Friday, May 31, 2013

Two Little Piggies

The piggies came home this week. 2 mixed breeds, unlike last year's Berkshire. We'll see how the meat compares, but honestly I don't know that we will be able to tell the difference, especially knowing the vast difference between store-bought pork to home-grown pork! These 2 are named Copper (the brown coppery colored one), and either Patpat (the second), or Stripey - Little M hasn't yet decided. I'm betting she goes with patpat like last year though.

She is just enthralled with them, which is really cute to see. She'll ask to go in with them, and then just sit down and watch them sleep, or eat, or whatever they happen to be doing. She'll 'help' put greens in for them, tag along to check on them in the mornings, and help feed them.

For now we just have them in the hog panel enclosure like we did with Pat last year, although we moved it to beside the new side garden. After the baby comes we'll spend the time to get the electric fence all set up, and let them out into that, but with them being so small, and us busy with other things for the next couple weeks, we felt that the simplest quickest solution for their enclosure for the short term would be the hog panels. Of course, they've already escaped via the accidentally left open gate into my garden, luckily not for long enough to do anything more than root around in the chicken manure pile! Oops!

Monday, May 27, 2013

The lower garden in late May

So since I updated you on the May goings on in the new side garden last week, I thought I had better make sure the lower garden was covered too - since it is where the majority of our home grown veggies come from, don't want to make it feel left out! ;)

The garden is looking pretty good this year, especially given how pregnant I am! We've been having a week or two of rain and cool temps, so I only just the beans in and haven't gotten the corn in the ground yet, hopefully when I'm home mid-week we can fit that in around picking the pigs up. This year the crop rotation worked out such that I've only had to keep water on the north end of the garden, which was really great during our early hot and dry spell.

Most years so far I've had early crops in both ends of the garden, meaning twice the watering time each morning, as our gravity-fed irrigation pressure really only properly waters the entire end of the garden when one end is on at a time. Not sure things will ever work out that well in the future, as the permanent plants (herbs and strawberries) are all in the north end, but the other crops rotate throughout the whole garden, but the less strenuous watering need has been great this year what with being pregnant!

With all that rambling over, now on to the pictures!

Looking south, just turned over tomato area, carrots, onions, potatoes, rhubarb to the left, herb area, strawberries, garlic, greens to the right

Herb area, mixed with some bulbs and other ground cover.
common chives are doing wonderfully this year!

The smaller of our two rhubarb plants from last year, the larger we moved to the side garden.
Potatoes starting to peek through (surrounded by weeds - yikes!)
Strawberry plants are flowering and growing well this year!
Iris flowers getting ready to burst into bloom
The far end will have corn, beans, and squash, but as of this picture was yet to be weeded. The black raspberries and apples are doing well though.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The new side garden in late May

We've been slowly plugging away at the last things to get done before the baby arrives and full summer hits. Mostly that has been gardening and pig stuff outside, although there has been a fair amount of work inside too, slowly getting Little M moved across to her new big-girl room and all that that entails, along with converting her old room back into a nursery for a newborn (goodness pulling her long outgrown 0-3 month outfits out has been fun - they are all so little and cute!!).

Here is where we are today on the new side garden though, with the new herb area, the newly enclosed garden shed, and the pig gate all installed! The only other additions that I hope we will get to in the next week or two is extending the herb area for the dry beans to go in there, and planting pumpkins and perhaps squash down in the far end with all the pig manure spread over it. Other than that, its just the pigs' electric fencing to get figured out up here before the baby comes!
the mister built me a nice gate to keep the dogs out of the garden

Little M's sunflowers

the pig gate got moved from the old pig area down to the new pig area, just waiting on electric fencing now! This area makes me smile every time I look at it - hose nicely wound up, chair to sit in, lilac in the planter...

The compost bin with herb area behind it, and a pile of moldy mulch hay from the farmer next door

The herb area with herbs transplanted up from the lower garden herb area - oregano, dill, garlic chives, common chives, and a lavender). Need to start some more herbs (basil, thyme, sage, cilantro) but not in a rush about it. They are surrounded by the hoops from some old barrels that were on the porch when we bought the property.

My new garden shed! It is so nice to have the tools so close to the garden, before, they were in the carport, on the other side of the house from the garden area. This spot works quite well when it suddenly pours down rain!

outside of the new garden shed, see the chicken peeking out at us!

Garden shed, pig gate, and garden from the pig area looking in.

Looking from the end of the garden up towards the coop. Peas, 2 rows of strawberries, and a row of raspberries on the right, herbs and space for dry beans to the left of Little M. I love this new space!
Of course there is still a fair amount of work to get done in the main/old/lower garden, but all of the soil has been turned over and most has been raked flat. Corn and beans need to be seeded; squash, cucumbers, and zucchini need to be sprouted and planted; and peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower need to be hardened off and planted. But the weather is looking rather wet and cool until after the long weekend, so I expect those things will get rushed in at the last minute next week or the week after shortly before I head to Spokane with Little M to await the baby's arrival!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

on trees & cutting them down

after all but the big one were felled
after the big one came down
The county road crew has been parked in our wide spot for the past week, working on the gravel road above our house. This has elicited much excitement from Little M as she looks at all the trucks, dump trucks, graders, and backhoes. It has also elicited a few sad moments, as in addition to resurfacing the road they have been widening it a bit in one narrow stretch just past our property line, which required cutting down several trees that literally were right beside the road. By right beside, I mean they had gouges from the snowplow in their trucks, especially the largest & closest to the road.

I'm sad because I hate change, but also because that was my favorite stretch of our road. The trees shading the dirt, the birds always flitting about in the trees, and the feeling that instead of being on a road you were just on a little path through the woods as it continued down the hill from the public land above us. Now the canopy there is wide open and it feels like a highway.

this was taken just after they felled the largest tree, accidentally dropping it the wrong way and taking out a large section of the neighbor's fence!
It reminds me of my childhood wanderings (ahem, trespassings) on neighboring properties. There was once property several over and across the road from my parents land, which I wandered on once or twice, and then came back months later to realize it had been selectively clearcut and was essentially barren. The shock of matching the forest I remembered with this wide open expanse, as I stood in about the same spot, was just appalling. I of course had been on clearcuts in the past, but there is something shocking about seeing such a change and having to match up the images of where you once knew forest and now only saw slash.

Of course, taking out 4 trees from the group near our house, even when one was the largest of the bunch, is hardly that destructive. And I realize that the road is the road. But it is still sad to remember what it once was and see what it is now. I looked back through the last 4 years of pictures and couldn't find just one that perfectly conveyed how that spot felt to me, but below are a few befores to give a sense of what it was like before. It will be interesting to see how the light falls on the house earlier in the mornings due to the loss of these trees in the early spring and fall. Interesting and sad. However, the upside is the county crew let my husband have all the logs, so we now have a large pile of wood sitting waiting for him to chop up for firewood or convince a friend to saw it up for rough lumber, we'll see. He's guessing its upwards of 4 cords, although honestly I think it is a bit more than that!.

the trees behind and to the right of my husband are gone now, as are two of the ones on the left nearest the road.
the patch looks much sparser now than in this picture.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

On preparing to bring more pigs home!

We decided over the winter that we would like to raise another butcher pig this coming year. However, it was really my husband's decision, as I told him that with the baby coming in early summer, I would likely be off of animal chores and either pretty much worn out with the last stages of pregnancy or busy with the baby's needs for much of the pig's growing life. Since he was all for raising another one to have that tasty meat in our freezer for another year, we decided to go ahead and fit another pig into our (his!) schedule.

Of course, since we moved the chicken coop, the pig pen was all by its lonesome.

One of the reasons I think Pat did so well last year, being our only pig, was that the chickens were always there to keep him company. So I was a little nervous to have one pig all alone over there near the old orchard. Luckily my husband found two solutions:
1 - he got his 2 older brothers on board with buying a half pig each from us at cost. Sounds good to me, although that means hauling twice the amount of feed around, but since that task shouldn't fall to me this time around, I'm thinking this could be a good thing 2 pigs hopefully will gain weight faster and keep each other entertained, and we get to share how great this home-grown pork is with our extended family!
2 - he moved the pig area to beside the new side garden and chicken coop area, so the pigs will still have the chickens nearby, and we'll be gardening nearby too! Of course, this meant we decided to switch from the 16 x 16 hog panel pen to an electric pen that's about 100 x 60, where the future side garden space will extend into in future years, so a bit of added expense and work, but so worth it to have the pigs in a larger space, closer to the rest of the goings on, and to have them fertilizing, digging up, and controlling weeds in the future expanded side garden area!
It's hard to visualize without any posts up around it, but the pig area will extend from the chicken coop down to the left to the post down by the row of trees, and back across behind the new garden space that you can see off the right side of the playstructure.

We've got about 3 weeks until we pick the pigs up, and in that time we just need to figure out how to lay out our electric fence area... Yup, we like to make things interesting around here - learning how to do electric fencing in the mere 5 weeks before baby #2's due date... At least compared to making the house livable and moving in like we did when I was pregnant with Little M, this should be a breeze, right?! :)

This year we aren't going with a heritage breed like the Berkshire last year, simply because of availability. The neighbor we purchased Pat from is selling her early litter to fair 4-H kids, and has more than enough buyers for her second later litter. Since the timing of the later litter, even if there were 2 piglets available, would mean butchering later than we really want (it was quite stressful last fall worrying about Pat's water freezing, etc), we decided to go with crosses that a work friend of my husband's had. The timing is much better, and we'll get to compare whether the Berkshire was any different taste- or growing-wise.

Down the road I'd love to have a more reliable source of a breed that does really well on pasture, or even keep a sow ourselves, but we're just not at that stage yet, so this year that means trying a cross, which I am totally ok with at this busy stage in our lives!
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