Things are starting to get busier for us here now that Spring is really doing its thing. I swear after all the snow we got here in Massachusetts this winter, I don’t think I really believed we would ever see bare ground again, let alone green grass! I sketched and listed and drew out plans for the garden so many times I thought I would go insane, but I think I put something together that I am happy with – even though I have a couple different options listed on my “final” plan. I have a to do list a mile long and dozens of tomatoes started.
Outside, the peas are just finally starting to sprout, we have some swiss chard and rapini under row covers, and carrots are just starting to germinate, spinach should be up soon, all in a new, long no-dig bed I put together with loads of compost, old composted chicken bedding, and the soil from a different bed I dismantled this spring. Last year I built a no- dig bed by layering newspaper, straw, and ordinary loam and had great results with my bush beans which I needed to move, so I was happy to see it teeming with earth worms and I can’t wait to see how things grow there this year! I planted 75 strawberries last year and it looks like they all made it through winter just fine. I cannot WAIT for fresh strawberries! Squeee! I love having things like that to look forward to.
Onion transplants are in the two raised beds and interplanted with Ruby Glow romaine and Buttercrunch lettuces. I ordered transplants this year after poor results with sets, so I am looking forward to seeing how they turn out. I grew only heirloom tomatoes last year which did very well but I fell slightly short of my goal of replacing all of my tomato sauces and salsas with home grown and home canned tomatoes. This year my focus is on soil building, composting, and increasing yields, while last year I went for variety. Eventually I’d like to find a balance between great yields and variety but since my main goal is to feed my family with what I grow, I need to make sure I grow the best producing types I can.
I have another large no-dig bed to build (I will probably need to truck in soil and compost for this one), and have also started an experimental hugelkulture bed along the front chicken run fence to grow some extra greens for our flock and winter squashes. In the picture you can see the stack of branches, then a layer of leaves and aged chicken bedding is added, which will then be covered with soil and compost to be planted in. I think I’ll try some different greens like red mustard and maybe I can find some fun varieties of kale to go there.
Our 6 pullets who arrived to us way back in February are ready to join our established flock- this weekend I will be putting a temporary enclosure within the run to gradually integrate them. We have three Easter Eggers, a Rhode Island Red, and two Black Copper Marans. They are very sweet and already have great personalities. Our 8 Welsummer pullets will be able to move out of the basement brooder and finally call the grow-out coop home now that the nights are forecasted to be warmer (they are much younger than our first pullets and needed to feather out better so I have waited for better night time temps!). We thankfully also have new avian netting coming this week since the netting from last year was destroyed by the snow and I have to have them covered after so many visits from the fox and now a gosshawk.
We have a Buff Orpingting hen, Betty, who has gone broody and she is just refusing to give up egg sitting duty. I’m working on separating her out and letting her try to hatch a few new chicks for our flock! We had a minor hiccup this morning when she stepped out for her daily break and one of our naughty Barred Rocks helped herself to sitting and eating an egg out of the nice clutch that had built up over two days. While I shooed the hen away, our youngest, Nathaniel decided he could “help” by collecting those eggs and then being almost 2, dropped and smashed them. sigh Thankfully the eggs were barely 24 hours old! Our daughter, Bella, at 3 is the perfect age to be a great helper. Nathaniel is right behind her and adores his “chicky babies”……as long as we don’t have him on egg duty I think we’re alright (And of course theres Jacob’s lack of enthusiasm at 8 going on 18! He humors me though, such a great kid!).
We will need to upgrade our poor decrepit old coop and replace the wooden base it is sitting upon. The base is falling apart after many years of weather and we have mice and moles and who knows what else burrowing up into the run. Right now the plan is to construct a hoop house style coop with plenty of room to roam on days with bad weather and plenty of ventilation on our hot -albeit short- summer stretches. I’m not sure yet about the materials for the winter, I’m concerned about below zero temps and frost bite so I need to do more research on that matter. This project should be done by June.
Otherwise I am looking forward to planting some more greens, getting seedlings out, and working further on my focuses of soil building, better composting, and increasing yields- along with building the new coop. I am also working harder on keeping better records on egg production, planting dates, and gardening and homesteading expenses. Even when times are rough, whether emotionally or financially, having plans in place to have our garden productive, to know that I am contributing not only to my family’s health but to our food security and teaching the kids many valuable lessons about life and our food, makes me feel good and fills my heart.