Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Bit of Bunting

It may be spring, but there's always knitting to be done.  I couldn't face making another pair of mittens, or a scarf, cowl, hat, fingerless mitt, or legwarmer.  After a bit of delving, I found this pattern on Ravelry.  Little knitted garter stitch garden bunting--perfect!  It's a great mindless project to use up odds and ends of fingering weight yarns that I've been hanging onto, after other projects were done, and it looks so cheerful hung on my grow light station.  Since it's currently raining and cold outside, it's about as close to the garden as I can get at the moment.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Behold, the Dibbler!

With a little bit of the gift cards I won in my recent award, I bought myself this awesome dibbler.

What is a dibbler, you ask?

Basically, it's a rounded wood stake used to create holes in the garden bed.  Then, you can pop things like an onion set, or a shallot, or a long, skinny leek into said hole.  Yes, I know you could use a stick or a broken rake handle or something, but really.  Not only is a useful tool, but it has a fantastically cool name.

Dibbler.  Dibbler.  Dibbler.

I love it!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pretty as a Primrose

Of all the springtime flowers, I think I love primroses the most.  I don't grow any, well, not now anyway, but I do love them so.  Something about their cheerful petal faces and rough, thick green leaves just makes my heart happy.  I'm not the only one who thinks so, either.
Isn't that pretty?  Music, inspired by a simple flower.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Many Faces of Mint

Lemon Balm, melissa officinalis
I love mint.  Not only does it smell lovely, it makes for a wonderful tea or additive to lemonade to cool summer's heat.  (It's also pretty good mixed into a mojito.)  Mint, however, can be a bane in the garden.  I have to dig my herb bed again, to eradicate the rogue mint that has come back.  I probably left a root or two in place last time I dug it out, and it's come back with a vengance.  This year, I'll be planting the mint into containers.

I'm adding this beautiful varigated variety to my mint stash: ginger mint.
Isn't it beautiful?  Golden streaks on a bright green leaf, with bright red stems.  Gorgeous!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Road Trip!

Find Us  So today, I am rounding up a couple good friends and heading to the location marked on this map:  Klinger Farm Market in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.  I love checking out new-to-me greenhouses, and today marks the official grand opening of their 18 greenhouses of luscious growing goodness.

Ah, visiting a greenhouse in the early spring...filled with the heady scents of damp peat moss and chlorophyll...and perhaps a coffee at their market stand...I can hardly wait!  I'm wondering if they will have something unusual (like flower sprouts, a combination of kale and brussel sprouts) or something needed (like onion sets to make up for the cat-astrophy that struck my seedlings).  Maybe I'll just browse and browse and browse.  I love a Saturday adventure like that.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Small Adjustment

For the past couple of months, the Ladies in the Big Coop have persisted in laying their eggs in the small spaces beneath the nesting boxes.  This wouldn't be such a bad thing, if the spaces were accessible to a human as well as to chickens.  Crawling around in the straw and trying to avoid parking my hand or knee in a fresh contribution of chicken poo was getting old, so over the past long weekend I took matters in hand.

A quick turn with the cordless drill removed the screws holding the nesting boxes in their old positions, and securely attached them in their new positions on top of the makeshift shelf (formerly known as Where Naughty Chickens Go To Poo).  A board in front of the old crates helps hold straw and eggs inside securely, and then I had fun with some fallen branches and an old section of 2x4 board to make a custom ladder for the Ladies to climb up to their new nest box area.  More adjustments are planned to make this place cute as well as functional, but for now, it appears that the Ladies are happy with their new nest location:
It doesn't get much better than that!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It's Begun!

The first strawberry, peeking above the mulch!

The chives, always happy to come back in the spring!
The buds are swelling, birds are singing, everywhere it seems like spring has arrived.  Before you know it, the grass will be knee-deep and crawling with ticks.  Yeehaw!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


In this humble garden cart is the start of a wonderful garden: these are boards for the series of new raised beds that will be going into the backyard.  Once completed, it should look something like this:

 The long rectangular bed is an existing bed, which housed my squash last summer.  There will be six new 4 ft x 4 ft square beds, with a wide path down the center, perfect for my large garden cart.  The narrow paths between the bed may get widened, space permitting--I always have a hard time getting a diagram to scale, but in my head, it's going to be great.  Now, to just clear the old debris, lay down weed suppressing material, build the beds, fill the beds, and haul all the mulch to make things tidy and give the weeds a run for their money...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Moving Out

The warmer weather has me hoping to plant out my cold weather loving vegetables: kale, cabbage, onions, peas.  I've started setting my seedlings outside, to get them used to the great outdoors.  Of course, it's decided to be windy--its a little hard on them, but it also helps their stems to get stronger before they are plonked into the ground for the season.

On the porch, I've added a third mini-greenhouse (the other two are inside, serving as shelves for my lighted growing station).  Its a great place to start a few warm-weather seeds as well as give my warm-weather seedlings a place to grow.  It also frees up some much needed space under the lights indoors--my tomatoes are loving the additional room to grow!

Monday, April 21, 2014


It may just look like sticks and some wire, but this is the site of a major, bloody battle.

My black raspberries had grown wild over the last summer--arching and twining into each other, through the apple tree, into the chicken yard.  It was sheer, thorny mayhem.  Yesterday, I took my clippers and whacked them into submission, with a bit of blood-letting in the process.  Entire canes were plucked out, and the remaining were trimmed to a sensible height, next to the newest leafing bud.  The center path got re-established, with rooted canes yanked out and those that arched into the center clipped out.  My arms and legs got plenty of red scratches as the canes fought back against their treatment.  I also got a lovely pink sunburn, which made it really feel like spring has arrived.

After a serious pruning and dead-wood removal, it was time to trellis them.  Two T-posts per end and a length of heavy gauge steel wire  set the stage, and then it was a lot of twist-tie madness.
Each little cane had to be fastened onto the top and bottom wires, which will lend support as well as define where the canes should be.  Once they leaf out and start growing for the season, they'll be joined by a host of new whippy canes that will either be added to the trellis or trimmed out.  Eventually, I should see a bumper crop of tender, delicious black raspberries.  They are so delicious, it's almost worth the bloody battle!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!


Tucked in the blog archives of the Baltimore Sun was this horrifying bunny-man.  It's like a mashup of an evil clown meets a psychotic undead rabbit...

Now you know that people wearing bunny suits are my kryptonite.  Shudder, shudder.

If the weather is fair, I'll be spending part of today outside, playing gardener.  Maybe I'll take on the black raspberries--I bought myself a T-post pounder and some wire, so I don't really have any excuses not to tackle them.  Of course, I could construct the raised beds for the back garden, in prep for filling them gradually with my mountain of compost...

If the weather decides to be foul (it hasn't quite decided as I type this), I'll be inside, starting some seeds and conquering the mess that is my kitchen. 

I know.  It's not terribly Easter-esque, is it?  Trust me, though, I'll be having as much fun as a three year old on a jelly bean high finding golden eggs.

Have a very happy day, whatever you choose to do!  Oh, and stay away from creepy Easter bunnies.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Annie, Git Yer Shovel!

If only there was an Annie around, that indispensible sidekick with moxie...who knows her way around a shovel and could help move some of the very lovely, high quality composted manure I got delivered yesterday.  It is impressive just how much compost can fill the back of a 12-foot dump trailer.  And all of this loveliness will be moved from the driveway to assorted gardens, one garden cart load at a time...

As my friend Gretchen says, "Pace yourself."  That's good advice when facing the list of spring projects.  All the gardens need weeding and replenishing.  The back garden is getting a complete overhaul, with new raised beds and permanent paths. The black raspberries are going to be tamed, this time, dammit.  A hole needs to be dug for the soon-to-arrive apple tree I am going to espalier on the back fence. The front flower hillside garden needs digging up, weeding, and replanting.  I need to construct a wildflower meadow bed, two gates tough enough to keep a large dog out, and a large possibly hugelkulture-esque raised bed needs to be made for currants.  A strip of turf needs removal along the back chainlink fence, the greenhouse needs weeding and a cat-made hole in the plastic needs stoppering...there's mulching to do...I need to clean out the coops and reconstruct the nest boxes in the Big Coop...oh, and somewhere in there, I need to sleep and elevate my sore foot.

I'm not sure how much of that I'm going to get done on my long weekend, but I made a little start:
Two four-by-four raised beds weeded, refilled to the brim with compost, and several bags of cedar chip mulch spread around.  My, that stuff smells heavenly...and it looks nice, too.  Hopefully it wears well.  Anyway, that was my start for the day--after unloading a pallet of mulch bags, that is.

Happy weekending!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Morse Code

Deep in the heart of a wildberry pink guest room, a secret society of small, active yellow feathered creatures participate in a mysterious ritual.  Daily, they gather as a group to tap out obscure messages, for endless hours, communiques aimed at...who?  Ancient alien beings in another dimension? Wood lice living in the floorboards?  We may never know, but certainly, their motivations must be suspect.

What are they doing?

Why all the hammering? And peeping? Just...why?  They are soooo ridiculously noisy!  It's enough to drive you nutso.

That may, perhaps, be their entire motivation.  To  I feel like the Grinch when he bemoans the noise, oh the noise!  Tingtookas ring-tinging have nothing on these little monsters.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

No Dig? No Way.

  Oh my.  Doesn't this garden look decadent?  I've been pondering how to tackle the weedy mess that became of my gardens.  Perhaps I will just top the mess with a thick layer of compost and call it good?  I dunno...seems too easy, but still, I like the idea of it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Signs of Spring

Inside the house, the living room is filled with the smell of growing plants and damp dirt.  Outside, the Walking Onions and chives are sending out new green sprouts.  Everywhere you look, there are pots and tubs and trays filled with little plants and damp peat moss.

The cats love it.  They keep wanting to nibble everything, or give the dirt a nice, cozy dig.

The weather has turned chilly again, but it looks like next week we should be over the hump and well on our way to warm spring temperatures.  I have a long holiday weekend ahead of me, starting tomorrow afternoon, so I plan to spend time outside starting the clean up process.  The dog yard needs attention, as does the very weedy back garden and hoop house.  I think a run to the hardware store and greenhouse supply shop are on the menu--leaf compost and T-Posts are firmly on the shopping list this year.  I also need to repair a couple of gate hinges, and install something to keep the overly-licky Wonderdoodle away from the rabbits.  He really likes to snuffle up through the trellis and lick them...great for him, terrifying for the bunnies.

I also need to research making homemade egg dye from vegetables.  I think it should be easy enough, I just need to get my proportions correct before I have my little gardeners try it out at Youth Garden Club tomorrow afternoon.  It's still too wet to go out and work on our garden plot, so we'll be indoors dyeing eggs and making radish & carrot seed tape.  Man, I really hope I get an extra pair or two of helping hands...I have visions of multi-colored flour paste coating every surface before we are done.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Temporary Greenhouse

The onions and cabbages have been moved out to the porch, which warms up during the day very nicely.  at night, though, the temperature drops and while it doesn't freeze, it does get nippy.  While both onions and members of the cabbage family do well with cool temperatures, these particular beauties have been they are teensy bit sensitive. 

Until the weather cooperates and allows me to plant these guys outdoors, I've rigged up a pseudo-greenhouse made from leftover 4 mil plastic, some staples, and a handy wire kennel divider (to keep the cat from sleeping on the onions again).  During the warm sunny days, I roll back the plastic.  And then at night, when it gets colder, I roll the plastic back up.  Tah dah!  Simple and effective, and somewhat cat proof.

Monday, April 14, 2014


With spring weather finally arriving, it was time to set out the potatoes and let them get ready for planting.  I had a stash of small potatoes that had started going to seed in the late winter, so I took them out of their baskets and started chitting.

Chitting is an easy process.  You simply take your seed potato and place it in an egg carton, with the little "eyes" or rooting buds pointing upwards.  As you can see, my eyes had started sprouting already.  Left in the dark, the new growth will grow long and lanky and weak, and it won't work to plant the potatoes out.  So, by taking them out of the dark and into the light on the porch, my potatoes will sprout happily (and slowly) for the next couple of weeks until the soil warms enough to plant them.

 I've got lots of Carola potatoes, and one half-carton of German Butterball.  I love both of these potatoes. They have great flavor, and are fantastic keepers.  With any luck, I'll have a successful growing year and have plenty more when next fall's harvest rolls around.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Major Award

So last weekend, I received a rather exciting email.  Several weeks prior, I had entered a Grow Your Homestead contest held by Storey Books.  I wrote a very short essay on what I do here on the Farmlette, and what I would do with the prizes should I win them.  I'm sure hundreds of people submitted entries, so imagine my surprise when I was picked as the Grand Prize Winner!  I felt a little like the dad in A Christmas Story, when he comes in waving a telegram and shouting "I won! I won! I won!"

It may not be a leg lamp, but I love my new potting bench.  I've wanted one for-evah, and now, I have one.  I also won ten books from Storey, which I have added to the Little Free Library...well, I'm currently reading The Backyard Goat, so that will go in later (ha!)  If the books and potting shed weren't wonderful enough, I also won $200 in gift cards to Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply.  I plan to purchase some much-needed bamboo canes for myself, and then treat the Community Garden to something...maybe a collection of useful hand tools? Or a trimmer or a spade, or something?  I can hardly wait to peruse the catalogs and figure out what fun things I get to order.

I was waiting to announce my lucky win until I heard from the PR person at Storey, but since I got my loot delivered on Friday, I suppose I can announce my major award.  I've also been named their Homesteader of the Year, which is such an honor.  I'm sure there are other folks out there who do more than I do, but I'm happy to pay the goodwill forward!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Finally, Friday!

What a week.  It wasn't terrible, just long and relentless...between work schedule madness and the sudden appearance of spring, it was a combination of long days, lots to do once I got home, and general silliness of projects, animals, and fresh spring air.  And boy, am I glad it's Friday.

Not that I have big plans for my weekend, of course.  Mostly, sleeping in, possibly afternoon naps, some baking, a little knitting.  You know, the usual.  Sometime in there I need to harvest a couple of rabbits, clean the Bunny Barn, and move the weaned kits to their own roomy cages.  Poor Ophelia will be glad to have her digs back.  When I went in to give her water the other morning, she had two kits on her back and one was attempting to sleep on her head.  She was wearing that long-suffering mother look, but gamely tolerating her offsprings' whims.  I think its time for them to move out, though--four weeks is plenty, and they are happily eating and drinking on their own now, so they can hop on over to an adjoining cage.  It'll be nice to putter in the Bunny Barn, as its supposed to rain.  I love the sound the raindrops make on the roof, and the smell of rain will be so very welcome after this long, long winter.

This picture in this post is from a collection that the preschoolers drew for the visiting chicks, to decorate their tub brooder.  I just love them--they are incredibly cute, and so joyful.  A chick and her girl, now that says happy spring to me!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Feed Store Love

I love my feed store so.  It's not very large, but its run by some really nice folks who go the extra mile to make their customers happy.  Take, for example, this picture.  There, next to the stack of barn lime, is my stack of of feed, waiting for me after-hours on the dock.  With my rotten work schedule, often involving very long days, it's been really hard to make it to the store before they close up at 5 PM.  So they are nice, and put a stack of feed on the dock to wait for me when I can swing by and pick it up later in the evening.  Usually, they leave an invoice taped to the cat food, or they just hang onto it until I come by during the day, when I need my next stack of feed bags.  That level of trust and commitment to accommodate even the wackiest of customer schedules is just a couple of the reasons why I love my feed store.  If you ever find yourself in Poskin, WI, and need a bag of feed for whatever critter you care for, stop in and tell them I said hello.  They'll be sure to help you with whatever you need.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New to Gardening?

Actually, even if you've been gardening for a long while, this series is worth watching.  Two seasons' worth of gardening tips, tricks, and designs to drool over, all shared with a solid dose of cheery wit.  While I'm waiting to break ground this season, it makes me so happy to watch someone else in their garden.

Well, it makes me a little jealous, too, to be perfectly honest.  Ah well.  Soon, it will be my turn!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Growing Feathers

My, they grow up so quickly!

The Chicklets are growing like little fuzzy weeds, eating and peeping (and pooping) all around their jungle gym of a brooder.  They love the "bumper pads" made out of egg cartons, and they are intrigued by the roosting bars....although they mostly flap, squeal, and then fall off of them right now.  It's rather fun to watch them race around and have fun.  The chicks are of different ages--some nearly two weeks old, others only four days old--and the littler ones try so hard to keep up with their big sisters.  Anything the big girls check out, the little ones have to race over and copy what they are doing, even if they don't quite understand what exactly is going on.
The big girls have started growing the most lovely, creamy golden feathers and the cutest little sprouts of tails.  Aren't they pretty?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weekending & Gardening

What a whirl of a weekend.  Friday, I spent time with my bestie and visited two of my favorite occasional sales.  What's an occasional sale? It's a once-a-month sale at a glorious little shop filled with vintage treasures, housed in an older home turned into three floors of lovely little rooms to shop in.  As you wander from little room to little room, all sorts of things call to you...I came home with a banged up galvanized tub that will soon house my mint, and a clutch of old Ball canning jars, an Atlas half-pint jar, and a cool squared quart jar with a bail lid.  Oh loveliness!  Plus, I got extended time to visit with my lovely friend and a yummy dinner that neither of us had to cook.  And then on Saturday, I got my taxes done which is never a fun task, but this year it looks like I get a teeny refund so that's one job done to my advantage.  Yay!

For the rest of weekend, I spent gardening.  Oh, it was far too frozen to go outside into the gardens and do any work, but I repotted lots of things that had grown too large for their original containers and sowed some seeds for new crops.  Everything is growing beautifully.
The cats will be so happy!

The calendula is growing happily.

So is this cool marigold--it's an open flower with a red center.

Fields of tomatoes...I can hardly wait.

Check out my trailing petunias!

Barely planted two weeks ago, the zinnia are doing great.

It may take two years, but these perennials will be glorious!
The next few days are supposed to be sunny and warm, so with any luck the snow will disappear, the ground will thaw, and soon enough my little plants can be parked out in the garden.  Well, soon enough, anyway.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fuzzy Love

Yeah, I admit it.  I'm rather partial to these little chicks I've hatched.
They are sweet, and personable, and they seem to think I am their mama.
Aww!  Sweet little peepers.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

To Goat or Not to Goat

from Wikipedia Commons
Ah, the eternal question.  Is it time to break free from the dairy purchasing racket?  Is this the year to invest in a small dairy goat, with all the inherent housing, care, feed, and et cetera involved with that decision?

I'm not sure.

Well, I do know that yes, I do want a goat.  The idea of milking twice daily and being tied to being at home for months to do that particular chore doesn't really worry me--the more involved I get with my backyard homesteading, the less inclined I am to travel anywhere, anyway.  Every creature here needs tending morning and night, and I can only afford (and find) so much local help.  One more critter who will need me around twice a day?  No big deal, really.

And the adventure of trying my hand at milking sounds pretty exciting to me.  Milk by the quart, homemade chevre and feta and mozzarella cheeses?  Yes please!

So I guess I am nearly ready to make the leap into goat-hood.  Now, to figure out where to put the goat area (I'm thinking corner of the yard, under-ish the pine trees) and the legistics of fencing (I'm envisioning wood fence panels with hot electrical wire on the inside, to keep anyone from bouncing out), and determine housing needs.  There's a bit of planning ahead, but that's ok: I like a project. 

As for the goat, I've got a lead on a possible pygmy doeling who will be ready mid-summer.  So you never know...stay tuned for future developments!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Happy April 1st!

courtesy of
Happy April!  Finally, it is here.  Of course, there is snow in the forecast (no fooling, there really is) so it feels as though Mother Nature is playing a cruel practical joke on those of us in the northern hiss.  But April does mean that we are moving closer and closer (although in very small increments) toward warmer weather, blue skies, and green grass.

I hope your first day of April has warm weather for you--and perhaps a few good natured practical jokes to bring some welcome laughter.  Come on, Spring!