To Seed or Not To Seed, PoMDs, and The Ugly Duckling-Flower-Tree-Thingie …

… That is the Question

Actually, that is not quite right. That heading should be something more like “To sow indoors, or to sow outdoors, that is the question.” Permit me to provide a little context for those of you that are telepathically-impaired. We are at the tail end of ordering this year’s seeds and it by far dwarfs what we planted last year. This coming spring will mark significant changes for Brambleshire.
Our seed list:
Peas, Bush Beans, Broccoli, Lettuce (Iceberg, Summer Crisp, Wild Mix), Summer Squash, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Bell Peppers (Green, Yellow, Orange, Red), Hot Peppers (Jalapeño, Serrano, Poblano), Celery, Parsnip, Corn (Sweet, Dry, Pop), Tomato (Red, Heirloom), Cabbage, Carrot, Onion (Green, Red, Yellow), Brussels Sprouts, Spinach, Watermelons, Pumpkin (Giant, Jack O’Lantern), Sage, Basil, Feverfew, Bee Balm, Mint, Hyssop, Lemon Balm, Valerian, Phlox, Marigold, Sunflower (Tall, Dwarf), Wild Flowers, Cosmos, Verbena, Zinnia.

Plethora of seeds ... or ... what constitutes a plethora for our little farm.

Plethora of seeds … or … what constitutes a plethora for our little farm.


Over the coming weeks we will sow many of these indoors, others will get directly sown outdoors. Figuring out which sowing process is best for each variety has been and still is quite the endeavor. We also have some items on order that will not arrive until spring, including blackberry bushes, strawberry plants, rhubarb, clematis, and wisteria.

Pumpkins of Mass Destruction (PoMD) …

Last year we waited too late in the season to plant pumpkin. Therefore, in an effort to make up for the lack of pumpkindom last year, we have decided to plant two different varieties, a standard Jack O’Lantern and a gargantuan pumpkin variety called Dill’s Atlantic Giant or what I am affectionately naming Pumpkin of Mass Destruction. The label says an average size is 200-300 pounds, however, sizes in excess of 1,000 pounds is attainable. So with that said, this pumpkin will get its very own patch. (The Great Pumpkin will be SO jealous!)

… Becoming a Beautiful Swan … err … Mock Orange

One of the items that was (please do the double finger-quote sign!) “supposed” (this concludes the interactive portion of our blog.) to arrive in the spring. Instead our little bundle of joy arrived a few months early. What can I say? Some guys just can’t hold their Philadelphus coronarius. So, our mission, should we choose to accept it, and since it is paid for, I am pretty sure we will, is to keep this little fella alive until spring.

Frankentree

Frankentree

For a parting thought, I leave you with this: Consider growing something this year, anything will do. A small house plant, herb garden, or a small potted flower. Or think outside of the box: grow a beard, grow some toe fungus, grow mold in the refrigerator, or even grow tired of reading this blog. The important thing is to contribute to society in some meaningful way … and … world peace.

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Adventures in Apiaries, Ketching-up, The Great Flood, and Flippin’ the Bird

Location, Location, Location …

… it is all about location. Access to the southern sky for sunlight in the winter, access to the east so the morning sun will encourage an early start to the day, a proper windbreak to prevent a deep freeze in the winter, access to a water source, and somewhere relatively quiet. Who is this dreamy real estate for? Why her majesties and about 100,000 of their subjects of course! Well, about 20,000 subjects upon arrival. For those of you still in the dark, I am talking about Apis mellifera or also known as our friend, the honey bee. I spent the last week clearing, in part, the area that will host the apiary. We have yet to come up with a clever name for the area and will entertain any and all suggestions. Here is a preview of the girl’s new home:

In the foreground is the start of our orchard, two apple and two pear trees, with at least six more to come. The apiary will go further out next to the fence line.

In the foreground is the start of our orchard, two apple and two pear trees, with at least six more to come. The apiary will go further out next to the fence line.

As you can see, we still have quite a few (sarcastic understatement) Russian Thistles to remove. Once that is complete, we will install the hive stand, shown below. We are still in the process of designing the windbreak and flowerbeds.

That's right, I opted for Old School pencil and paper!

That’s right, I opted for Old School pencil and paper!

Ketchup … Delicious Condiment or The Act of Making Current …

… To be perfectly honest, I just used the word Ketchup because I am tired and could not come up with a good heading for the blog (because apparently “Ketchup” is the epitome of literary mastery). Anyways, I thought I would post a little something each blog entry to catch everyone up on what we have been doing over the past year. In this episode, we will examine the process of turning a dilapidated dog pen into a new wood shed. However, for the sake of brevity (and because … well … I am lazy) I will just cut to the chase and show you the finished product. We basically just constructed an A-frame roof on top of the chain-link fencing and covered it with a tarp to protect the firewood (which has yet to make an appearance in spite of the repeated sacrifices that have been made to the local firewood deity).

I struggled with tearing it down and building something from scratch, but decided recycling something old was better.

I struggled with tearing it down and building something from scratch, but decided recycling something old was better.

Washed Clean by the Flood of Thirteen …

… Last September, for those of you that missed it, Colorado experienced some serious flooding that put most of the property under water.

About two and a half feet of water.

About two and a half feet of water.

Including our garden that we had built the previous spring. Not only were all the crops destroyed, but all the work we did with mulching the paths between the beds, etc. was wiped out. So I thought I would post a “before” picture of the garden prior to fixing it back up.

Our poor garden.

Our poor garden.

Over the next few weeks we will be rebuilding the garden, adding four new raised beds, amending the four existing raised beds, and making space for corn, pumpkins and melons. Once we start sowing some of our seeds indoors over the coming weeks, I post a complete list of what we are planting this year.

The Bird is SO Fowl …

I know, I know … really bad … sorry. It is late and have been working on a paper about honey bees for school over the last week and my brain just refuses to sling adroit, sprightly prose as is typical of my, if I may, beautiful mind. And when I say beautiful, I mean in a high-strung, OCD, brilliant if not bitchy manner … but I digress. Yesterday I noticed quite a few of the roofing panels on the existing, ramshackle birdhouse, were missing. Being the great humanitarian that I am and to disabuse any ill-gotten notions that I am in fact an avian slumlord that flips birdhouses for profit, I decided to give my fine-feathered friends a new roof.

Not terrible for a 15 minute fix.

Not terrible for a 15 minute fix.

We actually still intend to install some of our own birdhouses to the property, since they do indeed help with the grasshopper plague, which is just a few, short months away.

I will endeavor to author something a bit more arresting and tantalizing for the next blog entry. And in case you are wondering, no, that doesn’t put place any real pressure on me. If nothing presents itself to write about, I will just make stuff up, like I normally do. 🙂

Posted in Bees, Birds, Farm, Garden, Orchard | Leave a comment

I thought I did, but I didn’t … you thought you did, but you didn’t … and of course, they thought they did and almost did …

I really thought I did …

… understand how much you needed me. How you laid awake during the darkest hours of the night dreaming of me. Every day you greeted the dawn, longing for the caress of my words. I foolishly believed that I comprehended to the fullest extent the depths of your desire. How you waited with bated breath for my thoughts to be poured into you, the thoughts that would give you meaning, that would give you life.

What I really want to say, my Dearest, my Brambleshire Farm Blog, is that I am very sorry for neglecting you. Things are going to be different from now on, I promise! From now until perpetuity, I will spend quality time with you. Nothing shall stand in the way of our love! (Disclaimer: Keith Harrison shall be not be now nor ever, be held liable for breaking the aforementioned promise under the following; included but not limited to … if I am busy, tired, hungry, spill Diet Coke on my keyboard, sleeping, un-clogging a toilet, shucking corn, Skybeam has yet ANOTHER Internet outage, fixing the fence, hiving bees, putting lotion on, clipping my nails, or if I am bitten by a vampire, zombie, or other undead denizens of the underworld.)

Note: For the full-context of my hypocrisy, read Wake, waking, and waken … errr … woken …

You really thought …

… we were going to start with chickens, didn’t you? Yes, I drilled that into you. Yes, I said we were working on chicken coop plans. And yes, I lied. What can I say? All the other cool third world farmers around me have chickens and I really wanted to fit in at this year’s Fort Lupton Spring-Thaw Hoedown (disclaimer: there is no official Fort Lupton Spring-Thaw Hoedown … I lied about that too.)

Actually, we decided to put off chickens for a little while, perhaps the fall. So we made the next logical step … honeybees, A.K.A honey bees, A.K.A. honey-bees, A.K.A. “the girls” (disclaimer: the males, A.K.A drones, A.K.A. lazy bastards don’t really contribute much to the hive and any real life correlations that the audience derives from this posting does not reflect the opinion of the author and in no way resembles real life … uhmm … copyright 2014 … postmortem … Reductio Ad Absurdum … etc.)

What’s that? The proof? How dare you! Yes, I know I have been unreliable in the past. Fine. Here:

Houzes for my ladies and such.

Houzes for my ladies and such.

The girls are on order (never thought I would EVER type THAT on the Internet … what will the NSA think??) and should arrive near the end of April. How many girls (teehee) did I order? About 24,000 – 30,000. To quote the great Leonard Hofstedter “That’s right, you saw what you saw. That’s how we roll in the Shire!”

They really … almost did …

… die. The dogs that is. The other weekend, I was out chopping wood, cause, that is what I do and the dogs were running around like psychotic, inebriated leprechauns … on crack. As I am making a trip back to the wood pile I notice a large bird flying overhead, which isn’t unusual at all out here. At first, I thought I was our resident hawk, Pierce, lovingly named after Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce from the lovable and endearing TV series, M.A.S.H.. Get it? You see, the bird is a “hawk” and “Hawkeye’s” last name is “Pierce” … funny right? right? … never mind … I digress. After studying the alleged, and may I say, hilariously named hawk, I quickly came to the conclusion that it was not Pierce and point in fact, not a hawk all. It was a friggin’ Bald Eagle. Now, we see Bald Eagles quite a bit when driving through the county, but I have never before spotted one around the farm. So I watched said eagle for a moment, he circled, then dove down to a field to the north. Sweet! Eagle 1, Prairie Dogs 0. A few minutes later, the eagle, approaching low from the north (under radar apparently) rose sharply from behind the garage, WITH its mate!! They landed in the dead tree directly above the pups and me! Their wingspans were ridiculous, intimidating and majestic. I starting shouting, waving my arms and calling the dogs. After a few seconds (hours) of tachycardia and heart palpitations, the eagles dispersed, due, in no small part, to the aforementioned arm waving. No harm, no fowl. Oh yes, I did! Needless to say, the dogs almost died. Well they did!

Yes, not much of a summary for the last (missing) year. I will try to catch every one up over the next few weeks …. if I ever decide to post again, that is.

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Hee Haw, Seedling Solidarity, and Forbidden Love

Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me …

Deep, dark depression, excessive misery!

Deena flew out yesterday for job training … THREE WEEKS worth. And while I completely support her in her new job, I miss her already. The house and the farm are no where near the same without her and these three weeks cannot pass by fast enough. I really am lost without her. But with the last frost date fast approaching, there is a Metric Ton (which is actually equal to 2204.62 pounds. I could have used just a regular Ton [2,000 pounds] but it doesn’t sound as cool) to be done around here.

Seeds of the world … unite!

Deena and I decided to start some of our seeds indoors, especially with the weather still crazy here in good Ole Colorado! Today will be almost 80 degrees, Wednesday in the mid-30s with a chance of snow … LOL!

So, Friday night we laid out and prepped our handy seed-tray-thingies (farm talk) and got some of our seeds started, albeit a little late in the season.

Seeds

Tiny seeds … lettuce or onion … don’t ask …

Super Fancy Sowing Tool

Super Fancy Sowing Tool

We planted some tomatos (mostly heirlooms), onions (some heirlooms), lettuces, peppers, sweet basil, and celery. These seemed the best ones to start indoors. We have a lot more to direct sow in several weeks, once I get the garden completed …. or …. started as it were. Yeah, pics on that coming once I start that eye gouging adventure … should be pretty comical.

 

For the seed trays we used Jiffy Professional Greenhouse Kits with their peat soil plugs that puff up once you add a little warm water. Then just sow your seeds, label, and cover with the clear plastic lid. Next year we may make our own. A highly and skillfully modified artisan plastic fork, serves as a great tool for sowing the seeds.

Awww ... they are SO cute at this age!

Awww … they are SO cute at this age!

 

We have 5 trays of 36 pellets each. The lettuce is already sprouting and starting to punch through, so we have propped the lids open and soon those trays are destined for some early morning sunlight in a few days.

The tomatoes and peppers seem to want a bit warmer environment to get started, so I have those trays in our office, where our PCs put out more than enough heat to make that room fairly toasty.

We are using a small spray bottle to keep things from drying out.

And Finally … Tragic Love …

One of the neighbor’s horses, Corey, likes to come by for a visit and a rogue carrot now and then. Piper, our feisty and slightly mentally disturbed Chaweenie LOVES, LOVES, LOVES Corey. I mean … serious heartache, won’t stop texting, we-will-always-be-together-forever-because-if-you-ran-away-I-would-find-you LOVE. You know, the creepy kind. I really do try to let our children walk their own path and love them no matter what, but this is pushing it.

DSC_0048

Yeah … busted!

Posted in Dogs, Farm, Garden, Horses, Planting, Spring, Tragic Love | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inspiration, Flakiness, and Hawt Chicks

My Muse …

Leonardo had Mona Lisa, John Denver had The Rocky Mountains, Francis Scott Key had the Battle of Baltimore and Fort McHenry. Me? I have stress and aggravation. I know what you are thinking … awesome! Right? I mean, at least it is self-sustaining, which is what homesteading is all about! What if Mr. Denver was in the middle of writing Rocky Mountain High and the mountains fell over? Yeah, exactly … that is the kind of trouble you just don’t borrow!

Flaky, flakes …

Ok Colorado … you made your point …

After last week’s snow and subsequent thaw, I thought … I hoped … nay, I dreamt of a day that I could begin staking out the summer garden, plan where those durn’d chickens would live, and perhaps, just perhaps, work out that whole time travel thing.

And it sort of happened … without the time travel thing. Once we determined the soil was indeed dry enough, and not soupy, Deena and I slapped on our boots, stepped out onto the decimated and slightly soggy landscape, went out to make history, and began staking out (literally) the future vegetable garden. Was it really history in the making? I thought so. I even started a Wiki page on Wikipedia, concerning my awesome contributions to the world (you’re welcome by the way). Well, needless to say that didn’t go so well. (I think I fell somewhere between items #29 and #30)

However, I digress … in short, we did a lot of walking on the property, trying to determine where the Orchard, Chickens, Bees, Goats, etc. will go. We decided the middle of the property for the chicken coop (more on this later), for protections sake, and wanted to ensure that the garden(s) would be close by, since the chickens will free range in the off-season garden. (More on this in another post).

So, we staked out the area:

Staking the Garden, Day 1.

Staking the Garden, Day 1.

Two days later?

garden2

Doh!

O’ ye foolish mortals! Don’t get me wrong, we need the moisture … but I am already horribly behind in ramping things up around here. /sigh

O’ how I LOVE chicks …

Actually, I love chickens and eggs, the cooked variety. I have no idea if I am going to like live ones. Normally when I meet a chicken, it has just finished tanning itself in our oven at 350 for one hour, and is splayed out seductively on a smokin’ hawt bed of sticky rice, beckoning me to come and play, with my truest friends, Fork and Knife. But the live ones, well, they kind of freak me out with those beady, accusing chicken eyes, that seem to say “Yeah, I know you have eaten my family and friends [poor Nana chicken, God rest her soul] but not me puny human, not me!”. They also have a whole list of needs that I know nothing about. Yes, there are books and I have mostly read them, well, some of them … two of them … but still … freaky.

However, we are forging on. So we are in the process of designing the coop (apparently that is chicken speak for “chicken house” … we can’t just say “chicken house” cause all the other homesteaders snicker at you and throw worm poo, called “castings”, at you. So weird.) and trust me, there are all kinds of things you have to consider for the coop.

(DISCLAIMER: I have read that the coop isn’t that hard, but for me, the kid who had to draw up floor plans to rearrange his bedroom as a teenager, I assure you, it is a big deal.)

We are also looking at the various breeds, taking into account where we live, our needs (layers first we think), hardiness and temperament, cause we definitely don’t need any grouchy chickens running around spouting hurtful words. Ridiculous. We will definitely post something more concerning the chicks, once we get closer to acquiring them.

In conclusion …

Yes, I am stressed. Combing through our seeds and ordering more, determining what gets started indoors, what gets directly sown, the size of the beds, their design, testing our soil, what we will amend the soil with, etc. I hope next year I look back at this time and shake my head at stressing over these things. I mean, there is a lesson here … wisdom dictates that this is supposed to be a fun experience, that the journey, and not the destination, is what counts …….. but since I don’t subscribe to such hokum and nonsense, I see a LOT of stress in my future.  🙂

Posted in Chickens, Farm, Garden, Spring | Leave a comment

Still going …

Well it looks like the weather is going to make my point about our Colorado spring … currently at 10 inches right now and we are expecting the snow to continue through out the night. I just finished digging a trench to the yard and then clearing a section of it for the pups. Will have another update tomorrow morning.

Watching snow fall is SO exciting … take that drying paint!

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Wake, waking, and waken … errr … woken …

Yes, I know.

We don’t call, we don’t write … and you have been worried sick.

I get it. I do. Really.

I could bore you with all the tedious and sordid details of why I have not posted over the last five months … why I was called away to a little known magical kingdom … why I was the only hope of those poor, lost people … why I have a new nickname … why my hair is now growing out of control … why I now have, and rightly so, a day named after me and why I am the proud new owner of a pretty damned cute tiara, which doesn’t quite fit … not that I have tried it on or anything.

No. I won’t bother you with that particular tale.

Instead I will regale you with the happenings of “the farm”. Why the quotes? (Go ahead, do the quotes symbol with your fingers, you know you want to ………. I will wait.) To be perfectly honest, it really doesn’t resemble a farm. Yet. But we have continued to use the moniker for the sole purpose of speaking into existence, something that doesn’t exist. Yet.

So …

“The farm” (fingers please) is starting the slow process of waking from its long winter slumber. Patches of grass and fern are dotting the landscape with a deep green, song birds are chirping and chattering away as they go about their bird business (not sure what that is, but it sounds important), and the land starts to beckon to be plowed and planted.

Typical Spring here in Colorado is a bit of a roller coaster ride … 70 degrees one day, single digits and 14 inches of snow the next day. Today we were scoured by 50 MPH winds, all the while being bathed in the sumptuous and exotic aroma that is the local dairy. Good times. The winds are the harbinger of yet another Winter/Spring storm … which is a good thing, since we desperately need the moisture.

It is hard to believe that half of April has already past and the list of chores and prep work we need to do seems to grow daily. Our last frost date is about the 10th of May, which is when we want to get the plantin’ done. (That’s right, I said plantin’ … and that is what we call “farm cred”).

We don’t think we will be ready for Bees this year, which was a tough decision to come to, but definitely the right one. We are considering adding a small fleet of chickens to help combat the coming Grasshopper plague. I will of course train and equip all of the chickens myself … I think a small team will be best … 4 or 5 of the most capable chickens in the county should be fine to start. Although finding teeny-tinny black nit caps has proven to be problematic. I am sure it is discriminatory and I am planning on a class action suit in the future.

We will document the whole process so everyone can share in our victories, our failures, and if appropriate, and I assure it will be VERY appropriate, make fun of us by utilizing the time honored “Nanner, nanner” for our rookie mistakes … then again … it’s me, so there won’t be any mistakes.

Sooooo … that isn’t much of a “catch up” … but it will have to do for now.

Should I happen to get the tiara to fit, you will be the first to know … I promise.

 

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