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Monday, January 28, 2013

State of the Homestead

Spring is right around the corner for us. Another 4-6 weeks and we can start planting in earnest. 

Garden: Late in 2012, I pulled out the strongest tomato, eggplant, and pepper plants and stuck them in pots. During the few weeks that it got chilly, I brought them indoors to a fully appointed atrium with ceramic tile, drain, and its own water source. Did I mention I love this house?

As the days started getting shorter, I noticed the potted plants were looking poorly. Still green, but not as robust as they were a few weeks earlier. Greg installed a grow light over them and they started getting bushy again. The eggplants and tomatoes even flowered.

But then horrors. I discovered aphids on my eggplants. I never use poison on plants that grow food, so I sprayed them with a mild dish washing soap solution. It seems to be working.

Sometime in March, when I'm certain the temperatures have stabilized, I'll put these plants outside and then compare them with new, younger transplants. The tomatoes seem to be more leggy than bushy but that could be because they're not getting enough light. I'm curious to see how much sooner they'll produce since they're already mature plants.

All my pretties. Notice the grow light above.

Comfrey: I have been wanting to get this plant for ages, but the price always made me swallow my tongue. Finally, I surrendered to my plant lust and bought a dozen cuttings. Comfrey is a hardy herb well loved by goats and chickens. It's also an old herbal remedy for broken bones, thus the name knitbone. The allantoin in comfrey is believed to promote cell growth.

I'm hoping it'll be as aggressive a spreader as they say because I want to use it as stock feed. I'll post a picture of it next month because it's just a little sprig of green right now. Not much to look at.

Chickens: Back in November, I mentioned the chickens were taking some time off as the days got shorter. Well, almost as soon as December 21st passed, they started laying again with gusto. I'm getting a dozen eggs a day. And a few of the younger chickens are starting too, including a new layer who is taking after her mama and laying green eggs.

The good news: Several people are interested in buying my eggs.  

The bad news: As usual, my buyers live far away so it'll be a case of when I can transport the most amount of eggs at one time.

The guys below haven't been sorted. There are three roosters who have yet to meet the Maker. And I need to band the others by age and breed.

Too early to let them free range. Without the cover of trees and shrubs, hawks and coyotes can pick them off.

Dogs: Over the holidays we rechristened the old labrador who adopted us last year. Not expecting her to stay we kept calling her Mama, but the name didn't fit. 

Mama is now renamed Maggie. It didn't take her long to respond to that name. She still follows me around like a shadow. They all do. I don't know why I deserve so much attention. I must smell like liver.

Tank's condition has improved. His lumps are far less noticeable and he has more energy. My relief at his turnaround cannot be measured.

Iko is starting to throw his weight around. He's always been content to be second to Tank, but Maggie's introduction has made him more assertive. He doesn't want to be third. LOL. Thank goodness he doesn't realize how powerful he is. He thinks he's still puppy-size. 

I'm curious how he'll behave once Tank is gone. Iko has always looked up to him. As long as his big brother was there, all was right with the world.

We're still looking for our fourth baby. We keep coming across so many other dogs that need us, but I'm trying to hold out for a girl who can help me herd goats.

One of the few times I could get them all in one picture.

What plans do you have for the spring (or winter) for you down under?


LD Masterson said...

You plant in earnest? That's why your stuff grows better than mine. I just use dirt.

Okay, I'm sorry - it's early and I couldn't help myself. I enjoyed the update. And I still want to see one of those green eggs.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Hey, if buyers want your eggs bad enough, let them come to you. You could even set up a stand. Good luck with your garden. I've never tried bringing garden plants inside for the winter. Maybe someday when we get a place of our own, it's something I could start. =o)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Green eggs, huh?

I'm waiting for spring to see what is going to happen to all my outside plants. I'm worried the flooding we had and the salt water is going to kill what i planted. :(

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: Groaners? Really? This early in the morning? I will make it a point to serve you green eggs. Not sure about the ham yet. ;-)

Maria Zannini said...

BE: I thought of the stand but I don't like getting interrupted if I'm in the middle of something and I'm always in the middle of something. LOL.

Overwintering a few plants was an experiment. They survived the winter, but will they survive and produce after being replanted? Time will tell.

Maria Zannini said...

Jennifer: Oh, Jennifer, I forgot about your flooding. I'll be interested to hear how it affected your plants. Maybe with enough rain and snow, it'll have diluted the salt. Crossing fingers for you.

Stacy McKitrick said...

Plans for spring? Hope for warmer (and drier) weather so I can go back outside and walk! I like reading on the treadmill, but prefer the outdoors (when it's not so cold). Glad Tank is doing well. You got cute babies!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

You have some big plans for spring. Love the picture of the dogs. Tank looks so patient. I still miss my rotty. He was the smartest dog I ever had.

Maria Zannini said...

Stacy: It'll probably be a while before you guys see spring, but I'll keep my fingers crossed that you'll have a drier one. You can send your rain down to us. We always need it. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Susan: I didn't realize you had a rottie. I could tell you stories about all the misguided fears I had when Greg first asked to adopt one. They are the sweetest babies ever.

And Tank has the patience of a saint. That's why we call him St. Tank. LOL.

Jackie Burris said...

We are anxiously awaiting March as well, the 1015 sweet onion plants Karl put in the plot back in November (would have been October but no one got the things in until early November) are healthy and loving the cole weather!

We have decided this year for my Mom to try some snap peas, some green beans and pickling cucumbers grown from seed along with summer squash and okra again as it made and made and made.

Karl is "chomping at the bit" to go down and pick up organic mulch from Gonzalez, they grow mushrooms and sell the fertilized soil after the harvest.

(Problem is we need to finish inside projects and other things more than he needs organic mulch.)

Maria am so happy Tank has is "mojo" back, Iko is finally feeling more frisky too and "Mama" has a forever home name of Maggie. Your babies are truly blessed and you are blessed to have them "shadow" you.

Gwen Gardner said...

It's hard to think about Spring when it's snowing outside. I'm a novice gardener, but I really enjoy it. Can't plant too much where I live with the short growing season and the critters. I generally plant some herbs that I have to move in and out everyday. But definitely not until May.

Iko looks a little annoyed with Maggie, but Tank and Maggie just look resigned, lol!

Angela Brown said...

I love seeing how things are moving along on the homestead.

I'm such a know-nothing when it comes to plants. So can't comment there. But I have to say that picture of Maggie, Tank and Iko is wonderful, having all the "kiddos" together :-)

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I'm moving again! Non-hurrah. The pets are loving all the cardboard boxes, though.

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: Oh, you lucky birds. I've heard wonderful things about mushroom compost.

I put in some onion bulbs today. I should've done it in the fall but I was crazy-busy.

Maria Zannini said...

Gwen: Maggie has been trying to bully Iko so he's watching her every minute. He's like a mongoose, always waiting for the rattler to strike. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: Tank is great at taking pictures but Iko is fidgety and Maggie wants to stand next to me. It's like juggling monkeys.

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: Moving again?! Are they running you out or did you find a better place?

Same town? It seems like you just got to your last home.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Maria, You are amazing. Have you considered writing a book about how to do it all? Because I'd buy it!

Angelina Rain said...

Interesting idea about the plants. Let me know how it turns out. Someday in the future, I would love to own a large property with a small house on it and grow my own friuts and veggies.

Love the picture with the dogs. Glad to hear Tank is doing better and I'm happy to hear Mama will be a perminant member of your family.

Shelley Munro said...

I love hearing your reports. The green eggs sound interesting. You did well managing to get all the dogs in one photo. I have trouble wrangling one. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Karen: LOL. Thanks. :o) I don't know about amazing but I do stay busy (and injured) thanks to my newly smashed finger.

Maria Zannini said...

Angelina: Owning property and wide open spaces has been my dream since I was a kid--probably due to living in a cramped apartment in Chicago.

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Fortunately, I had the camera with me. As they followed me around like little ducklings, I turned and ordered them to stop (this only lasts a few seconds). LOL. I snapped their picture and they quickly attacked me with wiggling butts and sloppy kisses.

Sarah Ahiers said...

Aww man! I'm totally jealous of your early gardening season. We had a mild winter last year, which meant we had squash bugs, the first time i've EVER seen them. they decimated our zuchinis. I just spent a day this weekend, doing research on how to stop them if they are to return (in the green fashion. I'm proud that our garden is organic)
We'll start our seedlings indoors in a few weeks, and some point soon we'll need to decide what to plant this year.

OT - have you ever considered having guinea hens? I know they're kinda ugly, and mean as shit, but i totally want some (if i ever get chickens. Sigh) because they're supposed to be so good at eatign pests and less destructive to gardens

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: Let me email you something I read the other day. It might help your squash bug problem.

Ref: guineas
I have a love/hate relationship with guineas. My neighbor had them but they always stayed at my place. I didn't mind them at all other than the fact that they flew OVER my fenced in garden and ate my veggies.

They are always getting hit by cars though. My neighbor loses them every year. Last year she decided not to replace them.

Cate Masters said...

I wish spring was 4-6 weeks away for us! I can't plant until at least May for fear of frost.
Your babies are so cute. Maggie doesn't look impressed with Iko, lol.
Tons of Aussie cattle dogs are abandoned. I bet my Lily would love to help herd your goats, but I couldn't bear to be away from her!

Maria Zannini said...

Cate: Maggie only has eyes for me. She has a low regard for Iko which drives the poor dog insane. LOL.

Ref: abandoned dogs
For as long as I live I will never understand how people can abandon their pets.

Greg sent me something the other day that broke my heart. Someone had abandoned his 15 yr old Aussie cattle dog in California. How can anyone do this? The poor old guy only has a couple more years at best. If he wasn't so far away we would've gotten him.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

Husband lost his job, so we're moving to a cheaper place. Yeah, just got here, barely knew ye, house. Ah well.

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: Oh, no! That's terrible. I hope he finds a new job soon.