Even though spring doesn’t officially start for another 12 days, we are rolling full steam ahead with spring activities on the farm. We aren’t the only ones already in spring mode around here – the chickens are finally starting to pick up their egg laying game! We even had a few days this past week where we collected 11 eggs which was definitely a sight for sore eyes. We stopped having to buy eggs from the farm down the road a few weeks ago, and soon we will be able to provide my parents with eggs again. Once the hens really ramp up their production and we have a surplus of eggs, we will sell them on a small scale to some local folks as well.
Our little chicks will be a month old in a couple of days and man are they growing fast! We went from being able to carry around four or five of them in one hand when they first arrived to only being able to carry two last week and just one this week. They have all shed most of their baby fluff and have started growing their real big girl feathers. They are still darn cute (no mother will ever call her own baby ugly), but they have definitely entered the homely baby eagle stage. I mentioned briefly in the last post that Doug has been working on building a combination chicken brooder/chicken tractor for the past few weeks. The brooder portion is finally complete, so the chicks moved out of their brooder in our pantry and into their big fancy brooder in the garage mid-week last week. Boy were they happy! We are happy to have them out of the pantry too, especially because the bottom half of the pantry was covered in a thin layer of dust from them being in there. I spent the greater half of the day yesterday doing a much needed deep clean, purge, and re-organization of the pantry that we’ve said we would do for the past two years. Thanks chickies for finally forcing that task upon us! It’s safe to say that the chickies have fully adjusted to life in their new brooder. In an attempt to make them hate me less, I introduced the chickies to Grubblies black soldier fly larvae and they quickly became obsessed with the treats and with me when I have them. Success!
It’s been two weeks since we started our first seeds and we are happy to report that nearly all of our peas germinated and have successfully taken off. So much that we learned one of our first soil blocking lessons: make sure you actually leave space between the blocks for the roots to air prune. In trying to maximize space and efficiency while making the soil blocks, we were able to fit ten rows of four blocks into each tray. It worked out perfectly for germination, but the peas have been so vigorous that they have already formed tons of roots out of the sides and bottoms of each of the blocks. Since our blocks were so close together, some of the roots grew into neighboring blocks. Luckily we realized what was happening early on and we were able to separate all of the blocks and move some of the larger peas to a new tray so that they have ample space for air pruning. We are planning on starting our next round of seeds in the next few days, so we will probably do nine rows of four blocks in each tray. This way, the blocks will have good air flow between them and we hopefully won’t have to move the blocks around more than necessary risking damage to the blocks and the seedlings. Luckily the peas have such a strong root system that the soil blocks are bound together pretty well, but we did have a few corners crumble a little bit while we were shuffling them around. It was enough to make me whimper, but none of the seedlings or blocks were damaged or ruined. Our tomatoes have all started germinating and soon we will have to thin each block that has more than one seedling growing in it. No signs of any peppers yet, but they historically take three weeks or longer to germinate when we start them this time of year. We had very poor pepper germination rates last year, so hopefully this year will be better. We’ll just have to wait and see!
The weather finally started to warm up last week, so naturally all of our bok choy and tatsoi decided to bolt immediately. We have since pulled out all of the plants and have processed them into freezer storage for future soups and stir fries. We made a delicious bok choy soup for ourselves and we threw all of the “waste” from the plants to the chickens who demolished it on the spot. Now that the raised beds that housed the bok choy and tatsoi are empty, we will pull all of the weeds, add some compost, and prep the beds for spring. In the main garden, we have finally started to see some broccolini heads forming! We were starting to think that our broccolini was a lost cause that would just be sacrificed to the chickens, but it turns out that we may get a small harvest or two out of them after all. We still haven’t quite figured out how to successfully grow cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower from seeds in our growing zone, but we try every year nonetheless. Speaking of compost, we’ve also been hard at work turning both piles so that the aged compost will be ready to prep our garden beds within the next month. We like to put our compost in our garden about a month or so before we put any plants into the ground so that the nutrients can really seep into the soil. After adding the compost to the garden beds and raking it in, we cover each garden bed with ground cloth before planting. We’ve unfortunately had our fair share of crappy quality ground cloth over the past few years, but I think we’ve finally figured out which brand works best for us. More on that in a future post. This past week we also pulled weeds and cleaned out all of our raised flower garden beds and we were pleased to find that some of the perennial and self-seeding varieties have already started to sprout and grow back. Seeing pops of green in spots that have only been brown for months is an instant happiness booster. With the warm weather, the local honeybees have also been out and about. We purposely leave the dandelion and henbit plants in our garden this time of year so that the bees have access to some early season pollen and nectar. When I was in the garden doing some planning yesterday, I heard a familiar sound and looked down to find a little honeybee on one of the dandelion flowers. Since we lost both of our hives last fall, it was nice to see that there are still some honeybees around the area. We are looking forward to starting over with new bees this year, however we are going to be changing the location of the hives which means that we have a lot of work to do in the next couple of months before our packages arrive.
Maya and the goats have also been enjoying the warmer weather and are oftentimes spotted taking naps in the sunny spots in the goat pen. We’ve been taking them out for “goat walks” around our property lately which always leads to endless smiles and laughter as we watch them frolic and jump around the yard. We’ve also noticed a resurgence in the hawk population which tends to happen this time of year, so we filled all of our bird feeders in hopes of attracting small nesting birds. When the nesting birds start to build their nests in the trees, they get very territorial and will help to deter hawks. We also have a flock of crows around here who despise the hawks and do everything in their power to run them off which is pretty cool to watch. Every time I see the crows chasing off a hawk, I start cheering for them in the yard because it’s a silly simple pleasure and more importantly it means that the hawks are one less thing we need to worry about attacking our chickens. With the return of the nesting birds, the frogs at night, and the now ever-present egg song coming from the chicken coop, the sounds of spring are alive once again on the farm. One of the best times of year is almost here!