We had a surprise cold and wet snow morning on May 28 and the snap killed some of the beans, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and tomatoes seedlings already planted in the garden. Usually it is pretty safe to transplant after Victoria Day, but nobody can control the weather and thus it reminds me that all of us, Christians or not, depend everything on God and Jesus Christ for his mercy and grace:
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)
Garlic is growing tall already.
Apple trees in their full blossom.
Salad greens growing in the mini greenhouse since April.
Chickens on pasture again. They sure look happier.
It is Thanksgiving weekend and daytime temperature starts to get below 10°C, especially early in the morning. Light frost begins to hit, which usually signifies the end of growing season for most vegetables.
It is also the time to harvest whatever is left, clean up the debris, plant garlic and close the garden for next spring.
Overall, I have great success with tomato while disappointing result with cucumber and zucchini. I also find out my family loves arugula so I am sure I will continue to grow salad mix next year.
Harvesting sweet potatoes and cabbages.
Chinese daikon. The odd shape denotes that I planted 2 seeds too close to each other. They jointed at the top while the roots grow in separate ways.
Collard can be grown until heavy frost in November.
I am growing broccoli and kale in the mini greenhouse.
I would expect the kale to survive the winter.
This is a new garlic planting tool that I “invented”.
To help speed up digging rows of holes, I cut 1″ dowel into 4″ long and sharpen the end.
I placed 6 of these dowels 4″ apart along a wooden stick with 1″ holes pre-drilled.
I thought I can simply push the tool into the ground, but in reality, the soil and wood chips are difficult to press in. The solution is to use a rubber mallet to hammer the dowels into the soil.
Planting garlic using the new tool.
The tool is not ideal but it did save me some time than digging a hole one by one with a trowel.
I think I have planted about 400 garlic this year, not including other family members’.
Firewood time! I purchased 3 bush cords and my youngest 5 children volunteered to stack them for me.
They showed great team spirit in stacking all of them in less than 2 hours. I DID NOT have to do anything this year except paying for the delivery.
I have always wanted to build a greenhouse to extend my growing seasons. I thought about buying the traditional glass greenhouse with sturdy frames. On the other hand, a high tunnel greenhouse with 1/2″ EMT conduits or PVC pipes seems more economical.
In the end, I decided to try it out on my square foot garden raised bed. I wanted the ability to open and move the greenhouse easily.
Well, if I have thought of something, chances are someone has already tried it. Taking the idea from the following video:
Here is what I got in the end. As long as I built the base for another raised bed of the same size, this greenhouse can be easily attached via door hinges.
The base of the frame is about 50″ x 47″, built with 2 x 4s.
One hinge on each end so that it can be opened on a hot day.
I am growing heat loving plants here: sweet potatoes, cantaloupes and peppers.
I cannot wait to see if the plants will grow better under the greenhouse.
My old compost bin has completely rotten at the bottom and is falling apart. It is time to build a better one. Again I found a great idea from youtube:
In order to prevent the bottom from rotting, I decided to staple some 6-mil black plastic film to the inside of the bin.
Hmmm, the door is not level because the ground is not. Oh well, as long as I can open the door.
This pile of dried plants and stems were from last year. I did not do a good job turning and adding water and nothing has broken down.
I got to do a better job this time to turn these into black gold!
With the talk of food shortage these days, it is certainly a great time to get your hands dirty and start learning about gardening with your children or expanding the garden! For those who have less space for planting, there are options like square foot gardening, pot planting or even vertical garden. It is definitely a great way to understand how God has provided for us all through history. The whole family can also learn lots of truth pertaining to life through the gardening experience!!
I am no expert in planting actually, it’s my husband and the children doing most of the work on the land here =P However, please kindly let me share our observations. First of all, a land would not yield without God’s blessings. Secondly, soil is the key. No good nutritious plants will come out of bad soil. Two potatoes can look the same but with very different levels of nutrients. Lastly, you will need to get in touch with the nature/weather. For example, a night of frost can kill all the uncovered sweet potatoes seedlings outside.
The following are the vegetables that we found relatively easy to plant: potatoes, onion, green onion, squash, cucumber, cayenne pepper, asparagus, radish, beets, carrot, garlic (we plant ours in Sept), zucchini, tomatoes, peas, basil, cilantro, parsley, kale and lettuce, etc. The weather that year would also play a big part.
If you have not watched the film Back to Eden yet, I highly recommend you to spend some time to enjoy it!!! You soul would be uplifted after this man shows you how God loves and cares about us and how great His mercy is through his garden even if you do not plan to do any gardening.
Many people visited his garden after watching the film, that is the reason why there are many garden tours on his land like this one which are also amazing as well!
Here is a little garden tour for fun by our children 3 years ago.
One fast track way to eat fresh vegetables is eating sprouts. Thus, growing sprouts is also a wonderful thing to learn with the children during this time! They are easy to manage, fast to grow, economical, and could also get 40 times more nutrients at times than the veggies we eat normally. Some sprouts to try are mung beans, sunflower seeds, broccoli seeds, peas….so you do need to get seeds and beans!
Yet another way to eat vegetables which needs more work, but worth all the efforts. That is fermenting vegetables that you can buy now. There are still cabbages to turn into sauerkraut, which can be stored for more than a year. With its probiotics and vitamin C, your immune system will be boosted as well.
Will there also be shortage on drugs? You never know. However, it is not quite a great habit to depend on drugs anyway, therefore, why not learning more about natural remedies now as well? It is again another wonderful subject to learn with our children about how God cares and provides for us through the nature He created, which can help with most of our health situations. I would suggest researching/studying on the following as a start:
Supplements : vitamin C, A, D3 & K2, zinc, magnesium, grape fruit seed extract, activated charcoal
So far we have a pretty good summer. There were a couple of hot humid days but overall it is pretty good. I have expanded the garden again this year by using solely chicken manure plus wood shavings from cleaning the chicken coop. Once again, the plants grow substantially better in the compost.
Pristine apple that I planted when we first moved the hobby farm. It has been bearing more fruits in recent years.
I am also using a yellow sticky sheet to trap bugs and I have been spraying kaolin clay/water mix to protect the tree.
Corn, garlic and cucumber cramp into a small space but growing well in chicken compost.
White bitter melon. This is the first time I have ever seen or planted such a variety.
Squash and cucumber (on trellis) growing together.
We have been raising layers for more than 10 years and we noticed holes being chewed out of the chicken coop floor starting last fall. I noticed that “tunnels” were being dug beneath the floor. Upon further investigation, I found out the chicken coop has no concrete foundation and is sitting on wood beams, but the floor is insulated with 2″ thick foam board with plywood on top.
Being inexperienced with rats, I simply patched the hole with concrete, hoping that would stop the invasion. Well, new holes would pop up every other day randomly, even on walls (plastic board). Initially I thought the unwelcome guests were moles or voles, but after research on the internet, I finally realized that the nightmare was brought about by rats. You see, moles love to dig tunnels, but they do not eat grains; they eat earthworms and grubs. Voles are rodents but they mostly eat plants. Rats, on the other hand, eat anything and are notorious for chewing holes through thick wood.
The rats are attracted by the chickens because seeds and feed would fall around the feeder during pecking and when food is scarce in winter, the warm chicken coop is a perfect habitat.
Arming with the discovery of the real enemies, I purchased a rat “high power kill” trap and baited it with peanut butter. Sure enough, the trap was triggered but was pulled all the way to the hole. Next, I screwed the trap to the floor but again the peanut butter was gone with no sign of rats (trap triggered).
I then purchased a rat bait station but the rats were not attracted by the bait. Later I found out that the hole was too small for the rat to enter!
Finally I decided to try the Havahart® X-Small 1-Door Trap. I had success with this trap for catching squirrels. Sure enough, after a few nights, I finally caught the bugger! It was a big grey Norway rat!
But….that was not the end of story. I ended up buying the traditional wooden snap trap as well so I continued to set the snap trap, live trap and bait station. Subsequently, I found out the snap traps were only effective against baby rats. The adult rats could wriggle away after being snapped! The live trap was the only effective way.
We ended up killing 4 big rats and 2 small ones.
But….that was also not the end of story. After a few days, there were still signs of rats. What in the world!? By this time I have 2 live traps but this rat never visited them, yet it started to chew holes everywhere again.
Finally, I decided to take the rat bait from the bait station and dropped it through the hole in the wall and then sealed the holes up with spray foam.
Now after 3 days, no signs of rats yet…..but I won’t be able to tell until at least a week is past. Unfortunately, here in Ontario only licensed personnel can purchase rat poison without bait station and in my situation, the rat bait was the last resort.
Coming spring, I would have to dig around the coop and seal the holes. I would also lay down a layer of hardware cloth on the floor and put new floor on top. Lots to do on a farm.
It has been a hot summer this year. Several occasions of above 40°C weather. There was even a “camp fire ban” issued by the fire department in our township. Thankfully, thunderstorms arrive and relieve the mini “drought” for our garden. Plants start to grow rapidly.
This is a ROUND zucchini! An heirloom variety.
This is a normal green zucchini but somehow grows like a staircase!?
Very early apple crop. Almost every apple has blemish and some are rotten. I still have a long way to grow the perfect organic apple.
Potatoes: Alta Blush, German Butterball and Purple Viking.
As you saw in my previous blog Building New Chicken Tractor, I have now put the chicken tractor into action. 15 layers are now “officially” producing free-range pasture-raised eggs. Since I used metal panel as roof, the tractor is heavier than I have thought, but the 4-wheel design does help.
Most layers are using the roll-out nest box but a couple of them like to sneak under the coop and lay eggs on the pasture. When we move the coop everyday, we always have the surprise to see 1 or 2 eggs in the grass.
Scratching the earth, nibbling the grass and chasing bugs. Happy chickens!
This month I have been busy building a new mobile chicken tractor to be used on the pasture. I have always wanted to have a mobile tractor for layers but things are hectic at times with 8 children and a full time job. The old mobile tractor for the meat birds have been partially damaged over the years and I intend to build a smaller and shorter tractor this time.
Searching over the internet there are hundreds of chicken tractor design but I end up using Justin Rhode’s Chickshaw plan. I made some modification to his plan to suit my needs but over it was a very good starter plan.
Flipping down the door would act as a ramp for the chickens to come out. Notice that I spray paint all hinges with metal paint to minimize rust issue.
Rolling Nest Box
Rather than using milk crates as suggested by Justin, I decide to build a rolling nest box for better egg gathering.
Blocking the nest box
The step in front of the nest box can also be flipped upwards at night to prevent the layers poop in side the nest box.
Back of nest box
This is the back where eggs will be rolling out. I use 1″ x 2″ hardware cloth as the bottom of the nest box with a layer of artificial turf on top later.
Painting the next box
We paint any wood exposed externally with wood stain.
Mounting the nest box
Mounting the nest box on the back wall of the tractor.
It just happened that I have lots of vinyl sidings around so time to get to work.
I am using leftover metal roof panel from other projects while I have to purchase a new PVC roof panel.
The mobile chicken tractor is finished! Notice that I have put a cover for the rolling nest box. I did not use 2 big wheels as suggested in Justin’s plan, instead I used 4 small tires(for wheelbarrow 4.1 x 3.5 4-ply). This would allow me to push or pull the tractor backward or forward easier than 2 wheels.