While much of the country is going through a deep freeze, here in North Central Washington, we're enjoying a mild winter. Why, I'm not sure. But the rays of sunshine and mild days sure make it hard to complain. Especially considering the fact that I, like many homesteaders, are practically beating down Spring's door come this time of year.
I can't help it. I want to plant things. And dig my hands in the dirt. And hang out with little baby animals. And stuff.
February allowed us to get a jump start on some of our Spring projects, including residing and painting Sally's shelter (which was on our 2015 to-do list!). Though these projects are small, it's still reviving to the cold, winter spirit to know that new life is once again part of life. Sally is due with her calf in May, Rosie is due with her lambs in April, Large Black piglets will be arriving next month, and the new puppies are quickly making themselves at home (by making themselves at home, I mean pooping too close to the house and always trying to squeeze in the open sliding door when we are headed outside).
The earliest hints of Spring on the farm:
When the kids and I headed outside this morning, we took things slow… being open to observing what the sunny day had set before us. Though a quick glance of the property would be a bit discouraging (it is just me, or is there ALWAYS junk everywhere on a farm no matter how hard one tries to keep it all cleaned up?), amongst the tools, random lumber, weeds, and hibernating earth there are rays of hope.
With a magnifying glass (or a trained eye), it's possible to see the very beginning of raspberry leaves from the canes. And considering I planted the raspberries no less than three times last year before they ‘took' to the ground, it's a huge victory indeed.
The currant bushes are also beginning to bud, just ever so slightly. These were new last year, so I'm excited to see they survived the winter as well. They'll be a delicious addition to the garden, like teeny tiny little clusters of rubies.
My British-celebrity-crush Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstale always cooks with gooseberries, an English staple. So I planted one of those bushes last year in the main garden as well. I've never eaten one before. But that didn't stop me. Hugh was so convincing, with his wavy brown hair and British charm. The bush appears to be back in action this spring which, again, is about as good as it gets for a gardener.
Maybe Hugh will come visit me and I can make him some gooseberry ice cream. Or something cool like that.
The chicken's egg production has already begun to pick up as they devour these warmer, sunnier, just-barely longer days. They're busy scratching around the property for newly emerged bugs – and for that, I thank them. And despite loosing one silkie rooster to who-knows-what and having one laying hen drown in Sal's water trough, the chickens had a great winter. We deep mulched their coop and provided no artificial lighting or heat. They seem to be thriving. And even though I don't technically ‘need' any more chicks this year, well, you know how it goes. A few new arrivals will be coming home this weekend.
(I have many weaknesses. And one of them is baby chickens.)
Our greenhouse is also booming with bits of Spring at the moment. Last September, I planted some kale and though we didn't harvest from it this Winter, the plants are alive and really starting to take off now. To the established kale, I planted mustard greens, collard greens, spinach, radishes, and lettuce. The peas should be planted… but rather, I'm sitting on my computer typing about them needing to be planted.
Oh the tangled webs we weave.
Regardless, I estimate that in the next six weeks or so we'll be able to harvest a fair amount of Spring produce from the greenhouse. Next Winter, I'll insulate the seams of the greenhouse and possibly introduce some supplemental heating so that we can enjoy greens year-round, but that's a topic for another day.
Inside (in my bathroom, where else), I've already begun many vegetable starts. The cabbage, romanesco, peppers, brussel sprouts, shallots, onions, celery, okra, echinacea, lemon balm, and tomatoes are just barely beginning to make their appearance. I love it when that happens. Glancing at the teeny-tiny seedings, it's almost impossible to imagine how vastly the plants will provide for us. It all starts small. And yet, come September, we'll be swimming through pools of eggplant, tossing extra tomatoes to the chickens, and using zucchini for target practice.
Just kidding. You know me. I'd never waste a good zucchini.
The sheep eagerly welcome the sunny, warm days. Hamish hangs on the hillside, ruminating and relaxing (life is pretty easy for a male who has one purpose on the farm). We recently added two new ewe lambs to the breeding herd, but I'll introduce you to them a bit later this week.
Rosie's already looking swollen and close to lambing, though I don't expect her to lamb for a few more weeks yet. I thought about taking a picture of her backside and showing you, but alas, I drew the line. At least for this post. I CAN'T WAIT TO HAVE LAMBS! I'm terrified for the process. So many emotions! I feel like I'm pregnant again. Up and down and up and down, those hormones.
And in other gigantic, super exciting, animal news…
We're back in the meat rabbit business! FINALLY. I've been eager to get rabbits on the farm since we had to get rid of our last rabbits when we moved back to Washington from Alabama. We're in the process of building their outside, open runs and I'm eagerly awaiting getting it all set up and running once again. For now, ‘Fluffy' and ‘Rabbit' are hanging by the house and get way too much attention from the rascals.
The rhubarb that I planted last year is peeking through, it's bright colors breaking through the monotonous brown that is a winter landscape. I'm looking forward to harvesting some of it this year, as last year I drooled over it's bright red stocks but had to pass them up so the plant could become established. This year, I'm going to make this rhubarb treat, sit back, and soak up the concept of ‘slow food'.
After all, waiting over eighteen months for a vegetable certainly qualifies.
…and I'll be danged if my little climbing roses aren't coming back! I've ‘heard' it's almost impossible to kill these roses, but after our bottle lamb Eleanor escaped from her pen last year and devoured my beauties, I thought I'd lost them for good.
Let me just tell you this: I'm a pretty unholy person when animals eat things they're not supposed to. They have no boundaries. As far as they're concerned, the dogs thing the eggs are for their eating, the sheep thing my roses are their breakfast, Sally munches on trumpet vines, the chickens make a light snack of my black eyed susans, and even Georgia and Owen can't keep their dirty little hands out of my morning bacon.
Nothing's sacred, man.
Over the winter, we were able to welcome a few chickens that were in need of a new home. And though I still can't convince them to roost in the coop (they prefer the trash can), they're a welcomed addition to the farm.
As new little animals always are.
Spring is the time of small beginnings, no doubt. But after the darkness of winter, the small glimmer of life present in these photos reminds me of the greatness to come! It brings hope and joy to this ‘ol farming soul of mine.
What about you?