Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ready, Set, Go!

Vernal Equinox, March 20, 2006

Last week I started cleaning out the chicken coop. So far I have spent 9 hours on the project. $24.00 (w/o tax) on black plastic bags to bag the bedding in. I bought 3 boxes of Huffy drawstring bags, which turned out to be lousy product. I then bought Hefty black drawstring trash bags. These were not much better in quality, but a bit more so than the Huffy. I think I will have enough bags to finish the project and double bag the bags that will need more strength so they will not break when I go to transfer them to the pick up bed. Tomorrow is supposed to be partly sunny so I will get an early start by finishing the shoveling out of the coop and will scrub it down with bleach and Borax. I am sure the chickens will like to have some fresh bedding.

Spent the last three days starting seeds down in the basement. I set up the folding picnic table and it took me 3 ½ hours to hang the 4 fluorescent shop lights over it. Talk about being mechanically challenged! Here are the seeds I started:
Name Number of Cells Planted
Georgia Collards 36
Thompson Broccoli 18
Thompson Broccoli (OG) 18
Dani Lemon Basil 12
Garden Sage 12
Rosemary 48
Curly-leafed Parsley 72
Copenhagen Market Cabbage 72
Hot pepper from Laos 12
Hot Hot pepper from Thailand 24
Hot Hot Hot pepper from Thailand 12
Tabasco hot pepper 18
Hot Portugal pepper 18
Rutgers tomatoes 6
Riesentraube tomatoes 12
Hard Rock VFN tomatoes 6
Arkansas Traveler tomatoes 6
Amish Paste tomatoes 6
Bloody Butcher tomatoes 6
Druzba tomatoes 6
Lillian’s Yellow tomatoes 6
Stupice tomatoes 6
Mortgage Lifter tomatoes 6
Black Plum tomatoes 6
Banana Bill sweet pepper 6
Jupiter sweet bell pepper 12
Golden Bell sweet bell 6
Caribbean Red hot pepper 12
Early Jalapeno very hot pepper 24

(The following were sowed in flats.)

Victorian Posy Pansies
Marine Heliotrope
Sweet Annie
Bee Balm

I did not plant the entire packets of most of the vegetable seeds in case these die on me. The flower seeds are all old; the Bee Balm and Echinacia are from my old garden in Oak Lawn. Next month if these seeds grow, I will start more of the same and additionally start cucumbers, summer and winter squash, and pumpkins. I should have the high tunnel up by then, too. The recent 2’ of snow we got on March 15 is melting rapidly.

April 7, 2006

Decided to replant some seeds today as it is too windy for me to work outside. Wind chill is pretty cold, as well. I planted more:

Seed Name
Jupiter Bell
Golden Bell
Hot Portugal Pepper
Caribbean Red hot pepper
Early Jalapeno hot pepper
Green River Parsley (Leaf)
Lillian’s Yellow Tomato
Black Plum tomato
Copenhagen cabbage
Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil

I wanted to plant more Riesentraube cherry tomato seeds, but I already planted all that I had. None germinated. I really want some of these so I will have to order more.

If the weather cooperates tomorrow, I will load the poultry bedding into the back of the truck and take it to the field.

April 10, 2006

Spread the chicken manure out in the field and around the orchard. It was composting nicely in the black plastic, and bagging the bedding turned out to be a pretty good idea. It made putting the bedding exactly where I wanted it a lot easier.

April 26, 2006

Yesterday, Tom and I turned over the soil in the field section that we started last year and broke ground on a new section (about 50’ x 75’). It was a good day to turn over the ground as the moon is waning and in Aries. The ground was nice and soft as the snow just melted, and it was easy to break. We will turn this new ground over again before I plant the pumpkins and squash in it. The new moon is tomorrow in Taurus so I will plant the oats, wheat, peas and onions on the 28th barring bad weather. May 2d and 3rd are also good days to plant as the waxing moon will be in Cancer.

Checked out the orchard. The trees all look good and so do the elderberries. The stems are dead, but growth is plainly visible at the crown base. Less sure am I of the raspberries. My book says that the top cane may often die back and this is normal, but growth should come from the base of the stem. As everything is still thawing out, I will hold my breath and hope for new growth. If worse comes to worse, I will have to re-order plants. The currants and gooseberries plainly are growing, and Tom found some rhubarb sprouting that I thought had totally died last year. We checked the asparagus and found nothing but deer tracks! Boy was I pissed. I can’t wait to get that fence tightened up!

Uncovered the high tunnel and T-posts Chris gave us and hauled all to the field. If it is nice tomorrow, I will gather the fencing materials and go work on the fence. Tom is planning to go to town so we will see how it goes.

While out in the field I saw two eagles circling high above me. Day before yesterday a falcon lighted in back of the house. Boy, you didn’t see anything at the bird feeders and you didn’t hear any sort of cheeping either. The chickens were under their punji stick hut and Chin Lee a/k/a Chairman Mao wasn’t strutting his stuff. No telling where poor Chardonnet was. Tom thinks it may have been a prairie falcon because that was the closest picture to what he saw in the Bird Field Guide.

The seedlings that we potted up and brought upstairs to grow in the front room are all doing very well. I need to pot up my peppers and may do that later tonight.Well, I better check on the chickens and gather eggs.

April 27, 2006

Busy day today. The weather was lovely -- just like yesterday. Went to the field and was greeted by a pair of sand hill cranes that must have a nest nearby. I put together the rafters of the high tunnel. As usual, a parade of vehicles appeared and s-l-o-w-l-y drove by. I was very proud of myself because I figured out how to work the drill with the 3/8” drill driver.

Spent about 6 hours potting up seedlings and starting several more veggies. New ones started are Lemon and Armenian cucumbers, Blue Hubbard squash, Crenshaw melons, Big Moon pumpkins, and I have Moon and Stars melon seeds that I saved from a melon I bought at the Oak Lawn Farmers Market several years ago soaking overnight in a solution of Sonic Bloom that I will plant tomorrow morning.

I used up all the paper pots I made this morning; I can’t believe how I go through them. I think the living room is going to become very crowded very shortly. I really need to get that high tunnel up as soon as possible. I am a bit afraid because the next thing I have to do is square the base posts and I don’t understand how to do that. This is something girls were not taught when I went to school. I understand why the frame needs to be squared, but I don’t understand how to do it. We will be planting peas, beets, carrots, dill, wheat, oats, onions, spinach, radishes and several types of flowers, including a packet of Hungarian Breadseed Poppies that I have been saving for several years -- I just hope that some germinate so I can collect the seed. I believe that these may be the kind of poppies my great-grandmother planted.

Also tried out the Earthway spreader I bought and seeded two bags of shade and sun lawn seed under the maples out in the front yard where I raked away the duff layer for fire safety. Well, it is the new moon in Taurus tonight so everything should grow well.

April 28, 2006

Busy again today. Went out to the field about 10:00 a.m. and wanted to get all of the early seeds planted, but could only get the early flowers, wheat, oats, and peas done. I have Polk wheat from Johnny's in Maine, plain oats from the feed store, Dwarf Gray Sugar snow peas, Sugar Snap peas from Fedco and Amish Snap peas from Seed Savers Exchange. Came back to the house after 3:00 p.m. and felt like going to bed! But at least I got that much done. Now I have to wait till May 2 or 3 to plant the rest of the early seeds. We have another section under way where I will plant pumpkins and corn. Think we will enlarge this another 50’. Tom actually agreed with me that we should make that section larger.

Made some more paper pots early this morning and will finally pot up the sweet pepper seedlings and bring them upstairs. Will start hardening off the seedlings already brought upstairs to the living room tomorrow, weather permitting. I think it's interesting that the hot peppers sprouted so much easier than the sweet peppers.

May 5, 2006

The day started out with rain/snow and by 10:30 a.m. the sun was shining. I went to the Price County Normal Building for the Wisconsin Tested Flock info meeting. Bird flu hysteria! Now I have to find someone that will come to my farm and test my birds before I can buy new chicks and introduce them into the flock. New chicks purchased from a hatchery are considered "clean" birds until they reach maturity (4 months of age). If I add new chicks before my existing birds are tested as "clean", my chicks lose their "clean" status and will have to be tested as well. If I wait to buy chicks until my existing birds are tested as "clean", then I will only have to test my existing birds this year and will start to test the entire flock beginning next year. If I have my existing birds tested before the end of June, I will have to get them tested again this year because the annual test results are only good from June to June of the following year. It also means I will be getting chicks late in the season. Do I want to do that or lose a year in building up the layer flock and just wait till next spring to get chicks? Brother! At least the testing cost is not supposed to be too bad. Flock owners can do the testing themselves --if they are certified by the state. But the state revised the certification process earlier this year and has already held the mandatory certification class, so everyone not certified is trying to find someone that is certified to test their birds. The real inconvenience is that most of the people who are certified to do poultry testing do so on a volunteer basis and usually in connection with a community function like the 4-H kids or the community fair. Asking them to come out to your farm to test your birds really inconveniences them. I think the state should have county certifiers, or, the state needs to make this poultry testing certification process more readily available, perhaps by offering the class throughout the year at area Ag extension offices. As I understand it, this annual testing law has been on the books for several years but was never enforced. Most people I know never heard of it.

My MacDonald rhubarb came yesterday from Johnny’s in Maine. Don’t know if I will get out to plant them today or not. I have a headache from working outside yesterday. But at least I did a lot yesterday. I used the hiller/furrower on the BCS and made six raised beds and hilled several rows for tomatoes and corn and whatever else I can fit in there. The raised beds should hold just about everything. With more rain forecast over the next week, the early flower seeds, oats, wheat and peas should get off to a fine start.

May 6, 2006

Another busy day. The weather was very changeable and cool, alternating between clouds, sun and wind. Helped Tom clean the garage; I vacuumed the van out. Then Tom, Ed and I went out to the field and planted the replacement rhubarb, raspberries, and asparagus. Never made it to the raised beds to finish shaping the ones I had left from the other day. The planting took us over three hours; I can’t believe how long it takes to get that work done. I always think I can finish quicker than I do. Some times that is very frustrating for me as I want to finish everything quickly. (I have Aries rising.) Well, hopefully the weather will continue to cooperate and I will be able to get my planting done on time. Today the moon was in Virgo and I want to start planting on the 9th when the moon goes into Libra and be able to have everything planted when the moon is in Scorpio. I am hardening off the seedlings and I have to say that they are not looking too good. I don’t know what is the matter with those collards; they should tolerate the cold weather better than the hot peppers, but the opposite it happening. Only the broccoli is looking really good. Most of the tomatoes are ok as are the hot peppers. I hope to get the high tunnel up after the initial planting is done. I need to remember to get the hoeing done around the elderberries as soon as I can.

Yesterday I ordered some more seeds from Baker Creek's web site: Pride of Wisconsin picnic melon, St. Valery carrots, Forellynschluss romaine lettuce and Rosa Bianca eggplant. And today I felt like some books so I ordered The Key and The Language of Birds from Unknown Country. I haven’t bought any books for a while so I figured I was due. My Phantom Guard N Pro should be coming soon. I can’t wait to try it out. I sure hope it keeps the deer off my new asparagus plants!

May 9, 2006

Today my Sarah is 21! I hope she has a fun day and that the weather is good for her. I am very proud of her!

Woke up to steady rain here. I am glad because I was not looking forward to having to haul water to the garden so soon. Still, I cannot get out to the field when it is like this. Think I will start some more seedlings down in the basement as the moon is in Libra. I have Blue Hubbard, Butternut, and Acorn Squash sprouting nicely, and several of the Big Moon pumpkins are coming up, too. I am ecstatic that nearly the entire 72 cell flat of Moon and Stars melons is sprouting. I only started two varieties of cucumbers -- Marketmore 76 and National Pickling (not an heirloom, but older seeds I already had and didn't want to waste) -- that are sprouting as well and will start the heirloom varieties directly in the garden at the end of the month.

Last night I went to the Normal Building in Phillips for a farmers market meeting. I am really looking forward to going to the Phillips Farmers Market on Saturdays. It will go from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. beginning Memorial Day Weekend (the 27th). July 4th will start the Tuesday market and that will run from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is a nice group of us and it looks like more people will come as they can. As far as I can tell, I am the only person selling heirloom veggies. Too bad my fruit orchard isn't producing yet. Soon enough! It was a really nice meeting. Several of us were able to get certified to take WIC and Senior Farmers Market program coupons even though we do not live in Price County. I thought that was great. The woman from the Health Department even gave me a form to send in after I get my registration packet that will allow me to register my farm as an approved vendor location. I wish all government was as nice and easy to deal with! Thank you Price County!