Homestead Update: Almost Out of The Woods
Hello and happy Friday! We've spent the entire past week working hard in the field, counting down the rows until we are officially finished planting and ready to begin maintaining. You know, the point after all of the transplants and seeds are in the ground, when you water, weed, and mulch until harvesting begins. For the most part, we are at that stage with a lot of the produce. The kale, Swiss chard, arugula, radishes, carrots, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, peas, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, herbs, eggplant, peppers, corn, and beans are all in. I spent the first half of the week planting and staking over 130 tomato plants (we're growing Romas, Black Krims, Chocolate Cherries, Bumblebee Cherries, Washington Cherries, New Girl, and a few Lithuanian varieties sent to me by a friend). Now all that's left is to seed five more beds with collards, spinach, turnips, and more radishes and lettuce. I feel like I am planting so late, though I know this isn't true. In fact, I'm planting right around the same time that I did last year, even though my brain appears to think that I am living somewhere in the middle of June. This spring that we waited so long for came in with a bang, like a lion if you will. Not to mention there's still the cucumbers, pumpkins, and winter squash to put in!
Our flowers are growing steadily. I am so excited to be able to cut the first zinnias! We will be bursting at the seams with them along with sunflowers, snapdragons, dahlias, gladiolus, hollyhocks, asters, forget-me-nots, and lots of gorgeous fillers. I hope to fill the rest of the flower bed with ornamental kale. I am so excited for them! What is it about ornamental kale that gets me so giddy? The world may never know.
Our harvests are few. Next weekend we attend our first farmers' market in Cedar Rapids, though we will be short on the produce. Thankfully we have our stock of bulk dried herbs, herbal tea blends, and other handmade products. I have been harvesting rhubarb by the arm full for a couple of weeks now. I keep trying to let it grow as long as possible because I am hoping that it can last until next weekend. The crop I am holding above was harvested last weekend on Mother's Day. There was so much I had been waiting for, but it couldn't last any longer. The bright side is that I think we may be able to take some with us to the market!
We've also been holding out on the peonies and iris plants. My heart is so full and thankful to the previous owners of our home who planted over 10 iris plants and at least 30-40 peonies around the farmhouse and in secluded locations. They are about to burst any day now - crossing my fingers they can wait until Thursday, preferably Friday! One bloomed around Mother's Day, a fluffy baby pink Tree Peony. The rest are Garden Peonies, I believe, and I have absolutely no idea what color they will be! It will be a welcome surprise. Unfortunately, the iris plants have already begun to bloom, white and a deep purple... According to the wise, wise Google they bloom for about 2-3 weeks. Two would make me happy!
The ducks moved into a new home a few days ago, a little handmade a-frame coop gifted to us by our neighbors down the lane. This coop has a story. Our friends, John and Joni of The Barn built this coop years ago for a flock of chickens. When they were no longer raising hens, they gifted it to some neighbors who used it, and then they gifted it to us. We all live a few miles from each other; it's a neighborhood coop! The coop portion has a few nesting boxes attached, which of course will not be needed by our ducks. I filled the floor with straw and their food.
I was not planning on housing the ducks separately from the chickens. It was starting to become apparent that the ducks grew to be much larger than expected and were taking up a lot of room as well as making such a disgusting mess. While I had heard that ducks were messy as well as forewarned by everyone that it was so, I figured that as a neat-freak already, I could stay on top of the mess. And I did! I cleaned the coop 2-3 times a week. I used horse pellets because they are more absorbent than straw. I changed their water daily and emptied the water tray so it wouldn't stink. But they just smelled! They smelled terribly, not at all like a chicken stink, but more of a wet, wild stench that was unbearable after one night. I hate to make anyone feel like ducks are not worth keeping, but it's a good warning I suppose.
I have also been warned several times that male ducks, drakes, will kill hens. I am not sure how true this is... It's one of those things that I feel like people over worry about. I don't know, maybe it's common! Know that chickens and ducks can live together! I love this article by Fresh Eggs Daily about how to house them comfortably. But if you can have them live separately, it might give you some piece of mind especially when it comes to cleaning!
So far they are loving the new coop and so am I! They can get as muddy, wet, and stinky as they want because it's just grass; and I can move the coop to a new spot if it gets gnarly! Everyone wins.
Even with all of the chores, I still walk out onto the farm at sunrise and think, This is MY JOB. This is my job! And it's a good one. Lately I have still been feeling that pressure of operating and farm and figuring when to write it all down. It doesn't really happen in my normal routine anymore. I think that is the part that throws me off - writing now has to happen in the afternoon when I am running out of steam or late at night when I can't think straight. But it's okay. It's just an adjustment, one that I hope I can fight through without rushing!
The Aronia and apple trees bloomed; now they are finished and putting their energy into fruiting. The lilacs have finished. I am sad about that! Now it is time to watch the summer flowers open. We found a robin's nest built low in the crook of one apple tree. Each day we'd stop by and there would be a new, perfect blue egg laid. After watching for a week, a giant windstorm blew through the country, and we discovered the nest had been shifted and the eggs had fallen out and disappeared. So sad! I am thankful we were able to witness the nest, though. It was magical to see! Have you found any robin's eggs this spring?
That's all for now! I hope everything is good and well on your own homestead. It's an exciting time of year!