Homestead Update: Harvest in Abundance
It's Homestead Update time! And what a wonderfully busy past couple of weeks it has been. My mornings are no longer starting as early as they used to, around four o'clock AM. Rather, I've been sleeping in until six, to which I head outside for a morning release of feathers and fur, feed the animals, and gaze upon what all of the hard work created. It's overwhelming sometimes, the garden, but it is also a bringer of peace and satisfaction. There are many days where I am out in the field, pruning back vines or pulling endless weeds and thinking, "Why did I do this? Why didn't I just keep my pretty little garden that I could take photos of?! What was I thinking?!!!" and at the same time, when I bring in a huge harvest basket full of summer squash to feed other people and think, "This is it! This is what it is all about. Look at what I can do!"
Every day is an internal struggle, sometimes an external one as well. Farming is hard, though not the hardest thing I've ever done (I bet you can figure out that one!). It is endless hours of work, hours of strategy and theory, hours of hoping that what you sowed eventually grows into something worth harvesting.
In the Garden
There have already been epic fails and surprise successes. Those surprises are apparently called "bumper crops" to fellow farmers. Whatever you call them, they make me pretty happy! Does it still make it a bumper crop when you kind of knew it was going to happen as you put the transplants out? Our kale is just insane right now, and I over-planted it for sure!
- All of the extra flower seeds that we bought and thought we could maybe just direct sow... hollyhocks, lupine, strawflower, and the list goes on. I ran out of room to plant them in the greenhouse and am now paying the price for not just making room.
- No-till... I still think the concept is awesome. But we've already tilled the paths in the garden because we couldn't keep up with the weeds. Or rather I couldn't keep up with the weeds alone. It was either till or hire help, and tilling won this time. Next year we are definitely investing in weed cover fabric and beginning the year with some new practices to help keep the weed level at a minimum.
- I cannot grow cabbage! The heads never form. What is wrong with me?! More extensive research to go into that one because apparently people really like cabbage!
Even with the fails, the harvests make up for everything. Our plants are thriving and the bounty is beautiful. I am so happy that while the garden may not be pristine and beautiful, the food is growing and we are satisfying the needs of our customers and ourselves. That is what truly matters!
Right now we are harvesting things in the garden like zucchini and other summer squash, bell peppers, onions, shelling peas, the last of the kohlrabi, broccoli, salad mix and arugula, cucumbers, kale, Swiss chard, dill, cilantro, rosemary, lavender, thyme, summer savory, mint, lemon balm, and tarragon.
The flowers are blooming each day, and it feels like a sea of candy colored petals every evening that we walk out to harvest. The zinnias are so prolific that we have to harvest them almost every day, and for that I am truly grateful. Especially since they are my favorite flower! The varieties that we planted look like sherbet to me when grouped together. Jill has been having fun putting bouquets together, and I am glad that she has an eye for things like that because I do not! We make a good team, even when our business changes up a bit. I grow the things, she makes them look beautiful.
There are other flowers blooming rapidly now, too, like sunflowers, snapdragons, calendula, cosmos, and bachelor's buttons. The dahlias are almost there; we had to pinch back the first blooms to encourage low branching and more flowers. It worked with our zinnias, so I have high hopes that the dahlias produce a decent amount of blooms this year! The gladiolus are taking their sweet time, and I hope to see their colors sometime in July. I cannot believe we are at July already!
In The Coop
The chickens are doing well! The thing with sharing our homesteading, now farming, journey with an online audience is that it can feel like we are never doing it all "right" with caring for livestock. But that's okay - what is right is what is best for the birds and our family. For now, I am free ranging them. It's kind of like people are either on one side of that or the other (free range them so that they don't feel confined and get depressed and you have healthier eggs! don't free range them so they don't get eaten and destroy your property!). We just let them do their thing. There is a fence around most of our garden, and we watch them closely. It's good! They're happy, we're happy. No one has died yet of an attack (we lost one chick this spring unexpectedly, though not from an animal attack). If that does happen, you know, it happens! It's nature. I can prevent that as much as possible, but it does happen on a farm.
I walked into the coop a few days ago in the early AM hours, before everyone had jumped down from the roosts, to open their tiny chicken door. I was up early to start harvesting greens before the heat came in. Our rooster, originally named RooRoo, began to crow which he had just realized he was capable of doing only days beforehand. I smiled at his adolescent crow, and as I bent to pull the door up to release the flock, another mottled and screeching crow bubbled out of what I thought was a Cuckoo Maran hen... Nope. It's a rooster. A Barred Rock rooster, just as some friends on Instagram predicted it would be. Great!
When I ordered our chicks, I had asked for an Ameraucana rooster (RooRoo) and a Black Australorp rooster (yet to reveal himself). The Barred Rock rooster was a surprise. Now I am wondering who else is a surprise dude in the flock. Oi! That's okay. If it's only the three boys, at least we have enough hens to keep everyone satisfied. If not... I don't really know what my next move will be. Will I stew them or put them on craigslist? It's a mystery, one that I am sure I will have to uncover sooner or later. I know there are going to be many opinions about that situation as well!
Summer on the farm has been so good for us. We are outside for the majority of each day, and we are so tired at night, but in the best way possible. It feels good to work my body until it tires, to look back on all of hard work that we have done to make this piece of land share all of its potential. The first set of windows has gone up in the general store, and my dad is working on the entrance of the shop this weekend. I think we will definitely be able to open by September or October! I cannot wait for that day.
Each day we discuss what we want to expand on the farm next year, what we think we can handle. We go back and forth on taking out the rest of aronia bushes for more acreage to plant on, or leaving it be. I am still not sure what our best move is yet, but I know that I love being here. These days are so full, so happy, and so pleasant. I don't want summer to end!