Zone 8 Update

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Apple blossoms!

We’ve seen sun and we’ve seen rain…typical spring weather around here. The nights are still a bit cool, but we shouldn’t see any more frost now that we’re into April in our Zone 8 garden. We’ve planted out all the cool season crops and, since it has been so wet, we are in our customary battle with the slugs and the snails. We’ve also planted the potatoes and onions. We’ll be transplanting out the tomatoes we’ve grown from seed as they are outgrowing the cold frame and the weather is mild. Since they’ve been hardened off for a few weeks and they are going into a pre-heated (we cover it with plastic for a week or two) raised bed, they should be just fine. We’ll have covers at the ready in case we get an under-forty-degrees evening. Here’s a photo update of what’s going on around the garden…

 

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The leaves on the grape vines are unfurling.

 

 

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The strawberry plants are starting to blossom.

 

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All three of our hops vines are up and growing. These come back stronger every year and this is our third year growing them.

 

The next month will be a busy one for us and the garden plants. We are embarking on the time of year when it seems everything grows inches every day! Between planting, weeding, mulching, and other garden chores, we have plenty to do!

Cherry Bomb!

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Last year,  just about this time, we lost our bigger cherry tree. The weather was much like it is right now–rainy and windy. Fortunately, we do have a second, smaller and younger, cherry tree in our front yard and this one is blossoming now.  We love the fluffy, promising, faintly pink blossoms and while it doesn’t rival our old one, it is something! We’re wondering if we won’t get a few more cherries on this little whipper snapper too?

Zone 8 Update

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Things are greening up around here and there can be no ignoring the signs of spring. Whether it’s primroses blooming, trees budding or young spring seedlings growing in the mud–the growing season is here! We thought you might like a little peek at what’s going on in the gardens as we head into mid-March:

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The peas we planted in mid-February are growing well now, sprouting up through the mud and leaves!

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This is some Kale we started inside and transplanted out into the garden beds. It’s growing along side some Curly Cress we planted from seed.

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The Bronze Fennel is up! While we do use the leaves and seeds from this plant, we grow it mostly for the honeybees as they absolutely love it when it is in bloom!

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The Currant bush is all a-blossom. This is one of the earliest bloomers of our fruit trees and bushes.

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The raspberry canes are waking up too!

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Broccoli seedlings are getting acclimated in the wet garden after spending some time in the cold frame.

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The Rhubarb is unfurling its stalks and leaves as well.

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This is Golden Celery we started from seed indoors. After hardening off in the cold frame, we planted it under plastic a couple weeks ago and now it is doing great!

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The garlic cloves we planted last October are taking off now that the mild spring weather is here.

It may not look like much, but after a cold, snowy, frigid winter, we are thrilled to see all the sprigs and leaves popping up all over the garden. We know that this cool, wet weather is just what plants like broccoli, cabbages, kale, and lettuces love.  Our main job now is to combat the slugs and snails and watch out for any hard freezes!

Mud!

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The hens don’t let muddy feet stop them from foraging for tasty morsels.

 

Living in the Pacific Northwest means coming to terms with one’s relationship with mud. The rains can go on for weeks and the gorgeous greens visitors exclaim over come at a price and that price is winter and spring slop. Sure, every year is different and last winter we were a little spoiled, this year–between snow, drizzle, and downpours, our little slice of the world here on Cedar Street, is sopped!

The pathway from the back door to the chicken coop is a slippery trail of mud, moss, and the straw we’ve taken to putting down to soak up some of that mud. The rain barrels (big, dark plastic garbage containers we use to collect rain water for garden use) are nearly full. We can’t even get from the front door to the car without coating our freshly cleaned boots in a nice muddy icing. While it is what it is–what it is, is wet!

In gardening books, raised beds are usually recommended for various reasons, but for us, drainage is a number one priority. In order to get those seeds in the ground now so that we can have lettuces, peas, and cabbages in April, we have to have beds that are not holding water. Fortunately, we’ve build our beds and added in lots of different organic humus–including compost, leaves, and straw. In the three years we’ve been here, our garden has gone from one herb bed, to more than a dozen worm-filled wonders of varying sizes.

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In order to get this in April, we have to brave the mud in February and March.

So, we put on our rubber boots, roll up our pants cuffs, and put on our rain hats. We can’t let the weather, nor the risk of slipping in the mud and falling on our backsides keep us from getting the garden in. Meanwhile, the chickens have learned how to wade through puddles and scratch through soppy leaf piles to find tasty worms and grubs and sprouts. We really have no choice. After all, a person has to plant where she’s planted!

Loss, Birth, Eggs, & Rain

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The past week or so has been quite the whirlwind of bittersweet nature around here. Sheesh! I suppose there are always the ups and downs of reality to deal with, but our attempts at urban farming bring us closer in sync with birth, death, seasons, science, and the random.  There may be reasons why a favorite fruit tree comes down in an ice storm, but why one and not the other? Why this year and not last?

We lost our bees in the last big storm–after nearly a foot of snow, then freezing ice, and then days of torrential rain–the colony succumbed. We noticed that there wasn’t any flying and buzzing action during the first sun break after the storm and, upon inspection, it looked like some dampness had gotten into the hive and the colony was no more. Needless to say, we were bummed. As Teri said, “We were doing so well!” There is a temptation to  give up and abandon an endeavor once one feels the pain of failure, but for us, that just wasn’t an option. We love being beekeepers and we knew we were beginners–now we’re challenged to learn more about beekeeping in a very damp winter environment. Teri embarked on cleaning out the hive and we’ve ordered a new colony and queen to be delivered in early April. We’re starting over.

As we were discovering the loss of our beloved honeybees, we were also in the midst of the hatching adventure. We turned our eggs, took copious notes, and hoped for a successful hatch. In the chicken-hatching world, 50% is considered a passable grade. We only had three chicks hatch on this first time out of the shoot. We cracked open every other egg to do an analysis of what might have happened. For us and farming, this is a learning experience and every situation is an attempt to gather knowledge and prepare for a better outcome later. We remind ourselves that a mother hen does not fuss over the eggs that didn’t hatch, but turns her attention to caring for the ones that do and that is what we must do too; it’s nature’s way.

As if this wasn’t enough to keep two middle-aged-gals-with-day-jobs occupied, our six sassy adult hens have all started laying eggs like mad. We are gathering 5-6 eggs from the nests every day and have graduated from being able to tuck an egg in our sweatshirt pocket on the way back to the house to having to take an egg-gathering basket with us when we head out to the henhouse. This is good, but it is also overwhelming in its own way. We’ve been working to build a solid laying flock so we would have enough eggs to share and sell and now we have to make a plan for how to manage that!

And, the garden must go in…despite the daily rain showers. The temperatures are mild, all the bulbs and perennials are stretching above the winter mulch; and the fruit bushes are starting to leaf and bud–we can’t ignore the signs. So, as we plant out our cool season seeds and seedlings, we begin the slug battle too. Those slugs and snails love this mild, wet weather and can’t wait to slime all over our tasty young veggies.

It is a constant, dynamic roller coaster of chores, lessons, disappointments, and delights. There are cycles, seasons, and only so much time in a day. There are things we can’t control, some we can, and there truly is a fair amount of random luck thrown into the mix too. Our garden never looks like the photos in the magazines, nor does our chicken coop gleam with radiant newness. There are mud, poop, weeds, pests, and our own exhaustion to contend with. But, as Kori likes to say, “a person has to do something…”

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