This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. But Skippy always stood by me and was a great friend. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps and garden with me. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees and berry bushes, chickens and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

snowy fruit tree clearing

fruit tree  clearing 1 fruit tree  clearing 1213 fruit tree  clearing 1222 This is the area where I will plant some fruit trees in the spring. It was under a foot of snow last week when I took these pictures. After the rain we got the past couple days, only a few inches of snow left now.

I should have room here for about 5 dwarf or semi dwarf trees. I want to measure the area soon and mark out where the trees will go. I am thinking of getting 3 apples (maybe dwarf Liberty, Honeycrisp and Esopus Spitzenburg from Fedco), a peach and maybe a pie cherry tree. (I will eventually move my two espaliered pear trees from my community plot to the fence of my vegetable garden.)

I love reading the Fedco catalog section of fruit trees. So much information!

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Monday, December 23, 2013

sweet potato sprouts

My sweet potatoes have started to make cute little sprouts! Yippee!

I remembered at the last minute to save a few of my homegrown sweet potatoes for sprouting. The last ones were the smallest - a mix of white (Hannah), oranges (Jewel and Beauregard) and reds (Garnet).

For years, I've had trouble getting sweet potatoes to sprout at our old house. I've read they need warmth, but whatever I did didn't seem to work - maybe because my old house had mostly cool spaces. A couple weeks ago, I put a plate full of small sweets in the utility room of our new house. (Our new house may not have a cool space for a root cellar, but it does have a nice warm utility room.) My guess is the utility room is 75-80*F. I add a bit of water to the sweet potato plate every few days to keep the potatoes moist. And I covered the plate partially with plastic wrap. After about 2 weeks, I'm seeing nice sprouts. I can't help but cheer!

I think I see about 10 or more sprouts on several different potatoes.

I don't know if this will be too early for starting sweet slips. Since I haven't been this successful in the past, I am not sure. But it the slips get too big, I think I can cut them back (knock on wood). It's exciting to have them going!

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

crops for my community plot

Before I map out what to plant where in my new home garden, I need to decide what will go in my community plot. I'll be keeping my plot at least one more season, mostly because I planted my garlic there this fall (and also since I will stay on as the Garden Coordinator another year.)

I'm going to start a list here of crops that have done well in the plot. These are generally ones that aren't susceptible to pests that thrive in a community garden. For example, late blight has been bad for our tomatoes. Bean beetles and cucumber beetles are prolific. And flea beetles have been bad for potatoes and eggplants.

List of crops to plant in my community plot:
Sweet potatoes
Butternut squash
Pumpkins
Broccoli, cabbage, kale
Radicchio
Onions, leeks
Lettuce

19 weeks and counting

I've started the countdown to my last frost. Should be about May 10 for my new garden. 19 weeks!! All my seed starting is based on this countdown. The first seeds to plant will be onions and celeriac, which get started 11 weeks before the last frost. So I have 8 weeks to get ready. Lights, shelves, potting soil, trays, seeds. It's exciting to have a date set and a countdown going!

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

no eggs yet

My mom emailed me today "Any eggs yet?"

I replied "Nope."

She emailed back, "What's wrong with those chickens?"

I told her that I have been very direct in telling the hens that we expect eggs, but what else can I do? They are eating well, they have a nice coop and I do what I can for them.

I have had my three chickens for 4.5 weeks now. On Dec 26, they'll be 23 weeks old. (actually 23 to 27 weeks old.) Usually hens start laying eggs at 24 weeks of age, but they often stop laying in the winter when light is dim and snow limits their exersize. ..... I can see that the hens have grown in size since i got them. And their feahters have filled out quite a bit.

We sure are looking forward to omelets...

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the winter solstice!

Its all uphill from here - more light every day and closer to the day I break ground in my new garden.

Friday, December 20, 2013

first draft of my 2014 garden plan

2014 Garden diagram V1

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

silly selfies

selfie me suzie and skip selfie me suzie and skippy selfie me and skip selfie - me bertha ginger and penny selfie - me and suzie Everybody's posting selfies, so here's a few of me and some of my best friends. Not quite the PM of Denmark, but we all tried to smile our best!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

long shadows over community plots

long shadows at garden plot Skippy, Suzie and I walked through the community garden plots yesterday. At 3 pm the shadows were very long - the sun sets at 4:15 now. I still have some kale in the garden, but I think this bitter cold has probably made it too mushy to eat.

Only a couple days until the solstice. It will be nice to see the sun gradually rise in the sky and the shadows shorten.

skippy at the garden

Saturday, December 14, 2013

waiting for snow

waiting for snow This is our new back yard. My garden space to be is the open area in the center. My new tractor/lawn mower is the under the green tarp with the orange cart behind.

We have a big pond that we look out on. Its 13 acres and frozen over now after a couple weeks of unusually cold December weather. Our old metal row boat is overturned on the shore, waiting (a long wait) for spring.

The first flakes are falling now at dusk (the early 4 pm dusk) as our first big snow storm of the season moves in. We have an inch of snow already on the ground. Normally that would be a lot for this area in December. But tonight its predicted that a foot of snow will fall here. Of course, on the east coast, we are the last US location for this storm to dump on. My sister in MT has sub zero temps and lots of snow already. Even TX has snow this Dec. What a year!

So we wait. Th snow shovels and snow blowers are ready. Tomorrow we will be busy.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

chicken (and dog) pictures

skippy and the hens Here they are. Skippy is sniffing Bertha. He has been very good recently and both dogs get to be around the hens unsupervised.

(I check the egg boxes a couple times a day in this cold - just in case! And, I check all other places the hens have been, just in case they have hidden an egg. Still waiting...)

We have a foot of snow on the way this weekend. What will the hens think! They'll be snowed under.

three hens chicken coop in the snow

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

icy cold

icy cold My outdoor thermometer is registering 12*F! Ouch. I'm sitting by the fire and quite comfy. To make my chickens feel a little better, I got a ceramic heater for them and its on for the first time tonight. Its bringing the temp in their coop up to 23*F. I know they are OK are in the bitter cold temps, but I want to keep them happy so they'll lay some eggs soon! No eggs yet. The 3 girls are 22-26 weeks old now. I want eggs!

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

chicken update

Skippy and Suzie have gradually gotten used to the chickens. The chickens know where to go for safety - under their coop - and the dogs have learned that the chickens can move fast and fly a bit. I am very pleased that I can now l leave the chickens out to forage a while and not worry about the dogs getting them. A bigger worry is the hawks and foxes. So far, so good. I've been giving the chickens about an hour a day out of their coop.

sunrise over the pond

sunrise over pond "Red sky in morning, sailors take warning..." This was the sunrise before our first snowstorm of the year.

Friday, December 06, 2013

world soil day

Yesterday was world soil day! Who knew.... I celebrated by making squash bread with homegrown squash (and my sister), feeding my chickens the leftovers, and composting their poop! (OK, we had a martini too..) Yeah DIRT!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

cleaning the coop

Today I cleaned out my chicken coop for the first time. I've had the 3 girls since nov 20, so that's exactly 2 weeks. I have a remote thermometer in the coop and it's been registering higher humidity every day and was up to 90%, even on a dry day. So I got my flat edgeding shovel, my green garden trug, and sooped out all the poopy wood shavings. It nearly filled up my compost bin. yeah! I am going to have great compost this winter even if I have no eggs.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

late fall is a perfect time for new raised beds

I was walking my dogs this afternoon and noticed my neighbor has built a couple new raised garden beds. And she has a nice big delivery of dirt waiting to fill them. This made me think - why I am waiting 'til spring to build my new garden beds? This is a perfect time of year to start a new garden! Any fresh soil, manure or compost added now above tired or compact soil will help to refresh it over the winter. (Judy noted this in a recent comment.) The freshly added nutrients will work their way down over the winter while existing worms and soil microbes do their job aerating and mixing soil layers.

I have been thinking that I need to get a plan for my whole garden before I start. But an alternative is to start small with just a couple beds for now. Hmm.... A new thought.... Especially if the snow holds off for a bit longer.

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Monday, December 02, 2013

chickens love squash....

Copy of 003 My chickens are growing, and happy. I'm checking for eggs, none yet.

Their favorite foods seem to be: cooked squash, sweet potatoes and garlic mashed potatoes! Yummy. They've done a great job with our Thanksgiving leftovers. Other favorites: honeydew melon, corn-on-the-cob, kale, lettuce, cream cheese and cottage cheese.

Today I went out to check on the girls, but unfortunately didn't have time to spend with them. They clucked with pleasure to see me. Guess they're getting the idea that I bring them good food. I've also been letting them out of their coop to forage in the yard about an hour a day. I only do this when I have time to watch them. I either leave the dogs in the house or hold them on a leash. I'm still not sure what dangers there are for the chickens out of the coop.

Suzie is very excited by the chickens and loves to get as close as she can and sniff them. They don't let her get very close. But Skippy is another story. He seemed to be uninterested for a long time, then charged. Fortunately the chickens were faster than him. They scattered and hid under the coop. So, its Skip I'm watching out for. He learned they are fast, but he may be faster next time.....

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