Category Archives: Daily Farm Life
Wow! This has been quite a morning. I knew the birds weren’t going to need any water this morning and that only the new hens might need food. This was going to be an easy morning. I let the dogs out a half hour before I put my boots on and went out into the wet, depressing, horrendous new snow. I’d seen quite enough of this new snow last night when I drove to and from volleyball. I picked up three of Taylor’s friends and it took only 35 minutes. The drive home involved dropping off the same three girls, black ice, white out snow, plows that barely plowed and didn’t drop sand, and took an hour. I’ve seen enough snow. I wanted to get to the greenhouse as quickly as possible and see something green and growing.
I took care of the birds and wanting peace and quiet, thought about putting the dogs in the house. They were so reluctant to go in that I caved and let them stay out. So what if they barked way too much? It’s what collies do.
I puttered in the greenhouse and took lots of pictures. When my blood pressure and pulse return to normal I’ll put up some of those pictures and explain them. Two of the dogs barked non-stop at crows. It’s my birthday (no joke!) and I want to do what I want to do today. I want to putter in peace and quiet so in went the dogs. I built a fire to warm the house and dry the mutts that were by then soaking wet, and went back out. After pulling a few weeds, making some plans for lettuce transplants tomorrow and satisfying my need for green I headed for the house. I was ready for breakfast. My stomach was growling.
I’ve been meaning to write about hybrid seeds and haven’t gotten to it yet. There’s a ridiculous amount of misinformation being repeated as fact. How about:
- You can’t save seeds from hybrids.
Think back to the people/person who told you this. Carefully sneak up behind them and SMACK THEM ON THE HEAD! And if you’ve repeated this more than twice without doing any research of credible sources, SMACK YOURSELF ON THE HEAD. You can save seeds from hybrids. You can plant the seeds and the plants will most likely produce. You won’t get the exact thing. Let’s use pumpkins, you won’t get the exact pumpkin you saved the seeds from, but you’ll get something. Have you ever thrown random pumpkins in your compost pile and had volunteer seedlings the next spring? There you go. If you grew more than one variety of pumpkin in close proximity and plant sex was happening when you had your head turned (you did turn your head and didn’t look, didn’t you?), you’ve contributed to hybridization. If you promise to never repeat “you can’t save seeds from hybrid plants” you may be excused from smacking yourself on the head. We’ll save stabilizing hybrids for someone who knows more than me. I have only a little personal experience in stabilization.
- Hybrids are tasteless.
Some certainly are. So are some open pollinated. That doesn’t mean you can never grow open open pollinated plants. By the way, open pollinated doesn’t mean heirloom and heirloom doesn’t mean open pollinated. That’s another blog entry.
- Hybrids are genetically modified.
They’re cross pollinated. Birds do it. Bees do it. Lots of things do it. You can do it with a paint brush, your finger or by pulling one flower off to brush its pollen onto another flower. It’s not the same as genetically engineering a daffodil gene into rice (to increase Vitamin A, this is impossible naturally), or a gene from a firefly into a fish (to glow in the dark, sold as pets) or a nut gene into another food (imagine what this could do to someone with a nut allergy).
It’s not too late in the growing season to do some thorough research on your own and try a few hybrids you’ve previously shunned. If you’re growing a garden too small to allow you adequate distance to nearly prevent cross pollinating, or not taking measures to prevent it, you’re probably not saving non-cross pollinated seeds anyway. What do you have to lose?
It’s snowing again today. According to the weather forecast it’s going to clear up and be sunny by the end of the day. The sky will be clear overnight and we’ll have a little sun in the morning before it clouds up again. Some things seem to never change.
I’ve completely lost patience with the provider. It’s been nearly two weeks now since we had a reliable signal. Fix it dammit. Ironically, they can’t get the signal here but they managed to land a bill for service in my inbox. It’s one of the first things that downloaded when I dialed in two days ago. It’s not really a bill though. According to the email it’s a “statement.” That means they’ve already charged my credit card. I’ve had comments sitting in the outbox several times but they wouldn’t send because I wasn’t on dial up and…all together now…didn’t have a signal.
Right click on the picture to get to the full sized pic. Welcome to my world. Watch your step.
I know I’ve complained too much about the lack of spring. I’ve tried to keep a sense of humor about it which became obvious when I planted peas in the snow (they haven’t sprouted yet). Lucy mentioned potatoes. I should have planted them the day I planted peas. There wouldn’t be any need to hill them since layers of snow, ice and sleet would do it for me. It shouldn’t be tulips and daffodils and 60* right now but we should be seeing real signs of spring. Maple sap is barely running because it’s so cold and windy here.
For useful information, see this blog entry.
My name is Robin and I have a pet peeve. Using the USDA hardiness zones to decide when, what, how and where to plant anything in the summer garden drives me up a wall. Hardiness zones have nothing to do with what you can grow in the summer. There’s a tab at the top of the blog that explains the zones, btw. Rather than explain the zones to someone for the gazillionth time I gave in. I’m joining the Zone 5 club. Phew. It feels good to be rid of that. I meant to plant my peas (useful information at that link) on St. Patrick’s Day. According to many sources that is the day you plant peas in zone 5. It was too windy and cruddy out to plant peas in my already crappy mood. So I didn’t do. My peas probably won’t grow now. I tried, really, I did. Oh frig, the dog is standing on the peas. BRB.
If you haven’t yet figured out that this is not serious – this is not serious. There’s a link at the bottom with useful information.
Ok, I’m back. I had to yell at Sebastian and get him off the peas. Here’s how you plant peas in zone 5 in my part of Maine on March 17th. First, prepare the ground. It’s late March. The snow is dirty. I figure the dirt on the snow counts for something.
This isn’t going as well as I expected. It turns out that the snow on the dirt isn’t enough. I need more. How did this happen? It’s ZONE 5!! (Technically, I think I’m still in 4 but the map says 5 now.) I know what to do. I’ll get rid of the snow! I have a little hand held torch that I use for burning holes in IRT. That’ll do the trick.
hmmmmm…….. not my best idea today. Do you know how long it takes to torch 2′ of snow? Me either, but I bet it’s a long time. As my friend Pat says, when you can’t do your best do your second best.
So I turned over the snow best I could, made rows and planted the peas. Excuse the spacing, my hands were cold by the time I got to this point. I tried to space them well but I was shivering so much I couldn’t do it. The Earthway Seeder wouldn’t go through the snow so I had to put that back in the rabbitry til spring. Maybe I can plant beans and corn with it. When do you plant those in zone 5? I hope it’s AFTER the *&*%$#!!!! snow melts. So anyway, plant the seeds 1″ deep and cover them. I suggest using gloves when you cover them. I’m typing with my nose because my frost bite hasn’t healed yet.
Don’t forget to mark the rows. It’s helpful to put the variety of seed you planted, the date you planted and how many days to maturity on the row marker. Since I couldn’t write thanks to frost bite I just stuck a trowel in the snow. It’s one of the ones I buy for kids who come to help me plant. I can look back here in June when it’s time to pick peas and know that I planted Coral Shell Peas on March 19 and they take 53 days to mature. That’s after they get their first true leaves, btw, not 53 days from today. So there you have it, how to plant peas in zone 5 two days after St. Patrick’s Day. It’s 36*, the snow is 2′ deep and we have sleet, snow and freezing rain moving in tonight and staying through tomorrow. Good thing I got ‘em in today, tomorrow’s gonna be a bad day for planting!
Oh…I wonder what this means? The package the seeds came in says, “sow in rows 3 ft apart as soon as the ground can be worked.” I think it’s trick directions. It says something about the ground, not St. Patrick’s Day. HA! I’m not falling for that! Never let anyone confuse you with facts. Now that I’ve had my fun you should go to this post to find out how to really plant peas.
Early Girl tomatoes. These are going out to the greenhouse in April.
Going some where. Hopefully a hoop house but we still have 2′ of snow on the field. I’ll spread these out soon, they’re too crowded.
Nadia eggplant. I’m trying these for the first time on the advice of a friend and fellow greenhouse grower. One day without light was too much so now they’re very leggy. =( Such is life.
It’s not above 0* but the wind is blowing and we have the cloudy sunny cloudy sky. It kind of maybe possibly feels like spring might come some day. Not Thursday as scheduled, but some day. Personally, I think we’re at the beginning of the next 10,000 ice age. Global warming? Ha. Remember the 70′s? We were all gonna freeze to death back then. OK, end of sarcasm.
I’m going out to plant peas today. I’ll take pictures and I’ll explain why this is significant. WARNING: Bring your sense of humor to the next blog entry.
I’ve been in the writing mood lately but none of what I’ve had to say is farm related. I’m going to use my other blog for stuff like that. I’ll be writing about excessively thrilling things like why I have the reverse raccoon thing happening to my face, ice fishing, how to avoid being politically correct and why I’m barking like a dog. Before I start that I have to spend an hour or so being a domestic
goddess captive and clean the house.
Farm work today:
- drag the seed bench over the snow bank, across the driveway and to the back porch. Scrub the disgusting thing before bringing it into the house and placing it on the nice new diningroom floor.
- transplant seedlings into six packs or something.
- write out the buying club information and email it to a new organizer.
- plant peas – it’s that time of year in this zone (humor, remember your sense of humor!)
- look at flower pics and starting seriously thinking about replacing the perennial gardens I let go because of (cancelled) construction, or were destroyed by workmen before I saw what they were doing.
- re-cover the tunnels in the gh. Going to be very cold again tonight.
I was up at 4:30 this morning with plans for the beginning of my day. I was going to photograph sunrise behind the icy trees. Oddly, very oddly, there isn’t any ice on the trees. Everything was frosty when I went to bed last night. I didn’t drain the water in the bathtub because I was sure we’d lose power as tree branches fell during the night. When you have a private well you don’t have water when you don’t have power. No water, not enough flushing. Maybe it got warmer before it got cold? Or the wind blew so hard it shook off the ice? I don’t know, but I’m disappointed in a way. I haven’t looked out the window at the greenhouse yet. It’s probably ice crusted. As soon as Taylor leaves for school I’ll walk up and take a look.
My goal for the day is to have the last of the greenhouse planted before dark. I’m pulling a lot out. If something isn’t pulling its weight or I think something else will produce better it’s going to the compost pile. There are a few frozen spots thanks to mild flooding from melting snow and rain that will have to be put on hold. I sorted seeds last night and put them in the Maine Garden Hod. My sister gave me my hod for my birthday two years ago. Isn’t she awesome! I’ll create a page for 2008 planting and add notes during the year, starting today.
If you’re the person who pissed off the snow fairy I need you to get up, march yourself over there and APOLOGIZE! Now please. Oh good Lord, enough already. I spent the day shoveling snow. This morning’s first job was to clean some snow away from the seedling house. I always clean the snow off the roof and let it fall straight down. I’ve had the seedling house for six or seven years and have never had so much snow that it builds up to the 6′ high edge of the roof. I could shovel the top 2′ then tossed some rock salt on the top of what’s left. It was sunny for part of the morning and level dropped another 6″.
Then the greenhouse – same story, different snow storm. We have rain coming tomorrow and freezing rain on Wednesday. I had to get all of the snow from Saturday’s 12″ storm off the poly. I wanted to do it yesterday but it was so windy it blew the snow back in my face. Not moving it yesterday gave it time to compact.
I was standing behind the house when I took this video. It shows you how everything in the previous photos come together. In the video I said the greenhouse is 24 x 48. It’s 22 x 48.
Snow Will Become Heavy Later This Morning And Continue Into The Evening Before Tapering Off To Light Snow Late Tonight. Snowfall Rates Of Up To 2 Inches An Hour Can Be Expected Later This Morning Into The Afternoon Hours. Total Snowfall Accumulations Of 8 To 16 Inches Can Be Expected.
I’m hoping for the 8″ but less would be better. It should be light and fluffy and easier to shovel this time.
I picked up most of the seeds yesterday. The onions were out of stock for the year and a few things are on back order. I’ll find a replacement for the onions today. At OGS I picked up Fertrell fertilizer, kelp meal, 90 six packs, 1020 trays without holes, spinosad for the Colorado potato beetles and legume inoculant. The fertilizer is a temporary fix while I work on getting the soil tested and remineralized. It’s lacking something but I don’t know what.
I spent until 1:30 pm cleaning up after the snow yesterday. I really wanted a cup of coffee when I came in but didn’t have the energy to grind beans and make a fresh pot. Heating up a cup sounded ok. Just as I was walking to the kitchen to do this the phone rang. “Would you like to come for coffee and a brownie?” Jan has perfect timing. I said yes of course! Then I realized that my Blazer has a bad battery that won’t take a charge and I probably couldn’t start it. It took a little prayer and some effort but I got it going. The coffee, brownie and company were excellent, just what I needed to forget that my arms and shoulders ached.
I emailed a pathetic, exaggerated plea for pizza to Steve and blamed it on Taylor. (I said it was pathetic!) He picked up pizza on the way home so that my poor beaten body didn’t have to cook supper. By supper time I wasn’t sore but that bit of information didn’t seem necessary.
I’ll spend today working on the catch up list after I clean the snow off the greenhouse. Flurries over night left a quarter inch of snow. It will keep the sun out. I’ll find something to do to putter around in there this afternoon. Spinach is germinating.
I’m going to work with Steve tomorrow. He has to do his end of the month inventory. That will take him to Newport (south of Bangor) and from there we’ll drive to Waterville and pick up the Fedco order. I’ll start onions, leeks, a few Swiss chard for Taylor, the greenhouse tomatoes (Glacier) and a few peppers and eggplant.
The bus has come and gone so it’s time to let the dogs out and do the chores. 10* this morning.
And this is where the picture taking ends. I went back into the house hoping they’d cut under the hydrangea, around the front steps and head over toward the seedling house, then take a sharp right and go to where they belong. They of course did not. I’d been on the porch in a sleeveless shirt, jeans and wool socks. I had to pull on a fleece, cram my feet into boots, get Scooter without letting the other dogs out, make Scooter stop barking (annoying collie trait), look both ways and pray there weren’t vehicles coming, tell Scooter it was ok to come out into the road with me, and then get down to the business of herding six turkeys up over a 4′ snow bank, across the side yard and back where they belong. For good measure Scooter made a second trip behind them to bark a few more times and keep them going in the right direction. God I love that dog. I wouldn’t have been in a very good mood if I’d been the one climbing the snowbank and crunching through deep snow. He took them across the top and broke through just a few times.
Seb loves firewood. In this picture he’s sleeping in front of the woodstove while using a piece of ash for a pillow. He has a piece of wood this big and with a nifty handle of it that he runs around the yard with and rolls on. He’s a goof.
I have some unfinished projects to tackle this week. It’s bright and sunny today and I’d love to be back outside but there are things I have to get done in here. Maybe I can manage it later this afternoon. I’m planning for a couple of hours in the greenhouse tomorrow so that I can finish up in there before picking up seeds Friday. I was going to get them at Fedco Wednesday but there’s up to a foot of snow coming Tuesday night into Wednesday. I’ll go Friday. Anything that doesn’t look absolutely great tomorrow is being pulled and tossed into the compost pile.
- farmcollies maine
We have two farmcollies. They’re here to be family pets, herd, hunt pests and guard. They do an excellent job.
- hoop house
- what chickens naturally eat
Insects, worms, plant matter
- plans for seedling greenhouse
Mine is 2 x 4/2 x 6 frame covered with 6 mil, four year poly. If I build another it will probably be a small greenhouse like the steel framed four season greenhouse I’m using for vegetables year round. Most of the year the seedling house sits empty. A small greenhouse will be put to good use year round, probably with a compost pile.
- what animals are born with eggs
None here but gees, if I could make that happen on the farm I could be a wealthy woman.
- meat eater are better than vegetarians
No, we’re not. Vegetarians aren’t better than meat eaters either. We all have personal preferences that work for us.
I read something yesterday that left me shaking my head. Flexitarian. A flexitarian is a flexible vegetarian who eats meat. Flexible + vegetarian = meat eater. Even if you eat “just a little meat” you’re not a vegetarian.
- snow peas in hoop house
Overall I don’t think they’re worth the space they take up. They’re so hardy that they can be planted as soon as you can get into the garden without mud. They take snow and frost and keep going. If you have the empty space go ahead, it works well until it gets too warm. When they’re done you should cut the vine from the roots and leave the roots and all of their nitrogen benefits in the soil.
- vegetable tomato cucumber “tunnel farming
I’ll be growing both in hoops and the greenhouse this year. I’ll take photos and explain what I’m doing as I do it. The cucumbers will be a European variety. They’ll grow up twine. The plants will be pruned to keep them under control. I’ll get a jump start on the tomato season with Glacier in the greenhouse. It’s not the best tomato out there but it is really good when grown in good soil. About the time Glacier is done the plants outside will be producing. The gh plants will be pulled up and something else will take their places.
- what happens running water on icy driveway
A skating rink is created. Don’t do this at home.
It’s sunny and just above freezing this morning. The ducks were quacking to go out at 5:30 am but I wasn’t risking the icy driveway in the dark. When the sun came up I spread wood ash to make a path. It makes a huge difference. Water is inconvenient for me in winter. I have to make sure I dump all of the waterers at the end of the day so that they don’t freeze solid. I knew it was going to be warm relatively speaking so I dump the ducks’ water and filled it with a pail of water that dripped off the roof. This morning a nudge with my toe was all it took to break the thin film of ice on top before pouring another bucket in. The ducks were so happy to be going out all but two were in front of me leaving the barn.
February thaw is something I’ve come to appreciate a lot. We’ve had it the last three winters. January thaw is great but we’ve come to expect it. February thaw is still new and exciting. The longer days on top of warm temps make February’s thaw more productive than January. I loaded up with Advil for the aches and sinus pills for breathing and went out to work. It was raining lightly but warm. Manure freezes in front of the doors over time in the barn and hen house. Last week I found myself frozen out of the barn by a couple of very large duck poops (you’re welcome, glad I could share this info). It took rock salt and several hours to work my way in to let the ducks out. Next winter the few remaining ducks will be closed in a stall so that they can’t poop in front of the door. And hopefully next winter the barn has a new door that swings out. I can shovel snow from a door that swings out a lot easier than I can melt duck poop on the other side of the door. And next winter, if all goes well, my gilts and boar will be in the barn. I can’t have them sleeping in front of the door and locking me out. My last GOS sows were 600 pounds of laziness. If these pigs manage to get out of their stall at night I need to be sure I can get in the barn. They’ll be outside most of the time but better safe than sorry.
I’m working on MNN this morning then will finish up the grout on the diningroom floor. This has been a drawn out project. Between weekend activities and two sick people in the house the floor hasn’t been worked on much. I can seal the grout Thursday and carefully put the furniture back Friday. There are enough tiles, mortar and grout left over to do out tiny bathroom. YEAH!
Not much going on these days. Today’s excitement was my ungraceful performance crossing ice to get to the barn, while carrying a two gallon bucket full of water, and while threatening the dogs. “If you mutts make me fall and if I don’t break something when I land you’re all going to the pound!” There’s an advantage to letting your toenails get too long (if you’re a dog). You can dig in, prance around and drive your human nuts without worrying about landing on your ass wet ice.
I need to clip wings on a turkey. She’s been on the hen house roof at least twice now. There are still only two pullets laying. Cathy’s going to take some of my 1 1/2 year old layers to add to her flock. I’ll sell the remainder of that flock minus Abby the Ancient Americauna. The wild/domestic/whatevertheyare mallards are still here. A pair left Friday afternoon but came back as it was getting dark (damn). I’m going to have to get serious about getting rid of ducks again. No ducklings this year.
Fog, rain and 50* is melting snow quickly. The 10 day forecast looks pretty good. It will be above freezing in the greenhouse during the day.
Obviously, the predator was a bobcat. You knew that when you read the title but that morning I still wasn’t positive. I hadn’t yet been out to the woods to look for tracks. It’s been so long now that I don’t remember if the snow was powdery, making tracks easier to identify, or if the surface was solid. It didn’t matter. I hadn’t looked for tracks and it hadn’t been back in four hours.
Fair warning – includes death. One death was not immediate. If you’re going to be upset by this you should stop reading. I’m going to include details. If you’re going to be offended, start screaming about animal rights, or in any other way have a fit, step away from the blog and nobody will get pissed.
When chores were finished I brought the dogs in, poured another cup of coffee and before I could get my boots off, answered the phone. I wanted a nap, not a conversation, especially not a 30 minute long conversation. I no more set the phone down when Maggie went ballistic. It was back…
We’ve always known there are bobcats around. Before we moved in a large male sat in the back right corner of the overgrown field. Not long after moving in I saw three young cats in the road. It was surreal, amazing and startling at the same time. Three adorable, seemingly friendly kits that weren’t afraid. Of course, they’re not friendly and I know better than to approach or try to touch them. Bobcat hunters have come to the door to ask permission to hunt. Later, they’d come back to tell me they were leaving so that I could let the livestock out. I kept the animals in to avoid the risk of their dogs meeting up with my animals. I always asked how the hunt went – did they see tracks, did they see enough to think I might have a problem brewing. One set of hunters commented on my dogs. “You can tell where their territory ends. The bobcats have a path 100′ from the dogs’ path.” Having bobcats on the farm isn’t a big deal as long as the population stays small and the natural food supply is adequate.
Five winters ago the snow came in early November. By early February our 5′ fence posts were out of sight. We didn’t see them for six weeks. On May 3 that year we still had 3′ of snow in the woods. This gives you an idea of what a rough winter wildlife had.
As I’ve said many times, we have working farm dogs. They’re here to protect our poultry and livestock, keep them or put them where they belong, and pest control. They are intuitive beyond words. I don’t know how they know when something’s wrong but they do. Taylor had febrile seizures when she was a toddler. Thanks to a family reunion in Boston we were near an excellent hospital the first time she spiked a temp and had a seizure. It nearly killed her. I will never forget the look of a gray, unresponsive baby. The night the bobcat problem started Taylor had a 103* fever. I gave her Advil and put her on the couch to sleep. I sat up in the chair watching to be sure she was breathing. She was 9, hadn’t had a seizure in years, but still…