While we have been blessed with summer sticking around well into September that has meant that we have some fog every morning. This has created some absolutely amazing sunrises. I see them really well along the ridge that I drive as I head to work. Today the fog was extra thick but the sunrise was still wonderful.
Fall is just a few days away and it is finally beginning to feel that way. Some of the trees are just beginning to tinge with color but I don't expect that full on color will be here until October.
Today I am beginning my greenhouse project. I got a really good deal on a small 8 X 6 greenhouse kit earlier in the summer but just have not had any time to get it put together. It will take a bit of doing because where I want to put it is on a slope. I have landscape timbers to build a level base for it to sit on but getting the slope dug out is going to be a job. I won't be able to use the tractor because it is inside the fence surrounding the front yard so hand tools it is. I'll try to take pictures along the way so you can see how things went. My hope is to get some greens planted so we can enjoy them well into the fall/early winter. I want to try spinach, chard and kale which should do well in the cooler temperatures.
The largest building project on the homestead this summer has been the new chicken/garden shed. My husband had shoulder surgery at the end of March so he was unable to help much. Don't get me wrong, I love to build things, but sometimes a second set of hands comes in real handy. He was able to help me with the roof a little. We built a platform from a pallet and strapped it to the forks of the tractor. I rode the platform while he operated the tractor to lift me up and down while I hauled up the metal pieces and screwed them down.
The blue barrel will be our watering system. I have gutter to attach and it will drain into the barrel. The barrel will be attached to the black tubing you see coming out of the building. This is currently hooked up to a hose up at the house but I would rather use the rain to feed the automatic watering system that is attached on the pasture side of the building.
One end of the 8 x 16 foot building is the housing for our meat birds and the other is a garden shed. This building is between the house and the garden so it is a perfect place for me to keep all my garden tools etc. Right now they are in a shed that is located on the other side of the house from the garden.
This year we are raising Red Rangers on pasture for meat. We had such a great loss last year with the Cornish Cross that we had raised the past 20 years that we decided to try something new this year. So far we have only lost 3 of the 40 birds that we started with. The big test will be how they dress out when we butcher them in a couple of weeks. There is a second batch of chicks coming from the hatchery about the time we butcher these. They should be ready for the freezer sometime in September. As I said we are raising them on pasture with the woven electric fence. I can move the fence when the area they are in starts to get a little beat up. I don't want the birds to take the pasture down to bare ground so I move them as necessary. The grass grows back very well since it has been fertilized :). I'll let you know how these dress out for us.
The strawberry harvest has come to a close. My wonderful husband picked the last of them from our 100 or so plants. We were able to freeze whole berries to use in our breakfast smoothies. I think when we were all finished there were 4 gallon bags in the freezer. That of course does not count the countless number that we ate along the way. I took the last of the harvest and made ice cream with them today. It will be a treat this evening after my husband gets home from work.
I have gotten into making kefir everyday and we use that and homemade yogurt in our smoothies. Our local natural food store stocks unpasteurized milk that I make the kefir and yogurt with. We sweeten with just a bit of honey add greens like kale then a few strawberries and blueberries. It is a full meal when whirred up in the blender.
The garden has been planted from the seeds that I started back in April. I really enjoy gardening but to be honest I'm not very good at it. Everything is always great when I get it planted then along come the weeds and I seem to never be able to get ahead of them. I know I need to mulch to keep the weeds down but I never seem to get to it. It is hard to come by straw here in Maine since no one really grows oats or wheat so I use wood chips. All the chips that we did this spring went down on the inside of the hoop house on top of the cardboard. I'm trying to get that area doing much better so I can use it next year.
I did purchase a small 6 x 8 foot greenhouse from Harbor Freight. It is still in the barn in the box since I need to level the ground where I want to put it. It will go in the front yard where I took out the two peach and two apricot trees that did not make it through the winter. My goal is to be able to grow greens during the winter, or at least maybe until January before the real cold hits.
Well, time to move the soaker hose in the garden to the green beans. Visit with you soon.
While it is fall here in Maine and I've been working on getting the garden ready for it's long winter nap the first of my spring gardening catalogs has arrived. I have purchased most of my fruit trees from Fedco Trees in Waterville, Maine. The reason I do is they are grown here in Maine for the most part or somewhere close that has very cold winters. One of the biggest challenges with fruit trees is getting them through winter. I don't have time to baby my trees so I try to order trees that are rated for zone 3 and 4. Fedco has 5 different divisions and their website as well as their catalogs are like reading a text book for the knowledge they contain. I order a lot of my garden seed from them as well since, again, they have great short season varieties.
It was a pretty nice day here today so we went to the apple orchard this morning. I have six different types of apple trees planted here but none are producing yet so we still go to the local orchard for apples to make applesauce. This year they put together a bushel with what they call a "applesauce variety". I think there are six different types of apples in it. I have always in the past used at lease two varieties to make my applesauce because it just gives a more full bodies flavor. I am anxious to see how it turns out this year.
This afternoon was spent down at the garden. I still have more work to do but it is coming along. Since I put the raised beds in this spring I am not tilling any longer. I still have weeds that thrive but that is mostly because I did not get enough wood chipped to get them mulched before the weeds started. Instead of pulling out the weeds and leftover garden plants I'm cutting them off at the ground and leaving the roots in the soil to rot and give nutrition back. After I get all that done in my three raised beds I want to add a generous layer of compost on top and then cover the whole thing with clear plastic. Using clear plastic allows the sun to bake any weed seeds that may still be lurking in the beds. It will also helps to warm the soil in the spring so I might be able to plant a bit earlier as long as I protect everything from frost threats.
I also would like to revive the hoop house that I built about 3 summers ago. The first summer I covered the PVC pipe frame with clear plastic and attempted to build ends for it. It was difficult to keep the ends covered and still be able to enter the hoop house. I took the plastic off for the winter because I was afraid that the snow load would cave in the structure. I am now toying with the idea of using plastic panels for the sides and ends. The house is 12X20 feet so that gives me a lot of working space. I will add raised beds to the inside of this also. It is just so much easier if you are not walking on the planting surface and compacting the soil.
My class on "Getting Started with Chickens" was this last week and several wonderful folks attended. There is nothing like a few chickens and their wonderful eggs.