It’s a worrisome time in the world right now but the worries at Windy Thistle are all about putting in the new garden beds, building trellis’, fixing fences, beekeeping, raising chickens, growing seedlings and planting seeds. There is so much difference that just a few weeks make. Sitting at home can get a bit boring, so this might have more photos than usual and more to read than usual, so set back and get comfy for five minutes or so. Here's what's been happening at Windy Thistle!
Pandemics aren’t fun ever for the folks trapped at home and unable to go outside for extended periods. That’s not a problem here. Everyone can go for a walk in the woods or on the quiet hardly used dirt roads around here. Other than that, a good schedule fills the days with good work and the evenings with good conversation and restful entertainment.
CORNISH CROSS CHICKS: Our chicks are fully feathered and installed in their permanent grow out pen – a chicken tractor that we recently built. We can move it every few days so that the birds get fresh grass and bugs to eat as well as more sunlight. The pen part is cobbled together with section of plywood right now for a roof but it does the job and makes the birds happy and gives them more room to flap. It will have to do for now.
The coop part has two roosts so the birds can get up off the ground at night and feel more secure. The pen has hardware cloth over all the openings. A predator could possibly dig under but it would have to be pretty determined. Without the wheels on, the tractor is pretty heavy. Right now, with spring storms, we keep the coop covered with a tarp at night, too.
We didn't have enough shingles to cover the roof so we reused tarpaper from a downed shed we are slowly but surely dismantling. We attached our movable pen to the end and made a pen for them to get out in during the day, doubling their space. They are very happy and doing their little chicken thing. They're all doing well and I'm relieved that they have a permanent place to do it in.
LAYING FLOCK: Our laying flock is very happy and very busy turning over the dirt as the work is done around the homestead now. The solar dryer is in use and they use the shade. Julius has claimed all the ladies and he jealously guards the flock. Terrence shows his loyalty by standing guard and wooing the ladies when Julius isn't looking. Feathers do fly when Julius catches on!
Henrietta is laying her every-other-day egg now and they are huge and rich. I include them in all frittatas and scrambled egg dishes I make and I put them in the cake Boyo #3 made with me yesterday. The men kick up lots of tasty bugs and worms and the poultry are very happy to scratch through that debris. We don’t let them out all day – they would be very destructive to the new garden beds if left to their own devices.
GARDEN BEDS: So the Boyos, along with Darlin’ Roger, have been completing my dream of the market garden. They’ve filled the beds with the soil/compost mix, covered those beds with cover clothes and are building trellis’ for the tomatoes right now. It’s perfectly imperfect and I love them for it.
When all was said and done, the boyos went up into our woods and harvested saplings, thinning out some of the dense underbrush we had. You can't even tell they removed a single tree! The trellis they created is very sturdy and just lovely. Can't wait to see the tomatoes climbing their ropes. Last year's sprawling tomato mess was a bit much for my taste.
HUGELKULTURE BED: It took a lot of back breaking effort but the Hugelkulture bed is completed and mellowing under shade cloth. Enjoy this photo series of how they were built. The teen boyos are sore .. they’ve never worked this hard before but it is also satisfying to build something with your hands and to be proud of your endeavor. They will have something to tell their own children forever about what they did during the worst of times.
The trench is about 2 1/2 feet deep. About 9" down, they hit clay. We'll use the clay in the chicken pen to shore up a washout. Then they filled the trench with the rotting logs. It was time to clean out the chicken coop and so the contents of the coop went over these logs and then a layer of leaf mould from the forest and the sod replaced upside down on top of that. Over all of that was heaped a couple of loads of compost.
We’ll be planting sprawling plants there like melons and squashes, along with a variety of herbs and flowers. I'm proud of the boyos, this was a hard job but they did it well.
BEEHIVE CHECK: We’ve opened our beehives to take off the winter ‘quilts’ – the boxes that keep the moisture in the hives low over the winter and to feed them with a sugar block. Both hives had eaten all of their ten pounds of sugar. The quilts are the unpainted part in the photo below.
Both Buttercup and Bluebell are thriving – building new comb, some drone, lots of capped newbees and lots of burr comb. We remove that burr comb to make inspecting the hives easier on us and less stressful for the bees. We should have opened the hives a little earlier but we’re still learning what we’re doing. We put on the honey supers, though and here’s hoping for a honey harvest in July.
Why do we name our hives? We name the queens. A beehive can be thought of as being a single “whole” made up of lots of .. in fact .. some 60,000 or more parts. Each part plays a role in the hive. Each hive is dependent on all of it’s parts, and so it is a single entity – and so gets a singular name. We were not stung this time and that is something that I am very grateful for. Roger has duct tape over his jeans in strategic worn places. The hive will protect itself!
MARKET SHARES & MARKET BASKETS Our seedlings are coming along very well, now and we have orders for seedlings. We'll be delivering potted plants at the end of April for folks wanting to start their own Victory Gardens. There is a limited number available so if you want in on this, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to put in an order or to find out what is available.
Plans are coming along with the CSA shares, too. No one signed up for the CSA this year and while we are disappointed, we are planting out the gardens as if they had. We’re going to be offering weekly garden baskets, on a week to week basis, delivered contact free to our customers and paid through the internet. We’ll do deliveries only one day a week but the produce will be the freshest we can provide, and as always, no pesticides or herbicides are used here, so you don’t have to worry.
If you live in S. St. Louis, MO and points south to N. Jefferson County and you’d like to get on the list for a market basket delivery, starting the middle of May, just email me at email@example.com. I’ll ask you nosy questions as to where you live and what you like to eat and get you set up!
I'd love to hear about what you are doing in your garden this year. Please leave a comment and I'll leave you with this beautiful photo of the upper meadow in bloom. Stay Home and Stay Safe.