Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Time for P's

The P's are in---peas and potatoes!

Ashley planted a combination of sugar snap peas and English peas. Because the plants have grown every which way in the garden, I can't really tell which is which. Snow peas taste delicious pod and all--the boys snack on them in the garden--and if left long enough, have peas of similar size to the English peas. I picked our first batch this past Monday. 

Shelling them took a while (thankful for the John Deere Action DVD that kept the boys entertained while I readied supper) but it was worth the work. Next year we'll double our pea production and string them up. Although my parents have always just let the peas be in the garden, I think it will be much easier to harvest when they're growing up (and next summer I won't have a pregnant belly that gets in the way either!). 

We probably could have let the potatoes go a bit longer but we needed the garden real estate to make room for more of our summer plantings (tomatoes, eggplants and squash). We planted maybe 3 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes and ended up with two 5-gallon buckets (not quite full) in return. Like carrots, potatoes are a lot of fun for the boys to dig up. All four of us were in the garden after supper last night, gently digging through our mounds to find these good-sized beauties. This will supply our homemade oven french fry habit for a while. We'll plant potatoes again in the fall. 

We read the potatoes need to be stored in a cool, dry place. As you can imagine, it's hard finding such a location in South Carolina but we're going to try our crawlspace. It's cool under there even if it's over 90 degrees outside. 

In other garden news, the lettuces and spinach are done--but what a run we had! The corn is growing along, as are the cucumbers and squash. I picked the first blueberry yesterday and the bushes promise many more. YUM!

Hens on the Range

A few weeks ago I was worried about the girls escaping from their pen when I went in to feed them (2 escaped on separate occasions and it took me 10 minutes or so to convince them to go back in). But now that the chickens are established and know where their food is, we've decided to let them out throughout the day to roam about. They're not entirely free-range because we continue to keep them in their (swanky) pen unless we're out with them; however, I can tell they're really enjoying their new privileges. Here are a few pictures of them searching for bugs in the garden.

One of the Hamburgs checking out the blackberry vines. We have a lot of berries ripening but other birds are stealing them before we can enjoy them. I need to research how to keep those pesky birds away...our girls tend to like to scratch around in the pinestraw and leave the berries alone (thank you). 

The girls got pretty adventurous one day and went exploring in the woods across from the garden. 

Ashley planted these gladiolas in the garden next to one of the irrigation heads. The color is stunning (and irresistible to our older son, who picks multiples of these blooms every time we're in the garden so we end up with lots of little cups around the house, full of water and glads). 

More chicken explorations. See Heidi, the grayish hen in the middle? She's the Queen Bee--she pecks at the other girls, always gets the pick of table scraps, and generally rules the roost. I guess a hen will step up to the rooster's role if there's not one around. 

 The girls continue to lay 4-6 eggs a day, ranging in size from the medium-size white ones (Hamburgs) and the large to extra-large brown ones laid by everyone else. Having the chickens out and about really makes our place feel more like a farm. And when we're ready for them to go back inside, I just clap my hands and walk behind them until they're inside (if they haven't already gone back in on their own, which they do most of the time). 

Oh and in goat news...last week I was ready to give them away. This past Friday and Saturday Ashley and I were able to work with them more outside of the pen since our boys were at my parents for the weekend. As my mama pointed out, they're like puppies and they need attention to help them calm down. I still wouldn't classify them as pets, but they are more agreeable to be around--though we haven't reached the point yet where our boys feel safe with them. One of them nibbled on my youngest shirt and another charged our older son. Until we can get their horns removed, they'll only be out with Ashley while the boys and I watch from the (fenced in) porch. Ashley has plans to build them a larger pen in the woods (near where the chickens were roaming). 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Bounty of Broccoli (and Carrots)

Remember those 32 broccoli plants Ashley so kindly planted for us? After a month or so of me doubting if they would produce (they just seemed to be taking up garden real estate for the longest time), my doubts are put to rest. ALL 32 plants produced heads. ALL at the same time. That's a lot of broccoli, even for a family who loves the small green trees (that's what my brother and I called them growing up). 

I gave away a lot of heads to friends and family members but that still left us with a good bit. After setting aside the amount I needed to make a broccoli salad for our mother's day lunch with Ashley's family, we blanched the remainder and froze it. I've never done this before but it seemed fairly foolproof. We'll see in a few months when we want it!

 Although we could have let the carrots keep on growing to reach their full potential, Ashley decided to go ahead and pull these because our younger son was taking it upon himself to pull the carrots up every time we went to the garden. Every time. Gardening for him is harvesting whatever he wants, even if that is the not-quite-ripe strawberries, peas that aren't ready or drinking water off the broccoli leaves. So now we have a nice batch of carrots stored in the fridge in water. They're delicious. And our older son has the memory of pulling big carrots and eating them fresh from the garden. 

In other news, the goats. Ah, Ziggy and Waylon. I'm not sure I really want to keep them because they have bucked me twice and I have the bruises on my legs to prove it. And our boys are a little unsure of these wild creatures that charge at them and then dash away. They're definitely not pets and they're not really contributing yet either (though they do like to nibble up dried oak leaves). For now, Ashley is completely in charge of dealing with them until we figure out a good system for staking them for grazing or we give them to his parents.  Their crazy behavior makes me love our chickens even more...they are happy to see us, have only escaped twice from their pen, eat all of our kitchen compost, and lay beautiful eggs. Thanks, girls!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Grow, Grow, Growing!

A lot can happen in two weeks around our house. We took a mini family vacation to the beach this past weekend and came home to a garden full of goodness. The lettuce continues to amaze me and now our peas are beginning to produce. 

Ashley harvested our first set of potatoes, mainly because we needed the area to plant some eggplants and peppers. We enjoyed the Yukon Gold potatoes last night made into homemade fries (cut potatoes into fries, soak in water for a while. Coat in oil and salt and bake on a wire rack on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes in a 450 oven). YUM!

The onions have also been pulled to make way for more garden produce. 

Here are the potato plants. Although I remember my Poppie (grandpa) growing potatoes when I was little, I had no recollection of what they looked like. The potatoes are under the ground (I guess that is a basic fact but it's interesting to consider). 

And those 32 broccoli plants...they actually are producing...all at the SAME time! I made a broccoli salad last night with a head (mayo, red wine vinegar, cheese, raisins and sugar with broccoli). 

Another view of the lettuce...the stuff in grocery stores can't compare!

We have two old tractor tires from Ashley's grandpa's farm in McBee, where we have planted cantaloupes and watermelons. The chickens are watching over the cantaloupe patch. 

Everything is blooming at the house!

And we're growing in more ways than in our garden: last night we added two Dwarf Nigerian Goats to our farm--Ziggy and Waylon (they come from a neighbor who couldn't care for them any longer). They're not grown yet but they are full of personality!

Enjoying their first supper in their new compound. 

The boys love them--my youngest woke up this morning and asked to go see the goats! 

See what I mean about personality...they're goats so they're climbers. We'll eventually build them a bigger pen with a playground. 

 Their place is tucked beneath the pine trees at the back of our yard, next to our Windy Barn (where our cat eats her breakfast). They're a great addition and I look forward to sharing more about our life with goats!