Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lots going on.

So much has been going on since the last update that I just wanted to stop in and let you all know that I am still out here.
We have been working on expanding the garden. So far the sod has been cut, rolled and stacked. The soil has been worked a bit by fork at the north end and all of it has had two passes with the tiller. I have started adding some composted chicken litter and old leaf mold to the garden and working that in. I also added a bit of lime and some ground oyster shells that the chickens didn't seem interested in.
We have also been keeping a close eye on the new ducklings. It is amazing how fast they are growing and also how cute they are.
We also transplanted a bunch of tomato seedlings to larger pots. I am excited because they are doing better than most of my seedlings have done in the past. If I can keep from killing them until they are big enough to plant out we will be awash in Brandywines and Romas.
We have also been eating up as much as we can from our freezer and pantry in order to make space for our summer produce.
We have been also eating our eggs and have started to eat our spring onions and asparagus regularly.

So I just need to get some pictures and share them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Today was just ducky!

The new ducks arrived today. We got them all tucked in to their nice new brooder and they are doing great. One of our plans this year is to raise a flock of ducks in the orchard. The idea is to start integrating some of our systems. In the past our orchard, livestock and vegetable setups were all disconnected with hte exception of us. The plan is to start knitting those areas together again.

But enough of all that. Time for some cute ducky pictures!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Busy, busy, busy!

So much has gone on the last few days that I hardly know where to begin.
First the county was out to look at separating the waterline that ran to the pasture across the street that is no longer part of our property.

We also have had a week of above average temps again so all the perennials are going like gangbusters. The rhubarb has already needing to be pulled. So Jess made a rhubarb compote that we had over some English pouring custard she made with some of our eggs.
The asparagus is starting to show itself as well.

We also rented a sod cutter and started our expansion of the garden. Turns out cutting sod is pretty easy with a sod cutter but lifting, rolling and finding a place to put the sod is less simple.
So far I have found places to stash some of the sod. Low places in the yard that needed to be filled. I also put some on the hill where previous tenants had buried something along with all of the topsoil. I still have enough sod to build one or two sob cabins like the old timers did. So far the plan is to use up what I can and then make a berm or two with the rest and let it rot down to a nice even loam.

All this and we rented a truck this afternoon to pick up supplies for the new duck enclosure and fencing for the garden expansion. We also picked up a tiller to start converting all the new garden to usable land. I don't actually intend to till the soil much after we get the soil worked up and compost and organic mater worked into it. No till would be good but with our garden and time available we will have to settle for minimal till.
We also laid out our plan for the ducks. The plan is to build the enclosure around the orchard so that the ducks can patrol for pest insects and fertilize the trees. We also plan to direct run off from the pole barn into a small pond form for the ducks to splash in.

All this and we got a great bloom on the apricots and few decent bee flying days so fingers crossed for apricots this season.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Picture post.

In the following picture you can see the new expanded chicken garden. I still need to plant this up but so far it has a row of peas that we will probably eat but the chickens will get the shells and trimmings.

Here is the strawberry bed after a bit of weeding. If you look close you can see that the strawberries have escaped and are colonizing the grass. I plan to pot them up and try and grow them on the deck.

Jess and I planted up a number of the garden beds with spring plants last weekend. We also added another compost bin.

The apricots decided to wait until the good weather was over and bloom in today's high winds and rain.

Kind of an over all shot of the garden to give you an idea of the progress. It is amazing that we have all of this and it is still early April.

Even the hops are practically shooting out of the ground.

Well maybe more pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

First planting and more.

I got the chance to plant a quick line of peas late last week that I am still waiting to see poke their little heads up. But other than that I have not planted any seeds outside yet but this evening I was finaly able to get one of the beds I had prepared earlier planted up. This evening I planted a 10 foot row of mixed radishes, a row of older spinach seed, a row of daikon radishes, a row of mache and a row of mesclun lettuce mix. I also planted a small bed of coriander.
I have also been weeding the garden beds and giving the dandelions and grass roots to the chickens. The girls love them and convert my weed problem into eggs and lovely chicken litter for the compost pile.
We also picked up some wonderful couches and a great chair second hand from Jess's folks over the Easter weekend. Our old couch pillows have already been added to the dogs bed and the old couches have been moved to the garage until I have a rainy day to start breaking them down to constituents for possible future use.
We have been seeing a warmer and drier spring so far this year so I have put out the first rain barrel to catch the pole barn run off. I have big dreams of completely re-roofing the pole barn and adding a 500 gal sump but for now a 100 gal watering trough is a good start.

All this and I still need to get ready for the ducks to arrive on the 19th.

So much to do. So much to do!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

First harvest

Well we had our first mini harvest this evening. it was just a bit of chive and a leaf of dandlion. As harvests go it was small but it was still significant. The chives could be combined with the eggs that our chickens are now producing with very little effort to make a nice greens omlet and we could serve it up with some garlic wilted dandelion leaves for a March fresh Minnesota grown meal. I know it can be tricky to eat locally some months of the year around here. But combined with the remnants of last falls pickles the march Minnesota garden can in fact feed you quite well.
In gardening notes,
I have extended the chicken garden. By forking over the loose soil and sod and throwing the sod to the chickens along with the dandelion roots I have already doubled the size of the chicken garden. We plan to grow some grains for storage and for feeding to the chickens during the winter. We will also grow chard to feed them during the summer to supplement the grass and grubs they get on their own.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The sun is ours now!

Well I hate to break it to you southern brethren but the sun is ours now. You have had your dance with our dear sweet sun but now the tune is fading and it is our time. It was a long time since it our days outlasted our nights here in the north but that time is at end for another year. We are pretty far north so even though the days have been lengthening since December it is only now really starting to work it's dependable annual magic.

Earlier this year I started getting a bit antsy and went out into the snow to build the following structure in an attempt to catch a bit more of the sun and possibly get a jump on the season.

Now to get the full effect you have to imagine me knee deep in the snow and digging out a place to build this ill thought out structure. So what was wrong with it? First off I didn't measure the windows and ended up with a structure that was too wide and let in the winter air. Second I managed to put it in the shadow of the big maple even after trying to account for it. So major fail there.

So plan B involved moving the straw bales and windows to the garden which even now has a small corner of snow in it.

So far that is working out much better the soil is almost hot on a sunny day and I think I should be able to start some plants in it this week. Which is good as my windows in the house are already full.

Also here is the annual first rhubarb picture! It has become a bit of a thing to post this picture each year so there it is. You may rejoice once again.

I also managed to fork over a few of the beds I had covered with chicken manure last fall. I am hoping that this helps the soil to warm up a bit quicker. I also hopes it starts the process of the soil making use of the remains of last fall's compost addition. I am thinking of starting seeds of spinach and radishes this week.

In other news I am nearly finished with the duck house. I just need to add the wheels trim down and mount the door and paint it. I spent quite a few pleasant hours working on it in the pole barn this weekend. I also need to put together the crate that is the new shed soon.
So much to do! So much to do!

Monday, March 15, 2010

We eat well.

So we have been eating quite well lately. Jess already posted about our lasagna that we made wit hour own tomato sauce, pasta and home made cheeses last week. I really felt it was an accomplishment to grow and make so much with our own food.

Last night we made ravioli with ricotta cheese that Jess made and pasta made from our hens eggs. To be honest Jess did all the hard work and I just helped with the sauce at the end. Last year we made a few small batches of garlic scape and walnut pesto and froze them. I combined them with butter and served them over the ravioli. It was delicious and looked pretty good as well.

We also made a batch of Lemon Ricotta pancakes made famous by Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis.
Ours turned out quite well but still are no threat to the originals. You really should stop in and try them if you have the opportunity. We served them up with a few slices of Lorentz bacon and it was wonderful.

In other news I have adjusted the blog to a more spring like look and added a twitter feed for things that I would like to share about the farm but are to small in themselves to make a good post.

Other than that Spring is in full swing around here. I took down the snow fence and almost all of the snow has melted from the yard. The sun is heating the garden beds and I hope to be planting frost hardy crops by possibly this weekend.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Quick update

Just a few quick notes.
Spring is starting to show itself. We had our first rain a few days ago and the snow is finally on the retreat. We are supposed to have temps in the 35-40F range for most of the rest of the week.
I have not yet planted the mache that I had hoped to. Perhaps tomorrow will give me time. I also need to start some leeks and maybe the fava beans.
This evening I got the chance to cut down last years hop bines and put them into the burn barrel. I hope to get to the raspberry canes this week as well.
The hens have started to lay us some eggs again. Not that many as the girls are getting a bit long in the beak but still enough to keep us in eggs for now.
I also ordered up a beer kit to make a witbier for summer drinking and a new species of hop rhizome as well. They should arrive this week.

I still have a ton of projects to get going for this season. Luckily we will get an extra hour of after work sunlight this weekend. Woot!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I have been thinking about other traditions to prepare and preserve foods. A while back Jess and I had a great dinner at a Korean restaurant on the way home from work and the meal was served with a selection of lightly pickled vegetables. This led me to begin thinking about Asian influenced pickles in general and I remembered being served some umboshi once in the service. Umboshi are Japanese pickled plums and since we had so many plums this year the idea of pickling them sounded great. Well a bit more research later I learned that those are not the same types of plums but it also led me to the entire class of Japanese preserved vegetables called Tsukemono. One of the first things I found was a tsukemono press that is used to help brine and draw out water from vegetables like a weighted lid is used when making sourkraut. Since this seemed like an elegant way to make quick tasty salt preserved produce during the growing season and also make the occasional batch of sourkraut with, I ordered a press of Amazon. I know this is not terribly frugal but to be honest that has always been the biggest part of this life for me.

So to test drive the press we picked up some turnips and a bit of dried seaweed known as kombu. I first peeled and cut the turnips and quick rinsed the kombu and cut it into strips. I then added them to the press with around a tablespoon of pacific sea salt and closed the press and cranked down the plunger. I let them sit overnight in the press in the refrigerator. Sure enough there was liquid by morning.

To me the result after around a week tastes a bit like the sea. The smell takes me back to the smell of the ocean far out at sea and the pickles taste like licking your lips after an afternoon swim off the coast with a bit of a radishy crispness. Not bad at all!

I will definitely be trying this again this spring and summer with various vegetables. I can hardly wait to get some kale into this thing.

In other non-pickle notes.
We went to meet with the folks from Transition Northfield on Saturday morning and found them to interesting people. They sent us away with a book to read and some suggested videos to view. We also heard about a permaculture class that they were sponsoring at the co-op on Monday night.
Sunday I decided to build a cold frame out of some straw bales and old storm windows. This will be the subject of a future post once I can clean it up a bit.
Jess and I decided to stop by the co-op early on Monday and picked up some milk for cheese making and some Sunchokes to see if we liked them before adding them to the list of veggies to grow this year. We attended the lecture and ran into some of the folks from TN again as well. Then we came home and made our very first ricotta cheese with the milk we picked up. We can't wait to make lasagna this year with our own pasta, tomato sauce and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.