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So much to do

April 9, 2008

There is so much to do, I don’t know where to start.  A list helps a little, but at this time of year, a list just frustrates me.  We are unsettled because our chore list has changed so much.  We moved the cows out to pasture April 4th.  So now the grazing season begins, and feeding in the barn stops.  It takes the same amount of time, but getting used to the cows not being here at my fingertips is unsettling. 

We practice MiG (management-intensive grazing) which is rotational grazing, that fits the stocking density and paddock size to the growth rate of the grass.  For instance, now the grass is young, the cows are in large paddocks, to avoid overgrazing the tender grass and to prevent pugging the wet soil.  It will take me about 10 – 12 days to cover all the pastures.  As the grass gets stronger and the soil is drier, our paddocks will become smaller and it will take up to 35 – 40 days to make the rotation.  We move their water and minerals along with them.  At this point I’m just checking fence ahead of them.  Our entire property perimeter is permanently fenced, and each pasture has a temporary electric fence.  I then fence my electrified paddocks from this interior fence.  So if the cows get out, they are not really out. (Most of the time – but gates do get left open…)  This type of grazing is not the same as strip grazing or rotational grazing with a set number of paddocks.

Coming out of the woods to pasture.

Our hay stockpile is getting low and so is our straw.  We can’t get more of either until mid-summer.  We raise our own hay, and the farmer we buy straw from, won’t harvest his grain until August.  We found him at a small farm conference where we were giving a slide show on small farm livestock direct marketing.  He is a godsend – he isn’t organic, but he is a good farmer.  He uses rotation practices that lower his weed pressure and rarely uses herbicides.  If he does, he sets that straw aside for someone who doesn’t care if it has herbicide residues or not.  We can’t afford to have it in our compost.  The most insidious herbicide is Clopyralid, usually called Confront, it doesn’t break down completely, so if you use straw for compost or mulch you may have a potential problem.  Seattle Tilth brought this to the forefront a number of years ago.

Our weather this week has run gamut from snow to sun, to hail and hard downpours.  So we’ve pretty much confined our gardening to the greenhouse.  On Sunday we had such freak wind gusts with the thunderstorms, I was glad we have greenhouses and not temporary tunnels.  The old timers call it “hell for stout”, but that’s how we have built things since we took over the farm.  You plan for the worst case scenario.  We had a fair amount of snow this winter, but it came in 1 1/2′ foot increments.  It’s the 5 feet in two day snowstorm that smashes everything.  In 1980, every pole barn in our immediate area that had been built since 1965 went down, some with animals in them.  We shoveled our pole barn, but it had poles for rafters, instead of dimensional lumber.  A tree is stronger than a board.  Everyone in the community spent a lot of time going around helping people clear the snow.   A neighbor who is waffling between a tunnel or a greenhouse is agonizing over the cost.     But, she also doesn’t have time to be pushing off the snow or rebuilding every season.  So, she can’t decide – ours paid for itself the first season.  We put our bows on 4′ centers instead of the recommended 6′ so we probably spent $200.00 more to save the whole structure.  In our locale, the greenhouse kits go on sale in the fall.  In the spring, they are expensive.

 We’ve transplanted our tomatoes and peppers to larger pots.  I’m about out of peppers in the freezer.  At last count, I only had 4 pint jars and 6 1/2 pint jars left.  I could probably eat a jar a day if I would let myself.  So, I decided to plant even more pepper plants this year.  I actually can’t believe how many we ate.  It will be a long time to that first pepper. 
Here is my pepper list:                new means new to us.
Garden Salsa – 3       salsa
Cayenne – 2         drying
Paprika Supreme – 4       drying
Ariane – 5        fresh eating, salsa
Gourmet – 6 new      fresh eating
Valencia – 4            fresh eating
Jolene’s Sweet Italian – 6  new         fresh eating
Pritavit – 6  new            fresh eating
Sweet Pimiento – 24       fresh eating, freezing
Sunray – 18                   fresh eating, freezing
Numex Joe E Parker – 30        fresh eating, freezing

That’s a little over 100 plants, I know that sounds excessive, but last year I planted 65 and we are still going to run out.  I use a lot making salsa and roasting tomatoes, and we eat a lot fresh and they store without refrigeration on our cool porch until Christmas. Conventionally grown peppers are also one of the most sprayed vegetables to buy and eat .  That makes them a good choice to grow at home.

Tomato list:
Bellstar – 12
Costoluto Genovese – 15
Costoluto Genovese – 3  different supplier
Costoluto Fiorentino – 3   new
Tiffen Mennonite – 2
Brandywine Sudduth Strain – 2  new
Sunsugar – 2
Green Zebra – 2

I’m not planting as many as last year.  My production has been increasing each year, but I think I can squeeze more poundage out of these tomatoes.  Most go for canning:  whole tomatoes, whole roasted tomatoes, roasted tomato puree and salsa.  I also make canned tomato juice cocktail for cooking.  Come fall our kitchen is a food factory!

Other greenhouse notes:  We’re still eating tons of chard and kale, tender leaves and tender flowerets.  The kale is so tender that the dogs are grazing it, when they think I’m not looking.
Hubby is slightly allergic to tomatoes now too, so I’m having to rework recipes.  Another reason for less tomatoes.  I made lasagna with white sauce and sauteed mixed greens last night.  You never know what I’m going to cook around here, so they don’t get too riled up about things they haven’t eaten before.  I had to rework my noodle recipe to allow for dh’s egg white allergy, but I just substituted 2 eggs yolks for 1 egg and they turned out fine.


 Noodles that don’t need drying – FAST FOOD

1 egg beaten
1 t. salt
1 – 2 T. cream or milk
1 c. flour

Beat egg and salt, add 1 T. cream.  Add flour and mix, this dough will be very stiff.  Add more cream if needed.  Roll on floured board, as thin as desired, and cut into shape you want.  They will swell quite a bit during cooking, so plan accordingly.  I use these for everything, if using in soup, add the noodles the last ten minutes of cooking.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.  This recipe makes enough for a 9 x 13 pan of lasagna, or a  3 – 4 qt. batch of soup.


 Danielle, here is a picture of the nest boxes to go with that comment.


13 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2008 8:31 am

    It sounds crazy busy at your place. I dislike the change in routine too.

  2. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    April 10, 2008 9:13 am

    Linda, it reminds me of the time change – I know it’s coming, but I have a hard time adjusting.

  3. Ingrid permalink
    April 10, 2008 10:48 am

    Hi MOH,

    I just wanted to say thanks – I think you may possibly have saved my garden from demise with your info about herbicides in straw! I live in a suburb of L.A. and just mulched my garden with straw with plans to put it in the compost when the season ended. We got it free from the church next door after their pumpkin sale in October and thought it was a great thing. Since I have no idea where it came from or how it was grown, I don’t think I want to risk contaminating my garden and will remove it. I have great plans to try canning this year for the first time since I was a teenager and helped an aunt one summer.

    I am enjoying your blog, just found it while reading about gardening, sustainability, etc. We are trying to live a bit greener here in the middle of the city!

  4. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    April 10, 2008 12:38 pm

    Hi Ingrid, thank you for visiting. Sometimes free ends up costing quite a bit. My neighbor lost her entire rhubarb bed, because of this. The rhubarb was alive, but was so contorted she decided to start over with new plants and a new spot. The area is now finally growing weak grass, but the soil structure is different.

    I don’t think it matters where you live – city or country, we can all make a difference.
    Best of luck for the coming gardening season. MOH

  5. April 11, 2008 2:03 am

    I wanna come live at your house….just long enough for dinner would work for me!

  6. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    April 11, 2008 6:25 am

    threecollie, that means I get to come and eat some of that famous sausage spaghetti at your house!

  7. April 11, 2008 7:16 am

    Nita, I do so love your posts—they’re so chock full of information! I keep meaning to ask you just how you keep (kept?) your nesting boxes meticulously clean. In particular, I have a couple of egg eaters that make a mess of ours on a fairly regular basis regardless of how I try to keep up with the bedding. I’m sure I need a better system, but I’m not sure how to retrofit existing structures to improve them, so I’d love to hear how you do it.

    Ingrid, there was a CSA in Virginia that suffered exactly the fate you’re talking about last year. They lost nearly all of their crops. It was a really big deal ’round these parts.

  8. April 11, 2008 8:26 am

    Fair enough

  9. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    April 11, 2008 2:52 pm

    Danielle, thanks, and on the nest boxes, we added shavings or straw every other time we moved the skid. (every 6 days) We gathered the eggs 3 times a day and if we saw an egg eater, we killed them. But, we made sure it was a hen who had actually pecked an egg, not one who was just eating a broken one. Also, if I saw a hen laying a weak shelled egg, we usually culled that hen, because the thin shelled eggs break easily. In a flock setting, you will see some chickens that just don’t do well, these are the same ones that lay the weaker shelled eggs, for what ever reason they aren’t able to assimilate the nutrients properly. All this may be moot if you have a high percentage of egg eaters, look at feed quality and availability of grit and oyster shell. The grit is just as important as the shell, enabling the chickens to get more out of their feed. Usually, we only had about 6 – 10 egg eaters a year.
    I know this sounds terrible, but if you’re farming you have to rogue out the sick, mean, and unproductive, whether it is livestock or seeds. Because we were on the hook for a certain amount of eggs each week, we raised extra chickens, just because you never know working with Mother Nature, just what your outcome will be.
    I rarely had to wash eggs because of this. We fed any floor, or ground eggs to the pigs and usually they got the dirty ones too, because we had enough to sell.
    As for the nest boxes themselves – when we moved past the 200 hen stage, we invested in the Kuhl 10 hole metal boxes, with the removeable (read cleanable) plastic bottoms. We never regretted the expense, it gave us so much more control over the egg cleanliness. We closed the perches after the last gathering and opened them up after dark, when the chickens were asleep. That keeps a lot of manure out of the nests. My hubby can build anything, and the wooden ones he built were very nice, but it is hard to beat washable chicken equipment.
    You could probably add perches to your existing boxes, just mount them on hinges, so you can fold them up to deny access to the nests.
    After reading this myself, I realized I better explain the perch thing a little better. If you haven’t seen these nest boxes, they are meant to hang, and they have closeable perches on the front to allow the chicken to have a place to light when she flys up to the nest. They use these perches during the day and we had A-frame perches that were made out of tree limbs that the hens slept on at night. They are also available for small flocks with maybe as little as 2 holes. You should figure about 1 nest for 10 hens. But, if you have chickens you know they won’t use them that way – they go back to their favorite, which is usually everybody elses favorite too.
    Hope this helps!

  10. April 11, 2008 2:59 pm

    So much information!

    But – mostly you make me think about how much I’m longing to get back in my kitchen again. Sigh. That recipe sure sounds good!

  11. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    April 11, 2008 10:07 pm

    Hayden, I have to “stop by” and check out the kitchen progress. I couldn’t imagine going through a remodel.

    Our kitchen was last updated in 1926! (But, I like it that way…)

  12. Sue Ballard permalink
    June 8, 2008 7:05 am

    I was wondering if you can tell me what to feed my chickens to prevent the yolks from breaking in the pan so easily. The shells are a bit thin but not like store bought.
    They are getting scratch and a layer feed.

  13. matronofhusbandry permalink*
    June 8, 2008 8:22 am

    Sue, Hi – you can feed oyster shell free choice to help with the shell quality. It takes a lot of calcium to form a shell, so they need oyster shell year-round. If your chickens are free range, maybe they need “fresh” range, if possible, fresh food like bugs and grasses really help with the yolk and white quality. If you are confining them, try to give them household composty type stuff or anything from the garden that you aren’t using, like tops and peelings. Chickens consume a large amount of greens in addition to their chicken feed. Feeding like this really makes their eggs a valuable food source for their caretakers!

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