We spent our Thanksgiving clearing land and cooking, it was quite the to-do list. After we saw how much Buckthorn had taken over our property earlier this fall and subsequently removed as much of it as we could (more on that process in a later post), there was a section of land just beyond the garden on a very gentle slope that would be ideal for a fruit and nut orchard. There was a slew of dead ash trees, a rusty old fence, and what I'm sure is a hefty crop of Buckthorn berries ready to sprout given the chance on that location, so we took it upon ourselves to get started this fall in preparing the land for an orchard and future fruit guild. What exactly does that mean? Well read on and learn how to get yourself off on the best foot when a fruit and nut orchard is in your homesteading plan!
I have sad news my fellow chicken lovers. We lost one of our Silver Laced Wyandottes last night. Cue the violin!
Paul and I have had the habit of going out to close up the coop around 7pm well after the sun has set, which I will admit was lazy on our part. Upon opening up the coop we found feathers everywhere, three chickens were cowering in the corner under the nesting boxes, four were hiding underneath the coop itself, and one was laying in the middle of the run with its head severed from its body.
Clearly there had been a predator through our chicken run. This incident was especially troubling because whatever it was, it was able to get through or over our fence. Paul likes to call our chicken run Fort Knox, but after last night we are questioning our perspective. What could have gotten through and killed one of our birds?
Turns out I'm not the only one that feels like a fish out of water when the humidity and heat strike hard mid July here in Wisconsin. My chickens were right there with me! Chickens and high heat plus humidity can be a deadly combination, especially this Wisconsin summer with the heat index climbing into the low 100s. So I wanted to share a few of the tips and tricks I've learned to keep my flock comfortable when I feel personally feel like melting.
Wow, I can't believe it's June already! The garden has been planted (and replanted). The chickens are happily free ranging and getting bigger everyday. The trees in the back are shooting up like weeds, despite a few being munched by deer. The workshop is 98% done with just some upper cupboards waiting to be built. We are BUSY with a capital B!
Pictured you can see one of my cheater tomato plants. I planted seeds indoors in April only to have them all fizzle out. They were hardened off and everything, but no dice. These cheaters I got at Menards, 6 for 6$. They were very happy and green, unlike the ones I tried to transplant.
Consumer report: I am not a fan of Burpee's Organic Seed Starting Mix. The stuff turned to cement after a week of watering. I also had trouble with the seed starting pods, which are supposed to disintegrate once planted, but of course they didn't. All my pumpkins, squash, and zucchini became root bound and died. So replanting it was! Now they are coming up just fine, albeit three weeks later than anticipated.
Right now the potatoes, gooseberry bush, herbs, arugula, and lettuce are robust and lively. Of course my cheater peppers are being finicky, but fingers crossed I'm watering and feeding right. Only time will tell...
The last two weeks have been full of sore muscles and helping hands. It has been a marathon getting our vegetable garden finished up as well as planting our food forest in the back of the property. We couldn't have done it without frequent visits from both our parents, family rocks guys!
Paul's parents helped us finish up the electric in the workshop - now we have light! Within two weeks they installed two new workshop fans, built a big shelf for all Paul's motorcycle stuff, fenced in my garden, and built me my three garden gate doors. Work gets done so much faster when you have help!
Thanks to the amazing resources of the UW Exstension Office I was able to plant 40 baby trees for $80. We've got crab apple, sugar maple, swamp oak, and black cherry all growing nicely in the back 3 acres of our property. It took me one full day to dig and plant. Clay and I are best friends now guys! Not.
We also got our 128 native species (see the picture!) from the Mothers Day Plant Sale at the Wehr Nature Center in Franklin. I cannot stress enough how fabulous of an event this is. All of the native plants were categorized by their growing preferences and each were individually labeled with growing instructions and care. Paul and I made a day of it and planted everything in one big swoop. We decided to backfill with peat moss and composted manure to help these plants along and to make the soil more workable as we planted. Since it was Mothers Day we named all 64 strawberry plants Michelle, after my mom.
This last week my father and I put up a much needed barrier between our soon-to-be garden and hungry Wisconsin wildlife. Putting up a sturdy fence can keep munching deer, nibbling rabbits, and peckish gophers from enjoying your bounty. After observing the amount of wildlife that lives on our property through the wintertime, I concluded that a tall fence was in order. I also talked with fellow gardeners in the area and asked them what works. The general consensus was pro-fence. Keep in mind we live in a more rural area with a young forest, so if you are in the middle of the suburbs you might just need a bunny fence. Regardless, there will be lots of insight in this post on the DIY fencing building process so read on to learn more!
This last week my dad came out a third time to help me out. We ran into some serious issues digging holes with the hand auger thanks to all that Wisconsin clay. Sunbelt Rentals to the rescue! We rented their 9" earth auger and attached it to the bobcat to get 4' down. The day was definitely not without its set backs, but we got all 33 holes dug, all 33 fence posts in, and all the joists attached. I don't think I've ever worked as hard physically for two weeks straight on something as this garden. My father and I collectively shoveled five tons of mulch, three tons of top soil, two tons of manure, and three tons of stone (seriously, not kidding, I did the math). Thanks to this 58'x48' garden and chicken coop I am truly ready for bikini season.
Are you getting ready to own your very first flock? Congrats! I know exactly how excited and nervous you feel imagining those fluffy little chicks living under your roof. As someone who did her fair share of chick rearing research prior my first six chicks, there are seven very important things I wish I had known. This post is here to bring light to some very important factors I think a lot of bloggers miss out on when they write about the first few weeks of chick rearing. Read on to prepare yourself and your home!
As you plan your first garden are you running into serous trouble with your soil? Does it hold water like an old sponge or hemorrhage moisture leaving your growing surface bone dry? Don't fear, raised beds are here!
I went through a gamut of options as I was trying to deal with my sandbox of a garden spot, literally. There was a 60' x 50' plot of sand where I wanted my garden. Why that spot? With a young forest covering about 60% of our property, I needed a spot with 8+ hours of sunlight and shelter from the wind. This was our only option that wasn't on the opposite end of our five acres. Having your vegetable garden close to your backdoor is imperative. The thought of trekking a wheelbarrow and garden tools all the way to the back of your property seems to me like the opposite of fun. Even if we did put the garden back there, the soil is nearly 70% clay, and the water sits for days before it drains. That is not the type of soil you want for your veggies, unless you want their roots to rot.
So back to raised beds. With raised beds you have much more control over what type of soil you are planting with because you start from scratch. Let's talk how we built ours, what we used to make them, and what their shelf life will be.
Can you believe this gorgeous weather we are getting in April? Wisconsin is smiling ear to ear over these 70 degree days. My father came back into town to help me put the garden together. After much deliberation on how to deal with the massive amounts of sand we have exactly in the spot that gets the most light, raised beds became the answer. If I wanted to try my hand at some serious gardening this year, I had to fork out a little cash to get the supplies. To learn more about how we did it and how much it cost, click here.
Next on our to-do list was getting the fence posts in that surround the garden. My dad had his 3 foot auger handy, but it was no match for the the fist-sized rocks we encountered 10" down. The other issue we faced was the clay was so thick it would just stick to the blades of the auger. After four hours we had sunk only three fences posts. Defeated, we returned to working on the raised beds.
Enter the neighbor's S-150 bobcat! I've got my name on an auger attachment for this next week, so hopefully with my dad behind the bobcat the process will go smoothly.
Thanks for stopping by Green Willow Homestead! From chicken rearing to orchard planting, we've got our hands full and we love sharing what we've learned along the way. Follow along as we turn these five acres from just property to a fully functioning small-scale homestead.
1. Sustainable World
2. The Chicken Chick
3. Mother Earth News
4. Liz Wolfe
5. Sustainable Dish
6. Zero Waste Home
7. Joe Salatin