Ready for the Garden

2 days of shoveling more snow that blew in Monday night has me dreaming of the warmth and sun of summer. This morning, when I was feeding the horses and collecting eggs (while bundled in layers and layers and layers) I reckoned out that in 6 weeks I’ll be starting pepper seeds…4 weeks after that, I’ll be starting tomato seeds.
Do you know what that means?!?

Light!!

There is light at the end of the winter tunnel!

This year, the garden will produce more than weeds for piggies. If I have to dig holes in the weed filled plot and plant my tomatoes and peppers and such, I will. lol
But, I’m also thinking about better ways to mulch in between plants.
My garden is huge (and, truth be told, not as big as I’d like it to be…one day) and weeding can become overwhelming.
So, mulch is the way to go.
And that has my brain working…
Good, I’ve 10 weeks to get it figured out. 😉

In the meantime, I went through my seeds today. Trying to figure out what, if anything, I might need to buy before the planting time comes…

My shoe box full of seeds...

My shoe box full of seeds…

I’m a bit of a seed hoarder. Used to buy so many of them, now I save a lot of them. I only buy things that are biennial now…carrots, beets, parsnips…I don’t have the patience to wait for a 2nd year to get seeds. 😛 Plus onions, because buying onion sets is soooo much easier!

The over flow pail of seeds...those that don't fit in the shoe box...

The over flow pail of seeds…those that don’t fit in the shoe box…

I haven’t made my full list yet, of what this years planting will be. Once I do that, I’ll have a better idea of what I’ll need to buy…so far it’s just looking like onions. And, maybe I’ll buy some garlic for spring planting, so that I can re-plant it in the fall. Sucks so bad not having fresh garlic in the house. 😦 I refuse to by that crap in the stores. Just not happening.

And in other news…

These gloves…

My nasty, gross, disgusting, so beautifully broken in, I love 'em, gloves...

My nasty, gross, disgusting, so beautifully broken in, I love ’em, gloves…

Finally transformed from their gross glory to their next role in life…

Fingerless photography gloves!!

Fingerless photography gloves!!

YAY!!!
All you Farm Girls out there, with your favorite gloves know what I’m talking about when I say…Oh, I couldn’t throw them away yet! Too emotionally attached…I have schlepped hay with them, shoveled shit, pulled hay and other grassy goodies out of the waterer, rubbed down cold ponies on frosty mornings, and picked shit covered eggs with ’em…I was not ready to give ’em up.

I got a couple new pairs just before Christmas (which I still haven’t paid my Bro for…oops! I better do that!) and so, I converted my old ones to fingerless photography gloves.
Now I’ll use ’em until I can’t.
😛

People Keep Giving Me Squash

I am not complaining.
Free squash?
Yum!

It seems like so many people had a bumper crop of squashes and pumpkins this year. Not I, for y’all saw what happened to my garden. lol
But, with all these extra pumpkins and squashes, comes the “OMGosh, what am I going to do with all these things?!?!”
That’s how they come to me. 🙂

When we still had the piggies, I fed them a whole bunch…pigs love squash and pumpkin. Truth be told, I didn’t find anything that pigs didn’t like, so yeah…

Now, it’s me, the horses and the chickens.
The horses have had a few pumpkins to smash and eat, but they don’t show the same level of joy with pumpkins that chickens do.

First, I gut the squash…because as much as I like my chickens, I love roasted squash/pumpkin seeds. They’re not getting that part…

Nom nom nom!!

Nom nom nom!!

Then I roast a bunch…because I like it roasted in just about everything. Turns out, my chickens like squash/pumpkin roasted better too!

Ready to feed me and the mini velocaraptors.

Ready to feed me and the mini velociraptors.

Once I get past the cats on the deck (who eat everything…and I do mean every. thing. Xena really likes the henny’s chicken chow. Weird kitty) I can take the roasted chunks (and shell from my part)down to the hennys for them to enjoy…

It's a roasted pumpkin massacre!

It’s a roasted pumpkin massacre!

This girl just had to sing about how much she loved the pumpkin…

chicken-pumpkin4
10.2 seconds later, that pumpkin was gone, and I swear I heard chickens burping with glee (can chickens even burp? I don’t know…)
Happy chickens make tasty eggs. 🙂
Happy Food Tastes Better!

A Slice of My Life

Yesterday was a break in the constant rain. Yeah, I know, shouldn’t complain about rain when others aren’t getting. Really though, we’re soggy. Parts of my pasture are still under water. Oh, we have darn good growth out there. Some of it too much-which sounds crazy, with 4 giant grass eaters, but they, like most horses, are picky. Once the grass gets too long, it’s not as palatable to them, so they don’t eat it. That’s when we mow it…but if it’s to wet to get out there with the mower…well, you can see where that might be a problem.

Anyways, with yesterday’s break we worked on weeding some of the garden spaces. Sadly, nothing has been planted, because weeds got away on us in the non stop rain. I mean, seriously got away on us…

That's my garden...

That’s my garden…

It’s overgrown with grass, thistles, stinging nettle, wild canola and clover.
*sigh*
Same with my 9 smaller raised beds. Yesterday, though, we cleaned out 6 of the 9 and I planted some of the starts I had in the basement…I have no expectations from them. After forgetting my first rounds of tomatoes and peppers (they died without water) being busy with Sable’s hoof issues over spring, I replanted things. Well, surprise! I forgot about them again. *facepalm*
And so, if you know me at all, you have an idea of how hard on me this has been, no garden.
The past 3 summers have been like this, while I’m adjusting to planting out here, compared to the city. I’ll get it yet, but it’s been a hard learning curve…one that’s left me a little bruised and battered feeling.

My half dead cukes...they did perk up with watering, so I'm cautiously hopeful.

My half dead cukes…they did perk up with watering, so I’m cautiously hopeful.

Sad peppers...:( Including 3 Thai Chili Peppers.  Fingers crossed?

Sad peppers… 😦
Including 3 Thai Chili Peppers.
Fingers crossed?

Chocolate mint...in a bag wrapped tomato cage, to protect it from the hoard of cats...at least until it gets firmly established.

Chocolate mint…in a bag wrapped tomato cage, to protect it from the hoard of cats…at least until it gets firmly established.

The other boxes I put in some bush bean seeds. Bush beans are fast growers, and hopefully, we can get some from them. And, well, as I clear more of the big bed, I’m putting more bean seeds in there. Beans is definitely something we love to eat here. 🙂

And, underneath all the frustrations from not having the garden planted, there is the knowledge that all those weeds, as I pull them out, are still contributing to the winter food supply. How’s that, you ask?
Well, all the weeds get tossed to the piggies.

Anthony Piggie sleeping in a pile of weeds.

Anthony Piggie sleeping in a pile of weeds.

The girlies LOVE weeds. Thistles are their faves-both purple and sow-with the canola and stinging nettle easy seconds. And grass? Oh yeah! So, even with not being able to produce plants for us, the garden weeds are still not just being burned or wasted.

A little Piggie side eye...hoping for more nummies. ;)

A little Piggie side eye…hoping for more nummies. 😉

Besides, it’s not like we’re not producing any food for us…
There’s the piggies, who will go to Freezer Camp in October, there’s the hennys, giving us eggs…and how pretty is this sight?

Three hennys sit in the same spot just about every day to give us three eggs.

Three hennys sit in the same spot just about every day to give us three eggs.

And, we just added these guys (and gals):

Peepers!!

Peepers!!

We got 15 Cornish cross day old chicks last Thursday. Oh my gosh, they’re just so cute! lol
And in 8-12 weeks time, they’ll be going to Freezer Camp as well.

That's a peeper with some attitude!

That’s a peeper with some attitude!

One thing the rain *has* been great for is the fruit trees.

Pear

Pear

That pear tree was only about 12″ tall when I uncovered it…the pears have been very slow growing. :/ But now, with the rain, and a ring of rotted horse manure around the base, it’s more than doubled in height and thickened up beautifully!

All the fruit trees have been the same…except one apple that didn’t make it through the winter. But it didn’t stand a chance against Daphne, the stick chewing dog, who doesn’t know the difference between a stick in the snow and a tree. D’Oh!

Apple tree...up 8", and several new branches.

Apple tree…up 8″, and several new branches.

So, really, things may not be going to plan 100%, but, we’re adapting and over coming. We’re getting things done, and we’re learning.
Next year, we’ll try again to make the garden work. I know we can do it, we’ll just have to persevere.

One final photo…

Gabrielle

Gabrielle

Our wilding kitty Gabrielle…Anna and Banana’s mama.
And now, a spayed kitty, who can focus on her real job here…hunting.

A Leap of Faith

Yesterday, I made mention of how gardening is a leap of faith. It really is. At least, to me.
I spend winter Dreaming of the seeds I want to buy, start, and plant. I Dream of the food I can grow and put up for the next winter for my family. I also Dream of the day when the bulk of our food comes from the Farm.
I hate going to the grocery store. There are places in my world that I enjoy going, where I enjoying seeing the people and the atmosphere is awesome…the grocery store is not one of those places!
I would really love to have us at the point of the garden supplies the veggies, and the pasture(s) supply us with meat, eggs, milk and the resulting products made from the milk.
We’re getting there. 🙂

For now though, I am just happy to see growth in the garden. I swear, I am giddy like a school girl meeting her first crush when I see emerging plants from seeds.
Last night, I hollered with joy to see this:

Knucklehead pumpkins emerging...

Knucklehead pumpkins emerging…

That’s 6 of the 8 seeds I planted. Yay! I love pumpkin. I love to have jars of chunks put up, so when I want to make a pie, or cookies, or a cheesecake, or, even when I need it for upset puppy tummies. Canned pumpkin is handy no matter what. In fact, the year we lost OldWoman, I blew through 25 of my 48 jars in 2 weeks time. The only thing my poor old girl could keep down was pumpkin and rice. So, I happily fed it to her. As much as she wanted. ❤

I found this box growing as well…

See those sprouts?

See those sprouts?

Exciting! Painted Pony beans. Named for the American Paint Horse. Any surprise that we grow them here? With our love of Paint horses?
There are 36 beans in this box. This is the grow-out box for seeds. Come fall, Mother Nature willing, we should have some for sale. And, our packets will have a very pretty Painted Lady on them. 😉

Yup, it's Cookie. <3

Yup, it’s Cookie. ❤

The other thing I’ve been celebrating the growth of is trees. It seems we’ve lost a few of the fruit ones. 2 apples didn’t come back, so I’ll be watching the year-end clear outs for replacements. I lost 1 pear pollinator to a tractor tire. I’m not going to be too mad at Hubby…after all, it was when he was dumping dirt into the big garden bed with the tractor. We still have 1 more pollinator. As long as it survives(and it’s doing very well!) the 2 edible pears should be just fine.

We were also given a few free trees. Friends chopped a few limbs off of trees in their yard, stuck them in a pot, and now, the trees are being moved to permanent farm homes.

Tree!

Tree!

I know it doesn’t look very big, but it’s about 24″ tall. It has easily grown 6 of those inches since it was potted. Can’t complain about that! I still have 3 more to plant (there is another one out there in the long grass, but I couldn’t find it in the picture. 😉 ), plus, I chopped some branches off a poplar stump that’s trying to re-grow. So far, the branches are a bit wilty, but they seem to be rebounding.
Free trees on bald prairie are great!!

One last picture for today. Just because. 😉

Sleeping Ruby

Sleeping Ruby

She was having a snoring good time while I was taking her picture.
I do love this big goofy sweetheart.

Sprouted Seeds

I started my seeds. In a complete moment of optimism-and really, when is gardening, or farming not about optimism?!?-I started a multitude of seeds. Tomatoes, peppers,  sunflowers, poppies, geraniums, and some forget-me-nots. Give it another 2 weeks, and I’ll start a few cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkins. Everything else will be direct seeded in the garden. If I can ever find the garden under the foot of snow still covering it.

Remember back in the “Hope” post, I talked about the seed stand we were gifted by friends? Here’s a picture of the stand:

Awesome, right?

Awesome, right?

It currently resides in our extra bathroom. Yeah, there’s a bathroom in the basement, with one of those grinding pump toilets…that’s going to be leaving. 1 bathroom to clean is plenty, and frankly, we can use the space for other things. Like growing plants. 😉

Poppies peppers sunflowersThis tray has flats of peppers-Fat ‘n’ Sassys, Purple Beautys, and some random colored ones I bought at the end of a season seed sale. The green carpet looking flat is poppy seeds. I don’t what kind they are. The seeds came from the same wonderful folks who gifted us the stand. You can see a sample the varieties flowers here. Gorgeous! I can’t wait to have them growing all over the farm! There’s 2 flats full of sunflower varieties, and The Kid’s one lone geranium at the other end of the tray.

tomatoes041814I started 106 tomatoes. Each marker is a different variety. All open pollinated, all with the potential to produce seeds for sale in early 2015. When you’re shopping for tomato and bean seeds for next year’s garden, please keep Midnight Calico Farm in mind! Once I have seeds available, I’ll post a full list with prices.

Once these grow another set of leaves, I’ll transplant them to their own cups, and keep them under the lights, so they grow strong stems. All the while, I’ll be waiting for the snow to melt, and the nights to warm enough to start hardening them off.

Then, we’ll plant!

I’m really looking forward to that!

Linking to Friendship Friday at Create With Joy

Priorities

Being new to this farmstead means there is a lot of things we want to do…A. Lot. I can’t stress that enough…One of the toughest things to do is prioritize what *needs* doing over what I *want* to do.

Like this:
We *need* more fencing. I *want* a finished chicken coop.
We *need* trees planted. I *want* a milk animal.
We *need* to get the attic dealt with-there are condensation issues, and no access panel. Must be fixed before next winter!
I *want* to re-do the bathroom.
We *need* rotational pastures…we *need* to seed the back 70 acres for pasture…we *need* to get a front gate up…we *need* to build a school bus shack…we *need* to get the walk behind snowblower fixed…we *need* the range hood installed…we *need* to clean the horse shelter…we *need* a barn…

I *want* to build straw bale buildings as guest houses, and a sewing hut…I *want* to have an aquaponics set up (Thanks Paul! Your set up has me dreaming and planning!)…I *want* to get stock ready for the summer Farmer’s Market…

I want to win the lottery… 😛
I need to win the lottery… 😛

And so on, and so on…there is so much to do, so little time to do it.

So, how do we decide what needs doing first?

First is fencing. Fencing the back 70 acres is #1, prime job to be done. If nothing else, we have to get the posts in. Pulling wire can come later, but as soon as we can get out on the land, we have to get the posts in. Why is this so important? Remember waaay back in this post I mentioned how we had an issue with a neighbour? That particular person leases the land next to us…he used to lease our land from the former owner. I did not buy this land to lease to a farmer, and while I am sympathetic to someone who loses 70 acres of healthy cropland to grow on, I am not willing to give up my land, my goals, to give that person extra crop land. Not when the property was publicly listed, and the person could have purchased it himself.

So, to be sure that our land is *our land* when fenced, I had a survey done…$1600 later, I have markers telling me exactly where my land is. In order to take advantage of that, fencing has to be done first. Also, I want to be sure there are no “mix ups” with that neighbour, and “accidental” seeding of my land happening. Fencing is the way to do that.

After that, comes trees.

I have 6 apple trees, 4 pears, 14 honeyberry bushes, 2 wolfberry bushes, 5 poplars, 60 white cedars, 40 villosa lilacs, and 50 Colorado spruce trees to plant. Yep, that’s a lot of trees. Obviously, trees are the #2 priority.

Oh, and I have 1 cherry tree, that came from the house in the city, to plant too. 🙂

After that comes the garden. Seed starting happens next weekend. I traditionally start my seeds on Spring Break. Well, that’s next week, and so, it’s time! So many tomatoes to start! Plus the peppers, both sweet ones and hot! With all the snow though, it’s hard to get into the mindset of growing things.

Thankfully, there is a lot of the stuff I can do myself. Like cleaning the horse shelter…plus, once the snow in the pasture melts, the girls won’t insist on being right beside me while I do it.

We are also very blessed with many great friends who have offered to help out with our plans. Thanks to them all…and I hope after this summer, we’re still friends…because I plan to call in every offer I can, to help out. But, I promise to feed everyone really well after each and every work day! 🙂

Hope

In the depths of darkness, there is always a spark of Hope, if we are willing to see it. When we bought this place and moved out here, we were warned a few times by Hubby’s friends who farmed in their early years…Summers will give you the highest of the highs, but Winter will bring you the lowest of the lows.

It’s true, I tell you. Winter is very trying some years anyways, oh, but this year…between record snowfalls, crazy drifting and bone numbing cold, it’s been tough. This winter has definitely shown us how tough we can be!

Ah, but there is hope, like I said. We’re 2 days away from March. A few weeks into March, seed starting begins. Tomatoes, and peppers. I have a very good selection of heirloom tomato seeds to start this year. One of the plans for the farm has always been to have a small-scale heirloom seed business. Much of what I bought this year has been with that in mind, as well as, what will grow in this zone.

Cottage Gardener has been a great resource…

Seeds from The Cottage Gardener.

Seeds from The Cottage Gardener.

Included here were seeds that I must have in my garden, and, weather willing, hope to have for sale next year. Seeds like “Aunt Ruby’s German Green” tomato, and “Painted Pony” bush beans. How can I resist the Painted Pony beans? They are, in fact, named after the American Paint Horse…which I have a gorgeous speciman of out in my pasture! Yes, Cookie will become the new face of the Painted Pony Bean…at least the ones Midnight Calico Farm will have to offer. 🙂 Same with our own Ruby, she will be the face of the Aunt Ruby tomatoes.

I also bought seeds from T and T Seeds this year.

T and T seed purchase

T and T seed purchase

Giant bags of:
1. peas ~ hopefully, I’ll have enough to put some jars up this year.
2. carrots ~ I didn’t have a chance to can any carrots last year, so we’re totally out. This year, with a much bigger garden, there will be more carrots to can.
3. kidney beans ~ this is a new one for us. We love home canned kidney beans, and they are supposed to grow very well in our climate. It’s worth it, imo, to give growing them a try.

I still have some of the white carrot seeds I ordered from Baker Creek a few years back. Us humans didn’t care for them-they are a forage carrot-so I’ll grow a plot of them for the horses.

Once we start seeds, I’ll share pictures of the fantastic light stand we were gifted. We have some amazing friends, who were also neighbours in the city, and when we moved out here, this was their house-warming gift to us. I cannot wait to use it. No more kitchen table filled with seedlings, and, where we put the stand in the basement, I can close the door and keep cats out. No more vomited up tomato plants on my pillow. Yay!

In all, I have 14 varieties of tomato to start, 2 bell peppers, plus a package of mixed color bell peppers. Chances are I’ll start a few hot peppers as well, just because I love them.

Spring will also bring the chance to plant trees. Goodness gracious, we need trees! I have bought 6 different apples, 2 pears, plus 2 pollinators for the pears(which, apparently, the fruit is not tasty to humans, perhaps for horses, and later, bison?), 50 Colorado spruce, 60 white cedars, 40 Villosa lilacs, and finally, 5 poplars. I also bought 14 haskaps (honeyberry) bushes, and 2 wolfberry plants <- aka goji berries.

There will be lots and lots of planting come the spring! That’s my little spark of Hope in the darkness of this Winter. 🙂