Monday, November 17, 2014

Progress in the Garden Beds

The freak, early winter snow did not stay. With the help of some rain, it is almost completely gone from the ground. It is certainly gone from the raised beds, which tend to warm and thaw faster in the Spring and freeze later in the Winter than the earth does- at least that has been our experience.

In our last post, we shared how we accept the help of our willing hens to clear out the garden beds and ready them for a few months of winter rest. Once we pull the last of the veggies in a particular bed, we no longer weed it. Whatever grows, grows. The chickens don't mind at all.
This is how we left you. The garden beds were mostly bare after the chickens and goats ate what they wanted and scratched through the dirt.

We could go through and remove every bit of green left, but we don't. It will decompose as green matter rather nicely and add to the nutrients in the soil for next Spring's garden. We added a good layer of composed manure- courtesy of our goats, chickens, and horse- and call the garden done for the year. Two wheel barrel's full in each section is plenty- both for the beds and our tired muscles.

Our garden beds were roughly 10 inches deep this year. In the Spring, we will add another untreated 2x4 to the top rail and another layer of garden soil to top up the bed. In the fall, we'll repeat the process of adding more composted manure. Year after year, the garden soil grows richer and deeper giving us the hope of growing more veggies to feed our family and some of yours. CSA shares only deliver for 18-20 weeks of the year, but the planning is a year-round venture.

Look how dark and rich this soil is! And, it was just FULL of worms- there must have been thousands of them, we figured. This is a very good sign for the health of the soil and compost in these beds. I am already excited to get some seedlings transplanted or seeds direct sown in them when the weather breaks.

This image also points out some room for improvement in our design. The crushed rock pathways over blue tarps helped keep out unwanted growth and it was visually appealing. It did a great job and I am happy we chose to use it, though it made for extra work initially.  In the coming year, we'll expand the pathways to go around the outside edge of the garden. Having the lawn grow up around exterior of the garden made mowing the lawn near the beds difficult. This addition will mean some extra work and expense, but I think it will definitely save time in maintenance and care in the future.

The chickens love digging in the compost
pile. Leghorn hen was scratching for worms.
We have plans to add four completely new garden beds to this existing garden area in the Spring and complete several beds in the backyard. Once we get all the garden beds laid out and filled, the ultimate goal is to build a greenhouse over the top of the front garden area to extend our growing season. We're always dreaming about the next season, but that is part and parcel of living this homestead life we've chosen.

Sean spent much of his Saturday working on necessary projects before the weather turns for good. These included cleaning out the accumulation of both useful and useless items collecting dust in a couple of the empty barn stalls. One stall is completely empty and the milk stands have been re-homed inside the barn. It is nice to milk in the open air and watch the goings on in the yard while we do, but milking in the freezing cold is not pleasant- for anyone involved. This small change will allow us to collect milk in relative comfort for the next six weeks. And, then, we all get a reprieve for a few months.

A second stall is very nearly empty and will soon be the winter digs of one Ebony pig- hopefully by this coming Saturday. Miss Ebony has ridden out the short snaps of cold, comfortable within her warm mound of hay, but she rarely ventures outside these days. This is a sure sign that it is time for the autumn trek up the hill and into the barn. She grunts, hollers, and complains the whole way there, but once coerced, she settles in just fine.

Asher escaped into the doe pen Sunday. The pasture with no
less than FOUR perfectly good does to woo proved insufficient.
 The only thing to do was visit the main doe pen. You know,
the pen full of does we are NOT intending to breed this year.
Lastly, Sean cleared an area upstairs for the turkeys to spend the winter. I joke that when the weather changes, the barn begins to resemble Noah's Ark. All the animals tucked in and riding out the winter months. For the humans, it just makes more sense to have everyone all together in one area to tend. And, we feel that what the animals lose in space to wander, they gain in warmth and safety.

We are running behind in getting the wood stacked neatly inside the barn and shed, but we're doing the best we can to make some progress. Sean planned on using a vacation day to get in a good work here, but we all came down with a cold and spent a couple miserable days walking around like hacking, green-oozing zombies. No work on the wood was accomplished. We are on the tail end of things now and the hope is that Sean will have a five day weekend beginning on the 26th. We are praying the weather holds that long so we can work together to get this wood under some cover. It has to be done either way, but it is so much easier to do without having to dig out the wood from under snowdrifts, too.

$24.00 Snow Earrings
Sterling Silver French Hook
While Sean was getting the barn straightened out, I spent Saturday meeting some new friends and visiting with some familiar faces at Celtic Moon Rising Fashion and Gifts in Brewer, Maine. Matt and Lorie Garrett carry a selection of our unique Mosaic Eggshell Jewelry in stock and they were celebrating their Two Year Anniversary last Saturday. They invited me to join them. I was a little nervous about painting with an audience, since I usually paint in the relative peace of my studio, but everyone was so kind. It was a busy day, but I enjoyed myself immensely. And, I am thrilled with some of the new pieces I painted while I was there, especially, this birch tree pendant set and these sweet, snowy earrings. You can see other pieces we have created on our Facebook page. If you see something you love, just drop me a message and I can help you with that.

I think we make a great team, Sean and I. We much prefer working together to complete projects, but sometimes divide and conquer has its benefits. This week was one of those weeks. Here's hoping that next week is a "work together" weekend! :)

Thanks for popping in to visit today, friends. I am glad you did.
Sonja ♥


  1. Enjoyed this, I hope the weather will participate with your plans too!

  2. Very nice post! I enjoy the updates