Monday, April 30, 2012

Planting Fruit Trees

Trees waiting to be planted
Spring is a good time for planting trees. We purchased some fruit trees that overwintered in our greenhouse. When the warm weather rolled around we finally found time to put them in the ground. We used the post hole digger on the tractor in order to dig the holes.
With the post hole digger we made three holes
Digging the holes

Three holes dug

After making the holes we dug out the soil between the holes in order to make one large hole. Planting trees requires a lot of hole digging.
After getting our holes dug we planted the trees! An area surrounding the tree's base is covered with a shallow depth of rock in order to keep voles from harming the roots as well as keeping weeds down.  The fencing around the tree is to protect it from deer or goats who should not be near the trees but we take a better safe than sorry approach around here.
Planted tree
The trees have now bloomed and the peach trees set fruit which we've had to remove so that all the energy this first year can go into the tree.  Removing the fruit this year will allow the tree to have greater vigor and longevity.  It's one of the hard parts of farming, doing the work to prepare the way for long-term health and viability and then waiting for the future crop when we really just want to eat the fruits of our labors!  

A small consolation we've discovered is that the old peach trees that were here when we arrived and which did not bear at all last year are loaded with fruit!  We were going to cut them down as we thought they were past bearing age.  Fortunately, we were too busy to do that.  Although we have done nothing but prune them a little and allow the chickens to pasture in the orchard, the natural process is returning health to the soil so it can nurture the trees.  Maybe we'll have peaches to eat after all.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Comparing Soils

Soil in the field where the chickens were not pastured
We have been tilling up some new fields on the farm for planting this spring. One of our fields had the chickens on part of it last year and the differences are amazing to see! The photo above is of the area of the field where the chickens were not penned up. The photo below shows the soil where the chickens had been for part of last year. Note the richer color of the soil nourished by the pastured chickens who truly benefit the land on which they graze, consuming nutrients from the insects and plants in an area, thus enabling the chickens to produce delicious and nutritious eggs.  You can taste the difference!
Soil where the chickens were pastured

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Goat Bridge

Goats on their bridge
Our goats are currently living near a small stream on our property. We built a bridge to allow the goats to cross over the stream safely so they could eat the brush in an area that was inaccessible to the bush hog.  Apparently, we really built them a new play toy. Of course, with a goat just about anything is a new play toy.  They enjoy the bridge and play tag on it, running back and forth full speed ahead.
Goat bridge
The goats are no longer cohabiting with the chickens. We were unable to keep them from eating the chicken's grain. We put extra bars on the chicken's feeders so the goats could not put their heads into the feeder, but they then figured out how to just lick the grain out of the feeder! The goats also took great pleasure in climbing on the chicken feeder and rocking it back and forth, which frightened the chickens away and kept them from eating.
Gabe, Simon and Tawny

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Full House of Tomatoes!

Greenhouse full of plants & overloaded with 400+ tomato plants
Starting seeds indoors before planting in the soil is important for crops such as tomatoes and peppers that need warm conditions for germination. We have had a more successful germination rate this year than we anticipated and we now have a full house!

All of the tomato plants are heirloom varieties. We are growing 15 heirloom varieties with names such as Sophie's Choice, Brandywine Yellow, Pink Brimmer, San Marzano, Vinson Watts, Principe Borghese, Amy's Apricot and German Johnson.  Each has its own unique characteristics and we expect all to be flavorful.  Fortunately, in the greenhouse, they have all survived the two nights of frost we had earlier this week.
Heirloom tomato plants as well as herbs and marigolds are available at our farm store. Please stop by and pick up plants you may need for your garden!
Reaching for sunlight!

Rows and rows of plants in the greenhouse

Monday, April 9, 2012

Starting Seeds

Seeds of Principe Borghese tomato plants just starting to come up
We started some seeds in our greenhouse several weeks ago and they have really taken off! Some things like peas, greens, radishes, and carrots we can direct seed into the soil. We have gotten some of those seeds in the ground and hope to have plants coming up soon!
Seeds starting to come up
Some of those same seeds are enormous now since we have had warm weather and we have had to put them into larger pots! We have resorted to styrofoam cups for many of them. There is so much possibility with all of these plants!
Purple Beauty pepper plants taking off! 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Chickens are Omnivores

Checking out the mouse
Chickens, like humans, are omnivores. They eat plants and grain as well as insects. This variety in their diet as free range chickens gives flavor and nutrients to their eggs. Chickens also eat mice and are capable of catching them though around here they serve to help us "clean up" what would go in the compost pile otherwise.  When the mouse population gets too large, Charlie sets some traps and when he finds a  mouse, he tosses the mouse out to the chickens. Here's a short photo essay of what happens.

Going in for the peck

Picking up the mouse

Swinging the mouse around
What we didn't photograph is what happens when the other chickens figure out that one has a tasty treat.  Then, the chase is on!  Whether the prize is a worm, a bug or a mouse the chicken who is "it" has a lot of running to do before she can actually eat what she's found.  Sometimes the finder is not the one who gets the last bite.