Like most everyone else, we've been hunkering down at home and doing our best not to catch and spread COVID-19 in our community. Daily phone calls and texts with family and friends are a lifeline and help us stay connected. My sister reminded me yesterday that I was overdue in posting a farm update - so here it is!
We've been spending a significant amount of time working in the yard and garden -- an activity that just about everyone I know has been indulging in as well. Right now across the country, I have a feeling that perhaps a few million people have planted vegetable seeds and have been spending time baking bread and other treats, too. Something about this time we are in has caused my family to want to listen to jazz and swing music, especially from the 1920s through 1940s. Take a listen! I am feeling a strong connection to the past, to my grandmother's and great grandmother's eras. While listening, I like to imagine how often this music played in our 1940s house, at first on radio and later on a record player.
Let's talk about our Victory Garden! A friend who planted in our garden comes by regularly to tend to her space and of course we obey all rules of social distancing during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are both careful to stay at least 6 feet away while tending to different garden rows. We're also mindful about how we may touch shared resources, such as the gate, water spigot and hose. With care taken in how we go about it, I will say that it's wonderful having her join us out in the garden and seeing what she plans to grow. She is planting several crops I've never tried to grow before but am very interested in: okra, ginger and eggplant. I'm eager to see her plants growing and to try out some of the harvest if they do well. She'll be able to harvest some of the produce I'm growing as well. I've got lettuce, spinach and radishes that are nearly ready - I've let her know to bring a salad bowl next time she is here! Why didn't we think of sharing a garden before? I've heard of community gardens, but never thought to offer up space in my own yard to a friend whose yard is mostly shade. Our family is lucky to have an immense area of full sun. Having a friend participate adds a whole new sense of joy to the world of gardening.
The new chicks and ducklings are growing -- the ducklings especially are going through a growth spurt and have doubled in size. One of the ducks is quite larger than the other two, which makes us wonder if perhaps it's a boy or something?
Here they are in a big blue bowl. Pretty soon we won't be able to carry them around in this bowl anymore. Maybe we can use the bowl as a little pool for them to sit in when it's warmer out and they are a bit older?
Sadly we lost one duckling on the second day. I think we brought the little birds home earlier than we might otherwise have, and so they sent us home with a weakened little one that wasn't going to make it anyhow. They came home as soon as they'd hatched, so they missed the shake-out period that they would have normally had in a farm supply store, where the store employees have the tough job of pulling out any that didn't survive the first couple days. Such is the experience of raising farm animals, so we try not to dwell too much on it. Another bit of sadness -- a few days ago we lost one of our originals, Henrietta Hen. She was almost 5 years old. We're not certain what caused her to become ill, but we are treating our flock of older chickens with Corid (amprolium) in case she had Coccidiosis, to make sure we don't lose any of the rest of the flock. So far so good. It does mean we won't be able to eat the eggs from our flock for about 2 weeks to cover the treatment period and a 10 day period afterward. Thankfully I had several dozen eggs in the fridge from them before this happened, but it does mean we won't be able to share eggs with friends for a bit.
In addition to working in the garden, we've been planting, pruning and modifying the yard. Here are a few snapshots to show how it's coming along...
An enormous flowerbed was created when we removed the towering laurel hedge from our front yard. In it's place, we now have a variety of herbs, bulbs and other flowering plants, most of which I was able to plant here by moving them out of the garden or from other areas in the yard.
There are so many rocks on our property! I gathered a few and put a pathway through the flowerbed into the yard.
We bought several varieties of heirloom crocosmia bulbs from Old House Gardens. The corms had to be soaked overnight, and so of course I go and dump all of them together into this glass bowl. Then after they soaked and I went to plant them, I realized that doing it this way I'd mixed them together, and they all look the same. Ooops. As the bulbs grow, we'll discover that the varieties are now all mixed together - there are white, red and orange flower varieties. I didn't plan that very well.
I found all of these pots out in the old milking shed, discarded there by the former owners. After cleaning them up, I decided to transplant all of my strawberries from the garden into the pots and set them by the front door. Last year the strawberries didn't do so well in our garden; they got choked out by weeds and eaten by slugs. So far, the strawberry plants are loving the pots and are growing like crazy. They all now have flowers and tiny strawberries forming.
This lovely magenta tulip was planted by the former owners. We've been here almost three years, and this is the first year we've seen it bloom. I've been watering this particular flowerbed regularly - almost daily, since it gets the full heat of the sun all day long here. I guess it just needed a little water to coax out the bloom!
More strawberries in a pot by the side door. I'm amazed at how many beautiful clay pots got left here for us.
And check out my tomato plants! They are growing in the Corral, which is our TV room. This window gets hot sun most of the day. I started these plants from seeds and then put them under lights, but now that they are bigger, they will have to make do with just the sun, since they no longer fit under the lights. I've also got hot peppers and flowers in little pots there in the window.
Alongside the house in the sunny section of the flowerbed I planted wheat. The wheat berries were some that I'd purchased from Bobs Red Mill - you know, the kind that are for eating. The package says that these can be sprouted, and they are actually the part of the wheat that you can plant. And so I planted about half of the bag of wheat berries out there. They are already sprouting. I've also got quinoa and wildflowers planted in that area.
The rhubarb has been doing fantastic and so we made rhubarb jam using Pomona's Pectin. Yum, it was so good, I had a hard time stopping myself from eating a whole jar of it. If spring had a flavor, I think it would be rhubarb.
My husband has refused to let me use the new riding mower. He says it is his therapy to mow the yard out in the sunshine. I don't mind, and he does seem to enjoy it. The grass has been growing so quickly that it needs to be mowed often.
My kombucha home brew has been fantastic. I had a batch the other day that fizzed up so much it looked like beer. The latest second fermentation that I did was with a syrup I invented and threw together on a whim, using powdered ginger and turmeric, along with sugar and water. After the syrup cooked down for a while, I let it cool and poured it into the bottles with the kombucha. The syrup added amazing flavor and caused the brew to become even more carbonated.
We also celebrated our daughter's birthday recently. Somehow we instinctively found ourselves putting the party hats on this way -- it just seemed to go with the times.