Little Sprouts of All Sorts!

We are enjoying a beautiful, warm and sunny fall here including several days of record heat for October and two bouts of rain in the past two weeks (2 inches each) that have kept us hustling at times to accomplish our goals. We have welcomed the warm weather which has kept the threat of a frost at bay so far and has allowed us to move forward on several fronts. Here is an indication of the fall broccoli that is just now ‘heading’ and will be ready for the Thanksgiving Broccoli Pie  that we so hoped to repeat for this year’s Turkey Day table. Yummy!IMG_1066 2.JPGDave is continuing to bring in veggies from the fall planting – lettuce, spinach, turnips, radishes and Swiss chard – as well as those that have survived the long summer and are happily continuing to produce their fruits…such as eggplants! IMG_1073.JPGWhat a relief…the raised beds that we prepared for the strawberries have now been fully planted. The 400 Sure Crop variety of dry root plants FINALLY arrived from Stark just in the nick of time and we worked like crazy to get these planted before one of the recent bouts of rain.

Here is what a bundle of 25 dry root plants look like before we soak them in water for an hour in advance of planting. As I can attest, it only gets messier after this! The key is to place each dry root ‘plant’ at just the right level in the soil so that the roots are buried but the crown is midway at the soil level…half exposed and half under ground. If not positioned just right, the plants will either be too low to send shoots to the surface and die of smothering or if too high, they will heave up out of the soil with the winter freeze, exposing their roots and die of exposure. I only can hope that I adjusted this planting ‘just so’ and that these plants will thrive for the crop next year!img_0860There is not so much to admire at this point unless you are me…and you know that these minimally evident starts will quickly recover from their current status of dead looking roots, miraculously sprout green leaves within days and produce lively plants with large red berries next spring. Et, viola, the weather cooperated and we have sprouts galore!

IMG_1037.JPGSo yes, we are very blessed to get this extended fall weather to help accommodate the strawberry beds. We are giving them a chance to get well rooted and then will add the necessary straw covering for winter protection.

We have also begun to build more raised beds in the former strawberry patch to accommodate future veggies such as garlic and perennials which include asparagus and rhubarb to name a few. The need to establish these this fall is key since I will be planting the garlic in a few weeks – after the first frost – but the rest of the perennial veggies will wait until next spring. Here is Dave ready to deliver two of the 4′ x 10′ frames he built to the field. img_1034A quick progress photo midway in our efforts to set, level and bring in more compost, topsoil and sand to fill the forms before tilling all together to create lovely raised beds. img_1035We recently picked up 3 bales of straw at the Valley Park grain mill and two have been designated for the strawberries (stored in the barn) but I added one bale in the chicken coop, much to their delight! They were cautious at first but have loved pecking thru the bale which I scatter with seeds and treats of all sorts for them to find! IMG_0931.JPGEver eager to find more distractions for the chicks, I have also started sprouting grains for them. All summer long I provided them with greens that I cut from the surrounding overgrowth. They have loved the surplus of grapevines and honeysuckle but these sources are diminishing with the fall weather so I wanted to find a way to supplement their diet of greens during the winter. What could be richer in nutrients than sprouts??? I started with a recommended organic, hard red wheat grain which I was able to order on line in this package.  IMG_0879.JPGI bought a nested set of plastic containers to use as my sprouting trays and Dave kindly drilled small holes in the bottom of the top container so that I could keep the grain wet but well rinsed. img_0877I soaked the first package overnight in a bowl of water. Little would I know how much this small quantity would EXPAND!IMG_0880.JPGI then moved it all to the sprouting container where I would rinse it twice daily. What fun to see the beginning of little sprouts after the first day!IMG_0905.JPGI won’t bore you but each day the sprouts became more and more evident and grew quickly. Day 2 on the left…day 3 on the right…six days of sprouting in all!

My biggest surprise was around day 5 when I went to check on them and saw that although these were sprouting indoors (in the laundry room), they were graced by a lovely morning dew which was such a delight to observe!img_0991Are you bored yet? It was finally time to cut some of the sprouted material and send it off for the final inspection…would the chicks like it???IMG_1039.JPGYowser! YES! They love it!

The chicks will turn 19 weeks on Monday and we are still eagerly waiting for egg laying to begin…tick, tock, tick tock!  They still don’t seem very interested in the nest boxes but are otherwise quite healthy and happy as farmer Coulter can attest on his daily inspections.

We have also worked to keep Coulter highly entertained this fall. Check this out…we put his little swimming pool into the mudroom and much to his delight, filled it with corn (so much less messy than sand!) to make a little play station for him and his construction vehicles. He finds this highly entertaining and I’m hoping that his mom and dad aren’t tired of finding corn in all his clothes at bath time!  IMG_0985.JPGNow 18 months and full of energy and lots of vocabulary, he spent a low key Halloween as ‘Farmer Cal’, alternately pushing and riding on his John Deere tractor…

Of course he made a quick visit with Nana to Kathy B’s for some early trick or treating. He was a bit skeptical but enjoyed the plush toy cow that Kathy always has on hand for him.  img_1030A bit more comfortable at the farm, he giggles and laughs, showing his relaxed side!

I’m following several interesting stories on chickens and bees and hope you enjoy as well. Thanks to JBS chemistry teacher, Eric Knispel (who adopted the roosters) for sending this one about chickens and mosquitoes…check it out!.

And thanks to Kate for sending this very important news on the future of chicken sexing which we will be watching with great interest as we hope that the practice of eliminating males chicks evolves in the near future.

I will hope to have a bee update after this weekend but I am thinking the boy and the girl hive will probably get married (combined) this weekend in order to ensure the survival of at least one hive for next spring. I would combine them based on the fact that one has resources but no brood reserves and the other has brood reserves but less resources. Together, they will make a better ‘whole hive’ and perhaps together, have the best chance at surviving the winter. Another interesting article about bees here. Most European countries have outlawed the use of these neonicotinoids in their environment. We need to wake up to this reality too!

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