oops, it’s autumn (i mean winter)

Well… it appears that we haven’t done a blog post in roughly five months. Which then suddenly morphed to eight months after starting this. That’s unfortunate as many amazing things transpired in late spring and all through summer, then autumn. And some seriously unamazing as well.

Here’s the nutshell version of things, as we couldn’t possibly share it all, but first, happy autumn!… and happy winter!

Our first batch of 12 chickens are all grown up and laying. This is Raven, our champion layer of mostly massive double yolk eggs (this photo was taken before the run was enlarged to include the chicken compost she’s on).

I know we started with a lot more than that but one died, as you recall, 10 went to the neighbors per a prearranged deal, and I have since sold 5 troublemakers. It was either sell or soup and even though I bought all of the proper knives and accoutrements, I opted for the sell option this time around. Next year soup. Lots and lots of soup.

Our second batch of chickens (7 girls) are about to start laying too, probably right around the time of the ducks within the next three or four weeks. Update: a few of our second girls are now laying. Not a duck egg in sight.

Two of them are Olive Eggers, one is an Easter Egger that I got as a surprise bonus and to our Golden Cuckoo Marans so we have the beginnings of a rainbow egg basket. Just need some blues, darker greens and more chocolatey chocolate. That’ll happen by Spring for sure.

Our third batch of chicks (10 girls and 2 boys) may not start laying until Spring either, unless they want to be winter layers. I think I have two but I’m not positive yet. In retrospect, July born babies aren’t the best idea. They end up being freeloaders a lot longer than spring or late fall babies.

And then we hatched our own chicks, but that’s a different story. We have 33 chickens now. ♡

Ducks are disgusting little beasts as babies, I’m warning you. You need to change their brooder every single day and it’s… yuck. If I were a nicer human, I would have changed it twice a day. I’m not that nice.

Ducks as teens and young ladies (as in outside ducks) are freaking awesome! They will make you laugh and smile and totally crack up several times a day, every day. They are the best farm entertainment I could possibly think of (outside of goats, which will hopefully also happen in Spring). And the most impatient (try to change their pool water without them getting in until you’re done — not going to happen). Three more ducks are getting added to the farm in February.

The garden was kind of a sad story this year. It started awesome in spring, then turned lame with the start of summer.

Thankfully it got mostly awesome again after that.

We had previously decided that all we were going to grow year one was stuff for us to eat on our homestead and get to the market garden growing and farm sales next summer.

Anyone who knows me knows that I can grow the crap out of anything except (bell peppers from seeds — we frequently quarrel) but most of our garden just refused to grow. And what did grow, the deer mostly ate. Except squash. The whole no fence thing? Dumb idea, at least until things are established. We’re buying some fences within the next few weeks to protect our autumn garden.

(Yeah, that actually already happened — we now have about a 3000sf fenced garden area.)

After a couple months of little to nothing going as planned in the garden, we tested our water PH. Things had been growing amazingly when watered by the rain but when we switched to well water via hose, they stopped growing. That was the problem! 8.4 ph, I think it was. Or 8.6? Now that we have that sorted out, everything is growing miraculously well again… just in time for autumn. Except our rainbow fingerling carrots that got off to a poor start.

Fruit has been a totally different story. Plums, pears, blackberries and apples have been so abundant. We even had early blueberries and cherries.

Canning has been awesome this year! My favorite so far was a maple bourbon plum butter. Oh and blackberry pear jam. We also canned spiced apples, chai spiced plum butter, cinnamon anise pears, plain blackberry jam and we’re about to do some pickled apples this week. (That was months ago.) I’ll keep you posted on that one. (Next year I’ll do a post on pickled apples.) I’ll probably also do some apple and pear sauce. (Didn’t happen.)

Cabin one still isn’t done but we literally didn’t touch it until about a week or two ago because we’ve been too busy with animals, orchard planting and other plantings… and everything else. I think the last time we worked in it was November? Maybe December? But the floors are now all done, all of the electrical is done, drywall and insulation is about to start going up in the living room and kitchen and everything will soon be textured and painted like that.

Holy crap, and we have a bathroom sink! With hot water to wash your hands! I can’t find the pic right now but I’ll share soon.

Paul ended up having to get a job, we discovered that he miscounted and we’re 9 pieces short on drywall so the cabin is once again in hold.

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planting and growing 

Everything is growing like crazy now in this crazy beautiful April weather of alternating (heavy) rains with 65-78 degree sunny days, at least for here. The peas and raddishes, kale, lettuce and chard, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and herbs are having a race to see who can get the biggest and tallest fastest, and so far the peas are winning. (I actually started this post almost two weeks ago and it originally said radishes, but the peas are kicking their butt now).

Our curvy personal garden (see last post) is pretty much fully planted plus a new bed, and the rest of the land is getting worked and planted with food guilds and companion plants that will one day create our food forest oasis. To clarify, we’re 100% done with our personal homestead gardens — everything is either planted in the ground or started in the greenhouse. We wanted to make sure we got that done straight away so we could focus on our farm next, and an actual much needed income.  

The fall garlic is monstrously huge and we recently planted a spring crop, but it’s not doing as hot so I’ve decided to stick solely with fall garlic planting. That being said, I reserve the right to change my mind, of course (I’m not the most patient person so could be speaking too soon). See the bottom leaves with a bits of yellow? We pull those off and sautee the green parts and compost the yellow. Yum! The bed behind it is all early cabbage, greens, nasturtium, marigolds, purple broccoli, onions, a rainbow of carrots and soon-to-be-planted cucumbers, dill and basil. (It’s probably 20′ long.)

Knowing full well that beans “should not” be planted in our zone until mid May, I decided to test fate and plant a few beans early. Like five weeks early. And here you go, beans! (Heirloom/organic blue lake bush beans to be precise.) That part wasn’t a lack of patience but rather an “I have a gut feeling our last frost this year is actually early April and not May 1st”. Rebel farmer? Yeah, probably. Gut truster? Always.

Lots of sprouting babies. I feel like a proud mother of millions right now. Trees, veggie, herb and berry starts, and our impending chicks. More on the baby girls next week though. (Or sooner since I’ve failed to publish this and they have arrived.)

We received some awesome seed potatoes from our friends and because we have lots of gophers and moles and such, we decided to do them above ground in big pots this year. This is a crap photo but they’re actually peeking out to say hello.

The greenhouse is blissfully thriving. Cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, a variety of peppers (a lavender bell pepper was the first to sprout!), various types of basil, oregano, sage, marjoram, thyme, asparagus, etc… all happy and growing. There’s a bit of a wasp situation in the greenhouse too, but let’s just not even talk about that right now.

One of our first permaculture guilds will have this lovely crimson autum olive in the center. It’s a great nitrogen fixer and the guys love the berries (they kind of make my tongue itch). Autumn Olives, or silverberries can be extremely invasive in some areas but not Oregon. We have an amber one too.

The Apple trees are now blooming. I love mother nature! First the apricots, pears and plums, then the peaches, almond and nectarines, then the cherries, and now the apples. Well, all but the honeycrisp… those are more of a late season apple. 

I could seriously take photos of apple blossoms all day. 

I planted a nasturtium under each of our apple trees and made an interesting observation yesterday — three are growing so far, and only under the three honeycrisps. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation but I don’t know it… I just noticed things.

The whole east side of the gardens are planted with various lavender types and rosemary as deer hate them. So far, no deer in the gardens but I don’t want to speak too soon or curse or jinx us. My dream is fence free gardens, and although 99.7% of people seem us crazy, I’m hopeful it will work.

The strawberries are blooming too. We only have four this year (for personal consumption) but next year we’ll have at least 100.

planting a homestead, growing a farm

I couldn’t possibly tell you how many things we’ve started in the gardens and greenhouse, but it’s a lot. We’re starting with a more “homestead approach” and planting all we know we’ll eat, and adding to that to branch out into full fledged farm over the next year or couple. I guess currently we could be considered tomato, pea and garlic farmers as that’s what we have enough of started to sell, so far. And orchardist offerings, of course. 

The first meandering bed is growing, nicely lined with fallen logs and limbs, and more gifted from the creek. The paths will eventually be lined with wood chips (oh how we dream of owning a wood chipper!!) and access is easy on each side. In the wider spots I’ve put stepping stones for ease of harvesting so I don’t have to step in the soil or squish things. I say “I” only because there will be no lack of ease for my tall fellas — little ladies tend to have short arms, and I’m not even 5’2″. It may not be the best utilization of garden space but I love it!! Next year we’ll add another heap of organic compost and another log to raise them up a bit more, holding them together with an earthen mixture such as is used in cob or strawbale construction. This is 75% planted already with lettuce, a few varieties of kale, peas, raddishes, carrots, onions and spring garlic, plus borage, dill (next to a blank spot for future cucumbers), marigolds and soon, nasturtiums, etc. It’s still funny to me how tall these look in person and how shallow in photos, but you’ll see… it’ll be great!

Lots of things are sprouting and growing… peas, kale, chamomile, onions, thyme, tarragon, basil and tomatoes. I only just planted cucumbers and dill so those will be soon, and the rest to follow. Hopefully our eight dozen peppers sprout soon — I have big plans for those babies. I’ll take photos when I don’t have to use a magnifying glass to do so. In the meantime, here’s one of our massive pears in bloom. We’ll have a good 872 pounds of Bartlett. We trimmed all the dead junk out of both (And the old apples) and are all so very happy. 

Things outside of the food gardens are blossoming like crazy too. We had one visible bud on this tree a couple of days ago and now it’s covered in big pink blossoms. It’s a Camellia Japonica and it sure is pretty! I dont think the flowers fall off immediately like our other Camellia. It’s funny… I keep talking about making a space inspired by The Secret Garden but it’s starting to become that all on its own. I can’t wait to have the cabin done so we can rebuild the main house into a woodsy faerie house. It’s already in the perfect setting for it. ♡

Part of our inspiration comes from this Jacob Witzling pacific northwest tiny house… or really his building style in general. He’s amazing!! We don’t really have the funds to do the whole house in such stunning wood, but we’ll be thrilled to at least have the front and garage look similar upon approach. I don’t care if the rest is ten different kinds of recycled siding painted a lovely hue of “wood”.

I spent the evening at the creek last night as the sun was starting to set and it lit the trees ablaze with brilliant light. It’s a wonder we get anything done around here with so much stunning beauty to get lost in at all times.

On the way back up to the house, what did I spy but a Fairy Slipper Orchid! And then I noticed they’re actually everywhere along the path. These are and have always been one of my very favorite flowers, along with trilliums. We apparent have those too, but I haven’t yet happened upon any. Regardless, I’m buying and planting some one of these days.

The orchard is almost officially complete. We received a few more trees and have only two apples and a persimmon to plant this week, then the orchard is done… until we get two fig trees and four meyer lemons. The above photo is of a Sweetheart Cherry. Isn’t she beautiful! 

I’ve been juggling between planting several varieties of lavender and rosemary around the periphery of the garden, sowing seeds in the garden and planting a kazillion things in the greenhouse while the husb has been working on the cabin. I’m refraining from posting pictures so we can do a full unveiling but the kitchen has been 100% gutted (drywall, insulation, cabinets, sink and all), sill plate replaced, some structural bits replaced, and new concrete floors ground and ready to seal once the living room floor is done. He rocks!

More lovely blossoms of the week. I am over the moon with all of the spring beauty. It’s like christmas every day, waking up and rushing outside to see what’s new. I found out that a large portion of our muster bulbs are Lucifer flowers. They’re gorgeous. Devilishly beautiful? I have no idea why they’re called that. We also have an abundance of uncommon daffodils, hyacinth, regular irises and bearded iris. Or so we shall see.

Another project underway is the chicken house rebuild. This is a screenshot of the Eco Paint colors I narrowed it down to because my girls need a pretty house. The interior and trim will be egg blue and the exterior will either be wood nymph or glass bottle. Really, I’d like to incorporate all colors (and more) but this zero voc, no chip, eco and pet friendly paint is not cheap ($73/gallon!). So I may just have to get Lowe’s zero voc exterior paint and color match (~$30/gallon). We are 100% ready for the girls’ arrival in three weeks except for their house and I couldn’t be more excited. Well, and except for their massive outdoor area too, though they’ll be free range ladies much of the time. And they’ll be inside babies so we have plenty of time.

We also got a load of 8′ peeler cores (and helped our neighbors pick up three more loads). I want to use them as fence posts for the massive chicken run because that would be much lovlier than ugly metal t-posts. Yes, I know they will need to be replaced and aren’t the most efficient option, but… in this particular case I don’t care. 

We’ve done and experienced a lot more than that this past week but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head. I’m chicken distracted (that’s a real affliction). Our little rainbow flock is starting out with three each of the following: Black Australorp, Golden Laced Wyandotte, Partridge Cochin, Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Buff Orpington and Delaware. I’ll still need to get (3 each) Amaricauna, Cream Legbar and Oliver Eggers but that’s a secret (husb “authorized” me to get 12 to start). I got the 1 and the 2 confused — it’s called chicken math. Oh, and a couple of roos. ♡ Shhh.