Archive for Garden

Quick Little Update

This year has been a bit of a chaotic one, but in a good way. We started off our growing season with the massive project of re-doing the fencing around both of the gardens. Originally it was a mess of pulp-wood posts and hodge-podged fencing that was constantly falling in due to snow load and getting pushes out of place by the groundhogs. Brand new cedar posts and welded wire fencing fixed that. We now have a fence secure enough that we can use it as a trellis and actually did use it as a make-shift clothesline while ours needed to be replaced.

The garden itself has preformed admirably thus far! We’re up to 7 quarts of snap beans in the freezer, a batch of salsa, sauce, and ketchup from our own tomatoes, enough zucchini for stir-fries and a few loaves of zucchini bread for the freezer, roughly 80lbs of potatoes from the 12lbs that went in, and more than enough fresh produce to have kept our bellies happy over the course of late-summer. I did purchase “ugly seconds” tomatoes from a local farm to make additional pasta sauce and salsa with. I also found a wicked deal on cucumbers (40 lbs for $25) to stock the shelves with pickles and relishes.

On top of what our own garden has been producing and the deals I’ve found via local farms, blueberry and strawberry picking season was also I huge success as this year we weren’t impeded by the hunt for a new vehicle in the midst of it all. Up next is apple picking season, which has just started, and then what I hope will be an annual trip for a trunk full of pumpkins.

Chicken wise, the basement chest freezer is half full of poultry. We have enough for at least one roasted chicken a month, and given that each bird provides a week’s worth of meals for the four of us, I’m more than happy with that!

In another month, however, we’ll have to make a decision as to which of the new six roosters to keep over winter as an assistant to Greenleaf, our head rooster. We have a couple young cocks we’re keeping an eye on, so we might end up with two. As long as the fox doesn’t snag any more birds, we’ll also have five new hens to add into the flock for the winter. We lost seven hens total this year – five to the fox, two to illness – which is higher than most years, but still fit within the 25% margin that we try to work with. (We always try to keep a flock 25% larger than we absolutely need so that when losses do occur, and they will, it’s not such a blow.)

Schemes and dreams are already in the works for next growing season as we’re currently ahead on firewood and has reserved energy from not having to stress about that. I’ll post more in the future about our goals for next spring, but right now I’ll say that we might be working out a farmstand here at the homestead to bring in a little extra and we might be adding a porcine or two for meat raising. While next year remains simmering on the backburner, the fall garden is slowly filling in, a new placement for the blueberry bushes and irrigation for said plants is in the works, and garlic cloves are waiting impatiently to be planted.

The Bluebarb Patch

Roughly three years ago we used the money we got from selling an old chicken coop to pick up five blueberry plants. I planted them in a horseshoe around the antenna and planted rhubarb between them. The flower bed beneath the antenna is home to daylilies, tulips, and chive, making the little area a cute spot to sit and enjoy. Unfortunately the chickens have stripped the plants of foliage and mulch every year.

I’ve had it. I demand blueberries from my plants. This year we’ve decided to put up a temporary fence. The green garden fencing is new, but the posts are reused from another garden bed, one which will be seeing new fencing this year.

All the plants – rhubarb and blueberries alike – were treated with 3-4″ of aged chicken compost. The blueberries also recieved about 4-6″ of pine mulch. I’m hoping, between the mulching and fencing, we’ll finally see something from our bushes. There’s still some cleaning up to do, and I doubt the little flower bed will get much attention this year, but it’s a start!

The kicker is that I’ll have a poop-free spot to sut abd read this summer.

The “Cheerio Seeds” Scandal

PlantViewI’m sure most of you have seen that General Mills has been giving out free wild flower seeds in order to help save the bees. The long and the short of the issue is this: Handing out free seeds doesn’t make up for the refusal to stop using the chemicals that are killing bees in the first place.

Let’s back up and look at what glyphosate is. Otherwise known as RoundUp, glyphosate is an herbicide created by a Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970 and was marked in 1974. Glyphosate is such a strong herbicide that it was also harming crops. This stemmed the research and funding for genetically modified plants that could tolerate the chemical in order for farmers to spread massive amounts of the toxin on their crops, killing weeds and not harming the crops at the same time. Eventually bio-engineers began designing “RoundUp Ready” crops which are now used extensively in the US and in a few other countries.

The severe drenching of fields with glyphosate and the engineering of glyphosate into crops has not been studied in full, but the amount of glyphosate “leeching” into honey is alarming, especially given that glyphosate itself has yet to be cleared of possibly be a carcinogen.  The EPA is currently researching this risk, but results won’t be available until sometimes this spring, at the earliest. Coincidentally (or not so), studies have also shown that glyphosate has drastically impacted bees’ memory abilities, hampering the ability to find food and return to the hive, and their appetite, leaving them starving while producing low amounts of honey and with no drive to collect pollen, which in turn means low pollination levels and poor crop yields.

(None of this post takes into account the other environmental impacts of glyphosate of the potential cancer risk, but we’re sticking to the topic of Cheerios and bees here.)

Cheerios has tested higher for glyphosate (RoundUp) than any recently tested food article, with levels over 1,100 parts per billion. Which means that the fields in which the wheat is grown for the cereal is drenched in the chemical. (The oats themselves do not contain glyphosate as there are currently no RoundUp Ready oats. However, General Mills does still produce other cereals with RoundUp Ready wheat.)

So what does the Cheerios branch of General Mills do? They launch a feel-good campaign, which is timed right in parallel with unsealed documents that have been discovered and which raise the question as to whether glyphosate is safe for use. Cheerios decides to give out packages of free wild flower seeds that consumers can plant to help the bee population. There are a few problems with these seeds:

1. The seeds are not marked as non-GMO/organic, which means there is a very good chance that they also contain glyphosate. Planting poison not marked as poison is still poison.

2. Seeds listed in the package are considered invasive in certain areas. The company’s response to this essentially equated to, “There’s still pollen, and that’s what the bees need.” Introducing invasive species only presents other problems. Please check the label carefully to make sure you’re not causing more harm! (For example, Forget-me-nots and California poppies – both in the mixture – are very invasive weeds in certain growing zones.

3. These seeds are not a promise from the company to end the usage of glyphosate. Anyone who has taken Advertising 101 or a comparable course can tell you that this is a “feel-good” campaign in order to raise customer satisfaction and to distract from the new information surrounding the weed killer General Mills uses on the grains that eventually become their cereal, which we in turn feed to our families.

If you would like to plant flowers for the bees, by all means, do so!

Fantastic lists of native plants to grow that will help increase pollination and bee populations can be found at The Xerces Society. Make sure that the seeds you are buying are from a reputable dealer who does not sell GMO seeds, or if they do, make sure it is from a seed company that clearly labels what seeds are GMO and are non-GMO. One great example of a company practising such transparency is FedCo Seeds here in Maine. Everything is clearly labelled in their catalogue and online.

Buy from local seed dealers who will know what will grow well in your area.

Aim for native plants if you are planting only wild flowers.

Grow non-GMO, organic crops if you are gardening.

Do good, but don’t by into the “feel-good” of a company trying to undermine you.

Spring begins…

 

Yesterday was Imbolc. I count Imbolc as the beginning of Spring, as do many pagan and heathen traditions. It’s the beginning of planting season for many, as we prep and start the seedlings and dreams will become this season’s gardens. It’s a time to fight back the cold of February by tending the fragile new life growing on your windowsill. 

What will you be starting in the garden? For projects? For personal growth? 

Spring Happenings

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve updated in here. As spring starts picking up speed, things are happening fast and furious. Chicks are being born, seedlings are being planted, ideas are being hatched, and dreams are being shattered – all at once, it seems.

Carrot is most certainly a rooster. Given his attitude, he’ll be good eating. Am I sorry I spent so much time rehabbing him? Not at all. Dealing with his unabsorbed yolksac issue and subsequent infection was a perfect learning experience. He’s healthy, happy, and thriving. Unfortunately he’s a rooster and an ass to boot. He’ll make a great stew.

One of our current roosters, Amp, is in the freezer. He was getting nasty and the girls were getting bare baked having two boys. By the end of the summer, Gucy will be joining him. As fantastic of a job as these two boys have done, they don’t really fit the bill as to what we want to eventually have for traits in our flock. Selecting and culling in this manner is tough, but will pay out in the long run.

Seedlings are kinda, not really started. Having two kids to keep me busy has been difficult. I forgot how trecherous planning a garden while having an infant could be. Thankfully we’re close to being past the last frost date and it won’t matter, seeds can go straight into the ground. Unfortunately, there’s still some I need to start sooner than later.

The wood pile has diminished substantially. It’s time to think of next year. That’s another fear that looms on the horizon.