What can you plant in April?

What can you plant in April?

It’s April 18 and there was snow on the garden five days ago. Today, the top three inches of soil has thawed and fits “as soon as the ground can be worked.” Do you know what that means? What can you plant in April?

As soon as the ground can be worked.

That means as soon as you can pick up a hand full of soil, squeeze it and it crumbles in your hand, the ground can be worked. If it drips water or forms a ball it’s too wet. Wait a day or two and test it again. There’s a small space in the little backyard garden that is ready to be worked. What can you plant in April?

I’ve planted two pounds of Coral shell peas. They’re old seeds. I prefer snap peas because you don’t have shell them. It takes about a pound of picked peas to equal a cup of shelled peas. That’s a lot of work for little return. You don’t have to shell snap peas. If germination of these old pea seeds goes well we’ll be eating them by the end of June. I hope so! If I remember right they need 53 days to maturity. What can you plant in April?

Tango lettuce is in the ground. It’s a short four foot row. I’ll be growing a couple of container varieties so that’s it for outdoors right now. I’ll cut it as baby lettuce. It takes 45 days to maturity from germination but it won’t last that long. I love fresh, well-grown spinach.

Catalina spinach, renee's garden, what can you plant in AprilI planted a short row of Catalina spinach from Renee’s Garden. I haven’t grown this variety before. It was going to be used in a basket but I decided that might be too warm for a cold-loving veggie.
What can you plant in April?
I also planted Winter Space spinach. The rows are short and probably add up to 15 to 18 feet total but it will do for now. As much as I love spinach I know I’ll be wishing for more. As the garden dries out I’ll add more. It’s too late to plant it in the high tunnels.
What can you plant in April?
There are things growing and seeded in the high tunnel. I’ll tell you about it soon.

Do you have anything planted in the garden yet? What can you plant in April?

Culling Day: Drakes and Roosters

Culling Day

culling day, Khaki Campbell Drake
It’s culling day. We were supposed to do this last weekend but I hadn’t been off the homestead except for work and Steve thought it was time I got out for a while. You know I need to get out when Steve is suggests we go to a garden show. The drakes and roosters got a week-long reprieve. Great for them but that’s a hard week on the hens, especially the duck hens. I dread culling day but also look forward to it.

We have 10 ducks. There are five Khaki Campbell drakes and two hens, and the three older Runner hens. Five hot and horny drakes are hard on five hens, especially when two aren’t laying and won’t let the drakes near them. Five drakes are hard on each other. They’re fine one moment and in battle the next. Drakes can be nasty to each other, biting private parts and asserting dominance over each other. Culling day means the end of the nasty battles and hurting each other. Culling day restores peace.

There are 14 chickens. Two are large breed hens, the rest bantam Silkies. Four roosters for eight hens (the big hens aren’t bothered by the tiny roosters) isn’t a good balance. We’ll be culling two roosters. I don’t intend to let the hens hatch chicks this year so I don’t need roosters this year, but I don’t want to track down a single good rooster next year. I don’t know anyone in the area who has Silkies. I’ll keep two instead of one because of predator loss.

So, why two roosters but only one drake with potential predator loss in mind? I have fertilized duck eggs to slip under chickens. If we killed all of the drakes today we’d most likely have new drakes a month from whenever I give the eggs to the hens. About half that hatch will be drakes. I have fertilized chicken eggs but about half of those would be hens. I don’t want more Silkie hens this year. Population control.

Population control makes the feed bill manageable. Most of the time the birds will be on pasture to find their own food. I give them weeds, spent plants and slugs. They find most of the rest of their food. I don’t feed them pellets when they can do better for themselves. Part of self sufficiency means choosing self sufficient birds.

I’d like to have 18 Khaki Campbell ducklings hatch this year. That would put approximately nine drakes in the freezer and give me nine more hens for eggs. I’ll eventually cut back to a few Silkies for eggs because Steve prefers chicken eggs. I’d rather have duck and can sell excess.

There seems to be only one pair in the ducks. One drake and hen are always together. He’s the drake I’ll keep so I don’t break up the pair. I can’t tell him from the others so I’ll let the ducks into the pen for a while. When I make them go back into the hen house the pair will be the last ones, as usual. I’ll cut them off and close the door so he doesn’t get mixed in. It’s not fool proof but that’s my plan.

There’s (almost) always a plan that covers now and the future.


Huntress – Fastest growing demographic in hunting

Huntress – Fastest growing demographic in hunting

I am part of a new family tradition: women who hunt. I’m the first woman to hunt in my family. Melissa, my sister, is now a huntress and so is my daughter Taylor. Kristin, my other daughter, doesn’t hunt but will cook and eat every kind of wild game we bring home.

Maine Outdoors, Whitetail buck, 8 points, Molunkus Stream Camps, Robin Follette

Women who hunt are the fastest growing demographic in hunting. Not only are we hunting, we’re teaching our children – our daughters – to hunt. We want them to have healthy, natural food on the table. We want them to be self sufficient. We need to be raising strong women and it certainly takes a lot of strength to be a huntress.

We can scout and track, shoot or catch to kill, clean, carry and cook our meat. We turn over the soil, scatter the seed, and tend the food plots that feed dozens or even hundreds of animals. Of those animals we might kill one or two.


My first turkey! 2013


Be a Part of Nature – Hunting

Be a Part of Nature – Hunting

I love being part of nature. I live in the woods, have sit spots, work by the pond where birds, amphibians and fish make the time interesting, and I eat a lot of food found in nature.

hunting, king bolete, mushroom

King Bolete

Smallmouth Bass

If fish were cuter, cuddlier as babies, more visible – oh how the antis would scream. Or would they? Many people don’t consider fish to be meat. Dead is dead regardless of species. One life is as important as another. Or is it important only if you personally think so? Spend a day on a lake, fishing, watching the birds and fish, handling your food when you take it off the hook and either kill or return it to the water, and see and feel for yourself what natural food is about.

blueberry mechanical harvest

The crop can be brought in even in the dark with mechanical harvesters.

“Wild” blueberries – not wild anymore. “Wild” is a catch phrase, a marketing word. Blueberry plants are sprayed and burned, artificially watered, pollinated by millions of bees trucked around the country, and harvested in many barrens by heavy equipment. What happened to being part of nature?


Ethical Meat – it’s why I hunt

If you have hunters on your Facebook friends list you might have seen the attacks on us. Anti-hunters, many of them meat eaters who actively support factory farming cruelty by eating grocery store meat from those farms, have been reporting us and our photos. Facebook removed five of my photos yesterday morning.

Ethical Meat

Ethics. Ethical meat is a tough one for some of us to understand. How is it ethical to kill an animal? I’ll get to that later today. ethical meat

ethical meat, factory farmed pork

Courtesy of Farm Sanctuary

I don’t support factory farming. It’s as far from ethical meat as we can go. The thought of an animal being raised inside, on concrete, crammed in a cage too small to turn around in, without seeing sunshine or blue sky, breaks my heart. Animals, including us humans, are supposed to be outdoors. What? Humans are animals? We knew that. ;) We need Vitamin D from the sun and mushrooms. Where do we go to get that? Outside. Pigs and chickens should outdoors, on the grass, in the soil, living as close to natural lives as wild animals have. ethical meat

ethical meat, buy meat the store where no animals were hurt

It’s the 21st Century and people have forgotten what food really is.

This person means well. Go to the store where the pork isn’t raised on cement floors, piglets aren’t born in gestation crates, meat chickens live in shit and shavings (politely called “bedding”), and none of them see daylight. EVER. We are so far removed from our food supply as a  nation that we (collectively) have little idea of how our meat is raised let alone that it was a real, live animal. ethical meat   ethical meat
ethical meat
Did your meat come from a dark warehouse or did it live a natural life? ethical meat

Personal Responsibility in Hunting

Personal responsibility in hunting

how to clean a partridge, ruffed grouse, how to clean a grouse

My first partridge of the year.

Personal responsibility should cover our basic needs – food, water, shelter, space. These are the four aspects that make up habitat. We often talk about habitat in regard to wildlife but seldom for ourselves. I place a lot of importance in the personal responsibility of hunting. Are you putting your basic needs in the hands of someone else? Do you have complete trust in those people? In the government that dictates what you are allowed and not allowed to eat? Do you know what happens to the recalled ground beef? Maybe you’re eating that recalled meat… personal responsibility in hunting

Personal responsibility. We raise pigs, chickens, ducks and turkeys. We used to raise a steer for beef but haven’t for years. Instead, we buy it locally. We having laying hens, both chicken and duck, for eggs. I won’t touch a factory farmed egg. Having humanely raised and slaughtered meat matters to me. I love partridge, venison, moose, bear and caribou.

Hunting is as normal to me as having a garden to provide our own vegetables. I accept responsibility for the deaths I cause. personal responsibility in hunting

how to clean a partridge, ruffed grouse, how to clean a grouse

Anyone can clean a partridge in two minutes or less.

Vegetarians and vegans cause animal deaths and most of the vegans and vegetarians I know accept that as a necessary part of eating. Fawns left in fields by their mothers are killed by heavy equipment. Rabbits, birds, mice, deer, moose and other animals are killed for the sake of growing plants. There are so many moose in Aroostook County, an area that produces potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other commodity crops, that there’s a special hunt to control the population and protect crops. personal responsibility in hunting

I am a meat eater – it’s why I hunt

If you have hunters on your Facebook friends list you might have seen the attacks on us. Anti-hunters, many of them meat eaters who actively support factory farming cruelty by eating grocery store meat from those farms, have been reporting us and our photos. Facebook removed five of my photos yesterday morning. meat eater

Meat Eater

Why do I hunt? Throughout this drizzly day I’ll be sharing my reasons.

1. I am a meat eater. That’s not going to change. I make no excuses for and have no need to justify being a meat eater. However, if someone would like me to justify eating meat I’m happy to discuss it with them as long as they’ll justify the huge number of animals injured, suffering and killed for a vegan or vegetarian diet. meat eater

This is the bear I shot last year. If you’re unfamiliar with why I chose this particular bear you can read the story starting here. I am a meat eater, and I hunt. meat eater

Recipe: Black Bear Stew  Tenley Bennett’s recipe from Fish River Lodge. Tenley is a Registered Maine Guide and manages Fish River Lodge with her husband Wayne. I hope to spend time fishing and hunting with Tenley this year. meat eater

Recipe: Black Bear Chops  Chops are my favorite cut from bear. Bear meat is seasoned like beef but should be cooked like pork.

meat eater

I passed on a much larger bear I knew I could take and chose this much smaller bear. Do you know why?

Why Be Self-Sufficient?

Why be self-sufficient?

“Why do you spend all that time being self-sufficient? That’s what grocery stores are for.” She was sincere. She really didn’t understand. I have a standard answer based on our reality. We had to figure out whether we could live on one good salary for a while, possibly for life, if we moved to the poorest county in all of the New England states combined. I made good money and had excellent benefits in county government, and we knew I wouldn’t find that here. Why be self sufficient?

The expenses of working were high. We paid for daycare (biggest expense), work clothes (second wardrobe never worn outside of work), gas, lunches out, and packaged food (it was expensive even back then) for breakfast and supper added up fast. I was working for a take home of $50 a week after all expenses were paid. My standard answer:

“I can go to work to earn the money to pay someone to do things for me, or I can do it myself.” ~Me. why be self-sufficient

Note that today is Tax Day. April 15. Think about that a sec while I go get another cup of coffee. why be self-sufficient

Why take care of our own needs? I trust myself to provide excellent quality, healthy food. I don’t trust the common food supply found in grocery stores to be fresh, as full as nutrition, or as ethically grown as what I provide for myself. I know where, how and when my food was grown. Hunt. Fish. Garden. Gather. Right? We can’t and don’t want to do everything but we do a lot for ourselves. why be self-sufficient

I’m not dependent upon an oil company to keep me and my home warm. We heat with locally sourced firewood. Some of it comes from our land but we don’t have the time or equipment to cut seven cords of hardwood from our woodlot. Last year’s firewood was maple, beach, birch and ash cut to clear out a maple sugar bush. It was delivered in logs. Steve cut the logs into stove length pieces. I split and stacked the firewood. I could get a job to earn the money to buy gas to get to work, heating oil to keep the house warm and pay the expenses of having a job, or I can save money by doing a lot of the work myself. I need less money when I do it myself. why be self-sufficient

When I split and stack the wood I’m getting exercise. I’m saving money by not paying a gym membership and gas to get there. I’m doing something useful. I hate running no where on a dreadmill. I do it when it’s not safe to be on the slippery road we live on, but I don’t like it.

We talked about missing working with people (once in a while but not normally, I’m an introvert), socializing and other things she felt I must be missing out on. Being self sufficient doesn’t mean I’m missing out on anything. That’s a crazy notion. If I want seafood I have seafood. This is Maine. It’s easy to get fresh seafood at reasonable prices. I didn’t raise beef so we’re bartering it. If I want to socialize I go out with friends. I volunteer enough to fill my desire to work with people. why be self-sufficient

How about electricity? Why are we still on the grid? ehhh…we could use solar or wind power. We might some day but if we do we’ll still rely on someone else for equipment. It’s alright to pick and choose who and what you rely on. What works for me might not work for you. Everyone’s situation is at least a little bit different in some way. why be self-sufficient

why be self sufficient, Chanterelle Mushrooms

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Chanterelle mushrooms are a luxury for some. At $26 a pound, we wouldn’t be buying them. For $5 worth of gas we pick at least ten pounds a year, and we pick other mushrooms while we’re out. I climb banks, walk through the woods to get to them, bend and stretch, and get some exercise. why be self-sufficient

We do as much as we can for ourselves while Steve works a full time job. We buy our health insurance through his employer. His salary pays the bills (including my expensive medical bills that aren’t covered, insurance doesn’t pay for everything) and keeps a roof over our heads. We’ll be paying someone else to make some upgrades and repairs to the house because we don’t have the skills needed. There aren’t enough hours in a day to learn and do all we need and want. why be self-sufficient

“I can go to work to earn the money to pay someone to do things for me, or I can do it myself.” ~Me. I can grow and raise our food or pay someone else to do it and depend on grocery stores. ehhh…not so comfy with that idea, especially these days.

What do you do towards self sufficiency and why? why be self-sufficient

why be self-sufficient

Rainy Spring Day

The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.  ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It’s a rainy spring day.

rainy spring day

A rainy spring day is a wonderful thing. Unless you’re a crow, but maybe the crow doesn’t mind.

It’s raining this morning – raining hard. We still have a lot of crusty, crunchy, granular, dirty snow. The rain will wash a lot of it away. I have three deadlines today so I will add another piece of wood to the fire so I can open a window a few inches and hear the birds, make another pot of coffee and spend most of my day snuggled up on the loveseat by the fir, blanket over my wool-socked, always cold feet, and write. By the end of the day I’ll be freelance free for the rest of the week and writing something that’s been dancing in the back of my mind.

Food Thoughts (A food blog?)

Food Thoughts

Most food blogs, and that’s a lot of what this is, a food blog, start in the kitchen. I start long before that. I start at the beginning, with the chick hatching and growing for six months before laying its first egg. A seed the size of a pinhead grows into a one pound cauliflower. A bait fish in the aquarium will catch a four pound bass to serve at my dining room table. A tiny spore grows into a two pound lobster mushroom, dirty and unattractive but also beautiful with its deep red, solid flesh. Bright red, sweet, warm, juicy raspberries will stain my fingertips while I look for the berries and listen for the bears.


food thoughtsfood thoughtsI had to go into the barn last week. Since nothing lives there anymore I seldom have reason to go through the door. It’s an eyesore I try to avoid. Once inside the door, I stayed a few minutes. It’s maybe the second time I’ve been in since the pigs left on December 1. Leaning against their stall, I thought about what a time I had with them from start to finish. They were wild and smelly when they arrived. It took months to fully gain their trust but they never got all of mine. Oh I trusted them but only to a certain point. They bit. Red bit because he could be a jerk. White was mostly just curious but had I gotten into the pen and slipped, I’d have been the one being eaten for breakfast.

I harvested a lot of animals last year. Some, like the pigs, were big. One, the deer, was 20 pounds less (live weight) than White’s hanging weight. The bear was only 148.5 pounds but a stronger predator than the pigs. They turkey, chickens and a couple of partridge round out the list. I put a lot of thought into the animals we eat before, during and after each process that goes into serving them on a plate.   food thoughts

food thoughts

Hunt Fish Garden Gather Write

As you’re reading this, the work of filling the freezer, jars, dehydrators and the cold cellar is underway. I’ve already started seeds and have seedlings. Some of the cucumber seeds I planted in six packs on Friday afternoon were half-inch tall seedlings on Sunday afternoon. A green thumb, a little bit of a magic touch, and decades of experience go into food at my house. Oh. And love. I love what I do. Ultimately, it’s all about the food. Hunt. Fish. Garden. Gather. Write. It’s about the food with some non-food stuff thrown in for entertainment in the Write department. The hunting stories aren’t just hunting. I don’t hunt for entertainment, though I do love to hunt. I hunt and fish to put food on the table. food thoughts

I’ll be in one of the high tunnels, getting dirty, hot and sweaty, happy. I’ll be thinking about four drakes and two roosters I need to put in the freezer now that there’s room, and of the meat chicks and poults I have to order. When I return to the house I’ll shower, get something to eat (Steve is away so I’m having leftovers) and sit down to write again. And of course, to think about food. food thoughts