Bunny Greens

One of the things I LOVE about bunnies is that they’re vegetarian. Everything they eat is really pleasant, and what comes out the other end is fairly inoffensive, too. They definitely score higher than the cats and dogs in that regard!

They eat hay and pellets and get a salad every morning. I try to give them three different kinds of greens — lettuce, kale, and bok choy are the staples, and I switch those up with some greens they’re not supposed to have quite as often (spinach, parsley, etc.). Basically whatever is good for them and the least expensive! I also bought a nice grow light to grow some of this stuff at home. So far, the leaf lettuce (cut-and-come-again varieties) is doing amazing. I cut the first harvest this morning and sowed another half tray, so that should be a good renewable source of greens soon. I repotted a few Cos lettuce plants this morning — also looking good, but growing more slowly than the leaf lettuce. My kale got off to a good start and then died, so I have to figure out what went wrong there. Too much light? Too wet? I’d really like to grow kale indoors for both the bunnies and ME, since it’s hard to find organic kale around here.

I also need to figure out the ideal conditions for growing cans of dog food. Hmmm…

Garden 2017, Part Three

Wow, lots of growth in the garden since my last update! (Here’s part one and part two.) I’m liking the layout this year, and I can heartily recommend DeWitt landscape fabric. This is NOT a sponsored post — we just have some tenacious weeds out here, and spending money on good landscape fabric has turned out to be very much worth it!

Looking at the top photo, on the left (the row with mulch) I’ve got some perennial plants — my rhubarb, two new blueberry bushes, and herbs. Then several broccoli plants toward the back. At the very back are cantaloupes. They’re flowering right now, but the plants are still really tiny, so who knows if we’ll get anything. The second row has bell peppers, more broccoli, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

Third row is onions, carrots, lettuce, beans, corn, and cabbages. The bean seeds I had were pretty old, and only two of them came up! And our local nursery doesn’t have bean seeds anymore. I wanted to grow bush beans this year, but I think it’ll have to be pole beans instead, as I can actually get some of those. The corn is flint corn, for milling and using as cornmeal. I haven’t tried that before, so our twelve stalks will be an experiment. M is very into the process of growing food (she still talks about her mini potato harvest from her indoor plant!), and I think she’d find it cool to make something like cornbread from corn we grew ourselves. The fourth row is all potatoes.

We also have a big raspberry patch (off to the front right) and strawberries in the back right corner. And two plum trees, both of which need to be tied up straight — you can tell which way the wind blows most often! There are actually a few little plums on my Toka tree, which I wasn’t expecting; I planted the other tree after the Toka had finished flowering, but I guess it must have self-pollinated. Fingers crossed that nothing will steal our plums before we get to them! I also, at the front of the garden, have a mystery tree. It was a sucker that grew up from the rootstock of a plum tree that died. I don’t know what they tend to graft plums onto — different plums? Apple trees? If it keeps growing, we’ll find out!

Indoor Potato Harvest

At the very beginning of March, M and I planted a potato that had gone squishy and sprouted on the counter. I wasn’t sure that we’d be able to grow any potatoes in a container inside, but we were happy watching the plant grow. It had been over three months, and it was dying back, so we took the plant outside today to see what we could harvest. Bumper crop! Heh. Three tiny potatoes. M thought it was pretty neat, though. I fried them up in butter and gave them to her for a snack, and she said they were “Good!”. We’re hoping to get a few more (and bigger) potatoes from the garden this year. I love the discovery of digging up a potato plant to see what’s grown!

Rhubarb!

The rhubarb seems pretty happy in its new home, although it always seems pretty happy in spring! It’s super pink this year, though. I need to start harvesting more of it. I thought my first use would be just stewing it down with a little sugar — quick and easy. And what better to have it with than cheesecake?

I didn’t want to make a full-sized cheesecake, and when I searched for a recipe that used only a pound of cream cheese, I came across this page. I used the first recipe on there, minus the sour cream topping. It was actually a little challenging finding an unfussy cheesecake recipe! Forget about water baths and leaving it in the oven with the door open for 2.5hrs, etc, etc. I don’t care if it cracks. Is it a cheesecake? Then it’s good enough! I made it in a small (7″?) springform pan, and it’s just the right size for us.

M likes it, too, although she prefers to pick hers up and eat it like it’s a slice of pizza! (Sidenote: She won’t eat pizza, though.)

Garden 2017, Part Two

It’s not exactly overflowing with a bounteous harvest yet, but it looks better than a month ago, doesn’t it? Fairly soon after that last post, I tilled rows and covered them with good quality landscape fabric. Then I waited for cold, rainy day after cold, rainy day to pass. It’s been delightfully spring-y lately, though, and yesterday was borderline hot.

We visited the local nursery to buy a replacement plum tree (my Toka plum is doing great, but the other one — and they need two to pollinate — died a couple of years ago) and some veggie plants. It still feels a little early to plant tomatoes, but I got two to start with, and we’ll either replace or add to them in a week or two. We’re right on the zone 3/4 border, so you never know which way it’ll swing! My Mother’s Day present was spending F’s afternoon nap in the garden with M, who had a great time running through the sprinkler in her bare feet.

I’ve got four main rows in the garden now. On the left (the one with the mulch) there are mostly perennials, so far. My rhubarb is right at the front, then two new blueberry plants, then two herbs (thyme and oregano) that should come back year after year. At the front of the next row is broccoli, with tomatoes down at the back. The mulched section along the back fence, connecting the first two rows, is going to be for squash/melons. I think we’ll grow pumpkins this year, as that would be fun for M. The next row has onions at the front (in those strips) and cabbage at the back. And the final row is all potatoes. My strawberries are in the back right corner, and the front right corner (which you can’t see) is full of raspberry canes. They’re from the few surviving canes that I brought up from Minneapolis, and they sure have taken hold and spread!

It’s getting to the point, as I begin planting things, that I can see in my mind’s eye how it’ll look in another month or two. Fun!

Home Again!

We capped off our mini-adventure with a visit to the Shepherd’s Harvest Festival (which you can still go to today, Sunday, if you’re in the Twin Cities area). It was great! I can’t believe how many fiber producers/artists there are in the Minnesota/Wisconsin area. F was delighted by the sheep, and M was all about the bunnies. Which plays nicely into my “plan” to become a merino/angora fiber farmer. M was a little disappointed that we didn’t bring a bunny home, but what she REALLY wanted was a spinning wheel. If only she were a little older! I had a tough time picking out just a few things to buy from the vendors, but I came home with some wool roving (to make another felted play scene for the girls), a bit of yellow silk roving, green banana silk fibers, some mohair curls (for peg doll hair), and a basket from Ghana. This is my third basket like this, although this one is “for the girls”.

It was fun to return home and see how things had grown over the past few days. Those strawberry plants are looking good (well, the cheaper ones are — the ten that were more expensive may or may not be donefer). I got more hardware cloth to put on the sides of the “cage” I’ve built to go over the strawberries. It probably won’t keep mice/shrews out, but at least it’ll stop birds eating our berries.

The chickens are coming up nicely in the front flower garden. That’s one of their favorite places to roll in the dirt. I need to get some more in to fill in all the holes they’ve made. The little chicks are in the big coop now (with some pieces of plywood to hide under), and everybody seems to be doing okay. They definitely prefer to stay under cover until the big chickens exit the premises, though. At this rate, by the time they muster up the courage to go outside, they’ll know for sure that the coop is “home”!

Garden Helper

We got some good gardening done today! My mail-order blueberry twigs and strawberry blips (ie, everything’s really small) arrived today, so we planted those, along with the potatoes and a few rows of onions. I have more onions to plant, but F naps for only so long!

M is always delighted to spend time outside. She likes the idea of helping in the garden, but not so much the reality of it. But we inspected some worms this morning and talked about keeping them covered with dirt and how lots of worms mean the soil is healthy. And in the afternoon, she just hung out and chatted with me while I planted the strawberries. I kept reminding her that she could go run around or play on her swing set (which is, not accidentally, right next to the garden), but she wanted to stay with me and watch. It was nice to have company! And, of course, once the hose came out, her desire to help came rushing back.

Egg count: Two.

Meeting

I opened the door to the chicks’ coop yesterday and let them mingle with the big chickens. When I put the chickens away in the evenings, the hens always parade through the usually-closed-off-barn (Red opts to go around outside and come in through the pop door, directly into the coop), so the two flocks have seen each other in passing. There wasn’t any fuss yesterday. A couple of the hens welcomed themselves into the chicks’ coop and settled into the nesting boxes — I guess chickens have good memories, as it’s been almost a year since they had access to this coop! The chicks weren’t sure what to think when they walked up the ramp and saw fluffy Rita in their bedroom. Anyway, I’m glad there hasn’t been any tussling between chicks and chickens. Next week is supposed to be rainy, so I think it’ll be time to move the chicks to the big coop and leave the run closed for a while.

I still haven’t planted anything but perennials. Yesterday, we planted some shasta daisies and strawberries that my aunt gave to M. I’ve got an order of strawberry plants coming (today!), which will go in the big garden, but we put M’s in the little flower garden out front. Last week, I found an old bird cage nailed to our “shack”, and it’s the perfect little fence to keep the chickens away from M’s strawberries.

I think it’s probably safe to get seeds and potatoes in the ground. I was ready almost a month ago, and then a real cold snap came through, and it was so rainy for a while. But it’s time to get going!

Yesterday’s egg count: three.

Earth Day

We’re nearing the end of April, already. I had hoped to get some vegetables planted a bit earlier this year, but — in between a few really mild, beautiful days — it keeps being cool and rainy. I don’t want to get my seeds/onions/potatoes in the ground only to have them rot.

Rita is broody again. The young Easter Eggers are out in the barn, in the mini-coop, still with a heat lamp. I suspect there are three boys in my group of seven chicks, even though I ordered only one. The baby-roo who came marked as such is starting to get aggressive (mostly with the other chicks, but definitely wanting to challenge me, too), so if he continues down that path, I kind of hope I DO have an extra boy to take his place.

M and I spent F’s entire morning nap playing outside. I just tagged along while M explored. It was a perfect day for it!

Garden 2017, Part One

This is what I’m starting with this year. Not very inspiring, is it? And this is what it looked like AFTER a few hours of work! I had to drag out all the timbers (the borders of the old garden beds) and landscape fabric and tomato cages and other odds and ends. Pulled up the pavers. Raked out the dead weeds, long grass, and old plants. Then mowed it down as much as I could.

Yesterday, my parents brought over their tiller, and I created the new garden rows. Now I need to amend the soil and cover the rows with landscape fabric. It’s always so fiddly planting things through the fabric, but trying to keep the garden weed-free without it is much more annoying. The weeds out here are monsters! I’m trying to settle on a garden design that can stay the same year after year (ie, one that I’m happy with, one that’s easy to maintain), and I think simple rows might be the answer.

We (M and I) have lots of plans for the garden. I might be feeling slightly overambitious this year, but we’ll see what happens! M has ideas about what to grow (raspberries — easy, since they’re already in place!, potatoes, carrots), and she wants to “sit in chairs in the garden” and HELP. “I’ll say, ‘Can I help you?’ and you’ll say, ‘Sure!'”

With the garden looking so desolate at the moment, I’m trying to remember how quickly it turns lush once everything is in place. I mean, in just three months, it’ll be mid-July, and everything will be green and wild!