Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Homestead Doings

Spring is a busy time around here. We try to raise as much of our own food as we can and in the Spring, we plant and typically raise a flock of meat chickens.

I finished planting this garden with cooler season crops yesterday per instructions in my seed catalog. However, a friend of ours from church who has been gardening in this area for years told me I should be doing my summer garden, not my cool weather stuff. Apparently she plants her cold weather stuff the day after Christmas! Since she always has great produce with plenty to share, I'm throwing away the seed catalog and listening to my friend Mabel.

After filling the rest of the space in my cool weather garden yesterday with pink eyed, purple hulled peas (good for nitrogen fixing), I used our tiller to prepare my summer garden soil. I went ahead and tilled the kids garden area too where they plan to plant pop corn, ground cherries, carrots and some snap beans given to us by a couple at church. You can kind of see their garden patch behind the one in front.

In the winter garden we have garlic up already.

The English peas are just starting to poke through the hay.

I just LOVE watching the new plants sprout. It is so amazing to me still to think I can grow something useful. And I really love it when there are no weeds to mess up the view.

Last Fall, we put sugar cane in the ground. Something (a friend, Jeremy, tells us it was a opossum) dug around in there badly before Gregory and I got the fence up. Yet, I think it too is sprouting.

We've got an interesting group of meat chickens this year. We started with a smaller than usual order because we are going to try raising turkeys this summer and didn't want to fill up our freezer with chicken. But then we lost a whole bunch of them and in frustration, I contacted the company, who immediately sent out replacements, plus "filler chicks."

I think these are some of the "filler chicks."

The really little one by the waterer is strange. I think there is something wrong with him. He doesn't grow and barely moves. I thought we were going to lose him, but he just keeps hanging on. He gets stepped on periodically since he can't move out of the way too well. But he seemingly wants a mommy and keeps trying to get under some of the bigger chickens.

Our first group of chickens are getting pretty big. They have a hard time moving so I don't know if this one had to take a break from walking up the ramp before moving on or just decided the door was a good place to roost.

A couple days of go we got a telephone call from an old friend from Gulf Breeze. Their family got some chickens and they had some roosters that needed a new home. Apparently their neighborhood forbids roosters.

The chicken walking the branch is one of the five from Bob and Melanie. (The others, taking a dirt bath, are from our replacement batch.) I'd love for Bob and Melanie and their kids to join us for chicken butchering this year and take their roosters home for their freezer. We'll see what they decide. I want to call Bob or Melanie soon anyway because my husband told me Bob found a local source for grass fed beef. I got very excited until Kurt reminded me we didn't have the money to buy half a beef right now anyway. Lousy details.

Our layer chickens keep a close eye on the new chickens.

I do believe they also covet the meat chickens' lush grass.

Our laying chickens are allowed free access to all of our property and they manage to keep it mowed close during the slower growing times. But the meat chicken coop is used only periodically, so the grass is given plenty of chance to grow during off times. This has taught me how valuable pasture rotation will be when we bring goats to our homestead, God willing, very soon.

Last Fall, we ordered a few more Americauna hens to bolster our laying crew. We ended up with quite a few roosters. I figure the person sexing the chickens was new to the job.

We gave a couple of the new roosters away already and plan to keep this guy. His colors are quite stunning.

Each year we try to add new long term plants to our homestead. This year, we started with grapes.

We will see how they do. They are not the grapes that normally do well down south. But they were cheap at Sam's Club.

We also have a couple sassafras trees on order and some herbs.

Our strawberries from last year have a few blooms.

I moved a couple runners to the kids' garden so they would spread there as well. We had an unusually cold and long winter this year and lost a bit of growth from last year.

Our blueberry bushes have quite a few blossoms this year. I would love to have as many blueberries.

Our apple trees are just starting to bud. We planted those a couple years ago and haven't had any apples so far. It may still be a couple of years yet for apples.

Apparently our woods are lined all the way around with wild huckleberries this year.

Hopefully we will be able to pick them and find something yummy to do with them as well.

Even the wild black berries or dew berries look like they will be more abundant this year. (We just have to get to them before the chickens do.) We've been in draught for the last couple of years and so far this year looks good. We are praying the weather will stay more normal this year.

Spring is so late this year and I am glad so long as summer tarries as well. This is the first time I can remember the first of Spring actually looking like the first of Spring. The dogwoods and azaleas are only now starting to bloom. We normally find them blooming in late January.

Even my banana trees are only just now putting out their new leaves.

Can you tell I started playing with different settings on my camera? I discovered the little flower picture means I can take close ups of plants.

Kurt has been so busy with school this semester that Gregory and I have taken over much of the homestead activities. We are actually quite proud of ourselves. I don't think either of us realized we could do as much as we have already done. In fact, Gregory got so much confidence from it all that he decided not to wait for his Dad to finish the tree house.

I'm really proud of the job Gregory is doing. He scavenged most of what he used for the tree house and built everything but the second story floor and front wall.


Theresa said...

I just decided to pop over and see if you had any posts and was delighted to have a tour of your garden. This is looking REALLY exciting! I would pump Mabel for all the knowledge you can about your garden! :o) Great job Gregory on your treehouse!

The Gingerbread House said...

I can depend on getting excited when I visit your blog...The chickens are beautiful and I love the garden space you have...We are doing as much as we can with the space we have ...Hubby wants to put in a grape vine at the bottom of the property..any suggestions, for a good growing kind? Ginny B.