Friday, January 31, 2014

2014 Garden Planning.

Gardening is one of my favorite activities.  Since the onset of winter there hasn't been much gardening to be done.  I normally start seeds in January, but I thought this year I'd hold off and start them in February.  So I thought this year that I'd plan things out a little better.  Normally I just look for empty spots in the raised beds and either directly plant seeds or transplant seedlings.  Sometimes I transplant seedlings where I've planted seeds and I end up with lettuce growing under my peppers.  I want to be better about that this year.

That requires more planning.  I decided to draw a map of my raised beds.  That should enable me to keep track of what goes where.  I might even layout things out before planting the first seed!  What a concept.

I could use plain old graph paper, but then I'd have to locate some.  Instead I started up Sketchup.  I use it so infrequently that I had some difficulty at first.  I had to reference the help several times.  Anyway, here's a picture of what I came up with.

Keep with the square foot method, I marked a grid on all of the beds.  Not all of the physical bed actually have a grid on them.  Actually I think only one of them does.  That'll be easy enough to add in the spring.  Anyway, the two beds on the left have 16" squares instead of 12" squares.  I plan on growing tomatoes in those beds and I want to give them more space.  The ones I planted last year were too crowded

I'm anxious to see how this works out.  I would probably be better to do on a giant dry-erase board.  That way if something dies, or I pick something, I can cross it off and put something else there.  That might not be as easy to do on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Composting in place

I've written before about the difficulties I've had getting grass to grow in my back yard.  Part of the problem is that the chickens eat whatever I put down.  The other problems are a lack of sun and poor soil.  So, I'm attempting to improve the soil.

I get a lot of leaves in my yard in the fall.

This year rather than hauling the leaves to my compost bins, and hauling the compost back to my yard, I thought I'd try composting in place.

I gave in and finally bought a leaf blower/vac.  I don't know if it was actually faster than using a rake, but it was much more satisfying.  The leaf blower has a vacuum attachment.  It'll suck up, shred, and bag the leaves.  Once the bag got full I dumped it in a low spot in my yard. 

The next part of the plan involves the chickens.  They're always getting into stuff, so I figure why not let them turn the compost pile (Joel Salatin does the same thing with pigs on a much bigger scale).  I don't know if it'll work or not, but I thought it'd be worth trying.
I've been throwing oats, and bird seed into the leaves.  They scratch, peck and turn it over.  I'm sure they're adding plenty of their nitrogen filled byproduct along the way. 
This is a wider shot of the area.  It's a low spot in the yard where I've never gotten grass to grow.
I don't know how well this is going to work.  Only time will tell.  I'm hoping that in a few months I'll have something that resembles soil and that I'll be able to grow some grass in it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

And then there was the day the rabbits got married...

From the moment our daughter entertained the idea of getting a breeding pair of rabbits, the project has been 90% hers.  She sat on my lap as I pulled up web pages, and she read about breeds, the proper care and feeding of bunnies, and raising kits.  She picked out books at the library, helped pick her male and female from Craigslist listings, and keeps a daily ritual of providing food, water and hay, as well as lots of company and TLC. 

Our female rabbit is currently about 9 months old, and our male is 7 months.  In the past few weeks, it's become obvious that they were ready for breeding and quite interested in one another.  The female would "dig" at the bottom of her hutch which sits above the male's.  The male, when the waste tray was moved from between their hutches, would stand on his back legs to sniff, and even hop to get closer to his upstairs neighbor.  We realized that to time it so that baby bunnies would be ready to send to their new homes before Easter, we were approaching a good time for mating.  And so we made a timeline and got all ready.

But, in our daughter's innocent and beautiful understanding of the process, the first step had to be a wedding!  In order to have babies, the bunnies must be married!  We decided to celebrate this beautiful sentiment and go all out.  We did, indeed, have a sort of "bunny wedding" and what a party it was!!

We invited my daughter's playmates and their families.  She and I had a blast shopping and crafting and getting ready for the big day.  The kids made bunny masks, we decorated the porch and animal pen in the yard with streamers, and everything was themed in carrot colors.  

The napkin and utensil "carrots".

Rabbit food for peoples (don't actually feed rabbits this stuff... it makes them sick).

The latest in bunny formal wear.

The anxious groom.

Waiting for the bride...

We kept a barrier between them.  We didn't want the honeymoon to start before the vows were over.
I found a blessing for animals.  As I was reading it, the female rabbit made her way from down the aisle and met the male rabbit at the barrier.  They sniffed noses and appeared to be very happy to see each other.  The timing couldn't have been better.

(It's a good thing the barrier was between them.  The male was trying to push his way through it and the female turned around backwards towards him.  I'm not sure how many people picked up on that, but my husband and I noticed.)
Don't forget the wedding cake. (And, no, it wasn't carrot cake because the humans had to eat it.)

And they lived HOPPILY EVER AFTER!!!
Visit my Pinterest board for many of the how-to's to go with the cute crafts and yummy recipes!   
And, oh, yes, the actual baby-makin' did have to happen sometime, right?  So we gave the rabbits a little 15-minute honeymoon the day after the wedding.... or, well, as long as it took for the female to start getting annoyed.  We will be sure to let you know in about a month how it all worked out!  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Dutch Oven Mountain Man Breakfast

I built a fire ring in my yard from stones I found around my property.  I made it big enough to do some cooking in a dutch oven once in a while.

The other day I made what I know as Mountain Man breakfast.

  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 lb. sausage (I used Jimmy Dean)
  • 1 lb. hash browns
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 lb. cheese (optional)
I got the dutch oven warm over some coals.  Then I threw in the bacon and cooked it until it was crispy.  The sausage when in next.  Once it was brown I tossed in the chopped peppers and onion and let them cook down.
Yum.  Bacon.
Then I stirred in the hash browns.  The dutch oven gets pretty full at this point. I let that all cook for a little while with the lid on. 
The final step is to beat the dozen eggs and pour them on top.  A little stirring doesn't hurt.  I put the lid on the dutch oven and covered it with hot coals. 
 Once the eggs are set it's ready to eat.  Or if you prefer, you can melt cheese on top. 
I used a 12-inch dutch oven.  It makes a lot of food.  If I had to guess I'd say that it could feed 8-12 people.

Additional Notes:
  • It is heavy on the hash browns.  I think it would turn out fine if less than a full pound were used.
  • I put the hash browns in after the veggies.  You could put them in before if you want them to be more brown and crispy.  
  • Variations of this recipe are all over the Internet.  You can leave stuff out if you don't like it or add other things like mushrooms.