Thursday, May 31, 2018

Springtime and Decisions Must Be Made

Time has become a major problem for me on a daily basis.  Each morning I am spending about 2 hours maintaining the bedding plants.  I take care of these inside and I feel my home has become a wreck.  Little Gray just pushed the broody button.  I had to clean and get the brooder ready.  I do not know if the move will cause her to change directions but everything is ready for her.  I will need to get eggs for her nest as soon as I know what she is going to do.  Along with the garden in the spring we need to work wood and after this past winter our wood supply is wiped out.  We need to fill all of our racks and that will take time.

With all of the plants started I will need to get them into the garden and that calls for more time. One of my biggest hurdles is my sour dough.  I work it every 7 to 8 days, never fail when I plan to work the sour dough something happens, I need to be out of the house, it is difficult to make bread and take care of other issues. So I made the decision something has to go. 

The garden is very important to me, as I have been able to reduce our grocery expenses quite a bit.  The chickens and goats are like my children and I enjoy seeing them everyday for a visit.  The kitchen has become my problem.  We eat most of our meals on the farm and I feel I am always doing food prep.  We cannot give up eating but I do feel this would be great as I would have some quiet time.  So it is time to look at what is taking my time.  I must preserve the food from the garden and I fell very short last summer.  I felt quite pushed and could not get things together to do what was important.  My goats consumed many green beans because picking, stringing and pressure canning became a mountain I just could not climb.  This summer, I must can everything from the garden as we have emptied almost every jar in the pantry. 

I have gone over what has become my largest issues, I must work the kefir as it necessary for me to have this as I do have stomach issues.  I have come to know when I need the kefir if I skip a few days I become worthless as my body demands me to stop..  So this is a must do.  I find I enjoy making bread and love being able to make sandwich buns, rolls and sliced breads, but something has to go.  The bread is made and it goes into the freezer as Mr. B and I do not consume a large amount of bread.  This loads my freezer with bread and the sourdough must be worked or thrown out (I feed to the chickens) every 7 to 8 days.

There comes a time when your wants and needs should be re-evaluated.  I sat for a while and thought about where I am and what I need to accomplish.  I gave up my flower gardens when we moved here so I could spend more time developing the vegetable garden.  The vegetable garden is working and I need flowers to bring in more bees and butterflies. 

Problem solved...Sourdough went into the compost pile, eggs were located and my broody girl is setting on the nest with 5 eggs.  She is taking care of her eggs, last year she left the baby chicks shortly after the eggs hatched, we shall see what happens this spring.  My bedding plants are growing, some have been installed in the tunnel, with more to be installed.  Spring onions are being harvested and enjoyed in the kitchen, chives are being picked adding a delightful spring taste to soups and potatoes. 

I realized I can make another sourdough starter when I have the time to make bread on a weekly basis.  Thankful, I took the time to look at the whole picture and realize a change was necessary.

I came out to do a new update and realized I had not posted this update:  Baby chicks hatched and have been left to grown up without their chicken mom.  They are growing and beginning to learn how to mingle with the older girls.  Garden is providing us lots of fresh produce.  The girls are laying eggs.  I am collecting up to 7 eggs a day.   I have not made any sourdough and really have not had the time to make bread. 

I, Thank You for taking the time from your busy life to read about the choices we are making on our little farm.  May the last few weeks of spring bring you happiness!!!

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Queen of Our Coop

When it became time for me to get my first chickens, I admit I really did not know a lot about chickens, I just wanted eggs and I knew mixed breeds laid as well or maybe even better than pure breeds and often were not quite as high strung.  I went over to a farm which did a number of chicken swaps, there were 5 chickens and I was told the price was 20 dollars for all of them.  Mr. Bootsie was putting the finishing touches on the run and a couple of days later, I drove to the farm and collected my mismatched chickens for a price of 15 dollars and now I am a chicken farmer.  These little hens did not let me down, in just a couple of days,  I found my first egg in the nesting box and now I really am a CHICKEN FARMER.  Little did I know this was to become one of life's lessons for me.

Mr. Bootisie and I named 4 of the girls, and my wees named the fifth girl, Feather.  My youngest wee would always ask about Feather when I talked with him on the telephone which always opened the door for more conversation.  Feather grew into an interesting hen, the coop became her coop, she was not a big hen but she had an air about her which demanded the respect of her piers.  Feather never became broody, I really do not think she could take time from waddling around the chicken run and keeping others in line, to sit on eggs and raise baby chickens. The structure of her chicken yard would change and she would need be get everyone in line once again.

Feather became the friend of the underdog, if a hen was picked on during the day, you would find this hen under one of Feather's wings on the roosting pole and the other chickens knew this hen was accepted and part of our family.  She would watch for several days and if one of the hens decided to move this hen down in the pecking order there was her protector taking care and teaching the hen how to protect itself.  Baby chicks, we all know about introducing new chickens to our flock, but Feather would lay by the fence of the brooder or duck run watching the baby chicks as they grew into pullets and roos.  Feather had no compassion for roosters after they came into their own, they did not belong in her run.  We raised a turkey which was hatched with some of our baby chickens and she would have nothing to do with it when it began to look like a turkey.  I had to move it out quickly because Feather did not want the strange looking bird in her yard and she constantly let this be known until the turkey began to shy away from all of my birds.  She did enjoy the ducks, would spend time with them and I think it was because I always start my chicks in the duck run because the ducks do not have a pecking order and allow the chicks to do what they want.

Laying eggs, I have not seen an egg from Feather for about 4 years, but this did not bother me.  Her compassion for the other birds made her important to our coop.  When the girls would be free-ranging, if I said, "Hawk" she headed for the run and all of my other birds would be following her.  She would turn the girls back if they went to far into the woods.  Making her sweet little clucking sounds, bringing my girls to a safe location, being proud of a job well done was always pleasing to her.

Feather has been the only one of my first birds for a few years and I knew the time would come when I would say good-by to my sweet girl.  She became more that just a hen, she become the one I trusted to protect all of my birds.  She became my eyes if there was a problem as she could hear/see a hawk long before me.  Most of all Feather became my trusted friend, if I was down she would sit in my lap and allow me to pet her for quite a while, 15 minutes was never a problem if I needed her.  She made me smile as I watched her cute tail swishing walk/waddle around the farm. 

Some you may say she was just a chicken, No she a chicken loaded with personality, love and the ability to care for all around her.  She got into my soul, she was the chicken I looked for each morning when I opened the coop.  For last few nights, she was the chicken I put securely on the roosting pole so she could be with all of piers, I thought she would be much happier taking care of her flock, but I saw them taking care of her.  They made a place for her on the roosting poles as she laid on the pole, they stayed close to be sure she did not fall.  As the days passed, she became weaker but each morning she came out to greet me, yesterday it was a struggle for her, stopping a couple of times to rest.  My girl made it to the coop door where I picked her up, loved on her and wrapped her in a blanket to stay warm as the day was damp.  Each time I went to the coop I would open the brooder and pet her, love her and enjoyed knowing that I have the privilege of sharing my life with this special girl. 

Rest in Peace, my Sweet Girl
Came from an egg and lived on our farm until February 22, 2018

Triple Creek farm will never be the same without you.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Visiting Farms

Monticello, Jefferson's home and farm in Charlottesville, Va.

I have been wanting to go to the mountain, and this year we decided to purchase season passes.  My desire, to visit the vegetable garden in all of our seasons, will be met.  I judge myself by hard standards and make it difficult to have failures.  Anyone who knows me, knows this is my problem.  My goals for our little farm are high and I have limited time to meet them, I think.  I lived in my last home for a number of years and the entire garden was rich and produced.  I have been pleased with my results of coming into barren land, producing food for us and our animals.  l always watch gardening programs and am interested in seeing how I am doing compared to others in our area. 

I have family members who are in the professional landscape business and they see the garden as a totally different palette.  Weeds are my friends in the garden, chickweed is one of my winter sources of fresh greens for my salads and pain medication for my animals.  My winter garden has large beds of chickweed, yes, a weed, this season we are going to be dehydrating chickweed.  There are wonderful plants,  dandelion which is not a weed but a source of early spring greens, the wild violet can be used like spinach, and the list goes on.  I let myself become afraid for others to come to my garden and point out how many weeds I am growing.  They want to know why I was not weeding my garden.  I had no answer which others could not understand and I ended up being the one who was hurt, upset and felt as if I should give up my personal quest to feed my farm family.  Here I was walking through the gardens at Monticello where they have lots of staff, their garden looked in many ways like my garden.  There were different plants they allowed to grow where ever they came up.  Oh, the  smile on my face must have made the mountain feel as if another sun was shinning on it, someone understands why we let things other than tomatoes, beans and squash grow in our garden.  You could see where volunteer plants appeared in the garden and they were left to produce.  I have great problems removing a volunteer plant as it always seems to be a much stronger plant.  The seed laid in the ground all winter and sprung forth when the weather was just right and it was strong, grew quickly and we always seem to get a good harvest from the volunteer plants.  I cherish my volunteers when others see them as out of place and my garden looks messy.  Well, if they can do it in Jefferson's garden, I can, also, and now I know I need not explain my gardening method to those who only want a well manicured and professional looking plot of land.  I love my garden which shows how much I love the plants and what I do to protect the gifts I receive from gardens past.

Visiting gardens, farm stands and farm gardens

One of my first outings this year was to a huge organic vegetable and herb garden.  The herb garden had weeds and volunteer plants everywhere.  You could see where some had been removed and others appeared to be flagged for removal.  The vegetable garden was planted and growing but there were some miscellaneous plants, many could have been removed but they were growing and looked plenty healthy.  A plant which is not transplanted may fruit earlier in the season as it doesn't have to reestablish itself in the garden, it grows on the roots and puts all of it's strength into being healthy and producing it's crop.  There is no reason to remove a strong healthy plant just to plant a seedling.   This farm answered more of my questions because their herb garden was lovely to the eye and nose. 

One of the farm stands, I visited, had some of the saddest veggies I had seen in a long time.  They were for sale and folks were buying them.  When sharing my veggies, I always try to do pretty but as the season winds down the veggies are just not as nice as the first few pickings.  I know all of this as I have been in the garden all of my life but sometimes you just need to be reminded.   These folks could see the long rows in the garden and knew the veggies may not be pretty but they were fresh.  One lady said to me she had enjoyed all the produce she had purchased from this farm and was sorry to see the season ending.

Another farm stand, I could see the garden rows and there were not any weeds in the garden.  The crops were coming in.  Went by one day during the peak of growing season and there was nothing for sale, my question was quickly answered, they had a weed free garden and they had no produce.  The season was very short for this farm.  I will be watching next year to see if their garden produces for a longer period of time.

After checking out gardens, show gardens, producing gardens and weedy gardens I learned quite a bit this season.  I came to understand the weed helps to shade the plant and may also become a host plant for any pests who would consume your veggies. My garden my not be pretty, professional looking but my garden produces.  I had brandywine tomatoes over 2 lbs and hanging off the slice of bread.  I grew some of the largest pumpkins and winter squash ever produced on our little farm.  The summer squash came in all summer right up to frost.  Fall turnips are feeding the humans, goats and fowl.  The winter tunnel has spinach, swiss chard and other winter greens.  We have rows of garlic and onions planted for spring and summer harvest.   Chickweed is growing in the beds that have not been planted, it is good to keep the land working and covered with vegetation, this way the top soil doesn't blow away.   

NO, it may not be pretty, in fact, the garden can be quite weedy, move those weeds around and find something to harvest and enjoy the gifts from my garden.  My garden pleases me and for the others who just pass through and make rude remarks.  Go plant your own 1/3 acre garden, work it with only hand tools, you will quickly realize I am one hard working woman who has a compassion for plants, if there is a use for the plant it is not a weed and there are very few things growing in my garden my goats will not eat.  With this in mind, there are no weeds in my garden just food for my pasture crew. 

I am so glad I spent sometime this summer visiting other gardens, I was really glad to come home and see how special my garden is.      Thank goodness, the 2018 seed catalogs are beginning to arrive, time for me to make some important decisions for next spring's garden. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reflections of Spring/Summer 2017

For some reason this growing season has been difficult for me.  The early spring, all was going well, a lot of the garden was installed and growing.  We had super early tomatoes, I was picking tomatoes before the end of June which is quite good here in central Virginia.  Some were heirloom and of course, the grape and cherry tomatoes were producing.  Our garlic harvest was huge, we grew enough to plant the fall garden, dehydrate, ferment, have plenty to cook  and lots for the goats to eat as snacks.  The onions were plentiful and tasty. The early corn was planted and growing, 

Squash, yellow and zucchini, were producing and for the first season we had squash until early October when the nighttime temperature was too cold for them to grow.  The other squash, Italian, did not do as well as before,  I think a small garden is catching up with me.  I do remove most of the soil and replace with new compost hoping to confuse the plants and they think they are the first squash planted in the space but this year I did not get the harvest I would have liked to have.

Blackberries, we had a wonderful harvest, lots of wine and brandy was made, enough to make the winter.  Raspberries, the fall crop was good.  Strawberries, we continue to struggle with the voles enjoying our plants but I am working on a change in the way I plant.

Time to plant the second crop of corn and seeds would not come up.  I fed, watered, mulched, complained and there were not any sprouts coming from the ground.  I had planted the bloody butcher corn and it was coming up without any problems.  Sweet corn just would not sprout, I sprouted some and planted, within 24 hours it was gone.  After 3 weeks I accepted defeat and moved in other directions.

I have always gardened for food storage, but this year I made a change and gardened to have veggies for the summer.  This is the first year I did not put up a lot of our veggies, but we have been eating good, delicious meals.   Mr. Bootsie has never eaten onion or tomato sandwiches and this summer he learned just how delicious these sandwiches are.  I know for years he has wanted to have my brain checked because I ate so many of these sandwiches, but he is eating them and asking for them as I was a bit concerned he would stop wanting these goodies if I fixed them too often.

I found new ways to celebrate fresh veggies, squash with eggs, new additions to pizzas, vegetables with pasta and salads of every variety.  While I was on a mission to enjoy every veggie which came from the garden, it hit.  Temperatures in excess of 90 degrees, the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants quit, not a bloom would set.  No blooms means no veggies and my harvest was going to drop off.  I went from plenty of veggies to almost nothing in the middle of the summer.  The city folk, who came for a visit, would ask why don't you have veggies?  My answer was just to hot.  This hot lasted from quite a while, there was a short break for a couple of days, the temperature went in the low 80's and some blooms were able to set.  This did give us a few late tomatoes and peppers. After the heat, in September we went for a long dry spell.  The squash plants I was able to water and when the temperature did break I was able to harvest my first ever summer squash in September.  I was so excited about the squash I forgot about the loss of peppers, tomatoes, butter beans, late snaps and of course, corn. 

The garden has veggies which our goats, chickens and ducks enjoy.  Most anything we could not use was consumed by the pasture crew.  Corn is loved by the goats and chickens, while the ducks seem to enjoy the lettuce and other greens most of all. 

The gamble begins in the spring when the seeds and baby plants go into the garden beds.  There is always a I wonder, wonder, wonder what will happen this season.  I really can't complain because we had a wonderful garden, ate so many delicious veggies and learned many ways to use the crops we grow.  I know I won the gamble, because now Mr. Bootsie is eating my favorite sandwiches, just for  his enjoying tomatoes and onion sandwiches this summer was a win, win on our little farm.

Last tomato was picked October 31, 2017
What a wonderful year!!!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Polish Chicks, A Lesson Learned

This has been a busy spring, Little Gray became broody and nothing but set her.  I found some eggs from a farming friend over in Bumpass as you know everyone is using all their eggs in the spring for their own hatching so I was pleased to find some eggs.  We set Little Gray and like clockwork she had 3 little baby chicks in her nest.  There were more eggs but they did not hatch.  Little Gray seemed pleased just to have baby chicks.  She was such a good momma hen.  I had no idea as to what chicks I should expect but I knew this farmer raised Polish chicks.  All of a sudden there were things on their heads and they looked as if they were frightened to death.  Momma hen deserted the nest, she wanted nothing to do with these misfits on our farm.  The weather was warm and the little chicks were doing good without any help from an adult hen so all was well.

I felt the other hens thought something was not quite the way it should be and they really were extra mean to momma hen.  No one would roost with her, this continues.  She has been accepted back into the flock during the day, nighttime she goes to her roosting pole by herself, there has been a few times when someone would try to roost with her but it did not last very long.  Before broody she roosted with 4 other hens every night, they do not even look in her direction any more.  Someday I will understand (or maybe not) how the mind of chicken works.

All is well as the little Polish with their big heads spend the day with the ducks in the duck run.  The little Polish are workers as they are busy turning the compost everyday.  They come out to free-range once a day with all the other girls.  I have to watch close as the girls are always trying to pluck the head feathers.  I did learn I needed to trim their feathers so they could see.  This was an experience for me.  Mr. Bootsie was afraid they may bleed to death if I cut the feathers.  The first time, I cut a couple of feathers from one chick, the next morning everything seemed to be going as normal and Mr. Bootsie settled down,  helping to hold the chicks so I could trim their feathers.

There was total unrest in the duck and chicken run after a few days.  The little rooster came into his own and he thought he could pick on just about anyone,   Momma Duck was not going to have anything to do with this little bird flying up into her face and quickly he was not welcome in the duck run.  We had something happen to one of our ducks and she passed away, at this point in time I was concerned as to what had happened to her.  When I put them in for the night she was a little slow and by morning she had given up her life.  I knew, with this happening, there was nothing I could do but keep these birds and my farm on lock-down for 2 weeks but I did 3 weeks.

I was going to return the little birds to the farmer who had shared the eggs with me but I did not want to take any thing to her farm which would be a problem.  When I shared what had happened she was more concerned for the loss of my duck.  After 3 weeks I made arrangements with the farmer and took the chicks to their new home.

I learned from studying the Polish chicks have an open skull and it is not good for the feathers to be plucked.  I really feel I made a mistake adding these little ones to our flock.

In a few weeks Little Gray became broody again and has continued to set on the nest for about 8 weeks,  Somehow, some way she has the other hens laying eggs in the nest for her.  Mr. Bootsie takes her off the nest and steals the eggs but the strong-willed little hen will not give up.

The eggs from our girls will not hatch as there is not a rooster on our farm.  Farm life in the coop has always been interesting and I must say this experience has taught me many a lesson.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring, 2017, has Arrived

During the winter there seems to be nothing happening on our little farm, but now as I look over the past few months we have been busy.  There are about 100 assorted seedlings ready to be planted in the garden.  The wood racks appear to have a lot less wood stored in them as we burned the wood stove all winter.  No one has loss any weigh as we cooked many a good meal and lived off the rewards of our hard work last summer.  All of the animals lived through the winter and now we await baby chicks on the 22nd of April.   We were busy but I just could not find things I felt interesting to share.  It was the day to day things, doing laundry, cleaning, running errands, that kept us busy.

I started the bulk of my seeds January 15th when the wood stove worked as my heat source and as the hot bed for my seeds  to develop into little plants.  I planted some of my standards, added a couple of new things and even a few flowers to bring in more bees and butterflies.  I have been checking for life in the garden, the artichokes are coming up, globe and Jerusalem, comfrey, rhubarb and garlic chives.

In the garden, we are seeing many signs of the moles, they just ate a hill of walking onions.  I did my chives in pots in the tunnel because the moles ate most of my plants during the summer.  I started new seeds, put in large pots and they are safe from the mole.

I am sorry to say my camera became sick during the winter, I plan to take it to the doctor to see if it can be repaired or if I must replace it.  I just have not been in the direction of the stores who might fix it, in our area there are not any  close tech stores.  It is on my list.  I did have to replace my wifi and it was a process finding the place in our home where it would function.  I did locate a special place and now I have real good access to internet (maybe the best ever!!!.  I will be posting pictures with my blogs and if you feel you have seen them before you may be right.  I will be using my pictures from old albums.

I was so pleased to see there are so many faithful friends and neighbors who follow my blog.  Even when I do not post, there are ones who read it.  I did find myself going in and checking on some information from past times.  As I become busy with the spring, I do want to keep my journal on Facebook and here.  With the blog it is an overview, Facebook is a little bit more of the day to day operations of our little farm.

Since I began this blog, I find I am the only remaining member of my family from growing up, as my parents and  siblings have passed away.  I will from time-to-time post a blog of reflections as I find myself going back to my parents home as we become more embedded into the rural way of life.  I am seeing the results of 11 years of work in the vegetable garden and I will be sharing the garden with you during the summer.  The goat barn is down to 3, the chicken coop is home to 17 and 3 ducks live in there run with a pool.

Eggs, yes, we are collecting eggs, hen and duck.  Our life is good just like the abundance of eggs we are now collecting.  Many thanks to all of you who take a few minutes to read about our life here on Triple Creek Farm.

The winter garden has produced, Harvesting spinach, swiss chard and onions.  Along with our eggs we have enjoyed spinach salads omelettes and quiche.  I also make spaghetti adding spinach and/or chard.  We were able to have fresh garden grown veggies most of the winter.

Fire in the outside fireplace, a cup of hot tea awaits me and a brownie.  There is plenty for you to share with us, stop by, visit our little farm and share a brownie.  Until....


Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Time for Being Thankful

After raising the pullets, I was just so sad to have only 2 laying,  I had wanted to have a good supply of eggs for the winter.  I wanted to be able to share eggs and have plenty for our kitchen.  I went to feed November 10th and Annabelle came out of the coop singing her song.  I thought is she going to start laying again?  About mid morning Mr. Bootsie comes in from the pasture lot and hands me Annabelle's pretty green egg.  She laid today and she was so pleased.  I hope she continues to lay and our egg count go up.  I knew Annabelle laid a green egg because she was laying before I messed with the feed.  Another hen has begun laying as I am finding a large green egg.  I was so excited to collect a dozen eggs in 4 days.  Maybe my girls did understand how sorry I was for changing their food.

I have been wanting to dehydrate potatoes, I really do not like having them sprout or rot in the pantry.  This has been on my to-do list for a while.  One rainy afternoon was spent preparing potatoes to dry.  I found myself getting quite excited about having this new stable in the pantry.  I thought about so many things I prepare using sliced potatoes, now all I will need to do is rehydrate the sliced potatoes and prepare my meal.

I think dehydrating the harvest must get into your soul.  I have been busy doing apples and pumpkin. I am now finding myself looking for other items to process.  I believe I am really beginning to understand the process and how to use these wonderful additions to my pantry.

With getting things ready to store, all of the heirloom corn was shelled and stored in jars.  I think I have enough red dent for another project.  We do not have a grain mill but I think we can work something out with several of the mills we have.  So,  Mr. Bootsie, there is a new project on your list.

There was not a frost on the farm until after a freeze.  I kept reading and watching the weather, it was said there was not a frost warning for us because we had a killing frost in our area.  I talked with some farmers who had experienced several frosts but the freeze was what took away our crops.  I do not know if I have found a micro-climate or there are just so many trees around the garden.  It was wonderful to have the garden growing until November .............We were harvesting peppers, eggplants and a few butter beans.

We shall be spending time over the next few weeks getting the garden ready for next spring.  Tomato and pepper hills to dig and fill with manure, corn rows to be dug and filled, this year I am going to try and do much more soil improvement during the winter.

I am so Thankful for our little farm. for the knowledge I have and my ability to learn.  This farm has been a gift to me and I cherish being able to spend my days working in the garden, walking in the woods, always on the search for something new.  I always had been taught it was important to grow your food.  I really had no idea what this meant until I returned to the farm and began to provide for my family.  There is a joy when the food you eat comes from your gardens and pasture lot.  I, also, am Thankful for the farmers who are in our area and support each other.  I now have the extended family I remember from Momma and Daddy's farm.  It is so amazing, they seem to appear when there is a problem and they have the knowledge to help.

I am very Thankful for those of you who take the time to read about out farm.  I hope you found something you enjoyed, I believe many of you have much more knowledge than I do.  I will never know the answers but I keep trying and our results are good.  We are feeding ourselves from our farm and sharing with others.  Yes, my quest has been reached and my dream is no longer the "Impossible Dream".  I know the journey has had it's ups and downs but that is how you learn and with all of the hours I have spent learning I now can sit back, put my feet up and enjoy a time to be Thankful.