Homestead Update: Expanding the Garden, Darker Days, and A BIG Announcement
Oh boy, this week and the last one were a bit of a doozy for me. Not because they weren't great; the weather was beautifully chilly and dark, Tad was as pleasant as a two-year-old can be, and I was able to accomplish some things I had been wanting to do. But I have been in a strange funk for a bit with my own creativity. I have a lot of plans and ideas for the months ahead, and I think I finally starting to get a little tired, worn out, and even anxious heading into the future. I hate saying busy, so I think I will use the word full... it has been a truly full nine months this past year. Wow! And just looking back and seeing what has been accomplished for our business, for our daily lives with what we eat, do, and use less of. I am truly and humbly proud to say that, we did it. Now I need a nap! Ha! But naps are far and few between when you're running a backyard farm and a business. I absolutely love it; just feeling a little bit moody I suppose. That's okay; I am here to say it's okay! I might just need to take a few more naps in the next days and remember what my style is, try to be a little nicer to my own creativity and stop critiquing my own work so much. Do you ever feel this way, too?
As the weather has cooled down, we've had about a week's worth of rainy days. The sun has been hidden behind clouds, and I am being reminded of last year when photos were more difficult to accomplish. I don't think it's any sort of secret that I enjoy bright, happy photos with lots of whites and muted highlights. It's harder to get that when there's no sun shining in the house! One of these days I'd like to write and share more about the behind-the-scenes of operating our blog and Instagram accounts. I just don't know if now is the right time... I don't feel like we have the numbers for me to teach something or mentor someone about that, you know? I suppose I hold myself back because I don't feel like I need to justify any reason for why I do either of these things; it's my job, it's my art, and I love it. Instagram is just a business for me, just like this blog is, but it's also my honest and true self, just not every tiny bit of me or else I'd have no privacy! That's the best part about working our own brand: we get to decide the limits.
Either way, dark and moody photography is not my usual style, but I am tempted to try experimenting with is this late autumn and winter! It's the perfect time and why not try a new style of art? You'll have to let me know what you think!
The garden is slowly but surely evolving into something new, yet again. I am finally beginning to notice some decline in production, growth, and the greens fading into duller shades of yellows and browns. It's really quite beautiful, and while I was excited to get on track and either plant more things for winter and even harvest all of the lettuce I planted for autumn, I am just not feeling up to the task. I'm letting the bugs have their way with it, and I even found a slug on my parsley which was weird. I've heard slug horror stories but had yet to see one until October! The photo above looks like an infestation of red lady beetles, but they're actually Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles, they just ended up editing kind of red. I was afraid they might be eating my plants because they were starting to gang up on some of them, but I ended learning that they also eat insect pests like aphids, much like their cousin the Red Lady Beetle. They're only pest-like when they start coming into your house as the cold weather creeps up. Leave them be in your garden!
I have several crops that didn't make it to full maturity soon enough, my broccoli and cauliflower being a couple. I missed about 2 weeks there due to cutworms, who took out my first plantings. Ah well, it happens! You win some, you lose some. My lettuces look fantastic, and I am actually becoming really tired of eating salad. Anybody have a great buttercrunch lettuce recipe? I have about seven heads left that need to be eaten! I wish greens preserved a little better. My carrots are no where close to being ready, which I find strange since I planted them at the perfect time. Maybe I won't be getting any until November! We've had another round of radishes, lots of giant turnips, spinach, arugula, chard, eggplants (so many eggplants) and our herbs are still going strong. It's about time to say goodbye to the garden and plan for next year. In case you missed yesterday's blog post about composting, I am planning to share my thoughts on not putting the garden to bed next week. Stay tuned!
I do have big news for this week, however, and that is that we are officially expanding the garden. This is something that has been on our radar for a while now, and I have mentioned it before, but I never want to confirm anything until the process is actually happening. But it is! We have the sod cutter rented, and unless it downpours this weekend, we'll be cutting out sod and tilling the earth behind the greenhouse. We're tripling the space that we already have, which sounds daunting, right? And why would we do that? We considered selling at the farmer's market, but then our dear friend, Cara who owns Wild Farm Soap, had an even better idea... let's start a CSA! WHAT? Yep. It's being thought up right now, and it's still in early stages. Again, don't want to confirm anything, but just want to put it out there because I am terrible at keeping secrets. Ha! A CSA. We'll partner up with Wild Farm Soap, who raises organic chickens and pigs, and bring organic, homegrown food to a couple of other families. It's going to be awesome. I am tearing up just thinking about it! That's really all I can say for now!!!
Our chickens are doing well, and I am excited to share more about beekeeping with you, though we won't have any bees of our own until around May or June it appears. I am still really interested in hatching fertilized eggs, but that would probably be too much for me to handle in this upcoming year. Our girls actually have not showed any signs of being broody yet, which is good! We get around 4 or 5 eggs a day now, which is more than a couple of weeks ago. I thought it would be the opposite as our days are now much shorter. We did add a hanging light in the coop, away from the actual coop portion in case of a fire hazard with their bedding, and I think that has helped them with the transition. Again, I am really not all about pushing egg production. If anything, I am just happy to have any eggs at all and find the process extremely fascinating! I also have to say this: clean your girls' coop. Living in a large farming community, I have seen a fair number of chickens coops (not all of them well taken care of) and came across a really sad looking flock of chickens last weekend who smelled so heavily of ammonia and had lots of feathers missing. I clean our coop about every two weeks, more if necessary, and it just keeps our chickens happy, healthy, and free from being pecked.
I also read a really interesting tip lately about implementing more dried herbs into your chickens' feed rations to prevent mites?! Not sure if this is research proven, but I am all about adding in more herbs wherever possible. I have a really great herbal hen treat mix recipe here if you need some ideas, but I don't think there a lot of restrictions on many common herbs to give chickens. Thankfully, we are doing well over here and not dealing with any health issues. I'll always be happy about that! Preventing pest issues and disease is the same as IPM - preventative and cautious efforts so it just doesn't happen at all!
As much as I am sad to see the garden lose its green vigorous plantings, I am grateful to have a few months of quiet, of reflection, and time to plan for the year ahead. We still have a little less than a month of time to spend eating greens before they're really gone for good. Again, you could keep planting for winter and use a cold frame, but I don't think I'll be trying that this year! I've chopped most of our winter squash up and placed it in freezer bags for quick stews and pies later in winter. I still have so many that haven't been touched that I am not sure if I want to use fresh or if I'd rather just see how long they last, eventually being added to our compost pile. They make really beautiful waste free decorations. I am honestly just excited thinking about next year's plants already; talking about pumpkins makes me dream about growing varieties that are more interesting like those faded green ones or the kind that are so lumpy, bumpy, and glorious.
What are your garden dreams for next year? I sent out a reader survey last week to see what garden questions you had or what types of gardening posts you were looking for on this space and came back with a LOT of great answers. The most frequently asked one, however, was, "How do I get started?" and I want to say, of course, go back to February here on the blog! But looking back myself, a lot of what I wrote about this past growing season is more my experience rather than advice on where to begin. Which is why I am really excited to write more advice based blogs this winter and next year, as well as release a brand new FREE course on starting up a backyard garden. I am learning that my mission and passion on this planet is teaching others to grow their own food and create sustainable homes; that's just what I want now. So glad to see that you are out seeking answers to that. I hope I can help answer your questions and get you on the right path to growing yummy things! (: