Archive for February, 2012

The Victorian Kitchen Garden

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I am totally hooked on this 1987 BBC television show entitled “The Victorian Kitchen Garden.” As soon as I watched the first episode I was lost in the epic month-by-month restoration of a walled kitchen garden at the Chilton Foliat estate in Wiltshire England. Having been to England and reveled in each garden I visited this show was like a long overdue garden junky fix.

Each 30-minute episode is chalk full of interesting history on the Victorian era, English estate gardening and useful gardening tips. The cinematography is fabulous too, just what a starved gardener in the dead of winter needs to get the creative planning juices going. It is a Masterpiece Classic of gardening. And, the best part…there are 13 episodes to get you revved up for spring.

After each episode I sit back and dream, plan and wish my little homestead could be as functional and productive as this garden, certainly something to strive for, right?

I thought I’d give you all the chance to join the fun by posting each episode on the blog. Sad news though, I searched for the DVDs, but they don’t seem to be available in America. The links below are for YouTube versions. God bless people who take the time to post things we can all enjoy. Maybe if we all make inquiries about the series someone will show it again. We can hope, can’t we?

PBS, are you listening?

Enjoy the fun, folks! I sure did. Read the rest of the story »

Finding Farm Information Resources

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The internet is a wonderful place to locate information, find ideas and get answers to our questions. But, sometimes we just want to talk with a human being, connect with a living breathing person; that’s when having a list of available local resources comes in handy.

America was founded on agriculture. Over the centuries our national government promoted the improvement and expansion of farming through government sponsored programs and institutions. Agriculture is still a very important part of our society and many of the institutions or organizations formed to service future farmers still exist today.

Most of these resources are in every state, and sometimes in every county of the country. If your state is less populated or you live in a fairly urban area you may have to look to neighboring counties for the information you’re looking for. But, it is out there.

So — where are these resources and how can you find them? Read the rest of the story »

A Sad Mid-Week Discovery

Saturday, February 25, 2012

We’ve had a busy week so far and tonight was the first time it seemed like we could relax a bit while going about the nightly chores. It was nice outside. We’ve had a strange winter of fluctuating temperatures, rain and wind storms. One day its cold and winter like, the next the thermometer shoots up to 70 and somewhere in between the winds from the east start to howl. My poor fruit trees don’t know whether to flower or go dormant and a few bulbs are already pushing their heads up out of the ground.

But tonight, it was temperate with just a hint that colder weather wanted to push in.

With a cup of tea in my glove clad hand I made my rounds from coop to hutch to pen and through the garden, checking on feed, replacing water, collecting eggs, making plans. It was during this stroll that I realized I hadn’t seen my four little Old English hens or our old black Cochin. I looked in all their favorite hiding places and places where they go to rest and lay eggs, but none were there. I thought that maybe they had flown over into my neighbor’s yard so I headed to the fence and took a peak over. Nope. Read the rest of the story »

Roasted Chicken with Lemony Potatoes

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

There’s nothing better than opening your freezer and pantry doors and being able to pull together not only a satisfying meal, but one where almost all the ingredients are grown within a few miles of your back door.

Last night, after a day of cleaning and de-cluttering; giving away, putting away or throwing away, I fixed one of our favorite chicken dishes — Roasted Chicken with Lemony Potatoes.

The half chicken, weighing over three pounds, once clucked and scratched and wandered around our small farm. The lemons hang abundantly on my neighbor’s tree, and they are delighted to share with everyone on our street. The rosemary and garlic grows feet from the house. Only the potatoes, olive oil, red pepper flakes and salt came from parts unknown or far away. Read the rest of the story »

Planting for spring

and so it begins…

It the middle of February, technically still the dead of winter, but our unseasonably mild winter has every gardener itching to get outside and into the dirt. This weekend marks the official start to our growing season for cool weather crops, but we’ve had lettuces and spinach in the patio pot garden for weeks and they are now ready to harvest. Seems odd to be eating fresh greens this time of year when root crops and squash are the mainstay of any menu.

Seeds of other cool season crops and ones I know I want to grow are planted in pony-packs, peat pellets and flats and are incubating inside the farmhouse. Tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bell peppers and cucumbers are sitting inside on warming mats and in a few days we’ll have the beginnings of a summer full of fresh organic food.

The farm already has a huge garden complete with compost pile, raised beds, fencing for vine crops, berry patch, fruit trees, a chicken coop and a rain collection barrel. Whoever lived here before had no interest in living a sustainable life or even gardening for that matter. It has taken me years to clear out the debris, trim or remove overgrown and useless trees and rejuvenate the soil to the point where it could sustain life. But, we did it. The soil is rich and friable, crawling with earthworms in every spade that is turned. This is a huge accomplishment – soil that is alive!!

In a few weeks the soil will be over 45 degrees; dry enough that I can till and work in the mulch and compost that was laid on top during the winter months; warm enough to plant the first seedlings outdoors. I’m excited. Along with the seedlings, root vegetables like beets, carrots, radishes and turnips will be directly sown. Read the rest of the story »

City Farmers under Attack – Again!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I recently found this article “Are “DIY Slaughter Hobbyists” Destroying Your City?” in an Oakland, CA newspaper and wanted to share it with you.

We all know that the practice of farming in the city, homesteading a suburban lot, growing your own food on a condo balcony, is not everyone’s cup-of-tea, but to promote the practice as harmful and elitist is nothing short of ludicrous. I’m sure many people have had run-ins with uneducated neighbors, people who are ignorant about where their food comes from and how it is produced, and wish to remain that way. But, exactly how does raising animals qualify as harmful? And, when exactly did growing your own food, for food safety sake become an elitist activity that separates us from the less fortunate people in our neighborhoods. It begs the question.

Up until WWII it was commonplace for city dwellers with any amount of property to have a small flock of hens for eggs and meat, a garden for fruits and vegetables, all the while making soap and candles in their backyards to boot. The practice was even encouraged by city fathers as a way for people to eat better and more regularly without impacting or over burdening the food supply.

But now commonsense and self-reliance has left most people. And what has filled the void is dependence on others to feed us, ignorance about where food comes from and how it gets to us, but most of all, complete laziness about taking care of one’s self. Most people would rather put the responsibility of care for their family on other people – farmers to grow the food, processors to make into something that can be thrown in a microwave because people no longer cook, trucking companies to get the food within a few miles of them and a government to give it away for free when people no longer feel like fending for themselves.

Backyard farming is not a practice that should be run out of our neighborhoods, but one that should be encouraged and supported, not only by our fellow neighbors, but by city governments as well. There is so much good, besides good food that can come out of backyard farming, like education and the interconnectedness of man and animals and plants, connection with the natural world, healthy exercise, and an understanding of how our small farm fits into the bigger picture of world agriculture.

Fortunately for me my neighbors are kind, understanding and often times curious about what we do and why we do it, which has led to many great conversations and even a few new flocks of chickens on the street. Even so — I think I’ll give them a carton of eggs just to be safe.

Full Moon Farming

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Our full moon hides behind a bank of storm clouds tonight. It peeks out and then sneaks back in, covered by a mass of gray. There’s something about doing evening chores under the soft glow of a full moon that makes everything seem new and pleasant. She rises slowly over the tree tops, seemingly out of nowhere. She watches as we muck about in boots with buckets and bags, through dirt and mud and poo. She watches the night unfold on our little farm.

She watches as Brianne throws hay and grain into the lamb’s feed trough and bounces light off the water as it cascades from an overturned bucket when the water is changed; sparkling clean and clear like the reflection of a mirror when it is replaced.

The moon peers down on us as we move from chicken coop to rabbit hutch, replacing bedding, filling feeders and turning kitchen scrapes into meat and eggs. She laughs with us as we hunt for egg treasures in the far corners of the barn. The girls have gotten clever at finding new places to hide their eggs – under the hay wagon, behind a feed barrel, inside a bucket, but we always manage to find them before too long. I talk to Sophia and stroke her head as I hand her a small treat, congratulating her on another successful egg.

The new lambs seem to be settling in just fine. Some do so faster than others. After 30-years of bringing lambs onto a farm I have learned that they each have their own time. All we can offer them is feed, water and shelter, medical help when they need it and a small bit of attention. The rest is on sheep’s time – they either settle in or they don’t. We have two wethers right now, one a charcoal grey Hampshire cross, the other the same breed, but white with wool on its face, both weighing about 95 pounds. Brianne will show them all spring before selling them to kids who can show them at the county fair. Sheep come and go on this farm. Some are shown, some are sold and some are butchered to feed a mom and a daughter. It is the heart of this place and its owners.

As I start for the house I turn back and look at the barn, the coop, the sheep, the new vegetable beds ready to be filled and the partially built duck and turkey runs. I hear Sophia rattling around in the barn, the hens cooing in their nests and the roosters settling in high in the rafters. I hear the lambs chew their cuds. The moon watches all this too. I smile.

I think about spring and know it will be here all too soon. But, I also know that chores under a full moon are a gift of winter and I am pleasured by it. I continue to the house thankful for the soft glow of a warming fire and the big pot of soup that awaits.

The storm can rage all it wants now, for the farm and its owners are warm and safe and fed.

Creative Commons License photo credit: trustypics

She’s Not a Little Girl Any More

Friday, February 3, 2012

The sweet little Sebastopol gosling, we picked up on the way to a sheep show last March, is all grown up now. How do we know this? Well, we found this gigantic egg outside the barn yesterday morning. And I do mean gigantic. Poor little girl…the egg measured just over 3 ¼-inches. OUCH! Brianne was so excited when she bounded through the back door clutching Sophia’s inaugural egg.

But, our delight was tempered by the knowledge that even though Sophia is laying eggs there won’t be any goslings running around the farm. Her hatch mate and gander friend (Sebastian) died of unknown causes shortly after we brought them home. They were still in the brooder at the time. When I checked on them in the morning all was well, but in the mid-afternoon I walked by the brooder box and Sebastian was cold and stiff. We talked to the breeder and they had no idea either why he died, but they were kind enough to replace him. Read the rest of the story »