Friday, May 24, 2019

Getting it all planted

I'm making my big spring push to get everything planted by the end of this month.  All the seeds have been sown (mainly), and lots of seedlings have been transplanted--most of them at the allotment this year.  The Misc bed is going to be pretty much only tomatoes and celery here in the garden;  the zuccinis, cucumbers, achocha, squashes and pumpkins have all gone to the allotment.

I may have mentioned already that I'm not doing dedicated beds at the allotment this year (though I still am here in the garden);  everything is being planted in rows, and I started at the top of the plot and have reached about 2/3 of the way down now.  The final third is pretty much just grass, which three chickens are faithfully tractoring for us--it'll be a lovely lawn by the time they're finished!  I plan on sheet mulching it over winter, but for now it's fine uncultivated so long as it's feeding chickens.

But back to planting:  all kinds of beans and peas have gone down, most of which growing well.  The broad beans at the allotment are flowering, but no harvest just yet.  I've got summer cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower planted out, some there and some here.  There are still Brussels sprouts and curly kale to transplant:  hopefully by this weekend.  I also have a couple trays of flower seedlings that still need a home too;  I might put a few around the edges of the veg patch, and maybe some at the front of the house (where no chickens or ducks will destroy them).

Things are looking good.  It's great having so much room to plant stuff;  I can't believe I used to squeeze all this stuff just here in the garden!  In fact, I found it quite odd planting pumpkins three feet apart:  normally I give them about 10 inches.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

State of the flock, May 2019

Nine eggs of various colors in a small basket
The day's collection, Apr 2019
For about a month we've been getting around 50 eggs per week, which means we haven't needed to buy eggs (it's been about two years since the last time we were in this happy state).  However as we're getting on to summer, production is slowing back down to about 45 per week;  this isn't quite enough to meet all our needs.  Oh well.

There are still nine chickens doing the regular garden rotation, mainly mowing the lawn but I've been able to get them onto a few ornamental beds too.  I'm keeping them off the perennials section for the present, until the berries have been harvested (probably not until July) as I wouldn't put it past them to eat them all, green and hard as they are.

And we also have three chickens still tractoring away at the allotment;  we move them to a new patch of grass/weeds every day, and though they do a good job mowing and fertilizing, they can't keep up with the regrowth, despite the overall small size of their pasture.  We recently swapped the previous three chickens for a different set, as I felt sorry for keeping them in such cramped conditions for so long (about a month).  It's enough size for three, but not as long term housing.

Finally, the two new ducks are nearly all feathered out and letting out regular quacks alongside their peeps.  They're free ranging in the rest of the garden while the chickens are in their paddocks, with full access to the pond, which they have made very green and murky indeed.  They are champion slug eaters though, and are getting most of their food themselves.  Unlike the chickens who are content to hang out at the feeder all day, these two are very industrious looking for bugs and slugs, and have been enjoying greens and weeds too, and only eating a little feed each day. 

We may be picking up two more ducks from a rescue charity next week.  We'll see how that goes.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Cherry trees in spring

Close up of immature cherries growing on a branch
Cherries forming, Apr 2019
Last year our little Morello cherry tree was still recovering from being moved the previous year;  we only got about one pie's worth of fruit.  This year looks a bit better, and I've been trying to encourage some growth this spring by giving the tree a weekly dose of nitrogen via the wee bucket (yes, we pee in a bucket and use it on the garden). 

Fruit production looks much more promising this year, as does general growth.  It's a mini-dwarf tree, and I've been pruning it gently the last two years to get it more into a fan shape now that it's been moved next to the fence.  It might mean an small reduction in total fruit from this particular tree, but it means more food from the bed it's growing in (it, along with the fig and two apple trees are growing next to the fence in the main veg beds).

The larger Kordia cherry tree seems to have formed fewer fruits this year than last--and we only got about 50 cherries off it last year.  Oh well.  Maybe next year.  It's one of the few free-standing fruit trees in the garden, and I did prune it a bit hard last summer, to keep it open and not too bushy.
A very small fan shaped tree growing next to an ivy covered wall
Twiggy cherry tree with willow wands (for making garden teepees), Apr 2019
And the newest Stella cherry tree was planted next to the south-facing garage wall this spring.  It was already naturally fan-shaped so I simply tied the branches down as they were.  It hasn't flowered, which is fine:  I'd rather it established well first, and give us plenty of sweet cherries in the future.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Cabbage planning

A short row of half-grown cabbages in a messy garden bed
Big but not big enough, Apr 2019
We're still looking forward to eating the spring cabbage;  last year we began eating it in April, but maybe I'd planted it out earlier then.  These ones are heading up nicely but still aren't ready yet;  I want some big dense heads to make coleslaw with, plus plenty of outer leaves for cooking. 

I put some summer cabbage seedlings in at the allotment and had to cover them with mesh to try and protect them from pigeons (I suspect--haven't caught them in the act).  They're growing strongly but not enough to overcome the damage they were receiving.  I would have to cover them anyway, as it's nearly cabbage white butterfly season.  All the spring cabbages are at home, and I won't bother covering them unless they're still around in June.

I also just sowed a tray of winter cabbage seed too:  none sprouted yet.  There's one lone winter cabbage still hanging on at the allotment;  all the others just went to seed without forming heads, but this one is still trying to grow a (small) head--probably for July, if it can hang on that long.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Only six months left!

A row of pea sticks in a messy garden bed
Dodgy pea supports, Apr 2019
I'm a month into the Vegetable Challenge, and still managing fairly well.  We have a couple of storebought onions left in the cupboard, as well as two half bags of frozen veg, but are regularly eating celery and chard from the garden, with the occasional leek, purple broccoli (nearly done now), and even a couple new season radishes from the allotment:  our first allotment harvest!

The only regular "salad" fruit we're buying is cucumber which the son has in his lunches;  it also goes on our salads with  finely chopped chard leaves, radishes and spring onion, homemade sauerkraut (made at Christmas with super cheap bought cabbage) and homemade zuccini relish (made last summer from gift zuccini).  I said to the husband we don't need to bother growing lettuce anymore, since chard is so much easier/more prolific.  I don't think he was entirely convinced though.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Newcomers

A flock of chickens behind wire, looking at two ducks sleeping nearby
Spot the newcomers?  Apr 2019
After talking about it for several years, I finally did something about it:  I got ducks!  A coworker's family keeps geese, pigoens, hens and ducks and mentioned that they'd recently gotten rid of a few ducks.  I said if she had any extra in the future I'd be happy to have them--well, she did and I was.

They are about seven weeks old and half Indian Runner, and half unspecified (the coworker says her son knows but she couldn't remember what he told her--possibly Campbell).  The three of us went to their allotment to pick them up and were very impressed by their set up;  her husband gave us three goose eggs (massive! had to cook them one at a time, as they filled the frying pan), and we met the other poultry;  and seeing their geese gave me ideas...I guess they're a bit noisy for the garden, though. 

These two ducks have settled in pretty well, and it's obvious they've been hand-raised: they follow us around and are quite happy to eat from our hands.  In fact, they call us when they see us:  "peep peep!"  Actually their voices are just starting to break;  I hope they don't quack as loudly as they peep!  We kept them in the chicken tractor for the first several days but have since let them free range over the whole (non-vegetable) garden, including into our pond which they love.  We don't know if they're male or female yet, but even if both are male we'll still be happy to keep them as slug control.

They've met the chickens through the fence, but won't be properly introduced for a few weeks yet I think.  Nine hardened chickens versus two coddled ducklings?  Not until they're more evenly matched;  although size-wise, the ducks are about as tall as the smaller hens now (but not fully feathered yet, and also not equipped with sharp beaks and claws).
Two ducks inspecting a lawn
We eat grass!  Apr 2019

Friday, May 3, 2019

Food Totals April 2019

A colorful salad on a plate
Chard (leaves and stems) salad, Apr 2019
Vegetables:

124.5 oz chard
7 oz Savoy cabbage
16 oz salad greens (baby chard, miners lettuce, mizuna, spring onion)
61.5 oz celery
34.5 oz purple sprouting broccoli
17 oz kohlrabi (stem and leaves)
7 oz leeks
0.5 oz radish

Total: 265 oz, or 16 lb 9 oz

Note:  I weigh all my vegetables after preparation:  peeling, trimming, etc.  Does not include some fresh herbs which were too small a quantity to weigh, i.e. less than 0.5 oz.

Fruit:

No fruit harvested this month

Eggs:

Total: 204 eggs from 12 hens
Total feed bought: 2 bag layers pellets (40 kg), 1 bag mixed seed (12 kg)

Preserves:

2 medium jars dehydrated celery (stems and leaves)
1 small jar dried thyme

Homebrew:

Elderberry/blackberry wine still fermenting
Cider still fermenting