Homestead Update: Getting Those Plants in the Ground!
We did it!!! The garden is planted... almost! I still have six beds to go out of twelve, but I feel like that's a pretty decent accomplishment considering our garden is over 1300 square feet. Yep. That's bigger than our house, though I'm not sure how that's possible, since our house feels much larger. How do they determine square footage in a home? Do they only count the walkable spaces? Good thing I'm not the construction person in this family.
I spent all day yesterday, from dawn until dusk, putting plants in the ground. We marked off our beds, which I cannot wait to share with you later this week, and started planting. It took me a good twenty minutes of just standing there looking from my plant map, to the beds, to the seedlings before I actually could physically get myself to do anything. I was so nervous! What if they all died?! What if it didn't work. What if this entire garden ended up being for nothing. What if I had go out and buy seedlings, and the ones that I spent all this time growing were no good? Well, that last one still might be true, but the others... you just can't let yourself think like that! You have to try, right? Right. So I did. The first bed I planted was a tomato bed, which also has sweet peppers, basil, and parsley growing in it, and it felt pretty good. The tomato seedlings themselves were pretty large and sturdy. The pepper, however, those were just little tiny things that looked basically buried once in the soil. They probably won't survive, but I wanted to see what would happen.
Planting has definitely shown me my mistakes for the year. I planted way too many seedlings. Like, way too many. Even though we have so much space to plant, I am using a majority of that space for diversity. I am growing several different types of vegetables and then a few different varieties of most. We have two types of tomatoes planted and several different types of lettuce, even different herb varieties. A lot of my seedlings are going to go to waste, minus the lettuces and things that can be transplanted all season, so I won't be doing that next year. I'll use the trays to be more diverse and also have an idea of how much I actually want to plant. There was really no way for me to figure that out when we didn't have anything cut out yet. I've also learned that I really need to transplant my seedlings into larger containers as they grow, like the individual pots they have at nurseries, so that they can get a little bigger. My seedlings seemed so huge, but they're actually quite small. I hope they survive!
While I was out planting yesterday, the UPS guy walked up to our door carrying a very large and seemingly heavy package. I walked over to see what had arrived and he told me to watch out because it was heavy. "Did you get some fancy dog food or something?" He asked, apparently having memorized what a giant plastic bag felt like to carry.
"Oh, no! I think this is my worm dirt," I said, shrugging, and not really thinking much of it.
He stood there for a moment and then just shook his head and said, "Well... have fun with your worm dirt."
I then suddenly realized how strange that phrase must have sounded and also who orders worm castings off of Amazon? I do, obviously! I also ordered 250 red wiggler worms from Uncle Jim's, which was probably the best thing I could have done! I added 2/3 of the worms to each half of the garden and the other third to our compost pile. I cannot wait to see the difference! Our garden is already crawling with worms, but I still wanted to grab a few more to increase the production. On the instructions that came with the bag of worms, it said you can never have too many, so I am going to just go with that. If you're planning on buying a few worms, then definitely read the instructions! I almost passed them by, and I would have placed them in the garden completely wrong. You're supposed to leave them in a pile and then cover with damp newspaper. Do not spread them out! They like to live in colonies and will figure it out themselves.
Also, the worm castings! I love them. While we were at Country Living Fair, I talked with a couple who were selling organic worm castings and telling me about how they work. They're organic and are basically the only fertilizer you need. They're completely safe and natural and won't have any type of burning affects on your plants, which always scares me, even with my own compost that I'm making, though I'm sure I won't be using it until next year. The bag of castings actually arrived at the perfect time. All you do is put a handful into each hole you dig for transplants and then put the plant on top of it and finish as normal. If it had come earlier, I would have spread it around the entire garden. So far, this is the only thing I am going to be using!
For a majority of the week Tad has been wanting to wear work gloves like his grandpa. He begged and begged and begged for us to put on the adult work gloves, which would just continue to fall off. My parents took him with them to the hardware store and ended up purchasing a child's pair, and he just loves them. It's extremely difficult to convince him to take them off, especially since they have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on them. They're his work gloves and ninja gloves, duh mom. Tad really likes pretending he's a ninja or a superhero right now. Like, we constantly have to pretend we are fighting crime together, with very dramatic deaths and floor rolling and spin moves and super kicks. It's hilarious.
Time for a chicken update! As you can see, the chickens still don't have a "pretty" door, and things still need to be painted, but at least they're living outside happily. Did I mention that they moved into their coop? Yep! It's awesome. They love it, and I love that they're no longer living in our mudroom. It was fun while they were cute little fluffballs, but once they started taking monsters poops, I was ready for them to be out of the brooder. Their door is just a piece of plywood that we screw in every night, but we're working on it. There's just so much going on right now, the coop is working, so we'll make the decorative things happen later. I am planning to give a full coop tour and explain what it cost and how we made it, but I want it to be looking its best before that happens. Much like the greenhouse, it was built around friendly donations, resale finds, and some creative manipulation. I really love it, and I'll share some photos of the inside below.
As for the chickens themselves, they are just so happy being outside. I love opening the coop door every morning, and they all fly out stretching their wings and dancing around. I've been noticing a lot of pecking order action happening lately. Frankie is definitely at the bottom. I feel like I say that every week, but I actually witnessed some behavior that finalized the prediction for me. She's the last one to get to eat, the last one allowed to leave the coop to go outside, and is always cowering somewhere in the distance. There was a day where all of the flock was eating out of their hanging feeder and Frankie went to join in, only to have the back of her neck pecked by almost every other chicken, ganging up on her and telling her to wait until they were finished. Being a human who believes in equality for all, I find this really hard to witness, which seems silly. It's still not fun to watch! Of course I want to step in and shoo the other chickens away so Frankie can eat, but that wouldn't really make any difference. She would just follow the other girls and not eat if I tried making her.
From left to right: Arlene, Muriel, and Thelma.
Thelma is still a meanie. She freaks out anytime someone tries to hold her, and I can never seem to get my hands over her wings. She's really quite strong for being the littlest. Muriel learned how to jump up onto my lap! I have been unknowingly training them to come to me when I call. Honestly, I wasn't really trying to teach them anything, but now whenever I say, "Peep, peep! Girls!" they all come racing over to where I am, hoping there's a treat in my pocket. If I walk up to the run, they all gather where I stand, thinking I might let them out to free range or throw in a few mealworms. That works for me! Anyway, I was squatting down to their level to feed a treat. Muriel, being the confident and forward chicken that she is, jumped right up on my lap and but her beak right in my face. Who does she think she is?!
I've been experimenting by patting my lap and calling her to me, and every time she hops right up on my thigh for a snack and a scratch to the neck. I'll take it! It's adorable. The other girls are slowly following suit, but Muriel is definitely the most comfortable being around me. Dorothy, however, is the most docile and loves being carried around.
How sweet is this little outfit?! Fin + Vince are about to release their new summer collection, and it is to die for. I'll be photographing a majority of their clothes in the next week for a special blog post here, and I cannot wait to share. We got this outfit in the mail, and I immediately put it on Tad to snap a few photos of us playing outside. It's SO comfy. Soft and stretchy and perfect for romping about the homestead. The little pea illustrations just make it that much more darling!
Last Saturday, we took a trip to the first Iowa City Farmer's Market of the season and ate some donuts. We bought organic rhubarb and spring greens and filled up on local honey and maple syrup. I love having more knowledge about the food we are eating and essentially having the confidence to ask the farmers there about the food they are growing and just striking up a conversation. It was really fun, and I am excited for when more produce is in season! It was the perfect place to find the local, organic things I've been wanting like honey, maple syrup, and even meats. The flower man was not there - BUMMER - but maybe next month!
Today is Kalona's city wide garage sales weekend. This was a new concept for us last year, but it was SO fun! We found so many awesome things around town, like woven baskets and old crates. The entire town participates, and you can find some pretty awesome things. We are off to the Amish greenhouses to buy the rest of the plants that we need for the garden, and then I will finish planting!!! Hooray!
What are you up to today? Life on the homestead is pretty sweet.