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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Spring – It Is About Time

daffodil fresh wiarton
Early bloomers brave the blustery spring weather.

Spring is here. No really. I think this time it’s going to stay.

Not like all those other times we had our hopes dashed. Don’t even talk to me about April when the most snow we saw all season fell. Of course, we had taken the snow blower off the tractor.

As the snow piled up, I watched all of my precious crop planning get backed up further and further. The temperatures stayed too cold to work in the unheated green house. And it continued to snow.

But , darn it, I kept up with my seeding schedule. The plants just kept growing. Then I ran out of space. Well, lights actually.

tomato seedlings fresh wiarton
Tomato seedlings growing in the hoop house, when weather permits.

We are off-grid, or we could have just slapped up a few more sets of lights, no problem. But when you are trying to balance power availability with power needs, things get a bit tricky. You have to be creative. And you have to adjust your planting schedule.

Thankfully now, only the tenderest of the seedlings are inside the house. The rest are thriving in the hoop house as I do the dance of daily (hourly) temperature moderation by rolling up, then rolling down the sides and throwing water at the driest soil as needed.

But the attention is paying off, I like to tell myself. Whether it’s due to my antics with ventilation and watering, or not, there are a few things thriving in the hoop house.

Claytonia

claytonia fresh produce wiarton
Claytonia is an unusual but tasty salad green for cold seasons.

Until last April, I had never eaten claytonia, although I had read about it in Eliot Coleman’s The Winter Harvest Handbook years ago. On a whim I threw some claytonia seed in the soil one autumn along with some spinach and miner’s lettuce. None of the claytonia grew, so I promptly forgot about my experiment.

The following spring weird spoon-shaped rosettes started happily growing. And growing. Then there were flowers! Yup, claytonia. I tried it and was pleased with the fresh green flavour. It looked kinda fancy on my plate, too.

Little did I know, the claytonia was setting a seed bank in my hoop house that I plan to reap the benefits of for seasons to come. We can harvest it quite ruthlessly and it keeps coming back. But, it does not like hot weather, so we are treating it like the seasonal specialty it is.

Orach

orach seedlings fresh produce wiarton
Seedlings of purple orach started themselves in the hoop house from last year’s plants.

These little beauties are such a welcome site after the bleak mid-winter. Rosy and slightly salty, orach adds a nice flavour profile to any salad. I talk more about it in my Seasonal Eating post from last year.

I think we need to have a contest to come up with a better name, though.

Seedlings

seedlings fresh produce wiarton
A selection of seedlings spend time outside before being planted in the garden.

Some of the cold tolerant seedlings are graduating to the great outdoors. They have to be introduced slowly to full sun, wind and cold night temperatures. More monitoring is required for these plants on their “field trip.” I am turning into quite the mother hen to these trays of vegetables and herbs.

This weekend I’ll plant out more kale and maybe some lettuce. Other seedlings are on their way to larger pots and homes with other gardeners.

The Wiarton Farmers’ Market is only two weeks away.  We’re grateful spring has decided to stick around!

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Seasonal Eating – Spring

Close-up of pear tree blossoms
Pear tree blossoms are a welcome sign that spring is has arrived and lots of delicious seasonal flavours await.

 

I used our last homegrown carrots last weekend. They were purple carrots–a variety called Starburst–that I dug out of the garden in January. I put them into a curry that got slammed into the oven so I could get back to transplanting Swiss chard. Hours later, those carrots were still pretty tasty, as was the curry.

Starburst carrots dug in winter from the garden
Carrots dug from the garden January 22, 2017. Deliciously sweet!

 

Seasonal eating has been on trend for a while now. It’s something we are encouraged to explore to benefit our health, and the health of the planet. Growing most of our own vegetables here means we’ve really embraced seasonal eating. Maybe we are embracing it just a little too much, according to certain family members.

Continue reading “Seasonal Eating – Spring”