Friday, 29 July 2016

... the coop and the ladies

Hello again...

We was a great deal of excitement here yesterday. We went to an heirloom hatchery in Quebec and we picked up our chickens.

There were hundreds and hundreds of birds there, all ages from day olds to somewhat more mature birds such as we brought home. Ours range in age from 8 to 12 weeks. We had originally ordered 8 birds but selected 2 extra when we were there. I would have loved to bring them all home....they were SO cute.

First of all I have a few shots of the finished chicken coop. Frank put in an enormous amount of work making it predator proof as the pressure is quite high here.

The door that you see on the left leads into a storage/feed room. We have extra straw in there, the feed in a galvanized can and a few tools to use in the coop.



 The coop has two windows, one facing south and the other east, both of which have been covered in hardware cloth. There is also a window in the top of the door. I intend to add a hardware cloth covered screen door so they will have more sunshine and also better ventilation. The prevailing wind here is from the west and the feed room is on the west side of the coop to provide a bit of insulation in the winter.




The coop has two pop holes for the birds to exit when we have built the runs. They are secured with locked latches that should prove to be raccoon proof. 

Frank installed a ceiling in the coop and we will put insulation up there. The roof has ridge venting for ventilation and there is a trap door in the ceiling that you can raise and lower using a pulley in the feed room. This will help with additional ventilation and also help to draw off the heat in the summer. We have positioned the coop just to the east of a large pine tree which should provide some shade for them during the afternoon heat as well as act as a wind break in the winter.


Inside they have a large roost which will easily allow all of them to roost at night.


There is a decent size dust bath in the corner. It is filled with ordinary garden soil, sifted ash from the woodstove and livestock grade diatomaceous earth. This picture also shows the inside of one of the pop holes with little cross pieces to make it easy for them to climb in and out.



In this picture we have the waterer and the feeder side by side. This morning we moved the feeder to the south wall as there will be less chance of the food ending up in the water which happened overnight. 

There are 4 nest boxes with a small ladder to reach them. The nest boxes have a wooden lip at the front to keep eggs from falling out. This photo also shows the pop hole on the east side of the building.



And Now... let me introduce the ladies. There are 10 of them in total.

This little black and white speckled beauty is my favourite. She is a Hamburg. We have decided to call her Hamburger which may seem inappropriate but it seems to fit the little sweetie. She is already getting quite brave and will walk up to me when I enter the coop.


This one is actually a mutant Naked Neck in that she does NOT in fact have a naked neck at all. I really loved her colouring. 


This one is an Andalusian. She is basically white but just a few faint grey feathers on her. You can barely make them out around her neck.


We have three of these all black Australorps. The largest of these three has already established herself as the alpha in the coop and has been bullying several of the other birds a bit. Hopefully that will end soon as they become accustomed to their new surroundings.


Lastly we have four Jersey Giants, the bruisers of the egg laying world. The hens can easily weigh in at 10 pounds and they will lay extra large brown eggs.


Here is a nice shot of them all mingling.


I went in to check on them this morning and they were certainly not as skittish around me as they were last night. I want them to be very comfortable with me around them and also, quite frankly, I love to watch them doing their chicken things.

That is it for today. Thanks so much for stopping by. Do leave me any comments or questions that you may have. Have a wonderful weekend. Cheers.

 ~ Melanie ~

.... garlic harvest

Hello there...

The garlic harvest proved to be fantastic. Absolutely the best garlic we have ever grown.

I should have taken a picture of all of it after I had harvested it but I forgot.

However I do have a shot of the bundles that I made of them. You cannot exactly braid them as they are hardneck but you can sort of bundle them up which is what I did. 


I plan to hang them up in our storage closet which will sort of double as a cold room this winter. 

We are really pleased with them.

Thanks a lot for stopping by. I will be back with a second post today with some very exciting new. Well... exciting for us anyway. Cheers.

 ~ Melanie ~

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

... garden cushion

Hello again everyone,

It is a feast or a famine with me, is it not?  :) Two posts in one day!

I am back with another post today to show you a project I did to make my life in the garden a little easier.

First of all, we need to talk about weeding styles.

Some people stand, bent over from the waist and do their weeding.

Others prefer the crouch method where you sort of squat down with your bottom almost touching your heels.

And still others prefer to kneel or sit on the ground.

I am in the last category. Especially if I have a large area to deal with. If I am just wandering through the beds to see how things are going and what is getting ready to harvest I will certainly bend down to grab a weed if I see one.
Otherwise, I am right down kneeling on the ground.

There is one small problem with that. Actually not that small... my pathways are all pea stone. Pea stone is not at all comfortable to kneel upon. In fact it is downright painful.

I began to look around in the gardening catalogs at the various fancy devices that they have to solve this problem. The one main thing that they all had in common was the price. Don't get me wrong... my comfort when I am out there for several hours working is important to me.... however a hefty price tag for that comfort is not.

I got to thinking that I could come up with something to solve the problem. 

And I did.

I purchased a pillow form from a fabric store. Nice big one... 20" square.


 Then I bought a small piece of plastic tablecloth material from our local hardware store. 


Total cost of both was $11.00

I merely covered the pillow with the plastic fabric and presto....  It was a bit of work wrestling that cushion in the sewing machine but where there is a will, there is a way.


I now have a nice, large and I may say very comfortable cushion to kneel or sit upon while I am working.

If I should happen to leave it out there and it rains, no matter, it is plastic. I double stitched all around it so hopefully that should keep out any water.

That is it for me for today... promise. :)  Need to go and deal with the garlic harvest. Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.  Cheers.

 ~ Melanie ~


... broccoli harvest

Hello everybody,

Despite the fact that we are still going through a horrendous drought, we have actually managed to get a very decent broccoli crop.

I prefer to grow open-pollinated heirlooms for most of my vegetables but there is one notable exception. 

I grow an F1 hybrid broccoli named "Goliath". They produce very large plants that you absolutely must not crowd when you plant them and also very large heads, often about 10" in diameter as you can see from these photos.



The flavour is very good... after all, that is one of the reasons why we grow our own, is it not?

I harvested the main head from all the plants and left them to grow on as Goliath will usually produce side shoots as well, which in fact they did. These have also been cut now. They are not large but certainly well worth the few minutes of effort to go out and cut them as you can see here.


Of course we saved a few heads which we have been eating fresh but the balance of the broccoli was blanched and frozen in the same method that I use for everything else. The one difference is that I steam the broccoli rather than boil it as I think that the spears stay in better shape since the heads are rather delicate. After they are blanched and cooled they go on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and into the freezer. Then I bag them up in zippy bags for future use.


That is it from me for now. Thanks for visiting with me. Have a great day. Cheers.

 ~ Melanie ~

Friday, 8 July 2016

... kitchen garden update

Hello everyone,

I know it has been a while since I last posted but we have been busy.

We have completed the work on the raised beds that we intended to install this season. They are all built and filled and most have been planted. 

It is official. We are now experiencing the worst drought in this area of eastern Ontario since 1948. We are desperate for rain. Naturally, since we live in the countryside, we are on a well. We are lucky that ours is a deep, drilled well at 220 feet. A lot of our neighbours have shallow dug wells, some only 20 feet deep and most or very concerned about running out of water. I am also concerned and we use the water very sparingly. The only thing that gets watered are the pots of plants and the vegetables. I hand water all of it rather than just setting up a sprinkler that would waste water on the pathways. I only water every second day but give it a very thorough soaking.

Despite all the aforementioned doom and gloom the garden is doing very well. Last spring I ordered 22 tons of pea stone and the other day I finished shovelling all of it, by hand, and spreading it on the pathways between the raised beds on top of newspaper and landscape fabric. I have in fact run out and still have an area to finish up but will get a small load in the pickup truck. A few weeds still manage to get in there but they are weak and easy to remove.

I have a few photos I took this morning of the garden.

We planted some blueberry bushes 5 years ago and finally this year we have a bit of a crop from them. They are all under netting to keep the birds from getting the berries before we do.



As you can see from these remaining photos the garden is neat and tidy and all the plants are doing well. When it comes to flower gardens I tend to favour the English cottage garden look. In a veg garden, I want it neat, clean, weed free and easy to maintain. It was a lot of work putting in this garden but now the upkeep is mere minutes a day. Well worth all the hard graft.








We have been harvesting lots of spinach, lettuce, courgettes, chard, radish, arugula, peas and kohlrabi. I have just started more seeds of the brassicas and I have saved a bed for a fall crop. There is one other bed not yet planted out and I am saving that one for a fall crop of carrots and beets. I will cover that bed with straw and a tarp and hope to be able to harvest into the winter months if I can keep the ground from freezing.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Hope you have a great day. If you are here in Ontario, I hope you get some rain and a break from this brutal heat and humidity. Cheers.

  ~ Melanie ~

Saturday, 11 June 2016

... kitchen garden construction continues

Hello everyone,

Sorry to have been away from posting for a while but we have been taking advantage of this unusually cool weather to get as much done in the kitchen garden as is possible for two people to accomplish.  :)

I have lots of photos to show you so you can see what we have been doing and also some to show the various veg beds and how the plants are faring.

We have been building a lot of new beds in the garden this Spring. We have now completed the 2nd row of beds. The last bed is yet to be filled and of course I still have to clear the pathways and lay down the landscape fabric and the pea stone.


We have also begun work on the 3rd row of beds which is in fact the center of the garden. Because I feel that a garden must be food for the eyes and the soul in addition to the stomach I wanted this center section to be a bit more decorative. Accordingly we are placing a long bed at the top and bottom of the row but will have a diamond shaped bed in the very center with two long beds running in the other direction at the top and bottom. Far less beds but much wider pathways to navigate with barrows and such. I am also hoping to put some sort of pergola over the two long wide beds to create a tunnel effect to grow climbing plants like cucumber, beans like Scarlet Runners and also squash plants. As you can see here in this photo the center bed is in and we have just cleared the ground for the first two long beds. They are 11.5 feet long and 4 feet wide each. That width is a bit more than I have used for all the other beds but I can just reach into the center to planting and weeding so it should be OK.


The center bed has already been filled with garden loam and planted out. The very middle of the bed is filled with red Gladioli and around the perimeter I have planted out Pineberries. These are completely new to me. They are white strawberries with red seeds that are said to have a taste of pineapple. They have started to flower and I am tempted to allow them to produce just a couple of berries for a taste. This will not be there permanent home but I needed somewhere to put them for now and this new space was available. As you can see from all the stakes and strings all over the place, we are attempting to get everything lined up properly and evenly.



The 4th row of the garden will spend another year covered in multiple layers of tarps to kill the weeds. Row 5 of which I did not get a photo is somewhat weedy but Frank is in the process of digging them out and that area will be planted with surplus tomatoes and squash as the soil has been amended quite a bit with compost in that area.


And now a look at how the plants are doing this year. This is a photo of the garlic bed. I have removed the mulch in order to get in there and remove the unbelievable amount of weeds that had grown. The beds are now nice and clean. Garlic does not do well with competition from weeds so it is important to keep the beds clear.


This is a new one on me. Broad beans or also called Fava beans. Never grown them before but they are certainly growing a treat. They have begun to flower. I will need to tie them in to their cane supports before they begin to flop over. I cannot wait to try them.


This is one of the beds of carrots. I am growing 4 different varieties and I did find that germination was somewhat spotty. I have since gone back and planted more seed in the gaps. The same was the case with the parsnip which is at the other end of this bed. Germination was just terrible so had to plant a lot more and hope to fill in the spaces if the germination is better this time.


We have planted out three full beds of tomatoes this year. Quite a lot of them are Roma types as we are hoping to do a lot of canned tomatoes this year. We have also spaced them a bit farther apart. I have interplanted lettuce down the center of a couple of the beds. It will be used and out of there long before the tomatoes need the space. The determinate types are in the round cages and the others have been staked.


I have planted out one bed with peas which I am training up this galvanized pea support that I purchased from Veseys in PEI. I only bought one to give it a try but it is working very well and they are grabbing on with their little tendrils to climb up. Will purchase a second one next year. As the pea fence zigzags it's way along the bed it leaves behind triangular shaped areas that I have planted out. I have already harvested an area of arugula and radish and quite a lot of spinach. As you can see this little spot is filled with lettuce and more spinach. The little bare spot in front was radish that I already pulled. As soon as a space is harvested I re-sow it with something else. It is working brilliantly.


These are the two leek beds. I had already done a post on Eliot Coleman's method of growing leeks and so far it seems to be working quite well. All the little holes are completely filled in and the leeks are growing happily.


Since transplanting the rhubarb last year it has taken off and has been exceptional. I have been harvesting from all 4 plants this season and it continues to grow full and lush. This shows the benefits of soil that is tailored to meet the needs of the plants.


This last photo is of the early June bearing strawberries. When I planted them last year I noted in my posts that I was removing the blossom and the runners from these plants in an attempt to have them produce a bumper crop of berries this year. The strategy has worked wonders. Just have a look at all those little beauties. All the plants are just like that... absolutely loaded with fruit. Now the key, especially in this drought we are having, is to give them ample water. There is really no problem with sunshine as we have barely had a cloudy day which of course has caused the drought problem.


Just as I had just noted that we have had uninterrupted sunshine for some time now, in fact, it is completely overcast today and softly raining. I hope it rains all day long but I doubt that it will happen. We really need a week of rain to try to catch up.

That is all from me for today. I think that I will go and run errands today and let the rain do the garden some good and give me a day of rest. :)

Thanks so much for visiting with me today. If you ever have comments or questions, please do leave me a note. Cheers.

 ~ Melanie ~

Monday, 30 May 2016

... first heat wave of the season

Hello everyone,

Well, it is still only May and we are in the midst of the first heat wave of the summer season. And in the middle of a drought. We had an hour or so of rain a week ago but basically no rain for weeks. The ground here is bone dry. We are out in the garden watering every single night. Frank is wondering just how much water there is in our well. At least it is deep... 220 feet. Hopefully there will not be a problem. I do not know how people with shallow dug wells are managing in this weather.

We ordered wood to continue building raised beds and it has arrived. Frank began to cut it up yesterday. The heat is supposed to break completely tonight so construction will begin tomorrow, along with planting out most of the remaining veg plants.

The leeks we planted are doing wonderfully. All the veg in the bed with the peas are also doing really well. We will be eating spinach, arugula and radish this week. This year I started some spinach and beets from seed in the house and then transplanted them out. I also direct sowed spinach. The plants that were transplanted are not doing anywhere near as well as the direct sown plants. Lesson learned. I will not bother with the time and trouble to start spinach and beets to transplant. I will just direct sow in the future.

The parsnips have finally germinated so I can weed out that bed now that I can see them. The carrots are doing well. There are a few misses in the row so I will sow a few additional seeds in the spaces. Need to clear and re-sow beet seeds as few of the transplants survived despite our extra watering.

Once again this year something is eating my brassicas. Actually, not eating but just biting off and leaving the leaves lying on the ground. I made some hoops from some galvanized wire we had and covered the two brassica beds with some row cover that I purchased this year from Early's Garden Center (mail order). It is wonderful and thick. I have covered the beds and we checked last night and did not see any further damage. Fingers crossed. I will go out today and purchase a few plants to fill the gaps.

I have found a new source to buy my garden loam. I stopped in at this landscape company while out running errands last week and the woman who owns it is just a treasure. I checked out all their products, all the mulches, soils, etc. Their garden loam looks wonderful, just like Devils Food Cake. Rich and crumbly with a great earthy smell to it. She said they are very particular with their soils and the are sifted over and over to try to eliminate as much weed seed as possible. She gave me a bag of soil to take home. I immediately filled a seed tray, watered it and set it in the full sun. I have been watering it every day since. NOTHING has come up other than a wind blown dandelion. The soil I had been buying was utterly filled with perennial weeds... the very same ones I am fighting against and the reason we are putting in these raised beds in the first place. Needless to say, I will be getting my garden loam from her from now on.

Not too much else to say today. Still waiting until tomorrow for all this heat to break completely and then will be back in the garden working away.
Thanks for stopping by. Hope to have some pictures of the rest of the garden planted out and the new raised beds. Cheers.

~ Melanie~