Homestead Update: Begone Weeds! Summer is Here to Stay
Two weeks ago I looked out at the garden after seeding more rows of carrots and radishes wondering how on earth our family of three was going to tackle 19,250 square feet of crazy weeds. Tad doesn't count in this situation! But somehow we did it... almost. There are still weeds, some of them knee high. It's been a task, and I know that you know this because I talked about it in our last Homestead Update. I could never imagine so many weeds! But it's okay. I will take them over an aphid infestation or squash bugs, which I know are to come. The thing is, it's really not that bad. I've heard the horror stories, read about all of the things that can go wrong when it comes to starting a farm. While they sound scary and sometimes inevitable I have to remember that there are worse problems to have. A few bugs is not the end of the world, and it's something that I have to shrug my shoulders at, try to fix, and be accepting of when and if it fails.
Yesterday, we spent the entire day weeding, mulching, and picking off bugs. It felt good to have the entire family there helping. For the most part, this farming thing is just me working in the field. Kurt, my dad, works a 9-5 job. Jill is making our handmade goods and packaging orders to ship out. I am out in the field in the mornings and evenings trying to tackle everything else. That's my job! It's not impossible, but there are definitely moments where I wonder how in the world I will finish everything in time. I am learning really quickly the steps I should have taken early on to prevent problems like weeds. That's what we expected in our first year, though! We would learn things even if we didn't want to. This year I have learned that flame weeding and turning over beds is really important before you plant anything (though we did have to till this year to get started), that maybe some professional equipment would be nice to reduce my hours in the field so I can tackle issues earlier than I am now, that mulching right after transplanting is smart, that it's better to care for the plants you do have than continuing to add more, and that focusing on the square footage I do have is more important than worrying we don't have enough. We do! I think we probably could have added more CSA members looking at how much we are able to grow. There are days where I worry if we'll have enough, though, too.
Even amongst the weeds we have vegetables and flowers! Last weekend we attended our second farmer's market and had so much to bring it was mind-blowing. We brought kale, spinach, beet greens, salad mix, head lettuce, radishes, and scallions. I am excited for the day that we get to bring the fruiting vegetables like zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and more. Lettuce is kind of a hard sell, honestly! I am noticing that kale is not really a big sell here in Iowa, though I'm not that surprised. It still looks beautiful, and I love it! The nice thing is I can freeze a lot of what we don't sell for our own family.
Jill added some cuteness over by the chicken run for us to enjoy. It's been a little weird this year not taking care of any landscaping, though we have a pretty amazing yard anyway thanks to the previous owners of our farm. There are so many mature trees and shrubs that make us happy we don't have to worry about it. However, there are many days where I miss my tinier garden and greenhouse. I just do. It was a lot easier to take care of, or maybe it was just different to take care of. There was experimentation there and pretty photos. This is still beautiful to me... just different! I am finding it hard to explain. I like that my mom added the built up herb bed, which we are dubbing as the chickens' and ducks' all you can eat buffet. We used the brooding tub for some flowers and color. It turned out sweet! Soon we'll add some pea gravel where that dirt is to act as a walkway up to the coop since it will be trampled on often; one of our water pumps is also just outside of the frame in the bottom right corner. It always seems to overflow and trickle out onto the dirt towards the coop, making a huge mud puddle. The gravel will help control that!
The chickens and ducks continue to grow! I have been trying to spend more time with them each day so that we can get to know each other. The differences between the flocks are astounding, or perhaps between the species. The ducks are still completely afraid of me, but will welcome fresh food and water without caring if I am around. I definitely wouldn't say I hold them or hang out with them. They're more of an enjoyment from a distance, which is fine. That's just the type of animal they are. The chickens, on the other hand, are curious and funny. They're just the same as our old flock; now there's just more of them! Of course there are members of the flock that stand out more than others.
One of those members being this gorgeously colored Ameraucana that I believe is one of our roosters. He's been dubbed the name "Roo Roo." Very original. We keep saying that he looks like a hawk. His demeanor is very subtle and gentleman like. I try to hold him as often as possible, which I think has made him more docile already. I've noticed that he exhibits a lot of rooster behavior like sleeping at the top of the roost and breaking up hen squabbles. Though I wouldn't say he was in charge. That's been left to our Sapphire Gem hen, Loretta. She is always bossing everyone around, shoving her way to the top roost rung, sitting on top of the feed so no one else can eat, and fluffing her feathers to show off. She's such a diva! And rightfully so, she is a beautiful chicken!
I am still trying to figure out which of our Black Australorps is the male, but it's been hard! There's also a third rare breed hatchery choice chicken missing - not like a runaway, but I can't seem to figure out who it is. Or least, what it is. There's one chicken that's different from all the others and unidentifiable. I have ordered and have three Barred Rocks that look slightly different than this chicken, pictured above. Their stripes are closer together giving them a darker appearance. This chicken is lighter in color with thicker white stripes. There's a big debate on my personal Instagram over whether this is a Barred Rock rooster mistake, a Dominique, or a Cuckoo Maran (the only striped rare breeds my hatchery offers). She doesn't appear to have a rose comb, something I will need to try and look more closely at, but she's just different from the other BRs! I don't know - what do you think?
The days are growing longer. We spend most of them outside, with a majority of afternoons reserved for relaxation, computer work, and filling our bellies with good food. During the hottest part of the day, especially on those where the sun will just not let up, it's nice to come inside and spend time together. Tad and I have been working on The Little Oak Learning's summer curriculum, which is a nature based homeschool program for children aged 2-5. It's really cute! I decided to give it a try because I felt that it wasn't super strict and had ideas for things that Tad and I already enjoy doing together: talking about nature! I decided to get it started once our new set of honeybees arrived, and it worked out perfectly. We check the bees together and then go inside to do some craft projects and tell stories. We're not planning on homeschooling at this point, but I thought it looked like fun and it has been so far!
I've also been noticing the huge difference between me picking vegetables for Tad to try over letting him pick them himself. The other day while I was out working the field, Tad wandered up to me with a fistful of kale. Before I could allow myself to get upset, he held it up to me and said, "I picked this for you. Do you want to try some?" which is something that I often say him. My heart. I said yes, put some in my mouth, and watched with surprise as he did the same. It was magical! He picked it, therefore he wanted to eat it. The same happened the night I took these photos. I showed him that the peas were forming pods, and he asked if he could eat them, to which I said yes. He ate all of them. Not great for our customers, but so good for him and his little soul. Eat those greens, baby boy!
Farm life is good. We learn something new everyday. We sweat. For hours. We eat plants and watch the birds. We wave to tractors. We visit and are visited by our neighbors on a daily basis. I have never been so close to people in my entire life! We have some of the absolute best friends who also happen to be our neighbors. I couldn't even imagine up nicer people! Thanks for being our friends.
I hope you have a great weekend spent in the garden, dear readers!