Spring here has been about as close to Eden as it gets. Despite cool wet days we are assaulted by an ocean of blossoms and waves of flowers, and have been for a good six weeks now, if not more.
Spring has been anything but dull here lately. Three of our four pregnant goats are due between now and the 28th of this month. Their bellies have grown enormous; their udders are swelling by the day and their teats are at last elongating; they are rotund, and, I suspect, miserable and ready to be done. And now we are waiting. The other day we put Janet into isolation since she is closing in on her time to deliver. We shaved her udder and put her in her pen where she has now been in blissful isolation for three days. We will need to use our newly arrived hobble before we shave either Leah or Marguerite because neither is as docile or good-natured as Janet is, but soon they will be in the maternity ward as well.
Then all hell will break loose – we will be caring for kids, milking the mothers twice a day, and feeding the kids three to four times daily. We will also start to make our own chevre, feta, ricotta, yogurt, butter, and cream right from our own animals (at last, hooray!) Our milking supplies arrived yesterday and all of the supplies we will need for kidding from a goat supply company in Georgia (yes, such things exist and thank goodness for the internet).
But in the midst of all of this it will be time to put in the vegetable garden, and that will prove as much work this year as last, in part because we are still learning: last year we did some things wrong, some things right. We are going to start to use boxes in combination with raised beds because they are so productive, but that now means building about thirty boxes, anywhere from 10’ x 3’ to 6’ x 2.5’, each anywhere from 1-2 feet in height out of cedar. I hit the number 12 mark yesterday so am a third to halfway there after only three or four days of construction. Yesterday we had 20 cubic yards of mushroom compost delivered and I intend to put wire on the bottom of each box (fine mesh) to keep the voles out of my crops (note to self: cats hunt everywhere and everything EXCEPT what you want them to hunt!) and then use the tractor’s front end loader to fill the boxes with the compost.
This is what 20 cubic yards of mushroom compost looks like, and it takes a lot of tractor trips into the garden to feed the soil!
Each section of the garden will have three rows of boxes, three rows of crops in ground, and then an extra row or three for “permanent” rotating crops (such as strawberries). We also leave space for some fruit trees and mini flower meadows to attract pollinators and beneficial insects – plus it’s just nice to have flowers with the veggies. A full quarter of the garden we’ll plant with sunflowers as feed for our chickens this fall.
Raised beds going into the garden will be neighbors this year to our Walla Walla onions, just planted today to the left of the boxes in the picture.
Lori and her sister Nancy have proven themselves master weeders; the whole garden has been taken over by weeds and turf, hence our desire to use raised beds for the sake of better control. But some things will need to stay in the ground: strawberries and our asparagus patch for starters. Both had been taken over by weeds and the situation was dire, but Lori and Nancy did a great job clearing the beds, and today we cleaned up a raised bed of turf pulling and cutting it all out, then put down some 0-20-0 fertilizer (bone meal), forked it, put 5 inches of compost on top and then planted about 200 Walla-Walla Sweets. We also used the tractor to fill up three raised beds with compost. I’ll add soil tomorrow or this weekend depending on the weather and then plant about 30 feet worth of cabbage for kraut this summer and fall.
You have never seen such succulent spinach as the stuff that grows in the raised bed, filled with compost, in front of our greenhouse!
If the greenhouse looks a bit empty it’s because by day it gets to over 100 degrees in there even on a cool day, so the cool weather crops need to be taken out to be hardened off; at night it stays – even on 34 degree nights like last night – a comfortable 60.
A few green house tomatoes, mescaline we’ve been eating all spring, and two flats of cabbages – all await transplant into their spring and summer homes.
What on Earth will you do with 100 tomato plants? Sauce my friend, sauce!
All the work in the greenhouse has already made my hands chapped, since I’ve been mixing dirt and spreading it in containers for seedlings. The greenhouse is now full of a prodigious amount of veggies and herbs: the tarragon has exploded, a big deal for me since I’ve never had success growing tarragon even in the summer let alone the cool Oregon spring; I lost my greenhouse cucumbers and most of my greenhouse tomatoes to dampening off but learned from that experience, so we now have lots of tomatoes and peppers (I’ve not yet planted the cucs); our mesculin, lettuces, and dandelion greens have long since exploded; we are desperate to get our red and green cabbages in the ground; our kale and broccoli rabe will be much happier in the ground too, and our fennel has exploded. Life got much much better for the heat lovers once I ran a wire out to the greenhouse; I plugged in a fan and a space heater that I put on at night and leave on until the sun hits it in the morning.
We also found a local supply of organic unfiltered apple cider without preservatives that we have started to buy up and brew as hard cider. It will be nice to have that as we get into the long hot days of summer, with all the work it entails. It’s easy for me to forget that in addition to all of this I will need to start to plan my courses at Linfield for next year, when I’ll start to teach Ancient Greek History in the Fall and Ancient Roman History come spring – a further incentive to get as much done as possible soon, so I can start to think about how I want to structure those courses.
On the left is the beefy Titus Pullo with his sidekick Lucius Vorenus on the right. Ave, Galle, nos ededituri salvamus te!
On the poultry front, our two young Brown Comb Leghorn roosters, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, have started to try to crow; Titus is the alpha rooster, and I think will be giving Sulyeman a real run for his money. We had no idea just how nasty roosters were however, so we are going to choose the most handsome of our Leghorns as master of both flocks and the other two will be destined for processing with our red rangers in a few weeks. Older tougher birds we reserve for stock and food for Puck! My guess is that Titus will end up the winner – and be a pretty big guy too boot.
The old flock out on pasture, destined to eventually face the tyranny of Titus Pullo.
Janet in her stall, waiting soon to become “Mama” Janet. Because she is confined at the moment she gets special attention and walks outside daily.
Apart from that we are waiting. Waiting for new life to arrive on our farm. Waiting for Eileithyia to safely deliver our girls.