For a gardening blog, this season has really gotten away from me. As an end of the season re-cap this is going to be a little different. Here is the end of the season garden photo…
Ta Da!!!! Just a few remaining plants. Even though they probably won’t have time to produce anything else, I left a few things because I couldn’t bear to pull them up when they were still so alive and healthy. I am a wimp.
Well, here is a general re-cap…
First – the experiments.
I had one tomato plant grow in the milk jugs that were winter sown. And a few onions. ONE tomato plant. The tomato plant grew okay, but not great. And it didn’t produce very well at all. I think I harvested two small tomatoes from said plant. The onions didn’t grow worth anything but the tiny little things made a lovely addition to a beef stew recently. Nothing else survived. This has been my second try at this method. I REALLY wanted it to work. Because really, how awesome would this be if it worked well? But for me, in my area, this method is really a bust. Note to self, this spring, when I see this all over Pinterest as a miracle gardening method (and I will), and I really want to try it again to see if I have better luck (and I will) – DON’T DO IT!!!
I purchased several specialty tomatoes at a local farm – organic and non-gmo. Most were different varieties that I had not used before. Several tomato plants that I grew from seed under the grow lights did okay, but honestly, none of my tomatoes did very well this year. I have harvested quite a few cherry tomatoes, but only because I put in so many plants, not because they produced well. I really think that I like the good old standby common tomatoes better than all the strange varieties you can find. With the exception of the Sun Gold Cherry. Mmmmmm. Every year I will try and plant that little sweetie.
My experiments with the Back to Eden gardening method: meh. I was not here to add the fertilizer when I should have, so I think that that was my main problem. Things did alright overall. I think that the covering over the soil really did help retain moisture and it did seem to keep most of the weeds at bay. Most of the things growing there were a bit spindly, but I really think that that was due to the fact that the plants needed more fertilizer. This method will be continued next year, hopefully with better results. I will plan on fertilizing and keeping a better eye on things when they are first developing to get stronger plants. The video doesn’t seem to emphasize the fertilization part enough. If you watch the video carefully, you will notice that Paul has chickens and utilizes their droppings as a source of fertilizer, though this part was not covered in depth. It almost makes it seem like if you put a bark covering over the garden beds, your plants will become monsters without any further effort from you. I did not find that to be the case, but I think there were some definite positives to this method and will be continuing with it, both at home and at the church garden.
The Back to Eden method is really moving toward a form of permaculture which I intend to research more over the winter. I really like the idea behind making your garden more of an environment that takes little work and disturbs the soil very little.
The only things that grew really well this year were the beets. Lots of beets. Beets, beets, beets. Chickens like beet greens. Good thing.
I planted the beets 2 different ways. One with a traditional row method and one using the spacing suggested in the square foot gardening method. By far the square foot method yielded better beets – bigger beets. I also covered them with a row cover all year long which kept off the dreaded spinach leafminers. That worked very well. This was the first time I have had a decent crop of beets in years.
Overall, it has been a sort of disappointing gardening season (unless you love beets). A large part of that was that we were out of town for much of the summer and so things did not get the attention as they needed it. You may wonder, “Why were you gone all summer?” Welllllll, we were finally able to buy land in Montana!
For the last few years we have been spending as much vacation time as possible in Montana, even bringing our chickens with us (see post on traveling with chickens here, because that is sure interesting). It has been a ton of fun and we are very excited to finally achieve the first step in our dream of moving there. I will have to post pictures of the property soon. We bought 3.5 acres of forested area and I am so excited to build a beautiful home and have a lovely big garden.
I am done with gardening for now. Glad for autumn and the break it brings. But I know that in a couple of months, I will start wanting to plant again and begin browsing catalogs and online gardening ideas. It always happens like that.
And this is why homeschooling is such fun. We were studying the Maori Warriors. Joe was voted to be our guinea pig. We had lots of fun using (washable) crayola markers to try and replicate some of the designs we saw. This is going to be a lovely blackmail shot later in life. Hee, hee, hee, hee…
(By the way – the washable markers work amazingly well and came off with just a few baby wipes. We only left it on long enough for a few pictures and laughs though…I don’t know if it would have come off so easily if left on for an extended period of time.)
Lots of people take their pets on vacation. Not a lot of people take their chickens. I am one of the weird exceptions. We travel a lot to Montana. A LOT. For example, we were in Montana for a month this past summer. I just couldn’t bring myself to ask someone to watch my chickens for an entire month, so we improvised and discovered how to bring them with us. Here’s how:
The first step is to ask permission. Luckily, we were staying at my parent’s house on a great big lot in the woods. We were not in some city apartment or staying with people we didn’t know well. My mom actually thinks chickens are great fun and dad thought it was a hilarious idea. Parents had no problem with the plan. I double checked their city ordinances on chicken keeping. We were good.
Next, we knew that we would have to deal with certain challenges that we don’t face in our suburban environment: different predators, building a coop for them there (thank you so much honey!), bringing or getting supplies in a new place, etc.
Third, we had to figure out how to transport them. We don’t have a pickup truck. We have a regular white minivan. But we did have a couple of important things. We had a hitch on our minivan and we were able to get a outside platform hitch attachment (that I wanted anyway). It is a 4×2 platform that hooks on to your hitch and sits just outside the back of your car. This just happened to be the perfect size for our extra large dog kennel. Score! (If you decide to try this at home, be very aware that your exhaust pipe doesn’t touch or point toward the kennel where you strapped it on to the hitch – it gets very hot coming out of your exhaust pipe and I am guessing your goal here isn’t fried chicken.)
We tried a couple of different traveling methods but what worked the best is to put a heavy layer of fresh pine shavings in the bottom of the dog kennel and then load the chickens in. We attached a waterer to the kennel door that we could fill with a squirty bottle as they drank up their water and threw a few snacks inside for them. We wrapped a moving blanket around the kennel to keep out the wind (there are some window type slits on the side of the kennel and we didn’t want to freak the birds out any more than we had to) and then strapped it on to the platform hitch.
As we traveled we felt a bit like hillbillies, but it worked. It was a bit awkward when we pulled in for gas and two adults, four children, and a medium size dog piled out of the minivan which had odd squawking noises emitting from the hitch area. I would toss the chickens extra grapes (one of their favorite treats) and give them fresh water at each stop. We had a few eggs laid on each journey but none of them broke thanks to the heavy layer of pine shavings. I was worried that the stress of travel would cause them to stop laying. One of our chickens, Dragon (the Easter Egger), did stop while we were in Montana on our second journey there with them this summer. It could have been that the travel stressed her out or maybe the shorter days have just disturbed her laying habits (it was toward fall). For a little while she just stopped, though she was not ill or broody. I thought that perhaps she just did not thoroughly understand our relationship. She lays eggs and I feed her, she stops laying eggs and she feeds me . However, after a few weeks, she began laying again and now I have beautiful blue/green eggs once more. We’re all good.
So. It can be done. It was weird. And I definitely got a chicken sitter when we went to Disneyland this year instead of checking to see if the hotel would allow fowl . But for an extended stay, where we had the room and approval, it worked. And it made the kids happy to bring their pets with them.
Around now is the time to plant your cool weather veggies in Idaho/Pacific Northwest. If you haven’t already been out there (and as long as your soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged), it is a great time to plant peas, lettuces, swiss chard, bok choy, spinach, beets, carrots, onions…anything that is considered a cool weather crop. My soil is perfect (as in not too wet and not frozen) though the last few days have been a bit chilly with freezing night temperatures again. Still, I am seeing sprouts coming up all over my flower beds and dandelions starting to grow here and there. A few days ago I got some beets and some of the peas planted. Soon I am going to plant lettuces, spinach, and bok choy and transplant a bunch of volunteer onions that are poking up in several different beds into one bed that I prepared a couple of days ago. This year, I am going to be working on continuing to improve my soil by adding mulches and compost and making a nice border around the garden with some bark. As of right now, the beds just join basically into the grass.
The chicks are getting much bigger. They are looking awkward as they have lost a lot of their chick fuzz and are sprouting feathers. Dragon is the only one with greenish feet. Weird. The rest have orange colored chicken feet. Dragon is also the only one that I have seen eat a bug yet. Though we are now transitioning them to being outside for afternoon and early evening hours on nice days and they seem to love it. They have gotten so big. I will include their baby pics so you can see the difference more clearly.
Angel is the sweetest. She comes right over and doesn’t seem to mind being held as much. She also loves her dust baths. She digs a deep hole in her wood pellets and digs sawdust up all over herself. The first few times she did it, we thought something was wrong with her because she was laying so funny in the dusty wood pellets and Dragon was stepping right on top of her head to get around her. But she always gets up afterward and is fine.
Courage is also pretty holdable and is turning more brown than black. She is our second most independent chicken. Always checking things out.
Butterfly is also turning into quite a pet. She is quite the lady, always looking very elegant. She likes to fly and keeps trying to get some air.
Dragon will do anything to get away from you when you try to catch her. She is the wild child. Green feet, eating bugs, overly independent, stepping on her sister. What is with this chicken?
They are growing so fast. Amazing really. They all freak out if they are separated. Who knew such a small animal could be so noisy? Definitely social little creatures. Still enjoying the chickens. Still an experiment. The coop is almost ready for them and it is a good thing because they are quickly outgrowing the boxes we have for them. Now if only the temperature outside would warm up just a hair again, the peas and greens would start poking out of the soil and we could put the chicks in their new home! Happy Spring!
It’s pretty sad when you are so distracted that you forgot you put your 5 year old in the time out corner (for what was supposed to be about a three minute time out) about six minutes ago.
“Mom? Can I get out of timeout?” Sam calls from the corner.
“Oh – are you still in time-out?” Mom tries desperately to remember which offense he was sent to time out for this time.
“Well, okay. You can come out now. Just don’t do that again.” Surely, whatever it was, he shouldn’t do it again. Bad mommy. Bad.
Well, I did it. Today. I went out and got some baby chicks. I got four. One Golden Sex Link, one Black Sex Link and two Ameraucanas. I knew that I wanted the Ameraucanas and I originally wanted a Red Sex Link. My poor hubby. While I was out today I called the store to see what breeds of chicks they had received and they didn’t have Red Sex Link, but they did have Golden Sex Link. So, since I have a dumb phone, I used said phone to call my hubby to ask him to look up the Golden Sex Link online to see if it looked like the Red Sex Link. His first response? “Oh, this is going to be a bad search. Don’t blame me for whatever comes up.” It is a bizarre name for a chicken. I am picturing him rolling his eyes as I try and get a good idea of what the adult chickens looked like from his description. “Um. It’s sort of reddish. Not too yellow. Not as yellow as I would have thought from the name.” What a good hubby.
So here are the new girls…
And here they are individually…the first one Joe named a soon as he saw it. This is Angel, the Golden. She is the smallest chicken and she is beautiful.
And here is Dragon. Elise’s idea was to name her the Reluctant Dragon, but we settled on Dragon for short. You can’t see it from the picture but she has beautiful brown markings on her back. She is one of the two Ameraucana chickens.
Next we have Courage, named by Joshua. He liked this one because it had dark feathers. This one is the Black. She seems very bold as she steps right on top of her sisters if they are in her way.
And last of all…Butterfly. Named by Sam. We are debating just calling her Flutter, but Sam really likes Butterfly, so that is probably what it will be. The other Ameraucana. She is a little more red in color than Dragon. So at least at this point, we can tell the two apart. She also has beautiful markings on her back.
The Ameraucanas have those Cleopatra eyes. They are quite pretty. I like all four of them. They are adorable little fuzzballs. The children have been reminded that this is a trial and if mommy doesn’t like them and they don’t help take care of them, then they will be found a new home. What a fun new adventure!!!
On February 4, I planted several “test” seeds to start and see which does the best. I planted:
1. Winter sowing method in regular organic potting soil (tomatoes and artichokes)
2. Grow light in seed start mix (tomatoes and artichokes)
3. Grow light in regular organic potting soil (artichoke) *I didn’t take specific pictures of the artichokes in different soils for this update. Just pictures of the results of the different lighting.
4. Regular light (near a window) in seed start mix (tomatoes and artichokes)
5. Regular light (near a window) in regular organic potting soil (artichoke)
So far the results are as follows: Everything has sprouted inside with the exception of one artichoke (under the grow light). The plants under the grow light are shorter and the tomatoes especially are stockier while the plants near the window in regular light are longer and more spindly and bent a bit towards the window. Obviously they are reaching to get to the light, which I am pretty sure will lead to less stable plants as they continue to grow. I expected this. What I did not expect was the other result – the plants germinated equally as well in the regular organic potting soil as in the specialty seed mix. In fact, they may be a little sturdier and bigger although I haven’t taken any pictures of that yet, as the difference is very minimal. The plants in the milk jugs outside using the winter sowing method have not surfaced yet. They are smart and are biding their time.
The take away so far:
It seems to be a waste to plant in specialty seed starting mix. The regular high quality potting soil works at least as well, if not better. Plus, it already has nutrients the plants will need to grow, while the seed starting mix is overall pretty devoid of nutrients for the long haul and those little guys will have to be fertilized and re-potted sooner rather than later.
It also appears so far that the plants under the grow light are experiencing less stress to reach the light and are happier because of it. The grow light plants are much shorter and the stems are noticeably thicker.
I will keep you updated as the experiments progress. Most of my seedlings have been started. I planted a few additional plants to have for my garden as well though they are not part of the experiment. My soil is now workable in the back (south facing ) yard, though it is still pretty wet. I really want to put some snap peas out there and some leafy greens, but I know I would be asking for trouble and they would probably just rot. Still a bit too cold and wet. Cilantro seems to grow best in quite cool weather though, so I may risk a handful in a pot on the patio
The cold weather continues, but the weather man has promised us that it might get up to freezing later this week! Could happen. We might actually hit 32 degrees!!! So today I combated the cold and snow with homemade bread and ham and bean soup. I have a bunch of great bread recipes, but I wanted to try something new. Found this recipe on Pinterest and everyone loved it. (I just used all purpose flour.) If you want to make some amazing white bread, check it out! It definitely rivals my other favorite bread recipes! Thanks Andrea (from the blog Pennies and Pancakes)!
I think the only thing I did differently was to butter the top after it came out of the oven for that lovely, shiny crust. Unfortunately, with my family, there wasn’t enough to test the assertion that it freezes beautifully. Half a loaf disappeared before it was even cool enough to cut in to. Happy baking!
This is not a picture of snow. That is just the frost that accumulated on our trees a few days ago. Check it out on my raspberry bushes…
Beautiful yes. Cold, but beautiful. So we have been inside a few days. And warming up with felt. Felt and rice. And also making some cute felt food for the kiddos playset. Check it out. Easy and fun. No patterns were used. Just started cutting and stitching. And using some ideas off Pinterest as guides and inspiration. It was really easy, really cheap and the kids loved what I made for them. I made each a felt heart, filled with rice to be heated and taken to bed when they go to cuddle with and know that I love them.
This one is baby girl’s. She carried it around all day asking whoever had a spare moment to “heated it” (microwave it and warm it up for her). I just cut out two identical hearts from the cheap pink felt from Walmart and whip stitched them together. Left a tiny bit open and filled with rice, then stitched the opening closed. I used two strands of embroidery thread. And I found this awesome tutorial on how to whip stitch. This lady makes awesome felt stuff. I am in awe. She also has one on how to do the blanket stitch, which I haven’t used yet, but plan to experiment with soon. These tutorials were incredibly helpful. Because before I checked them out, I didn’t know how to do anything except stick the needle in one side and pull it out the other. Sewing is not something we did in our home. My mom hot-glued hems. Seriously.
Then I made some play food.
I am not super happy with the bun. I may make some bread (think that would be easier) or try it again with a tutorial this time instead of just winging it. But the insides of the burger turned out cool. Kids love it anyway. Except for the tomato. Baby girl keeps taking the tomato out and handing it to me or dad saying, “I don’t like tomatoes!” Even in play food, apparently.
Last of all, I made a cute little penguin. Just to see if I could. It worked! Baby girl loves it.
Working on a pancake and an egg for more play food. Happy felting!
Josh hereby hates the decimal point and decided the world would be much better off without it. He says that whoever invented the decimal point must be crazy because inventions are supposed to be beneficial. He is working on figuring sales tax amounts in his math. Hmmmm. I am sure we can work this into some sort of additional lesson. The world without decimals and fractions? Ah, homeschool.
"We're all mad here." - Alice in Wonderland. Yep. Pretty much sums it up. Mad about gardens, homeschooling, family, art, latest obsessions...whatever. Enjoy the journey with me.
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