On the farm, spring means new life, new growth, new green, and new work! I thought it was high time for a little homestead update to show you what all we've got going around the farm (and why we've been a little behind with our posts lately—our apologies!).
One of the most exciting parts of this spring has been the new additions to the homestead. First, our little Katahdin lambs arrived!
If all goes according to plan, these hair sheep will be permanent fixtures on the farm, giving us lambs for meat and to sell. They make pretty good lawn mowers, too!
Next, we got more birds—a lot of them!
We've added two Toulouse geese, eight Jumbo Pekin ducks, ten Rhode Island Red chickens, ten Blue Andalusians, and one mystery chicken who we are hoping is a Black Copper Marans!
We are so excited to bring new chickens to the homestead, as our current layers are getting old and their production is tapering off. The ducks and geese are a fun experiment—we are hoping to bring some added pest control with the ducks (they are wonderful at controlling the slug, snail, and Japanese Beetle population in your garden), and we are hoping to bring some aerial-predator deterrence with the two geese. Whether they will join the rotating-poultry pasture with the chickens (they will follow the sheep and "sanitize" the pasture behind them) or free range around the property remains to be seen!
Newly Stocked Freezer
In other news, we harvested our meat birds for the freezer. As hard as actual harvesting day is, I must say it is a great feeling to have a freezer stocked with a year's worth of chicken—this year more than ever. We did an in-depth post of last year's experience, so I won't go into too much detail here other than to say that this year's experience was much smoother than last year's in almost every way! If the current crisis (particularly the meat shortages) has you thinking about ways to become more self-sufficient, raising meat birds is a great first step—we highly encourage you to take the plunge if your neighborhood allows it! A bonus to stocking the freezer is feeding your family with food where you know exactly what the animals ate and exactly how they lived for the entirety of their eight-week lives. No antibiotics or crowded birds here—just happy, pastured poultry who only had one bad day.
New Garden Woes
Incredibly, our gardening struggle this year is completely different from last year's struggle. Our first issue (that did persist last year) was our horrible, clay soil—no water infiltration or visible soil aggregates to be found! We decided to start making permanent changes instead of quick-fixes (rototilling and chemical fertilizers), and the road has been long. We did rows of no-till garden beds, using a combination of cardboard, newspapers, compost, and mulch over the existing weeds. That has been excellent for moisture-retention and weed suppression, but too much Carbon and not enough Nitrogen has lead to a significant Nitrogen deficiency. Some diluted blood leftover from the chicken harvest should give the stunted garden a significant boost, but we'll see if it will be enough. On top of that, we've been struggling with unseasonably cold temperatures and record-setting late frosts, some of which weren't forecasted in time! Our plants, particularly the tomatoes, peppers, and annual herbs, took a huge beating, some dying completely and others dying almost to the ground before trying hard to produce new leaves. That, plus the Nitrogen issues, has lead to the garden being almost a month or two behind where it should be, despite the early seed-starting indoors.
As frustrating as it has all been, I'm confident we have learned more about our garden, our plants, and our soil than we would have ever learned had everything gone right. Plus, we have big plans to prevent these problems for happening next year, hopefully involving chickens, ducks, and our new pigs (coming in the next few weeks!), so stay tuned for that!
On a happier note, the cedar porch railing slash bench slash mini container garden that Pater built has been a smashing success. It was the perfect way to grow my early Spring lettuce and spinach, and has now given way to the perfect herb garden. This was definitely a home run! If you're interested in learning more about how he made it, let him know in the comments.
Well, that's it for now! Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the life of an up-and-coming homestead. We will be back soon with more content—including a copy of our Traditional Latin Mass wedding program/"mini missal" that so many of you have been asking for. Don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss a post!