We finally got a weekend with unmitigated sun. Warm and glorious! So we broke in our new tiller, let the pullets out for some grazing, and invited the laying flock to follow-up in the garden after the tilling was done.
After a lot of research, we decided to invest in a Husqvarna tiller. We plan to use Kate for farm work like harrowing and manure-spreading, but given the small area we have under cultivation, this mechanical tiller is a good return on our dollars.
We mix composted manure & bedding, plus ash from the woodstove & fire pit, to help balance out the soil. There are also a few yards of sand in the mix to lighten up areas of heavy clay. After tilling we let the hens in to pick bugs out of the soil and to enjoy some fresh air. They really help keep the slugs and wireworms at bay.
After the hoophouse-destroying winds of the past winter, we’ve started experimenting with sturdier cold frames for windy-season growing. So far the spinach, lettuce and bok choi are happy and we are planning larger and more permanent cold frames for next winter.
We had some help with dinner in the form of Mark the Evil Quaker, a cheese aficionado if ever there was one.
Here’s a look at some newer parts of the garden, waiting to be tilled, looking south to north. The little hoop houses will be moved to the right of the tilled area (the potato patch) and planted with peppers and tomatoes. To the north of that, where pepper and maters were last year, will be some trial plantings of beans and peas from Bosnia (a gift from a friend & co-worker).
While prepping the garden for tilling we found a few survivors from last year – a carrot and onions. Kate made good use of the carrot, and the onion tops were part of tonight’s dinner. Amazing how certain veggies can hang on through all kinds of weather though. We finally harvested parsips planted summer 2011, and salvaged a few lettuce, spinach & chard plants too.
The laying flock spent a lot of time enjoying the dust bath facilities under the front fir grove.
The next couple of weeks should have most of our tilling done and our early season crops planted. We’re planting more beans, squash, corn & potatoes with our hens and pigs in mind, and researching an old-fashioned crop rotation method called the Norfolk four-course. With some modifications for our region, this system could mean better food and sustainability for us.
Coming up April 21st, we’re planning to attend the International Plowing Match in Lynden. Hopefully we can learn a few things to help us with Kate, and also to make a few connections with like-minded folk.