It’s been a bit of a roller coaster weather-wise this year. I planted some things ahead of schedule because soil temperatures were right for germination and I didn’t want to miss our cool growing period in case we went straight to summer. Then it became arctic cold.  Thankfully my emerged seedlings seem to have held on. They didn’t grow much, but they seem to have started to now.  I have lots more to plant, but torrential rains are getting in the way, so I am squeezing stuff in as weather allows.

The comfrey, potatoes, and onion sets that I planted ages ago finally broke ground last week. If I had just waited until my normal planting times, I could have saved myself a couple weeks of extra watering.  Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as normal anymore when it comes to seasons and weather. Since we depend on our homegrown food supply, the best I can do is hedge my bets and work with the conditions at hand. It also helps to have a back-up plan. So, I only planted half of my seeds early.  And the rest are going in between the rains. It will be interesting to see which plants reach the finish line first and are healthiest.

Also, on the subject of back-up plans, I know many gardeners are careful not to let things go to seed in their garden (unless they are trying to collect seeds).  But, I always let some things seed like lettuces, arugula, mustard, coriander, tomatillo, amaranth, marigolds, chives, buckwheat, borage, lambs quarters, and purslane.  These guys are good indicators of soil temperature and growing conditions.  They are also good edibles/beneficials for us and our chickens.  And they grow no matter what.  If my own beds are growing fine, then I just pick these seedlings out and give them to the chickens or the worms when I need the space.  But, if I have any seed sprouting problems, I can transplant them where I need them as useful filler.

Here’s some of the stuff we’ve been up to the last month.

Random Stuff

We picked up 21 chicks and 15 ducks from post office. The ducks will go to the greenhouse in a day or two as soon as they gain a little weight. But in the meantime, my new brooder is large enough to hold the ducks and chicks together.  And as you can see from the header photo, the chicks don’t mind at all.  Ducklings always sleep in a pile.  A duck heap like this is not an indicator that the brooder is too cold. (In fact they, are in the corner farthest from the heat lamps.) Chicks tend to be spread all over the place. But, once the ducks lay down for their communal nap, inevitably a few chicks crawl on top and sleep with them.  I suppose all that duck mass probably feels quite a bit like being with a mama hen to the chicks.

I had a massive duck hatch failure with my first round of ducks. I’ll be sharing more details on what went wrong and changes I’ve made to my hatch procedures once I make sure I’ve got things worked out. When I incubate eggs, I take on the roll of the mama duck.  I am playing with life cycles for my own purposes. And when things go wrong, I feel terrible. But, rather than wallow in it and give up, I try to direct all that emotional energy towards learning more and doing better next time.  I still have a lot to learn about livestock husbandry.

I finished my first bentonite sealed pond. I’ll do a more comprehensive posting on this project later once some of the vegetation and aquaculture takes off and I see how the ducks like it. Duck Pond

I made bamboo pea trellises and tepees. I started with the tall one, then realized I was being crazy since my pea varieties top out at 3 feet. So, then I made the shorter one and used some extra bamboo posts to fill in the center area with teepees.

Mother Earth News published my next installation in The ABCs of Homesteading: L is for Legal Considerations.

I slaughtered four roosters with the help of our soon-to-be-first-intern, Abby. Abby helped us with our hog killin’ in December and really wanted to learn how to process poultry.  So, I showed her how on our first bird, and she fearlessly did the second rooster on her own.  She had such amazing composure and understood how important it was to get it right. I am really looking forward to giving her a chance to do some other projects on our land and get her hands dirty (as she says).

Edible Landscape

3/6 – Dug and planted Elderberry Suckers (3) in front of pond and a Goji Berry Sucker, Divided some oregano and catmint and planted along duck path, mulched new plants and two Chinese Chestnut and Willow previously planted.

3/7 – Dug up and transplanted 70 strawberry plants along the path to duck house and 4 hazelnut trees. Mulched path and other areas.

3/9 (or 3/10) – Transplanted a blackberry and horseradish plant given to me by Ken and Sharon, my awesome master gardener friends. Also dug up and transplanted two more blackberries that I had layered and rooted from our blackberry plants in the “chicken garden” (An edible landscape I am creating right in front of the chicken yard inside our fenced garden.)

3/18 – Dug up and planted some mints, oregano, yarrow, and tossed out basil seed in the chicken garden.

3/19 – Planted bare root trees and shrubs from RainTree in the garden edible landscapes (Mirabelle Plums: Reine de Mirabelle, Parfume de September, Gras Romanesc, Geneva Mirabelle plum, Medlars: Pucia Super Mol and M. de Evreinoff, 3 McKenzie Aronia berry) and asparagus crowns from Tractor supply, in the duck path edible landscape (Mirabelle de Nancy and Mirabelle de Metz plum, 2 rusa rugosa, 1 Portugese Super Hero autumn olive), and in the dining area edible landscape (2 Osier dogwood bushes).

3/24 – Transplanted some Russian Red Kale in garden edible landscape areas.

3/26 – Transplanted licorice in the edible landscape area on the way to the chicken yard.

Spring Planting in the Garden

Here’s what’s planted so far in the garden (new stuff interspersed with old stuff.)

  • Row 1 (on 2/23): Outer edges of beds full length of Northside – Chantenay Red Core Carrots, Southside – half-length of Ox Heart Carrots, and half length of St. Valery Carrots, both rows interplanted with Cherry Belle Radish, Lettuces along center of row – Buttercrunch, Bronze Arrow, Black Seeded Simpson, Linux.
  • Row 2 (on 3/1):  Outer edges – Northside – 70 – ‘Candy’ Onion Plants from Dixondale Farms compliments of Robert (Onion Growing Guru from The Art of the Onion), Southside – 80 sets of Red Onions. Inside – Northside – Detroit Dark Red Beets, Southside – Early Wonder Beets (soaked beet seeds for 24 hours before planting to speed up sprouting).
  • Row 3 (on 2/23): Daikon, Golden Ball Turnip, Early White Vienna Kohlrabi, Purple Top Rutabaga.
  • Row 5: (on 2/24) Red Norland Potatoes down center (20 sets) covered trench on 3/27, (on 3/27) Transplanted Northside – Hitton Chinese Cabbage, Southside – Primo Cabbage
  • Bed 2 (on 3/31): North – Erbette Chard, Middle – Rainbow (Five Color Silverbeet) Chard, South – Perpetual Chard
  • Bed 3 (on 3/25): Transplanted Purple of Sicily Cauliflower.
  • Bed 4 (on 3/1): Hollow Crown Parsnips.
  • Bed 5 (on 3/1): Giant Musselburgh Leeks.
  • Bed 6 (on 2/23): Arugala.
  • Row 6 (3/25): Down center transplanted Rossa Di Treviso Radicchio, Castelfranco Radicchio, Witloof de Bruxelles (Belgian Endive).
  • Row 7: Inside – Northside – Detroit Dark Red Beets, Southside – Early Wonder Beets.
  • Row 10: (on 2/24) Red Norland Potatoes (13 sets) covered trench on 3/27, Kennebec (9 sets), (one 3/27) Outer edges – Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage
  • Bed 7 (on 2/24): Yukon Gold ( 17 sets) and Blue Potato ( 10 sets) – This bed had some sections with my winter plantings like garlic and some lingering lettuces, so I lost a couple  square feet for potatoes this round.
  • Bed 8 (on 3/21): Northside – under trellis Lincoln Peas, intercropped Bedford Monarch Parsnips, Center – tepees Green Arrow (grown in established hairy vetch and clover for testing), Southside – under trellis Maestro Peas, Hollow Crown Parsnips (heavily seeded due to 45% germ rates).
  • Bed 9 (on 3/29): Transplanted Cour di Bue Cabbage both sides.