I had a birthday last Sunday, and it was raining, so of course I went to the local nursery and picked up four new blueberry bushes: a Chandler, a Duke, a Kathren, and an Olympia. I have a row of blueberries in the front yard, and last year they did well enough that I actually got to freeze a nice sized bag of berries. So we decided to pull out the gooseberries that were nearby. Three of the gooseberries were replanted in the chicken run, and two others I gave to a friend for her chicken run. This left a nice place to plant more blueberries. Which I did. In the rain. On my birthday. This is how an urban farmer celebrates her birthday…playing in mud!
You can barely see the blueberry plants in there…they are just bare twigs at this point. The area in front used to be the Shuksan strawberry bed, but there is too much bindweed here for that to work out well. Also too many wild rabbits, but another project this year was putting black chicken wire all along the bottom two feet of the perimeter fence to keep them out. I like cute little bunnies as much as the next girl, but there is a nasty disease they can carry and spread to my domestic rabbits, so I want to at least keep them off the property. So I still need 1 -2 more blueberry bushes for here, and I’m moving the strawberries to a version of Lovely Greens’ raised strawberry planter.
She uses reclaimed pallets, but I don’t have those (and I’ve heard many of them are contaminated with chemicals) so I’m using regular wood. Hopefully it works out well. It would be nice to get the berries off the ground – no rotting berries, and no slug damage! I also have an order in with Raintree Nursery for a few more Shuksan plants.
Looking slightly further ahead to Spring, I’m making plans for which eggs I’m hatching out this year. Since I lost my sweet little cochin bantam hens (who were supposed to be my broodies) I’m starting out from scratch. I want to hatch out some more cochin bantam eggs, as I’m building a new coop/run that will be safe from hawks. I also found an amazing guy on Ebay who sells serama hatching eggs. He lives in a place that gets really cold winters and really hot summers, so he’s bred his birds to be extremely hardy. My winter/summer conditions are not so extreme as his, but I do love the idea of seramas that don’t need special care. If you’re not familiar with seramas, they are the world’s smallest chicken. So freaking adorable!
I’ve always been interested in these, but resisted for two reasons: the lack of hardiness, and the fact that they are so small I worried about predators if I just mixed them in with my full-sized flock. They are just so so so CUTE though! (If you’re on instagram, follow mad4hens…she has a mini flock of the most adorable little snuggly serama birds.)
Also, because I’m down to just one hen left of my original four bobwhite quail (old age took the others away) So I’m hatching more. I won an ebay auction for 12+ Snowflake bobwhite eggs, and those are my favorite. They are so beautiful.
I had a Brinsea mini incubator that I was happy with, but the automatic egg turner on it stopped working, and it’s just a little small. So I decided to upgrade slightly to a Harris Farms Nurture Right Incubator. Unlike my old one that could hold 8 chicken eggs, this one holds up to 22. It also has an egg candler build right in!
As so many of my eggs are fancy breeds that need to be shipped, the usual hatch result is 50% of however many eggs you incubate. Eight eggs in means only four hatched…and two of those could be roosters! Not great odds! I’d like to have enough chicks so I can choose by temperament/color which ones to keep and which ones to sell. The new incubator is coming today in the mail, and I am excited! Wish I could pop some eggs in right away…but it’s still a bit too early for chicks.
I have so many projects this Spring – it feels a bit overwhelming, honestly! I already have a ‘honey do’ list as long as my arm…and the problem is, I’m the honey. Besides building the new bantam coop/run, I’m remodeling two of the guinea pigs coops, and a former rabbit hutch into a broody hen coop, building a new moveable pigeon tractor to put those birds to work, building a greenhouse in the chicken run, and building numerous raised strawberry/garden beds – oh, and building a small raised pond for my goldfish. Plus there’s all the ‘fun’ projects like birdhouses, guinea pig chalets, and yard furniture I’d like to make.
Lots of building. So much building. Strange to think that a few years back I hardly knew how to use a hammer!
This is going to be a bit of jumble post. A little bit of urban farm update, plus some of my favorite things of last year. I know 2020 sucked for a lot of people, but I’m going to focus only on the positive!
First off, in urban farming, I am so hopeful for this coming season. My biggest issue in the garden has always been my persistent and overwhelming bindweed problem. Then I got a team of partially free-range guinea pigs, muscovy ducks and a goose, and I watched my bindweed literally disappear. So this year will be more of the same, plus some changes/adaptations I’m making to work around the bindweed-eating critters. Because ya’all know…if they’ll eat bindweed, they’ll eat everything else, right? Well, almost everything! The guinea pigs are fenced into three areas of vegetable/herb gardens. Because they don’t dig or jump, I’m doing container gardening in their areas, and letting them eat all the weeds in the ground, including the bindweed. The pigs are EAGER to get to work!
For the larger garden, I’m planting more of what the ducks don’t eat (roses, peonies, herbs, etc) and fencing off a section that doesn’t have bindweed to plant a few treasured plants that they DO eat.
Because it’s right in the middle of their coop/run entry, I had to leave a walkway for them to come and go. One thing I’m planting here is more wild violets. Besides being beautiful, they are edible. I bought some from Box Turtle Seeds, and they arrived today in great condition.
Speaking of seeds, if you haven’t yet ordered yours, you’d better get on that. Last year, many varieties were sold out, and this year is shaping up to be even worse. I’m hearing that supply is already getting limited, and lots of my favorite companies are actually closing to orders (at least temporarily) while they catch up on the tremendous influx of orders they already have! Personally, I bought most of mine months ago, enough for both Spring and Fall planting. I even bought an awesome storage box for them.
It’s actually meant for photos, but it works perfectly for seeds. Most people seem to get the clear colored one, but I got the rainbow, because I can use the colors to visually sort the seeds. Green for lettuce, yellow for squash, red for tomatoes…you get the idea! I also used a sharpie to write on them, rather than messing with labels. A bit of rubbing alcohol takes the sharpie right off, if you need to change anything!
It’s like it was made for seed packets!
It’s hard to believe, but in about a week, I’ll be starting the first seeds, breeding my rabbits, and picking up the first batch of chicks! I hope we’ll have an early Spring…and the garden seems to think we will. The clematis is budding out, and the bluebells are coming up!
I also am experimenting this year with different ways to grow strawberries. One thing I’m testing out is Mr. Stacky:
And I have bought a new variety of strawberries from Scenic Hill Farm to put in it. They are called Eclair, and they are so scrumptious-looking.
2020 has actually been a good year for me, despite all the stuff happening out there, and as I said before I’m only going to talk about positive things. So here are a few unexpected things I have enjoyed.
Social distancing. Maybe I’m the only one out there, but I like the whole not-shaking-hands and wearing a mask. It is NICE not to have to have some guy crush my rings into my fingers, or suffer through one of those ‘limp noodle’ handshakes far too many women seem to give…you know that type…when they just lay their fingers limply in your hand and leave them laying there? *shudder* Plus, I always have cold hands in winter, and it is awesome not to hear “cold hands, warm heart” every time I shake hands. Gets old fast, lol. And masks. Yeah, sometimes they got a little stuffy in summer, but in winter? LOVE. IT. So cozy, and I can mutter under my breath without anyone thinking I’m crazy. And no worries about spinach stuck in my teeth! Plus there’s the whole no-getting-sick thing – and I’m not just talking about Covid. You would not believe how many people across the counter from me at work used to just cough and sneeze IN MY FACE without any attempt to turn away or cover it. Now they have to be masked AND stay six feet away. It’s brilliant.
Shopping. Curbside pickup is the BOMB. Love it with a passion. Never, ever want to go back to the way I shopped before.
My job. I’m deeply saddened that so many of my co-workers were let go, and I do miss seeing and talking to a bunch of my favorite customers face-to-face. But since the library is now closed to public and we are only doing curbside pickup, I’m not going to lie…there are a number of things I really, really love. Most of the things that were the most stressful and aggravating about my job have just…disappeared. The drug addicts sleeping in the reference room and causing periodic ruckus and 911 calls and fears of someone being stabbed…no longer a thing. Fighting with customers over not taking off their clothes/bathing/doing drugs/unmentionable things in the bathroom…no longer a thing. Angry people throwing books and library cards in our face…no longer a thing. Dealing with poop/pee/vomit/blood…no longer a thing. Instead, there is a calm, quiet building full of books, and I can eat my lunch out in the stacks in the cozy chair by the window, or leave my projects spread out on the tables, or shout back and forth across the building with my co-workers. The only nasty people I have to deal with are those idiots who refuse to wear a mask or follow the rules at curbside pickup. It hasn’t happened to me, but my co-workers have had people deliberately pull down their masks to cough on them, or twirl a mask between their fingers while screaming”You can’t make me wear this!” like a five-year-old child having a temper tantrum. I honestly don’t care if you believe Covid exists, or not, or what your political views are. If you can’t respect me and my co-workers enough to put a piece of cloth on your face for the five seconds it takes for us to confirm your ID with your driver’s license, you are a terrible person. Okay, that got a bit negative. But overall, my job has been great these past months. We are even doing fun things with our pickups, like offering personal shopping for books, and right now, we’re working on setting up an interactive puzzle-based mystery for our patrons!
Lastly, I wanted to share a few of my favorite things I’ve discovered this past year. First off, I was having some issues with inflammation in my knees and back. The knee thing was on-and-off, but the back pain got pretty bad, to the point where I would wake up every morning feeling like a 95 year old. Not fun. I did some research, and discovered turmeric can help. You do have to be careful that it comes from a good source, and in order for it to be absorbed by your body, it needs to have black pepper added. I found NatureWise Curcumin Turmeric, and started noticing improvement in the first week. By the time I’d gone through the first bottle (a two months supply), my back was almost back to normal, and so were my knees! This is a keeper, for sure.
If you have critters, you know the struggle of keeping them in clean water. I found these RentACoop waterers, and am a convert. They don’t leak (as long as you screw them together REALLY tightly) and are so easy to keep filled. They make them in several sizes and styles, and I’ve been switching the quail, pigeons, guinea pigs and finches over to them. Still need to buy a few more!
Meat Illustrated: A Foolproof Guide to Understanding and Cooking with Cuts of All Kinds. Also a bit of a sucker for books about meat. I want to learn how to cook all those cuts I see in the grocery store and never know what to do with! You can’t go wrong with America’s Test Kitchen. Not only to do they tell you EXACTLY how to do it, in order to make it turn out, they tell you WHY. It is one of my pet peeves when a book says “Don’t do that thing”, but doesn’t say what will happen if you do. If I ever burn the house down, it will be because a book told me not to do a thing, and I was feeling testy and did it anyway just to see what would happen. Because I want to know. America’s Test Kitchen will never put me in that situation.
The Fat Kitchen: How to Render, Cure & Cook with Lard, Tallow & Poultry Fat. If I could convince everyone to do just ONE thing in their kitchen, it would be to throw out all their margarine, canola oil, and Crisco – and start cooking with animal fats. Those medical studies that convinced you animal fats are dangerous? Outdated and wrong. The NEW studies show it’s exactly the opposite: man-made fats are the dangerous ones, while grassfed animal fats are good for you! And they taste SO incredibly good…I mean, if you’ve never had potatoes cooked in duck fat, you haven’t lived.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I have long been a fan of V.E. Schwab, but this particular book…it’s the book that is going to make her career. Indescribable, beautiful, haunting, and deeply thought-provoking, this is the book I recommend to my literary book snob friends who look down their noses at mere ‘genre fiction’.
Wow, that was a longer post than I thought it would be…I guess that happens when I don’t post for weeks….