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”

Picture a cold frame

vegetable seedlings wiarton cold frame
Seedlings of lettuce, chives, bunching onions, cilantro, bok choi and kale in the cold frame

There is only so much room inside the house, under the lights for seed starting. As the heat loving tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers need more space, the cold tolerant vegetables get turfed out. They are living life on the edge out in the cold frame.

Running a cold frame takes hourly attention in this land of ever-changing weather. Sunny days are lovely, but tender seedlings quickly fry if the lid remains closed. Ask me how I know. Think solar oven. Other days bring their own dance of lid up, down or slightly cracked. Laying  a piece of frost cloth over the open frame to block wind or bugs adds another move to the dance.

Today is a lid down, no cracks kind of day. It’s cold enough for there to be snow in the air. Continue reading “Picture a cold frame”

Starting the garden one seed at a time

Seedlings of Red Zebra and Red Speckled Roman tomatoes
Seedlings of Red Zebra and Red Speckled Roman tomatoes started from seed in March.

For most gardeners on the Bruce Peninsula, the rule of thumb is to start planting over the Victoria Day weekend. With our local frost free date hovering around May 20th, it’s not a bad plan. There are however a number of veggies that thrive in the cooler temperatures of spring. With a little protection, these plants can provide fresh vegetables for the table by the time the holiday rolls around.

This year, I am trying a new planting system based on the crop planning dates in Jean-Martin Fortier’s book The Market Gardener. You gotta start somewhere, and Jean-Martin knows what he’s doing. So rather than planting my entire “early garden” all at once, I am starting a few seeds each week to provide a continuous supply of produce. This approach should save us from the yearly greens glut when all of the lettuce gets ready at once and everyone is sick of salads. Repeat with the crop of your choice (bok choi, cabbage, broccoli.) I never seem to learn.

It’s really interesting to take this staggered approach to seeding. We started our tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and basil over March Break. A few days later, I seeded some lettuce, onions and cilantro. Every week, I’ve started a few more veggies: beets, leeks, Swiss chard, more lettuce, spinach, bok choi, cucumbers and summer squash. Also some more lettuce. Should I look into this lettuce fixation?

All of this is a bit challenging when juggling space under the lights for everyone.  Tomatoes and tomatillos are being moved to larger pots so the same number of plants now take up twice as much valuable space under the lights. And this is all taking place in the back bedroom.

Soon a few lucky winners will take a trip out to the cold frame. But that’s another story.