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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Chickens in the hoop house, finally!

Keeping chickens warm and safe during a Bruce Peninsula winter is challenging. This is only our third year, but each year we learn a little more.  It helps that our birds are pretty hardy; especially after surviving last winter’s frigid temperatures.

 

Chickens and their mobile coop during early winter
The chickens stay outside as long as possible in the fall. Rocky (front girl) gives me the stink eye – like this weather is my fault.

 

We like to keep our birds outdoors as long as possible into the fall. They are fine in the colder temperatures as long as they can get out of the wind and don’t get wet. We provide a covered area they can hang out in as well as their mobile coop. Yes, it’s an old truck cap. It works.

Things get tricky when the fence battery gets cold and has to be switched out with a warmer, charged one every morning. Man, that thing is heavy. Being off-grid, we are loathe to add any extra power draws during the dark time of the year. Charging a fence battery can use a lot of power we’d rather use elsewhere, like for lights and running water.

Traditionally, we move the chickens into the garage just before Christmas. This allows us the chance to get away for the holidays and have a chicken sitter. We know the birds are secure, and the sitter can easily tend to their needs and collect eggs. Win-win. Mostly. Continue reading “Chickens in the hoop house, finally!”

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.