December 1, 2016

Lights for Laying Hens

Our hens weren't laying for a few weeks and then winter started.  I didn't think we'd get eggs again until spring.

I thought since they'd had a few weeks rest that it would be okay to encourage the hens to lay again.

So, we installed tube style Christmas lights around the coop ceiling and about a week later the hens started laying again.  We leave the lights on 24hours as they draw very little energy. 


Chicken Coop Light



I now have about five eggs a day from my eight laying hens.


It looks like the chickens are at a disco night.  The lights also let me see the chickens when I close the coop at night so I can do a quick head count.
 

Occasionally a hen will cozy up underneath the coop and I have to scoop her up and put her inside.
Chicken Coop Lights

November 27, 2016

Top 20 Ways My Family Spends Less Money

More and more we need to be mindful of earning, spending and saving money wisely.  We've done quite a few things on the homestead to save money.  The family is quite used to this pattern of doing things ourselves.  This sometimes means we have to wait longer for things, like a day for the laundry to dry or pick and clean vegetables before cooking, spending ten minutes finding deals with price matching.  But in turn, we get exercise, fresh air, organic food and more time together as a family.  With some things we save time, like no more waiting at the garage for car maintenance and not spending hours mowing the lawn.  Here is a list of the top 20 ways my family spends less money:
  1. Main family vehicle is compact size and fuel efficient.
  2. Canceled satellite TV and use Roku to watch Netflix and You Tube.
  3. Installed wood stove ourselves, burn some wood from own property and don't use propane furnace.
  4. Share one cell phone for family, no data plan and don't upgrade after contract.
  5. Hang dry all laundry, saves electricity and humidifies indoor air in winter.
  6. Price match groceries.
  7. Cook most meals and limit delivery, drive-thru food orders and eating out, even on vacation.
  8. Keep winter and summer tires on separate rims and change ourselves and do oil changes at home.
  9. Take showers after 7pm for lower time of use rates, wash laundry on weekends for lower rates.
  10. Grow about 4 months worth of our own fresh vegetables (peas, artichokes, potatoes, cucumbers, swiss chard, kale, turnips, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, beets, ground cherries, raspberries, herbs).
  11. Eat eggs from our own hens with feed supplemented with food scraps and backyard foraging.
  12. Use hen waste and kitchen scraps for free garden fertilizer.
  13. Cook using toaster oven, steamer, Crockpot and on wood stove to avoid using large oven.
  14. Mow only part of lawn to save gas (and protect wildlife habitat).
  15. Close curtains at night to reduce heat loss.
  16. Air condition only one room in house over summer saves electricity.
  17. Work from home part-time saves gas.
  18. Groom dog at home.
  19. Low cost family entertainment: hiking, swimming, fishing, skating, gardening, biking, playing with pets. 
  20. Turn off lights when not in room.

November 23, 2016

Chicken Coop Poly Panels for Winter

Weather-proofing the chicken coop for Winter in Zone 4

Coop Weather Proofed
We had our first winter snow storm and these panels protected our coop from all the wind and snow.  Now the snow can't blow into the coop or cover the egg laying door.  The hens will also have some clear ground to scratch and peck around on.

We made the side panels so that we can remove them for the nice weather and use them year after year.  The roof will be permanent.

We made the roof supports from supports from an old tent.  I love how there is still lots of light.

Here's a close-up of how the panel is attached and how the corner of the exterior coop is built.  This coop is built to protect the hens from all critters from raccoons to bears.  Our hens are like our pets and we don't want to lose any.

The hens are free ranging all day.  The Red X's walk all over the snow without being bothered, but the Wyandottes don't like the snow.  A couple days ago, I followed the tracks of one hen across the backyard and found her hiding underneath a brush pile.

Scraps for hens.

When we get into the super cold days, I'll open up the coop door but will leave the exterior poly panel door closed to block the wind.

Before it snowed I added a lot of leaves and dried grass under the coop so that I can sprinkle treats and the hens can dig and scratch to find them.

I'm also adding kitchen scraps for composting under the coop so they can dig through that too.  These scraps have jerusalem artichoke peels, crumbled egg shells and squash seeds.  The hens also get a lot of apple cores.

November 20, 2016

Installing Chicken Coop Poly Panels in November

Winter weather has arrived in Zone 4 Canada, although the homestead and I are not quite ready.  We hastily installed the new poly plastic roof on the outer cage of the hen house yesterday, in the dark, as it started raining.  This morning it started snowing and the snow continued to blow through the open coop door and accumulate on the wood chips.  Tonight, I brushed as much snow off the wood chips as possible (using a car snow scraper) and just managed to squeeze the door shut with all the ice built up around the door frame.  Then later tonight we got the poly panel up on the north side of the coop.  Instantly all the winter weather nastiness stopped blowing on the coop and all was quiet.  We had a peek through the coop window and  the hens looked like they were having a disco party with the coop softly lit with christmas lights.  The christmas lights have really done the trick with getting the hens laying.  After one week we started getting eggs again after about a two month hiatus. 

Only three more poly panels to go.

It's taking us awhile as we wanted to get the fire wood loading window installed in the basement first and rather than throwing a tarp over the hen house we're building removable poly panels for all the sides of the coop and a permanent poly roof.  We're hoping this will last a few years and the hard work upfront will pay off year after year.

Also on the chicken to do list is another ventilation opening to increase air circulation.  I want the girls to have more fresh air because even with six inches deep of wood chip bedding, the ammonia smell is too strong, so that I end up propping open the egg laying door to let fresh air in during the day.

October 24, 2016

Permaculture Vegetables for Cold Climates


Ann's top four successful perennial type vegetables to grow in your garden. 

If you want to homestead on the weekends or part-time, it really helps to have some vegetables that either sow themselves or are easy to gather seeds from.  Being efficient in the garden is essential in permaculture.  I've been surprised about how easily ground cherries sow themselves and how prolific the jerusalem artichokes are.  Green beans are definitely a must for the homestead vegetable garden, they are so easy to collect seeds from and save a few dollars with not needing to buy seed packets in the spring.
Ground Cherries

 

Ground Cherries

These ground cherry plants grow bushy and produce lots of cherry tomato sized fruit wrapped in delicate paper husks.  The flavor is different that anything else, sort of citrus like and the texture of a firm cherry tomato.  These ground cherries make a nice snack as you tour around the garden each day. Ground cherries continue fruiting until the first frost and as perennials by self-sowing seeds from last year's dropped fruit.  I've dropped a few older fruits around my fruit trees.  I'm hoping these will be a useful part of a fruit tree guild.  Guilds are also essential in permaculture gardens.
 



Purple Top Turnip 

Purple Top Turnips

You get many seeds in a package of purple top turnip seeds and they have excellent germination even in compacted clay soil. I planted these seeds later in summer and I still had loads of turnips in late summer. These turnips also act as self-sowing perennial if you let some plants go to seed.Purple top turnips preserve very well with blanching before freezing.

Green Beans

Green beans are super easy to grow when planted directly from seed into your vegetable garden. Green bean leaves and the beans themselves are very bug resistant. The beans freeze well after blanching, making these easy preserves for winter eating. Green beans are sustainable because you can save seeds easily from dried pods for next season's garden.  I've saved more than enough seeds that I don't have to order seeds for next spring.  Very sustainable and an excellent addition to any permaculture garden.







Jerusalem Artichoke Plant

 

Jerusalem Artichokes 

 You plant these like potatoes.  Cut up a piece with an eye on it and bury in the ground.  These plants are super abundant and produce many tubers.  Jerusalem Artichoke is perennial vegetable that will grow every year with little work.  These were ready to harvest when the soil started lifting around the stems from all the tubers pushing up.  With this one row I've filled four large freezer bags of tubers.  These plants have two purposes, one an abundant food crop and two they make an excellent privacy screen. 

October 10, 2016

Reduce Heating Costs by Closing Curtains at Night

Winter Heat Loss
Backyard chickens surviving winter's chill.
I want to minimize loss of heat through my windows on cold winter nights.  Last night we had our first frost but we haven't started heating our home yet this fall.  I want to delay starting up the wood stove and definitely not turn on the propane furnace.

October 9, 2016

Easy to Grow Perennial Herb and Fruit Guild

Weekend homesteading requires good time management.  The more perennials you grow, the more time you have to expand the homestead.  Normally we think of perennials as flowers, but I'm starting to think of them as perennial herbs, perennial fruits and perennial vegetables.  Perennials are an important part of a permaculture garden.

Plant Guild

Perennial Fruit and Herb Guild

Fruit/Vegetable/Herb guilds and companion planting are the key to success with organic gardening.  The mix of different plants helps deter bugs, feeds each other nutrients, crowd weeds out and shades the soil.  This avoids using pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers and watering every day.  This perennial guild that is successful for me in Zone 4.

Perennial Guild:  Tall dill with thyme at base
 and ground cherries starting behind.

Perennial Guild with Ground cherries, chamomile, dill, thyme, sage

These grow very well together in a garden bed that I established by laying cardboard over the lawn, hay and then some topsoil (no tilling required).  The thyme and sage start early in the summer, the dill sprouts up tall but is very airy and let's the sunlight through to allow the chamomile to sprout up.  Lastly the ground cherries start to get going and bush out after the dill and chamomile are finished.  The sage and thyme continue to grown each spring and the ground cherries, chamomile and dill self sow from dropped seeds/fruit in the spring.


Perennial guild in late summer:  bushy sage, fruiting ground cherries,
dried dill seed tops (sunflower in center).


Easy to Grow Perennial Herb and Fruit Guild

Perennial Vegetables and Guilds Save Time 

Weekend homesteading requires good time management.  The more perennials you grow, the more time you have to expand the homestead.  Normally we think of perennials as flowers, but I'm starting to think of them as perennial herbs, perennial fruits and perennial vegetables.  Perennials are an important part of a permaculture garden.

Plant Guild

Perennial Fruit and Herb Guild

Fruit/Vegetable/Herb guilds and companion planting are the key to success with organic gardening.  The mix of different plants helps deter bugs, feeds each other nutrients, crowd weeds out and shades the soil.  This avoids using pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers and watering every day.  This perennial guild that is successful for me in Zone 4.

Perennial Guild:  Tall dill with thyme at base
 and ground cherries starting behind.


Perennial Guild with Ground cherries, chamomile, dill, thyme, sage

These grow very well together in a garden bed that I established by laying cardboard over the lawn, hay and then some topsoil (no tilling required).  The thyme and sage start early in the summer, the dill sprouts up tall but is very airy and let's the sunlight through to allow the chamomile to sprout up.  Lastly the ground cherries start to get going and bush out after the dill and chamomile are finished.  The sage and thyme continue to grown each spring and the ground cherries, chamomile and dill self sow from dropped seeds/fruit in the spring.


Perennial guild in late summer:  bushy sage, fruiting ground cherries,
dried dill seed tops (sunflower in center).


October 8, 2016

Harvest and How to Cook Jerusalem Arthichokes

Jerusalem Artichokes
Peeled Jerusalem Artichokes
I was walking around the vegetable garden this afternoon when I noticed that the soil at the base of the jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes, sun roots) had heaved up into little hills around the stalk of the plants.   I peeled back the cardboard layer and found lots of jerusalem artichokes near the surface.  I wasn't planning on harvesting any sunchokes before the first frost but since there were so many almost exposed to the air, I dug out a few with my fingers.

I dug out more than I intended but I did get all of them that were close to the surface, I was thinking bugs might get to them.  This is my first time cooking sunchokes and I've read that they are similar to potatoes so I thought to give them their best chance at tasting good was to bake them in the oven, as potatoes taste the best this way to me.


So I gave them a wash, broke off some of the nubs and peeled them.  I cut them into small cubes and drizzled on a bit of olive oil and baked with the lid on at 350F for 30 minutes. 


They turned out nice and soft and golden brown.  They look exactly like roasted potatoes.  I tasted one right away and it's texture is very soft and fine and the taste is very light and the same flavor as artichokes hearts.  I put the rest in the fridge, I hope they'll keep well.  It's super cool that these are perennials and I can harvest for years with little care.

September 17, 2016

September on Ann's Weekend Homestead


Our backyard chickens are enjoying their new coop.  Here are our Red X hens, 6 months old, eating layer pellets.  The feeder is hung underneath the coop to prevent rain from coming in.


In the bottom of the photo are two perennial vegetables, on the bottom left are salsify leaves and in the middle is red veined chicory.  I chop up the chicory leaves and steam them with other fresh greens like kale, swiss chard and good king henry and steam them for dinner.

Tomatoes and Self-Seeded Ground Cherries.

Another perennial vegetable is the ground cherry.  These ground cherries are from self-sowed plants grown from last years dropped fruit.  I didn't eat many of these the first year I planted them because the taste was so different than anything else.  But somehow I'm used to the taste now and eat them like berries for a snack.  They have a firm tomato texture and a sort of light citrus flavor.  Their little paper lantern wrappers keep the fruit clean and you can just pop them into your mouth.

September 15, 2016

DIY Large Linen Closet Shelves for Under $200


I needed a huge linen closet.  I had all my blankets, sheets and towels stuffed into our tiny walk in closet off the bedroom.  We didn't have a dedicated linen closet anymore as we stole that space to add to the kitchen.  The walk-in closet did make a great place for our dog to hide in a thuder storm but you sometimes had to climb a mountain to dig out a clean sheet set. 

DIY Large Linen Closet
I looked up linen closets and armoires at all the big box stores and on useditem websites, but it looked like I would have to spend at least $1,000 to get something big enough for a household's worth of towels, sheets and blankets.  Or I could get a mismatched set of used armoires for about $500.  Neither of these options were great.  The first was too expensive, the second not nice to look at.  So we ended up doing some creative design and built a huge linen closet for under $200...read more

September 13, 2016

Ann's Weekend Homestead Backyard Harvest

Heirloom vegetable harvest of carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes and melons.


Tante Alice & Lyaluk Cucumbers

I have to say that organic, non-GMO, heirloom seeds are fantastic!  The garden is keeping me super busy these days.  The amount of Lyaluk cucumbers is mind boggling.  I've made about 30 jars of pickles and relish and even cucumber soup.  And the cucumber plants are still producing.

I bought a proper size canning pot so I could process more jars at a time, but still it is quite a bit of work to can all those cucumbers.





There have been a load of green beans.  Some had to go straight into the freezer as I couldn't keep up with the harvesting.  The latest batches though, I've had time to blanch them before freezing.

I've also harvest many, many cherry tomatoes.  I planted way too many cherry tomatoes and some grew on their own from last years dropped tomatoes.  I much prefer picking the larger tomatoes because there's less to harvest but the cherry tomatoes are so sweet to eat as you wander around the garden.  So far I'm up to about five jars of spaghetti sauce.  The big tomatoes haven't started turning red yet.  Hopefully the weather will hold out.

A few days ago the whole family dug out the potatoes.  From the plants that grew from old potatoes from my cupboard, there where two large potatoes.  From the plants that grew from potatoes left in the ground the year before, I got three or four smaller potatoes.  We ate all the ones that weren't perfect or were speared during digging the first night.  The rest of the potatoes are curing in the bottom of a laundry basket and then I'll layer them with newspaper and keep in the dark.

I've had mixed luck with the scarlet nantes carrots.  Only about half the seeds germinated and some have multiple branches under the ground.  However they are still the biggest carrots I've ever managed to grow.  This makes them much easier to peel and prepare for steaming.  A sweeter carrot would be good too.

I've got about three muskmelons.  I picked one but it wasn't ripe yet, the taste was very light and it was crunchy with light green flesh.  I think they'll be quite good when ripened.


September 11, 2016

Monthly Journal of Homesteading

Weekend Homestead Vegetable Garden.

A monthly journal of my homesteading

Miscellaneous Reminders:
- Add sand and raise carrot beds
- order seeds and row cover

January 2017

Harvest:  not this month too cold and two feet of snow on the ground
Eat:  frozen canned tomato sauce on spaghetti
Preserve: not this month, no fresh produce
Hens:  collect eggs, fresh water, kitchen scraps, add clean bedding material
Prepare: started sweet potato slips, planning for this summer's vegetable garden
Home: line dry clothes indoors, keeping house warm with wood stove
  

October 2016

Harvest:  large tomatoes, sunchokes, skirret, zucchini and gather seeds.
Eat: steamed greens from the garden
Preserve: freeze jars of tomato and meat sauce
Hens:  move coop to more protected area for winter.  feed table scraps and fresh water daily.  free range and close up coop at night.
Prepare: plant fall garlic for spring 2017 harvest.  Add perennials to fruit tree guilds add mulch to protect fruit bushes and artichokes for winter.
Home: line dry clothes and build linen closet

September 2016

Harvest:  pick cucumbers, smaller tomatoes, green beans, purple-top turnips, carrots and potatoes
Eat:tomato and cucumber sandwiches, steamed green beans, turnips, beets, carrots and potatoes
Preserve: can tomato sauce, pickle cucumbers and relish, make fresh tomato salsa
Hens:  feed table scraps and fresh water daily.  free range and close up coop at night.
Prepare:break off new tomato plant growth and tear off tomato leaves to let sun in to ripen larger tomatoes.  purchased local garlic for planting. planted two fruit trees
Home: line dry clothes

August 2016

Harvest:  pick cucumbers, green beans, beets, swiss chard, collards and carrots.
Eat: fresh cucumbers, steamed green beans, beets, chard, collards and carrots
Preserve: can pickled cucumbers and relish.
Hens:  gather eggs.  feed table scraps and fresh water daily.  free range and close up coop at night.
Prepare:stake tomatoes
Home: line dry clothes
 

  March 2016

Harvest:  pick cucumbers, green beans, beets, swiss chard, collards and carrots.
Eat: fresh cucumbers, steamed green beans, beets, chard, collards and carrots
Preserve: can pickled cucumbers and relish.
Hens: move hens from outdoor coop.
Prepare: received organic heirloom seeds by mail from Heritage Harvest Seed in Manitoba.  Set-up maple syrup spout and bucket.  Start sweet potato slips. Start gathering lasagna garden materials (cardboard, wood chips, glass clippings).  Order day old chicks from TSC in Smiths Falls.
Home: line dry clothes


July 16, 2016

Self-Reliance by growing vegetables and raising chickens for Canadian Families

Ann's Weekend Homestead
This blog is about a lifestyle of part time homesteading.  I live this lifestyle of working outside the home and homesteading part-time because I love gardening and pets but also because I want to be poised to be self-sufficient.  What if I lost my job?  What if conflicts from overseas come to Canada?  What if I can't drive because there is no gas to buy?  What if all grocery store food is GMO?  I can't live with leaving all these what ifs unanswered.  I have a plan to be self-sufficient.  My solution is preparation.  I want to be prepared to switch from the full-time job to living sustainably from my own property and families labor...read more

Heirloom Vegetable Plants in the No Dig Permaculture Garden

Artichoke Plants
 We're now in mid-July and the heirloom vegetable garden is thriving.  Last night's dinner featured four fresh artichokes from the garden.  Dee-lish.  Amazingly, the artichokes are the first vegetables I've harvested from the garden.  Artichokes are a perennial vegetable so that has given them a head start over the tomatoes and cucumbers.  I have planted more perennial vegetables this year, so that should help with early summer harvests in subsequent years.

These artichoke plants are ready for dividing.  When they stop flowering I will split them up and hope they survive another winter.

Here's a tiny bird enjoying the light rain.  He's sitting on the garden fence post.  Milkweed and tomato plants are in the background.  Our wood rack is seen at the side.  No sign of monarch butterflies yet in my eastern Ontario garden.



















There are a few tiny pea pods growing and a few flowers showing.  The vines have grown up about four feet tall to the top of the trellis.  The cucumber plants are growing at the base of the pea vines.  So far I've only seen one female flower out of all the cucumber plants.

These are growing in the new garden bed that was started lasagna style.  In all the photos you can see mulch added to the top of the soil.  It's been very dry here and mulch has made a huge difference in trapping in the moisture.  By adding mulch your adding a permaculture element to save water and to save time watering.

There are sunchokes, a perennial vegetable, in the background.  The tallest ones are about four foot tall and look very sturdy.  These plants are making a great privacy screen.

The beets are really growing well.  There are enough leaves that I can pick one here and there and cook them for dinner.  Some carrot tops are showing at the bottom of the photo.  I found that less than half the seeds I planted germinated.  I reseeded but hardly any grew.

You can see the different materials used to build this lasagna garden bed.  Some topsoil that I purchased, grass clippings to help trap the moisture, wood chips and leaves.


A sweet potato plant.  I hope the leaves will be cold resistant because I starting growing the slips too late.










A watermelon plant.  The kids chose to plant this.  I'm not sure if this is a great choice for Ontario but the weather has been  hot for many weeks now.  

Here are some rocket plants, a perennial vegetable, with a tomato leaning in on the right.  These were grown from seed.  They seem to be healthy, but aren't growing super fast.  It'll be interesting to see how big these plants get.  I've never eaten a leaf before, I hope it's mild enough that the whole family will like it.

July 3, 2016

Eastern Ontario Homestead Wildflowers

There are lots of lovely wildflowers and perennials growing on the homestead at the beginning of July.  I've haven't done anything to help these beauties along except protect them by not mowing the lawn.

Over the past three years, I've been protecting a small area of milkweed, and the amount of plants has grown significantly.  These are growing just outside the vegetable garden area.  I'm located in Eastern Ontario and I've never seen any monarchs on the milkweed itself but we have seen a couple monarchs fluttering around the backyard.  I will continue protecting them, despite the neighbors offer to mow my lawn.


Here is chicory plant, a pretty daisy like blue flower on long strong stems.  This one is growing beside my garden in the front yard.  This is the third year that this wildflower has popped up in the same place.  I always find this wildflower hard to recognize until the flowers bloom.  Good thing I kept the weed wacker away.
Black-eyed susans growing amongst the raspberry bushes.  I left one to grown last year and this summer I have about 4 plants growing in the same area.  They seem to be choking out the grass from growing around the raspberries.  That's a good thing.

How to Build a Mobile and Strong Predator Proof Chicken Coop

The chicks are growing up fast on the homestead and we needed to move them out of their little heated chick nursery.  Our coop was too small for five additional hens so we built a new and improved coop.

Our coop set-up includes an outer cage to keep the large wild animals out, like raccoons and coyotes, and an inner coop to keep the chickens safe from smaller wild animals, like weasels.   The outer cage is covered on all sides, including the roof and floor with welded wire mesh and framed with 2x6 pressure treated lumber. 

The new inner coop is custom built from plywood.  There is about 1.5 foot of space underneath the inner coop so that the entire footprint of the outer cage is open space for the hens to peck around on the sand.  There is a large area for laying eggs, with a door that swings up, with a sturdy lock.  The door is big enough that I can put there food and water through the opening for super cold days in winter when the chickens will want to stay in the inner coop.  There is enough perching space for all the hens with a window view.  There is also an air vent on either end of the coop to keep the humidity low.

The young hens love all the space to move around.  The transition for the older hens is harder.  I had to put them in the inner coop the first night myself.  The second night the hens went up the ramp on their own, but only after if was getting quite dark.  The third night they've gone into the coop at the regular time.  However they have not laid an egg in the new coop yet.  I detached the laying area from the old inner coop and inserted it in the new coop with an egg to give them a hint.  

July 1, 2016

Protect Chicks from Being Eaten by Racoons

Twos weeks ago, one of our six new chicks was eaten by a racoon.  We had left them outside in the backyard too late in their little play cage.  I went into the backyard just as it was getting dark to bring the chicks in and I was shocked to see their play cage dragged a few feet from where I put it and what at first glance seemed like an empty cage.  Then I saw a racoon at the corner of the cage, trying to pull out a chick through the bars.  I ran out to the cage shouting, but I was too late.  The racoon had killed the chick.  I thought they had all been eaten.

But then we heard a little 'peep,peep' from under the sunroom and a little chick ran out to us.  We scooped her up in our arms and thought thank god that one has survived.  And then we found three more chicks hiding near the sunroom.  We brought them all inside and gave the four chicks a quick inspection and none of them were hurt.

One chick was still missing, so we had the kids help us try and find the last one.


Forgot to Buy Hamburger Buns?

July 1st is Canada Day.  Many families are planning gatherings with friends and family with a bbq and fireworks.  And what do you do if you forgot to buy hamburger buns?  Improvise and make your own buns in seconds!

How to make hamburger buns:

Step 1:  Find a glass that has about the same size opening as the diameter of a hamburger bun.
Step 2:  Take out two slices of bread and place on a cutting board.
Step 3:  Turn the glass upside down and press into one slice of bread, twisting down on the glass until the glass pushes through the bread and touches the cutting board.
Step 4:  Pull out round piece of bread from top of glass.  Repeat to make the other side of the bun.


This is also a great way to avoid throwing out hamburger buns that have been frozen so long they have terrible freezer burn.

June 21, 2016

Sunchokes and Late June Vegetable Garden Growing

There is a promise of a great harvest in all the vegetable plants that are still in their early growing stages in the ground.  There is also some balance with nature, I think, with milk weed plants growing around the garden and even within the garden beds.  I have seen a green frog and a handful of birds around the garden.  The daily watering has been attracting this wildlife as nature has not given us a proper rain in many days.  It's so dry that even the thistle weeds are wilting in the side yard.


Tubers: 

The sunchokes are growing very well.  I planted the tubers this spring after having them shipped from Nova Scotia.  I think every single tuber grew.  The plants are about 1 foot tall now with similar leaves to a sunflower plant.  They have strong stems and are thriving.

I just planted a sweet potato slip.  I had only one plant that had roots big enough to survive the planting.  But it is thriving and I am hopeful that my first year of growing sweet potatoes will still be successful.


Directly Sown seeds:

Only about half the beet seeds that I directly planted in the dirt germinated and are growing.  They are about 4 cm tall now.  Just having the purplish-red leaves and stems.  The plants at the side of the garden bed with more sun are twice as big as the side with more shade.

The kale that was also planted directly is about the same size as the beets but seems to be more sturdy and has a pale slightly bluish tinge to the leaves.  About 99% of the spinach seeds did not germinate.  I have a couple of very lonely looking tiny spinach plants growing.

June 5, 2016

No Dig, Heirloom Vegetable Garden Planted



No Till Gardens with Rabbit Fence

No Dig or Till Vegetable Garden with Heirloom Seedlings

I have been planting seedlings and direct sowing seeds in the garden during the last two weeks.  I'm now pretty much done.  There's some plants not quite ready to go into the garden.  The sweet potato slips aren't quite ready and the perennial vegetables (Sea kale and Rocket) aren't big enough yet.  I have planted tomato, cucumber, melon, broccoli, lovage, basil and celery seedlings.  I have planted green beans, wax beans, snow peas, snap peas, corn, turnip, parsnip and carrot seeds. I've planted sunchoke tubers and potato.

We also decided to put up a fence to keep rabbits and any stray dogs out.  In the middle of the photo, you can see a birdbath.  We've had very little rain that I decided to put the bird bath in the middle of the garden so that it fills with fresh water when I turn the sprinkler on.  We have a birds nest beside the garden in the wood rack and now they have a water source for those super dry days.

Just after raining all morning.

The upper right side of the photo is the original vegetable garden and the lower left side is the new garden.  The new garden was all grass early this spring.  I transformed the lawn and made a no-till lasagna garden.  I covered the entire area with cardboard and then made garden beds with layers of dead grass clippings, last years leaves and composted wood chips. I added strips of topsoil where I planted the seeds and seedling.  In the old garden I've spread out paper leaf bags to mark walking paths which I've secured with firewood and bricks.


Chicks Getting Bigger at Five Weeks Old Need Bigger Cage

Chick
Red X chick 5 weeks old
All the chicks are growing up strong and healthy.  They were kept in their wooden nursery for about 4 weeks and then the weather warmed up to around 28 Celsius for a week.

Chick Cage
Chicks in Playpen (inside on a rainy day)
We put them outside in a small pet cage one day for a couple hours, then the next day they spent half a day outdoors and now they are outside for most of the day.  They love to look for insects on the ground and chase mosquitoes.  The full grown hens have tried to peck at them between the cage wires, but the chicks are well protected.  I'm hoping they are getting a little used to each other.  We bring the chicks back into their wooden nursery for the night and they make hardly a peep.
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May 5, 2016

Bringing Home Day Old Red X Chicks in Heated Floor Brooder

Our chicks arrived right on time.  They are cute little buttons at one day old.  We have six of them and they are all supposed to be girls Red X.

They were delivered in a cardboard box and were quite agitated when they arrived, but a few minutes after we put them in their nursery they quieted down.  I dipped all their beaks in the water dish and they all seem to be eating well too.

We've been keeping the temperature around 30 degrees Celsius.  They've all come through their first night looking healthy.



Our cat is enjoying the new entertainment.  His paternal instinct hasn'y quite kicked in yet.  You can see the digital thermometer on the wall.  The nursery is heated with infra-red lamps from below.

May 1, 2016

Chick Nursery and Hardy Fruit Trees

Homemade Chick Nursery
We ordered six Red X day old chicks from TSC that are due to arrive on May 4th.  We bought our current three hens as pullets so these will be our first chicks.  We've been busy building a chick nursery and monitoring the temperature.  We've tried a different design, than the usual heat lamp hanging over a box, as we've heard that this can cause chick loss if not set up properly.  Our chick nursery uses two halogen bulbs to heat underneath the nursery floor.  We've also built a very sturdy lid to keep the cat out.  Now we just need some chicks....waiting for TSC to call us to pick them up.

Planting Vegetable Seeds Indoors

We planted two kinds of heirloom cucumber seeds yesterday, mostly in recycled newspaper pots.  Today we need to make more newspaper pots to plant the broccoli, muskmelon and watermelon seeds.  I set the seed trays up in the sunroom and according to the weather forecast it should be above 0 Celsius from here on out overnight, so I shouldn't have to carry the seedlings inside overnight anymore.

Cold Hardy Fruit Trees

I've been cruising websites to learn about cold hardy fruit trees.  Some fruit trees have just arrived at the local garden nursery.  I bought two plum trees, Brookgold plum and Brookred plum.  These plums trees are listed as zone 3.  The Brookgold is covered in blossoms and the Brookred has a few near the tree trunk.  The two varieties need to be planted together to be able to cross pollinate.  I was concerned that one is labeled as early blooming and the other late blooming but now that I see they both have flowers at the same time, I'm reassured that they should cross pollinate well.

I also came across some dwarf Juliet cherry trees at Canadian Tire labeled as Backyard Bounty brand.  They are rated as zone 3 and don't require cross pollination.  They are only about 1 foot high now and are expected to grow to about 6 foot tall. I've seen mixed reviews on the sweetness of the cherries but they are supposed to be sweet enough for fresh eating.  Last year I bought some gooseberry and current bushes of the same brand and they've all survived through the winter without any problems.  Since these cherry trees are not growing very tall I could fit them in close to the vegetable garden and attempt to make a permaculture guild around them.  But I'm not sure if maybe it would be better to plant them closer to the plum trees.

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