The Garden – 2015 in review.

I’ve been puttering around in the yard for years, but last year got somewhat serious about growing some vegetables. We, and by we, I mean Rachel and the Big Guy, got the hedges in the front yard removed

and I planted hot peppers along the sidewalk edge. 20150806_113031

The driveway edge got broccoli and one tomato. Why I planted 6 hot peppers, I’ll never know. They did great, and we now have enough peppers to last well into the future. I used them in my tomato sauce and froze some. I’ve given jars of them away. I still have 3 pints and 6 half pints in the pantry. And half a jar in the refrigerator.20150912_09302020150913_081625.jpg

The broccoli did not form any heads. I found out after I pulled them all out that broccoli leaves are edible and can be used like other leafy vegetables such as kale. I will have to remember that for the next broccoli attempt. We do eat a lot of broccoli.

In the back yard, I built another raised bed20141115_132718 and put in 4 Rose de Bern tomatoes. They did very well, after I put up a 2′ wire fence to keep the chickens from stripping all the leaves off. It was amazing to watch the poor things recover from being only stems to fully leafed out in a week’s time. Then they really started producing. I also planted some cauliflower in the older raised bed but they got overshadowed by a volunteer Roma and a volunteer Grape tomato. We had a LOT of tomatoes. Sauced, canned, dehydrated, eaten fresh, they’ve been enjoyed.

I used a crockpot recipe for making pizza sauce. I think I had over 40 cups of sauce either canned or frozen. One cup per pizza. We usually have pizza once a week, so that’s worth the time.

As you can see, I had fun printing labels. Lid must match jar!

We got three cherry trees and three blueberry bushes late summer 2015. The chickens kept trying to dig up the trees so I put rocks around the base of them. I hope they survive the winter. They all had a good set of buds on them, so it looks promising.

The apple tree had a very productive year. So much so that we lost 2/3 of it to limbs breaking from the weight of the fruit. It was never ever pruned properly, it was just the tree in the back yard. We will be shaping it better this coming year to help it survive. I canned some quarts of just fruit and canned and froze a lot of applesauce. 20150913_212510Applesauce is the easiest thing ever to make. Put a bunch of cut up apples in the crockpot, let them cook for about 8 hours on low, run through the food mill. I put that in smaller containers since I am the only one that eats it. I tried crockpot applebutter also but it never got really buttery. I think I need to do a combination of crockpot and stovetop. The experiment of storing apples as-is in the garage is a fail. I need to find a better way to store whole apples. I do not have a root cellar.

The Brussels Sprouts were not the success that the 2014 ones were. I should have harvested them way earlier. The summer was not the right temperature for letting them stay on the plant until frost. They opened up too much to be nice tight little balls of flavor. Lesson learned. Harvest as soon as they are ready.

I put some bell peppers in large pots on the deck. Can we say fail? I got one pepper that was small and shriveled and rotted on the plant. I will try them again, just not there.

The raspberries that are growing in my front fenced yard are wild ones the birds planted and I transplanted. They do well. Too well. I need to pull up more of them since they are very invasive. I get enough of those to eat while they are fresh and still freeze enough to last a year or two. I’ve made raspberry curd from them in the past. This year I plan to learn how to make jams and jellies. I wonder if you can can curd?

The pear trees produced for us this year also. 2014 was a bumper year for the one tree. That was my very first attempt at canning. I got 11 quart jars and rationed them out so they lasted until harvest 2015. I only have 5 quarts this year but I also experimented with pear sauce and pear-apple sauce. Both are yummy, and will be done again. Just not in quart jars.

For herbs, I have chives growing in the raised bed that is part of the pond area. I don’t use those nearly as much as I could, but since I am learning to use more “real” food and less processed, this will change. Also, having a dehydrator may make a difference. I also planted 2 lavender in the “hell strip” between the sidewalk and curb.

The arbor vitae trees along the back fence were removed. 20150612_131253Two of the cherry trees are now along that line. The fence that was broken when the big pine tree came down in 2013 was finally replaced with stock fencing. 20150727_105602Thanks, Brad, for helping us with that. Couldn’t have done it without you!

We also added a rain collection system that is against the corner of the house near the new fence. Four 55 gallon drums connected, so we have water for the yard. It gets drained for winter.

Wow, we really did do a lot last year! Lots of plans for 2016. Fencing to keep the flock out of the people area, lining the pond with rocks – this has been needed for a few years, just not on my “round to it” list, get rid of the water iris that is growing around the pond, maybe raising meat birds, building a honey cow for bees, fixing/replacing the fence, getting cordwood ourselves and not paying to have it delivered, repainting the outdoor furniture, and growing new vegetables. More on those projects later.

 

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Feathered Fiends, the Sequel

In Spring of 2015, Niko, the Buff Orpington, decided to go broody. I could not get her to stay off the nest area. So, being the insane chicken lady I turned into in just one short year, I drove 3 hours to get her a mixed assortment of fertile eggs. The plan was for 10 meat birds of a homogeneous type so I wouldn’t get attached and a few extra of different breeds. I got 10 New Hampshires,  2 Blue Black Splash Ameraucana, & 6 Marans. 20150517_200922.jpg

One New Hampshire egg didn’t survive the trip home. Only one of the New Hampshires hatched, one of the Ameraucanas didn’t survive hatching, and Jada got bouncy at the babies and accidentally killed the other one. Two of the Marans didn’t hatch. Dang it. The little ones that survived were a lot of fun to watch and Niko was a very good mama. The little twerps though, liked to squeeze through the fence and play in the back door neighbor’s yard. Good thing he likes chickens. I put up a wire fence attached to the wooden one to stop that. Then they figured out how to fly up to the top of the coop and hop over the fence. One of the Marans, Pete, would not come home one night and never returned. So out of 18 eggs, I was left with the following 4:

Zippy, a Blue Copper Marans rooster:ZippyRoo

Cate, a Black Copper Marans hen:Cate

DupliCate, aka Dupli, Black Copper Marans rooster:DupliRoo

and Ruth, the New Hampshire hen:Ruth.

These guys are not as people friendly as the first batch since they were raised outside from hatching. No people cuddling, so they did not get used to being handled. The picture of Ruth on my lap is a rare occurrence and did not last long. Next batch of babies will be handled more often.

Cate has already started laying. We’ve gotten 2 very dark eggs from her so far. Ruth may have laid one but since New Hampshire eggs are very close to the other light brown eggs the older girls lay, it is hard to tell.

Eggs from Niko, Cate, and Vicki:
NikoCateVicki eggs

And, yes, roosters do crow. A lot. Best line from Love at First Bite comes to mind. “Children of the night, shut up!”

The newbies don’t seem to be trying to fly the coop (heh) anymore. But they don’t go in the coop at night. I give all 10 of the feathered fiends sunflower seeds at dusk and lock them in their run. The 4 young ones huddle together on the roost that is at one end of the run and the 6 original ones go in the coop. There’s room inside for all of them but they do their own thing. Maybe when it gets very cold, they’ll go inside. Maybe I am heartless, but I refuse to worry about it. They are happy and healthy and that’s all that matters.

The flock like to hang out on the porch and deck. That will change in the spring. First project is a low fence so the people area is not, um, a poopy area. Because they poop. A lot. I’d rather they do it in the yard where we can turn it into compost. Which leads me to another new obsession for me, my garden. I’ll have to do a post about my vegetable garden successes and failures of 2015 and my new adventures in canning.

The Feathered Fiends, errrr, Friends

The chickens in the back yard all started as a combination of many reasons. Getting back to real food, zomg the Zombie Apocalypse is coming, economy is crashing, let’s be more self sufficient, etc. No real one reason and I am by no means a “prepper” or a survivalist or a back to Mother Earth type. That said, the chickens are fun, noisy, messy, and surprisingly addictive. We got the first 6 from a local shop that ordered them in as part of the spring batch in 2014. Here’s the beginning roster:
Miss Vicki Chicky, an Ameraucana:

Mabel, an Ameraucana:

Niko, a Buff Orpington:

Colleen, a Delaware:

Bridget, a Speckled Sussex:

and Serena, a Speckled Sussex:

They started out in a tote box with a heat lamp in our back room. Who knew chicks liked to cuddle? 20140407_112816When they started escaping that and spending more time out of the box than in it, we built a temporary run for them while we got cracking on the real run. 20140502_160029.jpg

Here’s the real run under construction:

and finished:

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We started getting eggs in September when they were 6 months old. 20140920_123455[1].jpg

First time we got 6 in one day! The pale ones are a blue/green from Vicki and Mabel. The ligher brown 2 are from Bridget and Serena, the medium one is from Bridget and the spotted one is from Colleen. Sometimes hers are spotted more than others. They went into a short time period where we got no eggs in the depths of winter  2014/2015 but went right  back into being good producers once the days started getting longer.

That was our 2014 chicken adventure. 2015 adventures will be another post.

Cast of Characters

It occurred to me that I will be referencing many beings (most won’t be people) on this blog. So, here’s who’s who:

The Big Guy – I won’t put a pic of him up unless he says it’s ok. My spouse of many years.

Jada – the dog. Goes by many names. Jada Potata, Tater, Dog, Jada Rose. I dress her up for festivals and sometimes on Halloween.JDog

Nochi – the black cat. Noisy one of the 4, she’s also the lightest in weight. Keeps my toes warm at night. She didn’t really like being a pirate for this picture.

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Nami – Blurry tabby. Also known as Nami Nami Tsunami. Looks like she’s worried and would offer you a cup of tea. Snuggles up to my side at night, I guess so I won’t roll off the bed. I’m not sure how we kept the hat on her for this.

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Poe – Orange tiger. Generalisimo Poe Poe of the Peoples’ Poepublic. Yeah, we aren’t sane. He either looks very regal or very derpy. Little inbetween with him. He does not meow. Well, he does, but there is little to no sound with it.

20140705_082206          poe

Moe – moo cat. This is the Big Guy’s cat. There is no doubt at all who his favorite human is. Moe has a stubby tail. Not from an accident, he was just born that way. He has a VERY loud purr.

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The Chickens will be listed in a different post. I have 8 hens and two roosters at the moment, but if Zippy doesn’t stop crowing outside my window……

I also have 3 wonderful children and several heartkin grands. More on them later.

Starting at the very beginning

It’s a very good place to start. I am going to be using this blog to do several things. First, to learn how to blog. Second, to learn how to use WordPress to be able to update my church’s website as a backup person. Third, and probably the main goal, is to use this as a diary for my attempts at learning new skills. Some of these skills involve gardening, crocheting, cooking, food preserving, chicken keeping, and genealogy. I am by no means a “homesteader” but some of my interests seem to lean that way. I also get the odd obsession and might ramble on about that sometimes. Hello, Doctor Who!