We had six inches of snow by late morning, Friday 4/16. Most melted by Saturday; it was all gone by Sunday morning.
It is the time of year that if and when it does snow, it melts readily, at least in these New England parts.
It is the time of year that the chicken hens become prolific egg-layers again.
It is the time of year that bursts of yellow arise from forsythia bushes and from daffodils – although mine own of the latter are still waiting as buds.
It is the time of year when ticks start making their presence known again – fortunately mine had only begun to try to burrow into my arm, and it was a dog, not a deer, tick.
POULTRY HOMESTEADING PLANS
I am incubating quail eggs that should be hatching later this week. I need to set up their new brooder in the basement – since if everything hatches (not actually likely) I will have 56 baby quail on my hands. There will be a post about the new brooder in a month – after I see how it works out. Suffice it to say for now that the base is a small plastic horse trough.
Starting a week after my quail (supposedly) hatch, I will start incubating a dozen chicken eggs. Six or seven from the barred Plymouth rock colony. Two or three each from the main chicken house, and from the tractor house. I figure half will be male, half will be female. Two of the females will go to a neighbor friend. The males will all (maybe I will save one in case one full-fledge rooster bites the dust) go to Freezer Camp. The rest of the females will help ease rooster-pressure on some of the existing hens. I want to have four to five (maybe six) hens per rooster. RIght now, it is two to four. I lost two hens (apparently, predation) from the Main Coop (the Ovalicious Coop) just a couple or so weeks ago, so now there remain just two hens in that coop. I’d like that rooster to have five or six hens. The coop is large enough, and I’m certain the remaining ladies would agree that their rooster’s stud-liness needs more volunteers. The tractor coop is large enough as is – four hens, one rooster, and not space for more.
At any rate, my quail should be out of the brooder and out in the back yard before my baby chickens will need said brooder.
In August, I will be getting a few Cornish Cross strictly for meat purposes.
I plan to improve the chicken watering systems. This won’t help for winter (I will continue to backpack water down to supplement the ice, during that season). But it will make life easier for both them and myself.
As for other livestock: that’s on hold for now, for a couple of reasons, one of which I will mention way down below.
VEGETATIVE HOMESTEADING PLANS
Wild foraging: Dandelion (hey, everywhere. Plantain. My high bush blueberries in the way back (Blueberry Grove) were possibly never planted, although I have done some pruning on them over time. These taste as good as lowbush blueberries (which is what you usually find at stores or at roadside stands/farmers’ markets. These are just a lot smaller.) I know there are more wild things to forage out there, and I am hoping this is the year for that! A friend of mine has found Japanese knotwood she harvests for tasty springtime meals, but it is actually quite good I haven’t seen any signs of this true invasive on my property.
Coming back from 2020 (or earlier): Saffron (saffron is a type of crocus and it is only extremely pricy because it is really difficult to harvest efficiently on a large scale), rhubarb, onions, garlic, woodruff (right now just for pretty but once it expands I may try to harvest for consumption – blooms in May, so typically May Wine is made from this latter), Lady’s mantle (just for pretty), wormwood (for bruises, NOT for internal consumption). I am expecting some Jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes, and probably some oregano. Still early. Some other perennial herbs may also re-appear. Horseradish. Hasn’t poked up yet, but it WILL. Horseradish does that. I also see some kale re-emerging! (Raised Bed 4 c, a middle two rows)
Saplings: Elderberry and dogwood do not look to have survived. They will be pulled and replaced, although I’ll give them another week or so to redeem themselves. The elderberry is very disappointing – this survived the previous winter, but flunked the job the current one. I should be able to find local dogwood, but probably not elderberry bushes. So I plan to skip elderberry this year (I really want some elderberry for its serious health benefits, but… somewhere else next year. DO NOT PLANT elderberry anywhere near where you want to park a car, or have an outdoor seating area – if the bush/tree thrives, it will drop staining elderberries down atop anything you might hold in other ways, valuable!) and simply replace with more dogwood. Dogwood of course is just for pretty. My apple seems fine.
I have ordered more apples, and some plums – mini dwarf bundles from Raintreenursery.com. They’ll arrive in a few weeks.
I have ordered two Asian pears, same source.
The foundation landscaping plants (and overall area) needs some serious work. Alas, the soil remains rock-hard here! I do have a plan of attack, see the LANDSCAPING portion of this post.
Indoor seed starts: Tomatoes (Cherokee purple), Hybrid Asian Eggplant (both from Johnny’s Seeds). Okra will be started next week, again via Johnny’s seeds.
Seeds to start outdoors: I hope to plant the Snow Peas (Avalanche) later today, based on having the inoculant to hand. There will also be “rhubarb” Swiss chard, hybrid turnips, and mustard greens. There will be two varieties of basil (Thai and tulsi). Cucumbers and a couple varieties of winter squash. I also need to revamp my overall herb bed.
;Seedlings and tubers: I’ve already planted red cabbage and spinach, both plants that can deal with cold weather starts. The cabbage is intended to go through the season (Raised Bed 2c, first row). The spinach will be ready soon, and will be replaced with seeds for more spinach, albeit of a different variety, and will occupy more space than so depicted. (Raised Bed 2 c, 2nd / 3rd row). This part of the raised bed this year is a small one. I would prefer to start veggies from seeds, but this is to get something going!
I will be planting many Yukon gold seed potatoes. They have been a wonderful crop these past two years. Some will come from my leftover stock of potatoes that went to seed, the others will come from the local farm supply store.
LANDSCAPING & INFRASTRUCTURE PLANS
I need to look into a snowmobile or ATV for wintertime trekking out back. Snow maneuvering on foot is getting more difficult physically for me, although I do have a setup that works most of the time for the chickens, and the quail are right outside my back door. (This is one of the reasons no new livestock for now. I fell in the back yard right after we had a 20 inch snowstorm that landed upon a pre-existing batch of snow – I was unhurt, but I could NOT get up on my feet. I ended up backstroking down to Ovalicious Coop, and pulling myself up by the door handle. Brutally cold, too!) Some sort of protective covering for such a vehicle is going to be essential – and room for a regular (small) tractor would be good as well. It is too windy here on occasion to rely on tarps. I also really need to sit down and figure out how best to house sheep, goats or alpaca so that they’d have a winter’s full supply of forage, too. Oh, I also want to go in and get fitted for snow shoes next autumn.
I have some outdoor wood staining work to do. And wood preserving, afterwards. There are also patches on the sunny side of the house that can stand a refurbishment.
The firepit stones need to be manhandled into position. Since I won’t have a tractor immediately, I need to wait until the soil leading downwards back behind my house is not mushy any more – so I can load rocks into my SUV and drive them towards their destination. Although while the ground is still somewhat mushy, it may be easier to crowbar them out of the space where the general contractor pushed them back in 2017. I will still have to port them part-way, as I don’t want to drive on the leeching field back there. This is stuff that would have happened LAST year, but for some reason I got into a space where I failed at the sufficient motivation.
Next winter I hope to be tapping about 20 trees for syrup. I need to plan (and build) for a more appropriate boil-down setup before winter hits (as well as marking more trees come October). A few of these will be birch, no need to mark as their bark is extremely definitive.
Items I’ve purchased for use this year, so far: A broadfork. I really need to loosen some soil around here. I do believe in no-till gardening, but my soil is being hard-as-rock-obstreperous in certain places, I need to do what my back can tolerate. And some perennial weeds have taken advantage of this to be real pains in the posterior to remove. Material for making a low tunnel or two for autumn season extension. A manual post digger – well, for posts, naturally, but may also help me start holes for inserting larger plants.
The homesteading farm will have a Farm Name and a website domain by the end of this month. I won’t be ready to sell anything other than eggs until later this year (hoping for potatoes to add to the above). No, this will NOT be called Of Goats and Greens Farm – I don’t have ANY goats yet, and no idea when or if they will arrive. Next winter there should almost certainly be maple syrup. Barring a horrendous winter!
THE LAY OF THE LAND
This is a map of the property. Actually, not all of the property. I own the woodlands to the right (east) on this diagram, and that’s where most of the maple trees are. For the quarter acre property and house adjacent to the road that I don’t own, I do own to the right of that, as well (some earlier owner deeded that spot to a relative back in the early 1900s). At any rate, most of my syruping activity will take place IN the woods. Only two maple trees are marked on my diagram.
My neighbor to the west (left) is the Nature Conservancy. My neighbor to the south (bottom) is also the Nature Conservancy. They are markedly very quiet! No hassle at all! (I do want to do them a favor and do my best to rid my own property of that repulsive and invasive Japanese barberry, as I can.)
This diagram is not REMOTELY to scale. There’s a very gradual downslope from the road to my house. Where there is suddenly a bigger slow (hence a back yard walk-out basement). The house is NOT a true rectangle, although for the purposes of describing what I’m doing, this works fine. Behind the garage is another garden space, which I did not depict, as it is primarily for some fun ornamentals, some of which should attract hummingbirds – and because it is the garage that makes this place not a rectangle. I also didn’t draw in the deck – the quail housing is actually under the deck.
Landscape is flat for a small bit longer going south, then another dip (not as severe, but a dip I notice in winter none the less…). Then we are down to the region of the solar panels and the chicken coops and the patio/pavilion. A good wide platform for current and future endeavors. At the very back on this map is Blueberry Grove, at the bottom of the final dip. Soil here is moist (which supports the highbush blueberries with little maintenance).
The driveway is a circular affair. Most convenient for guests who want to leave before later guests without disrupting those guests who suddenly decide since they are in their cars to make space for those first ones to leave, they’ll go leave, too. Even if they hadn’t planned on it. (I like guests. I only invite ones I want to see.) That was the plan, anyway. 2020 threw a spanner into that, but I did get some use out of the circular driveway prior. Also handy for delivery folk. And especially for the snow plow guy.
At any rate the uneven squiggles with arrows done in light brown/butterscotch are ways one can drive off-road here with ease, if not too wet. I can usually do these in my SUV.
The upper ? is where I hope to house my future combo tractor/ATV/potting shed. The lower one is my ideal place for putting the mammalian livestock barn, although I am open to alternatives. (Might be in the middle of the typed legend!)
You’ll notice a patch of land to the right (east) of the garage. That is to be mostly herbs, although currently some strawberries are here by default. I’ve also done kale and lettuce here. But the goal is to be primarily herbs and herbal-like vegetation. I’ve put in some perennials transplanted from my old home – which is how Jerusalem artichokes will also be a part of this landscape. That’s okay. The house itself will provide their wind-break
The pink square below the patio/pavilion – a fire pit, with a place to the side for a future smoker.
I am looking forward to doing a lot of good things around here in 2021. Hoping everyone has a healthy year, and the perfect weather for crops you might be growing!