Monday, March 19, 2012

Gardening and Chickens, starting a new adventure

It's been a long day of packing and baking a cute, little birthday cake for my soon to be two year old. My back has let me know that it's best to be done with the standing and the bending over trying to fill boxes, so I thought I take a moment to write a little post about some of the things we are planning for.

I have been packing, because in a very short amount of time we are leaving behind our little apartment and heading to a new home with land that we've purchased. I can't begin to say just how excited I am to be moving to a home where we can have a beautiful garden and some chickens. Down the line we may have more things, but being in my third trimester of pregnancy and only having so much time, the garden and the chickens are all we are going to attempt for this year. Now next... well that's a whole different story. I've already have plans in my head, but for now it's time to focus on the current coming seasons.
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Gardening this year is going to incorporate a lot of learning. I am planning a fairly large garden. Perhaps I'm being a bit over ambitious with the probably 60 different seed packets I purchased, but I really wanted to try a variety of produce to compare to one another and test how thing grow in our area.

Image from Wikimedia Commons
We live in zone 3, which means growing season is short, well normally it's short, this year it seems to have started several months early. I haven't even gotten my seeds started yet, although that's on the list for tomorrow. Mostly because I've been a wee bit busy and normally the last frost in our area isn't until the last week of May or first week of June. Now since we've had mid seventies for almost a week here, the growing season is jumping ahead of me, but what can you do. Last year I think we probably still had close to a foot of snow on the ground at this time. Oh well, I'm not going to worry about it. We'll just have to wait and see how the season plays out. It is Minnesota after all, we could easily get snow next week!

Image from Wikimedia Commons
Because we normally do have a very short growing season, getting the most out of the warmer weather does tend to mean starting seeds indoors. There are plenty of inexpensive seed starting containers that can be purchased, which is what I've done this year or you can use plastic containers or small pots to start your seeds. If you don't have a large window that gets plenty of southern sun, having growing lights are likely going to be essential too. I am going to purchase some growing lights for this year, although next year it's my hope to figure out a different solution in our new home that doesn't require electricity... hmmm greenhouse perhaps?

In order to stay organized I'm made a spreadsheet listing all of the different seeds I've purchased. 
On it I've included the following information:
  • Seed name
  • Description - this includes the more technical name (can't just write tomato for 7 different varieties) along with any helpful information about flavor and use.
  • Growing info. - basic info. about how to grow the seeds and plants
  • Soil - what type of soil the plant needs
  • Spacing - how far apart I should space each seedling
  • Start indoors - when I should start the seeds indoors (for instance peppers can be started 10-12 weeks before last frost and some of the herbs I have are 4-6 weeks before last frost)
  • Ordered from - I am including information about where I purchased my seeds
  • Cost - how much did I pay for my seeds
  • Year started - to remind me of what year I started planting what seeds (this is especially helpful for perennials that require a couple of years to get going or just to track how long I've been growing what)
  • Number of seedlings planted
  • Notes

It may seem like overkill for information to keep, but I like to do comparisons. It's how I learn. Plus, it's far easier to track expenses versus yields and remember what has grown well and what hasn't.  This spreadsheet is for the long term goals I have. This year I purchased all my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I have chosen to only do heirloom varieties, in part because there is a far greater variety to choose from and also because I plan to learn to start seed saving, so that I don't have to re-purchase seeds every year.

Once we move, we have a lot of work ahead of us to get our garden ready. This will include building a tall fence around the garden to keep out deer that we know are on the property and amending the soil. Right now I believe the soil is a great deal of clay, not particular great for growing, so it may turn out that we have to bring some soil in. We'd like to do part of the garden in raise beds, but that may not happen this year. Time and energy will only tell. Plus I'm looking more into how we can take advantage of the chickens to help keep pest control down and keep a healthy garden, along with how to water the garden without relying on a hose.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons
Besides the garden, I am planning on some chickens. This is the year we are going to learn to slaughter some of our own meat, as well as, start going outside to get our eggs instead of to the farmer's market. I recently purchased the book The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery and I am in love with it. It's filled with very practical information for raising poultry, including how to do it without using electricity. I am already learning a ton, especially about how to best keep poultry through the cold winter. Turns out he recommends keeping the coup as open as possible during the winter, except protect from wind and rain/snow. I would have thought that the chickens would freeze, but it turns out they stay far healthier this way. We raised chickens for a couple of years when I was in high school and learned first hand that there are wrong ways and right ways to do it. Seeing our chickens get killed or just mauled or getting sick was hard to endure. I am hoping that this time, with a bit more knowledge, that I can have a much more successful journey raising poultry. Hopefully in the next week or so I can get my first order in for day-old, straight-run chicks. So far I haven't found a great source for day-olds where I live, so these little ones will be coming from a farm in Iowa.

Stay tuned for hopefully many more updates about our new adventure on our land and little tidbits of helpful information as I learn. Gardening and chickens are only the start, we are looking into hunting, raising our own fish (we have a spot on the property to do this), having bee hives and so on and so on. Oh the fun of having a little land. Now for all the hard work and the many trials that come with anything new and the simple learning from mistakes made and the every changing environment we live in. 

1 comment:

  1. We have clay soil too - I have found that raised beds have worked well as well as composting.


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