Birds, Birds and More Birds

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Spring is a hard season for me here in constant rainy land.  But the bright spots come in the form of eggs.  The feel and colors thrill my heart and pick up my soul.

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I collect eggs all during the day, in a nearly vain attempt at having a clean egg to deal with.   The eggs meant for sale for kitchen use I gentle wash in plain warm water and reseal them with coconut oil or a mix of beeswax and olive oil, for extended shelf life and ease of use for our egg customers.

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Often, the eggs I keep for our house are unwashed until used, but I know that can be a difficult hurdle for non farm folks, sometimes even for us, but I am happy to sell pretty clean unwashed eggs as well, upon request.

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Then, if eggs are not enough to make my heart sing,  there are the chicks and poults!  A perfect day brightener!

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I love hatching out lots and lots of chicks, poults and ducklings. We aim to carry at least 150 hens each year, so given that half of a hatch are males and a few of the pullets just aren’t up to snuff, I hatch out lots for a reason.  I do end up with extras but I do not like selling chicks or poults, just too much stress to please customers.   I may be selling the extra juvenile turkeys, that are past the somewhat fragile poult stage.  Check back with me later on that.

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I will sell turkey hatching eggs on those occasions when I feel I have plenty of little poults filling my brooders. Like right about now, $24/Dozen eggs, kinda cheap on accounta their being mutts and all. I just can’t bring myself to eating turkey eggs, they seem so expensive of a thing to eat.  The eggs for hatching are collected through out the day and marked on the bottom of the egg the day they are collected. Set on a cool dark shelf and tilted daily.  The top of the egg is marked on the date they go into our incubator.

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I specialize in mutts, some folks call them “heritage turkeys”, I refuse marketing ploys, okay, blatant trendy marketing ploys.   The original stock of our VF&G mutts were Narragansett, Blue Slates, Bourbon Reds, and Midget Whites.

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Our Midget Whites, the one turkey breed I do have isolated out, seem a bit large for their standards, but really, why eat a turkey the size of an overgrown chicken.

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We do have a Bourbon Red tom, he is resting from breeding for a bit to recoup from a fighting injury.

He seems to enjoy being the one free ranging, cattle hanging out turkey.

 

 

 

More about all the chicken girls and our housing in another post.  I gotta go stare at the brooder pens!

Sorry the comments to the blog are closed.  Too much spam, too little time to figure out a solution.  If you are interested in eggs, and are local, look up on our contact page as to how to get in touch with us.

 

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Rusty Is Moving On, Raspberries Coming Back

Rusty is moving on. No longer will he be VF&G’s boss hog.  He’s on to greener ground, not under it.

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We were getting ready to move him out to the woodlot as he has done his work completely eradicating all life forms in the old mixed raspberry and BlackBerry plot  or, since we have to bring in a new boar anyway as we have decided to keep a daughter of his, putting him in the sausage grinder.  Which would be very hard for some of us who think fondly of our Rusty Pig.

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Instead, a nice young farmer couple up north needed to have their gilts become sows.  He  has given us some very nice young pigs,  he’ll do the same for them now

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I will indeed miss him as his pen is, was, in the Market Garden that I work in daily.  .  But….

 

Next Monday I will have my raspberry patch back, !! minus the raspberries and fancy blackberries (those are no big loss, yeah, thornless, but not as tasty as natives or the weedy invasive types).  I will be putting in only fall bearing raspberries, this time around, also known as everbearing.  A pair or two of Pilgrim geese will spend next winter and early spring in the patch, keeping down grass and weeds while hatching out their young as they have done before,

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Back when there was grass in the patch.

The reason for everbearing or more accurately autumn bearing, is that for the autumn crop to be big and profitable, it is best to mow the canes down right after they bear in the autumn skipping the summer crop entirely.  

The autumn crop bears on first year canes, primocanes.  Summer crops bear on two year old canes.  

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When the geese are in the safety of the raspberry pen, taking care of the weeds and grass, they are a bit tough on the canes waiting to bear a summer crop.   So if the raspberries were strictly summer bearing, they faired poorly. But with strictly primocane culture by the time the crowns put up the new canes the geese and their goslings will be relocated to another spot on the farm that needs mowing that no one wants to machine mow.

So it is good-bye Rusty Pig, Rusty Nailed It, Rustoleum, and hello fall raspberries.

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This post was written on the road with Rusty, and on my phone, I have no idea how it really looks!

 

 

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Bad Morning, Better Day

Ugh, up late. Bad start, no breakfast biscuits for the menfolk as promised, fail. But doing best for a redeemed day.


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Ten chicks and three turkey poults

 

 

Grabbed chickies out of the incubator.

 

 

 

 

Red attracts the birds, they tap it and out comes a drop of water.

Red attracts the birds, they tap it and out comes a drop of water.

 

 

Water nipple trained them. Sorry no actual pics of me doing that, I would need 4 hands, I only have 3 today.

 

 

 

 

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Warm but nervous. Just need to get the giant hand out of the brooder.

 

 

The newer chickies quickly snuggle in with the older chickies who are always up for new friends, that’ll change in a month or so.  But for now it is a good way to help train the newbies to the waterer and feed dish.

 

 

 

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Checked temperature on the hatcher. Yes, I’ve decided to keep it, and modify it myself (decrease wind tunnel effect) because I cannot seem to control my need to completely fill the incubator with eggs. Speaking of incubator.

 

 

 

 

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Revised front.

 

 

 

 

I found some old chalk board paint, stirred and tested it yesterday.  After taking care of chickies, I painted the front of the incubator.  Hopefully, I can keep better track of whom to move and when.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nice clean brush. And I even prepped the surface before painting. New Leaf.

 

Before the paint was even dry, I washed the brush Dirt loaned me.  That should make up for no biscuits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Even put it back in the package and put it in Dirt’s shed. Yikes! I’m Dirt now.

 

 

And not that cleaning and returning a tool you borrow is really like doing a favor, (you should do it no matter what)  but Dirt was the one who let me sleep through not one but two alarms for me to get up to make the biscuits.

 

 

 

Now off to find something nice to do for Lucas who didn’t get biscuits and instead had to have his eggs on Swedish rusks, like half constructed Eggs Benedict, interesting for sure, but not biscuits.  And for Bet, who had to scramble quick to find something to feed her husband when she came into a dark, cold, empty biscuitless kitchen.

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Candlemas Day

Half your wood and half your hay, by Candlemas Day.  Or so that saying goes.  This year we, VF&G, aren’t doing well on that score.

It is also the day all holly and boughs are removed from the home.  I think I’m done.  I really don’t have much left of Christmas decorations up, save for the things I purpose to leave until Valentine’s Day, red things and snowy things, snowmen. That includes my winter village.

The creche isn’t to be put away until Candlemas but on that I jumped the gun, I packed away most of Christmas on the last day of January.  well at least I gathered things off the shelves and put them on the living room work table, or the dining room table or my bed.  From there I packed things in their appropriate boxes.  Most of which found its home in the attic yesterday before dinner, save for two boxes worth that greeted me this morning from the living room work table.

I’m glad my salvation nor my daily relationship with Christ depends on the days I do things or the food I eat on which plate.  I would be in miserable shape.  I do love tradition and special days, but sometimes I just can’t live up to the day at hand, I’m glad my Lord sees all days the same.  I’m also glad that as far as I can tell he isn’t upset with the joy frivolous day counting brings as long as we keep it into perspective and never make the day more than Him.

It is easy I think for us to do that.  Christmas is the big one.  We can get wound up tighter than a clock focused on the Day instead of the King.  Being rude because someone unknowingly says, “happy holidays” instead of merry Christmas”.  Fretting to near despair because the Christmas clothes on the freshly dressed-for-church-children are getting rumpled to death long before you get to the church.  The special food to be only eaten on Christmas eve turned out to be a flop or not available in the store, or, or, or.  The list is endless, and one by one they chip away at the true joy of the season we are closing the final door on today, Feb. 2nd.  And we vow to never let it again, only  to more or less go there in a couple weeks when our honey bring flowers instead of chocolate, chocolate instead of earrings, earrings instead of you name it.  Then there is the panic over Easter, clothes and messy children again, and getting the proper things into the dinner and baskets.

We are humans, we can, and usually do, get things way outta whack.  Hopefully God’s mercy and His words bring us back as we teeter on the edge not falling off the precipice.  I think it is easy to apply this to today’s mayhem over politics.  There are a lot of folks on both sides hanging on the precipice, some are aware of God’s voice, others are not.  At a time such as this it is good to remember, as we are spewing words from God’s book, or at least our rendition, that we remember Him more than our point.   We could stand in the town square tossing the hypocrisy ball back and forth until we lose our fingers, the ball is flat, the spectators have gone home, our households and workplace are in shambles.  We are human, we will always and forever, until we are in heaven, be hypocrites.  The goal is to not be one, an actor playing a part, claiming a part that isn’t us, intentionally.

Its politics, the other guy is always going to be wrong.  Until, maybe, he isn’t.  But ya gotta keep things in perspective unless you fall off the precipice like those in Berkley the 1st of February, who are burning and tearing their own campus apart.  Oh wait, not really theirs, the communities.  This has been going on in our beautiful diverse country since late Tuesday night, November 8th.  But what the heck, I’m probably not talking to those who are burning things up here am I Dear Reader? It does seem a specialty of our times, to burn down the very thing we claim to protect.  In a city near here, this last weekend we have someone carrying on Madona’s lovely theme she gave voice to on the 21st of January.  On a bull horn 50 miles away, was some woman yelling into a megaphone that the White House must die.  Seriously. The White House isn’t just a suburban house where some powerful rich white guy lives.  It is a symbol, one of the many symbols of our freedom.  Freedom that I get, hasn’t been enjoyed, let alone even visualized, by every single law abiding person down through the ages of this amazing country.  But burning down the House, threatening to burn it, suggesting someone should, weakens the very thing it symbolizes.  Not saying we need to remove everyone’s freedom of speech,   But we should know ourselves, when to temper it, when to leave hyperbole home in a box.  Lest it become the hatred we are saying we are fighting.  

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A New Garden

Beginning this summer, mostly just on Sundays, I’m putting in a new garden near the house, right by the asparagus patch, just south of the barn, my long awaited Holy Trinity Garden.

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This garden will essentially be in the shape of a clover leaf, the famed illustration of Saint Patrick to the Irish to explain God: how he can be one God, but three persons. You know, “God in three persons, blessed Trinity”.  The whole illustration and its meaning, and why my children would occasionally witness me going slightly askew when I saw four leaf “lucky” clovers in decorations on St. Patrick’s Day.  Not lucky leprechauns, the Holy Trinity.

Back to the garden.  The pathway, starting out as the stem from the back lawn, and winding around the outside edge of each leaflet, will be sturdy low growing herbs and forbs that the rabbits and poultry can eat.  Eventually the rabbits, in Bunny Cruisers, will feast on lovely things in the pathway as their cruiser moves along the path that is wide enough to accommodate the riding lawn mower should the herbal lawn get ahead of the nibbling rabbits.

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Each “leaflet”  of the clover will be beds of particular perennial vegetables and herbs, ones that are all at the same time food, healing and beauty.  Three different parts of our needs but all the same.    Yep, I can often take a metaphor too far.  But I love it, I love thinking about how amazing creation is, how unfathomable the Creator is.

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Yard birds will be free to roam and if I really want a plant that they are prone to eat a lot of at some point in the growing cycle, I will have discrete barriers to keep the plants in question safe. I already know my comfrey will need protecting but so far there are quite a few things they don’t touch, things growing elsewhere on the farm that they pass and don’t devour.

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Two of the leaflets of the garden are currently under construction, the beds are made and waiting for plants.  The third leaflet has to wait until autumn when the water is out of the pond so that I can construct a runoff-greywater holding and clarifying pond as the center of the leaflet. I’m so excited to do some major dirt work with my tractor I can hardly stand it!

It will be slow going even on the beds I’ve made already.  I don’t have my plants yet for the garden.  I will be propagating most of them in the next months, some direct seeding, like the herb lawn path and some in propagation trays then pots to hold them over winter in a nice warmish place and then plant them out next spring.  And I will be propagating some roses, thinking of making a rose rope with some very fragrant roses for rose water and rose tea, stuff like that.  Thinking just thinking, it will probably just turn into a couple of rose bushes or climbers on an arbor.  But I really would like to try.  

I haven’t made any hard fast rules about only working on it on Sundays, that would be like a law and I am free of those, in Christ.  But I would like a day when I can all day puddle around on something that makes me just happy to be doing, no pressure, no drive to produce; think only of God, ponder the things He has told me, the world He has given me; and hopefully honor Him in the process.

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Onions Overwinter

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Overwinter Onions In My Zone 7ish Market Garden. 

Earlier this year, I thought I had decided that I desired a break from starting my own onion plants for a few years. But, since all of my onion plants, okay, nearly all, from Dixondale had bolted on me this spring/summer, and they bolted on my daughters who garden a wee bit different from me (so it wasn’t just my doing), I’ve decided that I am just going to tough it out and go back to producing my own onion plants for transplanting out. 

Typically I don’t get these started until August, but since last winter’s crop had issues with the two quick long cold snaps with “heat waves” as bookends to both, I’m getting them started earlier this year.   I want you to join me, Dear Reader-Gardener, you will love winter gardening!

All of my seeds for this year’s onions are from Territorial Seed: Gate Keeper, Keepsake, Top Keeper, Walla Walla, Guardsman, Ambition shallots.  Oh, and one left over packet of Texas 1015’s from I’m not sure who, bought a huge packet and didn’t use them all, shame on me, but some should still be viable.   In the past I’ve used Johnny’s, West Coast and somebody else that I can’t quite remember, that would be the source of the Texas 1015s.

*I was going over inventory before I published this and found some packets that didn’t get planted in February, guess I’m going to experiment on how long day onions do in an overwinter situation.  Onions seed viability goes way down with storage so I’d rather experiment than waste them not growing next spring.*

For overwinter onions you use the short day onions.  Or a day neutral type.   This is the one time you can use short day onions here in Washington, if you grew them in the spring like long day onions, they wouldn’t make much size before the day light hours told them to begin bulbing up. 

By growing short day onions this way you get a nice globe onion, either sweet or yellow storage, long before the long day onions are ready.  Even though I grow a huge crop of long day storage onions that store until spring, I like growing storage onions from overwinter-early summer production. The early summer harvested storage types get me to the fall harvest of my main storage crop and it allows me to save the very long storage onions until later. And because sweet onions barely last a month or two on the shelf I like having two batches of sweets as well, a summer full of sweet onions on the grill!  Pure bliss!  

Starting the Seed

I start them on the propagation bench not in the garden, too tiny (not the garden, the seedlings).

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I use the insert for the flats that have two rows of six rectangle pots, fill them with a seed starting mix, wet the soil from the bottom in my bottom water trough. and then plant away.   

No, First I Make My Labels. 

Oh wait, before I get everything wet, I mark the pots.  I label the pots because I always loose tags – you know, the plastic tags that you write on and stick in the soil.  Yeah, roaming poultry love to pull them out. Or when moving flats I flip them out.  So, I’ve learned to mark the pots.  I don’t want each pot marked, that would be crazy, and because I usually plant the same variety for the whole flat or half flat I devised a method for marking them that saves me from marking every pot.

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I love my Brother label maker, wouldn’t garden without one any more!  I’ve learned how to make a string of labels so that I don’t have to waste the starting strip.  I print off two for each variety unless I am doing two flats of the same variety then I need four. 

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I begin by putting the label on the front left corner.  I calculate how many sets of two I’m going to use (I always put the same variety of seed in the front and back pot, unless it is some super special seed then each pot gets labeled obviously, but for this application and most of my planting I use the two pots together) and then I place the second label for that variety on the right side of the last pot I’ll be using.  The next variety goes on the next pot on the left corner and so on and so on.  If I’m filling the whole flat with the same seed I still put the second label on the right side of the last pot.  That way I know it is all that one variety and I didn’t lose labels.  I’ve never had a label pop off but….

Soak the Soil Mix

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After I have my labels on I soak the trays in plain water.  Once the seedling come up I will begin soaking them in a fertilizer mix specific to the type of crop seeded.  (one of the reasons that I seed the same type of crop in one flat). But for now, just plain water will do.

I never water from the top down.  I always water freshly filled trays, seeded trays and seedlings, from the bottom.  I have my reasons.  Okay, I’ll side track and tell you.  I am not a germaphobe even in the garden or at the prop table, I don’t sterilize stuff.  But I do take care to not cause extra problems and one of those is getting water where it shouldn’t be, on baby leaves and in crowns.  So I bottom water.  I also bottom water to keep soil and seeds where I put them, not to where the water will move them.  I find it way easier to just treat everyone the same, I stay less confused that way, and tender stuff doesn’t get the treatment the tough guys get, by accident.  It is also my preferred method for fertilizing young seedlings.  I add the fert to the water in the trough (a plastic lined wood trough).  I find I go through less fertilizer by bottom watering even on seedlings that can take it.

When I’m prepping the trays for seeding, I soak the heck out of them.  Pull them out and let them drain.  It is one of the few times when I “over water” and they are dripping wet.  I do that so I know that all the starting mix is wetted and then when I put more starting mix on top of the seed, the new soil will absorb the excess and become wet without my having to re-water the tray.

For the most part, approximately 30-35 seeds are going in each individual pot, some sources say you can put 100 onion seeds in a 4-6” pot, I think that is crazy too many.  But with 30-35 seeds in one of the pots it comes out to about 400 seeds per tray or one 2 gram packet of seed. 

Once Seeded and Growing

Once the flats are all seeded and growing I will add a liquid fertilizer to the water in the trough. For these onions I will first use a seaweed fert to get the roots off to a good start and then later I’ll switch to a fish fert for a higher nitrogen content.  If I don’t want to bust a dollar bill over it I just use my own manure tea. 

They need proper light but they sure as heck don’t need to fry in on the prop bench in the greenhouse if it is a hundred kelvin out. So they just sit on some temporary bench up away from the scratching feet of wandering poultry.  The cats tend to just sit and look at them, one of the reasons I rarely plant in whole flat inserts any more is the nasty sad occurrence of the farm cats thinking they had died and gone to heaven and some one had supplied them with the bestest litter trays ever!

After about six weeks or more, some time between September and October (or a bit later if I’m distracted) I will begin planting them out.  Don’t give them a lot of nitrogen (manure or compost) at this point because that will make them too tender to ward off the cold.

After they are well established and have taken a chilly few days go ahead and give them a nice mulch, it will protect them from being displaced by the soil heaving from freezes.  The freezing usually doesn’t kill them but the heaving up out of the soil will.

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They won’t grow a whole lot during the winter (typically), so when you plant them out and when you start planting your peas in the next bed over in February, they will look pretty much the same.  But then they will take off quick because they are used to the cold and thankful for the warm days of late winter – early spring. Give them a nice shot of nitrogen while you are out there planting your peas.  Manure or compost, either one, don’t worry about it getting down to the roots, onions have shallow roots.  Just pull off the mulch you gave them for the winter and put the manure or compost, or a mix there of, down in the same spot. You may find that your mulch has diminished enough that you can just put the manure right on it.  Do it.  But if you’re using beautiful compost, I’d pull the mulch back, put the compost down and put the mulch back.

They have a huge head start so that when the day length gets just right they begin bulbing in May or early June (depends on how over cast our spring is) they will be nice size.  The goal is to have around 7 or more visable “leaves” on the onion plant before bulbing begins, each leaf is a ring on the onion, not many leaves=not many rings=not a very big onion. If you check on them in late March or April and they don’t seem to have enough leaves even if you have given them manure or compost then hit them with some manure tea, make sure you spray it on them before 11 am.

Your Reward for Your Bravery

They will go tops down and you can begin harvesting in July or sooner depending on our skies.  The sweet types, Walla Walla for instance, you should start harvesting and eating as soon as you like the size they are, they won’t last long out of the soil.  The storage types will take you far into fall maybe even December before you have to start raiding the deep pantry for your fall harvested longer storage types.

Categories: Onions, Propagation, Winter Gardening | Comments Off on Onions Overwinter

New Fence, New Bridge,

Getting ‘round in the muck in spring.

Well not just spring, autumn and winter as well.  Not even just autumn, winter and spring but the first and last months of summer.  Okay, maybe that is a bit of exaggeration, but only barely. 

It is hard living on soft soil at the head waters of a creek, with beavers for neighbors, in the lowlands of the Puget Sound basin and not have a lot of mud to contend with. 

A lot. 

Especially in walkways that cross a run off from big fir and cedar trees.

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Like this walkway.  This is a common walkway, leading from the barn you see in the back ground out to the back pastures and the wood lot.  It can get pretty heavy traffic at certain times of the year and always receives regular twice daily human traffic.  The heaviest time is also one of the wettest times, lambing season.  The picture above is what it would look like right about lambing time.

Something had to be done.

Last fall Dirt removed one of our extremely ailing fences, I built up the walkway and made a culvert that Dirt built a bridge over.  

All along the walkway, up to the main service gate, I scraped all the manure-shaving-old hay-weed filled top layer off with the bucket of my tractor and leveled it a bit with a slope to the pond.

Then I brought rock in from a borrow pit out back, put a nice firm layer down, still sloping to the pond and then from a pond digging project in the Market Garden I hauled, dumped smashed down in the rock many many loads of clay.  Smoothing and pushing down and smoothing and pushing down until driving over it with the tractor barely left  any imprints.

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Then Dirt put up a nice new fence.  What an improvement. 

The rain has poured, and not poured, and poured again.   All free roaming animals were exiled from the area – including my old horse.  The walkway has held up okay, not perfect by any means, as in: don’t do chores in pretty boots.  But at least when we walk across here we don’t get a boot sucked off our foot.

There was a bit of a debate, as the rain sogged a bit into the pathway, what to surface it with before the heavy traffic of ewes and lambs began?  

Bet and I have really always wanted to build a corduroy after reading Freckles, or was that Girl of Limberlost, one or both books spoke of a roadway into swampy logging areas using a corduroy of logs laid down across the road as a way of getting through the muck.

But as usual, we chickened out on the idea.  No one really knew what to do, gravel seems so not right, hard to maintain with the manure that will eventually get there.  Chips work but then when it is time to start again there is so much to remove.  Ah, indecision strikes the Vick family again.  And the rainy season was upon us.  The water seemed to only cause surface slime.  Lambing season has come and nearly went and it hasn’t been too bad not having anything down.

So on to other projects.

 

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Onions, Onions, Onions and Some Garlic

Onions This Last Year

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Last year at this time I ordered some short day onion plants from Dixondale Farm. 

Even though the bed I chose ended up being slightly flooded during the winter; and this super dense short weedy grass/moss junk, impossible to weed out without removing all the soil around the onion, grew around most of the onions, they still produced pretty well. 

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Because they were short day onions they were done bulbing and ready to harvest in early-mid summer but also held well in the field until I could take a break from haying responsibilities to stay home and harvest the onions, that are still being used in the kitchen by the way, long after the catalog information said they would. 

All in all, a good enough experience to repeat.  Especially since my long day onions were an utter fail this year.  It wasn’t so much a crop failure as a farmer failure.  Just too much going on, and I fell into that unfortunate locally located mire called Overwhelmed.

This Year’s Onions

In January, I will still start long day onions, some Walla Wallas just ‘cuz and lots of Copra. 

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Copra is a crazy storage onion, last year (2013) when we grew it was still being used in our kitchen until spring from a late summer/autumn harvest. I doubt that I will play around with other late summer harvest onions.  Summer is an insane time here at VF&G and I would like to think I could fit in a hike or two or a trip to the lake to cool off.  So Copra it is, leaving working out the quest for open pollinated storage onions for another year.  I think my onion experiment this winter might be enough for now. 

Growing Onions Overwinter 

Short day onions are usually not grown north of the 36 parallel.  That’s the line that makes the bottom of Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky and Virginia and the top of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Carolina

Here in at VF&G in between Mount Rainier and Puget Sound we are just above at the 46 parallel, specifically: 46*56’11.56” . A line that goes through the middle of Washington; the panhandle of Idaho; Missoula, Montana; Bismark and Fargo, North Dakota; Duluth, Minnesota; a barge in Lake Superior; Sudbury, Ontario; Quebec City, Quebec; and just below Caribou, Maine.   But a degree and a half below Paris, France!  (But that tidbit of info is for another article.)

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But we can grow short day onions because we may be north of the 36 degree line but we have the winter weather of much of Texas. USDA Horticulture zone 8. This year is predicted to be an el nino and so even more Texasy, yay for my winter grown spring/summer onions, too bad for skiers.  

So yes, our winter days are mild but the hours of daylight that trigger bulbing will come quicker than in the South.  The key for growing them here is, don’t start them so early that they’ll think they have been alive for two years come next spring, feed them really well all winter (except for nitrogen) and pump them full of nitrogen as soon as real cold weather is past.

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Some other issues: keep their feet warm and reduce weed pressure.  Mulch works.  Specifically for me, wool works great!  The only mulch I know that slugs dislike;  I have lots; it doesn’t bind up nitrogen as it breaks down; it holds moisture with out soggin’ out flat; keeps the ground from heaving; and it slowly feeds the soil.

The Varieties This Winter

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In August in flats well marked, I started nine main onion crops plus shallots, and about three green onions. 

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Three onion varieties that I purchased from Dixondale as plants last year that are indeed short day onions: Texas 1015, Texas Early Grano, and Red Creole.  We’ve planted about 300 each of these. They will be our late spring and summer eating onions.  Chopped up in potato salads, caramelized on burgers, caramelized on burgers, deep fried onion rings, caramelized in hash browns.  You know, summer eating.

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Three onion varieties from Territorial Seed Company said to be really good short term storage onions, planted about 300 each: Gate Keeper, Keepsake, and Top Keeper.  Not necessarily short day onions (some I just can’t find out about as far as short, long or intermediate), but ones that are touted for overwinter plantings and early harvests (wait, isn’t that the definition of short day onion?)  Really looking forward to these onions.  They aren’t supposed to store much longer than November after harvesting in mid summer but it will enable us to save the Copras we will grow for long term storage.

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A variety from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Bridger, another short-term yellow onion – 300 each. Plus, Ailsa Craig, a sweet Spanish onion similar to Walla Walla (which also work as an overwinter onion) but Ailsa’s are bigger and different from what everyone else is growing – 300 of those. And Red Marble, a long day but overwinter onion, a versatile little fellow that can be harvested as a scallion but that will bulb up cipollini style if given room and time.  We, actually Bet, planted about 500 of the Red Marble, they are the ones in the foreground bed in the picture above, you can see the closer spacing.

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Beds to finish up this week: the last three beds for onions. Two for shallots and three varieties of scallions and one experimental bed (I’m trying my hand at hot beds, more on that in another post) with all the left overs from the other varieties we already planted.

And The Garlic

Lots of garlic will be planted beginning next week, well that’s my plan any way.  Lots and lots of garlic.

Three sets of three beds 2’ wide and 40’ long. Six inches apart one way (short rows cross ways on the bed) and three inches the other.  So about 600 each bed give or take about 50. Some where around 5000, if the seed garlic supply holds out.

The varieties?  Yeah… who knows what they are.  I can tell you the varieties I started with, what they might be.  But for some reason I just can’t seem to keep them labeled.  I’m thinking it has to do with haying season occurring at the exact same time as garlic harvest.

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They are separate, I think, just not labeled as to what variety is what.  I have lost some very distinct varieties – of course I lose the ones that are easy to identify.  And maybe someday I will get back to having definite varieties and carefully harvest, plant and mark so that I can keep them separate for more than the two years I did.  But… not now.  For now we just eat garlic, some is hard neck, some soft, some hot, some not so much.  But we have garlic.

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The debris from this summer’s crops and weeds haven’t been cleared from the garlic beds, plus a couple of the beds still have things, cauliflower and cabbage, still growing on them.  “Planting next week” really means getting started.  I figure by the time I work myself over to the beds that have crops growing still they will be done and harvested and I can finish up with those. 

Funny, I say I dislike spring so much because of the soggy wet dreary weather and all the work I have to do, planting and prepping for the growing season.  With this whole “year ‘round garden and harvest and seasonal eating”, spring isn’t the only crushingly busy wet soggy dreary season.   But I could never dislike autumn.  It is still hanging in there as my favorite season.

Categories: Crops, Garlic, Onions | 1 Comment

Tree Planting

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Gathering up potted trees from around the house and outbuildings and taking them out to the Highway Hedgerow.

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So how come trees along the highway fence line?

 

Trees are assets, like tools on a farm.

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First off, trees drink a lot of water.  We have a lot of water.  We already had a good deal of water on the farm.  Plus, remember the 2006 picture in the last post where it shows that the year we put in the original punkin patch that across the highway houses went in and next door our neighbor harvested his trees?  Yeah, that all increased our water in the front by a little bit.  Houses, driveways and streets where there weren’t any, that is the worst.

Don’t get me wrong, I like new neighbors and there is nothin’ cooler that cuttin’ trees for logs – or firewood – but like some physicist somewhere said, for every action there is a reaction. 

Secondly, these trees will be a much needed barrier.  There is a lot to be said about this barrier aspect of trees:

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Trees absorb a lot of sound.  It is funny how they do that.  You expect it from trees in between the hearer and the noise, but you’d be surprised by how much they absorb even just being in the area.  Like curtains and carpet in a house.  Anyway, the trees we are putting in are for a sound barrier between the hearer and the noise.  Us and the highway.

Not only do trees stop noise, they also stop bugs.  Bugs like to travel but they do get a little ADD sometimes, so by putting up a variety of trees they will get distracted from heading into the Market Garden.

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Trees stop wind.  I know, our prevailing winds come from the southwest, but we get our cold winds from the north and northwest, those are the ones the tender things in the garden need the most protection from.  Not to mention similar to the effect on sound waves –absorbing and calming or quieting them all around, trees effect the wind in front of them as well as behind them. 

Trees trap heat.  Gardens like heat, so even though we sweat and mutter, and drink lots of beer, and go sit in the shade, gardeners like heat too, and however we can trap and store heat, we do.

Trees also make shade and keep things cool.  I know what I just said, but they do both.  And I know that I just said gardens and gardeners like heat, but we also like shade.  We like things to not be parched.  Trees keep things from being parched.  They are very handy that way.

 

Trees and shrubs are a creative outlet

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Trees create mystery.  What?  Yep, it is part of why I decided to put trees out on the highway line.  Mystery.  I like being an open book.  Ask folks who know me really well and they will tell you that I like to share what I’m doing, often I over share.  But I also like a little mystery.  I like folks to come and ask, what is going on, can they peek behind the curtain of flowers and leaves? I like creating secret gardens and secret places that surprise and delight.  So I’m creating a living garden wall.   Big boy sized.

Not to mention that the wall itself will have eye appeal.  So as you drive down the highway past our place you might not be able to see the interesting crops or flower or the cute little lambs frolicking, but hopefully the beautiful colors and textures in our “garden wall” will brighten your day and lift your spirits.

We like that what we do can produce that for others.  Just like the artist with a canvas or camera or the writer with pen and paper, we like to create with living things, scenes for your eyes and heart.

 

Trees add to the Farm’s product line

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In a few years we will be harvesting cuttings from the conifers and evergreen broadleaf bushes and trees we are planting now for holiday trimmings.  Winter is a slower producing season and every little bit helps, not to mention it is one of the many things I love to do.  Cut things and bring them in the house.  Or cut things for you to take into your house.

After the holidays, in the bleak winter and earliest of spring when it seems like so long a time for blooms to be coming on, the intensely colored branches of some of the deciduous trees and bushes will be cut for their color an/or forcing emerging catkins and flowers.

 

Health Benefits and Food

A lot of that benefit is the same as mentioned earlier in regards to the Market Garden. 

But some of the trees we are planting in this hedgerow will actually have medicinal properties for humans, livestock and wildlife.  Just a few examples:

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Willows are a vermifuge (wormer) especially for sheep, and willow was the precursor to synthetic aspirin.  We have a few different willows already and will be expanding.

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Some plantings will produce food stuffs.  Juniper berries are one of my very favorite flavorings for meats.  We already have American Cranberry growing, tart little buggers, big seed but a good little berry. 

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In a few years we should have plenty of acorns for Bet’s piggies. and maybe for us as well. 

And the wildlife, birds mostly, will find lots of seeds and nuts to eat plus places to hide. 

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Around this farm, because it is old, and was carefully tended in the past by folks who valued such things, there are plenty of margins.  The space between wilderness and man, or between man and man.  Those places are good, full of health and well being for man and animal.  We thought we would add to the vital history of the land and create some more margins.  Margins in which to hide a little bird or chipmunk or ourselves for an afternoon or two.

 

Categories: Change, Farm Make Over, Farming Manners | 1 Comment

Highway Hedgerow

Changes were mulled over, consequences – benefits and detriments – weighed and now the time has come, the plans have been made, fence removed.

Well almost the fence is removed.  Three-fourths is out of the bindy mess of grass and dirt.  We are workin’ on it. 

What fence?  Why?  What the heck is goin’ on? 

Sometime last year, in the middle of feeling overwhelmed with the whole Market Garden thing and feeling lost and unsure and adamant all at the same time, I decided the Market Garden needed to expand. 

What?!

Well when all else fails and your feeling over whelmed and exhausted, dive in deeper I always say.

So what once was the original Pumpkin Patch with a nice little fence dividing it from the Front Pasture until it got so flooded from housing development run-off that it had turned into the Highway Hedgerow, has now been integrated into the new Market Garden area and the Highway Hedgerow is actually going to be a “row” instead of a giant swath.

Here, in picture format, the history of the Market Garden at VF&G:

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The timeline for the plan?  

That most all of the big changes that impact planting and harvesting will be done soon and we will be on track for a productive spring!

A lot of work, besides ginormous change ups, is also going on.  All in an effort to not only eat from the farm year ’round, but feed others likewise.

Categories: Change, Farm Make Over | 2 Comments