June 28, 2022

Garden Notes: June 2022

Oh my. The month has flown by. I need to get my June garden post up before July gets here!
 
June rainfall
  •  3rd: 0.25"
  •  9th: 0.5"
  • 16th: 1.125"
  • 27th: 0.25"
  • Total: 2.125"
Temperature
  • nighttime range: 58-80°F (14.4-26.6°C)
  • daytime range: 80-100°F (26.6-37.7°C)

Tasks

Things I'm trying to get done before picking and preserving take all my time. 

Tying up tomato plants.

We must have 50+ cherry tomato volunteer plants. 

Mulching. I have a pretty good routine for this.

Afternoons are mulch gathering time because I can do it n the shade.

Early the following morning. I work on mulching my garden beds.

Ideally, I think mulching should be done right after a rain, to prevent the moisture from quickly evaporating out of the ground. With no rain, I water the bed thoroughly before putting down mulch.

After I finish with the beds, I need to re-do the wood chip mulch in the aisles, if I have time.

Harvesting, Preserving, and Eating

Strawberries, red raspberries, and mulberries

Mulberry pancakes

Multiplier onions

Garlic

Potatoes

Volunteer lamb's quarter

Lamb's quarter

Lamb's quarter

The lettuce started to bolt earlier this month, but I
find that Jericho doesn't get terribly bitter, even then.

Landrace cucumbers and Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes.

What are landrace cucumbers? They are my experiment to develop a locally adapted yet genetically diverse variety of cucumber for my garden.

So far, the cucumbers are growing very well and producing tasty cucumbers.

Lots of flowers hopefully means lots of cukes. That's
good, because I need to can pickles & relish this year.


100% homegrown salad, even the salad dressing! (Recipe here.)

Seed saving

So far, I've collected seed from:
  • Collards
  • Kale
  • Edible pod peas
  • Garlic (bulbils)
One thing I don't want to cross-pollinate, is my lettuce. I have three types of lettuce growing: Jericho Romaine,  a ruffly loose leaf type, and wild lettuce. 

The loose leaf lettuce bolted in early June.
Jericho didn't start until a few weeks later.

As mentioned above, the variety I grow is Jericho, which is the most heat tolerant variety I've tried. I don't want it cross-pollinating because I don't want to lose that. According to Joseph Lofthouse in his Landrace Gardening: Food Security through Biodiversity and Promiscuous Pollination, lettuce doesn't easily cross-pollinate. It still can, however, so to keep my strain pure, I took measures to prevent it.

Jericho lettuce. Flower heads covered to prevent cross-pollination.

I covered the flowering heads with the mesh bags I got to keep the birds from eating all my elderberries. Time will tell if this works!

Growing

Georgia Jet sweet potato vines and flower

Slicing tomatoes. Dan got four plants from a farmers market.

Chicory

Moonglow pears. 

Sweet potato winter squash in the foreground (speckled leaves).

Late planting (replanting/transplanting). 

Ordinarily, I try to have all my planting done by now. Summer for us is a season where the days are hot and rain can be elusive. The sooner I can get my plants established and mulched, the less watering I have to do. We did have to replant some things that made a poor showing: melons, corn, and sunflowers. I made a second planting of summer squash and cucumbers as well.

Also, I was late on getting my homegrown sweet potato slips in the ground. I finally finished that the other day. These were planted in the African keyhole garden.

I had two types to plant. My trusty Vardamans and some from
a purple sweet potato that I originally got from Misfits Market.

The kale is a lone survivor of our cold winter.

I wanted to protect the newly planted slips from wilting, so
I watered and covered with shade cloth. That helped a lot!

Okay, that was long. But I had a lot I wanted to make note of. How about you? How does your garden grow?

June 25, 2022

Tiny Turkey's New Friends

After the tragic loss of three of our four our turkey poults, we had to figure out what we could do for our one survivor. 

It was understandably stressed out, and spent the entire day calling, calling, and pacing back and forth. The logical solution seemed to be to contact the folks we got them from and see if they had more. Dan heard back, and they did. Could we get a few more? And then things got weird and they stopped responding to our emails. Problem? Glitch? Maybe we failed their turkey parenting test? We didn't know.

After communications came to a halt, I thought maybe best thing was to find a new home for our little guy. To give him to someone who had turkeys about the same age. I got a craigslist ad ready, and Dan contacted the Buff breeders again. The reply was prompt this time, and suggested that maybe we could meet somewhere in the middle to get the turkeys. Dan said okay, when? Silence again. Finally, an email came that evening asking if Dan could meet them that morning. Yes, that morning. He got the email hours after the suggested time, which points to the fact that computer communications are not always as instant and efficient as we assume they are. Dan replied that he just now got their email, and that was the last we heard from them.

I had wanted to stick with the same breed if possible because I liked them. But also, because they would be the same age and size, and hopefully, coming from the same breeder, there would be some sense of familiarity for our Tiny Turkey. But for whatever reason, we were hitting a dead end.We needed a Plan B because it was no good for our little guy to be so stressed out.

One thing that helped was a trick I learned from when we
had guinea fowl. A mirror! It gave him a "friend," and he
calmed down quite a bit, but it seemed to puzzle him as well.

Occasional visitors helped, but Tiny Turkey really missed his buddies.

Dan hit craigslist again and here's what he found.

Black turkey poults. They'll lose their white feathers in their first moult.

This is another heritage breed, known as Black, Spanish Black (because they were popular in Spain) or  Norfolk Black (because they were popular in England). They can be traced back to Europe in the 1500s, but I don't know when they were brought to the New World. The breed was admitted into the American Standard of Perfection in 1874 and are now on the Livestock Conservancy's threatened list. They are said to have friendly personalities, quick growth, and are tolerant of a large range of temperature conditions. Like all heritage breeds, they can breed and rear young naturally.

We put the new poults in the chicken tractor's coop, but left the door open. Tiny Turkey remained in the run. He panicked when I removed the mirror, so I tried to place it to entice him to go up the ramp and check out the coop.

Finally, he did and discovered that he was no longer alone. It didn't take long for his new friends to follow him out and into their new world.


The newcomers are still a little skittish, but I think Tiny Turkey will help them calm down and adjust. They're about the same age and size, so even though this didn't work out the way we thought, I think it worked out well.

We still have no idea of their sexes, so for that we'll have to wait and see! We're just hoping we don't have three toms! Dan's already making plans for when they outgrow the chicken tractor, which may be fairly soon as they are growing well. For now, though, everybody's happy and that's a relief.

June 21, 2022

Product Review: Luxear Cooling Blanket

I get quite a few requests to do product reviews, but I rarely do them. I think consumer reviews are a great tool, but usually the products have nothing to do with my lifestyle. However, when I was contacted about reviewing a Luxear Cooling Blanket, of course I said yes! Living without air conditioning means we are always looking for ways to stay cool in summer.

When the daytime highs get like this, it's
very difficult to cool off the house at night.

The blanket uses fiber technology developed by the Japanese. Called "Arc-Chill," it incorporates microscopic (nano) particles of jade into polyester thread to create passive thermal wicking. You can read the research paper about this technology here, the gist of it being that the amount of jade and thread twist create a range of cooling effects. According to the box, the Luxear blanket has a cooling effect (known as Q-max in the textile industry) that lowers body temperature by 3.6 - 9°F (2 - 5°C).

First impressions. The blanket is double layered with an arc-chill polyester top and arc-chill nylon bottom. It isn't at all bulky, but has just enough weight to it to feel comfortable. It's soft, smooth, silky, and cool to touch. I was very curious to try it.


Test result: IT WORKS! You can feel the cooling instantly, and unlike bamboo, this one continues its cooling magic all night long. To increase the cooling effect, a room fan can be used too.

It's easy care, just gentle wash and line dry. It comes in a choice of sizes and is affordably priced too. In fact, I was given a discount code to share with you all, to get an additional 10% off the sales price at Amazon. The page offers bamboo blankets as well, so be sure to choose the Ocean Blue pattern for the Arc-Chill fabric.

Link to purchase: Luxear Cooling Blanket
Discount code: S4VQDVXN

This blanket would be perfect for anyone who gets uncomfortably hot at night. Or for those of us trying to eliminate or cut back on our use of air conditioning. Anyone suffering from night sweats or hot flashes would appreciate one of these! Passive cooling makes it great for the off-gridder, for camping, or for stuffy nights when the power is out. They would make great gifts.

Can you tell I'm enthusiastic about this product? I'm genuinely pleased with ours and recommend it highly.

June 19, 2022

Sad News

Something dug it's way into our chicken tractor last night and killed three of our poults. We think it was a skunk. Regrouping at the moment. More soon.

Sad News © June 2022 by Leigh

June 17, 2022

The Turkey Poults are Growing Quickly

The turkey poults have outgrown their box in the house, but are still too small to turn loose in the duck turkey yard by themselves. Intermediate quarters were in order, so we decided to move them into the chicken tractor for awhile.

Dan's chicken tractor.





Dan has an extension for the chicken tractor that he can add to give them a little more leg room if they need it. Mostly they need to be large enough to be less of a target for skunks and 'possums, then we can move them into their new yard. 

June 11, 2022

What We Decided To Do With the Abandoned Duck Yard

In my last blog post, I showed you our new duck yard and told you why it was abandoned. In this blog post, I'm going to show you what we decided to do with it. It's going to be the future home of . . .

TURKEYS!

Those are four, 2-week-old Jersey Buff turkey poults. Dan has wanted turkeys ever since we first got chickens, but the conversation never got beyond where to put them. When he was saying building the duck yard was a waste of time, I suggested turkeys. We looked at our choices on craigslist and chose these.

Information on the breed isn't consistent from website to website. Apparently, the modern Buff turkey was developed in the 1940s; the original strain having been neglected to near extinction after it was used to develop the popular Bourbon Red. The original strain of Buff turkeys was accepted into the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection in 1874, but the modern strain isn't recognized. It is recognized by the Livestock Conservancy as a heritage breed, however, being listed on their watch list.

So, what makes it a heritage breed? According to the Livestock Conservancy, a heritage turkey can mate naturally, has a long outdoor productive lifespan, and a slow growth rate. These are exactly the traits that make heritage breeds perfect for homesteading.

Our new poults are still young enough to need a regular light bulb on, to keep warm. Once they finish feathering out, we'll relocate them to a small area in the duck yard turkey yard, and expand is as they grow. Hopefully, we've got at least one male and one female in the lot! Straight run ought to mean 50/50, but in our experience, it usually seems to favor males.

So, at long last, we have turkeys! Rather providential, and very welcome.

© June 2022 by Leigh at http://www.5acresandadream.com

June 8, 2022

Our New Muscovy Drake

Last November, we got some Muscovy ducks. Years before we'd had Muscovys and really like the breed. After a stray dog killed the last of them, we decided to wait until we could secure the yard, before getting more. Dan made a gate for the driveway and we made a nice area for them, next to the goat barn under our fig trees. Ultimately, the ducks preferred the chicken yard. And once there, there was no persuading them to stay in the spot we picked. They picked their own.

All was well until the drake became sick. We weren't sure what was wrong, but he was listless and didn't want to move around. Dan wanted to take him to the vet, but our usual livestock vet doesn't work on poultry. They recommended an exotic animal vet. Dan called, explained the problem, and was told they called back. They never did. Not wanting to see him suffer, Dan put him down.

Not having a drake left the two females open to attack by the chickens. In the past, we'd had squabbles between the two species, but the rooster and drake always protected their own and kept things under control. With their protector gone, the ducks were picked on by the chickens. One of them was jumped by several hens who pecked her eye out. Dan was fit to be tied and we almost had a mass chicken execution, but instead, he put the anger to constructive use and built a new duck yard. For Mrs. Duck, I had veterinary ophthalmic ointment on hand. We were able to treat it and prevent infection from setting in, but she's now blind in that eye.

We equipped the new duck yard with their house, grazing bed, water dish, and pool. Because it's adjacent to the chicken yard, hoped it would be acceptable. We figured they rejected the fig tree yard because it was isolated from the other birds. 

Well, we lured them in with chicken scratch and they gave it a thorough inspection. They seemed happy to see their house and pool, but after eating the scratch, they flew up to the chicken coop and returned to the chicken yard. We tried several times to persuade them that this was now home, but they weren't interested. One thing about critters, you can't make up their minds for them.

Well, I reasoned, maybe when we find a drake, we'll put him in the duck yard and they'll be willing to stay. When Dan finally found an adult drake on Craigslist, that's what we did. Dan transported him in our large dog carrier, which we placed it in the new yard. Then herded the two ladies in. They were excited to see him!



Then evening came. Would the ladies finally stay in the new duck yard? Nope. And not only that, Big Duck (we name all our drakes Big Duck) flew up to the chicken coop roof with them and followed them into the chicken yard! 

They showed him around and he seems to agree with them that this is home. 

The chickens are keeping a wary eye on Big Duck and run away whenever he waddles near. Since the three ducks move in a group, it looks like our two lady Muscovys will now be safe from chicken attacks. And the rooster will keep the ducks from pestering the chickens. What else can I say besides, "all's well that ends well."

Our New Muscovy Drake © June 2022

June 5, 2022

Summer Schedule

Summer is a busy season with longer days and more to do. It's also hotter! I find myself on a different work schedule than in spring, autumn, and winter.

The seasonal gist is that I try to get all my planting done before our summer dry spell. There's no way to predict this, of course, so I just have to be diligent and hope I get everything in the ground in time to get a couple of good spring rains. Hopefully, everything is growing by early summer, so I shift to mulching. My goal is to get everything deeply mulched before the harvest kicks into full gear. Once that starts, the only garden time I get is picking. The rest of the day is spent preparing, canning, drying, or freezing the harvest.

My daily schedule changes too. In winter, I do indoor stuff in the mornings, waiting to go outside until after it warms up. In summer, I'm out as early as possible to beat the heat. By about 9 or 9:30 a.m., the sun is too intense and too hot to work in. So, I switch to indoor tasks or projects I can do in the shade.

How about you? Do you change schedules according to the season?

Summer Schedule © June 2022

June 1, 2022

Our Agrarian Year: Summer Project List

I don't need the calendar to tell me it's summer! Highs in the low 90s and less rain are typical for summer here. We made really good progress on our spring project list, so there isn't much carry-over.


Most of the summer is taken up with routine summer activities.

Seasonal chores:
  • cheese making
  • mulching
  • fruit & vegetable harvest & preservation
  • wheat harvest & processing
  • keeping the public view of the house tidy (mowing)
  • firewood
  • pasture scything (for hay or green manure)
  • woodchip chipping
  • I'm sure there's something else!

Projects are fit in as time allows.
 
Projects in progress:
Projects under discussion:
  • Second pergola
  • Improve our water collection system
  • Masonry stove (living room)

That last one is a big one and will take some planning. Dan always likes to finish his current projects before starting something new, but hopefully, this one will be next. 

How about you? What summer projects do you have planned? Or maybe you're going to take the summer off and take it easy! Care to share?

May 28, 2022

Closing Out May With Pretty Pictures

At least, I hope they're pretty! Some of them have been double posted over at my photography blog for Rain's Thursday Art Date and my online photography course. Here they are, in random order, just for fun.

First red raspberries

Muscadines on pergola

Does and kids

California poppy in the garden swale berm

Snowpeas and strawberries

Asparagus flowers

Sky

Onion and turnip flowers

Sam

Peedee

Frog and water lily