Friday, April 20, 2012

our homestead: transplanting sweet peppers

Peppers, on a journey to the greenhouse
The last sunny day we had around here I was able to transplant my 'little bell' sweet red pepper starts out to the greenhouse. I was waiting for the weather to warm up just a tad more (especially night time tempertatures), since peppers need some more heat than tomatoes to thrive. They're now all nestled into the greenhouse amongst the tomatoes.
Baby peppers in their new home
All I have left in regards to starts growing on my windows are some 'Five Acre Farm' melon seeds I saved last summer after enjoying one of their melons at the farmers market. I guess they are an heirloom seed passed on to them from a Grandmother: a small, cantaloupe-like melon with a pale green shell with black speckles. I remember they almost looked like large eggs. I plan to let the melons snake around the ground of the greenhouse, whereas I'll have my tomatoes and peppers supported vertically with twine. My theory is that the melon plants will act as a living mulch, keeping the soil's moisture level up during the heat of the summer. It's amazing how hot it can get in my greenhouse on a sunny day...especially since I don't heat it. I had to open the window recently because my greenhouse themometer read 100 degrees!

Oh, and all the while I was working in the greenhouse, getting my peppers situated, these two pups were hanging out in the shade with their new friends, the Muscovies:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

our homestead: mysterious discovery

While weeding around my garlic patch this morning, pulling up big clumps of chickweed to give to the Muscovys, I accidentally pulled this up! A morel mushroom! My first thought was, "No way! This has to be a frozen morel I tossed in the compost by mistake!", but sure enough, after digging around under the chickweed I found its little stump in the ground. I have a few theories as to why this mushroom is in my garlic patch. 1) I used some cardboard to mulch this area while I was expanding my planting bed, so perhaps one box was from a case of morel mushrooms and some spores or mushroom fragments remained, or 2) There's something present in this soil that's conducive to morel growth, whether it be all of the straw and alfalfa I've worked into my bed or rotting wood hidden below. Last summer I did try to cultivate a morel patch under one of my old apple trees by starting a small log on fire at its base and then scattering morel bits all around the log and into the soil, working ashes deep below. I've read that morels love growing on the root networks of hardwood trees, especially old apple trees, and that they often show up after there's been a forest fire. So peculiar. I didn't eat this mushroom, as it could be a false morel. But I'm pretty sure it was edible! I buried it under my apple tree. In any case, this must mean that it's starting to be morel season, so if anyone is a good picker, I'd get on out there and look.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

our homestead: easter miracle

Alright, so it's the day before Easter, but I am already in the Easter Spirit. I like Easter because it always seems like a kick-off for spring, allowing us to leave the cold of Winter behind. Now I can wear my sandals in the rain and feel less weird! Anyway, I had a little "Easter miracle" today. A few days ago I noticed that one of my Moscovy hens had been sitting in one of the nest boxes in the coop. I checked under her bumsy and didn't find any eggs, but I had a good feeling she was about to start laying. This morning when I went to let my flock out, I checked again, and sure enough! My very first duck egg was waiting for me. It's been a very sunny, warm and beautiful day out today, so I've been working in my garden most of the day. A couple hours after I'd collected the first egg, I thought I'd peek in the nest box again and to my surprise...another duck egg! Two eggs in one day! The day before Easter! I love it!
My Easter Miracle: my first two duck eggs
This leaves me wondering how many eggs my girls will start producing. I read that Moscovy ducks are supposed to lay 50 to 125 eggs a year. My husband and I want to raise our own Muscovy ducklings this year, so I might have to start getting myself learned up' on Muscovy brooding methods.

Fragrant hyacith flowers by my front door
It's been so lovely today that I took a break from yardwork to spend some time on my front porch. There's a whole hyacith patch right by my porch, with each gentle breeze comes a waft of angelic perfume. Mmm, so pleasant. I brought my cat, Spyder Munggins out with me. He has been basking in the sunshine and romping around the garden. He loves to smell flowers, I kid you not. One of these days I'm going to plant him his own kitty garden, full of catgrass and catnip and fragrant flowers.
Geting a good sunny stretch in...
...before exploring the garden, looking for flowers to smell.

I've also been working on some Easter Bunny presents for my nephews and nieces. I'm in charge of the egg hunt tomorrow and to add a special twist to the hunt, I'm going to have the chitlins also look for the Easter Bunny's nest. Inside his nest will be all these sweet little presents, one for each child.

I tried to wrap each present as "naturally" as I could by using old scraps of fabric, moss, twigs, dried flowers and feathers. Afterall, I don't think the Easter Bunny has scotch tape. I heard we're supposed to have sunny weather again tomorrow. Happy Easter and Springtime everyone!

Monday, April 2, 2012

our homestead: salamander spotting

Photo from my sister-in-law's instagram
While weeding and turning the soil in my sister-in-law, Rachel's, future vegetable garden today, we came upon this tiny guy hiding in a clump of old, wet maple leaves: a black and yellow salamander. He was an itty bitty creature. I'm glad my little nieces were around to meet him, as salamanders, like most amphibians, are becoming endangered. I haven't seen a salamander in years (since the days I used to play around in the muck in the woods, crawling around rotting logs and such as a kid). I'd have to say that this was probably  one of the highlights of my day (other than having my other sister-in-law, Caraline, come visit me at work). I told Rachel we should name her "farm" Salamander Parcel.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

our homestead: chick feather development

I've been receiving a lot of requests from friends to post more photos of the chicks and ducklings. I've had them now for about two weeks. They are all a wee bit bigger and their true feathers are starting to come in. I'm still unsure about their a few more weeks I'll know what I have. Today, I was able to catch a few photos of my chicks but the ducklings were a little too squirrely  to get photos of. I was able to film them swimming in the tub though...perhaps I'll get that video up here soon. Anyway, here are some of my feather babies:
Buff Orpington
My Buff Orpington's are starting to sprout peach colored feathers. They are so pretty! So far these chicks really do have calm dispositions. They are very easy to pick up and pet. They are my little sweeties.
Speckled Sussex
The Speckled Sussex chicks are looking more like little eaglets. They can fly too! I found this out after coming downstairs to find one of the chicks had flown over to the duck's bin. I had to put a sheet of chicken wire over the top of their galvanized tub to keep them from escaping. They seem a bit more  active and can run faster than the Orpington chicks. 

As far as the Khaki Campbell ducklings are concerned, I ended up putting them in a separate container from the chicks as they love to splash and muddy up their water. I've been filling up the sink in the laundry room every couple of days to let them go for a swim. They are about three times as big as when I brought them home (it's amazing how fast they grow). I noticed one of the ducklings has developed a tufty ball on top of its head. I'm trying to figure out if this distinguishes its gender or represents a hybrid with a different kind of duck (such as a Crested duck). Time will tell.