Homestead Update: Spring's To-Do List
Happy March! I finally am feeling like the possibility of spring is approaching. I am excited to spread my wings once again and get started on the many projects I have been planning here on the farm and beyond. This month will bring seed starting for our main vegetable crops, the ordering of new spring chicks, development of our demonstration gardens, chicken coop building, field prep, and our first show of the year at the Farmhouse Living Show in Grandview, IA.
I snapped this photo of our cats in the snow drifts last week. I can’t believe I got one of everyone looking! They’ve been living out in the tool shed attached to the chicken coop and thankfully have made it past the worst of winter. I have a feeling we’ll be welcoming some farm kittens this spring, and it makes me all kinds of happy. Kittens are the best! If you’re local and in search of sweet little kittens we’ll be sure to send some home with you.
You might remember, too, the little stray kitten we welcomed last spring that was just skin and bones. He’s now that huge orange fluff! Honey cat is definitely my favorite, but don’t let the others know!!
With the beginning of March comes the beginning of almost all seed endeavors. I had to put off starting a lot of my flowers until now because, well, we don’t have a greenhouse. At first this made me panic. If I can’t start the seeds super early, then I won’t be able to use any of them! Truthfully, I have a feeling that this spring is going to be much like the last: late. We didn’t plant until well after the last spring frost date last year, which is April 25th for our zone 5b. Starting my flower seeds late will simply mean that I’ll be transplanting them in the ground at the latest possible date, and well, that’s probably the best case scenario anyway. Less risk of them getting hit by a late frost and better chance of having blooms even later into the season. I think it’s a win-win, and I am feeling much better about it.
As for vegetables, I will be starting far fewer varieties indoors this year and resorting to transplanting. We just don’t have the room for a bunch of transplants and also, they stay in the trays for so little time, I find that I have better success with direct sowing. If I can direct sow a plant, preferably, then I am going to do so this year. It will be fun to see if our productivity improves because I think I lost a lot of crops last year by transplanting when they were still too young.
This month I will be starting:
Tomatoes (paste, cherry, slicing, and heirloom), peppers, broccoli, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, eggplant, and Swiss chard.
That’s it! It feels a little off, but I am excited to see how our crops fair this year with less poking and prodding.
We’ve all decided as a family that adding more chickens to our farm would be nice, though they’re going to need bigger living quarters. We currently have 34 hens, and while their coop is plenty big for them, I’ve been noticing a few choosing to sleep in the nesting boxes instead which is not ideal. We are turning the part of our shop/garage that has the coop and tool shed into a vegetable cooler. That will be a fun project to share! The chickens will be moving out of that space soon and into a new coop - a tinier replica of our store! I am really excited, and I know my dad is too to be creative while building it. We want to make sure that we have a lot of room as we plan to add chicks to our farm each spring to keep the egg layers in constant rotation. The new coop will be able to house up to 100 hens.
On the day of my engagement, Kyle and I picked up 26 new chicks to celebrate. We will be running the produce/farm end of the business together this year and figured it would be a sweet and rememberable way to celebrate this moment in our lives. We simply stopped at the feed store, just like when I bought chicks for the first time three years ago, and picked out the breeds we wanted that were available. The selection has broadened quite a bit since my first flock, so we purchased 8 ameraucanas, 6 cinnamon queens, 6 heavy breed mix (I am honestly not sure what they are - little yellow and apricot colored fluffs!), and 6 sapphire gems. So excited and love them already! They are brooding in our country store, and it’s been so sweet to hear their tiny peeps while we work.
Will we get ducks again? Well, seeing them in the feed store bins makes me really want to, but sadly we probably won’t. They just weren’t our style of livestock, even though a sweet fluffy duckling is exactly what I want to see at the beginning of spring.
As for work around the farm, I am hoping we begin our much needed prep within the next handful of weeks. We have piles of torn out aronia berry bushes scattered all across the field that we will either burn or mulch. This will be spread back onto the field as organic matter or composted. We recently purchased our first tractor, which we will use to till and prep our beds. It will be a ginormous help as we had to borrow our neighbor’s tractor last year for early spring prep. At some point in there I also want to get a soil test. I’ve honestly been putting it off because the field is so large now, but it needs to be done so we can correct any imbalances. Thankfully we have really amazing, rich, dark soil. I am so thankful for that.
After the field is prepped, I can start planting! My earliest dates are written out as March 25th, but that is completely dependent on the weather. If it’s still frozen out there, the season will be pushed back. This happened last year. I am crossing my fingers that we get a nice head start!
Spring is full of so many exciting things. I cannot wait to bring some much needed flowers and fresh things into the house.