As summer has been coming to an end, we have been working on harvesting around the farm. We have processed all the meat rabbits and dropped down to just our breeding rabbits for the winter. Today, we butchered all the roosters that we hatched back in May. They were a barnyard mix and a little smaller than some we have raised in the past, however, these spent all day, every day, free ranging. We put 20 birds in the freezer which should last for the year.
We also harvested potatoes. This was our best year yet with potatoes; we got 125 lbs despite the lack of rain! The corn didn’t really produce (it was too shaded). We have lots of peppers and turnips coming out of the garden. Now that things are a little caught up around the farm, it’s time to get some venison to put in the freezer so we have some protein to go with those potatoes.
We will be sharing some of the potatoes with our neighbors who allowed us to use the back of their property to grow the potatoes, but this is the first year we won’t be buying organic potatoes from other local farms. In the past, we have purchased about 40-60 lbs to get us through the winter.
Yesterday, Alex and I built a new growing rack for Anna to use with seedlings. We have had a couple of different setups for the past few years, but they were not quite what Anna wanted. A few years back, I got 2 4-bulb fluorescent fixtures for free. They were already modified with plugs, and they have been the grow lights (using the daylight style bulbs). The problem is situating the plants under the lights and suspending the lights at the right height.
So, Anna gave me a sketch of what she wanted. I made a few modifications based on available wire we already had and the actual dimensions of the intended setup location (next to the fireplace in the living room). And off to the store I went. Total assembly took just under 3 hours, and almost half that was getting the lights suspended just right. Each shelf is 3’x5′ and can hold up to 9 seedling trays. Anna intends to use the top shelf for supply storage since there isn’t a light on that shelf – so 18 seedling trays is the limit. The unit is on wheels so it can be removed from the nook easily.
The new order of seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company also arrived in the mail yesterday. 28 packs of seeds. Luckily, we already had some so we didn’t have to buy all new seeds this year. The box shows what Anna will be planting as seedlings. The ones on the table go straight into the ground. I am particularly looking forward to our plans for a large heirloom corn crop this year.
If anyone has a good phone app recommendation for tracking what was planted, how it grew, and how it tasted, please let us know. Otherwise we might have to use paper! Now if only the snow would melt so we can find the garden…
We have been enjoying salads with lettuce from the garden. Tonight after a family trail ride (including Amanda), I went to help Anna collect a few things for dinner. I was a little surprised at what I found growing.
For Mother’s Day, Anna had 1 request: “build a cold frame for my plants before you leave town.” Well since I was leaving town on Monday, that didn’t leave much time to get the project designed, built, and installed.
A cold frame is like a small greenhouse. It is designed to be a transition area for plants. Since Anna had been growing seedlings in the basement, she needed somewhere to move them outside to get sunlight during the day, but be protected from the cold at night.
Previously, in anticipation of this project, Anna had picked up 2 skylights off freecycle. She removed all the aluminum flashing and some of the operating hardware. This reduced the weight (a little) and made it possible to operate them by hand. I already had some pallets with OSB mounted on the sides from a hay feeder design last winter. We didn’t plan to reuse that feeder again, but I had saved the panels for a future project like this. I basically built a large box to support the skylights at a slight angle. We dug out the area for the cold frame to be installed and connected all the walls together. Once the top windows were on, we loaded the bottom of the cold frame with compost that was about 6 months old. This compost still has some decomposing going on, so that provides the heat inside the box at night to prevent frost damage to the young plants. Anna put weed cloth over the compost base and then added the plants. During the day the windows are propped open, and at night they are closed.
After a little over a week in the cold frame, Anna has started to move the plants into the garden. (That is a rhubarb plant that she is standing next to, not a sapling.) Anna got her Mother’s Day wish and it only took about 3 hours to build.
For the past few days, I have come home to dirt cooking in the oven. Today, I found Anna using the kitchen to start the seedlings for the garden. Based on the number of seedlings she is planting, I expect to get informed any day that we are adding new garden space.
The power was out at work this morning, so I came home at lunch. Of course, I got the call that the power came back when I was within a mile of the house. No worry, I still took the afternoon off to work with Anna on stuff around the farm. We had our lunch and once Amanda was down for a nap, we got to work outside.
Last year, the garden consisted of 3 raised beds inside a fenced in area. It was pre-existing, so we just added some compost and used it like that. Our total planting area was about 130 sqft. Today, we removed the raised beds, put down a layer of cardboard to kill grass and weeds, then added about 8″ of compost on top of the cardboard. We reused the boards from the raised beds to go around the fence and hold the soil inside the garden. We now have about 300 sqft of planting space ready to go.
After that, the kids got home, Anna went jogging, and I kept working. I built a new coop for raising young chickens. I should be able to finish it up tomorrow afternoon with another hour or so of work. Of course, I also have to get to work prepping more rabbit hutches, because we are picking up 3 more rabbits on Sunday. We anticipate 2 will be dinner in the next week or two and 1 will be retained for breeding with our New Zealand does.
Thanks to a tip I got this morning, we have decided on our Oberhasli buck. Well, sort of. We decided on a farm that has a lot of Oberhasli’s and we sent in a deposit to reserve a buckling that should be born in March. I’ll pick him up from Maryland in May when I go to DC for business.