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.

Continue reading “Spring – It Is About Time”

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.

 

 

Thankfulness

So here we are on the verge of Thanksgiving. We have so many things to be thankful for, even though we can get caught up in the day-to-day whirlwind of life: school, chickens, garden work, cleaning up to host family for the holiday.

I’ve slowed down enough for a quick reflection here, just before I dash to meet the bus. If a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few thousand words of gratitude from our homestead to yours.

Peter and Talia Allemang
Daddy and daughter celebrate another season of dance completed. My Hearts.

 

Black German Shephard
The dog I always dreamed of…even though she can be a dork at times. She’s a great companion to my new work.

 

Broody chicken on nest box
Chickens give us healthy eggs and meat while they improve our soil. They are also very entertaining. Henny Penny, pictured above, finally got to brood a clutch of eggs and be a momma to an Icelandic chick.

 

Hoop house at Polka Dot Hen Produce Bruce Peninsula
The hoop house. Building it was a huge undertaking, but the benefits of this protected growing environment are phenomenal. We have just scratched the surface. I’m already planning for next season.

 

Vegetable cooler at DeJong Acres farm store Polka Dot Hen Produce
Nothing can compare to doing work that you truly believe in. This was a great season of learning for me. Thank you to everyone who bought our veggies this year at DeJong Acres. I’d love to hear from you!

Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving this weekend…or in November…or both!

Variety is the Spice of Life

Heirloom tomato bounty at Polka Dot Hen Produce
The variety of tomatoes grown in our hoop house this year

So, maybe having a hoop house went to my head.

When it came time to order the tomato seeds last winter, I really didn’t think I was going overboard. Just enough variety so I could sell small baskets of multicoloured fruit. A sampler of REAL tomatoes for people who only have eaten those pasty cardboard varieties in the supermarket. That’s what I envisioned.

And that’s what we got. Seventeen varieties, all different shapes and sizes, grown on our property this summer. On St.Patrick’s Day, my daughter recorded them in the notebook as we seeded them: Alicante, Black Krim, Camp Joy, Garden Peach, Jaune Flamme, Longkeeper, Matt’s Red Cherry, OSU Blue, Red Speckled Roman, Red Zebra, Stupice, St.Pierre, Thai Pink Egg and Yellow Pear. Later additions were: Coeur de Boeuf, Sugary and Black Cherry.

Jaune Flamme heirloom tomatoes
Delicious Jaune Flamme heirloom tomatoes were an instant new favourite

At this point in the season, we’ve had a chance to observe, pick and taste all the varied fruits of our labour. Some old friends like Stupice and St. Pierre didn’t disappoint, even in the new environment. We discovered some new favourites like orange-hued Jaune Flamme and near perfectly formed red Alicante, an heirloom greenhouse variety. Continue reading “Variety is the Spice of Life”