Blueberry farming, Kitty eating and family fun in between

We had a great weekend this weekend!  On Saturday, we got another farm dog this weekend to keep Kya company.  They are already getting along famously and Buddy is helping to teach Kya that he is boss.  Kya has a bit of a nipping problem and I’ve noticed that when she got me a few times, he came over and corrected her before I even had a chance.  Hallelujah!  He came from a very nice family that simply did not have enough room for him in their backyard.  He is smart and kind and we have high hopes for him, although he (insert huge sigh here) seems to have the cat affliction that so many others do despite being raised with a cat….“I just need one taste mom!”

WP_001922

Despite his kitty addiction, the family that gave him up had a very nice young girl who was very sad to see him go and we promised that we would love him, so we shall.  We’re hoping to take both dogs to the obedience classes that start in a few weeks but we’ll have to see how that works out with Sheldon’s crazy work schedule.  Anyone else out there have successful techniques for teaching outside dogs “no kitties” when it comes to barn cats?

We had a great family day on Sunday starting off our adventures at Promised Land Zoo  and ending it at Tractor Supply.  We’re kind of suckers for finding these “drive through zoos” wherever we live and we are very fortunate that Promised Land seems to do an excellent of caring for both the animals and of the souls of those who come to visit.  Plus, we have been there so many times since moving here that they offered us a break on an annual membership.  Love it!  They have one location in the middle of nowhere (Eagle Rock-shout out!) and a new location in Branson.  If you are planning a family visit to Silver Dollar City or the like this summer, I highly recommend checking them out!

At Tractor Supply, The Blueberry was excited to find so many garden implements her size.  We’re actually planning on her having her very own garden this year.  She’s going to be responsible for tilling, planting, watering, etc.  If I’m behing honest, I have to say that I expect it to look like a hot mess by the end of the summer, but I think involving our kids in growing their own food is a really important part of this journey to get back to nature.  She spent the entire ride to PL Zoo telling us what seeds she needs us to order:

WP_001932

Plus, in the event that a carrot or strawberry actually makes it through her more than likely haphazard care, I can imagine that she will beam with pride!  She’s already been helping add more hay to the dogs’ training yard and the chicken coop:

yes, that really is a kid sized radio flyer wheelbarrow.  Thanks Tractor Supply!

yes, that really is a kid sized radio flyer wheelbarrow. Thanks Tractor Supply!

Well, it looks like another storm is moving in.  Fluffy Newspaper, our “head” barn cat is running back and forth in front of the kitchen window in between the garage and the barn like he’s on a mission.  I think this unsettled weather has the animals unsettled, so we better get to it.  Hope everyone has a great day.  Happy farming!

Check out some great new posts every Monday at the Homestead Barn Hop!  http://newlifeonahomestead.com

Check out some great new posts every Monday at the Homestead Barn Hop!
http://newlifeonahomestead.com

Composting for beginners

I’m so looking forward to spring although it’s with a little trepidation. We are a bit behind in getting the garden ready compared to previous years. However, the one thing that we have been great about is beginning our compost pile. We’re lucky in that we don’t have to worry about “smell free” compost options since our compost pile is a good distance away from the house. But, you know, one of the things that I have really noticed is just how smell free our compost pile is. And while I know a certain bit of earthiness is to be expected, I think that I’ve learned that sometimes stink doesn’t always mean good compost. And we have some beautiful compost. Just ask our little rescue cat, Soleil. She is obsessed with the compost pile but thankfully doesn’t add her own “signature” to it:

 

Soleil “helping” me with the pig pen by holding the dirt down with her body…

So how to get started on your own little pile of compost? Well, we started composting a bit in our suburban house-mostly in the winter. We would allow our garden beds to go dormant and add in rich materials to increase the nutrients in the soil for spring planting. Even in our little suburban jungle, we always had a pretty good harvest of fruit/veg that were ideal for our zone. But, what to do if you want to be more thoughtful than we were (hello-standing on the back porch having zucchini throwing contests to see who can hit the garden-not thoughtful composting)…then you first need to think about a few things:

1) Do I have the patience to keep up with it?  Composting is not just about throwing stuff in a pile.  That’s called being a redneck…composting is about the thoughtful throwing of stuff in a pile and then maintaining that pile so your leftovers turn into nutrition for future fruit, veg and trees.

2) Do I have a place to do this?  While you need very little space to compost, this probably isn’t a good fit for you if you live in a one bedroom loft with no garage, patio or outside space.  Even the best compost units take up some space, so decide if this is something you can live with and if so, where will it go?

3) Do local laws/restrictions need to be considered?  While I can’t say that I have heard of any cities/counties restricting composting, you just never know.  I still think about the guy from the Pacific Northwest who was cited for using rain barrels on his property because the city felt like he was taking water away from other residents.  Sometimes gov’t can be crazy…but I think crazier than government is a Homeowners Association, so check with yours to make sure that you aren’t breaking the neighborhood law.  And if you are-well, then get them to change it and compost anyway!!

Beyond what I think are the basic considerations above, there are plenty of simple articles that can help you get started like the EPA’s site (actually aimed at business, but good info all the same) and another good site from the state of California.  Many will walk you through adjusting the content of your compost pile so that it’s not too acidic or nitrogen rich, etc.  For us, we’re just not that high-tech yet…but I would imagine that we will be someday.  For now, here is a list of things that we typically compost in our “casual compost” pile:

Vegetable/Fruit trimmings (no tomatoes or citrus)

Rotten vegetables (we all have those hairy little carrots that get forgotten at the back of a crisper)

Used coffee grounds/filters (not talking your K cups people)

Lawn trimmings

Egg shells (I only use our egg shells-not any we buy from the grocery and I rinse them before putting them in.  Probably lose nutrients rinsing them, but that helps me with the “oogie” factor)

I have heard of some folks who compost meat waste from processing without any negative effects but we’re not remotely there yet.  It’s an interesting idea.

Used chicken bedding (while we use chicken poop, we do not compost dog/cat poop at this time.  We’ve read that the risks outweigh the benefits)

Beyond tossing in these things, we go out to stir it to make sure that it’s getting all of that great decomposition throughout the pile.  We don’t have any trouble with smell, vermin or flies…and that to me is the sign of a great pile.  Well, that and how much our plants will love it!

So-what do you like to compost and how do you manage it?  Would love to hear from some other folks!  Until then, happy composting!

 

 

Trying to work on a little garden planning….

I promise this is not an advertisement for Burpee...

I promise this is not an advertisement for Burpee…

 

We’re doing some garden planning here on Blueberry Acres Farm.  We have used Seed Savers many times in the past for our seed needs (and they have some great varieties) but for some reason, we haven’t yet ordered any from them this year.  I think it’s been the craziness of the last couple of months-we’re just a bit behind with our garden planning.  So, we’re just rolling for now with these organic seeds hoping that at least we will get our soil started.  We have been composting in preparation for getting our garden beds ready.  We’re trying to keep it as organic as possible.  To that end, I had read recently about a farmer/gardener that was using a small tunnel and wrapping it in tulle (that was fun trying to explain tulle to Sheldon) to keep pests out.  Seems like a pain, but after losing many crops to the dreaded squash bug, I’m open to anything that doesn’t involve me buying deet by the truckload-yuck!  Anyone ever experiment with this method?

We have decided to do 4-6 large/raised garden beds (mostly because we’re finding rock is a major component of the soil here) with a variety of plants.  While I don’t have all of the beds planned out, I would like to take advantage of companion planting as much as possible.  I would like to have a Three Sisters garden bed and I’m considering focusing on lasagna style gardening.

I’m also enjoying the geeky appeal of Mother Earth News’ Garden Planner.  It has handy tips, planting schedules as well as companion planting information.  However, if I really want to show my garden geekiness, I would show you my multi-tabbed Excel spreadsheet with it’s myriad of garden plans, but we don’t know each other that well yet!

Happy planting!