Small House Vegetable Garden is Now In the Ground!

With the exception of the organic tomato plants I am picking up this Saturday afternoon, I finished planting the seeds in the vegetable garden today. This is a relief. I still have some Sunflower and Cleome seeds I want to plant but it’s always “food first” at the Small House homestead.

It’s June 5th already and I feel like I am behind the 8-ball. Luckily today was cool and cloudy and around 60 degrees and I was up and out working in the garden by 6 a.m.  After yesterday’s 80+ degree heat I wanted to get a very early start on my outdoor chores.  I’m fine with getting up and out early but not so fine planting in the heat of a hot afternoon.

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Watering in the seeds in the hope they will germinate quickly.

Then the morning turned out to be fairly cool, a pleasant surprise. I had the sprinkler going all day as well watering the newly planted apple trees, the vegetable seeds and the arborvitae we planted last fall.

I also took advantage of this nice cool day and baked an organic Amish chicken, organic sweet potatoes and steamed fresh green beans.

Amish chicken

 

Sweep potaoes

We like to eat our main meal at noon.

Gene was feeling under the weather today but he was able to add a “T” and a short hose as a second watering option on our pool shack pump. The red hose is set up for our garden watering and with the shorter green hose I can turn the dial and get water for the animals without un-hooking the red hose. This will even allow me to be able to fill the animal water buckets while a sprinkler is running. It’s a small thing but will just make morning chores, and thereby, my life so much easier.

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We water our garden and the animals from the pool shack well.

I also finished weeding and spreading bark chips under the old apple tree that was here when we bought this place.You may recall that all but two of the old apple trees died in the flood. This is why we are replanting a few fruit trees each year.

Weeds are gone

Weeding and adding new bark chips as mulch has been a big chore this week.

After our late lunch was over and the dishes done I spent an hour of this blog. Then it was past 4 p.m. so I made myself a cup of ginger tea and grabbed a good book and sat on the three season’s porch to enjoy what was left of the afternoon.

For me this is one of the benefits of rising early (5 a.m.) my 8-9 hour workday is done by 4 p.m.!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Rainy Weekend and Spring Garden Photographs

It’s been a rainy weekend here on the homestead. But that’s okay with me as I know that our newly planted fruit trees, transplanted perennials and vegetable garden seeds all need this life-giving water to thrive. We had 3.1″ of rain in the last two days which will also helps our two water containment totes to fill back up as well.

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Native lupines in my white pine bed at the Small House pole barn driveway.

What do you do on a rainy weekend? We clean house!

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This pine bed filled with lupines and catmint greets our friends and family.

Since taking photographs of cleaning house will be boring I will share spring garden photographs I have taken during the last couple of weeks.

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A colorful sunflower flag helps to brighten a gray sky week here.

This time of year we spend almost every waking minute working out-of-doors or with our animals so the house, unfortunately, often gets left behind. And recently with so much of my time and energy going towards the replacement of the porch roof and the insurance claim for the same room, cleaning time has been a precious commodity of late.

Pool shack May 2015 USE

The hostas are up at the pool shack – the ornamental grasses are starting to.

So I talk advantage of these days to do a thorough cleaning. And boy does this house need it right now!

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Scented day lilies and epimedium under a White Oak tree.

Today Gene will clean the bathrooms and kitchen and vacuum and mop the floors. I’ll feed the animals, change out the chicks litter and vacuum the bedroom carpets and our many area rugs and the fine tuning details he is likely to forget.  We will both also take the recycling to the compost station today and run the dog. Then I’ll be cooking up a storm.

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Light yellow iris’ in a bed under another White Oak tree.

Together we will get this job done, as partners as we always do everything. I am thankful for having Gene as my partner.

Japanese iris in our meadow.Japanese iris USE

Japanese iris in our meadow.

Karens lavender Japenes iris USE

This lavender iris is a pass-along plant from a gardening friend.

It always feels SO good to me to be in a very clean house.

Small House Homesteader, Donna

My Favorite Carrot – Merida Hybrid

I love this carrot!

Carrots close use

It is Merida Hybrid an overwintering type I bought from Territorial Seed Company in 2014 http://www.territorialseed.com. It is certified organic too (by Stellar Certification Services.)

The most favorite thing about them is that they overwinter really well here in SW Michigan lasting through our intense cold months and deep, deep snow falls. I’ve harvested two batches so far this season; one earlier this spring and a second picking today. I planted our first garden seeds of 2015 today and the carrots needed to come out of the soil to make room for the new.

The package says “240 days, This Nantes type with great bolt resistance produces sweet, bright orange carrots 1 to 1 ½ “ in diameter. Well suited for spring, summer and fall plantings.” I agree.This sampler packet was just $3.95 from Territorial Seeds Company, Cottage Grove, Oregon 514-942-9547.

1 gram samplers work out really well for us and this one packet was enough to feed the two of us through the summer and fall and early into 2015.

There is nothing like harvesting fresh grown carrots from my garden in May and June before the real gardening season even begins!

The carrots pictures in this photograph above over-wintered in our garden and were harvested today 5/28/5. I cooked cleaned, sliced them up for lunch and they were as sweet as ever.

Small House Homesteader, Donna

 

Our Homesteads Native Plant Ecosystem

I get asked a lot of questions about our gardens here on the homestead, especially when folks find out we are a Back to Eden Garden. This means we subscribe to using bark chips as mulch and to grow our flowers and vegetable here.

White daisy's bunch

White daisy’s, a pass-along-plant grows in our meadow border. This is a plant given to me by my neighbor.

In fact, I spend a lot of my day in my gardens these days and every year I add more and more beds and plants. I adore working in and sharing my gardens with others.

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The view from our three season porch; sidewalk and bird feeding bed.

As you know, most plants thrive in well-drained soil. But if your soil is sandy and lean like ours is then too much draining can become an over-kill. Water and nutrients also run through it quickly and plants have a hard time surviving in this kind of environment. Fortunately, there’s a fix for turning this barren soil into a thriving garden.

Lupines bricks diaganol USE

Our first native lupine bed in front of the brick raised bed. Perennial candytuft and lupines flowers about the same time.

When we moved to the Small House Homestead in 2000, my dream was to garden on a big scale. I came from a small city lot though compact and wonderfully shaded it also came with clay soil. Too many plants drowned there for my comfort level and I was not yet a point where I had the time to devote to my gardens.

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The view from the bird feeding bed back towards the house and porch.

What I really longed for was lots of colorful flowers, ornamental grasses, flowering shrubs, evergreens and organic vegetables and I looked so forward to getting my hands into the land where the sun shined everywhere.

garden back of porch chartreuse and porch

A low garden behind our porch allows us to look out over our property and enjoy the birds.

Once I began to dig, what I found was very lean, very sandy oak savannah soil. This acid soil was not idea for growing anything but oak and pine trees. They don’t call this ecology the oak and pine barrens for nothing!

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First a fenced in vegetable garden and now an open chicken run.

Sandy soil has its pro’s and con-s but it can be easily amended and improved. I knew I had my work cut out for me I know, but I was strong and optimistic.

Front sidewalk from limestone bench

Front of home sidewalk with shrubs, catmint and saliva in pea gravel.

I started by testing our soil to find out it was a base 7.0 Then I began to seriously amend it to make more loam to hold in the water and nutrients I was also adding.

Bird bed stone edge w flowes NICE

Our country garden beds are edged in found fields stones I have gathered.

I began to make homemade compost using kitchen scraps, grass trimmings and more. Then I bought mushroom compost and more recently found a source for free well compost horse manure. Now I use a combination of them all with bark chips mulch on top to hold in the moisture and keep out some of the weeds. This is a winning combination for us here!

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fall blooming clematis at our front door adds beauty and a sweet smell.

Gradually over the past 14 years our gardens have grown as have my skills and knowledge. I’ve made some mistakes for sure but I am known as the crazy gardening lady in my community and I can live with that!

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A metal gate in our repurposed railroad tie herb bed adds visual interest.

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A row of ornamental grasses hides a metal chain link fence around the pool at the pool shack with our wildflower meadow behind it.

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My granddaughters playhouse in the meadow garden edge.

Small House Homesteader and gardener Donna

I Discovered a New to Me Seed Potato Catalog

Have you seen the new Wood Prairie Farm catalog, the Maine potato catalog for 2015?

A photo illustration from this attractive well done seed catalog.

I’ve never heard of this catalog before and when it arrived in Saturday’s mail I was thrilled. It has nothing but USDA Organic and best of all NO Monsanto seed items or split gene products.

It’s published by a family owned farm business from Bridgewater, Maine. They maintain the highest of products standards which means growing and selling ONLY certified organic and they make a point of making it clear that no Monsanto seeds are involved.

It’s petite catalog, just 5 ½” X 8 ½” in size but it is full of the most lovely illustrations, quotes and options for gardeners and cooks. In fact, this little gem of a catalog reminds me of the Old Farmer’s Almanac –  there’s definitely an old Maine theme going on here for sure.

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Wonderful potatoes and seed potatoes of many colors and varieties.   

I ordered a sampler of organic potatoes so I can test four different varieties (purple, red, yellow and brown) in our soil to see which has the most flavor and which grows best here lean sandy soil and our USDA Zone 5b garden. Then the next season I will order our favorites.

In addition to seed potatoes for gardeners this company also sells a nice selection of related products;

* Grains for Bakers and Cooks

* Organic Cover Crop Seeds

* Organic Vegetable Seeds for Gardeners

* Gourmet Potatoes for Cooks

* Specialized Fresh Organic Vegetables

* Gifts from Maine

I am not receiving anything for this commercial. I just like what I see and want to support it. If you would like to know more, go to their website at www.woodprairie.com or phone 1-800-829-9765.

Small House Homestead gardener, Donna

I am Being Published in The New Pioneer magazine

Double tanks water

Two 275 gallon food grade totes repurposed into a water containment system.

I received word from The New Pioneer magazine recently. They are buying a written piece and three of my photographs with plans to publish them sometime during 2015.

This magazine, if you are not familiar with it, is a homesteaders to self-reliant living. It is published quarterly with a subscription cost of $24.97. More information about this magazine, its articles and columns can be found on its site, http://www.//newpioneering.com

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An example of a front cover of The New Pioneer magazine.

 

Brown downspout and brown tubThe tote is connected to the pole barn roof using a flexible hose and downspout.

They are buying a piece I wrote about our homesteads rain water collection system along with at least three photographs! Isn’t this great news? We have two 275 gallon food grade totes that captures the rainwater that pours off of our pole barn and collects it during the rainy season for use during the drought times. This article outlines how we created this system, found our wood base along side of the roadway and just how this system works for us.

We have sandy soil on our Small House Homestead property which perks through our soil and runs to the ditch drainage system.  I have always felt that this water was simply being wasted and could be used more effectively for our vegetable and perennial gardens, animals and shrubbery. Now that we have captured water we use every bit in our watering using a simple hose and gravity feed system.

White pipe with faucet

A PVC pipe and turn on/turn off valve allows me to use a hose or a bucket.

In years past I wrote and published a lot of newspaper and magazine feature articles, photographs, essays, book reviews and more and it’s been fun to get back into the writing gig again this winter. I have missed it.

I sent along three digital photographs with my 900 word piece which apparently they felt fit their market and audience.

I’ve filled out the paperwork and am waiting to hear when it is going to be published. I’ll keep you posted when it is published. Even though over the years I’ve probably sold hundreds of freelance pieces, each new one is still a thrill.

Small House homesteader and freelance writer, Donna

 

 

 

Odd Chicken Behaviors and Wintertime Boredom Busters

Collage side by side withorange text jpegFor some reason our chickens have a thing, and I mean a real genuine thing about the wood under their chicken coop. They are “chewing it.” Yes, actually chewing the wood.  When I look at the wood I can actually see little beak marks all up and down the 2 X 4. Everyone, even advanced chicken keepers, are pretty baffled about this strange, even-for-a-chicken behavior. It is actually outright weird and chickens can be pretty weird from time to time anyway-sort of the nature of the beast!

Chickens under coop in dusting area

Our Cochin/Phoenix mix chickens under their coop in their favorite hang-out, now out-of-bounds!

You can literally see little vertical beak mark scratches up and down the board where they have scraped something off its surface.  I’ve considered many possibilities of what might be driving a chicken to do this; perhaps they need to sharpen their beaks, there might be bugs in the wood, there could be moss on the wood, maybe this is just winter boredom…. all kinds of possibilities. I can’t see anything on the surface of the wood other than old wood with some paint on parts of it. And it’s the same paint that is on the rest of their coop that they pay no attention to, so I honestly do not think it is that.

Gene hanging eye hook, close jpeg

Gene is putting up an eye hook to hang the “chicken boredom busters” from.

One day I watched them do this odd behavior all morning and then gag or grasp for air  as a result. I began to imagine tiny wood fibers in their throats and became alarmed. I remember thinking to myself this cannot be healthy. So I consulted the Chicken Critters and More Facebook list and while lot of “maybes” were thrown out, everyone pretty much agrees we need to seal this area off to protect the chickens from splinters and whatever else may be on that wood. Sorry girls, this is another one of those “tough love” decisions at work.

Gene hanging cabbage in run jpeg

Gene hanging the head of cabbage from the roof truss in the covered run.

It’s really too bad too because this is the one area where the soil does not freeze and where their mother (now  re-homed) taught them to dust. And they absolutely adore this area because they can scratch up the sandy oil there, eat the roots of the grass found there and I think they feel protected from the elements and we human messing around in their run.

Corn and cabbage hanging from roof truss jpeg

Head of cabbage and ear of corn….sounds almost human doesn’t it; head and ear?

Since we have taken away their favorite “hang-out” (bad chicken momma!!) we hung a head of cabbage and an ear of corn from the roof truss. My thinking is, if we took away their best playground we should give them back some things fun to do in return. We also added a pile of sand in a corner and they were immediately on top of it like King of the Mountain.

Cabbage hanginging alone in run

Cabbage the best boredom buster out there….but will they know to eat it?

I feel really bad to close their play pen off but in the end we covered it up to keep them out for a few months as a form of protection. Maybe we can open it back up in a few weeks and they will have forgotten about the scraping?

Have you ever encountered weird and odd chicken behaviors in your chickens over the year? Please share them….I need to know that there isn’t something awful in the water here that is making them act so coo-coo. Please tell me I am not alone in this weird chicken-ness?

Small House Homestead and chicken keeper, Donna.