Archive for the ‘Smallholding’ Category

There really isn’t much to winter in the garden, except the muddly slog to the coop and back to bring in the eggs. Luckily my hens are responding well to having a light in the coop and I’m getting almost 3 eggs a day, daily from my 3 hens.

I haven’t posted in forever, and the hens producing now reminds me of the horrible luck I had last year. My coop was all done and ready to be inhabited, and I’d hatched 5 chickens out of 18 (pretty low hatching rate, but it was my first go). 2 were roosters so I was down to 3 hens. Wanting to get my flock up in numbers I went to a farm in the valley where a lady was selling some lovely lavender orpingtons. I knew there was a risk buying adult birds, but her farm and animals looked good and healthy and I bought 3 birds to bring home. Almost immediately 1 of my birds got a goopy eye. The next day one of her birds died suddenly, and another of mine had a goopy eye. Then both were coughing. The next day all my birds were coughing. Sadly I learned they had a chronic, incurable and highly contagious respiratory virus. There was nothing I could do to help them, and with such a contagious and virulent disease I couldn’t visit any house with chickens and go in their yard. I worried I would spread the disease throughout my neighbourhood. In the end the only thing I could do was cull the entire flock. It was a horrible learning experience.

Since then I have cleaned out and bleached the entire coop and run, and left it without a flock for 3 months. I worked with a neighbourhood kid down the road to incubate 10 more eggs (hatching 50% this time) and now have 3 happy, healthy hens. I can’t add to my flock with adult birds, I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, so I’ll be incubating more eggs with the preschool soon. That way I can have another bird, as can my parents who lost a bird to a predator last week.

Anyway, that was 6 months ago and now the only thing on my winter plate is the odd beet here and there, as I was so sad about the chickens I didn’t plant a winter garden. I’m shaking it off and thinking now about….

Seeds. Yup, I won’t bore you with another LONG, LONG list of seeds this time. I’m working away in my mind though, and have plans to:

Start some seeds in the next couple of weeks
Set up a new, more resilient greenhouse (those stupid plastic mini-greenhouses are worse than useless!)
Move the raspberries AGAIN

I did a couple of things last summer that worked well for me. I planted some thistle-y, thorny berries in the back planters against our fence to keep the marauders out. They are thriving (surprise surprise). I also hired a friend’s teenage son to help me with the weeding and hauling and coop-cleaning. He was fantastic to have around, very useful and I felt good about teaching him the basics of being a good employee (be confident, come up with ideas, work hard but take a break for water, ha!). I highly recommend hiring a teenager, it’s a good community builder.

Anyways, I hoping to keep the good ideas and toss the bad. I may even just toss these raspberries honestly, the berries are small, the harvests are small and they aren’t ever where I want them to be…

How are your plans coming along?


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Winter Gardens

I’m trying to (finally) get the last of my winter garden in. I have rutabaga, squash, parsnips, brussel sprouts and kale in now. I need to sow some more beets, lettuce and broccoli. Any must-haves for the winter garden in the PNW? I don’t have a ton of space, but I’m ready to pull all my bolted lettuce, basil and the peas & beans that the cat trashed.

I am not going to have a ton of time this winter because I need to build my coop. I think that’s why mentally I really haven’t prepared much for the winter.

I can’t wait to start on the coop though! Just waiting for the deck and fence to be finished – probably by September 1…

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Well I am now officially anti-garden netting. My reasons?

  1. it’s a pain to work with – gets tangled easily, isn’t as sturdy as trellising etc
  2. it’s made out of plastic comes packaged in plastic and is otherwise not particularly sustainable
  3. traps cats.
So today I went out to water the garden, and a small cat was in one of my raised beds (netting didn’t work!) and when it saw me it freaked and tried to run but got tangled in the netting. It wouldn’t let me near it, was panicking and almost strangled itself before I managed to calm it down enough to stop struggling.  I had to call for scissors to try and cut it out, but if I hadn’t been there and it had been freaked by my cat (or a raccoon) it would have died. I felt awful. I don’t want anything in my garden that could kill another creature – except slugs of course… and other meanie insects via chickens. Birds and cats should be safe!
So, the cat trashed the entire bed (bye bye beans and peas), and I’ll be pulling that netting out. I can’t pull the other nets out because there are cucumbers growing up them, but next year I’ll invest in permanent trellising – I can make it myself easily enough.
Sad start to the morning!

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Last night I went out to the garden to water and fertilize my tomatoes which by the way have just started putting on fruit, at least the cherries anyways. I heard my neighbour in the alley and went to offer him some greens. We share a lot – he provided the tires for my potatoes, and he’ll get the spoils of one stack. He also let me use his water for almost a year when we had no outdoor plumbing, during the renovations. Anyways he has a shop in his garage and spends a lot of time there and in the alley. Last night he had some friends over, and when I offered the greens one of them got very excited and practically begged for a bag as well. He offered some fresh caesar salad dressing he had just made in exchange. They were cooking something on a little propane burner, and hanging out in lawn chairs. Anyway I brought them the lettuce, and he came and asked all about what I was growing. Turned out he is a chef. A very excitable chef. Right when I was about to go in they came by with a big plate of steaming BC mussels that they’d steamed in a natural bacon, garlic and local seaweed broth! So delicious… Apparently their next course was a miniature bow tie pasta in a fancy sauce of some kind.

Yes, they were making this gourmet meal in the alley, and yes, I love my neighbours!

PS on the same note, the carpenter who is building our deck (woohoo, deck!) recently did a job for my friend who is a beekeeper and now he buys her honey. He wants to know about my chickens and what I’ll be doing with the eggs HAHA. Build your community with every relationship you foster!

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I was at the Real Canadian Superstore today (ugh) and they have marked down all their “garden centre” – and I’m using that term lightly – stuff down 50-70%. Most of it was crap – snail decorations, dead begonias, what I think might have once been  a smurf. In the back though? Some great cages, exactly what I needed to make dealing with my tomatoes and cucumbers easier, and RAIN BARRELS! yes, President’s Choice brand, ugly-as-sin rainbarrels.  They have all the features I want (the ability to put them in chains to collect more water before use for example), at $30 each. I bought two. I only held back because I didn’t want to have to stack them on the top of my car, held down with my children’s shoelaces. I know, crazy right?

I also recently got a worm composter on craigslist. I thought it would help until the chickens are here, then I can pass it on.


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Mid-season Recap

For my first year of full on, somewhat purposeful and completely intentional gardening and homesteading, this has been a somewhat miraculous experience. I’ve had very little naysaying, mocking or any other negative advice. My family and friends have been indulgent and supportive, and my neighbors lovely. Mind you I don’t have the chickens yet.

On a purely quantitative front I’ve been lucky. I started late with the infrastructure but early with (some of) the plants. Considering that in February we still had a giant bin and the tree-that-shaded-all, it’s amazing I have any garden at all… In fact though I have had spinach and cilantro in spades, and frozen for later. I have peas, 6 types of lettuce, kale, strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb now. I could definitely double the berries for next year, and halve the lettuce. I’d also love more rhubarb. The kale is perfect, in fact so far the polycultural bed I tried (from Kelly and Eric’s first book) has been the crowning glory for me. I haven’t seen the carrots produce yet of course, but the lettuce and kale is great, and the broccoli is advancing nicely.

I’ve made many mistakes (search the mistakes category for more) and learned a lot about what I want – for example to me the spinach wasn’t worth the space. I’m surprised by how well so much of it has gone, actually. I think I’ve had such good luck because the soil is new, and in raised beds… So far I haven’t done anything I should have done in terms of pests or disease. I’ll be honest I haven’t done much more than the basics of getting stuff in the ground and watering it.

Next year my focus is going to be on learning more about the plants themselves and their specific needs. I won’t be spending so much time on infrastructure per se so hopefully a winter of reading and a less insane spring will mean I’ll actually pay attention to spacing, pinching out etc.

The good news is I’m half way in and I still want to do this again next year.

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we were away for the week, and it was a hot and sunny week – finally! The garden responded appropriately and I came home to a small crop of peas (enough for dinner tonight) and plenty left to mature a little more. The strawberries of course were consumed immediately. The basil and broccoli appear to be a week away from beginning to provide. Everything else beefed up and of course the greens were insane. I’m so excited to be making meals with the produce from the garden, I just wish I had a little more at-home time these days to truly use it! I hope to make something delicious tomorrow night. And Friday. And Saturday 🙂 It’s my birthday today and I have a couple softball games so I’ll just have a salad and be more culinary tomorrow. I hope you’re all getting to sample more than greens now too!

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