Green

Green grass.

With all the rain we’ve had this winter and the unseasonably warm temperatures, the grass has sprung up early.  It’s a good 4 plus inches around the barn, and I may string up the electric net and let the goats out to graze on it this weekend.

Parsley reemerging from the ground.

The parsley and chives have come up.

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Yesterday was just a beautiful winter day.  Sunny and in the 50s, no wind.

Raindrops on tree branch.

But today we start back with rain… and that means more mud.  But I shouldn’t complain, we’re still considered in a moderate drought by the USDA Drought Monitor with several more inches needed to catch up.

 

New Year, New Farm

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Well, not exactly.  We actually bought our new farm late last summer but haven’t done much more than get all the animals and ourselves here and get our old house ready to put on the market.  But we have many exciting things planned for 2017 and will be slowly starting to implement them.  I say slowly because until we sell our old house we will be limited in what we can do.

Our new farm is about 15 miles from where we used to live.  We upsized our acreage from 8 to 65 and downsized our house from 2300 square feet to 1800.  And we now have the most beautiful barn I could ever imagine.

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It’s made of oak with concrete floors throughout.  One side has five horse stalls, the other side has a large tool room, tack room and storage.  Upstairs there is a 1900 square foot loft.

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The house was built in 1900 with an additional wing added in 2004.  The kitchen, living room and master bedroom have the original hardwood floors.

We have so many plans for our new farm, but the priority is on building the infrastructure.  First and foremost is a perimeter fence.  There is some fencing in place, but it’s old rusty barbed wire not suitable for our animals  We’re replacing it with sheep and goat fence and then will add cross fencing to allow for rotational grazing.  The second priority is reworking one of the driveways.  It was an absolute nightmare getting our 4-horse trailer here.  The main drive is steep with hairpin turns and the other drive is narrow and all but impossible to turn onto with a trailer.  We also need water and electricity in the barn.

As we work on the infrastructure, we will be working on our livestock goals as well.

Goats

Oberhasli dairy goat

We currently have three Oberhasli and one Alpine senior does, two Oberhasli and one Alpine junior does, and an Oberhasli buck.  We will be adding some new bloodlines in 2017 from Haycreek Oberhasli and hopefully a doeling from the Buttin’ Heads line.  Our long-range goals here include building our herd to at least 10 milkers and offering a goat milk herd share.  Our short-term goals are to continue making our line of goat milk soaps and selling breeding stock.

Sheep

Tunis sheep in the snow

Our Tunis flock consists of three ewes.  We will be adding a ram and two or three more ewes this year and have lambs next spring.  Our long-term goals are to raise breeding stock, freezer lamb and wool from our sheep, plus have a little sheep milk to play with in cheesemaking.

Pigs and Chickens

Flock of heritage breed laying hens

Chickens and pigs will likely be making a reappearance on our farm this year if time allows for building additional structures for them.  We plan to raise a few heritage breed hogs for on-farm sales of freezer pork and possibly breeding stock at some point.  Some layers would be welcome but not a huge priority as we can get eggs from the nearby Amish community for the time being.

Garden

Tomato seed packets

Starting a new garden is always challenging for me.  I’m somewhat of a reluctant gardener; I find livestock much more interesting and easier to care for!  I don’t like to spend all my time weeding and I don’t enjoy being in the garden if it looks like a mess.  So, we have decided to add a few raised beds at a time and use cinder blocks for the frames.  Treated lumber leaches chemicals into the soil, cedar wood is naturally rot and insect resistant but expensive, and a raised bed without a border is out of the question for me.  Been there, done that and battled with grass and weeds relentlessly.  Cinder blocks were the best alternative for us.  We have already planted peach, pear, apple and cherry trees.  On order for planting next month are raspberries, asparagus, blueberries, strawberries, potatoes and sweet potatoes.  And then we will move on to greens, tomatoes, peppers, etc., but keep it relatively small this year.

Farm Photo Friday

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It’s been ridiculously hot and humid here, as it has in much of the US.  But for us in the South we likely won’t get much relief until September.  When the horses just stand in the pasture and sweat like this, you know it’s miserable.

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Since it’s too hot to do anything outside, I’ve been making lots of cheese.  I have goat Gouda, goat pepper jack, mixed milk cheddar and goat gruyere aging in my “cave.”

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We dug the last of the potatoes this week.  We had purple viking, bintje and red gold this year.  I won’t be planting the purple viking again, the yield wasn’t that great.  But it was kinda cool to grow purple potatoes for a change.  The other two did well.

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The cantelope is all ready at once, 10 melons in all, so we’ve been eating it at least twice a day and gave some away.  It’s my favorite melon.  I’ve always wondered why I’ve never seen it for sale at our local farmer’s markets when it grows so well.

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Lots of red out there in the garden right now.

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The sheep just do their thing.  So easy.

 

Have a great weekend!

My Nemesis

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They are lovely now, with their bright and cheery purple faces, but don’t let them fool you.  Soon the flowers will fade and the leaves will remain and get bigger and bigger.  I’ve been battling wild violet in my perennial bed for years now.  They’ve taken up residence and spread like wild fire and nothing will stop them.

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I spent 5 hours one day last year pulling them.  You can’t get the root when you pull so that was a wasted effort, but I had to try something.  I mulch every year with pine bark; they come right through it.  A couple years ago I even resorted to using a spray just for violets that was supposed to kill them, even though I try never to use weed sprays.  But I was desperate.  Digging them up wouldn’t be practical, they’re everywhere, like a carpet.  Might as well just till up the whole bed, established perennials and all.  I’m at my wits end and if anyone has had success with getting rid of violets, please share.

Back To The Garden

20150330-IMG_9778Yes, it’s the time of year when gardening is beginning in earnest and where I’m spending much of my days.  We have raised beds that were planted in rye grass as a cover crop and Jon’s been loosening them up with the broad fork a few at a time.  We’re seeing tons of worms when he turns the beds,  a sign of good, healthy soil.  We’ve planted cabbage, broccoli and onion transplants, along with peas, turnips, lettuce, green onions, radishes, kale, spinach and carrots.

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I always have lots of help from my cats when I’m gardening.  Here’s Milo taking a stroll through the garlic.

By far my favorite part of the garden is my herb bed.  Herbs are so carefree and easy, not fussy about much of anything, and come back every year with no special attention.  I use herbs daily, adding them liberally when cooking, adding them to different goat cheeses I make, incorporating them in our goat milk soaps, and also use them medicinally for us and our animals. Here are some of my favorite standbys:

Yarrow…

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Mint…20150330-IMG_9794

 

Sage…

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Thyme…

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Lemon balm…

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Nature’s Indicators

“Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men.” (Chinese proverb).

20120305-IMG_3958 copyOver the years I’ve become interested in phenological signs as an indicator of when to plant things in my garden.  Phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.  Historically, this is how farmer’s determined when to plant, by observing changes in plant and animal life coinciding with the changing seasons. I find this fascinating and have begun to employ some of these signs when planting my garden, with good results.  Soil temperature and weather conditions are your most accurate indicators of when to plant, not just a date range alone, and Mother Nature is pretty good at letting us know when these conditions are right.  Phenology isn’t infallible, but it is very interesting and I enjoy trying out some of the theories.  Here are some of the signs that I’m looking for this spring:

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Plant peppers and eggplant outside when bearded iris is in full bloom.

When daffodils begin to bloom, time to plant peas.

Plant corn when oak leaves are the size of a squirrel’s ear (or when the apple blossoms begin to fall).

When the lilac has leafed out plant lettuce, peas and other cool weather crops, when it’s in full bloom plant beans, when it’s blooms have faded plant cucumbers and squash.

When dandelions are blooming plant potatoes, beets, lettuce, spinach and carrots.

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Give some of these a try this year and see how they work for you.

 

 

The Persephone Period

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The Persephone Period, a term coined by renowned organic gardener Eliot Coleman, is used to describe the period of time where the number of daylight hours drops below 10 hours per day.  You can easily look up the number of daylight hours for your area by using the USNO table of daylight hours.  Here in southern Tennessee this covers December 1 through January 12.  During this time, little to no plant growth occurs.  If you timed your fall planting right, your plants should be just shy of maturity before the onset of the Persephone Period.  When the daylight hours once again reach 10 hours, you’ll notice a little growth starting again, giving you a continuous winter harvest and a great head start on early spring greens.  I’m having very good success with my North Pole and Merlot lettuce (pictured above), Vates kale and Early Bloomsdale spinach planted last fall.

Here is an excerpt from Eliot Coleman’s book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, giving some history behind the name “Persephone Period.”  Humans have long had their own way of understanding the changes in day length and its affect on agriculture. Early Greek farmers, whose practical experience added mythical stories to astronomical fact, knew intimately that the power of the sun and the length of the day are the principal influences on agriculture. They created the myth of Persephone to explain the effect of winter conditions. As the story goes, the earth goddess Demeter had a daughter, Persephone, who was abducted by Hades to live with him as his wife in the netherworld. Demeter would have nothing to do with this and threatened to shut down all plant growth. Zeus intervened and brokered a deal whereby Persephone would spend only the winter months with her husband, Hades. Demeter, saddened by her daughter’s absence, made the earth barren during that time.