Friday, May 1, 2015

Homestead Update: May 1

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

I have been incredibly busy around the 'stead these days, but I finally squeezed in some time to give you all an update. I am so very pleased with the garden so far this year! It's already doing better than last year! Here's hoping we have a bumper crop! Here's my boys de-sprouting the rest of our potatoes from last year. (Although these are store bought.) Child labor at it's finest. They were doing this while I cooked breakfast, which is the reason for the very fashionable jammies! They wanted to help, so I let them have at it. They were super disappointed when they ran out! Oh, and they are sitting on dirty laundry! lol! Well, this is our life, may as well be real about it!

My chickens! I don't take too many pictures of them since my camera doesn't focus well through the chicken wire. But that will change when I get the new run set up and I can easily go inside with them. Here they are at feeding time. They practically maul me at the door! Little Buddy yells, "Don't let them out, Mom!"

They had some neighbors move in. I think it's a family of starlings, black birds with gold flecks. I totally invaded their nest by shoving my phone up in the opening and taking pictures as well as video. The video is on my Facebook page.

How neat is that?! Well, anyway, we'll be sure to get that fixed as soon as the babies fly the nest.

My brassicas bed is doing well. I haven't really utilized the ollas yet since the plants are still pretty small. My volunteer squash or melon vines are doing great! Can you tell what they are? There's a brussels sprout on the far left doing well.

Tomato sprouts are slowly growing. I just don't know how they get them to grow so big so fast at the nurseries! I have kept them evenly moist and even fertilized them and they poke along. Oh well, they'll get there eventually.

I am impressed with the peppers though! I only had one bell pepper sprout, but all my hot peppers went crazy! So I started more of them to companion plant with my tomatoes and I'll baby my one bell in a pot.

I have a variety of herbs that all seem to be doing well.

Here are some of the plants I scavenged from my local urban homesteader group. Behind the fence is a raspberry cane, the round pot is stinging nettles, and the yellow bucket is raspberry sprouts. I tried raspberry sprouts last year, but they all died. So I hope to get them to grow this year. Also, next year I will have an in-ground spot for the nettles.

My potato plants are doing fabulous! I have a variety of potted herbs around them.

Here's the future tomato bed with a thick layer of leaf mulch over the soaker hose I placed. 3 years ago I had read that if you put leaves in burlap bags and let them sit in a shady corner of your yard, you'll get leaf mould (compost). Well, as you can see, that didn't work for me. The bottom 2 inches had turned into compost, but that was it. So, I will keep using my leaves in my compost piles from now on.

The three sisters bed. Here again is my supposed "leaf mould" that didn't. Well, at least I have plenty of mulch! The three plants in the middle are volunteers. As seedlings I thought they were brassicas, but now they look like turnips. They are doing great, so I'm going to let them grow and see what they are!

I have the gutter all ready for strawberries! I really hope I can get them to grow this year!

The garlic is doing amazing! It's about thigh-high! I only hope that it's doing just as well if not better underground.

So, all those little seedlings I thought were my chamomile are actually plantain! But that's okay because we love plantain and it's many uses. Plus it doesn't have to be mowed like grass does and that was my main goal for the garden walkways.

Here is one of my straw bales with the morning mushrooms starting to wither. It must be super fertile because I see these mushrooms sprout every day! Plus, guess what...I finally see some potatoes sprouting in the leaves there! I had read a tip about planting potatoes in the fall to get a head start. They took so long to show up, I didn't think it had worked! I'm not sure I'll try this again. We'll see how I feel in the fall.

My root veggie bed is doing great! The plants in between from top to bottom, spinach, kohlrabi, and lettuce and radishes mixed together,are all doing great! Much better on this spot than I thought they would! This is the first time I've gotten spinach to grow! Hopefully I'll be able to properly fill this bed with soil next year. There also seems to be several volunteer tomato plants. I will let them grow unless they become a nuisance. They may end up being a blessing though, and shade the other plants in the heat of the summer.

The boys are happily playing with their "new" trucks we got from the garage sale down the street. As if they needed anymore, but they are thrilled at having another reason to get dirty!

Last, but certainly not least, my itty bitty pretty, BG. She is my big smiler! I could just eat her up! Soon after I took this picture, I hear Little Buddy say, "OH NO! Sorry Baby Girl! I'm sorry!" I turn around to see him brushing dirt off of her! Seems even my teeny girl isn't immune from dirt! She smiled the whole time. She fits right in!

Well, there you have it. Crazy town at it's finest! How is your homestead doing? I'd love to hear about it!

Happy Homesteading!

Jen Hen

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Homestead Update: April 12

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

Spring has sprung and the growth has already started to become exponential. I could write a new update nearly everyday!

The crate potatoes are doing amazing! Better than they have ever done!

Nothing in the tomato bed yet, except a few dandelions.

The 3 Sisters (corn, beans, squash) bed isn't planted yet.

But there are some volunteer brassicas plants in there. I'm letting them go! I have learned from experience that volunteer plants tend to do better than the rest.

The path behind the 3 sisters bed is doing well with plantain and dandelion. If you look close, the chamomile is sprouting everywhere! I'm so excited about this!

It seems the garlic gets taller right before your eyes! The garlic I have tried to grow in the summer time has never come close to this! I wish I could see what's going on underground, but I dare not disturb even one of them to check.

I think the potatoes I planted last fall (in the leafy area) have all rotted. I had tried Yukon Gold and it was recommended to use white potatoes, so, lesson learned. I have some companion plants I was going to grow with the potatoes, so this space won't be wasted. The straw bales are looking well...there is grass growing in them and the one closest is riddled with mushrooms every single morning! This tells me that they are conditioned well and will hopefully grow a good crop!

My melon and squash trellis is all set up and waiting for warmer weather to plant! I have several spaces for these plants since they take so much room. Underneath I will attempt to grow summer lettuce.

The root bed is doing great! Beets and radishes have sprouted. The carrots take a long time to sprout. Last year it took them a whole month! I am growing parsnips for the first time this year and am excited to see how they turn out. The companion plants, Kohlrabi and spinach, have also sprouted. I have not had any luck with spinach so far, so I am hoping this year will be different.

The brassicas bed is also doing well. Almost everything has sprouted. Broccoli is the only thing that sprouted in the starter pots, so I put everything else in ground. The middle row is Brussels sprouts, left side is half cabbage, half collards, the 4 corners have 2 different kinds of kale, and the row on the right side will get the broccoli starts.

I have volunteers in this bed too! They are either squash or melons of some sort. I'm letting these grow too. That is if the darn rollie pollies will leave them alone! I had 5 of them growing and 2 of them have been mowed down.

This one picked a great spot by the ollas.

The chickens have gotten more used to their small temporary pen.

But I'm working diligently to get their new one done before the heat of summer hits. The past couple weeks have been cold and/or rainy, so painting has been halted to a stand-still.

Right now it's looking pretty sad.

The green house is flourishing. I only had one bell pepper sprout, but the jalapeno and cayenne are doing great, so I started more of those in place of the bell. Either are great companions for tomatoes, but you don't want to plant hot and sweet peppers together because they may cross pollinate and you'll get mild hot peppers or hot sweet peppers...which actually might be yummy though. (So I have read, though I have not experienced this yet since I keep the 2 types far apart in my garden.) Last year I put the bell peppers in the ground and kept the hot ones in pots on the other side of the house. This year it will be the opposite.

Tomatoes are doing well.

The broccoli got a little leggy, but I have been setting them out during the day, so hopefully they'll get more sun and grow OK now.

The herbs haven't sprouted yet. I have a lot of thyme for the brassicas and basil for the tomatoes. There is also parsley, sage, oregano, and dill.

Then we have my ever faithful hens creating cackle berries! Not sure which RIR this is since I didn't want to disturb her to look at her leg band, but the black one is Aquilla. You can see she is much smaller, though her eggs are still about the same size as the reds'.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the tour! One thing I didn't get was a picture of my baby chicks! I am moving them to their bigger brooder in the next day or two. The little one is getting quite dirty, so I didn't take a pic of it. How is your homestead doing?

Happy Homesteading!

Jen Hen

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Homestead Update: March 31

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

We have been very busy this month! The green house is starting to fill up with seedlings!

The broccoli is popping up. I got these started kind of late, so I hope they do well.

Tomatoes are starting strong.

I finally had some peppers sprout! I feel like these take forever!

I moved the ollas and placed bricks over them to keep less moisture from evaporating and to hopefully protect them from the elements like hail. I need a lot more pots to make enough ollas for this bed, but that will have to wait until next year. I don't have the time to wait and needed to get this bed planted. Little Buddy and I planted Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Collards, and Kale today. For some reason when I tried to start these in pots, they wouldn't sprout. I thought my seeds were too old so I put them in some moist paper towels and they went crazy! So, I planted the sprouted seeds to see if they will make it. I've never done that before so it will be interesting to see if that works. We used some of my rusty canning rings to mark where the plants are. This will be a big help when it comes to weeding, especially since I am already seeing some pop up. Also, this is where the majority of my cinder blocks went. I still need to fill those in with soil. I will plant Nasturtiums, Marigolds, and Hyssop in them to help with pest control. Also, I am starting Thyme seeds so I can plant them through out the bed.

We also planted the root veggie bed today. I don't anticipate they will do very well since I didn't really do anything to work the ground here. Plus it won't be until next year that we can fill this in with soil. But, I like using root veggies to break ground, so to speak. Even if they don't grow well, they will help break up the soil and start adding nutrients. Little buddy and I planted beets, carrots, parsnips, spinach, kohlrabi, and lettuce here. All the time I spent making seed tape was well worth it! This went incredibly fast! Little Buddy also dotted some radishes in there somewhere. All the seedlings are marked except for them, so that ought to be interesting! I found birds and cats digging around in this bed, so I decided to cover them with screens to prevent them from digging up and/or eating the seeds. Especially since they are so close to the surface. When we got new windows several years ago, I got some laughs when I wanted to keep these, but they have been useful for all kinds of things! Plus, since they are the old-school screens, they are real metal instead of that fabric-type stuff they have now.

Random picture of an onion. I'm not sure where it came from...maybe the compost pile...but while we were setting up the root veggie bed last week, I found this little guy. I kind of just threw him in here and went back to work. I was surprised to see he seems to have revived a bit! Now I guess I should move him to a bigger spot.

I'm still waiting on my winter potatoes to make an appearance. They may not make it. I planted Yukon Gold here last fall from a tip I read. But they used Russets I think, so this kind may not make it. You never know if you don't try, right?

Little Buddy is giving our garlic bed a drink. These are doing so well! It's a joy to be able to watch something grow so soon! They've had their tops poking out since before Christmas and I'm amazed they have survived the winter. I covered them with chopped leaves after planting and covering in compost, then I added more leaves to the top over the winter. I can't wait to see how they turn out! I really didn't think they'd do this well and planted them too close together expecting several to die out.

This is a walkway I put chamomile seeds in. So far all I have sprouting are dandelions and plantain. No problem! Both very useful plants and I'll let them grow!

If you look close, you can see my potatoes breaking ground! Potato plants are fun to watch grow! In the cupboard, you see these frail, white, snaky sprouts, but once they are put in the ground, you see dark green, full, lush leaves pop through the soil! I have a feeling we'll have our best potato crop yet!

I have been working hard on the chicken pen panels. Here is one framed in and a first coat of paint. I hope this all works out how I planned it in my head. So far, I have spent $47 on this project. I need 5 more boards, and a couple hinges and latches. I think that's it. I have everything else. We'll see if I can keep Mr. Fox out with this!

I took down my old compost piles, painted the outsides of the pallets, and made a nicer looking pile. I hope the neighbors like this one better! No one has ever complained, but I know our backyard isn't very aesthetically pleasing.

I'm excited to get into April! I have a whole lot more seeds to get started and lots of planting to do! Plus I hope to have the chicken pen up and running by the end of the month as well as a new home for a few new baby chicks! Ah, Spring, how wonderful you are!

What have you been up to as the weather warms up?
Happy Gardening!

Jen Hen