Monday, August 18, 2014

Egg Time

Our hens are laying and we couldn't be happier.  

The first small eggs from our hens.  

Dog Days of Summer

This summer has actually been surprisingly cool.  Today is hot though.  The chickens are panting and the dogs are layin' in the shade.

Our neighbor's dog visits Ida 
Ms. Mouser Annabelle hangs with the doggies
Our house has old school, thick guage aluminum siding that the white paint has almost completely chalked off of.  It looks like a dingy silver bullet.  We hope to paint it next year.   
Buckwheat in front, pumpkins with a bad case of powdery mildew.  I hope the plants make it long enough to ripen the pumpkins.
Buckwheat flowering.  This was a really quick covering crop, flowering within a month of planting.  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Clucks, Corn, and Huacatay

August seems to be the time of year when I finally have a moment to step back and think "What is working and what is not on our little homestead?"  Some of my favorite things are all the flowers, how well the onions and winter squash are doing in the sheet mulched beds, and the chicken coop itself.  In need of improvement are the chicken area in general, the fact that our dog Ida squashes some plants here and there when she runs around because they are not protected, and getting our fall crops and fall deer preparations ready.  I have to give it to Ida though, she stays out of the garden beds no problem, its just the flowers on the perimeter that get a bit of a beating.  The goals for the chicken run: adding a chicken-sized door, making entering the run easier, creating a huglekulture area in the middle, creating 2 pasture areas that the birds alternate between every 2/3 weeks to save the grass, adding comfrey and other pasture crops to the area.

New Hampshire Red and White Rock at 20 weeks with open air coop behind.
Chicken area (coop is from plans from

My backyard hived swarm.  When I inspect I often use a pillowcase to cover the bees I am not working with and keep them chilled out.  

Jason shucking corn for the grill with Ida lurking in the background.  I can't wait to paint that brown cinderblock another color.  

Tagetes minuta/Peruvian Black Mint/Huacatay...antiviral medicinal herb in the marigold family.  A gift from friends and growing well!
Green Headed Coneflower with Visitor

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bee Chains, Forgotten Frame and Papalo...The Summer Cilantro

When I extracted honey, I forgot to put a frame back in one of the hives.  I had removed some undrawn frames of foundation to replace with a few combs I had when I removed the honey, and one frame just never got replaced.  A few days later when I discovered my mistake, I had to move the comb the bees had built in the void I had left onto a new frame.  They will have it fixed up in no time.  Also observed, my favorite...a bee chain, also called a festoon.  Bees link together and use their bodies to....actually no one knows for sure.  Measure space?  Help wax production some how? Another delightful bee mystery.

Chain of Bees
Oooops...forgot a frame.
Moving their handiwork

Also in full swing is a new plant we are growing at Garden Dreams this year called Papalo.  It is tall, hardy and delightful.  The flavor is a bit like citrus and cilantro and quite only need about 1/3 of the amount of cilantro you would use in a salsa for example.  It's great because cilantro is quick to bolt in the summer heat....when this Papalo just seems to keep on growin'. new fave.

So aromatic...oil glands on papalo leaf underside.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer Splendor

The gardens at our house are in full bloom.  Just a lovely sight to see.
Beds filled in...and Jason's studio painted yellow.

Tithonia in bloom
Ida the dog gives scale to the sunflowers
Flower bed by the house with plenty of sweet alyssum for beneficial wasps
Butterfly weed and anise hyssop
Echinacea purpurea and bronze fennel
Honey bees on anise hyssop
Mixed bed of calendula, dill, cilantro, and more with asparagus planting

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Polyface Farm Field Day

Yesterday I participated in a field day at Polyface Farms in Virginia.  The Salatins have become adept at marketing their version of sustainable meat production through books that Joel Salatin writes, speaking tours, and events on farm.  During yesterday's visit, the animals seemed content, living in a low-stress environment, doing what they liked to do, with access to light and fresh air.

The trick is, the Salatins raise animals in an ethical way and still turn a good profit, by using their land to "stack functions".  They also lease land to run animals on, they don't own all the land they use.  An example of stacking functions is running broiler chickens on the same land that cows just came through, since different bugs and parasites affect these species...the birds are able to glean protien from the cow patties and "clean up" after the cows.  

The weather was lovely and the rain held off til the end of the day.  All in all, great to see the things I have read about this farm in person.

Small apiary with electric netting for bears
The Raken House: Chickens stir the deep bedding under the rabbits to mix in the manure and keep it fresh until the young rabbits go out to pasture.
Rabbits on Pasture.  Daniel Salatin has bred a very hardy line of rabbits.
Burly Ass Trellis
Cornish Cross Broiler Shelters moving across pasture, cleaning up after the cows (eating parasites and bugs in the cow patties).  
Cornish Cross shelter with simple gravity watering system
Chick Brooder
Khaki Campbell Ducks under Paw Paw Trees.

Hoop House 30' x 120'
Kitchen Garden



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sunflowers About To Pop

Mammoth sunflowers along fence
First year asparagus bed with herbs and calendula in between