March 28, 2021

The Garden in March

Peach tree blooming in mid-March.

March. A totally unpredictable month in terms of weather. Some years it's warm, some years it's cold, but always, it seems to be windy and it rains. Our anticipated last frost isn't until mid-April, so, weather permitting, March is the month I finish the winter garden harvest, plant spring veggies, and work on preparing the beds for the summer garden.

Newly trellised asparagus and blackberry bed

The asparagus bed above was plagued for years with volunteer wild blackberries. Last year, I finally gave up and let them grow. I harvested quite a few, so it was a good decision. But since they sprawled, I thought a trellis would be useful. The first garden project of March was to put up the t-post and cattle panel trellis you see in the photo above.

My next project was to tackle the hoop house.

Weeding the hoop house

I have mixed feelings about the hoop house. I found that covered with greenhouse plastic, it would get too warm when we had mild, sunny winter days. But it didn't stay warm enough to protect tender warm weather plants. Plus, it added an additional watering chore. In summer, the raised beds dry out pretty quickly.

Working my way down the beds.

This year I've decided to try planting squash or melons in the hoop house beds. Another experiment.

In most of my winter garden beds, some of the plants are allowed to go to seed for collecting. In the photo below, turnips are blooming. 

Turnips blooming (for seed).

These are Tokinashi turnips, a new variety for me.

According to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, this was the variety that Fukuoka Masanobu grew. We really like them! The turnips are mild even when large, and the greens were tasty even as they were bolting. The greens had an interesting flavor. Almost honey flavored, but not sweet. No other way to explain it! It's a keeper.

Snow peas are coming up in the turnip bed.

Chickweed grows in that bed too, a favorite for salads and my homegrown goat mineral mix

Foraged chickweed.

Chickweed salad with kefir dressing and chopped pecans.

Other winter garden hangers-on include fava beans.

The favas had no problem with our freezing cold spells.

Last year, I started harvesting these in April. This year, I tried a different variety, Sweet Lorane. 

Loads of fava bean flower buds.

It's said to be lower in tannin, so there isn't a need to remove the inner pod. We'll see!

My strawberries are also starting to bloom. I don't have many plants left, so every berry is a treat.

Strawberry, garlic, and teeny baby lettuce.

I thought my Savoy cabbages would make it. Half of them survived the winter and started to grow, but then we got a streak of days topping 70°F (21°C) and they thought it was time to bolt!

Bolting savoy cabbages. Multiplier onions in this bed too.

I cut them down and sauteed them for dinner. Mild and tasty. They will likely send up seed shoots, so I'll collect some seed then.

Early spring planting includes trays of broccoli, more collards, some herbs, and lettuce, which will already be transplanted by the time this blog post publishes.

Jericho lettuce seedlings.

I also got an early start on my tomatoes, although I'm not impressed with the germination.

Tomato seedlings.

More experimental (for me) varieties: Black Krim and Eva Purple Ball. Both were described as being heat tolerant. I know it's said that tomatoes like heat, but they don't like too much heat, as evidenced by a drop in production in my garden every year when our heat cranks up to sweltering. 

So that's it for March. I'm happy to have gotten so much done. Next weekend, we're forecast to drop back down into freezing overnight temperatures! The weather has been so nice that I was tempted to get an early start on my warm weather veggies. I'll have to wait until mid-April when were out of danger of frost. I'm looking forward to that. 

End of month parting shot - 1st asparagus!

How about you? What going on in your garden?

March 25, 2021

Better Than Fig Newtons

Every year I can a lot of figs, but I dehydrate some too. I'm not much in the habit of using my dried foods and decided I need to remedy that. The other day, I researched recipes for homemade fig newtons that used dried figs. I ended up combining three recipes and the results were excellent! Here it is, so I can make it again.

Better Than Fig Newtons

Fig Filling:

  • 2 cups dried figs
  • 1¾ cup apple juice
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • ¼ cup sugar

Mix in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let sit until most of the liquid is absorbed and the figs are moist and plump.


  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • ½  cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and dry ingredients. Pat half of the dough into a greased 8" x 12" baking dish. Roll out the other half into an 8" x 12" rectangle. Spread fig mixture over bottom crust. Place top crust on top. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown. When cool, slice into squares.

Recipe Notes:

  • Orange juice is the "secret ingredient" that gives these that fig newton flavor.
  • Of course, you can substitute a different juice or use water to rehydrate the figs.
  • You can substitute your choice of flour.
  • And sweetener! Use what you like. 

We really liked these. I cut way back on the sweetener in the recipes because 1) so many cookie recipes are too sweet for our liking, and 2) the figs and fruit juices are already sweet. This was perfect. 

March 21, 2021

Taming the Wild Side

One thing I have learned over the years, is that just because I "tame" an area, doesn't mean it stays tamed. Gardens, for example. They can look neat and lovely at the beginning of the summer, but by the end of the season, the battle with the weeds has been lost, and you wonder if you can still find the tomato plants. I have the same problem with other areas, such as my herb beds, elderberries, rugosa roses, and forest garden hedgerows. Once a year these areas get tidied, and that's usually when I take pictures! After that, they seem a lost cause. 

I've often thought that if all I had to do was the garden, or my herb beds, or my hedgerows, then they'd be beautiful. They'd be perfect. As it is, I have many things to do: garden, goats, pasture, house, harvest, food preservation, and whatever projects we're working on. In reality, things gets done as best we can even though it doesn't often look like it.

Earlier this month, we were discussing where to plant some apple and quince trees that we bought. We decided on the front yard for the apple trees, but unfortunately, the best place would take quite a bit of work to conquer. There was also the question of an old pecan tree that shades both front yard and the top of the garden.

The top of the garden. There's a fence in there!

This thicket is marked "wind break" on our master plan. Here's what it looked like several years ago, when we fenced the garden.  

June 2014

For awhile I had my compost worm bed up there, and later a bed of comfrey. Occasionally, I would cut shrubs down to feed the goats, but over the years it grew into a wild mess.

March 2021

Ligustrum, seedling oaks, honeysuckle, wild roses, blackberries, saw briars, and poison ivy are part of the take over, along with things I haven't identified. And every year they creep out a little further toward the garden on one side of the fence and into the front yard on the other. 

As we discussed a plan, we had to ask what should be done about the old pecan tree. It never produces much in the way of pecans and shades part of the garden. It would shade any fruit trees we wanted to plant there too. The other thing about older trees, is that they become problematic if allowed to get too big. They need to be cut while the chain saw can manage them, and while the wood is still fairly healthy. Old rotted trees are dangerous trees, plus it's a waste of wood.

I cleared out the shrubs and undergrowth around the tree.

View from the garden.

Then, Dan took off the tree branches on the garden side of the tree. 

Felling trees can be unpredictable, so Dan removed
the weight on the side we didn't want it to fall toward.

The next day he took it down.

A good size for the chain saw and the wood is healthy.

Our front yard.

What a gap it left in the skyline! It makes us a little sad, actually.

However, it will be put to good use as firewood, and the branches will be chipped for mulch and smoker wood. We'll plant two new apple trees and a crabapple here, in the front yard. 

On the garden side, we're pulling roots to get ready to plant Chinese quince seedlings. 

Back on the garden side.

Two baby Chinese quince trees planted and mulching begun.

Chinese quince

Eventually, they will create a new treed skyline. Said to grow 15 to 20 feet in height, it will be a shorter treeline than the 50 to 60 foot pecan. For now, I'll continue covering the area with a cardboard/wood chip mulch. Either this fall or next spring, we'll sow a diverse ground cover here. Hopefully, this area won't revert back to the wild side too badly. 

March 17, 2021

Finishing Touches for the Buck Barn

The billy boys have moved into their new home! 

The bucks have an enclosed shelter, and Dan and
I have a covered area to work in and store things.

Things moved along pretty quickly once the rain catchment was in place. Here are the details on what it's taken to get it ready for the boys.

Grain feeders. Dan had been feeding them from pans on the ground, but they have a bad habit of running through them and knocking them over to see if the other goat got something better in his pan. The girls' feeder set-up works well, so Dan did something similar for the boys. 

Hay feeder. This one is also similar to the girls', except Dan made it one sided instead of double-sided.

The tray at the bottom catches the waste.

It's very easy to fill from the people side.

Jonah demonstrates how to use it.

Fencing. The last thing was the fence. We used part of the chicken yard for the new buck barn and yard, so we needed to fence it in.

Meowy eyeing the shelter roof from the post.

The line of t-posts was in place from an older edition of the chicken
yard. To simplify things, Dan used another t-post for corner bracing.

The other side. The rain tank is off limits, but the clean-out plug wasn't.

Of course, somebody had to rub on it, so Dan
used a bit of cattle panel to fence it off too.

View from the back, where the gate opens to pasture.

The boys' first inspection was, "well, this is nice, but can we go home now?" That only lasted a couple of days.

The only thing left to do is to paint the rain tank to protect the water from algae growth. That will happen soon, since the weather is starting to warm up. We also need to do re-do the chickens yard, so we don't have to walk through the chicken yard to get to the bucks. Also, we'll expand the chicken yard in another direction to make up for the ground they'll lose when we do that.

We planned to use the overhang for grain and hay storage, but right now we're observing rain and drainage patterns to make sure there aren't any problems with that. Other than that, having their housing closer makes it so much easier to do chores!

March 14, 2021

Nova Releases the Hostages

How's that for an attention grabbing blog post title?


All day last Thursday, Nova stayed close to the barn. She was three days from her due date, so I kept an eye on her. She didn't really act like she was in labor, but even so, that evening, I put her in the kidding stall.
Thursday night.

This was her first kidding, so not only did she not know what was going on, but I didn't quite know how to read her. I stayed with her until late and then continued to check on her frequently. Around 4 a.m. she was restless, up and down, and with a far-off look in her eye, seemingly concentrating on something. Finally, around 7 a.m. she started to push.

The first one was large, and this being her first, Nova was tight. After a lot of her hollering and pushing, and my pulling, a baby girl was born.

Nova's first.

The first thing I do with a newly born kid is to wipe the membranes out of its nose and mouth. Then I stick it under its mother's nose. Mom takes over from there. However, Nova wanted nothing to do with this small squawking object that had caused her so much stress. I rubbed some of the goo onto her nose, and once she figured out it smelled and tasted pretty good, she started licking like crazy. Baby number two was smaller and followed quickly afterward.

Also a girl!

About half an hour old.

About an hour old

The little black was first.

And this is her sister.

Both little girls were quick to figure out how to get milk.

One day old and ready to explore the world.

So, that's it for spring kidding. My final count is 4 girls and 1 boy. I'm very happy with that. Everybody's healthy and Nova is a very good mama. I have a lot to be thankful for. 

March 11, 2021

Outdoor Laundry Day

Awhile back, I showed you the outdoor laundry center we set up in the newly revamped carport. But I've realized that I never showed you how we use it. I had some nice weather recently and took some pictures. 

We have a two-tub system. The stand accommodates a wringer too.

Dan set up a tank to collect rainwater from
the carport roof, just for doing laundry.

I've switched from using a liquid detergent to soap nuts. I found
boxes of them for $5 each at a local Ollie's. I really like them.

I'm leisurely about doing laundry outside. I give it long soaks
and use my breathing plunger from time to time in between.

Wringing from the dirty wash water into the rinse water.

The clothesline is conveniently right behind the carport.

My clothesline will hold two tub loads. If I wash the cleanest stuff first, the water in the tubs can be reused for the dirtier load. I like that. When I'm done, I drain the water via a garden hose to nearby plants or trees.

Dan added a hose bib to each tub.

Clean, fresh, and folded.