It’s Starting to Get Interesting

green field at Bird's Nest Garden Farm
Spring is here! Or is it summer?

 

Well, it’s a typical July afternoon with temps around 30C (mid-80’sF) and we’re cooling in front of fans inside the house…

But wait.

It’s the end of MAY. And there was snow on the ground May 9th. What’s going on?

 

May snowfall homestead Bird's Nest Garden Farm
May 9th snowfall. Merry Springmas from our home to yours.

 

The wild weather rollercoaster hasn’t stopped us from diving into new adventures this month.

What projects could top the dead hedge, you ask?

Pigs

Piglets Bird's Nest Garden Farm
Yes. We are officially pig farmers now.

Darn, they are cute.

The plan to get pigs was well in the works before all of the changes caused by the pandemic. We figured we needed the pigs to clear some areas and prepare the ground for more plantings and fencing. Plus, bacon. Continue reading “It’s Starting to Get Interesting”

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. Continue reading “Manic May”

South and Souther

Dottie the chicken patrols the new chicken pasture
Dottie happily patrols the chicken pasture after spending the winter indoors. Next year we hope to house her in a greenhouse.

Guest post by Peter

The ancestors of our polka-dot hen, Dottie, came from the Basque region of Spain. It may seem odd that a southern chicken could feel at home as far north as Great Lake Huron’s Bruce Peninsula, but the two areas share some things in common. One is the almost identical seasonal light and day length: both coastal areas share the same 45-degrees-north latitude as sun-spots like Monaco, Bordeaux, and Tuscany. But in midwinter, there’s no way Dottie could mistake her current home for her ancestors’ on the coast of Spain, or for her more distant ancestors’ home in South-East Asia.

For our chicken’s winter comfort, we want to capture the daylight of southern Europe while insulating them from the frigid winds and temperatures of frozen Lake Huron. It’s not too hard to do–we housed them in our light-filled garage last winter, and plan to introduce them to shelter in a greenhouse next winter. But even poultry from South-East Asia can’t take the summer heat trapped in a greenhouse for long. Which leaves us with a nice problem to have: after evicting Dottie and her friends, what plants can we grow in an environment hotter than a balmy Bruce Peninsula summer?

Chickens eat snow during the winter
Chickens in the garage during the winter, dining on snow. Kinda looking guilty.

If we’re going to go south, let’s go a lot further south. How about to Mexico and Peru, two countries that bracket the tropics at the equator? We could grow their peppers and tomatoes. We like fruits and veggies like those and could sell some of them to help pay for the greenhouse/barn.

Skis allow the hoop house to be moveable
Skis allow the hoop house to be moveable

But an “ordinary” greenhouse barn isn’t enough for us. We want one that we can move around, yet still anchor to the earth so it doesn’t imitate a huge, expensive kite. Many greenhouses or hoop houses are linked to the earth with spiral ground anchors or big beefy metal stakes. This is a challenge at our site: the current depth of soil over bedrock ranges from 2 to 6 inches. What to do when you are surrounded by such boundless constraints? Get creative.

An article in Forbes magazine (July 12, 2013)  details how constraints drive genius. How did all-world architect Frank Gehry dream up his iconic billowing steel museum in Bilbao, the capital of Dottie’s Basque homeland? According to creativity experts including Gehry himself, it took constraints. Our greenhouse will not be a work of genius, but the amount of constraints leave a lot of room for creativity to sprout up. Stay tuned for the harvest.

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”