Category Archives: Life on the Farm

With the Emergence of Spring Everywhere, It’s Time to Plant!

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Crocus are the fist to bloom!

Our long winters nap is over!  Although we still have those cold blistery winds, freezing temperatures, it’s time to start our spring garden chores.  The blank garden beds are starting to be amended, bulbs poking through the ground and plum tree buds are starting to swell.  Some of our first chores are to clean out the perennial beds from fallen and blown in leaves from autumn, prune the roses and apply a layer of mulch to the barren soil.  Our garden beds are turned, but not before adding plenty of compost, greensand, phosphate, and nitrogen. Once the beds have been amended they are carefully leveled out to take on their inhabitants for the spring months.  Peas, lettuce, spinach, brassica crops, fava beans and plenty of other cold hardy spring crops are put in at this time.  Keeping them moist so seeds germinate is very important, especially when the winds so easily dry them out.  We are fortunate in our zone 8 to start our gardens earlier than other colder zones.  When that first robin bird sings his song, the spring fever hits.  Pruning of fruits trees and a heavy spraying of dormant oil should be done before buds break.  We always find several praying mantis eggs while pruning and these are removed and placed in a protected spot in the garden before being coating with the tree oil.

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Pop in some pansies around your flowering bulbs for more spring color!

It’s only a few weeks away before many of the spring bulbs begin to show color and so we always pop in some pansies for more color.  Once the roses begin to grow their bronze, tender spring leaves it’s time to give them a couple healthy handfuls of alfalfa meal to help them develop nice big blooms.  Be careful not to prune boxwood shrubs or other evergreen shrubbery to early in the freezing season or to late when its hot or they will burn.  We prune ours the end of February here.  When the forsythia blooms it’s time to apply pre-emergent  corn gluten to prevent weeds from germinating in established beds or lawns.  Not only will it keep weeds down but it will also give your plants a good spring feeding.

Our chickens love the days getting longer and begin to lay once again those beautiful shades of dark brown, tan, green and blue eggs.  They will scratch the earth and stretch out in the sun all day long until dusk when they return to the safety of their coop.  We couldn’t do our little farm without our chickens.  Their manure adds to the richness of the compost, the egg shells get planted around the rose bushes or with tomatoes at the time of planting and sometimes they get fed to the worms in the worm bins.  And once you have had a farm fresh egg you will never want a store bought again!  Besides, there is nothing more relaxing then watching these feathered friends running around the orchard doing what they do.

Today we will be planting onions around the perimeters of our raised beds, usually over five-hundred plants.  half of them being Walla Walla and others of red, yellow and white varieties.  I have always preferred the little plants over bulbs because they always do better, get bigger and I have less of them that get thick necks and go to seed rather then produce a bulb.  They will get a little extra nourishment from a side-dress of composted manure.  Always cut back some of the green tops and root system before transplanting.  This will help them get a better start!  They have a tendency to die back a little anyway, so why not hasten the process and let them get growing!

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Casper is a little poser!

And we can’t forget to report on Casper the Perfect Cat!  After having teeth issues last summer and now no teeth (outside of two for decoration purposes only) he has gained 3 whopping pounds!  Not all of us would be happy about that!   He is on a special soft food diet, but after his repeated attempts to sneak down, and I mean sneak, low to the ground and all, to the neighbors to get his fix of hard food we now have to give him what he demands!  Hard Purina cat chow!

Corn Gluten,  Phosphate, Nitrogen, Alfalfa Meal Greensand

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Herbs for Goats

12 hour old baby Nubian Goat

12 hour old baby Nubian Goat

As as a child or young married adult I never dreamed I would have a backyard that was a home for Nubian goats.  After acquiring chickens, rabbits and ducks, I thought why not expand and get a few milk does.  They are not only a total joy to watch from my kitchen window, but they were great for my kids, a healthier choice of dairy products and quit frankly a great little companion.   After raising goats for over 20 years there are a few things I would not be without for my dear little hairy friends.  While it is essential for goats to have great food and roughage in their diet such as twigs, branches and bark that they would naturally get in the wild (ours get  multiple tree clippings from the orchard) I have always felt it is important to have a few herbs on hand.  Some for general health and some for those unexpected emergencies.

Top on the list would have to be ‘Slippery Elm’.  Slippery Elm has been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of ailments for animals and even humans.  It coats the goats fragile digestive tract and acts as a dual purpose herb treating both diarrhea and constipation.  Most goats will eat it willingly, but others may need a little help from a friend!  2 tsp is the average dose for adults and 1 tsp for kids (that would be goat kids!).  Sprinkle over their daily ration or you can dilute it with water and use a syringe to dispense to the back of the goats tongue until she has swallowed the entire dose. Tip: Once you have diluted the slippery elm it will set up quickly, so mix just before dispensing.

Garlic would be also be a must have for my goats.  Garlic is a natural wormer, not to mention all of its health benefits.  Pure garlic powder is fine, but fresh garlic is the best.  It’s so much more potent and beneficial than a dry form.  Feed them the peels and all.  You will notice that at times goats will gobble the cloves up and other times they turn their noses up!  They know what they need.  I toss a clove in their grain at milking time (once a day), this way the ‘garlic’ taste won’t come out in the milk because it have 12 hours to mellow before the next milking.  It has been used for clearing up blood in the milk, by cleansing the blood stream, treating fevers, increasing fertility, it’s an antibacterial, anti-fungal and is excellent for diseases of the nose, throat and intestine. Crushed garlic disinfects sores and wounds along with parasitical infections when used externally as a poultice.  Garlic is almost like a heal-all.

Raspberry leaves, the mother herb.  Goats love raspberry leaves!  I grow a big row of raspberries right near the barn just for my goats (plus a little nibble of fresh berries for us).  Raspberry leaves should be fed to female goats just before, during and right after pregnancy while increasing the amount (up to two handfuls) of leaves the second half of pregnancy.  Raspberry leaves are important to the female reproduction organs.  They are cleansing and improve the conditions during pregnancy, ensure healthy birthing and the ex-spell of afterbirth.  During birth, and to bring down delayed afterbirth, make a strong brew of two handfuls of leaves to one pint water, with two spoonfuls of honey.  Give a cupful of the brew frequently.  I have never seen a goat pass up raspberry leaves, but be sure they are disease free!

Marshmallow Root is not near as important as the other three herbs above, but it is useful for increasing milk production.  1 Tablespoon mixed in the girls grain at milking time can increase your production by 10%.

Olive Leaf is another great herb to have on hand because of its antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Wood Sage is useful to treat mastitis.  Two handfuls of raw wood sage feed daily to treat.  Massaging the udder will also help.

Comfrey (known at knitbone) was a mainstay for one of my goats years ago.  Every time after birthing,  she would develop a lame leg.  She always had four kids.  We feed her fresh comfrey leaves.  Once she started to walk with ease she would no longer eat the comfrey.  Comfrey Root is stronger and keeps well through the winter months while the comfrey plant goes dormant.  Another good herb to grow and have on hand!

An ounce of prevention…..Grow an herb garden

Some goats are just stubborn…Ha, a goat stubborn, who ever heard of such a thing?  Getting them to eat certain herbs can just seem impossible, but when goats are raised up eating a variety of herbs while they are young they have a tendency to enjoy them as adults.  Hum, kinda like humans!  I have always tossed herbs that have been trimmed from the herb beds such as thyme,

comfrey, marjoram, sage, germander and even lavender.  Goats are very intelligent creatures.  When left out in the fields they will find herbs or plants that their bodies needs and graze.  When I toss herbs into their pin, it is interesting to watch each of them devour certain herbs at times and then totally leave that same herb alone the next.

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July’s End

What a busy month! We jumped into July with sailing temperatures at 112 degrees. Pretty typical for July in Southern Utah, just always hard to get used to! Our garden stressed, wilted, but somehow it again survived. The heirloom tomatoes have produced like no other year! I would like to think my new planting mix did the trick. But I can’t dismiss the fact that I was very diligent about spraying kelp tea and liquid bone meal, covering with row cover and treating them like a baby.  We have had beautiful heirlooms of every color shape and size. I have my favorites again this year. Golden King of Siberia, a HUGE yellow heirloom. Although it has only produced a slight bit more than a dozen tomatoes, they have all been over 1-1/2 pound fruit. This one is not acidic, but it is very sweet. Bread & Salt is another huge tomato that produced heavy with several weighing in at just over 2 pounds. One of my most productive tomatoes so far this year was the Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge. The purple smudge, is just that, a fun little smudge on the shoulders. Off of one plant we probably picked over 4 dozen tomatoes, and it’s still going strong. Beautiful, although it’s not my favorite, others who tried, enjoyed the flavor. There is a tomato for everyone! Everyone’s favorite this year is the Kiwi. Resembling its color, not so much the flavor. Mild, but still that great old-fashioned tomato flavor with a twist! You might think it is not ripe, but once convinced green is ripe with this guy, you will be hooked!

Just when we thought we couldn’t take the heat any more we were hit with moisture and lots of it! We did get hail the size of a nickel, but luckily this year there was not much damage. Before the July rains, our rainfall for 2012 was only 3″! We have received over 3.5″ of rain within the last few weeks. Oh, the vegetable garden has greened up, grown like crazy with the lightning storms which has helped the plants grab the nitrogen!

Our dairy goat, Ivy is producing over 3/4 a gallon per milking. This is her first year, so she is doing super.  She does get the best hay, organic grain and plenty of healthy bites from the garden. Both her twins are growing like weeds. If you have never had a baby goat, you are missing out in the amusing show of jumping around the barn yard full of energy (energy I wish I could bottle).  We have made kefir, feta, summer cheese and buttermilk. This is when the chores pay off!

We had chaos in the milking barn when our mother rabbit escaped, and when I opened the door to the barn she bolted in and disappeared behind the hay storage. Yup! She’s a rabbit! 5 new babies. We had little fast hoppers running in an out of the hay until my daughter sat patiently with me till we had them all caught. Even though we have homes for all of them, well…..She’s mama is a AGAIN! You know that old saying…They breed like rabbits. It’s true, she certainly has it figured out!!!

Casper (the perfect cat) wasn’t feeling well, so off to the vet we went.  The poor little guy had to have all but a few teeth removed. The few that are left are for decoration purpose only. It’s only been three weeks he is back to normal. Sleeping on the cash register, roof of the barn, and tomato patch and screaming for food. Not up to being a farm cat, but then again, he never was! Maybe this will slow him down on chewing my nursery stock of herbs! Doubt that!

Bottling tomatoes, drying fruit, preserving currants and roasting peppers have been big on the list of chores with peaches, pears, figs and apples on their way to ripen. The constant fallen fruit pick up is a must so we don’t get brown rot in our fruit in years to follow. Good hygiene in the garden is added work right now, but well worth it in the long run. We have fewer disease, pest and problems when old fruit and veggies are removed and tossed into the compost pile. Tomatoes, or anything else for that matter that has dead leaves, should be removed in case of blight or other disease. This stops or at least slows the problem. Don’t use diseased plant matter as a mulch!  Remove it from the garden.

Believe it or not the greenhouse is back in swing! Several flats of brassica are started and getting sized up for fall planting. Keeping the little seedlings wet is so important! Brassica family, especially cauliflower does not produce well later on if they are allowed to dry out at any time of their life!

This is the time of year where the heat ‘peters’ us out, but if we can preserver, fall is just around the corner and this is sometimes the best of all the harvests. Tomatoes aren’t as watery, peppers don’t get sunscald and flavor seems to improve. Keep weeds in check to save yourself time later. Even if all you can do is cut off the seed heads. Deadhead your perennials for lasting blooms. Start to fertilize again when new blooms develop. Remove diseased plants so as not to spread. Side dress with compost. Compost will help keep the soil moist, cool and add tilth. If you have plants that are struggling, give them a hair cut to revive them and boost them with some kelp tea.

Enjoy the rest of the summer. Sit down in the evening with a glass of lemonade in your garden and watch the sunset.

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Life is Abundant this Week!

We know summer is well on its way when our temperatures are in the 100’s. The spring garden is just passing its peak and I will start to remove lettuces, spinach and cool season crops that are going to seed and start to pop in sweet potato plants, more peppers plants and squash seed in the vacant spots. Our little farm is lively with the arrival of twin Nubians does, baby bunnies,baby quail and the rest of our farm critters that keeps us on our toes. This is when true dedication comes in….or in other words, the work! Weeds are a plenty, watering chores have elevated, milking, feeding, thinning the fruit trees, harvesting and preserving.

This week we harvested over two gallons of Camarosa Strawberries.  They are one of my favorite strawberries.  Although they are not everbearing, they are big,  extremely flavorful and the harvest is very plentiful and they will produce a second crop in the fall, although not as big.  After cleaning them and slightly drying them, I place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and freeze.  Once frozen they get put into quart bags for winter smoothies.

2 years ago I planted 3 pear trees, one a seckel, one a bosc and the other is a red pear.  I really didn’t have anymore space on the property so I crammed them closely on the south side of the shed to be espaliered.  Beneath them is another bed of strawberries.  So far the are looking great and maintenance has been very minimal.  Besides they are a great addition to farmyard.

This week we have new baby bunnies.  You know the saying “breed like rabbits”, well new bunnies are pretty common here, but none the less, I just love the little guys!

Our chickens are laying in full production.  They are getting all the scrapes from the garden, like lettuce, spinach and other greens that have become bitter or have gone to seed.  Their production always gets a boost when they get a large amount of fresh garden scrapes.  If you haven’t raised chickens, you might want to try.  I love watching them rummage through their treats from the garden, plus the eggs become so rich and bright!

This week the artichokes are abundant.  Artichoke dip, artichoke hearts, and whatever else I can muster up.  Saturday we harvested over 25 artichokes off of three plants and we will probably harvest that again this week.  As they ripen through the month the size of the globe gets smaller and smaller.  After the harvest is over, the plants start to look scraggly so I will cut out old stocks and leaves then toss them into the compost.  My once beautiful, very large plants will become rather ugly and tired looking.  They need a rest from their labor!

I have really become a fan of ‘purple of sicily’ cauliflower.  It’s taste is almost nutty when steamed.  It seems to do very well in our conditions and what’s not to like?  It has color, it’s an heirloom, and it tastes good!

Our tomatoes get covered ever year to prevent the beet leaf hopper from infecting the curly top virus.  This year we have warmed up early and we are very dry.  These conditions are prefect for this awful virus.  Once the tomatoes get it there is nothing you can do, so prevention is essential.  Eight years ago here in Southern Utah it was almost unheard of and now the virus is ramped and can wipe out your entire crop.  Now that’s devastating whether you have hundreds of tomatoes or maybe just a few heirlooms.

If you have the space, I would suggest planting a Bagel Peach.  Oh my goodness!  The flavor can’t be beat (although our white peach is a very close runner-up).  Although the peach is small, it’s not small in flavor.  The bagel peach is not for preserving, but I think you will find a small family can consume them rather quickly before even thinking about preserving.  Caution:  They can be very addicting!  You may also find them with the name of Flat Peach or Saturn.

Our Nubian doe Ivy, had twins does two weeks ago.  Once again I am milking and looking forward to making cheese, yogurt and kefir.   the babies are so much fun at this age, so full of life and playful.  The first doe born has a name of Sassafras, Sassy for short.  The poor little second baby is still nameless….  Perhaps nothing has come to fit her personality yet.

Our lavender looks great this year.  It’s loaded with blooms that we will harvest within the next few weeks.  Did you know the blossoms are great in a balsamic vinegar dressing?  There isn’t too much that will bother lavender and once established, it is a breeze to grow.  Once I have harvested all of the lavender flower stalks I will trim back the bush to a nice mound to keep it uniform and healthy for next years show.

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