After last year's failings, I began this year's garden with a much more relaxed attitude. Ambition doesn't always guarantee success. I waited until March to start my tomatoes and peppers, and started almost everything from seed directly in the beds. In one spot in particular, I replanted seeds three times before anything came up. At first I thought it was the birds again, but now I think I just didn't water anything enough. I didn't overcrowd anything, though I didn't grow much either for a while. The verdict is in- next year I will start my seeds in February, and I will probably never ever work with anything other than transplants.
In other news, my "farm" is slowly becoming a zoo. First the goldfish, then the hamsters. The bees (fortunately very low maintenance). We hatched five more chicks, and then recently my dad asked if we would take some of his chickens. Then we paid for dairy goats and came home with a dog. As if that wasn't enough, the next day a rabbit showed up in our yard. I'm not sure if I feel more like Dr. Doolittle or perhaps Noah as he placed the finishing touches on the ark.
The decision to get Nigerian dwarf goats made everyone nervous, but as you can see they don't take up much space. The first couple of days they bleated, and it was loud. I was in a sweat over what the neighbors would think, but the goats calmed down after that and hardly make a peep anymore. I didn't realize until later when they nearly knocked over a lactating visitor that they hadn't been fully weaned and they missed their mommy!
They are only four months old, and very sweet little creatures. My nine year old picked one up, so though I don't know exactly what they weigh, you can see they are small. It's very difficult to get good pictures because when they see me they run up looking for love and snacks. We had sectioned off nearly a third of our yard for them, the portion previously dedicated to play space, but they prefer to stay up on the side, as high up as possible. We will probably put them in with the chickens soon.
The rabbit appeared out of nowhere. I don't know if she was abandoned or an escapee, but she's ours now! We put her in a roomy hutch which fits over the raised beds. Rabbit pellets can go directly into a garden without composting, and she has been a great source of bunny berries. She has devoted one corner to be a toilet, and if you look closely at the picture you can see the pile of bunny poo beneath her. She's not as cuddly as I thought a rabbit would be, but the kids liked to go in and pet her for a while. Now that she's off the ground it's a little harder for them to get to her. I don't know if the bunny is lonely or relieved that the kids aren't jumping in her cage with her, but I'm betting she's relieved.
All my vegetables got a thick layer of composted chicken bedding this month. I've started a new way of doing things that I learned from a talk at the Heirloom Seed Expo in September. It was intended for a real farm, not raised beds, but I'm hoping the logic behind it will still work for me. Instead of pulling plants out by the roots (unless it's a beet or a carrot, you get the idea), I cut the plant at the soil level, leaving the roots in the ground. There are many potential benefits since any time you turn soil over you lose a lot of the good stuff, but the immediate benefit for me is that I don't have to replace half the soil every time I pull stuff out anymore. Then I could put down any powdered fertilizers, or maybe some azomite powder, and then a layer of compost. The new plants are planted in the compost layer, and hopefully by the time they've grown the old roots have broken down. It's only been a month, but so far, so good. No more seeds in the soil. Transplants, transplants, transplants!
We also added space in the chicken area for the compost. This way the chickens can pick through it and aerate it instead of me doing all the work. All the chicken bedding goes in there too. My father did this, watered it regularly, and produced lots of amazing compost which he generously shared with me.
Here is a late watermelon I started in the greenhouse. It's roughly cantaloupe-sized, which for me is a huge victory. Last year I never made it past golf ball size watermelons.
I love trying new foods, cooking, and gardening. I hope to share these experiences on this site. Thanks for taking a look!