Tag Archive for homesteading

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.

Overcoming Fear

I have to be honest, there was a time I was scared to death of birds. I never knew this fear existed until a lovebird my then boyfriend (now hubster) adopted had lit out of her cage and was dive bombing me in our bedroom. I freaked. I ran out of the room bawling my eyes out, shaking, and calling him to come home. Of course he couldn’t come home, he was at work. Of course I knew no one who knew birds well enough to come to my rescue. Of course I was on my own. On my own I can deal with, but this sudden new fear of birds? That was something I couldn’t deal with.

Fast forward twelve years and now I’m the one in charge of chasing chickens, pinning down pissy roosters, tending to torn combs, popping feather pimples, and binding busted beaks. I keep track of who is laying, who is holding out, and who is hiding the eggs. I pick up, hug, kiss, and love on chickens every day. I never thought that I would be able to overcome that fear of avian animals until we decided to start our homestead. Every now and then it just hits me how far I have come and I can’t help but be amazed at myself.

Parting chickens

One of the many things that about 99.99% of my generation has no idea how to do is joint chicken. Granted, we’re also the same generation that has no idea that you can actually grow your own food…in your own yard…in dirt. So I suppose it should be no surprise that we don’t know how to joint chicken. 

I took a stab at it today. I owe a wonderful first time experience to Gordon Ramsey’s YouTube how-to. While I had a hard time party gout the breasts, eventually giving up and just deboning the meat, I was planning on making nuggets anyway. Here’s hoping next time goes even smoother. 

Gardens Continued: Companion Planting

Companion planting is a very natural concept. If you look out in the wild, you never see one form of plant by its lonesome. Daisies, black-eyed Susans, clover, and buttercups amongst others interweave into these communities of flowers. Maples, ash, willow, and pine mingle through the woods, rarely sanding aloof from one another. The plants that you do see by themselves look alone, deprived, and normally have a harder go at it than those mixed into a society of flora and fauna. Companion planting takes this idea that plants should not be segregated from one another and works towards growing plants with one another in a helpful, semi-self-sustainable type of gardening.

We’ve used companion planting – to a different degree each year – in all of our gardens. Sometimes companion planting works out well, other times, not so much. For example, it’s been a few years, but we did try a three Sister’s Garden of pumpkins, corn, and beans together. We didn’t have much luck that time, but I’m wondering if it was mostly “user error” as I didn’t look into the length of the growing season that the variety of corn I picked needed. (In Maine we have a very short growing season, so this is something to take into consideration.) I’m debating about trying the Three Sister’s Garden again this year now that I’ve had more time to reflect on what went wrong with that previous attempt.

Many people who now have gardens from our generation don’t know about the idea of companion planting simply because they grew up off from their parents and grandparents victory-style gardens that were popular starting in WWII. These gardens were functional and yet very carefully sculpted to fit the post-card time era that they were in. Companion planting went by the wayside at this time, but is now beginning to make a resurgence, specifically for those of us that have limited land space and prefer to do things without chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Below is a chart that I made for a post a few years ago talking about companion planting. It’s very basic and only includes the basic gardening selections, but it gives a great starting point for those new to the practice!

What we’re planting… What they can be companions with…
Potatoes Cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi , bush bean, carrot, celery, corn, dead nettle, flax, horseradish, marigold, peas, petunia, and onion.
Lettuce Dill, beets, broccoli, bush beans, pole beans, carrots, cucumbers, onion, radish and strawberries.* Lettuce needs to be kept away from cabbage as it will deter growth and mess with the flavor.
Peas Corn, bush beans, bole beans, carrots, celery, chicory, corn, cucumber, eggplant, parsley, early potato, radish, spinach, strawberry, sweet pepper, tomatoes and turnips.
Beans Carrots, celery, chards, corn, eggplant, peas, potatoes, brassicas, beets, radish, strawberry and cucumbers.
Corn Amaranth, beans, cucumber, white geranium, lamb’s quarters, melons, morning glory, parsley, peanuts, peas, potato, pumpkin, soybeans, squash and sunflower.
Pumpkins Corn, melon, squash, marigolds, and oregano.
Tomatoes Asparagus, basil, bean, carrots, celery, chive, cucumber, garlic, head lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, pea, pepper, marigold, pot marigold and sow thistle.
Jalapenos
Cucumbers Corn, peas, beets, radishes, carrots, radishes, and dill.

 

Gardens Continued: “Wild Gardens” or “Wildcraft” Gardening

“Wild gardens,” of “wildcraft gardening,” is just as interesting as it sounds. Wild gardening works off the premise that all gardens can be fed and nourished on their own in a wild setup, needing minimal attention and yielding optimal production.Wild gardening is the practice of simply planting in the land around you and letting things grow, well, wild. This practice utilizes the natural weed growth as a protective barrier that provides shade and helps build the soil. It also allows insect populations to naturally help protect, pollinate, and tend the plants as well.

There are three key rules to the practice of wild gardening.

1. No cultivation. – Cultivation is still considered a more modern practice when it comes to growing crops. It is well known that over cultivation strips the land of the topsoil which in turn causes nutrient loss and is the primary reason while fertilizers need to be added back into the soil.

2. No chemicals. – No chemicals can be use. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or additives can touch either the soil or the plant. Using these can upset not only the seedlings in the wild garden, but the surrounding weeds and insects as well.

3. No weeding. – Obviously, in a wild garden which is purposely grown among the weeds, weeding out said weeds would be a bit of a shot in the foot as it breaks down the ecosystem that you’re borrowing to grow your garden.

The most important piece in planning a wild garden is in investigation work that is done before hand. The season following the start of your wild garden is a season of observation and discovery. In order to plan out a wild garden, watching the weeds that you plan on planting among is necessary.

By watching and recording the health and vigor of the different types of weeds it is possible to determine if there are any soil deficiencies that need to be addressed first. As with any garden, crops will grow best if the soil is ideal. Being able to prep the soil in the fall leading up to planting season is the easiest way to ensure the produce will being growing in the best soil conditions possible.

Tracking down when the two different sets of weeds sprout and die out is also important for planting the wild garden. Many areas exhibit two sets of weed growth, a summer growth and a winter growth. The best time for planting your spring and summer produce is just when the winter growth is done dying off and the sprouts for the summer weeds have yet to start growing. The reverse is ideal for the winter crops – summer weeds should be dying off and winter weeds sprouting when the seeds for the winter crop are planted.

While I would love to be able to give a list of what plants grow best in a wild garden, it would all be conjecture. We have yet to attempt a wild garden, though I think we might be game for one this spring. I can say that, in my readings on wild gardens, I have noticed that there seems to be a pattern. It seems that the produce more apt to grow haphazardly in the garden – such as tomatoes, squash, lettuce, bush peas – do well in wild gardens. Potatoes do so well that many folks simply leave them in the one spot for years on end, leaving enough in the ground for the next season’s garden.

If any of you have practiced wild gardening or are planning to do so, please comment with your experiences! This is a topic that I would love to learn more about from those who have actual experience with the process.