in the incubator. We had the eggs shipped to us from breeders in 3 different states: OH, CA, & FL. Shipping eggs is always a bit of a risk. Even if they all arrive intact, they usually still have a lower hatch rate due to rough handling in transit. We candled the eggs seven days after setting and removed 12 that were not developing. The remaining 25 still looked good when we candled again at day 14. We will candle one last time tomorrow morning before preparing for hatch day. Looks like our Easter chicks are on schedule! If all goes well, we will attempt hatching some turkey eggs in April.
The same weekend we set the eggs, we also started some veggie seeds. Broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and herb seedlings are well on their way. However, late Spring snow has stalled new garden bed preparation. If we can’t get new raised beds built by mid-April, we will try a straw bale bed. I’ve been curious about this technique for a while, and a recent article in the New York Times rekindled my interest.
The goats had a visit from the vet last week to get annual vaccinations and blood taken for CAE/CL testing. We’re anxiously awaiting the results, but hopeful for a clean bill of health.
Barn cat, Neo, is turning into a real mush, begging for pats and playtime every chance he can. A real turn around from when we first got him. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about our (yet unnamed) second feral rescue. He ran off the first chance he could. He’s been sighted at our neighbor’s house, and we’re working with them to recapture him. We know he’s able to fend for himself, but prefer to see him safely home soon. Hoping some more time in the acclimation pen (in a quieter location) and Neo’s companionship will convince him to stay.
Harvest season is here! Our little, experimental garden bed kept us supplied in tomatoes, cucumbers and basil all summer, but to get the amounts needed do some serious canning I had to turn to our local farms. This past weekend we picked 2 bushels of paste tomatoes, a couple of pounds of assorted hot peppers, and a dozen winter squash for preserving. The squash were easiest. We simply cleaned them and put them aside for curing. Some of the hot peppers were vacuum-sealed and frozen, and the rest are being dehydrated to be turned into pepper flakes and cayenne powder. Most of the tomatoes were processed in a marathon canning session on Sunday, but I saved a few for sun-drying. We also ordered a quarter share of grass-fed beef and a half share of pasture-raised pork from a local farm due to arrive September and October. Since we never received our turkey poults this year, I tracked down a local heirloom turkey breeder who will supply our Thanksgiving bird. Can’t wait for the holidays!
In between goat feedings last weekend, Larry managed to drag a log up the hill to create a 17′ x 5′ semi-raised garden bed. Our soil is mostly gravel, so we spent Memorial Day loosening the soil, removing the biggest rocks, and mixing in compost. Last night I finally got around to planting it with seedlings we purchased from a local organic nursery. If this works well, next year we hope to add a few more beds and start our own plants from seed.
We planted Amish Paste tomatoes, Brandywine tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, an assortment of peppers, basil, cucumber, and squash. In the past we’ve had a garden near the log cabin, but that spot is a bit too shady to produce well. We still have some herbs growing there, and some Music garlic I planted last fall.