Spring on the Homestead

A few poppies I planted this year.
"So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied."

Deuteronomy 11:13-15


In the six springs we've experienced on this homestead, this spring has been - by far - the rainiest and coldest. In fact, it hasn't felt like spring at all until the past couple of weeks, when the sun blessedly returned and a little warmth started creeping into our days. 

All that rain slowed many of our spring plans, but we are catching up. One of our goals was to get the new garden spot going before spring planting. I'm thrilled to say that is DONE! I wrote all about how we created an easy no-dig garden, plus put up deer fencing, right here

The new garden.

The garden isn't truly done, of course; what garden ever is? But I have food growing and know that, with the Lord's blessing, I should be able to grow most of our vegetables this year. I've planted Legend tomatoes, and hope to plant more before June. I also have some San Marzano paste tomato seedlings, but every time I plant them out, they die. Previously, I've only grown them in the greenhouse, so it may be they are extra sensitive to cold. I will try planting some more outside again soon.

I have red yard long beans and cucumbers beginning to sprout under the cattle panel trellis. I'm weirdly excited about both of these. Even though I don't eat pickles, I'm busy researching variations on cucumber pickles that I hope to can for the rest of the family. I've wanted to grow yard long beans for many years; I even tried them twice in large pots. Both times were a failure. The seeds I have are left over from our suburban homestead (and, even though I know I should have, I didn't test them for viability before planting). I was worried they could be too old to germinate, but happily my worries were for naught.

Onions and radishes.
Cabbage and beets.

I also planted a single pumpkin seedling in the new garden. I've always wanted to grow fall pumpkins for my children, but never had the space in my garden. Sadly my kids are really too old to appreciate picking out pumpkins from our own garden now, but...I planted a pumpkin plant, anyway.


Other things I've planted in the new garden include: cauliflower, broccoli, collards, beets, kale, butternut squash, yellow summer squash, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, onions, bush green beans, and radishes. Radishes, which grow so very quickly and reliably, have made up our first several harvests from the new garden.

Another project we wanted to accomplish this spring was a deer fence for the asparagus bed. When I planted that bed several years ago, we didn't have the deer problem we have now. (The difference? Noisy neighbors who were up all night, we think. Now those neighbors are gone.) Sadly, during year three of growing asparagus (the first time you can really get decent a harvest from them), the deer swooped in. I don't know if the deer killed most of the asparagus plants or not - I just know I rarely see asparagus shoots, though I sometimes see the plant chomped off close to the ground. Next year I'll be able to assess the damage and start over, if need be.

Watering the new garden.

I also have tomatoes, winter squash, and cucumbers in the greenhouse, as a hedge against failure in the new garden bed. I have grown Legend tomatoes outside before, and they do okay in our climate, though not quite as well as in the greenhouse. On the other hand, I've not had success growing winter squash outside on our mountaintop homestead - though this year, I planted seeds way early and transplanted seedlings into the garden. We'll see if that helps. I've also only grown cucumbers in the greenhouse, so this year, I'll get to see if they do well outside, too.

I planted some herbs (mostly parsley - for the rabbits - and chamomile) this year, as well as many flowers in the containers I'd previously used for vegetables. The flowers are things I think the deer will leave alone - mostly dahlias, sunflowers, and poppies. I also have zucchini seeds sprouting in our front yard; the deer have left it alone in the past. Let's pray they continue to ignore it.

The zucchini is popping up!


Future blueberries.

Our first harvest of 2022.

Speaking of rabbits, ours are happily mating and producing babies. Currently, Fiona is pregnant and due quite soon. Bluebelle is nursing kits. and Clydine is waiting until there are open cages available so she can mate and have a litter. Because of the rising cost of commercial feed, I'm getting more serious about giving the rabbits fresh greens from our property. Each day, I fill a bucket with weeds and plants I know are safe for them, and bring the forage to the buns. They love it!

Fiona and her kits.

I've taken to calling the quail kamikazes. Yes, they have their peaceful, quiet moments when they make cooing sounds and cuddle up together in their dirt baths. But most of the time, they act like crazy little meth-addicts. It always amazes me that one moment, they can be a happy flock, and the next moment, they peck out a hen's eyes or scalp each other. It's important to me to be real with you - and I confess, I do not particularly like raising quail. BUT they provide easy, quick meat...so they stay on our homestead. (You can read more about the benefits of raising quail here and here.) As I type, some just-hatched quail chicks are chirping in the incubator. Some are for our neighbor, but we'll keep a few for ourselves, too.

A just-hatched quail chick.

Our chicken flock has decreased again. I had one hen die suddenly overnight. I have no idea why, but I do know it was not bird flu. Although the deadly strain of avian flu has been found in wild ducks nearby, so far my flock has survived. (Learn the very clear signs of avian influenza here.)

It feels so good to be eating off our homestead more completely again!

And I haven't even mentioned other spring chores, like mowing, weed whacking, pruning, mowing some more, weed whacking some more, mowing some more...Keeping the wilderness at bay is difficult where we live, and never more so than in the spring. But it sure is beautiful on our mountaintop homestead. Right now we are enjoying the first flush of spring (even though spring is nearly over): The wild foxglove and daisies are in bloom, I see clumps of wild iris in the mountains around us, and many of the wild berries are flowering, too. But the thing I'm most thankful for is the return of blue skies.

Salal berry blooms.

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