Tag Archives: garden

Spring Chickens

The south-most section of our garden space has been a battle zone for the last two years.  Although we sheet mulched as we did for the rest of the space, in that area the grass continued to be too much to beat back, and each spring would start again with a thick lawn.  So this year, we decided to take a step we hadn’t before, and till in the garden.  Ordinarily we’ve tried to avoid this, primarily because our garden is an old pasture and the load of weed seeds in the soil is pretty spectacular – tilling only invites new weeds!  

However, this year, we have a secret weapon in the fight:  our trial batch of meat chickens are ready to come off the heat lamp and join the real world!  We set up a fenced area for them, and put them on the newly tilled soil — they’ll help us scratch up any new sprouts that come up, and keep the tilled area from becoming a weed patch overnight.

And in return, we’re expecting to harvest 15-20 delicious roasters in mid-June, after which we will amend the soil with some compost and plant in a cover crop to keep the weeds down for the rest of the year. A couple hundred more square feet to garden, tasty chicken dinners… so much to be excited about!


Now that we have a greenhouse, we can get a real head start on the garden.  Being able to do this is more important than ever, because the average temperatures in 2016 are expected to be even hotter than 2015, and that was the hottest year on record!

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Why does heat matter?  Well, plants don’t grow just through sunlight alone – differences in temperature change the speed with which plants mature.  Especially in our small gardening space, it is important to understand when a crop is done producing, so that it can be pulled out and replaced.  Being able to take advantage of ‘degree days’ means being ready with seedlings as soon as the last freeze happens, so that when the hot days come, we have plants at the right stage in development to take advantage of it.

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And what that means is:  seeding!!  Grandpa John and Archer helped mix potting soil and fill 4″ pots, and Megan has spent hours in the greenhouse setting tiny seeds in their first homes.  We’ve got cabbage, kale, chard, onions, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, leeks, and cauliflower started, with salad, arugula, carrots, snap peas and fava beans in the ground.   This summer is going to be delicious!!

Waking Up

We’ve had an incredibly busy February, lots of packed social weekends and travel and generally not a whole lot of sleep for the adults in the family.  But the winter months are fading away already, and the increased daylight is telling us it’s time to get serious about spending time on the farm, too.

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Sunrise over the garden and the new greenhouse!  Lovely to have clear mornings again.

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Our first lamb of 2016 was born this past weekend, making time spent on the farm cuter than before, too!  This is Eureka’s little boy – she always throws singles, but they’re huge!

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The new light and the warm February days are GREAT for the garden..weeds.   Our overwintered crops of brussels sprouts, collards and kale are getting ready to sprout rapini (my favorite spring dish), and the aisles have more green than the beds!

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Our first seedlings in the greenhouse!  So excited to see these babies poking up their heads. Welcome to the world, little eggplants.


Here in the northern part of the northern hemisphere, a garden without a greenhouse has limited function.  According to our gardening neighbor, the last frost date here on the hill is May 15th, which means there are a LOT of things we can’t start by direct-seed until mid-May (and who can forget the horrible June hail storm that demolished our garden back in 2013)

Our first spring on the farm, we attempted starting seeds in the house, but the location of the windows and the angle of the house really do not work in concert with one another (this is what comes of putting a pre-built house down at the only angle with enough flat land to support it), and the effort was a fail.  Since then we’ve been resigned to direct seeding quite late, or, just purchasing starts.

Thaddeus obtained glass windows to re-purpose several years ago, but distractions, travel, and other priorities have kept them from turning into a greenhouse long enough for us to realize that planning the greenhouse before the actual Future House really wouldn’t be a good idea anyway, since we don’t know yet exactly what Future House will look like, and whether we’ll be wanting to make significant earth modifications to that area during construction.

And then, this past fall, Megan’s stepfather Rich handed down to us his old tent structure, which he previously had used to tent a boat while working on it.  Thaddeus saw the opportunity to put up a quick temporary greenhouse using the tent frame poles and some greenhouse sheeting.  A little elbow grease with the tractor to flatten a spot, a trip to the supply store for the plastic and .. voila!  We have a greenhouse!

The greenhouse is between the road and the house, a good reason to wait to design it until we can make sure it doesn’t look horribly out of place as the first thing you see when you turn in the driveway!

The completion of the greenhouse brought home one of the truisms of farm To Do lists, which is:  for every crossed-off item there are at least two more new tasks to be done.  The greenhouse exists, but now we need (1) tables to support the seeds in order to (2) actually start some seeds, and I’d love to add (3) some new earth pots to hold peppers.. wish us luck!

Garden 2014

Somehow it’s August already and we’ve hardly taken time to keep the blog up to date this year.  Despite our failure to document it, however, the garden grows steadily.  We’ve gone from this scene in early May:


To this, last night:


This year we installed 4-way automatic timers and drip line in the gardens, and it has made a significant difference in the number of weeds we are battling in the aisle.  Now our time in the garden is focused on harvesting (Archimedes is especially a fan of green beans now that the snap peas are done for the year), and it takes an hour a week to keep on top of the weeds.  So, drip line is one of our lessons learned, as in, we should have done this years ago!  Last night a friend came by to pick up some of our extra kale seedlings (lesson learned: be more patient about letting the seeds germinate, and don’t try to seed lacianato on top of winter russian kale!), and the conversation turned to gardening lessons.  He pointed out that the thing about mistakes is that you have to live with them for a whole year befor you can try again, so you really take them to heart and learn well!  I agree, but thinking about it in the light of new morning today, I thought, the other glorious thing about gardening is that you can always try again next year!  You can buy more seeds, turn the soil, watch the calendar, and add water over, and over, and over again, and you have years to get it right.  And maybe sometimes you end up eating 30lbs of beans and flea-beetle-laced arugula leaves all week, but there’s always next year.

A few other lessons learned this year:

  • I really should have pulled up most of the calendula volunteers — they were lovely, and we made a lot of calendula oil, but our onion harvest suffered from being crowded out.
  • As much as I like radishes, I really need to stop reserving garden space for them: being the only one in the house who eats them means they just go to seed every year!
  • Flea beetles really REALLY like arugula. 🙁
  • Last year, I complained about one of the varieties of chard we grew (Bietola a Costa Fine, from Adaptive Seed) because it bolted so early.  But this year I’ve realized I was thinking about it all wrong.  If I think about it as spinach, instead of chard, it’s the slowest-bolting spinach I’ve ever grown!  It’s a lovely chard, very sweet and fine, delicious raw, and cooks up much more like spinach than chard anyway.  I’m giving up on spinach for good, it always bolts the first hot day we have (which was 95 degrees in April this year, for heaven’s sake).  At least the chard gets through the season, even if it is just barely.
  • Cucumbers should really not be the last thing we put in the ground… especially not if we’re hoping to pickle them using the dill the started as volunteers in the garden aisles!  The dill is drying already and we just got our very first cucumber yesterday — timing issue.
  • Our pole bean solution seems to be working well!  We put up 4 8′ t-posts, spaced 5′ apart, and topped them with PVC pipe fittings.  We worried the PVC might not be strong enough to bear the weight, but although it’s bowing a little, so far it’s working great.  Love that it is easily moved to another bed for next year.

… and the season is only halfway over!





End of an Era

Last fall, we harvested quite a lot of squash. We processed some for the freezer, but put most away in our ‘pantry’, which is actually just a closet in the craft room, and ate steadily through the pile all winter long.

But, it was kind of a really big pile.


The blue squash are Sweet Meats, and the others are Banana Squash, and a few Acorn Squash.

So, now that the weather is warming up and our ‘pantry’ is no longer even remotely cold enough to store squash in, it’s time to pull out everything we didn’t eat and deal with it before we have a closet full of rotten mush. When I assessed the remnants, I was surprised to find several Sweet Meats still firm and apparently unblemished! So we cut one open for dinner the other night…

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Smelled delicious, tasted great — that’s after 8 months in an indoor closet! We’ll definitely be growing this variety again.

Garden Prep

You know it’s spring when our driveway greets visitors with a pile of compost in the corner of the lawn. One of these days we’ll find somewhere else to put these..


This spring’s project is to continue to expand the garden, in all directions. Now that we have the garden fence in place, we know what our borders are and we can push the garden plot out to meet them. Step one was the west border along the driveway, where last summer large weeds grew up along the fence. So this year we decided to lay a path along the fence, mulch it, and extend it just a bit under the fence to avoid the weed issue. Simple, right? Oh, but this is not flat land we live on, dear friends, not even remotely. Even here, in the flattest part of our property, we ran into a few dips that threw some wrenches in our plans.


Eventually we got it mostly worked out though, and now we have this beautiful path AND an extra 150sqft of garden beds.

The garden still needs so much work, and we’re running behind this spring, between the ever-helpful baby and the incredible rain we’ve been having this April. We’ll get there, though – plants like sun, and we’ve observed that things catch up quickly once the sun shows up!


While we had the landscaping fabric out, we finally cleared the tree nursery off our front walk and set up shop on the west end of the high lawn under the maple tree. Easier to water, won’t block the raspberries, and we get some more play space for Archer in the fenced lawn. Win-win-win… especially the bit about the happy raspberries.

Spring Into Action

What a glorious weekend! After a long cold dark winter, the sun finally returned full force for this first weekend of spring, allowing us to get outside and start knocking things off the 2014 to-do list. On Saturday, we invited our community up to the farm to help us break ground on our big garden project for the year: building raised beds on top of the hill by the house (no more lawn to mow!).


In one morning, with several sets of extra hands, we went from lawn to garden!  Four new raised beds, lined with landscaping fabric to beat the grass, and filled with mushroom compost.  These will hold an expanded herb garden, taking the perennial herbs out of the main garden space and allowing us to use that area for more crops.  Bonus: fresh herbs 4 feet from our door!

You can also see in the photo above our raspberry plants from last year already starting to leaf out along the south side of the house. We’re already getting excited for June raspberries… oh summer fruit, we love you.


The other big project for this spring was to make the walk from the house to the garden less treacherous.  It has always been a very steep hill, and in wet weather or tall grass it can be quite slippery, and full of vole holes.  We had originally thought we might accomplish the grander project of terracing the entire hill, but realized eventually that we needed to make a few more big decisions before that could happen.  A quicker solution was to install these stairs: two days of work, materials we had on hand (thanks, Dad!), and they will be easy to adjust or undo when we are ready for the terraces.

As you can see from the photo, Sucia worked hard to help us out with this project. Also: herbs already migrated to their new home in the herb beds!


We ended Sunday with the perfect spring meal: sautéed collard rapini with last year’s garlic, and a poached egg, on a bed of quinoa and black beans.  SO. GOOD.  The collards made it through the cold winter better than many of our other plants, and the reward of these fantastically sweet, crunchy rapini was the best possible way to finish the weekend.

Well, that and crossing a couple of things off the to-do list.



We’ve been having some COOOOLD weather around here.  A solid week with nights around 10 degrees is pretty unusual, and to be honest, we’re getting a little tired of breaking ice and hauling water for the animals every morning.20131216-204027.jpg

That said, it is gorgeous to look at.


We even got a little snow, just in case the poor frozen garden wasn’t cold enough already.


Just in time, Megan got an attachment to the iphone that lets her take macro shots… here’s a frozen clover from our lawn.  Yup.. it’s cold, but pretty!

Garden 2013: June

The garden is on it’s second month in the ground, and it’s starting to look like a garden!  Here’s a lovely shot from a misty morning view towards the red door…


That’s chard on the left, and beets, parsnips, and daikon in the row on the right.  Rapini is going strong in the far center of the photo!


New favourite food ever: roast baby carrots.  We have to thin anyway, but, these are so good I’m afraid I may “thin” away all the carrots before they grow up!

Roasted Baby Carrots

Preheat oven to 450

Toss baby carrots (or mature carrots chopped into sticks) in olive oil and kosher salt.  Roast in (very!) hot oven ~10 minutes, or until you can stick a fork through easily.

Try not to eat them all before you get them to the table.


And here’s a photo from earlier in the month, but, it’s a great view of the new garden shape and layout.  We’ll see how it goes… but it’s hard to believe that only a little over a year ago, it looked like this!