This has sure been an odd winter. It’s never really felt like and honest to goodness Minnesota winter what with the lack of below zero temperatures and the lack of snow. There is also a lack of baby goats! The first ones are due about the 5th of March. I don’t think we’ve had a February without at least a few babies since 1981! I’m getting a bit antsy for them to start coming but I am enjoying the shortened time that chores take just now.
Spring signs are all over. The chickadees are singing their spring song as well as some other, unknown, birds. I heard quite the chorus of bird song a couple of mornings ago. I’ve also heard a few woodpeckers drumming. The chickens and one duck have started laying eggs.
The CSA and Gardens
Another sign of spring is that the seed orders are coming in and we have brought out seeds to Holasek’s Greenhouse in Lester Prairie. (if you are ever in the neighborhood and in the need of plants… http://www.holasekflowerpower.com/) They start all of our seeds for us. We started doing this the 3rd year of our CSA and they do such a great job it is well worth the money to give that responsibility to someone else. We get a lot of our plants from they that they grow, but we have some favorites that they don’t grow. Like: Green Zebra, Black Seaman and Fresh Salsa tomatoes; Crème Brulee, King of the North, and Alma Paprika Peppers; Purple, Cheddar, and Green Cauliflower, and also a different kind of Broccoli that produces a lot of side shoots. (After a broccoli forms its big head, some plants are done, others will produce smaller heads off of the stalk and will produce all season). We have also decided not to do any white cauliflower this year. We have had one good year of cauliflower since we have done the CSA where over ½ of the white cauliflowers produced heads, but most years, we only get maybe 10-20% of them that actually give us something. Normally the other colors do much better.
Jeremy and Shannon went to the Sustainable Farming Association Conference up at St. Bens on February 18th. This year’s workshops weren’t quite as applicable to our farm as other years, so Bev didn’t attend. Although we did get some good ideas about social media, hazelnuts, soil amending, and going organic. Jeremy also went to one session about meat producers and how MN is lacking in smaller, USDA inspected facilities for smaller farmers to bring livestock or poultry in for processing. One man wants to open a facility just for poultry in Cold Spring. He needs to process 70,000 birds a year at $3 each to make it feasible. I think I’d be happier raising lots more chickens if I wasn’t the one who butchered them. Maybe it will work out…
We are planning on raising some meat chickens this summer! We’ll raise them in a chicken tractor like the one in the picture. You move it every few days so the chicks always have fresh ground, but they stay safe. This picture has a lot of chicks in there, they mentioned that soon after this they would split ½ into another tractor.
We aren’t sure how many we will do, it will depend on the interest in them. This is a link to where we will most likely get the chickens. They raise all of the chickens they sell, and they are free range birds. I’m thinking of getting an assortment of larger chickens, because who wants all white ones? We are also thinking of offering a reduction in price if you could out to help the day we butcher… http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/catalog/chickens.html
If you are interested in chickens please let us know.
This is the time of year I gather up all the chickens that have been making the other barns their home and plop them into one of the two chicken coops. It hasn’t worked very well this year. I put them into the coop but every day there is the same chickens in the garden coop and the ones I added the day before are gone! This has never happened before! I’m almost ashamed to say that it took me three days to notice what the problem was. In other years the coop has been closed up in February to try to keep the chickens warm. In the summer there’s a net top to the coop. This February the coop is open and the top is off and the chickens are just flying up and over and going back to the goat and horse barns! Guess I’ll have to put the netting back up and hope that we don’t have any heavy March snow storms that will break it down.
A sad thing happened this month too. Harmony, from Harmony’s Honey, called to tell me to check the bees. Since it was a warm winter, the bees had been starting to make babies, that they could eat through all their food and need to be fed. The south hive didn’t make a lot of honey this year, and had very few bees in the hive. The north hive had made over 3 times the honey and had lots of bees, almost made Shannon a little nervous when she opened the hive. Last weekend when the weather was nice, Shannon when out and checked them again. The south hive looked to be doing better, more bees and some of the honey was eaten. In the north hive, all of the bees had died. Still not sure what happened. Possibly during a cold day they clustered in a spot with no food… Still trying to get a hold of my expert to decide what happened. We’ll try replacing the hive the spring and try again. (The picture is of installing the new bees last spring.
Veggies of the Month: Fresh ones!
Another way I can tell that spring is coming is when I’m at the grocery store. Nothing there looks good to eat. I’ve still got some of our own frozen vegetables but what I want is something fresh! Produce at the grocery store does not look nearly fresh enough! I dream about a greenhouse so that I can have some lettuce and greens ready when I’m ready for them, like NOW! I guess another sign of spring is me losing some of my patience.
I did find an interesting salad on a blog whose name I’ve forgotten. It was a very simple salad made of shredded raw winter squash, some apples and a simple vinaigrette dressing. I’ve never thought of raw squash. This same blog mentioned that tomato leaves were edible and used them in a pesto sauce. I don’t think I’ll be trying that even though I love the smell of tomato leaves.