How Much to Plant

ImagewI always ask that question as I gaze into my overflowing 5 gallon bucket of seeds. This year, it’s actually about 1-1/2 bucketful’s of seed. And, every time I go to the store and look at the revolving rack of seed packets, I think I actually start to drool. Thankfully my husband is with me most of the time otherwise we’d literally go broke in seed packets. Then too, I sell seeds on eBay, so there are those bulk packages of seeds that need to be shared, planted, sold or bartered. This year, our garden plot soil was tested at the county extension office and it came back within the perfect pH range, and with the exact composition of nutrients, organic matter and inert matter that is needed for a vegetable garden plot. Considering what it was 3 years ago when we first moved here, (hardpan soil, acidic, sandy, almost no organic matter to hold nutrients), whoever at the University of MO tested it, scrawled a handwritten note on the bottom of the printout asking what we’d done to make it this good, this quick. I took that as a huge compliment considering we’ve worked our fannies off getting organic matter in it.
 
Everyone has their own needs, likes and dislikes when it comes to vegetables. And too, they have their issues with space limitation, physical limitation or even HSA or zoning limitations when it comes to raising gardens. And, taking into consideration what will be eaten fresh and what, if anything, will be preserved for the winter months, is also a factor. This year, I am hoping to have enough excess to sell at the local Farmer’s Markets. We’ll see how well that turns out.
 
I read this on a blog and wanted to share it with you. It’s not exact science, just a recommendation and I so appreciate the originator of this article for posting it.
 
What all are you planting this year and how much do you usually plant. Are your indoor seeds (tomatoes, peppers, brassicas, sweet potato slips and such started yet? It’s coming along time! Finally…..

How Much Should I Plant To Feed My Family For A Year?

Here are a few recommendations mostly found in the book Reader’s Digest Back to Basics. Some of these amounts may be way off for your family, but like I said it’s at least a good general idea.

Asparagus: about 10-15 plants per person
Beans (Bush): about 15 plants per person
Beans (Pole): 2-4 poles of beans per person (each pole with the four strongest seedlings growing)
Beets: about 36 plants per person.
Broccoli: 3-5 plants per person
Cabbage: 2-3 plants per person
Cantaloupe: figure on about 4 fruits per plant (estimate how much your family would eat)
Carrots: about 100 seeds per person (1/4 oz would be plenty for a family of six)
Cauliflower: 2-3 plants per person
Collards: about 5 plants per person
Corn: start out with 1/2 lb. seeds for the family and adjust as needed
Cucumbers: 3-6 plants per family
Eggplant: 3-6 plants per family
Lettuce: 4-5 plants per person
Okra: 3-4 plants per person
Onions: 12-15 plants per person
Parsnips: 12-15 plants per person
Peas: about 120 plants per person
Peppers: 3-5 plants per person
Spinach: about 15 plants per person
Squash (including Zucchini): about 10 per family
Sweet Potatoes: about 75 plants per family
Tomatoes: about 20 plants per family
Turnips: about 1/4 lb seeds per family
Watermelon: about 1/2 oz. seeds per family

 

http://newlifeonahomestead.com/2013/07/how-much-should-i-plant/

When Guineas Fly

ImageGuineas…you either love ’em or you hate ’em. There’s no in between. We’ve raised guineas, more specifically lavender guineas, for the last 3 years. I am getting close to the point where they need to be exterminated. They serve a purpose, as does everything in life. They keep the chigger and tick population down on our farm. They’re excellent watchdogs as they screech and scream at the tops of their lungs at anything and everything that seems to be an intruder. That includes people, other animals, the lawnmower, the tractor, even our homestead creatures if they dare to venture in the guineas’ territory.

They are excellent at picking bugs and debris from our roof. Have you ever heard the sound of guineas on a roof? It sounds like a herd of elephants scurrying about here and there. I know they’re doing their job, so most times, we just laugh about the pitter patter of guinea feet over our heads.

Guineas are not noted to be good parents. If you have a set of parent birds who do foster their young, you are exceptionally blessed. We have been blessed. From the original flock of 4, we had 1 rooster and 3 hens. Only one of the hens was broody. Broody guinea hens are mean, insufferable, heinous creatures. They will attack anyone who comes within 3 feet of their nests, usually talons up and aimed for the face. Please don’t ask me how I know.

Guineas generally start breeding the spring after their hatch. Most times, Guineas will start laying their clutch of eggs between March and October, and for whatever reason, usually during midday. I’ve found with ours, that the hen doesn’t usually set on the eggs until the full clutch is laid, like ducks and waterfowl. Whether this is true with all guinea fowl, I don’t know. Ours are, well, unique. It takes between 26-28 days for young keets to hatch. At this time, they are like other fowl, vulnerable to predators. Our guineas like to make their nests under the blackberry briars. That makes it difficult for airborne predators and 4 legged predators to get to the young hatchlings. It makes it difficult for me to steal the keets too.

Last year, I tried to keetnap the new hatchlings, and wound up with significant battle wounds from the briars and from their mother. I was savvy enough to wear protective eyewear when raiding the nest. It saved my eyesight as momma came up off the nest, feet and talons upward, right at my face. Wearing protective eyewear was one thing I learned several years ago, by accident, when I was trying to remove eggs from the chicken’s nest. I spent the first day of my retirement, in the ER, with the sclera of my eye swollen and filled with blood, hanging at the edge of my lower eyelid. Thank goodness for having had contacts on as they saved my cornea from abrasions. It was embarrassing, scary, and a hard lesson learned in raising birds. Back to the story, protective goggles on, I raided that bird’s nest everyday for several days, capturing the newly hatched guinea keets because I was POSITIVE that they wouldn’t survive on their own. After all, we’d already lost half our young chicks to a neighborhood owl. I wasn’t about to lose those darling silvery guinea keets. They were raised, until they were fully feathered, in a large cage inside the house. At the point where they had a full body of feathers and not down, I moved them to an old rabbit cage outdoors. It was perfect for raising young fowl. It had a box on one end, perfect for getting out of inclement weather, and a chicken wire cage on the other end, perfect for keeping predators at bay. The only problem with this set up was the parent birds themselves. They are intelligent creatures. Hearing the sounds of their offspring, they immediately found the rabbit cage, remembered that I was the one who stole their keets, and immediately started conniving a way to break into the cage to save their young. We watched the adult birds jump up at, and eventually twist the handle of the cage to allow the door to open. No problem. We put a hasp lock on the door. Next, the parents took turns jumping at and trying to rip the chicken wire off the bottom of the cage. No problem. We reinforced the edges with heavy duty staples.  The final trick they learned was to wait until we came out to feed the babies. In guinea language, they convinced their keets to charge the door, figuring we couldn’t catch all of them at once. That trick worked. Once a few were out, we could not catch them. It was a watch and wait for those keets to disappear to the waiting mouths and bellies of the neighborhood predators. It didn’t happen. These parents were savvy and taught their young to hide, and hide well. At that, we finally gave up to the screeching and howling of the parents and allowed them to raise the rest of their clutch. That mother guinea raised 2 clutches of keets last summer. Some of them are in the freezer, others are driving me crazy with their food stealing, screeching, dirty antics.

Guineas fly, and they fly high. You will see them perching in trees, on rooftops, on barns, anywhere where height is available. This morning, as I was enjoying my cup of tea, looking out of the kitchen window, I thought I saw a small flock of geese take off in flight. It wasn’t geese. It was…you guessed it…guineas. One landed on the electric wire out by the road. I knew they could reach the top of the house and the top of our single story barn in one leap, but I didn’t realize that they could fly 100+ feet in the air. I’ll try to attach a picture of it to this story. The tiny dot you see, up on the wire close to the road, is a full grown, 7 pound or so guinea. Amazing!!

I am hesitant to shoot the remaining 12 we have now since it’s close to breeding season. I just wish I could catch them, clip their wings and put them in an enclosure. The messes that they make, the fear they’ve instilled into our cats, is not really worth having them on the farm. Did I mention they are dirty creatures? Oh, yes I did. However guinea meat is good. It tastes like chicken.

Have a wonderful, wonderful day. I am going outside to chase the guineas off the deck because…did I mention…they are dirty?

 

 

Garden Planting and Planning in Progress..Finally!!!

What kinds of seeds are you planting this year? Are they seeds you’ve saved from previous years or ones from a favorite vendor? This is what we have so far, at least of those that need to be started indoors.

I love rummaging through flea markets and 2nd hand stores. This year, I stumbled upon a huge stack of plastic 12 cell cupcake holders, approximately 6 or 7 dozen, for $6.00. We usually use the Jiffy start trays that I save from year to year, refill with jiffy discs, and start seed in them. Most of them were so badly cracked last year that I threw away all of them. I used the shallow aluminum disposable baking trays covered with plastic wrap last year and had great success. This year, when I saw the cupcake holders, I grabbed them in a feverish, football pass grab and hold, with lights flashing, I scurried to the checkout grinning like a Cheshire cat. The lady at the checkout asked what I was going to do with all them and as I told her, you could actually see the look of failure on her part to think of that and save them for herself. It’s an inexpensive substitute for the Jiffy trays, equating to just a few cents a piece. With the box of Jiffy discs, I guestimated that each box of the discs would cost about $3.30 to start, vs $7.00 if one were to buy the premade, pre-set-up version at the store. This is what we’ve started so far.  

Cayenne peppers

Habanero peppers

Serrano peppers

Sweet banana peppers

Sweet Chocolate bell peppers

Sweet orange bell peppers       (still need to start the green bell peppers)

Rutger’s tomatoes

Beefsteak tomatoes

Jet Star tomatoes

chocolate cherry tomatoes

Red cabbage

Late Flat Dutch cabbage

and…ta da….last, but not least   10 trays of asparagus seeds. I’d purchased 4 packets of Martha Washington asparagus seeds in 2012 from a friend. They’ve never been planted since we didn’t have a place decided upon to plant them.  And, as I was digging through the seed bucket, I found 2 giant sized packets of asparagus seeds from Jon, a great friend and garden mentor that I got from him at the Missouri Organic Association convention some 3 years ago. One packet held about a tablespoon full of seeds, so they are plentiful and each eaked out 2 trays each of asparagus plants in processing. From him, there was a packet of Jersey Knight asparagus and the other was just marked asparagus. I am assuming that these are the Martha Washington variety too. I know these seeds are a little older. I just hope and pray that they germinate and grow their little hearts out.

Now, you ask, what in the world am I going to do with 10 trays of asparagus plants? Well, plant them of course. We’ll be doing some mighty fine eating in a year or 2, and the patrons at the farmer’s market will be happy too. Then, there are more seeds to sell, trade or barter. We will be happy campers canning all that asparagus.

Today, the main project is to make the potato bins so that I can get the seed potatoes planted on St. Patty’s day. It was something that my grandfather did, always worked for him, has always worked for us. We’re choosing to plant the potatoes vertically this year, hoping to get a better yield than in years past and to save garden space. We’ve tried to grow them on top of the ground, covered with mulch and hay, tried the conventional deep hill method, neither of which work all that well here in the Midwest.

I am hoping that I can get outside in a little while and sow the lettuce seeds. There is a huge variety that I usually plant, and as silly as it seems. I mix all the leaf lettuces and broadcast them directly into their plot of ground. Mesclun, black seeded simpson, salad bowl variety. The iceberg lettuce is planted individually, on homemade planting tape. These are simple and easy to make using a strip of paper towel, paper napkin or tissue paper, dab a spot of glue made with flour and water onto predetermined spaces, and dropping a seed or two onto each “glue” spot. With these tapes, the paper and “glue” is biodegradable, and makes planting in even spaces much, much easier for those miniscule seeds. Just lay the tape into a shallow furrow, lightly brush over a bit of soil and gently, very gently pat it down with the palm of your hand. The rule of thumb in planting seeds is to plant seeds at a depth of soil only as much as the seed is wide. It’s an old farmer’s trick that was passed on from my Native American grandfather to my father, then to me…and now to my son.

There is a bucket load, literally, of more seeds to plant as soon as the weather warms up here. Most of those are ones that can be directly sown into the ground like:

Hubbard Squash

Butternut Squash

Blue pumpkin

Sugar sweet pumpkin (tiny but make terrific pumpkin pie)

a few, and a very few zucchini and yellow crookneck squash

corn

okra

Spacemaster cucumbers

bunching onions

Blue Lake green beans

sugar snap peas

We do a lot of companion planting to conserve space. I do a 3 sisters method with corn, beans and squash, plant onions (not this year though) in and amongst the peppers and tomatoes, and okra in and amongst the peas, onions or zucchini. Okra is so versatile, has no bad companions, so we plant in among the shorter plants and it produces more than enough for the 2 of us. I like the concept of companion planting and the 3 Sisters method. Each of the elements in planting with a 3 sisters method is supportive of the other. Beans and legumes will enrich the soil with potassium and nitrogen, essential for corn growth and development. The corn stalks will literally, support pole beans, while the low lying, leafy squash plants will shade the ground at the base of the corn and beans and help retain moisture to aid in their growth habits. It’s a win-win for all 3 vegetables. I also plant onions, sage and marigolds in and amongst the tomatoes and peppers. The byproducts of those plants help ward off detrimental insects. Again, it’s a space saver, but also has numerous benefits for the plants themselves.

So, what are ya’ll planting or have you started yet?

I so love springtime, especially after the harshness of this past winter.

Spring Is In The Air Again

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More babies!!  Steve, my husband, bought me an incubator last month. We are striving to become more self-sufficient, so why not hatch our own chicks? Many chickens are not broody. Most of ours are young, 1st year hens and I just don’t trust their mothering instincts. We have an assortment of Australorp, Americauna and Buff Orpington hens, and an even larger assortment of Blue Copper Maran roosters, an Americauna rooster who live in the chicken coop and an Australorp rooster and a New Hampshire Red Rooster who live in the barn with their respective barred rock and buff Orpington hens. We have another Copper Maran rooster and his lovely Australorp hen who have decided to take residence under the back deck. They love to sit on the back steps and gaze at the stars at night. He’s such a romantic. That will be changed as soon as I can catch them, clip their wings and re-deposit them in the chicken run again.  

Last week, I opened the incubator to find 2 chicks, one soft, fuzzy black feathered imp and the other, a tiny reddish blonde wet blob, just finishing it’s emergence.  Fortunately I was able to capture most of the blonde chick’s hatching on film. There’s nothing sweeter than seeing new life come into the world.

We’ve since added turkey eggs (from our Bronze turkey) only because the cannibalistic chickens raided and broke the first clutch of turkey eggs, and yesterday, my husband brought in two palm sized eggs from the white pilgrim geese. I asked him to please leave these eggs alone, unless the chickens were bothering them. Most geese (and ducks for that matter) will lay their entire clutch before sitting. He wasn’t sure, so brought these two eggs into the house to be added to the incubator population. Geese will take about 30 days from egg to hatching. I’ve marked the lay date on each of the eggs with a pencil so that we’ll know about when to expect the hatchling to arrive. Since we’ve so many different type of eggs in there now, on each egg is also listed the expected hatch date…about 21 days for chickens, 30 days for geese and 28 days for the turkeys. Next month, hoping that they are fertile and we have a good hatch rate, I should have more pictures to share with you.

We’re so looking forward to spring on the farm!!

                                                                    

 

                                                                                                      

 

 

 

Happenings Here – Spring Is In The Air – Maybe

ImageImageImageImageIt’s been so long since I’ve posted that I almost forgot how to type. Just kidding. But, it’s been crazy busy here. One would swear that spring is in the air, at least sometimes. New life is abounding, and bounding by leaps and bounds. Last month we had 6 goat kids born within a week of each other. Since it’s so cold outside, we opted to take them from their mamas and bring them inside to get a better start on life. We brought 6 in, but we lost 4 due to the extreme Midwest cold. We’ve never, ever lost a kid before, so this year was heartbreaking to say the least. Only one of our 5 does had a single birth. Two of them had triplets and two had twins. Hmmm, that equals 11 kids doesn’t it? I don’t count the single birth kid since it was born prematurely and didn’t have a chance to live. That too, created buckets of tears when I had to lay it to rest. You might ask why we had so many losses this year. We raise Kinders, a cross breed of pygmy and Nubian. They are a combination of meat and milk goats and are short, but stocky goats. Most does will show a sign of impending birth such as a relaxation in the ligaments just above the tail or tell tale signs of labor pain. Ours don’t. And too, ours have a bad habit of kidding in the middle of the night. We’ve spent several nights out there in the 2 years past, waiting, watching, praying and coaxing until the kids came into the world. Those were planned pregnancies, not at all like this year. Unfortunately, their pregnancies were not planned, so we didn’t have a clue as to when the estimated dates of delivery were. Papa Jeff got in the girl’s goat paddock after having escaped his own, did what he was bought to do, and promptly went back to his own paddock. We didn’t even realize that they were pregnant until they started to show. Bad, bad, bad Jeff.

But, I want to share the good things, not dwell on those that are sad and heartbreaking. These 6…well, all I can say is WHEW! Are they a handful!!  Ever try to bottle feed 6 kids at once? It’s a free-for-all! One of my friends suggested a lambar bucket, one of those nifty devices that looks like a pail with multiple nipples attached. I don’t have time to find or buy, or wait, for a lambar bucket to be delivered. When these kids are hungry, they’re hungry now! We went to the old standby or using baby bottles with cross cut nipples. As time goes on, we make the cross cuts larger because Larry, the black goat kid you see in the foreground, will literally invert the nipple into the bottle from suckling on it so hard. It’s easier to make a larger crosscut than to fish a nipple out of the goat milk replacer.

Larry was the oldest, born January 24. Moe, the mischievous one, the Houdini, came to play on January 25th. Curley Joe and Clara Jo made their appearance (their triplet didn’t survive) on the 26th. Then we got a bit of a break and on 2/3 we went to the barn and found a set of triplets, one had already passed away, but the 2 little brothers, Oscar and Peanut wet and cold, so they came in the house to live also. Thank goodness we have 2 extra large dog crates. We bought the crates when the does were tiny, to transport them in as we were moving from KY to MO. It works well. They do become crate trained and lead well on dog leashes. These crates now have a semi-permanent residence in my kitchen and house the 4 older kids during the night. The smaller two snuggle in a garden bathtub that has an old sleeping bag in it. Warm days, love ’em. The older ones go to the barn to visit with their moms and run and stretch those little crazy legs. The tinier ones do too, but not as long as the older 4 do. I also thank goodness that hubby has devised a way (he’s going out today to build it) to make a smaller, heated stall for the kids so they can live out there. I don’t know that Peanut and Oscar are ready to live outside just yet. Peanut, the tiny brown buckling,  isn’t eating solid food as much as he should, so I feel a keen sense of motherly protectiveness toward him.

Goats have their own unique personalities. Larry is the leech. He will come at you with his mouth in a perfect “C”, and latch onto whatever body part he can reach. It doesn’t matter if it’s the cuff of your pants, your calf or knee, or your hand if you’re unfortunate enough to be sitting down when he attacks. He latches on so hard that his front feet come off the ground at a 45 degree angle! It looks like this “/”. I honestly think his suckle is hard enough to put a hickey on someone. Moe, is the mischief maker. He’s a Houdini. he is the one you see in the middle of my lap, the black one with the white crown, snug and square in the middle of my lap trying to steal the other kid’s bottle. We’ve had to put deer netting on the parts of the goat paddock that have larger openings. I can’t even count anymore, the number of times we’ve heard bleating on the front deck, open the door and see him standing there, smiling. Yep, loose again, hi mom!  Curley Jo is absolutely gorgeous. He’s the little black faced, brown bodied buckling that you see on the far right of the picture, toward the front. He’s a pretty boy and he knows it. His lovely twin sister, the only doeling out of the pack, is the little brown baby at the front of the picture, front row, far right. She is incredibly beautiful. Her markings and slim face remind you of a miniature deer. She has black bands on her knees, white bands above that, white stripes down each side of her jawline, and the white crown. She’s not a sissy by any means. With a brother and 4 more male cousins, she is b no means a whimp. She will get in the middle of them and clamor for a nipple with the best of them. She eats faster, eats more and is growing by leaps and bounds. She’s a keeper, that’s for sure. The two youngest, Peanut, is the tiny brown one in the background, far left. I am holding Oscar, trying to feed him during a goat kid onslaught. Peanut and Oscar are in the 2nd photo. That feeding, I wound up having to stand up to feed Oscar because the others kept taking the bottle away from him.

 

I’ve learned new skills trying to feed these kids. We’ve usually had twins or triplets born on the farm, and always born far enough apart that we could manage them easily with one person. Now I can handle 2 bottles in each hand, stick one between my knees, and hold one kid in my lap with the bottle under my arm, thus feeding all 6 at once. That gets to be more cumbersome the older and bigger they get. My husband helps with the feedings now, and for that I am grateful. We sometimes have to just feed 2 at a time, but that gets crazy too because the other 4 know that it’s feeding time. Have you ever heard a goat have a temper tantrum? I hadn’t either, until these 6 came into the world. Feeding time is more of a feeding frenzy. We are learning to take 2 at a time, feed them and go on to 2 more. The older 4 are starting to eat solid food now, so weaning time is upon us for them. Hallelujah!!  It’s onto the play stage with these kids. Watching them run, jump, fall, head butt and do the things that all little kids do is like watching a comedy show. Hopefully I will have some videos to share with you soon.

I so love raising these wonderful creatures. They are better than dogs,  Funnier than the best of any comedy you’d ever watch on TV, Loyal, trusting companions. It’s beginning to look a lot like springtime. Isn’t it something we all need?