Sunday, January 19, 2014

return from the darkness

Well it's been a long time since I last wrote anything, so I feel some explanation is in order. Basically, I've been super busy with other things! I have a two year old son, which absorbs a lot of my free time, and between family and work, and actually doing things in the garden,I haven't had a lot of motivation to write.  Also, we took a year off of milking goats after Mabel died, which means I didn't have a lot to say.  

Right now in the garden, we have been harvesting broccoli and arugula.  Spinach and lettuce, as well as cilantro are on the way.  The garlic and onions are growing well, but it will be several months till they are ready, probably May or so.

The biggest news is that PJ and Sweetie, which is PJ's daughter, are both pregnant and will kid in February, I estimate.  PJ seems farther along, but she is also a veteran mamma at this point and Sweetie may have just one, while PJ almost certainly has more than one kid in there.

Here's a picture of the broccoli and garlic growing together.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Soil Test

Hey! My soil test came back!

Here it is.

Looks like things are doing pretty well.  I guess the compost is a rich!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Things are changing around the homestead lately.  We've had a number of pretty good freezes, with thick ice forming on the animals' water bucket and white frost on the ground.

On Dec 26 I spread the year's worth of compost on 2/3 of the garden and planted heirloom Sonoran White Wheat, which is an old wheat from the southwest part of the country.  Google it.  I got the seed from a farm where S. and I worked for a year and have been storing it in the fridge for a few years now.  I thought I might as well go ahead and plant it.

Why did I dig under the veggies to plant wheat?  Well, that's a complicated thing.  The garden has not been all that productive this fall and I was feeling like it was time to let it rest somewhat.  Also, I am very interested in growing some more calorie dense food rather than lots and lots of greens.  We joined a CSA (Finca Pura Vida) and have plenty of veggies from that, so I no longer felt it was necessary to try and supplement our diet from the garden in a significant way, leaving me open to experiment with the wheat!

I planted 200 sq.ft. of wheat, so we'll see how much of a yield I get. I'm hoping for something on the order of 10 lbs.  I've read that I can expect to harvest as much as 20 lbs from that much area, but I really am quite skeptical of that figure.  It's a lot easier to read about bumper harvests than to have bumper harvests...  Anyways the wheat will come out sometime around May or June, at which point I can either plant beans or melons.  Right now I'm leaning towards melons because I LOVE MELONS.  But, if I plant the tepary beans, and get the same yield as when I grew teparies 2 years ago, I reckon I'll get around 8 lbs of beans, to be harvested in the late fall.  SO, from about a year of growing, I'd have maybe 18 or 20 lbs (optimistically) of beans + wheat berries to make into some kind of soup and/or tortillas.  That's enough for a couple of months actually.  S. and I eat around one pound of beans per week most of the time so if we stretched it out with wheat berries that is enough to kick the can down the road a bit longer.  Anyways it's just fun.

Otherwise in the garden I've got like 100 garlic plants and 50 strawberry plants.  So, I'll have bad breath and yummy berries.  2013 is going to be year of fruit around our little farmlet, with melons, strawberries, and (hopefully) the fist major harvest of grapes and peaches.  Both bear on the previous year's growth, and both have LOTS of growth from this year on which to bear, so with careful pruning and lots of bird netting, I think we'll get a good harvest.

Nothing like this tree, though...

This is not my house, it is a tree near Dottie Jordan Park N.E. Austin that I saw today. I am jealous.  Maybe one day my little citrus trees will look like that.

The biggest news is that we did not breed the goats this fall, so 2013 will be goat-milk-free.  The reasoning here is that with Sweetie (pj's daughter i.e. Mabel's replacement) having been born in April, she was not be ready to breed in the fall and we wanted to breed both goats at the same time, and get onto an earlier breeding schedule than we were on.  That means we're aiming to breed both PJ and Sweetie in September or so of 2013, and they will both come into milk about 6 months after that, in March or April after the kids are weaned.  It also means that we get to take a summer vacation for the first time in a couple of years! Yay!

that's all for now.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Austin in December

It's December in Austin, which means it's 80+ degrees outside and we're harvesting a bumper crop of tomatoes and eggplants.   There are two kinds of eggplant below, Black Beauty (the big one) and some other kind, I think it might be called Nadia or Fairy Tale or something.  The tomatoes are a mix of sungold, Sweet 100, yellow pear, early girl and a volunteer that seems like a cross between a roma and a cherry.  it's pretty good, I don't know where the seed came from though!  I've saved some as it is a good plant and relatively productive and tasty.

We have some broccoli coming in that should be ready in about 2 weeks, if it doesn't bolt from the warm weather.

The calendulas are starting to bloom!  I love calendula, with their bright orange blooms.

Here is the Bright Lights chard with Imperator carrots.  Imperator carrots are a risk in our area because the soil is pretty heavy, but I've had good luck with carrots and wanted to give it a shot.  Imperators are the long kind, like you buy at the store, and they need a deep, loose, friable soil to grow well.  They are in a bed with fairly sandy soil, and I added a lot of organic matter before planting them so I am hopeful.

Two butterflys going after the Mexican Sunflowers.

 A bee on the Mexican Sunflowers.

I planted these native perennials because the nursery was giving them away for free (they were almost dead). I want to establish a more permanent, low maintenance flower bed along the fence.  I planted them in the summer and now they are blooming!  Natives are so tough!

I think the Anacacho Orchid is confused.  Blooming????

Salad greens made up of old seed packets of kale, chard, bocchoy, beets, carrots, dill, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, turnips, radish, etc....  All varieties that I didn't find compelling as mature greens for one reason or another.  They make fine salads though!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

One Week of Groceries

Purely for the sake of (your) curiosity, here is (roughly) one week's grocery haul for our household of three.

The milk, eggs, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant are from the garden, the rest is from the grocery store.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Help Wanted - Milkers!

We need some help milking.  It's getting to be too much of a time and energy commitment to milk every day, twice a day, without any help.  I want to go camping!

Can you help?

This is a pretty unique opportunity and if we can't find anyone, I think we'll have to sell the goats because it's becoming unsustainable for us energetically. 

just post a comment if you want to come learn how to milk and we can go from there.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

cash money melons

Well, we sold the babies, finally. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a good price. Two kids for $90, total. That barely covers the cost of their vet bill, and certainly doesn't cover the cost of Mabel's vet bills from when she died... But, that's not really relevant. Just for comparison: we paid $125 each for our does when we bought them. Last year, we sold four kids for $80 or $90 each, I don't remember exactly. This year, no one wanted to buy, so when I finally did find someone to buy them, I was soooo desperate to sell that I just took his offer. Hey, they are going to a good home and now I have milk. So, I shouldn't complain all that much.

The melons have been good lately, we are about done. There is one more honeydew on the vine; it should be ready in about a week. We have had a lot of melons: honeydew, gali, muskmelon, watermelon. Of all of them, I like the galia the best for its purely sweet flavor, medium size and full slip ripeness. It's like the muskmelon's ease of determining ripeness with the honeydew's flavor but in between the two for size. Perfect in my book. My wife likes the muskmelons better. I think next year I will just grow muskmelons and galia, and not mess around with watermelons (weren't worth the space) and honeydew (so hard to determine ripeness!).

A word to the wise: if you have a need for hundreds of cucumbers, grow armenian cucumbers. One blogger, in discussing how productive they are, described them as being like "rabbits on ecstasy". I can confirm this productivity... I grew 6 plants. I have been harvesting, on average, 5-8 large cucumbers per week for the last 2 months. That's a lot of cucumbers. But, they are tasty.

Anyways, things are going well on the farm. I've been making cheese, harvesting eggplants, planting fall tomatoes and generally biding my time till september for fall planting. Can't wait!!