Yep, it’s that time of the year folks. Back in the spring it was so hard to only plant one zucchini plant. Heh, now what are you going to do?
I thought I was being restrained. I really did. After last year’s monster zucchini I didn’t see any reason to ever plant more than one summer squash.
I had picked up some sugar pumpkin seeds this spring at the seed swap at Homegrown New Mexico thinking, “What the heidi-ho? Some pumpkin pie would be nice.” Well my friends, squash are infamous for being a little naive and a bit loose. Clearly some some bees took last year’s pumpkin and a willing zucchini out for a few too many drinks because the love child of that tryst created a plant that makes the biggest baddest squash you’ve ever seen!
Nothing tastes better than a plateful of organic, home-grown vegetables which you have taken the time and effort to grow and nurture yourself. This is why having an allotment is so great; you have the luxury of eating fresh, organic food rather than having to trek down to the store and rummage through a pile of battered and bruised vegetables.
If you love gardening and you much prefer to be outside nurturing your plants and looking at the wildlife on a warm summer’s day, rather than watching the TV indoors or playing some Cheekybingo, then you might be thinking about creating your own vegetable patch in your garden. However, there are a few things you should know about maintaining a healthy allotment and below are just a few tips to help you out.
When owning an allotment, you are bound to get pests like slugs and insects coming to feast on your vegetables. But rather than using slug pellets, why not try a few natural methods? » » »
We are deep into our chicken season and it seems like there is a chicken at every turn. This year we decided to raise and process 200 chickens. Hmmm, what to do with almost 200 chickens?! That is the question. For now we are going with the ‘if we build it they will come’ attitude.
Mike: Yep, cause’ that has worked so well for us before!
Molly: Alright, we are out at the Farmers Market in Eldorado on Fridays through June and a new totally awesome market on your way out to Las Campanas at the wine store.
We started this a few years ago to see what it was like to raise our own food.
Molly: Having raised chickens for eggs for over a decade I wanted to challenge myself. When I researched how chickens are raised for food my eyes were opened to the great wide world of the industrial poultry business. I just could not see being a chicken farmer using these industrial techniques where the conditions seem awful and disease was a huge issue. Right away I read everything I could get my hands on small scale chicken farming. This education sent me to the conclusion that I would raise my own chicken using these guidelines:
- Chickens raised in the outdoors
- No pesticides
- No meat by-products
- No antibiotics or drugs
- No growth enhancers
- No hormones
Cornish XCross about 5 weeks old
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Around here if it rots it goes into the compost pile. That includes chicken parts when we’re processing the meat chickens. Hold on! All the gardening books insist that you can’t compost meat. Well, you can. Everything rots and given enough time and the proper conditions it turns into nice black humus. Nature is very efficient and you can really see it in action in a compost pile. We let our chicken compost go for two years so that the microbes have a nice long time to do their work. In the end, aside from an occasional bone, we end up with great compost.
There is a caveat though. Chicken guts don’t smell the best for the first couple of weeks as they are rotting. In fact (big surprise) rotting chicken guts are really smelly! We do our best to minimize the smell mixing lots of straw and other high carbon materials in to help combine with the nitrogen rich chicken parts. After the first couple weeks the smell dies down but as we’ve increased our batches of chickens from 25 to 50 though it’s gotten pretty stinky around the compost piles.
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I came across strawbale gardening last year but it was too late in the season to try it so it went on the back burner and waited for this year. The idea is simple. Put some dirt (about4″) on top of a straw bale, stick a plant in it and let it grow. The dirt supplies the nutrients and the strawbale acts as a giant sponge holding and supplying water. It also breaks down over the course of the season and supplies some nutrients as well. Supposedly you can get two seasons out of a bale. When it is spent you just compost it!
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Lilacs from our garden
This spring has been absolutely magnificent! Typically spring in New Mexico has weeks upon weeks of winds that gust up to 60mph along with warm days and really cold nights that can get down below freezing. This year I could count on one hand the totally windy days and the temperatures have not been all Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde like. Our 15 year old lilac bushes that are still only two feet high bloomed for the first time. Our peach, apple and plum trees were able to bloom without a freeze or the winds taking the blossoms out. We’ve got our fingers crossed that we’ll be getting fruit this year. It’s a great start. Mike and I have gotten a jump on cleaning out our gardens and he’s been working to expand them like a crazy guy. If you missed his post last week on the garden go check it out here. » » »
To see the first part in this series click here to read ‘Lost: Bees’
Two weeks ago Mike and I were down at my parents to check on our bees and feed them if they needed it. We had them in Albuquerque because the winters are much milder than in Santa Fe. After the winter of 2010 with its record breaking temperatures of -25 degrees we wanted to do everything we could to help them thrive.
Checking a comb.
Surprise! When we opened the hives this year four of them were empty, not a trace of bees. Apparently the bees had just flown away. What had been the strongest hives still had several combs full of honey. The fifth hive had a bee colony but they were all dead. » » »
After last years disasterous chicken farming season I was almost ready to give up. With the bees gone I’m not feeling like a very successful mini-farmer. So as an unsuccessful mini-farmer I’m going to follow my typical impulse and try, try again; I’ve decided to raise 200 chickens this year. I ordered them to arrive in batches of 50 last week. They will be coming every 3-6 weeks over the next 6 months.
1 week old Cornish XRock chicks
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We love being beekeepers. We buy special smaller (more natural) sized bees and don’t treat them with any chemicals. We only feed them honey and Mike makes them special homes that allow them to live closer to how they would in the wild. We started with two colonies two years ago and added three more last spring for a total of 5 beehives.
After last winter’s unusually cold temperatures (25 below) and the drought that followed in the spring and summer we decided to take them down to my parents house this winter to give them a little R & R. My parents live a quarter mile from the Rio Grande river in the middle of an area full of small farms filled with alfalfa and flowers. One night late last fall we waited until after dark so that we were sure everyone was home and sealed the hives. We packed them in the truck and drove them down to their winter home. All seemed well. We set them up and filled their feeders with honey to help them get through the winter. » » »
In the fall we put our garden to bed. With the exception of a few spinach plants that winter over in a cold frame we say goodbye. Come early spring we start dreaming of what should get planted.
Mike: We’ve had a veggie garden since we’ve moved here 9 years ago but the last few years I’ve gotten interested in gardening on a much larger scale. Last year we really amped up what we grew and how much we grew.
Molly: We started seeds inside for the fist time last year. It was great, kind of.
Mike: It was/is a learning curve. We got real excited last year and planted our seeds a little too early.
To help satiate the need to garden in the spring Mike discovered that planting sprouts indoors is quick and easy. You can do it all winter if you have a seed starting station. (or a window) » » »