If you haven’t already, read part 1 here. Let’s jump right into part 2 of our garden update.
I have mixed feeling about growing cabbage. It feels like it takes forever for them to grow and they take up so much room. I think next year we will plant them closer together and see what happens. I am trying to decide if they are worth it for us to grow. I’m still not giving up on them but I don’t want to give them an entire row next year.
I really loved the Chinese Green Noodle bean last year so much so I decided to grow many more plants this year. They’re great for stir fry meals and they don’t have strings. This year, I also added the Chinese Red Noodle bean. Unfortunately the flavor of the red is not as good as the green. I’m not sure I will grow them again next year. I will have to research red bean recipes before I decide either way.
I was so confused about another bean plant in my garden. I thought I only planted red and green noodle beans in one particular row but this other bean plant came up. I thought for weeks that my the seed packet had been mismarked. I harvested the beans but didn’t know what to do with them since they were an unusual bean. They are red and have a kind of waxy texture. I’m sorry to say I never ate any. I worried they might be some kind of poisons bean plant that was accidentally switched with my red noodle bean packet. Well, when I finally figure out what they were it was a little late to start harvesting. They are called the Moonshadow Hyacinth Bean and apparently can be poisonous. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I decided to buy these. I’m not fond of things that have the word POISONOUS in the description. One thing is for sure about these plants is they have beautiful eye catching flowers. Everyone who toured my garden commented on them. Sadly, I will probably never plant them again. By the way, these beans can be eaten but it must be when the pods are small and tender.
Amaranth really is a beautiful easy to grow eye catching flower. We grew three different kinds of amaranth this year -Love Lies Bleeding, Hopi Red Dye and Golden amaranth. All very unique and pleasing to the eye. Loves Lies Bleeding is the variety I planted last year. The flower heads clusters are droopy and the leaves are green. In most catalogs that I have seen these seeds sold, it appears that the flowers are red but they are actually a dark pink. We added the Golden and Hopi Red Dye amaranths this year. Each amaranth has a unique desirable quality. The Golden amaranth is all gold, both leaves and flowers. The Hopi Red Dye leaves, steam and flowers are a deep burgundy color. As the name suggests, the Hopi Red Dye amaranth was used by the Hopi Indian tribe to make dye. I believe they also used the seeds to color foods.
Amaranth is a winner in my garden. The three varieties I planted all made great cut flowers for bouquets. Since most people have never seen amaranth flowers, they always offer the awe factor. Amaranth seeds can also be harvested and used for cooking.
I finally got smart and only planted one variety of corn this year. In years past I tried to grow different varieties close together not realizing they will cross pollinate and create strange versions of corn. Last year I did a popcorn varieties next to an eating variety. The two created some crazy corn babies :).
You can plant two varieties of corn close together but you need to be sure they have different pollinating times. I plan to plant two different varieties of corn next year but with different days to harvest lengths.
Pumpkins and Winter Squash
My favorite pumpkin, Fairytale Pumpkin, cross-pollinated with another variety and created some crazy but cool looking pumpkins. I was a bit disappointed because now I can’t create another pumpkin man for Christmas. Oh well.
We did get a decent amount of my favorite squash this year, Hokkaido Stella Blue. Last year I didn’t plant very many because I didn’t know they were going to be so good. This year I decided to plant a lot but only ended up with a lot of little ones and I am not sure why they were not as big as last year. Perhaps it was the way I watered or maybe because I didn’t use the Mittleider fertilizer mix. I will be doing things differently next year. I am hoping to get more T-frames built so that the winter squash and melons can grow up instead of on the ground. By the way, Hokkaido Stella Blue makes the best squash soup EVER!
Berries and Grapes
Our raspberries did much better this year. I was happy with the amount we got but the size of the berries were small. I think I may need to fertilize them more next year.
Strawberries were yummy when we had them. We didn’t get very many even with having a lot of strawberry plants. I think the plants need to be replaced. A local farm let me take up some of their old plants. What I didn’t realize when I took these plants was that as strawberry plants get older their fruit production goes down. I get now why the farm was happy to have me dig up the old plants. Apparently the variety of strawberry plants I have only produce well for a few years. We will buy new plants for next year. Probably an ever-bearing variety.
Grapes didn’t do all that well but that’s because we didn’t water them properly. We did get one decent cluster of grapes from one of the three vines we have. My hope is to get more grape vines to boarder the garden with next year.
A garden is not complete without flowers, if you ask me. I love the colors and pleasant smells they bring to the garden. We planted a lot of varieties this year. We had Chamomile, Asters, Zinnias, Four O’Clocks, Hollyhocks, Amaranth, Sunflowers, Calendula and Dahlias. Sunflowers are a must for our summer garden. The plan for next year is to plant them every two weeks so that I they come up all summer. The saddest part about planting large sunflowers is that eventually they die and since they are large it’s very noticeable when they are dead. Hopefully planting them in succession will solve this problem.
Not only are flowers lovely to look and smell, many of them also are good for medicinal purposes. The plan is to plant more flowers that can be dried and added to my medicinal herb chest.
I’m so glad I finally finished this update! I’m not sure if you enjoy reading my updates as much as I enjoy writing them but I hope so. The great part about journaling your garden experiences is that you have a record of things to do and not to do for future gardening years. Besides this blog, I also have garden notebooks I record my experiences in. My notebooks are more for taking notes, writing out plans and drawing plans of my dream garden. If you aren’t already, I would encourage you to start journaling as well. You will not regret it .
How did your summer garden grow? Are you growing a winter garden?
This year’s summer gardening season was good in a lot of ways. I feel it could have gone better but overall it was good. Like every year, I made some mistakes. Thankfully, I usually learn from my mistakes and do better the next year. That’s what I love about gardening. It’s like piecing pieces of a puzzle together. The joy that comes from finding the right piece to fit the puzzle. I just LOVE it!
Last year we had a ton of tomatoes that had to be picked green because the frost came before they were ripe. This year the same thing is happening except I have been able to harvest some ripe ones all summer. We still have a ton of unripe ones. Thankfully we went through a warm spell that gave the tomatoes a few extra weeks on the vines but we still ended up with boxes of green tomatoes. We’re going to have ripen them in the house like we did last year.
The T-frame we built for the tomatoes worked much better this year than last. Though, I think it would be even better next year because we will have it all ready from the beginning. The hope is since the vines will be trained earlier, they will climb better up the ropes.
We ended up with way more cherry tomatoes than I meant for. I really like the varieties I chose ( Pear and Sun Gold ) but there were just too many of them. Next year I plan to plant only one or two cherry tomato plants .
I think we did good with the summer squash this year. We designated one corner of the garden where I planted 3 plants together in the same mound. Last year we had more squash than we could handle and I didn’t want a repeat of it. I was happy with the amount that came from these three plants.
Greens (Lettuce, Kale, Chard, etc.)
For some reason I have had a horrible time with growing lettuce. I started early this year but the squirrels also found it and munched on it until it was gone. I covered it but apparently not good enough. Then I tried again in a container and after it finally got enough to where I think I could harvest, something else started eating it. I think the birds or mice found this batch. Kale and chard are doing really well. I planted a red and green chard as well as a wild kale.
This was the first year I’ve grown tomatillos. I was very impressed with how much fruit they produce. I’m making lots of Salsa Verde. I think next year I will only grow a few plants though. I purchase a purple Tomatillo variety to plant next year. I think purple salsa will be fun to make.
I was pleasantly surprise at successfully growing bell peppers this year. We didn’t get that many and they were not that big but seeing as how I thought I could never grow them, I am happy with what we ended up with. I grew them from seed too. In years past I tried growing them and they just seem to go so slow and never produced any peppers. Not sure what made this year different.
I purchased a six pack of Cheyenne pepper plants in the spring. We ended up with a ton of peppers from those six plants. The plan is to dry them and grind them up to make chili powder and for the medicinal herb chest. We will probably not need to grow them again for a few years since the harvest was so good. I also purchased jalapeno pepper plants and have more than I can handle. Note to self, grow fewer jalapeno plants. There are only so many things you can do with jalapenos.
We ended up with a decent amount of delicious watermelon. We had they same problem as we had last year though. All the watermelon ripens at the same time and we can’t eat six to eight large watermelon. I need to plan a watermelon party next year or something. I did end up freezing some water melon puree. Not sure what I am going to do with it yet but I will figure it out .
We only ended up with a few cantaloupe and they were delicious. A few were lost to the gophers. I really don’t like gophers . Next year we plan to grow our melons up the T-frames. Hopefully that will save the melons from getting eaten by gophers at least.
I was really happy with our Garden Huckleberry bushes. We had about three bushes that were only about two feet tall. They seemed to produce a lot for the size of the plant. Some kind of critter also liked them because berries would go missing when I was just about ready to pick them. The nice thing about this plant is that they keep producing berries all summer. I think we will plant more huckleberry plants next year. Since these berries are toxic when eaten raw , I will need to put up a warning sign or something. I used the berries to make pancake syrup. Since they are tart it’s good to mix them with some other type of berry and sweeten with honey.
Garlic and Onions
I am so happy that I decided to plant lots of garlic last year. I ended up with a lot of bulbs that will probably last me for a while. I do go through a lot of garlic so this fall I decided to plant twice as many. I also planted a variety of garlic that produced a large garlic seed. The seed can be planted and can be harvested either the first or second year after planting.
We also ended up with lots of green onions and a decent amount of white and red onions this year. I am so excited about the yellow multiplier onions I purchased from Territorial Seed Company. These onions are like bulbs and one bulb can produce 10-12 onions. Talk about sustainable! I may never need to buy onions again.
Another bad potato year. I think I know the piece of the puzzle that is missing here. I need a very loose soil mixer for them to grow in and a better way to water them. I’m going to take the advice from this article my friend shared with me. The plan is to dig trenches and fill them with dead leaves and other mulching material this fall for next years harvest. I am hoping this will solve some of my problem with growing potatoes. Plus, I will get an early start on the planting season. I pray it will be successful.
Well, that’s part 1. Stay tuned for part 2
So much time has passed since I last gave an update on the happenings around our homestead. I’ve decided to split the updates between a few posts. Today I am going to give the farm animal update.
I really have no idea how many chickens we have on the farm. At one time I knew but I haven’t counted in a while. I know I have more than 40. One of the last batches of chickens we raised are the Dark Cornish bantams. As of now, we have eight of them. Four roosters and four hens. The smallest of these bantams is affectionately called Tiny. She is really cute. We will likely keep the four hens and one of the roosters. The roosters are beautiful little birds and their little crowing is so cute. Every time I hear them crow it makes me smile. Unfortunately, I have to have the bantams caged all the time. We had a either a small hawk or larger falcon kill one of them a few months ago. My husband made a nice little nesting box for the hens. And those little girls have started laying their tiny little eggs. These bantams will be our 8 yr old’s 4H birds.
We currently have sixteen ducks. Thirteen are Anconas and the other three are Pekins. I now have parents of the female Pekin we raised earlier this year. The three Pekins will be my breeding stock for next year. We also had our first duck meal last month from two male Anconas we butchered. They didn’t have much meat but the flavor was great. My family and I thought they tasted similar to beef. I can’t wait to try different recipes. I used every part of the carcass. The bones were made into stock and the fat was used for frying. Duck fat is great for frying! The plan is to raise more ducks for meat next year. The Pekins and male Anconas will be for meat and the female Anconas will be our egg layers.
The Chukar Partridge
I probably should have done more researched on raising chukar before we decided to venture into it ourselves. It appears that when chukar reach breeding age they become very violent. The are very pretty birds but very mean to each other. The oldest one of the group was responsible for at least one death. As of now we have four of the nine we hatched out. I guess I expected them to be more like quail but they are NOT. My husband is building a very nice chukar cage so we will probably keep them for a while but I’m not sure if they will be a good bird to raise. We have yet to have a chukar meal. If chukar meat is amazing then we will likely figure out a way to keep them.
Two of our four LaMancha does have been bred to a nice looking buck with very nice breed lines. The breeder says that he will likely produce some flashy kids with a very dairy conformation. Our other two does will be bred this month and come spring we will have a lot of babies running around here. And LOTS of milk! I will have to let you know about our plans with all the goat milk on a future post.
We added a new horse to the “farm”. She’s a 15 hand, 15 year old registered Quarter horse named Cheyenne. She’s a real nice mare but unfortunately went lame a few weeks after we got her. She is on the mend and will likely heal completely but I am taking it slow with her. I don’t want her to reinjure herself. The other two horse are doing fine. Though the two mares are biting at each other a lot. Both of them have bare spots on the manes. I’m not happy about that because this means they will probably need to be kept apart all the time. I’m hoping to get more riding time in these next few weeks before the cold sets in.
So, that’s it. I’m sure I could share much more but this blog post would never end. Next post will be an update on the garden. Lots of stuff to share about the garden.
The Farm Animal Count
- A bazillion chickens (somewhere over 40)
- 13 ducks
- 4 chukar
- 9 turkeys
- 5 goats
- 3 horses
- 2 dogs
- 2 cats
How are things at your homestead?
I really shouldn’t wait so long in between posts. There is so much I want to share about what’s been happening at the Fair Weathers Ranch. If I did write about all of it this post would never end. That’s how much has been going on around here. So, I am going just jump right in.
It’s a-growin. Garden Area 1 is now full of growing onions, strawberries, garlic, peas, chard, bok choy and kale. This is the first year I have had a active garden so early in the season. Garden Area 2 is all planted and slowly growing. The first couple of weeks after transplanting are usually slow and uneventful. But, I got everything in and I am happy about that. I had been battling a pesky ground squirrel that was determined to eat all of my lettuce. Fortunetly that particular squirrel is not a problem anymore thanks to the Squirrelinator. The Squirrelinator is so awesome. I have caught 7 at one time. I usually catch around 20-30 in during the spring season. I think once the trap caught 14 in one day! If you have a ground squirrel problem, you need the Squirrelinator.
Gophers on the other had are a bit trickier to catch. My best defense against gophers is my cat, Nick. He thinks gophers are delicacies because he loves to catch them. Unfortunately, sometimes the gophers do damage before he finds them. Garden Area 1 lost several onions and a couple of garlic before we were able to get the gopher. I am trying out a gopher deterant that I hope will work. One of my neighbors uses it and say it works well in small areas. It’s called the Sweeney’s Mole & Gopher Sonic Spikes. It’s supposed to drive moles and gophers away by sending a sonic pulse into the ground. It claims that 2 spikes can cover up to 15,000 sq. ft. I highly doubt it works that well but I am hopeful that when I place it in an area where I know there is gopher activity they will leave my plants alone. We will see.
The Farm Critters
We have had lots of baby birds hatching this past month. So far we have 9 Chukar, 5 ducklings and 5 poults (turkey babies). I actually hoped for more chicks but sadly something went terribly wrong during incubation. And I hate to say it was probably my fault that 7 unhatched baby ducklings and 5 poults died. I don’t know for sure if all of them were my fault but I think most. I got confused about the humidity levels and I think they didn’t have enough air for hatching . It’s sad. After all the hatching was said and done I decided to do a egg autopsy on the remaining unhatched eggs. That’s when I discovered the 13 of my 15 eggs had dead chicks in them. Some were fully developed and others seemed to have died earlier on. So that’s the life and death part of the happenings around our homestead.
We still have the 5 chicks that I hatched for the purpose of meat. I am not sure if I mention this already but we purchased 11 chicks from a hatchery a month and a half ago. Two of the hatchery chicks died so now we only have 9. These chicks are now in the shed outside but all the other baby birds are inside. Well, the baby ducks spend the day outside and then we bring them in at night. On top of that, we have 16 chickens, 2 turkeys and 2 bunnies we taking care of for our friends while they are away for the summer. The bunnies are fun since we don’t have any of our own. My little girls is loving holding and feeding little bunnies.
I also have more turkey and duck eggs in the incubator. I think this time things will go a lot smoother. At least, I hope so. Especially since I have 14 Muscovy ducks eggs that I bought off ebay in the incubator as well. I am really excited about these ducks because they are very useful for the homestead. They are excellent foragers. They eat FLIES! That’s enough reason for me but they also grow very fast and I have heard they taste like veal. One of our female Ancona ducks went broody so we may even have more chicks running around here too.
Now about the new goat. We got a new LaMancha dairy goat and her name is Sweetheart. She really is a sweetheart too. Our BoPeep is giving us a consistent 1/2 gallon a day but we found ourselves in need of more milk so we bought a new goat. We were actually thinking about some how getting a Dexter cow but that didn’t work out. We may end up buying one next year but for now the goats are working out just fine. With our new Sweetheart we are getting 1 1/2 gallons of milk a day. Yes, that is a lot of milk but with my desire to make cheese, kefir and yogurt it is the perfect amount. Any extra milk we have we give to the animals. The chickens, ducks, cats and dogs love the extra milk.
Kids, Family and Such
Our eldest daughter will be away living in the mountains for a few months at a summer job. She seems to be really enjoying herself. I do miss being able to call her though. Our son is being a teenage boy . He still loves listening to and playing music. We decided to keep him home at least part of the year next year. He was struggling in some of his classes. Not sure if it was the teachers, class sizes or laziness on his part but we have decided that he needs more one on one attention. And little munchkin has been keeping me busy. We live in an area were there are few children her age so she is constantly asking me to play with her. Trying to come up with activities for her to do is going to be challenging. At least she has the animals to keep her company .
Well, I think that’s all I will share for now. I have much more to share but I don’t want to “talk” your ear off ;).
How are things at your homestead? Are you enjoying the summer?