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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cancel School - It's Time to Plant!

As I have been trying to balance getting enough rest this trimester, keeping the kids' school moving along, helping Ethan with the farm/marketing as I can, and just managing family life, I have let some prime garden planting days pass by.

Last weekend, after a string of these nice days, we received about 4 inches of rain which made the garden quite muddy. Over the last couple days the garden has been slowly drying, but the forecast this morning showed rain coming around noon - with more rain to follow again this week.

Upon seeing this when I woke I decided that even if we had to tack on another school day to the end of our school year, I was rounding up my troops to plant as much as I could in my garden which has been calling for spring attention.

Even though I had tilled up the entire garden a little over a week ago, I pulled out the tiller to fluff up the soil in the rows that I was able to mark last night.  Some might say this extra tilling is a silly step, but I have found that when dealing with a garden my size I would much rather hoe through powdery soil when I plant.  It might take slightly more time re-tilling planting rows, but it ends up taking significantly less effort.

While I was tilling up the rows, I had the kids gather the sprouting potatoes from our cellar that I had cut last night in hopes of planting this week.  Each potato is cut in two or three portions, making sure at least 2 eyes are on each portion.  They are then set aside to callous over.  This step prevents disease from entering the potato.  Although I should have let mine sit a day or so longer, I decided this morning to take a chance since it might be now or never (or at least a few weeks more).

Once the paths were tilled, I stretched out my line (gotta love having extra stick in fence posts and reels of poly wire free!), started making the trenches for the potatoes and path for the peas with my hoe, and called in my crew who were all excited to help as they grasped the value of our garden from the produce we have been enjoying since last gardening season.

Caleb, who just turned 10 last week, was busy planting peas along the outer fence line using a milk cap I gave him to get the spacing I desired.

Caleb has learned the importance of these peas since I don't let my kids just wander and graze through the garden yet, mostly because of the excited little feet that forget to watch where they are stepping (although the kids do get to enjoy grazing some if they have come in to help.) These fence line peas, along with a couple fence line cherry tomatoes, are free for the taking when they are out playing.

After a quick lesson on positioning potatoes and being careful of the already forming sprouts, Isaac (5) and Hannah (8) helped me fill 4 rows of potatoes using sticks for a spacers that I had broken to just the right length. Jonathan (3) was Hannah's runner, bringing her potatoes down the row to plant as she zipped along.

As you can see, it wasn't the beautiful 70/80 degree sunny days that I missed out on last week, but it was temporarily dry.

Around 10:30 Ethan arrived back home with 2 lamb and 3 hogs from the locker. We quickly covered our 4 rows of potatoes and row of fence line peas so that I could help inventory the new meat.  Caleb and Hannah set to work on their math while Isaac and Jonathan played on Starfall, a wonderful online early literacy site that they get to enjoy during the random school times when Ethan needs my help.

Around noon the meat was inventoried and the rain began.  I still have 2 more rows of potatoes to put in, another area of peas, and some onions, greens, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower that I would like to get caught up on, but I am happy that we were able to at least get a start.

If I'm feeling well enough, we'll also try to plug away at some more school tonight (the older two continue with scheduled independent school in the afternoons while the younger rest) and maybe avoid that extra day at the end of our year. :)

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Tools of My Trade
This book is a wonderful resource on companion planting in order to grow foods without the use of chemicals. It details good and bad companions, how various plants work together for increased flavor, productivity, and pest control.  It includes information not only for the vegetable garden, but also for companion planting with fruits, nut trees, ornamental plants, and much more. Copies of this book can be found used or you can purchase a new copy from the link provided.

This book is a wonderful resource on the technical aspects of seed saving.  It shares about the heritage and classifications of different garden seeds (heirlooms, hybrids, etc) and how the different types of seeds react to seed saving.  It shares about how to effectively maintain pure varieties of seeds with respect to how the plant pollinates and through different seed saving techniques.  Seed clean and storage techniques are also described.  A large portion of the book is given to explaining each type of vegetable family, the classifications of families to avoid cross pollination, and how each vegetable family responds to seed saving and storing.  If you are interested in saving and keeping your own pure strains of seeds, this is a must have book!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Encouragements of Garden Perennials

After having my potatoes, onions, lettuce, and a few other early spring plants in the ground by April 5th last year, I would love to say that I have a decent start this year. Although I have managed to get the garden tilled up, that is really about all I have gotten done.

I was hoping this first trimester morning/afternoon/evening sickness and exhaustion would be fading a bit faster around the time the garden was ready to start planting, but it is still sticking around. And so I rest and wait - wait for that perfect combination of dry enough spring soil and a day where I have a bit of energy.

Today was one of those days where I had a little afternoon energy, but the soil was a bit muddy from the early morning rain. Even so, I took advantage of the energy I did find and stepped out to enjoy the warm day and fresh air.

As I did so, I was encouraged by the perennials crops and plants in and around my garden, the bits of growth in an anxiously awaiting plot of otherwise bare soil. I know that I will eventually get my spring crops planted, but until then I will enjoy the plants in my garden that wintered over and are now greeting me with their fresh spring colors.


 Asparagus started from seed - Enjoyed over a cup tonight!


Fall planting of garlic

 Red Raspberries in orchard adjoining garden

  Cherry tree in orchard adjoining garden

Peonies in corners of the garden 

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Changing Seasons

You may have noticed over the last couple months that my blogging and The Beginning Farmer's Wife Facebook page activity has significantly decreased.

I would like to say that I have been filling my time with spring garden preparations, keeping up with housework, steadily checking off those last days of homeschooling, taking care of outdoor farm needs, or even putting together a new blog post.

I haven't.

The garden is a bit behind schedule, the dishes and laundry and general housework are piled high, we've extended our school days a bit further into the year than originally planned, I haven't been as productive and helpful with the farm as I would like, and I've rarely thought about internet activity.

So what have I been doing?

Well, I've been doing a lot of laying on the couch staring or sleeping, and when I am not laying around, I am moving very slowly around the house trying to work up the motivation and energy to complete tasks that are piling up.

Yes, the seasons are changing.  But right now my change of activity has not been based on the changes for spring but on the changes we are excitedly anticipating late fall.

You see, there are a new pair of winter boots that are waiting to be filled this November, and the first trimester has always been a tricky part of pregnancy for me.

We'll get through it though.  After all, it's only for a season. :)

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