Manic May

honeyberry flowers birds nest garden farm
Honeyberry (or haskap) blooms provide a much-needed early source of nectar for insects and hummingbirds.

It’s that time of year again.

Everything needs to be done. Yesterday.

Warm weather and sunshine have made everything pop. Believe me, I am not complaining. We are loving the weather here at Bird’s Nest Garden Farm.

It’s hard to believe that less than a month ago things looked like this:

snowy field polka dot hen produce wiarton
Yes, that is one of my main vegetable plots on April 22.  So, less than a month ago we had plenty of heavy snow on the ground.

Now we are full steam ahead on ALL of the projects.

Chickens

The chickens finally left their winter coop, for full-time RV status. Our feathered friends are back to the mobile life, being carted around the field every couple of weeks. Now to figure out why the auto-close door wants to auto-close at the wrong time. And then auto-open once everyone is settled in for bed.

chicken mobile coop polka dot hen produce
The first location for the mobile coop. Chickens are loving the fresh grass.

Plants

Where do I start?

All the vegetable garden beds need prepping.  All the perennial beds need weeding and dividing. All the little seedlings in pots need homes in the soil. Everyone needs water, some times two to three times a day!

The winter rye cover crop on several beds was supposed to winter kill but it didn’t. It is looking super-green and healthy, definitely not dead.

intercropping garlic tomatoes spinach hoop house
Green garlic grows in the space between the young tomato plants. As the tomatoes grow, the garlic and spinach will be harvested.

Inside the hoop, there are a smattering of early crops (spinach, green garlic and kale) fighting for space with the tropicals (tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.) More tropicals need to go in, and more early crops need to come out.

Thankfully, the Wiarton Farmers’ Market has started so we don’t need to eat all of those veggies ourselves. My Polka Dot Hen Produce customers had a lovely selection of purple orach, French sorrel, tender kale and green garlic to chose from this week.

Carrots, spinach, beets, kale, radishes, turnips and lettuce are in the ground where that snowy picture was taken. The family pea plot looks to be shaping up.  Happy news, since I totally missed the window for peas last year.

Thankfully, our composting was a great success. We have this beautiful business to add to our beds:

compost polka dot hen produce fresh vegetable
Well composted chicken litter (chicken poo, leaves and wood chips) is just the ticket to get the soil going this year.

 

Sheep

Peter has wanted ruminants on the land since we bought the property. This is the summer we give it a go after many years of research and planning; his, not mine.

Before the sheep arrive, we have scads of fencing to put up. A visit from a black bear last week reinforced this need, although I’m more concerned about keeping out coyotes and stray dogs. Plus we’ll have the added bonus of preventing our dog from wandering off to irritate the local porcupine population.

tractor auger birds nest garden farm
Peter tries out the auger in preparation for installing lots of posts. This area actually has soil, unlike many areas we need to fence.

The lambs also need a shelter, and you guessed it, it’s going to be PORTABLE as well. Well portable, if you have a tractor to pull it. I won’t be schlepping it around the meadow with my bare hands. Did I mention that shelter still needs to be built?

All the Other Stuff

Let’s not forget that the  necessities of daily living such as food preparation, dishes, laundry, dog walking and personal hygiene don’t just disappear. Although, as I don the same soil-covered work clothes over and over, I  find myself hoping no one decides to wander down the driveway and “surprise me.” Phoning first is always recommended at this time of year. If you are really special, I’ll put on a clean T-shirt.

It is a good thing the weather has been fantastic for getting all this work done. I promise we will take time to be thankful for this wonderful place we’ve been allowed to steward.

Here’s hoping we all have a productive and lovely Victoria Day weekend.

 

spring light landscape birds nest garden farm
Glowing spring light on the laneway

 

 

 

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The Winter Homestead Lifestyle

Snowfall on polka dot hen produce homestead bruce peninsula
The first winter snowfall covers our homestead in white frosting.

Well, it’s been a quiet winter so far here on the homestead. Nowhere near the spirit-crushing amount of snow and cold temperatures we endured last winter. Yet. Thank goodness. That was a challenge. We’ll see what February brings.

Still, this season does bring a change in daily life that we both look forward to and dread at the same time. Fire building we look forward to – constantly carting wood into the house, we dread. Snow is really great for skiing and snowshoeing; blowing it off the driveway is not so enjoyable. Walking the dog takes on new meaning. However, we all agree that snow days are awesome.

 

Polka Dot Hen Produce hoop house in winter
Snowfall in January blankets the hoop house.

 

It’s our first winter with the hoop house. Paying attention to snow accumulation is the new pastime. We’ve only had one large snowfall followed by warming temperatures that made us a bit nervous. Heavy snow is the enemy. By pushing up and out on the plastic from inside the structure, the snow is persuaded to let go and slide off. I use a special broom with curved bristles (that I already owned) and a step stool for this job. I also use muscles that have been dormant a long time.

 

Snow accumulation on solar panels
Pretty isn’t it? Not a lot of watts being generated, though. Clearing the solar panels is a daily job in the winter.

 

Winter around here means less sunlight which in turn means less power. The days are short and often overcast. The solar panels need to be cleared each time it snows. Our backup generator gets a workout.  Not so much the vacuum and washing machine. And now it’s snowing again.

On the plus side, all of the seed catalogues have arrived! So I’ll pour another cup of coffee and settle in by the fire to plan next season’s vegetable selections. Then I’ll strap on the snowshoes and walk the dog.

Walking the dog on the Bruce Trail in winter
Walking the dog on the Bruce Trail in winter.

 

 

Time management and chickens

A hen exits the coop through the automatic door
A hen exits the coop through the automatic door

I spent a lot of time with the chickens today. More time than I expected. More time than is usual for a Saturday.

See, my usual school-day routine is to peek in on the birds before driving my daughter to the bus stop. When I get back, I fill feeders, check waterers and refill if needed. Usually I have a “treat” bucket of scraps from the house to disperse, maybe some dried crushed eggshells or sunflower seeds as well. I gather any eggs that are in the nest boxes. Check mineral supplements and refill. Then I hang out a bit and watch. You can learn a lot by hangin’ with the birds. I’m usually inside eating breakfast half an hour later.

Well, today is Saturday. I thought I’d allow myself to sleep in to the decadent hour of 7:45am. In my defence, I had had a fitful sleep, dreaming about making egg salad and waking to the realization that learning the ins and outs of blogging was definitely not coming along as easily as I had expected. I managed to drape a towel over my head to block the dawn and didn’t get to the birds until an hour later than usual. Continue reading “Time management and chickens”