Pasture, wedding prep, etc!

This weekend was a busy one.

First, the pig pen was moved again, leaving a new spot to smooth out and plant for pasture. They have a lot more shade now, which is nice with the weather getting warmer. Much warmer. Very abruptly.

My brother, sister, and a friend came over to help me with this project. We raked out the just vacated pen, pulled any blackberry and scotchbroom stubs the pigs had left, and spread the seeds. We also smoothed our the terrain a bit, eliminating some humps and bumps. I had a pile of parrot composted straw from the bunny barn. Well, I say straw. It was about 3/4 straw and the rest was poo. Anyway, we very lightly scattered that over the seed as mulch and fertilizer.

We also planted the arbeqina olive and the Chicago fig trees that have been in pots for longer than I care to admit. The olive will border the driveway like the pear, apple, and nectarine trees.

The fig tree, since it remains dormant longer than the others, I was able to put closer to the tree line. It doesn’t need sun quite as early in the year as the others, and it’ll get plenty there as it starts to wake up.

The next day I managed to get the old veggie garden cleaned up and raked out to plant the barley. Also found space for a small patch of wheat. I’d have make it bigger but I had considerably less wheat than I thought. Keeping the chickens out of this will be a challenge.

All of this was made more difficult by the pigs. See, they’ve been contained by just those electric wires for almost a month now, I think. With very little trouble. Until this most recent move. The two smaller ones have figured out that if they are quick enough, they don’t get zapped. So now I’ve got woven wire temporarily around most of it with logs and rocks across the front. Rice is the worst, Fried is the second worst. Rice has gotten out at least nine times.

However, I think I might finally have it. Last time I brought them food, he tried climbing the logs to meet me in the driveway, but got zapped and shifted into reverse. Hopefully that’s the end of it.

Last but certainly not least, we picked up some red ranger chicks! While I am sure our chickens can brood enough to feed the wedding, I don’t want to take any chance of not having enough chickens. So we picked up 14!

And seriously, we have the best farm cat in the world. I want to clone her. When separated from the brooder by a door, she napped by the door. When allowed near it, she slept next to it. She’s guarding them! No aggression at all. Also, the baby is very excited to have cherps. Took Freyja a minute to decide the baby was allowed to be there.

It always sucks going back to work after such a productive weekend, but especially when the to do list is still so long. But I am pretty happy with what we got done.

Advertisements

Big milestone!

Less than one year after moving in, we’ve reached what I think is a pretty big milestone! We have more baby birds than we want to raise up to eating weight. And you know what that means right?

Craigslist! I’d prefer to use Facebook, but Facebook doesn’t allow any sort of animal sales at all, not even the legal sale of livestock. 

But we have nearly a dozen baby turkeys, and at least two more ready to hatch. We’ve also got fertile eggs and rabbits that seem to be weaned. So, a couple ads are up and more will be going up soon. This is a pretty big deal!

For the first time, instead of saving us money (on food) or costing us money (on feed and supplies) our animals can start earning us money! This is a huge step towards not needing my full time job anymore. As you can imagine, I’m pretty excited!

We actually don’t need to “earn” a lot for this to be a big deal. By my figuring, if they pay for themselves and provide us with just a small amount of income plus food, it could allow me to change shifts. Night shift pays a little better, but I’d like to be on day shift long before my daughter starts school. I want to be present for her big moments. 

So yeah, I’m really excited right now. The animals are about to start paying for themselves, the veggie garden is the biggest I’ve ever done, and we’ve got five fruit trees that may produce this year but certainly will next year. Big things are happening!

More than just a fenceĀ 

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!

The time approaches…

It’s almost here…

While most people are thinking hot cocoa and soup, there are those who’s minds are already turning towards perhaps the most important winter activity for homesteading life. 

It’s time to start planning next year’s garden. 

And so, with my trusty territorial seed catalog in hand, we sat down and picked out the majority of our crops for next year. The list is extensive. 

Asparagus, beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, garlic, kale, leeks, radicchio, onions, peas, peppers, pumpkins, radishes, turnips, and tomatoes made up the vegetable garden section. That’s not including seeds I already have or can find cheaper locally. Most of these are heirloom or specialty varieties. But we are also getting some trees and other random stuff. 

Buckwheat, sunflower, pawpaw, olive, persimmon, and almond. Territorial has PNW hardy varieties of olive and almond so we are giving those a shot. The total bill just to this company is just over $300. We will also be getting some apple, hazelnut, and nectarines from local nurseries. 

But McFarmFace, its October! Why yes, yes it is. But most vegetables need to be started indoors in January and February, so we need to get started on the planning and purchasing now. Most trees need to be planted while dormant, so that means between now and the last frost. 

Actually, we ought to start the local tree shopping now…

Water, water, everywhere…

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a bit of a reputation for rain. Truth is, we’ve had fairly severe droughts the last few summers. Not California severe, but bad enough. For me to dive into traditional modern agriculture would be irresponsible, water wise. But I still want to grow lots of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. What’s a McFarmFace to do?

Why, hugelkultur and rain barrels, of course! Rain barrels are fairly self explanatory, and I’ll obviously do a post when I get that set up, but for now let’s talk about hugels. 

Hugelkultur is a German word and I won’t go into too much detail right now as the almighty Google can tell you far more than I can. But remember that post about using what you’ve got? Well, I’ve got poor topsoil (unless I want to dig up the wetlands, which I don’t) and a lot of wood debris from clearing trees. Since hugelmounds are essentially buried wood that creates higher quality soil as it breaks down, I figure I’m all set. It’s been estimated that after a couple of years of decomposition, no supplemental irrigation is needed to grow trees and perennials on a hugel. 

At this point, it’s really a question of where to put them and what to plant on them. I will also be using a technique called Swales and berms on the slopes part of my back yard. Basically it involves digging a perfectly level ditch on a slope (it will curve to follow the contour of the land) and piling the excavated soil on the downhill side to facilitate water retention and create a good place for growing trees without needing to water much. 

Down below that, across the driveway, is a big open space with blackberries, elderberries, foxglove, and tansy ragwort. But it’s relatively flat and would be a good place for hugels and veggies. Obviously I need to clear it out first. Blackberries aren’t a problem since I am getting goats next year (hopefully!) but the ragwort and foxglove are poisonous so they’ll need to be removed by hand and burned. I sense a weekend project with a nephew for manual labor…