10/27/2017 Journal Entry / Thoughts For Today

I’M FARMIN’ NOW

This spring I purchased chicks with hopes to start an organic flock. I’ve read a couple of books and most of my neighbors have chickens so information is abundant. I felt confident I could fumble through the learning curve, and I have done pretty good so far. I lost one chick right away, saved two chicks from death, one of them from the grips of our woodland cat, that’s a story for another day, and then figured out that the majority of our soon to be egg bearing hens were roosters. That part was a bummer! I’ve got to remedy that very soon, but that takes me to today.

I woke up stiff and sore. It’s cold and rainy here in northern Michigan and I tried really hard to put on my positive attitude. I stretched, got dressed, then got my chicken feed concoction ready along with the bunny greens. I let the cat and dog out and can hear the roosters crowing in the chicken coop waiting for their breakfast. The roosters are impatient and demanding (go figure) and ready to get the day started.

I walk past the bunnies on the way to the garden and chicken yard so they always get fed first, then out to the chicken yard. I stepped inside the gate and opened the coop door as usual. They are so loud, each one trying to be the first one out the door.

After throwing out the scratch and doing my morning visual inspection of each of them, I always peek in the coop making sure the chicks have enough water and grain and of course I peruse the laying boxes for eggs. I knew it wouldn’t be until around the first of November before I could expect my four confirmed hens to begin laying (only four, wow, still hard to wrap my head around that one!) anyway, today as I peruse my boxes I spy one..brown…egg. AH!!!!! I’m on the fast track now baby! Got positive energy flowing!! Nothing like working six months for one small brown egg to make it all worth while. WOW! What a great day!!

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Pay Dirt

 

 

Spring is only 16-20 weeks away. Yes, it’s true the worst months of winter are ahead of us here in northern Michigan, but just imagine, in as little as 16 weeks, we could be out in the garden getting ready for planting season. Not likely, but anything is possible.

I’m thinking of spring each time I venture out to the awesome composter we purchased at auction a couple of years ago. We’ve tried many a composter since starting out here with our garden venture. Each time purchasing off the auction thinking maybe this one was going to be “the one”.  With only minimal satisfaction we kept trying different types and brands not paying much for any  one of them. I suppose the original purchaser felt the same way. The product worked OK but didn’t quite live up to expectations. Then I saw this monster of a composter at auction, an Urban Compost Tumbler 9.  I researched it (looked awesome), bid on it and won it for a fraction of retail value.  If it lived up to expectation, it may just be the best value ever won at auction, we would have to wait and see!

We hauled it north and cleaned it up and started adding kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, leaves, a little starter from our old compost pile and other various compostable items hoping for a quick return as was advertised on the Internet. I continued to use my old pile just in case this was just another composter with a lot of hype.

That old pile was my starting point and a great learning tool. It gave me great excitement to see how this composting thing worked turning scraps back into soil. That first pile was where I discovered I could grow potatoes quite by accident! It enabled me to believe that I could do this. That I could create some self-sustainability here in the middle of nothing.

Working the ground here is almost impossible, almost because it is untouched. That’s why most of our garden is in raised beds. It would take a boat load of compost to amend the soil to a good vegetable growing media. So, we chose to stick to raised beds except for the potatoes and now blueberries. That’s where the composter comes in handy. Each time a batch is finished, it is immediately worked into the ground gardens to continually amend the soil and makes it just that much easier to work with the next time.

Every six weeks you can turn out a new batch of rich compost for the garden in this handy dandy very expensive composter that does exactly what it is advertised to do as long as you follow some very specific rules.

  1. No  meat or dairy, fish scraps or bones.
  2. Cut everything you add as small as you can.(very, very important)
  3. Keep your carbon and nitrogen balanced 3:1. (more brown matter than green)
  4. Do not overload your tumbler! (it will get too heavy to turn)
  5. Turn often. Make sure top is secure. (very, very, very important!)
  6. Add moisture as needed, do not get overly zealous.
  7. Place in a sunny location.
  8. Turn, wait, turn and wait.

This composter definitely lives up to expectations. Would I pay retail price for it, no I wouldn’t. What I paid for it at auction was my limit for such a luxury item. But if I had money to burn and was looking to buy a composter, this one would be the one I would suggest trying.

On my last trip to the composter, there was 18 inches of snow to trudge through, just to discover the top of the composter was frozen shut. After my husband was so kind to wade through the snow and break the ice on the lid and get it open for me, I was energized to shovel a pathway through the garden to make my trip a little easier next time. Now I will have a few extra minutes out there in the frigid cold to look across the east20 into the neighboring property and take in the beauty of the landscape that I can’t see in the summer hidden by the scrub trees and low lying bushes. Maybe I’ll see a whitetail or two bounding up the hill.  You never know!  Mother Nature is amazing!

All In A Days Work

This weekend at the Rollin’ Rock we had guests and so there really isn’t much time for  me to do anything besides hostessing and caregiving, not complaining, just explaining. I’m not feeling great and there are a few things I’d like to get done since there still is no snow. On our last day, I manage to get some time to repair the row covers for the blueberry bushes. Apparently the wind had whipped them around vigorously and twisted the light weight row covers into useless hours of already completed labor. So, I needed a better plan. We do have a more permanent solution on the drawing board along with the other projects waiting for completion, this just couldn’t wait.

I’m standing out in the garden area we call the east20 and the sun is peeking out just a bit. Not bad for a cold rainy weekend in November. I’m trying to decide how I’m going to make these row covers work to my advantage on a temporary basis. So I gather my tools and cut yards of twine and proceed to cut some small saplings just outside the brush line around the garden area and up runs our woodland cat, Chance. We make conversation and she wants to be loved, so I take time to pet her. She follows me around and plays with the twine I toss to the ground as I’m working on the row cover. I cut six saplings to about 18 inches, pound them into the ground along each side of the row and then stretch the landscape fabric over the top and tie it down. I always have to do and redo because as I’m working I always come up with a better idea, so I’m constantly tweaking as I go, sometimes starting over multiple times. By now, the wind is starting to pick up and the sun is just starting to set. The row covers are blowing in the wind, my hands are freezing, nose is running and I’m a little frustrated, but I’ve got to get this done. Okay, first row redone. I step back to admire my work and Chance takes a flying leap and jumps right on top of the row cover crashing everything to the ground tearing the  landscape fabric at each corner. She is having the greatest time. She thought I had created the best cat carnival she could could ever imagine. As I tried to get her off the kitty hammock ride, she grabbed ahold of my arm and bit my hand and made it known that she would leave when she was ready, and she was not! I was not amused, but she is a cat and she could care less how I felt. After removing her from the row cover, forceably, she decided to move on, for a while anyway. She disappeared into the brushy boundary of the garden to play with something else. First row repaired, again, second row done, third row almost there, and here she comes again. I’m watching her close to make sure no repeats. Alright, third row done. Oh sh..there she is right in the middle of row one…..again! I’m going to…….cuss and swear and fix the damn thing again and call it a day. Vigor has left the body.

Daily Prompt: Millions

There are 42.2 million American people or 13% of all households in the US that are food insecure.

In 2012, the USDA census reported 915 million acres of farmland in the US with only 4.5 million or 4.5% being used to grow vegetables. There is over 170 million acres of land being used to grow 2 crops, corn and soybeans. Although, both products are used in some food production, primarily they are used for unhealthy processed foods or products that aren’t food at all.

It’s time for people to take action and become food growers on their own. It doesn’t take much space, time or energy. You can grow food on a patio, window ledge, or your kitchen counter. It will save time and money and you will be able to share valuable resources such as experience and knowledge and pass it on to others so they too can become more self-suffient and less reliant on someone else to supply them with nutritious food. 

We started our quest for self-suffiency in 2015, just 1 growing season ago. Our first garden consisted of 2-55 gallon drums cut in half and a couple of shipping crates. Anyone can do this. You provide drainage, some good soil, your seeds or plants, a little water along the way, and you will have enough to eat and share! 

We, here at the Rollin’ Rock, have doubled our garden size this year and plan to increase again for 2017. There are many challenges to our location in the forest, but we are determined to continue gaining in knowledge and experience. It is exciting to be able to share our bounty with family and friends, as do all our good neighbors here in the north country.

Growin’ North

 

Despite all of our setbacks this year, our goal for expanding the woodland garden was quite successful. We not only doubled the number of containers we planted, but we doubled our potatoe garden and added a small blueberry patch.

The pallet fence turned out way better than expected but was quite labor intensive. Too bad we are planning on expanding once again!! There just doesn’t seem to ever be quite enough, especially thinking in terms of preserving, eating fresh and selling at market.

This fall we had the hole excavated for our future root cellar. That’s a project for next year. It will have to go to the bottom of the list! I will keep you posted, however.

I almost forgot, Growin’ North is our newest venture. It is our simply grown organic produce and homegoods along with our newly added oyster mushrooms that we take to market during growing season here in the north woods. Next year we hope our learning curve is smaller and our expertise grows larger.

“Pretty in Pink”

Moving from an urban life to a woodland life and thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming at times. There are so many different tools you need to get the job done not only right, but in a timely manner. Take starting a garden where there was previously a 100 year old forest. Not an easy cjob. Stumps and roots rule and a pick axe and shovel are meager tools for this type of job. For the first couple of years here at the Rollin’ Rock, those are the tools we used and struggled with. Did they get the job done? Of course they did, but it took hours upon hours to dig out a 10×10 square for our first potato patch. While my husband was still gainfully employed we tried to arm ourselves with as much of the right equipment as necessary. We shopped (and still do) on-line auctions and flea markets for the best deals possible. This past summer, post employment, we took our savings and purchased an amazing tool we call “Pinkie”. She is a 1951 Ferguson tractor, and yes, she is pink.

Pinkie came to us through Craigslist. She was previously a grape farmer in the Leelanau Peninsula along the Lake Michigan shoreline where there are many luscious vineyards growing only the finest grapes available for your eating and drinking pleasure, (mostly drinking). Pinkie farmed for a few years and then was retired due to the sale of her farm, a circumstance she could not control.

Why pink you ask? She was painted pink to avoid theft. You see, tractors in the farming communities are hot commodities. One of Pinkies predecessors was stolen right in front of their business. Gone without a trace, probably sitting lonely now being under utilized due to his circumstances. So, when repainting the newest member of their team, the color pink was chosen.  I would dare say it would be hard to steal and hide a pink tractor. Recently, we ran into someone we barely know in a small party store some 10 miles away and they asked if we had gotten a tractor that was pink? Amazing, we had only had her a week or so. She does stand out boldly through the greens of the forest.

So, Pinkie has already built a reputation of sorts in our rural community and she has helped us accomplish some amazing stuff. She brought a back blade with her and we managed to pick up a brush hog and a couple of implements from an on-line auction and with just these few tools we have been able to level a spot for a multi-purpose shed, plow the snow in our long driveway twice now, and the brush hog was used to mow down some old logging trails to make snow shoeing easier this winter.

We know little about tractors so we have a learning curve here. My husband has purchased some information books and manuals, also at auction, and we are bonding with Pinkie and so far she seems to be enjoying her retirement years here with us at the Rollin’ Rock. Tools are everything here in the woods and she’s one of our finest.