Annnnd It’s April!

While the first day of Spring was more than a couple of weeks ago, it seems that Mother Nature has other ideas. We have been graced with low temperatures, which have been a blessing for those who make maple syrup, it has not been such a blessing for us.

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In our north hoop house, we laid down silo tarp, which is thick- white on one side and black on the other. When the white side is facing the ground, light can not transmit through and the black side absorbs the heat from the sun, and subsequently kills all that is under it. The heat attracts beneficial composters like worms to break down the grass and weeds, leaving soil that is very rich in nutrients. Another week or so and this shall be ready for working up and hopefully planting.

Our tomato plants are gigantic, and are eagerly awaiting transplant into the hoop house.

We got lots of work done in our south hoop house, but the over night lows have been less than favorable for planting tomatoes, peppers, and egg plant… even our summer squash plants are impatiently waiting along side their night shade friends.

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Our permanent raised beds before drip lines (which I never got photos of!) and landscape fabric.

The bed all the way to the left in the photo, will be used for greens, carrots, radishes, and beets.

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Landscape fabric was rolled down each row, and we used ground staples to keep it in place.

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Then we used a propane torch and a repurposed metal can to burn holes for planting. It was sort of satisfying to do!

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We planted a few rows of broccoli and cabbage, however a glitch on my wireless thermometer caused it to fail to send alerts to my phone when temperatures inside reached a certain point. Therefore, most of them fried in the heat on a 35 degree day when temperatures inside reached well ovr 97F. I was not a happy camper, but you live and learn. So now it is my habit to check every half hour or so.

The white cloth above is called Frost Cover, and is draped over plants when temperatures will dip out of their comfort zone. Even though our hoop houses reach high temperatures during the day, the night time lows still dip below freezing. Thankfully, the freezing temperatures don’t bother most of what is remaining in the ground, and those are radish, beets, carrots, arugula, spinach, and greens.

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We took advantage of a warm day (I think it was 50?) to install the cranks for the roll up side walls. We also used some stones and rocks to make a flower garden on the south side of the south hoop house. My amazing neighbor is going to place a beehive near the hoop houses, and I would like to provide a wonderful bed of flowers to entice them to venture inside to pollinate my plants (even though most do not need pollinators).

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My daughter helped me fill pots to start our zuchini and summer squash. We also started a bush type Butternut Squash as well as a bush type personal sized acorn squash.

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The types of squash and zucchini that we started are what are known as parthenocopic, which means that it is self pollinating. Most squash varieties need pollinators to do the job for them. The cultivars that we selected for hoop house growing are self pollinating, this helps us ensure that we get a crop with or without pollinators. The cultivars that will be field grown (i.e. the garden) will be heirloom types and will require pollination.

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I took a rainy day last week and potted up a plug tray of basil. A few days later and they’re already bigger in size. I can not wait to harvest fresh basil! We will have a few types available for purchase, too!

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We finally separated out our turkeys. We have two toms that we will need to harvest soon. The usual ratio of toms to hens is 1 to 3, I was so thrilled to find that 3 of the 6 of our order were hens. Which leaves us with our biggest tom to keep for breeding purposes and 2 smaller toms for future dinners.

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This is our Tom. He doesn’t have a name yet… although I am thinking Tom Sawyer?! And yes, we clipped our turkey’s wings. Royal Palms are able to fly, and while we have 8 ft tall fences for their section of pasture, I can’t risk them “flying the coop” and wandering off and being taken by a fox or coyote or some loose dogs. Or, Heaven forbid, hit by a car.

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The chicken clan has been very productive as of lately, which makes my heart sing. There is nothing like cooking with the fruits of your labor. All winter we kicked ourselves for not hooking up lights on timers to trick them into laying… time simply got the best of us. Let me tell you about our hens and how they’ere fed:

While the feed is not certified organic, it IS farmed using organic practices. It is farmed in Clare, Michigan and is milled without using soy as the main ingredient for protein, as it contains absolutely no soy at all. Chickens and other poultry and fowl do not ferment their food like ruminant animals do, so soy is still found in their meat and eggs. Soy is an inflammatory to many people, especially those with auto immune diseases, like me. It has also been shown to have adverse effects on livestock. Not to mention, soy is an endocrine disrupter and acts as estrogen in bodies.

We have also been experimenting with fermented feed for our layers. So far, it has proven to be a great idea, the egg production was literally up overnight! Fermented feed is shown to reduce the amount of wasted feed as well as increase the absorption of vital nutrients within the feed itself. Instead of 6 quarts of feed a day for 30 hens, we are down to 2. Seeds and grains have a barrier that protects them until it is time to germinate. (This is also one of the reasons many people have sensitivies to grains). By soaking the feed, the barrier is released because essentially, the seeds believe it is time to sprout. Thus, that “anti-nutrient” layer is dissolved, leaving all the good stuff behind, filling the tummies of our hens. Fermented feed also introduces TONS of beneficial bacteria and probiotics into their guts, which helps with keeping their poops solid and easier to manage. Not to mention, keeps the smell down, too! We have noticed much less waste, which is always a good thing when you’re trying to farm frugally!

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