Another busy weekend

Whew! This weekend isn’t even over for me but I’ve gotten quite a bit done. 

First, I played with the goslings. It’s taxing work, but somebody’s got to do it. They need to not be afraid of us. 

Next, I got some more planting done. We had a packet of sunflower seeds for snacking as opposed to the black oil seeds I already planted, and a little packet of purely decorative ones. Got those in, along with some buckwheat. 

Then beans. And why yes, that is in the middle of the yard. I ran out of other places. But being by the deck means I’ve got a great place for a trellis!

Then there was a bunch of little projects and cleaning up. The rabbits have the nest boxes back, as we figure at least one is probably pregnant now. By the way, like my little rabbit barn? We figure it gives them more space out of rain, and that front board can help contain the very young babies. 

Speaking of babies, they’re getting big! We will probably only keep six of them for the freezer and sell the rest as pets or breeding stock. 

The rat bitten turklet is completely recovered and back outside, though we are triple checking it goes on the roost at night. In the meantime, I’ve installed an anti rodent skirt to the coop. I’ll do a post just on that soon. 

The geese are starting to get real feathers, and are spending every day outside. The pen keeps them confined until they’re big enough to not get through the fence. 

And finally, it’s been consistently warm and dry for long enough that I felt I should water everything. And with the soil darkened, I could see much more clearly that the salad garden is actually doing quite well! That spinach was nearly invisible before watering. 

Same with the lettuce! Several varieties of loose leaf and I’m even doing some butterhead lettuce this year. And the radishes. I wasn’t even planting more radishes, but I found old seeds and figured I’d give them a shot. 

More than just a fence 

I already showed you how the area between the rabbit pen and the driveway is being used for grain and seed crops, but there’s still a lot of fence line and still a lot of stuff we are wanting to grow. 

The corn is taking its time. So while the wheat and sunflowers are coming up nicely, let’s talk grapes. 

I have two varieties of grape. Gewurtztraminer for wine, and a green table grape. The gewurtztraminer is older and will take a bit more work to train. Grapes need support to grow properly, because as a woody vine if you don’t train them up and out, they just sprawl outwards and that means grapes on the ground. No one wants that. Except the bugs, perhaps. Enter the fence. 

By planting the grapes right next to the fence, in spots that get enough sun, we don’t need a dedicated grape trellis. Sure, the bunnies and any other animals inside the fence might take a few grapes, but I figure that’s just free animal food and they certainly won’t take all of them. If it gets bad, I can just attack hardware cloth to the inside of the fence to prevent grape theft. 

Right next to the gate, I used a shovel to cut a line into the grass and stuck peas in. So far they’re germinating nicely even through the turf, so hoping for a nice long line of them. 

We also grabbed two varieties of pear (for cross pollination), Bosc and Bartlett. Most of our fruits will be suitable for making our own baby food. After all, why pay a couple bucks for a half cup when we can pick them by the pound and just mash and can them ourselves for pennies on the dollar?

Aside from all that, the huckleberry flowers are starting to drop so berries soon!

Elderberries are in full bloom. 

Strawberries just starting to bloom. The top of the pocket pot is an everbearing variety, but the pockets are two varieties of native strawberry. They’re sending runners out and as soon as that area is established, we will move the pot and let them colonize another patch. 

The salal and black cap raspberries are also budding out. Getting into the tasty time of the year soon!

Busy Saturday!

Even though I didn’t get home from work until after 5 am and didn’t get a lot of sleep, I had a rather productive day! First, after more than a week of hardening off, I got the veggies transplanted to the garden!

That’s a lot of tomatoes and peppers! Also got the Brussels sprouts and broccoli out. To be honest, I think I started all of these a couple weeks too soon. Some of them were pretty leggy. They’d have gone out sooner but the weather has not been particularly cooperative and I’ve been pretty busy with the fence. 

Speaking of the fence, I got a bit done between the driveway and rabbit pen. The closest patch is black oil sunflower seed. These are the small black sunflower seeds you see in bird seed mixes. They’re also where we get sunflower oil. The soil was pretty bad. I think the gravel driveway used to be much wider. 

The next plot is wheat. Not sure what variety, we got it from the feed store. But a germination test was very promising! 

After working in some rabbit poop, I broadcast by hand and then covered with a light sprinkle of soil. 

Finally, corn! Specifically, calico popcorn. So pretty!

It’s a good corn for popping, but also a good one for mixing homemade chicken feed. On limited space, I just did six rows. Hopefully I’ll get good fertilization. Next year I’ll have larger plots for all of these. Next year I hope to not be tilling rocky soil by hand!

I covered it all with bird netting (held in place by the fence to keep it up off the soil) because previous attempts were essentially just exercises in feeding songbirds. 

When that was all done, my sister dropped by with a couple friends to socialize the rabbits. This involved basically snuggling and squealing at how cute they were. 

Tomorrow is an us day for me and the lady McFarmFace. But Monday I hope to get started on the rabbit barn. But other than that, I got everything on my list for the weekend done today!

DIY livestock gate! Or the fence thing part two. 

While I had the materials to build the gate last weekend, what I did not have was the time. So the yard sat almost ready for the dog for a week. Poor Vasi. If she knew what I was doing back there, she might have been less of a pill. 

Anywho, the ground between the two gate posts was not level because I didn’t think ahead enough so some minor earthwork was in order. Once I had a relatively level area between them, it was time to build the gate itself. 

So, measure between the two posts and accounts for the hinges. The latch will be on the outside so not a big deal. I wanted a different style latch, but it seems most gate latches assume either square posts or chain link. Oh well. 

The gate is constructed out of 2×4, which makes it pretty heavy. Over time, it will sag. To counter this, the diagonal brace takes the weight from the top of the gate opposite the hinge and distributes it to the bottom right next to a hinge. Also, I placed a brick below the gate that it can rest on. Let’s hope that’s enough!

Obviously, two triangles with a nine foot span won’t keep the dog in, so the woven wire fencing was stapled to it.

 It’s tied to itself on the sides much like with the wooden fence posts. All in all, I think it blends with the fence quite nicely!

It’s stapled once up top and twice on the bottom, which stretches the wire down, then up, then down again. So it’s pretty tight. 

Basic gate hinges. Held down by gravity. You do want to make sure they’re plumb to each other, and measure very carefully, as the pilot holes make it very difficult to adjust the huge placement!

A little tidying up and it was time to let the puppy lose! She definitely enjoys the space! But until I can be sure the garden is completely secured, she only gets supervised time outside. 

Upcoming: using the fenceline as support for peas and grapes, planting the areas just outside the fence with grain crops among other things, and using pumpkins as weed control!

Basics of woven wire fences part 1

Well, it’s been in the works for several consecutive weekends now, but I have a fence! Normally I keep this blog pretty lighthearted and joking, and today won’t be any different! Except maybe more useful. Tutorial time!

I used redbrand 47″ field fence. It’s highly rated and probably overkill, but it’s actually an incredibly economical way to fence in a large space. 

For corners, rough terrain, gates, and (if the area is large enough) every 50 feet, I used 8 foot long 4″ pressure treated wooden posts set in concrete. 

The corners are braced. Unless you’re exceptionally concerned about strength, I wouldn’t bother cementing in the brace posts, but I did notch the vertical post to make sure it was very firmly seated. I set the base of the brace posts about a foot down against a brick. I put gravel around them for drainage before covering with soil. 

At roughly ten foot intervals (if the length of the run is 53 feet, I went roughly 10 foot 2 inches. Sue me.) the T posts went in. A post pounding cap makes this a helluva lot easier. Notice the string?

Don’t eyeball it. Use a line and level to keep those posts going in exactly where and how you want them. The T posts went on the outside of the fence, with the wooden posts on the inside. I just felt it would give the greatest strength if pushed from either side. 

To start the fence, it’s easier to unroll the fence along the line first. However, the terrain made that impractical where I was starting. All I really want to say about that experience is that there was a lot of panting, grunting, and swearing. And not even in a sexy way. Also, have someone help you if you can! Anyway, you remove the vertical wire from the edge of the fence, giving you a nice row of wires poking out. You’ll essentially tie the fence around the first pole, to itself. Don’t start your fence 1/4″ from a shed. Just saying. 

Once you’re unrolled and on the right side of the posts (easier after unrolling!) you can start pulling it into place. 

Now here’s where it gets tricky. You really ought to have a fence stretcher. I do not. But I do have random bits of lumber. So I stuck one in the fence (weave it through over one and under the next, all the way from top to bottom) and tied a rope to it. Attach that to a come along (hand cranked winch) to get the fence tight. 

Now, you don’t need it to be taut. I’d wager that’s actually probably a bad idea. But tight is good. Word of caution. As you crank it down, periodically go make sure it’s not caught on anything and the bottom wire is where you want it. The bottom wore had ridden up on my corner post and I had to uncrank the come along to get it down. I just didn’t feel like my fence should start four inches off the ground. 

If you find it’s caught a T post and that post is now being pulled towards you, do as I say and not as I do. Release tension on the come along before attempting to unhook the post. I was not injured. If I wasn’t paying attention, I could have been. 

Anywho, fence is standing up all nice and straight like, it’s where and how you want it. Awesome. You can either leave the come along there forever or you can finish the fence. Le sigh. I used some pretty heavy duty staples because overkill is better than a weak fence. Also, the barbs are sharp. Ask me how I know. Most of them are bowed out like the one pictured on the left. Use pliers to straighten them like the one on the right. They go in way easier. Giggity. 

Now, I’m no expert, but I do know that the vertical wires can slip along the horizontal, so a staple across either of those may not hold it forever. But a staple across the point where they are tied together? I’ll need a chainsaw to get that out. I’d say use a minimum of three per post. Top, bottom, and middle. 

Now the T posts I’ve done before, I just bent my own wire to tie them together. But this is a much heavier duty fence so I got clips. I highly recommend the clips. The clips are awesome. Also, you might stare at it for a minute thinking “now how is this supposed to work?”

Start by hooking the shorter end onto the wire and slipping the clip around the post. You want the wire over that bump on the post, but if it’s stubborn like this one was, you can finagle it after you’ve got the clip almost in place. You’ll see what I mean. 

But wait! That long end doesn’t quite slip onto the fence wire! But the wire is over the notch now, you’ll notice! 

But the long end is a very convenient size and shape to grab with pliers! Needle nose actually work really well here because you can grip the clip and then twist using the fence wire as a pivot point. This pulls the clip nice and tight. 

A few more twists on both ends and boom. Clip on. Please note that the ground makes this more annoying a task for the bottom wire. 

I got all the fencing for the yard done, but the last bit required supplemental lighting. I’m afraid that’s it for this weekend. Next weekend I’ll dog proof the perimeter, tidy up anything I don’t want her chewing, and build the gate. Until then, the bunnies are enjoying their new space! Pics of that when I’ve got time!

Asparagus and onions! Eventually. 

Things have been quite busy here at Huckleberry Hills! I’d been meaning to get asparagus crowns for weeks now, but wanted a better deal than I was finding. $1.60 per plant might not seem like a bad deal, but when you’re getting fifty, it adds up quick!

Amazon to the rescue! I was able to get both a green and a purple variety, 25 crowns each, and spend a total of thirty bucks and some change on them! They arrived during the week and I got them planted Saturday. 

Now, we didn’t really have an ideal spot already prepared so I had to make my own. I knew we wanted them near the house, but with the entire plot being sloped, and the front yard being poultry territory, I really didn’t have any options better than under the kitchen and pantry window. Of course, the soil isn’t fantastic there because there’s a steep slope right below it. 

Enter the bunny. Rabbit poop is one of the best fertilizers because it doesn’t need any aging or composting before applying to the garden. So I shoveled out as much as I could, and mixed it in with some garden soil I’d purchased to make my own seedling mix. 

I weeded the spot under the windows and started digging trenches for them. It’s a little more crowded than I’d prefer, but they should be fine. 

Despite some spotty reviews (largely from people who didn’t seem to have a firm grasp of gardening), they were almost all perfect crowns. Some had even broken dormancy and had tiny spears starting! 

Fifty plants, even if some are female, ought to be enough asparagus for the two (three soon!!!) of us, though we won’t get to harvest any until next year. 

After that, I got the red onions in the ground. Between red and yellow, probably a hundred total. Haven’t even gotten the leeks and scallions outside yet. A few are about ready though!

Also got the tomatoes repotted, for the most part. I don’t have nearly enough space for seedling trays, so I got some of them repotted and then just spaced the rest out in their original trays a bit. I’ve definitely determined that I need a better dedicated seedling area, with shelves and more lights. 

The incubator is set up and ready for eggs, just waiting on that silly turkey. The cuckoo maran pullets are spending the days outside and will be moving to the coop by next weekend most likely. 

As much as there is to do lately, it’s super important to not forget to take time for yourself and your loved ones. Saturday we had a family gathering at my mom’s house, and Sunday after planting, the girlfriend and I went to a local park. We really do live in a beautiful place, and I can’t wait to show it to my baby when he or she gets here!

Winter planting time!

Yeah, you heard me right, all you non gardener folk out there. Planting in the winter. There’s actually quite a few seeds that go in the ground before the last frost date. 

While the peppers and tomatoes chill under the grow lights, the garden bed is starting to get weeds. And, well, that just won’t do. We had a pile of partly decomposed straw from the dog bed, and the rabbits conveniently pile their poo in a corner, so I spread and raked that into the soil. 

The peas and turnips both got neat little rows, but the leafy greens I pretty much just scattered. I like to plant lettuce and spinach densely underneath taller plants like tomatoes. Helps keep the weeds down. 

Speaking of tomatoes, we will be trying the vertical string method this year, so I put a bunch of screws in the fascia under the gutter. The tomatoes will be in two rows, offset, each with a string supporting them upwards. 

My garden plan is pretty dense, and for some reason my careful measurements didn’t work out quite the same once I started planting. So the beans will get tepees off to the sides outside the actual garden bed. 

The alliums are going elsewhere because they don’t play nicely with legumes. I’ll also be growing, for the first time ever, a few grains. I’m very excited about the wheat and barley patches (so far it’s a patch of straw, but trust me. There’s barley under there). They’ll go downslope of the asparagus bed, along with some popcorn, and somewhere in all this, some shelling peas. 

I’ll be expanding the rabbitry, and that will have a sunflower border between it and the driveway. 

Sunflowers, wheat, barley, corn, peas… It’s almost as if I’m planning on making my own animal feed…

Anyway, the plan done and some of the planting as well, it’s quite clear that I need to at least double my garden space. Preferably triple or quadruple. Time to break out that chainsaw soon!

The tension is on…

It’s building up. The tension is increasing. It’s straining… soon it’s going to… spring!!!

Seed starting is well under way here. We have a full tray of tomatoes and one of peppers. We’ve also started several 4″ pots of leeks and scallions, plus some sunflowers. 

The latter we could have waited and direct planted, but we will use a lot of them so we figured we’d get an early small crop and just keep planting throughout the season for an extended harvest. 

In about a week it’ll be time for the Brussels sprouts and broccoli to be started, and not long after that, the garden itself will get some seeds. 

Looking at the amount we have already started, and the huge stack of unopened seed packets, it’s clear I will need to clean and prepare at least two more garden beds. The alliums can’t go next to the legumes and the sunflowers can’t go next to anything. Wait, three. Asparagus. 

Seems I’ve got my work cut out for me!

And so it begins…

We are less than nine weeks from the estimated last frost date. It seems odd to say that as the snow accumulates past an inch deep, but that’s what the numbers say!

Today I mixed up a nice big batch of seed starting mix. Nothing fancy, some organic potting soil, peat moss, vermiculite, sand, and some Doctor earth organic fertilizer. I suggest avoiding both Scott’s and Miracle Grow brands as the parent company has a long standing and strong partnership with Monsanto. 

I got three seedling trays ready but only planted one today. It’s all peppers!

24 of a mixed bell pepper blend consisting of California wonder, diamond, golden California wonder, orange sun, and purple beauty. 

24 purple jalapeño. 

12 habanero and 12 jumbo jalapeño. The last two are seeds left over from last year so I didn’t want to dedicate too much space to seeds that might not be good. 

I know 72 pepper plants might seem like a lot, but we eat a lot of peppers, and jalapeños can really well. Still, will probably sell or give away half of them. 

Next week, the tomatoes will get planted. 

Now, what’s really cool is I have a heat mat and thermostat for it this year. The heat mat I used last year is currently keeping the rabbit water liquid and warming the nest box. This was a kit on Amazon and I’m loving it! Highly recommend it. I paid 32.95 each, but they’re up to 35.95 now. 

Also, some sad news. If you’re not up for that, stop reading now. 
We lost the baby rabbits. It looks like the mama rabbit was wet with snow when she went to nurse and they got chilled from that. So we will clean the chick brooder and if there is another litter while it’s cold, we will bring the mama and babies inside for a few days till they’re furred out enough. 

Busy time

With spring rapidly approaching, there’s a lot to do. Mainly little projects, but some big stuff too. 

We had mice burrowing into the coop so some bricks and gravel around the edges today to hopefully discourage that. 

I got the garden prepped. Had to clean out the old tomato and pepper plant stems. Shoveled in all the rabbit poop I could scoop, and added some extra organic soil I hadn’t gotten around to last fall. Still need to finish the wall and leveling, but that can wait a bit. 

The wood stove had been smoking out the house so I cleaned it out, swept the chimney, and cleaned out the catch at the bottom of the chimney. And now I understand why most people hire someone to do this! Lots of ash and soot. Dirty work!

The chickens are in full gear. We actually got six eggs today, meaning the five ameraucana cherps are the only ones not laying yet. And the injured hen has recovered enough to rejoin the flock. She spent a few days outside in a penned off area to reduce aggression and it seems to have worked. 

Now it’s time for dinner, some drinks, and some downtime before I go back to work tomorrow!