We went to Milkweed Farm, about 20 minutes from us to pick strawberries for the freezer as ours are in the first year and not prolific by any stretch of the imagination.
Milkweed Farm in Brunswick is a wonderful place, Lucretia Woodruff, farmer extraordinar, has created an amazing farm with her family. Her knowledge of fruit and biodynamic farming techniques, amaze me and I wanted to glean any information I could from her.
This was a perfect place to pick with small children. Lucretia had last years strawberry patch available for the kids to pick from, right next to this years patch. There is also a play area with slides and hay bales etc. I had three mama friends with me and we had 8 children under 8 with us, they were easily entertained for the hour and a half we were there.
T was with me as well and both of us picked 8 pounds of strawberries in less then 1.5 hours. I cut and froze 10 quarts, and the rest was for immediate consumption, yuuuuummm! So tasty! We may have to go back in the next couple of weeks!
I used our last squash the other day, it was a delicata squash that was still perfect. This is the first year we have had squash this late in the year, not from the freezer. Winter squash are one of my favorite foods so I was really excited to have one last this long.
This year I made some trays, out of scrap wood that River brought home from work, with hardware cloth on the bottom for air circulation, that fit on the large shelves in our closet. It worked pretty well. Our bedroom is unheated and as long as we kept the door closed most of the time the temperature stayed in a nice zone for keeping squash. My grandparents always stored squash under the spare room bed, which was also an unheated room, probably a slightly cooler temperature then our room was.
I was disappointed with the storage of our kabocha type squashes. I had planted three varieties; Sweet Mamas, Uncle David’s and Buttercup (my absolute favorite since childhood). They were the first to get soft spots, followed by the pie pumpkins, then the butternuts, last but not least the delicata.
This year I didn’t plant any Kabocha type squash. I may regret this later, but for right now I went with my best storage and highest production plants (for us, this was butternut last year)…we will find out in the fall if this was a good choice.
We added to our garden area at the away field, started hilling potatoes over there and are ready to plant another 35 lbs of potatoes and more onions. That is one of this weeks projects (hopefully, mom life means it isn’t always done in the timely manner that I wish it was) The Littles will be spending some time at my grandmothers on Wednesday morning and my plan is to work like crazy at the away field to get it all planted at least.
Adding more garden space meant collecting more manure from a local horse farm. We rented a dump trailer for this and hoped to haul poop all weekend. This was cut short when the tractor at the farm wasn’t working properly. River was able to get six loads. This is less then half of what we hoped for. We got 5 loads at the field and 1 load at our farm.
We laid down cardboard in the away field then put the manure on top of the cardboard. We will spread woodchips around the outside on top of the cardboard to keep the grasses from taking over the potatoes and onions.
I am also building some new beds at our house. We have a combination of raised beds ( it is extremely wet in our field in early spring) and beds directly in the soil. My hope this week is to add more of our compost to at least one of the ground beds and plant carrots. Surrounding the bed with cardboard and woodchips to keep the weeds at bay. We would like all our paths to have woodchips on them as we use a no till system at this time, this would help keep down the weeds and give the boys a visual of where they may put there little feet. This is a challenge!
I will be weeding in the greenhouse and we will be taking the top and one side off the greenhouse. We do this to wash away salts and other things that can build up in the greenhouse soil. This year I have planted all my peppers and tomatoes in the field to have a little crop rotation in there. I have planted summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and Jenny Lind Musk melons in there. The cukes and melons will grow on trellis’. I am going to plant some other goodies in there too as I have more space.
My vole traps are working really well. I am still catching critters in them, so I move them around a bit to keep it fresh. I don’t want the little critters to catch on to my tricks! I am missing a rat trap, it would seem that there is a larger critter that Has found our trapped critters make an easy meal. So they have taken to opening the boxes and removing the rat traps, and leaving them strewn about the garden.
Our fruit production will be low this year. Two of our peach trees died. Our apricot, apple and plum trees all had lovely blossoms, but no fruit has formed. They may have gotten a touch of frost at the wrong time. Our peach and pear trees are loaded with fruit as are the raspberries, black raspberries and mulberry plants. About half our blueberries have fruit. I think some may need new homes to produce more fruit. More sun perhaps.
We picked our first strawberry yesterday. That was the highlight of our week so far harvest wise.
This is just a little update on recent and current events happening at Firehouse Farm.
This year I grew my own sweet potato slips. They are glorious to behold and look much healthier then the ones I ordered. I ordered some because I had heard the slips could be hard to grow and I wasn’t sure how my experiment would turn out.
First we put toothpicks around the middle of the sweet potato’s and set them into jars filled with water.
The sweet potatoes start to grow roots, if they didn’t in a week or so, I turned them around and most of them grew roots, there were a couple of duds like the one above.
I read This Organic Life By Joan Dye Gussow earlier this spring. She said that she had tried to make her own slips for a couple years with little success. One year, when they hadn’t started growing after a week or so, she just turned them around and what do you know, they started growing roots!
After the roots grew, little green leaves started growing. Most of the potato grew leaves out of the top, but there were a few rebels that grew leaves on the same end as the roots.
Break off the leaves at the sweet potato and stick them in a jar of water. Roots will start to form and then they will be ready to plant when the soil is warm enough.
Our harvests have been best when we have not used black plastic on the beds. This was recommended last time I ordered slips. So we laid down irrigation and put the black plastic on top. It did help with weeds, but initially many of our plants did not make it.
This year I will not be using plastic, just weeding and water if we have to. I will be trying to mulch it quite well to keep the soil moist.
I have made a video about this, I will post it here as a link to our Facebook page until I can figure out how to post it here directly.Sweet Potato Video
This was busy weekend on the farm. Friday, River took the day off from work to help a friend cut down trees that had fallen in our big storm last October. It was our warmest day this year and there were browntail moth caterpillar’s everywhere. He said at one point they were practically raining on him. Needless to say he ended up with a pretty impressive rash. Saturday he ended up at the walk in clinic to get a prescription so he could sleep.
I was sick with a virus on Sunday, so we all hung out and I mostly slept. Luckily River was home to keep the boys fed and occupied.
We planted our tomato and pepper seedlings in the garden. I am loath to say how depressingly small many of my seedlings were. I had 5 good sized tomatoes out of 57 plants and the rest were tiny.
River put up electric fencing in the chicken coop which ended up being a bust because the chickens got out anyway. See my post on Chicken Fencing to find out how we finally solved this problem.
On Tuesday I discovered that something had dug up several of my tomato seedlings. It was in the bed that I had added eggshells to last. Adding eggshells to your soil for tomato’s and peppers can ward off blossom end rot because they contain calcium. This is the first year I have done this, so I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of the eggshells yet. I washed and crushed them with my hand, perhaps I should have put them through the blender to make them of less interest to critters.
It was nice to be working close together on projects as River and I are often working on things that are far apart and the Littles went back and forth “helping” as they felt like it. A was actually very good at transplanting tomatoes. Of the three boys he seems to enjoy the gardens the most.
We really wanted to have free range chickens, but alas, I couldn’t stand it!
We fenced in the big garden, but we have a lot of gardens around the yard. Every bed had to either be fenced or repaired almost everyday as chickens are diggers.
The new rhubarb looks like poop as the chickens ripped away the soil everyday, I had to cover it with deer fencing as the chickens were eating rhubarb leaves, which are poisonous to people so I didn’t think the chickens would eat them. Jokes on me they ate them…and they all lived.
The chickens started ranging further afield as well, on the edge of the neighbors property and I didn’t want them to become nuscince to the neighbors.
We also have a fox skulking around. I scared it away one evening, she was definitely close enough to kill one of the chickens that were out. It was a nice evening so I had the window open and heard the chickens getting riled up, looked out the window and saw the fox. T and I went out and rounded up the chickens and they went right in…few.
A fox will come back if they see easy pickings so our best bet to keep them alive is to keep them caged as we don’t have a rooster. We have had roosters in the past, they were loud and they all got mean at some point and ended up in the stew pot.
We had some chicken’s that were jump/flying the fence and some that found the darndest holes to squeeze out of around the base.
We tried electric fencing, which was a flop and plugging holes and running a higher string around the top of the coop. They were getting out of everything. Finally we took some fencing that we had used to create extra run space last summer in an attempt to give them fresh pasture often, without free ranging, and River attached it to the top of the other fencing, making the fence between 8 and 10 feet tall in some places. The Littles and I staked the bottom of the fence about every foot with tent stakes. I am happy to say that for the first time in months, the chickens stayed in the run all day! Whoot! I was so happy, I didn’t need to do any bed repairs yesterday and I can start building up the rhubarb bed again!
Hopefully the chickens have done enough damage to the tick population in our yard that we won’t have a major recurrence this year, our yard has been remarkably tick free.
Here’s to garden beds that don’t get dug up and ladies safe from the foxes!