It’s been a few weeks since the constant nausea of my first trimester subsided–praise the Lord! Since then, I’ve been trying to catch back up to life and all the things around the house and gardens.
In the past month, we’ve waged war on the “mother-in-law’s revenge”–aka goutweed–in the front gardens, planted fall mums, orchestrated a near-whole house refresh with new carpet and paint in the majority of the house, revived the dahlias in the cut flower garden, celebrated 2 birthdays and an anniversary, finished the football season, and moved the girls into a shared room to free up a room for the nursery.
The big garden also got A TON of care and attention from Clint who built raised and installed garden boxes and used old pallets to build a new compost bin. I’m serious y’all, it’s impressive!
As the cool weather rolls in, we have much more to do–like prep the coop and gardens for winter.
I’ll be posting something about each of our updates and adventures moving forward. In the meantime, what winter prep tips do you have to share with me?!
Last week I put in my request with 811 and got news that the entire side yard is clear! Unfortunately they didn’t inspect the back yard as I asked so I had to put in another request. I think this was due to the comment I made on the request that made is sound like I just wanted the back left side of the yard. Despite not having the rest of the back surveyed yet, I’ve officially decided where I’m putting the garden!
As I shared before, some of the pain points of the current location are that it’s too far from the how, and a water source. After some thought, I’ve determined the side yard is the best place for the garden – it’s close to the house, and the water hose, so I’ll be more likely to get out there and watering will be easier. And even better, it’ll be right in my line of sight while I work and paint from the sunroom! I watched the sunlight on the plot throughout the day to ensure it receives plenty of sun.
So this morning I got right to planning. First with the vegetables using my handy-dandy Clyde’s Garden Planner to map out what, how and when I can plant. I found it easier for me to visualize everything by making a chart with each month and a list of what would need to be planted indoors, outdoors, and harvested.
I did this same thing with my flowers and added the tasks to one of my new 5 year planners. Both planners have places to log information about planting and harvesting but I like the open layout of the of the Royal Horticultural Society record book.
After I laid out the scope and sequence of planting and harvesting times, I took a break to get the the girls shoes for Roseanne and Cameron’s wedding next week . On the way home we stopped by Lowes… I mean, shut up and take my money, Lowes! I not only picked up the landscape fabric I went in for, but I also came home with tulips (because the girls had to have their own tulips ), gladiolus (because they remind me of my Mom), peonies (my favorite), dahlias, and some evergreen trees to add a screening around the fire pit area.
When we got home, I went out to see what I had to work with in regards to dimensions for the side garden. Because we need to maintain a passage large enough for us to drive a truck in the back–for when we have mulch and gravel– I’ve got a maximum width of 12 feet but have a lot to work with regarding length. Rather than doing the traditional raised rows of 18 inches, I’m opting for 3 ft wide rows for more surface area to plant in – like a hybrid raised bed/raised row.
As I was showing the girls, they requested a sitting space for their “Girls Club”. The Girls Club was just started this week between the girls and Ava. When they meet they “take notes on nature” and have even requested a guided tour of the emerging plants in the house gardens. ❤️ They also plan to have art on Wednesdays, picnics on Thursdays, and show-and-tell on Fridays. With this adorable request in mind, I’m thinking I’ll opt for 40 or 50 ft and have sketched out a few plans.
Tomorrow I’ll spend the day planting seeds, marking off the side garden with landscape fabric, and maybe even moving soil.
Things are continuing to warm up on the Camp Farm. I cannot wait to get out to refresh the gardens!
I’ve spent evenings reading more about mini-farming and continuing to contemplate raised beds vs raised row. I finally opened up the book that started it all: Raised Row Gardening: Incredible Organic Produce with No Tilling and Minimal Weeding I’m still deciding but there were some really great reminders here – like the costs of raised beds and the effort in amending a raised bed vs raised row. Until I have to new spot picked out, I can delay my decision. And speaking of placement! I put in my request with 811 to have them come mark the utilities.
It’s still a little cool to clean up the gardens but it’s nearly prime time to start seeds! I ordered another germination kit so I’ve got two 72 cell trays. I had a few seeds for the flower garden from Floret Farms but Grace and I went a little crazy at Lowe’s Saturday 😬
I mean she kept tossing seed packets in the cart and I was too tired to sift through them much. I figured I’d return what we don’t decide to use.
Also, I’ve added two new books to my ever growing library of homesteading. I can’t wait to crack them open tonight!
In other news, Grace and Ella have adopted a stink bug as a pet… his name is Larry and apparently he likes oatmeal.
It feels like the 2021 garden planning is officially underway! Well almost.
As the snow has begun to melt and we’re seeing the grass for the first time in weeks, I’m anxious to get an actual layout of the 2021 gardens mapped out so I can make a list of plants and supplies. I’m constantly thinking about it. However, there are a few things getting in my way.
We’ve decided to move the big garden, which is currently situated on the property line between the Camp Farm and the Norris Homestead. We’d like to build a legitimate fence around the garden and this is the only way I can convince Sr. to let me do so – he hasn’t been interested in investing so much into a fence not completely on our property should the Norris’ ever move. Not that the Norris’ are planing to move but they had discussed it a few years ago so Tarin and I discussed relocating the garden this year. Both families will still share the garden.
Having the garden on our property will not only allow me to get a proper fence but it will make it easier – I hope– for us to get in there and maintain it. The garden’s current placement is too far for us to easily reach with a hose which meant either several trips with a watering can or lengths and lengths of hose coiled up in the backyard. We can also consider redesigning the garden; something that’s been spinning in my mind as I read a new book on mini-farming which touts raised beds over row gardening for many valid reasons. Though the book doesn’t present an argument against raised row gardening which is different from traditional row gardening, it has me thinking differently about spacing and such.
Moving the garden, however, grants some challenges. First that’s a LOT of soil to move and we’ll want tot make sure to plant grass seed ASAP before the weeds roll in on the vacant turf. Also, WHERE will I put it? I know there are a few places I don’t want to put it given where and how the kids play in the backyard currently. I’m thinking side yard because the grass is patchier here given it get so much sun. The side yard is also closest to the Norris property which is important since it’s still a shared space. However, I wonder is this is too sunny, especially for crops that need less sun. Also, if I ever get my dream greenhouse/she-shed, I imagined placing it its also closer to the fire pit on the other side of the backyard. Placement also depends on what’s UNDER the space. Since we’ll have to place the fence posts, or raised bed corner posts if we go that route, below the frost line, I need to call 811 to get the entire backyard’s underground utilities marked –I’ve been waiting for the snow to melt to do so.
Once I figure out where the garden is going, I’ll have to land on how I want to redesign the garden: raised row or raised bed… any opinions??? This mini-farming book has me intrigued and I’m only in the “overview” chapter. Once good thing I’ve learned is that we really should be journaling EVERYTHING if we want to be serious about our gardens. With not one but TWO five-year journals I should be set up for success.
I’ll continue to share some of the interesting things I’m learning from this book as I go. This next week my goal is to schedule 811, begin a list of plants (in my journals!)and determine which and when I’ll start any from seed – since I now know how to start seeds! I also plan to get Jr. outside with me and start some grounds clean up for the house gardens… his not-so-favorite thing to do with me (see his January post “I Hate Gardening“. 🤣)
As we wind down from the Galentine’s Party last weekend (more on that from Ella and Grace soon), and we start to warm up from the winterpocalypse that froze much of our country, I can’t help but itch for springtime.
I mean, the struggle is real, y’all. Back in Texas, pre-2020’s anyway, spring starts NOW. My Mom already has most of her garden and plants in the ground with sprouts and buds everywhere. Yet here in the Midwest, it’ll be May before we are out of the freeze window. Again, I love it here and all the beautiful snow, but I think the socially distanced winter has kept me feeling cooped up a little too long this year. Or maybe this is a result of having garden success and wanting to bring my gardens out of hibernation. Either way, I’m looking forward to breaking soil, opening ALL the doors in the sunroom, and watching all the green sprout from the thawed ground.
This week I took the Cut Flower Garden Winter Mini Course from Floret Farms which I found out about after I ordered some seeds late one evening a few weeks ago. I bought Floret Farms’ beautiful Cut Flower Garden book last year after the girls shared how much they’d like to have a flower garden. For Christmas this last year, Grace asked for her very own flower garden… again, spring cannot get here fast enough! And this year I plan to be more prepared than ever.
We got a late start on the cut flower garden last year and planted nearly of the big garden with seeds sown directly into the ground. After I picked up the nifty Clyde’s Garden Planner tool, I realized there’s a lot I can start planting indoors as early as March!
As I took the Floret Farms mini course, I started filling up my Amazon cart and making garden plans. And for some reason Amazon felt it’d be cool to send it all in individual packages over several days (enter stare down from Sr. every time he had to grab a package form the frozen porch 😬🤣🤷🏻♀️)
Portable Potting Trays – A potting tray may not seem like a necessity but now that I know such a thing exists, I think they are essential! I made a mess last year.
Gardner’s Tool Belt – Erin, founder of Floret Farms, has a cool tool belt like this. This one is a fraction of the cost and I may look more like a member of the Village People with this on than she does, but I will FEEL legit and that’s what matters, right? 🤣.
5 Year Gardner ‘s Log Book – Two things… 1) Purchasing a 5 year journal should show REAL commitment y’all! 2) This was MUCH smaller than I thought it would be but I like the seasonal checklists and todos.
Now that I’m armed with more knowledge about staring seeds indoors, have the right tools, and more gardner’s journals than one person needs at one time I’m ready to get a jump start on spring!
And if that’s not enough, I also got the privilege of sitting down to coffee with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law Mary’s soon to be mother-in-law to begin planning a late May backyard engagement party! Have I told y’all how much I LOVE to host things?
Dreaming of Spring and taking the recently released mini course from Floret Flower Farm tonight. I bought their beautiful book, Cut Flower Garden, last year which inspired a late season build of a small patch on the side yard. It was less than successful but I’m hopeful for a better outcome this year, especially since Grace asked for her own flower garden at Christmas.
This school year has nearly eaten our lunch here at the Half-Ass Homestead – three online learners at the Camp House and two home schoolers at the Norris House. Work has been even busier than ever for me and Tarin went back to work so the big garden has been just a little neglected 😬
The kids have gotten great use out of it though; picking peppers and tomatoes or digging for worms for the hens
Speaking of the hens, we were getting 4-5 eggs a day from our girls but that all stopped a few weeks ago. We’re thinking this is a light issue but will be investigating more.
Some days I feel Zoom runs our lives. Thank goodness for great weather and the new swing set that finally arrived… and for wine and whiskey. 🥃
The kids have been writing draft posts that I need to catch up on so be on the look out for those. I’ve decided that things won’t be slowing down anytime soon with some exciting work projects, the change in season, and the holidays coming up, let the half-assery begin!
It’s the phrase of the week… well, that an “Hurry! Get out of the chicken pen, you’ve got a class zoom meeting about to start!”
The hens are went from two to three eggs a day this week and the kids CANNOT get enough! They check the coop several times each morning, which means they find the eggs nice and fresh.
Earlier this week Ella and Ava came running up with an egg yelling, “We got a hot one!” 🤣 And they’ve been saying with every new egg ever since. Grace has caught on as well and ran in during one of my Zoom meetings with a client. 🤦🏻♀️
A few weeks ago, we lost our sweet lap hen, Hazel, to a hawk.
We have 2-3 hawks in our neighborhood (plus a large fox and a few coyotes) that have been making quiet a ruckus this late-summer. I noticed their calls in mid July and heard from the McCrearys, who live two doors down, that one swooped down on their young flock as Molly was trying to usher the hens in the coop.
Despite the McCreary’s close encounter, their distant calls and a few sightings, we weren’t too worried about the hawks as predators since our hens are pretty much full grown. It was the fox that always appeared at dusk,just after the hens went into their coop , and liked to hang out eating groundhogs behind the shed that we saw a a real threat to our free-rangin’ ladies. After all, when the hawks’ squawks neared, the hens always ensured they were under the cover of the brush in the gardens. We knew we couldn’t keep the hens free-ranging for long and would need to build a bigger coop and/or run but it wasn’t at the top of our list. Unfortunately, our delay worked in the hawks’ favor.
On a Monday, I debated letting the ladies our as I was working a number of back to back virtual meetings, as is the norm in back to school season. However, it was going to be a hot day and their adorable coop is just too small for comfort so we decided to let them out for the day. Just before a new customer meeting, Sr. came in from the garage and said, “I think something ate the chickens, there are feathers everywhere!”
With my meeting just moments from starting, I told him to get the kids and try to find the rest of the flock and put them away. I then texted Tarin to let her know what was happening and started my call. Luckily, 5 of the 6 hens were found safe, but terrified, in the ferns at Tarin’s house. Hazel was the only one missing. Sr. wasn’t lying. There were feathers everywhere. Poor hazel seemed to put up a good fight and looked to have almost made it from the treeline, where the trail began, to under the old Chevy truck where the trial abruptly disappeared. We searched the grounds to see if she might have survived but found nothing.
By the next day, we had decided that it wasn’t in the budget and we didn’t have the time to build a new coop with a run like we have been planning so Plan B would have to be another solution. We found this covered pen and decided it’d be just what we needed for now.
The pen arrived in 2 boxes– chicken wire and aluminum poles. Thanks goodness Sr. had the patience to put the aluminum frame together Thursday or else it wouldn’t have gotten done this weekend. Saturday, we all worked together to cut and attach the chicken wire roof and walls. The kids transferred the hens to the pen and smothered them all in love (they missed wrangling them) while Tarin and I did a deep clean of their coop- which desperately needed it after nearly 2 weeks of 5 hens being cooped up in there 24/7.
After clearing out a few branches and debris from under the pines, we positioned the pen over the coop and set out their food and water. We even found a small board to serve as a nameplate for their new digs.
Now the new problem is keeping the kids, especially the little ones from going in and out of the pen–1. because they’re more likely to leave the pen door open and 2. because the poor hens have no way to escape or hide from those little arms.