Tuesday, December 24, 2013

snowy fruit tree clearing

fruit tree  clearing 1 fruit tree  clearing 1213 fruit tree  clearing 1222 This is the area where I will plant some fruit trees in the spring. It was under a foot of snow last week when I took these pictures. After the rain we got the past couple days, only a few inches of snow left now.

I should have room here for about 5 dwarf or semi dwarf trees. I want to measure the area soon and mark out where the trees will go. I am thinking of getting 3 apples (maybe dwarf Liberty, Honeycrisp and Esopus Spitzenburg from Fedco), a peach and maybe a pie cherry tree. (I will eventually move my two espaliered pear trees from my community plot to the fence of my vegetable garden.)

I love reading the Fedco catalog section of fruit trees. So much information!

Monday, December 23, 2013

sweet potato sprouts

My sweet potatoes have started to make cute little sprouts! Yippee!

I remembered at the last minute to save a few of my homegrown sweet potatoes for sprouting. The last ones were the smallest - a mix of white (Hannah), oranges (Jewel and Beauregard) and reds (Garnet).

For years, I've had trouble getting sweet potatoes to sprout at our old house. I've read they need warmth, but whatever I did didn't seem to work - maybe because my old house had mostly cool spaces. A couple weeks ago, I put a plate full of small sweets in the utility room of our new house. (Our new house may not have a cool space for a root cellar, but it does have a nice warm utility room.) My guess is the utility room is 75-80*F. I add a bit of water to the sweet potato plate every few days to keep the potatoes moist. And I covered the plate partially with plastic wrap. After about 2 weeks, I'm seeing nice sprouts. I can't help but cheer!

I think I see about 10 or more sprouts on several different potatoes.

I don't know if this will be too early for starting sweet slips. Since I haven't been this successful in the past, I am not sure. But it the slips get too big, I think I can cut them back (knock on wood). It's exciting to have them going!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

crops for my community plot

Before I map out what to plant where in my new home garden, I need to decide what will go in my community plot. I'll be keeping my plot at least one more season, mostly because I planted my garlic there this fall (and also since I will stay on as the Garden Coordinator another year.)

I'm going to start a list here of crops that have done well in the plot. These are generally ones that aren't susceptible to pests that thrive in a community garden. For example, late blight has been bad for our tomatoes. Bean beetles and cucumber beetles are prolific. And flea beetles have been bad for potatoes and eggplants.

List of crops to plant in my community plot:
Sweet potatoes
Butternut squash
Broccoli, cabbage, kale
Onions, leeks

19 weeks and counting

I've started the countdown to my last frost. Should be about May 10 for my new garden. 19 weeks!! All my seed starting is based on this countdown. The first seeds to plant will be onions and celeriac, which get started 11 weeks before the last frost. So I have 8 weeks to get ready. Lights, shelves, potting soil, trays, seeds. It's exciting to have a date set and a countdown going!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

no eggs yet

My mom emailed me today "Any eggs yet?"

I replied "Nope."

She emailed back, "What's wrong with those chickens?"

I told her that I have been very direct in telling the hens that we expect eggs, but what else can I do? They are eating well, they have a nice coop and I do what I can for them.

I have had my three chickens for 4.5 weeks now. On Dec 26, they'll be 23 weeks old. (actually 23 to 27 weeks old.) Usually hens start laying eggs at 24 weeks of age, but they often stop laying in the winter when light is dim and snow limits their exersize. ..... I can see that the hens have grown in size since i got them. And their feahters have filled out quite a bit.

We sure are looking forward to omelets...

the winter solstice!

Its all uphill from here - more light every day and closer to the day I break ground in my new garden.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

silly selfies

selfie me suzie and skip selfie me suzie and skippy selfie me and skip selfie - me bertha ginger and penny selfie - me and suzie Everybody's posting selfies, so here's a few of me and some of my best friends. Not quite the PM of Denmark, but we all tried to smile our best!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

long shadows over community plots

long shadows at garden plot Skippy, Suzie and I walked through the community garden plots yesterday. At 3 pm the shadows were very long - the sun sets at 4:15 now. I still have some kale in the garden, but I think this bitter cold has probably made it too mushy to eat.

Only a couple days until the solstice. It will be nice to see the sun gradually rise in the sky and the shadows shorten.

skippy at the garden

Saturday, December 14, 2013

waiting for snow

waiting for snow This is our new back yard. My garden space to be is the open area in the center. My new tractor/lawn mower is the under the green tarp with the orange cart behind.

We have a big pond that we look out on. Its 13 acres and frozen over now after a couple weeks of unusually cold December weather. Our old metal row boat is overturned on the shore, waiting (a long wait) for spring.

The first flakes are falling now at dusk (the early 4 pm dusk) as our first big snow storm of the season moves in. We have an inch of snow already on the ground. Normally that would be a lot for this area in December. But tonight its predicted that a foot of snow will fall here. Of course, on the east coast, we are the last US location for this storm to dump on. My sister in MT has sub zero temps and lots of snow already. Even TX has snow this Dec. What a year!

So we wait. Th snow shovels and snow blowers are ready. Tomorrow we will be busy.

Friday, December 13, 2013

chicken (and dog) pictures

skippy and the hens Here they are. Skippy is sniffing Bertha. He has been very good recently and both dogs get to be around the hens unsupervised.

(I check the egg boxes a couple times a day in this cold - just in case! And, I check all other places the hens have been, just in case they have hidden an egg. Still waiting...)

We have a foot of snow on the way this weekend. What will the hens think! They'll be snowed under.

three hens chicken coop in the snow

Thursday, December 12, 2013

icy cold

icy cold My outdoor thermometer is registering 12*F! Ouch. I'm sitting by the fire and quite comfy. To make my chickens feel a little better, I got a ceramic heater for them and its on for the first time tonight. Its bringing the temp in their coop up to 23*F. I know they are OK are in the bitter cold temps, but I want to keep them happy so they'll lay some eggs soon! No eggs yet. The 3 girls are 22-26 weeks old now. I want eggs!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

chicken update

Skippy and Suzie have gradually gotten used to the chickens. The chickens know where to go for safety - under their coop - and the dogs have learned that the chickens can move fast and fly a bit. I am very pleased that I can now l leave the chickens out to forage a while and not worry about the dogs getting them. A bigger worry is the hawks and foxes. So far, so good. I've been giving the chickens about an hour a day out of their coop.

sunrise over the pond

sunrise over pond "Red sky in morning, sailors take warning..." This was the sunrise before our first snowstorm of the year.

Friday, December 06, 2013

world soil day

Yesterday was world soil day! Who knew.... I celebrated by making squash bread with homegrown squash (and my sister), feeding my chickens the leftovers, and composting their poop! (OK, we had a martini too..) Yeah DIRT!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

cleaning the coop

Today I cleaned out my chicken coop for the first time. I've had the 3 girls since nov 20, so that's exactly 2 weeks. I have a remote thermometer in the coop and it's been registering higher humidity every day and was up to 90%, even on a dry day. So I got my flat edgeding shovel, my green garden trug, and sooped out all the poopy wood shavings. It nearly filled up my compost bin. yeah! I am going to have great compost this winter even if I have no eggs.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

late fall is a perfect time for new raised beds

I was walking my dogs this afternoon and noticed my neighbor has built a couple new raised garden beds. And she has a nice big delivery of dirt waiting to fill them. This made me think - why I am waiting 'til spring to build my new garden beds? This is a perfect time of year to start a new garden! Any fresh soil, manure or compost added now above tired or compact soil will help to refresh it over the winter. (Judy noted this in a recent comment.) The freshly added nutrients will work their way down over the winter while existing worms and soil microbes do their job aerating and mixing soil layers.

I have been thinking that I need to get a plan for my whole garden before I start. But an alternative is to start small with just a couple beds for now. Hmm.... A new thought.... Especially if the snow holds off for a bit longer.

Monday, December 02, 2013

chickens love squash....

Copy of 003 My chickens are growing, and happy. I'm checking for eggs, none yet.

Their favorite foods seem to be: cooked squash, sweet potatoes and garlic mashed potatoes! Yummy. They've done a great job with our Thanksgiving leftovers. Other favorites: honeydew melon, corn-on-the-cob, kale, lettuce, cream cheese and cottage cheese.

Today I went out to check on the girls, but unfortunately didn't have time to spend with them. They clucked with pleasure to see me. Guess they're getting the idea that I bring them good food. I've also been letting them out of their coop to forage in the yard about an hour a day. I only do this when I have time to watch them. I either leave the dogs in the house or hold them on a leash. I'm still not sure what dangers there are for the chickens out of the coop.

Suzie is very excited by the chickens and loves to get as close as she can and sniff them. They don't let her get very close. But Skippy is another story. He seemed to be uninterested for a long time, then charged. Fortunately the chickens were faster than him. They scattered and hid under the coop. So, its Skip I'm watching out for. He learned they are fast, but he may be faster next time.....

Thursday, November 28, 2013

pumpkin vases for the Thanksgiving table

flowers in a pumpkin These are a couple of pumpkins from my garden. I don't think they're good eating pumpkins, so I used then for vases on my Thanksgiving table. It was a wild Day as we had 16 of us for dinner - 14 staying overnight with us. We had such fun cooking, visiting and eating.

Anyway, the pumpkin vases worked well. I cut off the tops them stuck the flower stems into the seeds and fiber, then added water. The seeds and fibers did a good job of holding the stems in place.

two pumpkins pumkin vase pumpkin vases on thanksgiving table

Sunday, November 24, 2013

spoiled chickens

I think I am going to spoil my chickens. Why not.

They've just been shipped across the country (from Iowa) as young, barely feathered hens, they have nice coop, but we're having a bitter November cold snap here in New England. Its 25*F and windy as can be. I know experienced chicken keepers tell me they don't need extra heat, but it seems a bit of spoiling may be OK for their transition. I'm running an incandecsant bulb (40 watt) for the chickens so they have about 15 hours of light (about 6 am to 9 pm) to encourage winter egg laying. This adds some heat. But I'd like to add a bit more heat to the coop. I've tried putting a tarp over the coop to break this wind and contain warmth, but the humidity went WAY up, so NO tarp. (I have a nice little remote thermometer and humidity meter that I like for monitoring the girls' situation.) They seem to like the red heat lamp that I have been using a couple hours now and them. I've ordered a ceramic 100 watt heater that should arrive soon that I think may be nicer. I think I will use continue to use the heat lamp (red or ceramic) below about 30*F for a couple hours in the evening until they are bigger and start laying.

The hens have been spending the nights together huddled in a nest box or on the coop floor. I think if they were warm enough they be on the nice roosting bar.

They have been eating very well. They have free access to pellets. I give them an ear of corn and a few leaves of lettuce every day. Occasional raisins, cottage cheese, even some earthworms I find for them. After three days in their run on nice grass, they've eaten the all the grass and sctatched up all the worms. Yesterday, I let them forage in the yard for an hour. They loved it. After an hour, they wandered back into their coop and settled down to rest. I opened their door today but it wa so cold and windy they didn't want to go out.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

egg watch

No eggs yet today, but I'm keeping my eyes out....

its snowing!

... our first snow flurries! ...

my new chickens

This is Ginger, my Araucana chicken. She will lay blue/green eggs! ginger - an araucana chicken IMG_5433

And this is Penny, a Black Australorp. She is supposed to be very easygoing, a very good layer of dark brown eggs, and will have black feathers with green highlights. penny -  a black australorp chicken IMG_5448

And last, but not least, Bertha, a Light Brahma. She will be BIG and hardy, and beautiful and will lay a few light brown eggs now and then. bertha - light brahma chicken IMG_5447

All three are between 18 and 22 weeks old. Pullets. Right now all are the same size, about as big as a large pigeon. When full grown, Ginger will be 5-6 lbs, Penny will be 6-7 lbs, and Bertha will be huge: 10-14 pounds! I am looking forward to their eggs.

Suzie keeps an eye out over the flock. I'm working on training the two dogs that these are pets. Copy (2) of IMG_5462

Friday, November 22, 2013

salt marsh hay mulch for my garlic bed

Copy of photo 33 Its been getting chilly, so yesterday I brought a bale of salt marsh hay to my community plot and spread a good layer on my garlic bed. Suzie thought this was really fun! Skippy gave her a look and tried to tell her it was not a place for a puppy.

Copy of photo

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the chickens are home

Today I picked up my 3 new chickens from the local post office. They all came in one small box. They were clucking away on the bench at the Post Office.

chickens 1

They are pullets (females, hens 18-22 weeks old). All are about the size of a large pigeon. I think they'll grow quite a bit more. One of the breeds I got grows to 10 lbs and I can't imagine she's much more than 3 or 4 lbs right now. They are supposed to start laying in a week or two.

When I brought them home, I opened their box in their new coop. They immediately began to explore, scratch and eat what they could. I had scattered feed pellets and some chicken treats. They found their waterer. One of the chickens dug up a nice worm! Slirp. They seemed very comfy in their new home.

Only Ginger, the Auracana, went up the ramp and into the hen house at dusk. Bertha the big white Brahma and Penny the black Australorp, settled down to sleep in the run. So I picked them up and put them inside. Ahh - they noticed the feed bucket inside and the roosting bar and the reading lamp. How nice, they seemed to say.

I was worried about the young birds in the cold weather. Emily wrote that they are fine and don't need special chicken comforters or heated blankets. I called McMurray Hatchery and they repeated what Emily said. They are fully feathered out and don't need special attention, no matter how cold. As long as the hen house has no drafts. I said what if it's 10*F - she said they are OK. I said what if it's 0*, she said they are OK .... (She said I could check and see if they are huddling together and look cold and if so, plug in a heat lamp.)

Right now its, 31*F inside the hen house, and 27* outside. Brrr. I trust the 3 young hens are happy and sleeping soundly. (I know I'll be sleeping under a warm comforter!) roosting chickens 3

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

the chickens are in the mail .....

I got my delivery confirmation this afternoon. I hope the mailman takes good care of them.

storing dahlia tubers

Our new house doesn't have a basement or attic. Or a garage. It has a beautiful view and great location. After I dug my dahlia tubers I realized I had no place to store them for the winter. Dahlias need to be at about 50*F and low humidity to overwinter. After almost a month of sitting in our house at almost 70*F, my dahlia tubers were starting to sprout. So, today I brought them up to my parents' house. My dad will put them in his basement with his dahlia tubers.

One of the things I would like to work into the renovations we will do on our new house is to build a small basement, or root cellar. Some vegetables do fine being stored in the kitchen at 70*, like sweet potatoes and dried chilies. Some are best in a refrigerator, like beets and carrots. But the onions, garlic, potatoes, squashes and dahlias really need the cellar. We have a space that should work for a cellar and hopefully we'll be able to build this by next winter.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

getting ready for the chickens

My 3 chickens ship tomorrow! They should arrive here on Wednesday. I'll have to go down to the post office and pick them up.

Today I read that chicken food should be inside the coop to keep it dry. I'm working on getting a hook inside to hang the feeder.

Also read I'll need a light to extend daylight time, and a heat lamp. Someone recommended a ceramic heater instead of a heat lamp. Seems like its going to get cold next week, so I'll get these installed soon. I'm going by the Essex Coop (Topsfield MA) tomorrow and will see what they recommend.

For food I have a big bag of pellets ready. I'm planning to pick up some wheat and corn to go with it. I have a lot of kale in my garden and am hoping the chickens will help me eat this.

Give me advice!!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

new chicken coop

Since I'm waiting to start my vegetable garden - I'm getting some chickens!

Copy of IMG_5376 Today we set our new chicken coop into place in our new back yard. Its a small (3 x 4 feet), sturdy coop with an attached run. I've ordered 3 pullets for arrival midweek from McMurray Hatchery. Exciting! I hope I can figure out how to care for them.

The 3 pullets (hens 18-22 weeks old) I ordered are three different varieties: Black Australorp, Araucana/Ameraucana, and light brahma. I did a lot of reading on different varieties and in the end, not quite sure why I selected the ones I did. They look nice! I want to raise chickens for eggs, to eat bugs (especially the prolific ticks we have) and to help provide manure for the vegetable garden. The Araucana is a very good layer with beautiful green or blue eggs. The Australorp is gentle and also a good layer. Brahma's are heavily feathered, winter hardy, regal and beautiful. All should be good for our cold winter around the corner, I hope.

We placed the coop in a sheltered location near to our back door. Next spring, I think we'll move it down closer to the vegetable garden, but the current location will be easier for me to get to if we have a lot of snow this winter. We leveled the coop well, then I added pine shavings inside the coop and nesting boxes. I hung the waterer in the run and the feeder in the coop. Tomorrow we will put some poultry wire around the base for predator protection (I hear the Fisher cats are the worst around here). Then we will wait for the birds.... I hope they will like my dogs..... and vice versa ...

Copy of IMG_5366

Sunday, November 10, 2013

planting garlic

Copy of photo 13 I was late to plant, but finally planted 75 cloves of garlic. Less than my usual 100 cloves, but all were very big and I spaced them so they used the whole bed that I usually use for 100 cloves. The variety is mostly "Music", a second year planting.

I planted the garlic in my community plot. I've decided to keep my plot another year. Next year, I'll work on getting my new home garden going, but since the soil is so hard, that will take some time.

Copy of photo 24 Copy of photo 14 Copy of photo 25

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

compacted soil

I tried to turn the soil in the area I marked out for my new garden, but its very dense and compacted. I couldn't get the shovel in, much let turn the entire area I was thinking of. So --- change of plan: I will wait for spring and then construct raised beds and bring in new soil. That will give me the entire winter to plan.

I have a great new (old actually) book I am reading: Bob Thompson's , The New Victory Garden. The photos of his garden and its rich soil are amazing! To me a garden book should be about photos of dirt...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013

starting up my new garden - finally ....

It's been a lot of work to move! Finally I am making some progress on my new garden. I think fall is a good time to be starting it, so I'm pleased with our timing.

Using string and stakes, today I marked out a space that I think would be good for my new garden. Then I moved the stakes. Then I asked my husband's opinion and we moved the stakes yet again. Its a big mowed grassy area and I want to maximize sunlight for the garden and still leave good grass space for other activities.

I have a bunch of little fall seedlings and I'd love to get them in the ground soon and protected with hoops and row cover. I have beets, spinach, lettuce, endive and escarole. I'd like to put up double hoops and see if they will overwinter and give us some nice March vegetables. This used to work well with my plastic cold frame.

Once I get the stakes settled, I'll bring in a load of compost and spread it over the whole area. I'll turn a small section where the fall seedlings will go. Then I'll plant and cover them with hoops and row cover. I'm thinking the row cover will deter the rabbits and deer. (Not sure - my first garden in deer territory.) In the spring, we'll put up fencing and turn the rest of the garden. I think spreading compost on the grass will allow it to break down over the winter adding some organic matter to the soil.

Anyway, that's the plan!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

skippy's vegetable garden is moving

aerial Aug 22 2013 aug 22 basil aug 22 2013
Skippy's vegetable garden will move soon.

The garden is at its peak, tomatoes ripening, big green basil plants, tall teepees of cucumbers and green beans. I am picking more than we can eat from this cute little garden. But, something else is going on too....

The cold frame is being taken apart and removed as we get ready to show the house to potential buyers. I wonder if someone will continue to maintain my little side yard garden? Or maybe it will be removed and replaced with grass. I wonder. It's been a productive area for me over the past 22 years - even though the amount of sun continues to go down as the trees continue to grow. I must have 1000 aerial photos taken over the years. It will be hard to say good bye....

But then, it will be exciting to start fresh and build a brand new garden! Skippy's vegetable garden will move to a big open area next to a pretty little pond. Our new house is only about 10 miles west of our current one. It's a bit further from Boston, a bit more rural. The back yard has big granite steps that wind down a slope through ferns and laurels and bring you to the flat open grassy area by the pond.

I am excited to mark out garden boundaries soon. I hope to turn the grass under later this fall and let it compost over the winter. Maybe I'll add some fresh manure to compost in the soil too. All winter I can plan, and then in the spring ..... ahhh, I can't wait....
new garden location the steps down to beaver pond 130 beaver pond 134

Thursday, August 08, 2013

suzie in the garden

suzie 117
Suzie had a fun walk through my garden the other day. She explored the shadows under the squash vines, hopped around on the sweet potato bed - and THEN - she found the radicchio! Ahh, the perfect vegetable...

She climbs up into the big leafy heads - each leaf is round, green and bigger than her, the perfect size to curl up in - and she snuggles into the shady inner part of the plant then settles down and begins to nibble. A bit of this leaf, a bit of that one. I think she would have stayed there all day....

A couple days later. I brought a few radicchio leaves home for her and she had just as much fun. She sneaked up on the pile of leaves and grabbed one. Then, quick as a rabbit, ran to the dining room with the leaf that was bigger than her. She alternated shaking it and eating it. That leaf didn't stand a chance against such ferocity (such cuteness...). She ate two entire leaves! (Yes, her tummy has been fine.)

(Unfortunately, my radicchio plants are almost all big green leaves now with tiny centers just beginning to form. Since it is so late in the season, they will probably bolt before they head. I was late planting it this year.)
suzie and skip 124 suzie and skip 090