Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend= Cookout, Manure, Gardening, and Free Range Chickens

    I feel like I say every weekend is a busy weekend, but this weekend was busy and productive so I have the results to prove it. Aside from the customary cookout, I spent the majority of the weekend working outside. On Sunday morning, my mother and I shoveled two truckloads of free horse and goat manure to use on what will someday be Capri Dames Farm; my sneakers and back will never be the same. Did you know that it's much easier to shovel manure with a spade than with one of those flat-ended shovels? Who knew?
    Much has been done on the gardening front. Sunday afternoon was spent planting more veggies in the raised beds. Carrots, vermont cranberry beans, green beans, zucchini, butternut squash, New England pie pumpkins, and onions (seedling transplants) joined the peas, heirloom lettuce, and spinach that have already made their appearance. I don't want to jinx myself, but so far, there's no sign of the ground hog and my peas have gone unmolested. I still need to order about another yard of loam to fill the last bed; this needs to be done ASAP. Then I'll be able to transplant the eggplant, a few tomato seedlings, and maybe some tomatillos, but those poor things don't look like they're going to make it. I really need a seedling heating pad for the warm weather plants.
     Monday was spent wedding and de-crowding the second flower bed in the front of the house. It looks much better than before, but we still need to put more bark mulch down and fill in a few holes with an appropriate plant. That will be an ongoing project. Monday was also clean out the chicken coop day. The litter is now composting in my compost pile.



     The pullets (a.k.a. "The Girls") are doing well. They are growing like weeds and today was their first adventure outside of their run. They took to it nicely, exploring the gardens and eating bugs. They took a tour of the yard, never straying far from one another. I was worried about them venturing into the road, but they had no interest in it. The Mischevous One was none too pleased that he had to watch The Girls from inside, but The Snuggler was just interested in staying cool on this 85 degree day.
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     Overall, it was a busy but productive weekend. Of course, now that I'm sitting down, I'm starting to think about all the things that need to be done next weekend. . . 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Spinach Zucchini Soup

As a fan of soup and easy, yet healthy cooking, I have to recommend making this spinach zucchini soup from Healther VanVourous' IBS website. Of course, you don't have to have IBS to enjoy this soup. It only requires a few ingredients and is a great way to use those fresh garden zucchinis and easy-to-grow spinach. It's also a great way to get your green vegetables without stressing out about how to get those green vegetables. 

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 1/2lbs zucchini (trimmed and cut into 1/2inch thick rounds)
1-2 (12oz altogether) russet baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups of low sodium chicken broth (you can use more if you like a thinner soup)
1 6oz bag of baby spinach (or fresh from the garden)
1 onion chopped (I forgot this when I made the soup and it was fine)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onions and saute until soft (about 8 min.). Add zucchini and potatoes; stir to coat. Add the four cups of broth and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup in blender (I used a food processor) until smooth, adding some spinach to each batch. Always be careful when pureeing hot liquid. Return puree to the same pot and stir to incorporate with the broth. Thin with more broth if needed. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste (I skipped this part and just seasoned each bowl as I ate it- either way will work).

Spinach Zucchini Soup Before Meeting the Food Processor


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Chicks Grow Up

The chicks, or I guess I should say pullets, have moved out of my office and into their coop. I was keeping the heat lamp on out there for the first couple of nights when the temperatures dipped, but the weather has been decent at night and pretty hot during the day (when I say hot, I mean 70s) so the heat lamp has been off and the girls have been getting used to the new surroundings. I've lined the floor of the coop with a couple inches of hay topped with another couple inches of pine shavings. They are so cute when they're all nestled down into the litter together to go to sleep. On the down side, they aren't exactly cooperative about going back into the coop at night, which means I get eaten alive by mosquitoes chasing them around the run; I now reek of vinegar, which the internet tells me is supposed to stop itchy bug bites; The internet lies. Anyway, here are some pictures of the girls enjoying their new digs.


The Mischievous One watches the chickens from inside.




Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chicks, Seedlings, and Other Updates

     I'm back. I missed a week of posting because I was busy with goat school last weekend. For anyone wanting to know more about raising goats, whether it's for dairy, meat, or fiber, I would highly recommend going to Stony Knolls Farm's goat school. Anyway, things are progressing here despite the never-ending rain. The chicks are growing rapidly, and I think we're going to have to start calling them chickens soon. If the weather cooperates, we'll try to move them outside next week, which I'm sure they'll appreciate; they fly out and run around the office as soon as I lift the lid to their brooder.



    The seedlings are doing well for the most part. The Amish paste tomatoes were a bust, but I have five moskvitch tomato plants and two cherry tomato plants that are coming along nicely. I have some pumpkin seedlings that are huge so I'm hoping the rain stops and summer starts, which will allow me to start hardening these seedlings off to plant outside. I don't know why I started pumpkins indoors, because they could definitely have been direct sown; I just like planting things. I did direct sow an heirloom lettuce, spinach, and peas this week so I feel like it's really gardening season.




    The husband and I started doing some landscaping in the front of the house this weekend. We got a whole bed done before rain drove us inside. There's something about getting a bed weed free and laying down a fresh layer of bark mulch that feels so good and productive. Here's hoping next weekend brings nice weather for gardening.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy, Busy.

     What an insanely busy weekend! I volunteered for potato planting day at a local organic farm this Saturday and, let me tell you, digging trenches with a garden hoe is a lot more work than I could possibly have imagined. Being bent over, lifting heavy buckets of potatoes, and walking across a field, planting for three hours wasn't a cake walk either. All of the grumbling aside, it was a fun learning experience and a satisfying way to spend a Saturday morning. Then the husband and I went to Home Depot and spent a boat load of money on lumber for four more raised beds. Of course, doggies needed to be walked and chicks cared for on top of all this.
     My plan was to get housework done, flower gardens organized, and raised beds made on Sunday. Not even close. I had to go to the local gardening center to order loam and compost to be delivered, but I wasn't the only person with this bright idea on one of our first really nice weekends, so I stood in line for what seemed like ever before I got to order. Then it was off to buy groceries where, again, I wasn't the only one. I finally got home well after noon.
     The day was so nice that I decided to bring the chicks outside and introduce them to their hen house and run. I put them in the hen house and waited for them to mosey on down the walk into the run. They didn't. They all scurried over into the corner and huddled close together, so I had to give them a little nudge outside. Once out there, they took right to it, pecking in the grass, walking around, peeping and pooping (of course). At one point, one of the Rhode Island Reds actually picked a worm out of the ground. When the other chicks came over to investigate, she took off, trying to keep the find all to herself. It's pretty hilarious to see a chick run full steam with a worm dangling out of her beak. Eventually, one of the other chicks got a hold of the end of the worm and a tug of war ensued until the worm was torn in half and they each got some. They're only about three weeks old, so I took them in after a couple hours. It will be nice to be able to keep them outside so they have more space to roam.









     Meanwhile, the husband insisted that I learn how to use the power saw and screw gun so that I could help him put the beds together. It was another good learning experience (who knew using a screw gun required so much muscle?), and I was glad to be able to help him since he's always helping me.

This deeper bed will be good for carrots and onions.


The pointed ends help keep them anchored and allow us to hammer each side as much as we need. Then we use weed paper on the inside so that we don't have to dig out the grass.
     Needless to say, it was a busy weekend. I went to sleep Sunday exhausted and with sore muscles. It was a little preview as to what it will be like to be a farmer.