Wow, that was a lot of produce to harvest and process. We’re beginning to regain our evenings to something other than processing grapes into raisins and apples to applesauce.
This month we began a new experiment in the greenhouse: a fodder system sprouting wheat into chicken food. We are turning a $13 bag of wheat (50 lbs) into weeks worth of nutritious greens for the birds. Next month we’ll try barley. Although the birds free-range on pasture each day, they still love this concentration of vitamins.
Thank goodness we had a WWOOFER this month to help with the harvesting and preservation! It’s amazing just how much food the food forest can pump out when the fruit trees are adding their bounty to the usual mix of veggies and herbs that our hugel beds create. Our evenings are spent slicing up the fruit for the freezer, dehydrator and (thanks to my creative wife) making pies.
It’s a good life.
Berries and early fruit are rolling in heavy this year…
Highlights this past month included a visit from a friend and her family on their one-year (!) road trip adventure. They’ve sold/stored everything and are touring farms across North American before returning to Canada to begin their own farming adventure. It’s interesting to read their perspective of our land and what we are creating. When viewed by from someone not mired in the minutia of daily maintenance and expansion, Jennifer and Mark’s essay serves as a great reminder for me to appreciate what this land is producing.
No mention is given in the essay to the daily tasks/puzzles on my mind, like battling this damn bindweed again, why one section of the pasture is not growing back after chicken grazing, how the ants managed to decimate one of the hives over a long weekend, and why my homemade horticultural oil spraying did not work to combat tent caterpillars in the food forest this year (we’ve sent well over 1000 packing to their next life). It’s a good reminder to stay focused on the positive.
Other highlights this month include first signs of the massive bounty that is on its way via the fruit tree guilds, including our first-ever kiwi harvest (you care for them seven years before the first fruiting).
Lowlight is the likely loss of one of our hives due to an ant invasion. We’ve had this is previous years but have mostly been able to stem them off via application of dichotomous earth in successive moats around the hives. This time the ants rushed in en masse and overwhelmed the bees between my visits to the hives (about three days). What a bummer. I found the queen still alive, but they are definitely struggling.
To end this month’s post on a highlight, the long-anticipated Epic Huntresses (aka kittens) have arrived and are being socialized daily by everyone in the family. While they’ll be outdoor hunting cats to help us battle the field mice and ROUSes that have taken up residence in our hugelkultur beds, normal beds, workshop, and firewood sheds (basically everywhere), by loving on them heavily as kittens, I’m hoping for cats that will act more like dogs and want to hang with us when we are outside. 🙂
I kneel in the raspberry rows, pulling rebar from the ground to protect children’s bare feet, their original purpose of holding stairs long past.
Ten thousand bees surround me, exploring the new blooms. They each stop to say hello. Are you a flower? Can you feed me? Are you useful?
A sudden cry of delight from my daughter above. An eagle soars past, so close to her she can her the wind passing over its wings. “Daddy, it’s singing! The wings are singing!”
Hugelkultur bed learning #49: I have created literally the perfect clubhouse for rats and mice. Woe to those whose hugel bed is right next to a pasture full of curious rodents. The full on war with the rats has begun. This month it’s traps; next month the outdoor hunting cats arrive. We shall give them epic Big Huntress type names.
Starting our annual “seedling shuffle” between the grow lights, the greenhouse, and the food forest beds.
Also excited to install our FLOW hive which you may have heard about via their crazy-successful IndieGoGo campaign. New bees arrive in a few weeks.
Highlight: tens of thousands of new buds on the fruit trees and berry bushes, all emerging at the same time. The food forest’s vibe has transitioned from its winter “retrenching” perspective to an open “come here” invitation with tiny spots of color throughout its branches.
Lowlight: coming back from travels to find 13 chickens gone in a single night via a coyote pack.
Enjoying the brief signs of spring opening the new year with the arrival of the super early flower bulbs popping through the wet, hard ground. Trying to stay out of the garden to not compress the soil but on the occasional sunny day, it is tempting.
Always surprised by random giant heads of cauliflower poking out of the hugel beds. Still doing lots of fermentation experiments, from my wife’s amazing sourdough bread to crazy-flavored batches of kombucha. Her creativity extended to gift-giving, too, with each of us receiving a harvest bag made from our own discarded jeans.