All work and no blog makes Katy a…

Pregnant lady.

Yep, that’s right folks. We’re expecting, and I don’t mean a hatch of chicks this time. Life has been FULL of work, farm chores, gardening and sleep these days and I will admit to blatantly ignoring all of you.

For that I apologize. But seriously though, I mean like a lot of sleep.

At the beginning of the pregnancy I thought something was seriously wrong with me. I had never been more exhausted in my whole life and I was seriously slacking on the amount of work I get done each day. Unacceptable! I mean, I could barely even climb a mountain during our Tuchodi trip… what the hell?! I stilled climbed it though… one or two. If something was wrong with me, I wanted to be sure I went out of this world on a mountain.

So here we are… the picture perfect family…1-DSC_0280-001

16 weeks in and counting!! Realizing that life, especially our life, will never be picture perfect… and that’s the way we like it 🙂

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Just when you thought this picture couldn’t explain things more… look in the tractor 🙂

Winter is looming and with it brings more time spent indoors, so I promise as I gain some sanity and more energy to spend more time on the blog… I’ll re-negotiate these terms when March hits and all hell breaks loose.

~Katy

 

The Young and the Nestless

eggsIf you know me in my new farm life, you know that my life is never without chicken drama, most of which I refer to as The Young and the Nestless. It is a never ending cycle of broody-bitchy hens, obnoxious egg songs (some hens actually “sing” after they lay an egg, although it’s less of a song and more of a hey-I’m-being-murdered sound), a cat who thinks he’s a chicken, and too many roosters for one person to handle. I even got rooster sperm on my arm once trying to save a hen from a gang-bang. That’s right. Rooster. Sperm. On. My. Arm.

Lately, the drama has gotten real. My chickens free range during the summer months which means they are unsupervised on the property most days. Not only does this mean my newly planted perennial beds are forever mussed, it also means there is a chance of egg hiding. Add in ridiculously warm sunny weather and a stifling hot coop and you get no eggs for days.

After two weeks of getting one egg a day (thanks Izzie), Clay and I searched and searched and searched for their hidden stash to no avail. I even tried to bribe my so called chicken-cat into telling me where this elusive nest was. The dogs were no help and I figured I’d have to do some sleuthing (slash stalking) to find the treasure. The game was on.

Of course, the hens were immediately on to my plan and just gave me the run around… and the goose eye. Come on ladies, don’t I do everything for you? Don’t I feed you and give you snacks and fresh water and straw and struggle snuggle you any chance I can get? They weren’t having it. At least I knew I wouldn’t be dealing with more chicks since they all headed into the coop for the night. They’ve successfully tricked the two broodies in the coop who are confused as to why they have no eggs to set upon. Georgia and Florence – give it up ladies, you’re being broody for no one.

Sunday afternoon I was ready to give up… My biggest fear was that some adorable fox would happen upon this magical stash of easter eggs, devour them, go looking for more tasty treats and run away with my chicken-cat to have fox-chicken-cat babies that would show up in season 3 reeking havoc… typical chicken farmer stuff y’know.

But then I heard it… someone was being murdered someone had laid an egg and they were singing their song! I rushed outside and found Georgia, curiously off of her broody horse, heading for the bushes. She was on the search as well so I put Maynard on point and headed into the depths of our chicken yard. And then I found her. Betty, setting atop a pile of eggs. Hooray! The search had ended and now, now I was in the loop. I waiting impatiently for Betty to do her thing and promptly scooped up 25 eggs. 25 eggs! The ladies were busy.

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Maynard facing off with Georgia… don’t worry, Georgia always wins

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Following the fluffy butt

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A-ha!! Jackpot! Poor little Betty was the victim of the gang-bang saving… nasty roosters tore her skin so bad I had to super-glue her together. We’re just waiting on a good molt to get her feathers back… Learn something new everyday folks!

A friend recommended I do the water test by floating them in water – if they stay at the bottom they are good, if they float to the top they are bad. I was happy as could be. I had solved the chicken drama.

In retrospect, I should have known it was too good to be true. Rookie mistake in taking all of the eggs off the nest. Turns out they didn’t want me in the know and now I have no eggs in the coop and no eggs in the outside nest. Damn. The search continues. At least the chicken-cat is still with us and the broodies are back in the boxes. I’ll take what normalcy I can get.

Until next time folks, beware the rooster sperm… beware.

~Katy

 

 

Saskatoon Season

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Our canola fields in full bloom through some poplar trees

Almost one month since my last post and it feels like it’s been roughly 3 days. The garden is growing, the weeds are growing faster and the sunlight is lessening each day. It’s been a busy month at the farm, full of adventure, weeding, chicken drama and fun. Lately though, we’ve been focused on one thing. Harvesting.

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I leave the zucchini alone for ONE minute…

Yes, it has begun. The garden is producing WAY too many zucchini and not enough peas, and the land has started our favorite time of year – saskatoon season. For those of you who may not be familiar to saskatoons, they are a delicious berry that taste somewhat like a cross between a blueberry and a plum. We have tons and tons of bushes on the farm and this year we’re in the middle of a bumper crop. Our hands (and faces) have been stained purple for weeks and Maynard has been leaving presents on the lawn that scarily resemble bear scat. Boy oh boy, he sure does love his saskatoons!

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Beautiful saskatoons

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Clay and Maynard, my saskatoon monsters

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Maynard will just swim around the bushes like a little shark and eat and eat and eat saskatoons

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Wyatt is not as agile eating directly from the bush, he prefers to poach the bucket that is on the ground because, well, it’s just so much easier

So far, I’ve put away 20 lbs in the freezer, given away 5 pounds to a friend and used fresh saskatoons on a baked brie that is to die for. Yesterday, three of us picked for 2 hours and walked away with I would say 60-80 lbs. No accurate count as of yet because they are still awaiting me to process them. Nothing like working an 8 hour day just to get home and process endless amounts of saskatoons! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Not too shabby for 2 hours of work

I’ve really enjoyed learning all of the ways to eat and preserve saskatoons, my favorites being a wine I made last year (yum) and this recipe for Saskatoon Crumble. I actually don’t remember where this came from, but it’s delicious and works like a charm:

Saskatoon Berry Crisp:

*1 cup flour

*3/4 cup rolled oats

*1 cup brown sugar

*1/2 cup butter

*1 tsp cinnamon

– Combine to make crumbs. Press half into a greased 8 x 8 pan.

*1 cup sugar

*1 cup water

*2 tbsp cornstartch

*1 tsp vanilla

*4 cups Saskatoons

– Spread the saskatoons onto pressed crumbs mixture. Boil remaining ingredients and pour hot over berries. Cover with remaining crumb mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until golden brown.

Enjoy! And don’t give any to Maynard, he’s already had enough to last him through next year.

Next on the list to make is jam, syrup, more wine, some liqueur, muffins and more. How blessed are we to live on land that gives so much.

What’s your favorite berry to forage?

~Katy

 

 

A farmer’s life for me…

2015 is officially half over and I must say, we do have much to show for it. The weather has been sunny and HOT here in Northern BC and although it’s nice to see the sun, this Northern girl has a love-hate relationship with 85 degrees (Fahrenheit that is). But it has made for some memorable days and my tomatoes are loving it!

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Our garden

That’s right folks, I have tomatoes planted in the ground and growing. I know, I know, I never thought I’d get there but after a lot of freaking work and a little bit of luck (that goes by the name of Laura) we successfully built, planted, mulched and irrigated about 1/2 an acre or our first ever Canadian Acres garden. HOORAY!! Though I will say that it would never have been possible without the help of my husband and my dear friend Laura, who most awesomely decided to make the trek from Alaska and spend her vacation doing manual labor. How great is that!After a bit of a, ahem, delay, Laura showed up on the last Sunday in May.

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Friends definitely let friends do manual labor

Needless to say, I wasn’t the only one excited to see her.

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Maynard LOVES him some Laura, although he was wondering where Betsy and Mila were the whole time….

She came bearing work gloves and a cooler full of Alaska made beer (BEST.FRIEND.EVER) and we spent the evening plotting our next week’s work and exploring the farm a bit. I had drawn out a somewhat legit schematic of  the start of the food forest and the beds I wanted to put in and it seemed impossible to get all that work done in one week. Well, as you may already know, impossible is our middle name – Canadian Impossible Work Load Acres. That’s us!

First things first – borrow a hand rototiller and rototill the area in need of planting. Laura was on the job and as I left early the next morning for my day job, I felt both hopeful and terribly bad for leaving my friend to do my farm job. The day was sunny, the ground was wet and she got the workout of a lifetime. And did an amazing job. Day 1 down.

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Just ready to be planted

Next up was plotting and staging the food forest and digging a ton of holes. Turns out, hole digging is not my forte so I was glad Laura was such a bad ass at it. I made up for it later, but man was I glad for her help. The cat and dogs were very good supervisors. Wyatt took his job so seriously that week he rarely left the side-by-side. He would refuse to get out of it, reminding us that we were slacker’s when we took a break. That’s Old Man Wyatt for you… well, at least when he wasn’t sleeping on the job/hatchet.

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Yeah… I’m going to need you to come in tomorrow and if you can come in on Sunday too, that’d be great…

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Supervising is hard work!

We planted 12 fruit trees and 25 fruit/nut bushes and canes. Things started to come together.

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My very first fruit tree guild! Apple tree with strawberries planted in the water berm, hyssop ring and sorrel… Much more things to come but at this point, I just needed to get it in the ground! Work in progress.

Day 3 Laura spent the morning staking out our 100′ x 4′ rows with stakes and string, preparing us to dig, dig, dig as I wanted to create raised beds. In the North it’s good practice as to help dry them out in our wet springs and warm them up for earlier planting. The plan is to eventually be a no-till garden so this will also come in handy when we are hand manipulating our beds. Laura and I each took a side of the first row and started digging and piling up the dirt. Our backs were aching, our hands were dirty and our lives would never be the same!

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First row staked out and hand dug

Long story short – this next photo:

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Much better

After feeling immensely proud, we immediately rented a mini excavator after that first row. There was no possible way we a) wanted to hand dig 20 more 100′ rows and b) would possibly have time for it. I mean, we had lots of Alaska beer to drink. So I spent the $200, Clay picked up the machine in the morning and we spent that day piling rows. This was my redemption as apparently I’m quite talented in the excavator department.

We did it! We had our rows measured, staked and piled. Now we needed to rake and smooth and we’d be ready to plant! And then we’d actually have to plant, and water, and mulch and thin, and WEED and water and trellis and… Ah yes, the joys of gardening.

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I! I have made garden!

On the last few days of Laura’s trip we got down to business. We planted six of the rows and kept the newly planted food forest alive. The days were hot and we both covered in dirt, but we felt like real farmer’s and the sense of accomplishment was astounding. There is nothing quite like the feeling of planting and preparing to grow your own food. The dream was coming true.

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My thermometer and rain gauge… last few days this baby has topped out at 105 degrees in my mini little micro climate.

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The corn was the first thing to go in… it was desperate to spread it’s roots

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100′ of field tomatoes in the ground. Feeling mad accomplished at this point

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Where’s Wyatt… Oh yeah, supervising

Now, don’t worry everybody. I know what you’re thinking – but Katy, with all of that work how did you possibly have any time for fun? Remember who you’re talking to… there is always fun to be had at Canadian Acres.

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It’s a side-by-side-wine-animal party! Wyatt seems miffed that Sake is in his spot

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We took a canoe trip on the Peace River

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Wild onions in bloom

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Wyatt’s not a swimmer so when we had to ford this back channel, he was less than thrilled with Mom

The day after Laura left for my homeland, I spent the Sunday planting the rest of the garden,  getting 5 more rows done. Over the next few weeks, Clay and I installed soaker hoses and sprinklers on a timer as to minimize the amount of after-full-time-job chores in the garden.

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All planted and slowly but surely getting mulched with straw, trellised and irrigated

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My handy man

The garden is 3 weeks old and already I am reminded the gardening teaches patience, guidance and sore knees. The weeds are ever growing and I am entrenched in a grass battle I like to refer to as: I fought the lawn and the lawn won. But all in all, it’s amazing to witness our little seeds and plants start to thrive and spend my mornings and evenings surrounded by the sounds of the country… and Wyatt’s snoring from the side-by-side.1-IMG_4338

Yo ho ho… a farmer’s life for me.

How did your garden grow this June?

~Katy

 

 

Whataman whataman whataman….

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I call this one “Muscles and Jorts”

Whatamightygoodman… May chewed us up and spit us out into June. Where did the time go?? Ah yes, it went into 2 trip’s south, 1 trip east, 16 new chicks, 1 rototilling machine, 2 fundraisers planned (day job), 2 loads of aged cow manure, 330 feet of water line, 1 new farm truck, dozens of seeds/plants, 10 billion mosquito bites, 2 dog skin rashes, 2 seeded fields, 1 river crossing, 2 portages and a hummingbird in an aspen tree… and that’s just the half of it!

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WE HAVE HUMMINGBIRDS!!!!

I traveled east to Washington D.C. for my cousin’s wedding in the middle of May. Although there was much to do on the farm, I was ecstatic to see my family and my best friend Melinda for 5 short days. It was an amazing trip and although a long trek home, my cup was refilled.

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My parents and Aunt Maggie in DC

This is where I get to brag about that wonderful man of mine. While I was away, Clay was… busy. First of all, I hadn’t been gone for 24 hours and Florence’s eggs began to hatch. I received a semi panicked text message claiming he didn’t know if he was ready for this… well, turns out, he was and he did a great job. Florence hatched out 7 little chicks and I got updates frequently from the farm.

chicken strategy

During dinner out before I left, Clay drew this “hen strategy” plan… the instructions on the top are which eggs to take away and how many to count, the squares are the nesting boxes and the initials are the hen’s names… ain’t he adorable 🙂

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The littles came early

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I was so excited for all of the blonde babies

What else did this superman of mine get accomplished? Well, he finished our rock path and archway, rototilled the garden with the tractor, picked up 2 loads of aged cow manure from the neighbors (which we traded 2 bottles of homemade wine, 1 dozen eggs and a jar of saskatoon jam for), dug the water line from our well down to our garden, helped our farmer Colin seed both of our fields with Canola seed, took care of all the critters and even washed the sheets right before I got home (I LOVE clean sheets)… And let’s remember, I was only gone for 5 days. He also bought himself a new farm truck, so it wasn’t all work and pining for me. We can now officially haul all of those wild ponies!

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Stone pathway

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The archway is up!

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Trading for some black gold

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Waterline down to the garden

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Garden waterline in our driveway

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Rototilling the garden

He also cut himself some jorts… yes… man jean shorts. I mean, don’t worry, I was just informed today that he bought himself a denim shirt to match. so… y’know…Canadian through and through.

I guess you could say I’m a very lucky farm girl indeed. He really set the pace for the remainder of May, beginning of June and we’ve been off the races ever since. Thank you so much Clay, I love you to the moon and back and to the moon again, because there’s no point in resting now.

Update on the new babies, the garden and a lovely visit from my dear friend Laura coming soon!

~Katy

 

 

Garden Days are Coming…

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View of the garden from our lawn

It’s been awhile since I last posted and I do apologize. Life has become absolutely nutso around the farm and with the summer looming, I fear it will only get worse. I’ve really felt the effect of my crazy schedule this past week and as I attempt to catch my breath, I try to think of the times ahead. And then I had a meltdown because the stupid vacuum wouldn’t work and I didn’t have time to fix it because, really, it’s a brand new f$%#ing vacuum and it should work without having to do anything because I most definitely do not have time to deal with it… thank god Clay carefully turned the knob from “hose” to “vacuum” before I murdered it Office Space/fax machine style…

Anyway, work has been very busy and farm work has been very exhausting and the whole “side-by-side” commute has officially lost its charm. Like, seriously. But with challenge comes accomplishment and I can happily say that a longtime goal is coming to fruition. The garden is going in!!!

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Posts lined out for pounding

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We have a very serious post pounder

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And a very high tech fence stretcher

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Unrolling the wire

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This is my “It’s raining and I’m hungry so please stop taking pictures so we can finish this” face….

This past week Clay, Timber and I have been busy putting in the fence posts and putting up the wire for our 8 foot game fence. We have two sides completed, a third laid out and are taking some down time for travel. Clay is in Southern BC for a conference and I will soon be on my way to Washington DC for my cousin’s wedding, but at least we have it started. Next steps are to install our water source, till the acre, install gates and start forming the planting areas. And then of course, plant the hell out of it. I couldn’t be more excited.

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I made a trip to a local greenhouse (if you call an hour drive local) and picked up 40 strawberry plants, a few tomatoes, brussel sprouts, sunflowers and marigolds. My wonderful neighbors offered to house them in their greenhouse for me until planting time!

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Wyatt hard at work…

In our spare moments, we’ve been screening our topsoil leftover from our build site to put in the garden beds around the house. Not super fun, but necessary. And cheap. We’ve also been collecting sandstone from the property to use as landscaping rocks in the yard as well as the fire pit. Nothing brings a couple together like slinging rocks. As long as it’s not at each other. I love that we have so many resources right on the farm and that we try to utilize them throughout our designs. Brings a whole new meaning to being grateful for what we have.

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Clay built us a table screen for our topsoil

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It takes some time, but the plants will be thankful

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We have a large supply of sandstone on the property

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An hour spent piling rocks

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Oh look, Wyatt hard at work again… Also, I love that I would rather snap a photo than be concerned about their proximity to the chainsaw…

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Sake hard at work

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The start of our fence and pathway to the fire pit

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Clay found this in the woods somewhere and brought it home for me for an archway. I absolutely love it 🙂

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These stones will be buried into the grass eventually

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Start of the fire pit collection – also note how much Wyatt’s hair is growing in!!

In coop news, I candled 31 eggs this weekend after realizing the other girls were sneaking eggs under broody Florence. She looked like one of those cartoon hens sitting atop a pile of eggs, poor dear. She was setting 19 eggs by the time I figured out what was going on! I finally got her down to a dozen and set Miss Josephine (who is broody once again) on 11 eggs I bought from a local farmer. I bought seven Easter Egger eggs (blue) and 4 Sizzle eggs (Frizzly/Silkie cross). I found one broken on the coop floor this morning, but the rest seem to be forming wonderfully. Pretty soon we’ll have more chicks than we know what to do with! I also added a wee little Cream Legbar to the flock whom I named Franny. She will also lay blue eggs and after a rough start with the Peck-a-little gang, she’s feeling a lot more comfortable.

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Easter Egger and Sizzle eggs

 

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Little Miss Franny

May arrived and with it a freaking snow storm… seriously, this is a neighbors pasture on Wednesday May 6:

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Blarg!

But the beauty of the North is – what a difference a day makes. Our farm on Thursday May 7:

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My lunch break while working at home

I must say, even though I’m more tired than I have ever been in my life, I sure am loving this farm of mine.

~Katy

 

Garden To-Do & Soil Test Results

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Current view of the acre garden plot

Well the frogs have emerged in the dugouts and are loud as ever, so despite the snow we got this past weekend, I call Spring!

Since we have approximately one month until planting time, Clay and I are busy with plans and logistics for the gardens. He built me some beautiful beds around the south side of the house/deck and we will be filling the largest one with hugelkultur this weekend. We are getting a load of compost from Uncle Ross sometime (hopefully) soon, and I’ll use that to top dress all of our house beds. The chicken garden is coming alive (even with all of the chicken attempts to thwart it) and my chives, mint and a few garlic survived the winter. I’m anxious to see what else will come up. I will be planting peppers and tomatoes against the house as well as grape vines, roses and peonies against the lattice of the deck, most of which will be a summertime project.

The largest item on our list is the acre garden and we have a lot to do. The plan is to plant the large trees and shrubs of our forest garden, build some swales, plant a traditional row garden with this years veggies, install a few perennial beds and put the rest under cover crops of buckwheat and red clover. In the fall I’d like to build some large scale hugelkultur beds, but we’ll see where we get. Oh yes, and then there is the building of a small greenhouse up by the house… By now you should know we are very optimistic people.

When starting this journey last year, we conducted a soil test. I even had my very own specialist on hand since my husband is an environmental scientist. We also tested for pesticides as our plot used to be commercially farmed and is located next to traditional farmed land. Here are the results:Soil Test Results

Since I’ve never done an actual soil test on a garden before I went to the all knowing Google to figure out what these numbers meant and what I needed to do about it.

  • Organic Matter: 10.7 – Apparently this is ridiculously good. The sources I found said the 4-6% would have been great soil, so we’re sitting pretty on this one.
  • Nitrate: 9 ug/g – Ideally we want this number to be 25-30, but medium lies in the 5-20 range so I guess we’re okay
  • Phosphorus: 24 ug/g – We are in the ideal range of 21-28, hooray!
  • Potassium: 397 ug/g – The highest ideal amount I could find was 120, so I guess this is good? Not sure…
  • Sulfate and Ammonium: I couldn’t find much info on this except that these are secondary nutrients.
  • pH: 5.8 – it seems we are a little on the acidic side of the pH scale but most veggies do well in a range from 5.5-7 so I’m not going to worry about it this year.
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After a good old fashioned squeeze test, it seems we have loam (ideal) soil! Not too much clay, not too much sand

Our pesticide test came back negative and we are glad for that. Although it was expensive, I really wanted peace of mind when it came to possible issues. We tested for over 40 types of pesticides and we are free and clear… phew! All in all, I think we are looking pretty good and I don’t plan on adding much to the soil besides compost and organic mulch. The cover crops will provide organic matter and extra nitrogen in the un-attended areas and we will address any issues in the fall.

Today I came home to a big box of goodies I ordered from westcoastseeds.com who specialize in organic, non-gmo and heirloom varieties. It included my seeds, potatoes, hops, cover crop (buckwheat) and asparagus crowns. Oh good golly it’s like Christmas in April! (don’t take that too seriously universe, we don’t need anymore snow I assure you). I also placed my fruit tree/bush/nut/grape order with a nursery in Manitoba who specialize in zone 2-3 plants. I’m SO excited to get it all in to my house, but less excited to get it all in the ground on my tightened schedule. Here is a list of things we need to do before we can plant:

  • Finish the 2015 aspects of the garden design, continue to work on design to finalize
  • Purchase and install 8′ wire elk fence – 3 rolls at 330 feet each
  • Install working gates – tractor gate + walk-in gate
  • Run piping/hose from well to northwest corner of garden site
    • Our plan this year will be to water mostly by hand which isn’t ideal, and as we grow into the full space we’ll need to come up with a better plan. But for the first year, I think we’ll be okay.
  • Till the entire acre with borrowed till from our cousins
  • Find a bunch of compost and wood chips
  • Buy a few bales of old, spent alfalfa for mulch
  • Plant, plant, plant

I am hoping to grow enough to make it to the local Farmer’s Market this year on Saturdays as well, so we’ll work it into the schedule. Ah yes, the farm/full-time work schedule. At this rate I’ll either be invincible by the end of the summer or they’ll find my body face down in the garden dirt with an invoice in one hand and a pitchfork in the other. Let’s hope for the first one shall we?

Any advice from those experienced gardener’s out there?

~Katy

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No trip to the garden plot is complete without a visit from these two