A Good Weekend

How was your weekend? How is the weather where you are?

Myself I had a good weekend. Took some time for myself, got some work done around here, and did some woodworking (something I love that I have not made time to do lately). It was really nice on Saturday. I went on a long hike, went fishing and finished the day mowing the lawn. Per my Fitbit I had almost 22,000 steps on Saturday, which is over 10 miles!

Sunday started off with rain. I went to get a donut at a local shop who usually has awesome apple fritters (another love) but it must not have been fresh because it was a little lacking. Oh well, everybody has an off day. I followed that up by fishing since the rain had cleared. I caught a half dozen bluegill before trying to go after larger fish, where I struck out. When I got home, I worked on some corn hole boards I am making for friends. I have the construction portion almost finished on them, then painting will follow. I also cleaned all of the chicken waterers really well and did all my morning chores this evening, except feed the rabbits their morning feed, so I won’t have to rush around in the morning. Before calling it a day, I cleaned up a hay bale that had fallen on the road yesterday evening. When I arrived home from hiking Saturday afternoon I could see a bale laying in the road a hundred yards from my driveway. At least a dozen cars just drove around it from the time I pulled in the driveway, so I went down and kicked it off of the road. It seemed like good hay so I was going to pick it up, but I forgot about it and it got rained on overnight.  It will still get used as mulch on the garden, instead of rabbit food, which I usually use straw for.  But hey, when luck falls your way and leaves you hay you use it in some way.

Good night all!  More posts about the weekend and garden (with pictures) to come soon!!!

Chuck, From the Rural Side

Continue reading

Grow Your Subversive Plot

A man has a plot.  A subversive plot.  He is plotting to change the world.  And he wants all of us to help us in his plot.  Watch THE PLOT here.  What is he plotting, you may ask?  How am I to help a stranger in his plot to change the world?

The simple answer is… GARDENING!  We all can help by taking whatever little (or big) plot of land you have and growing food to eat.  The corner of the yard where it’s hard to mow, tear up the grass and plant some tomatoes.  Don’t want veggies in your front yard?  Plant fruit trees.  Blueberries are a nice shrub that comes in a variety of sizes.  Have bad soil? Build a raised bed.  Even if you are low on cash you can find materials to repurpose into raised beds.

I recently saw a quote from Joel Salatin that surprised me:

“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.”

In less than 70 years we have gone from producing most of our food or purchasing it fresh from farmers nearby to buying it all from a concrete box, where even “fresh” food could have been picked weeks ago, half-way around the world.  Meat pumped up with water, wrapped in plastic, on a styrofoam tray?  How about fresh from a butcher instead?

The food revolution has been started.  So I am asking you all to join in, help out, eat locally, or, GROW YOUR OWN!

Cincinnati Backyard Farms

I mentioned my new start-up business venture in my last post and I just wanted to expand on the it.  Earlier this year I was trying to come up with a way to make landscaping a career.  I studied landscape design as a student at The University of Cincinnati and worked as a gardener out in Boulder, Colorado for a short while.  However, landscaping and mowing companies are abundant around here, so I wanted to find a niche that could be filled.  So I thought about focusing on food production.  The next step was to figure out how to make it happen.  For a couple months I have been going through ideas, thinking about all the issues, trying to come up with a good name, etc.  When it started to get warm outside is when I knew I had to get serious if I wanted to do something this year.

When I saw an article on Grit about a company doing the same thing I want to do in Seattle, I knew this could be a good opportunity for me.  I did more research about the business model, coming across a couple other companies, one of which was in Boulder, to get an idea of what I should charge and what services they offer.  So about a month ago I hopped on the fast-track, pouring whatever free time I had into brainstorming, sketching, writing.  A flyer was born, business cards have been ordered, a website is up and running (although still undergoing tweaking).  I even had my first email a few days ago inquiring about the services.  But as soon as I told the lady the prices, I never heard back from her.  I wasn’t surprised.  I think my prices are good for what I’m offering.  To some it probably seems like a lot of money though.

Anyways, I’m sure you all would like to hear more about the business…  The main purpose of Cincinnati Backyard Farms is to help people get started growing their own vegetables in their backyard.  In addition to vegetables, I want to help people grow their own fruit trees, grapes, and perennial edibles.  If the client would like to raise chickens for eggs (or meat), I want to help them get started doing so.  I’m also offering landscape design and installation for non-edibles, maintenance, and chicken sitting for when people go on vacation.

For the vegetables, I am offering two standard sizes of raised beds- 4’x4′ and 4’x8′.  They will be built on the site, filled with soil mixture, and fully planted for $275 and $450, respectively.  All seeds and plant starts will be organic or heirloom varieties and use square foot gardening.  I am also offering maintenance packages from vacation care, where I take care of the garden while clients are away, up to full-care, where I do everything and the client only has to eat the harvest.

If all goes well, I may try to add more services down the road, like beekeeping, greenhouse construction, fence building and larger animals for those with room.

One thing I am trying to decide is if I should raise more chickens to sell laying hens to clients?  Any other thoughts or suggestions?

Chuck From the Rural Side and now Cincinnati Backyard Farms!

Wednesday Update

Just a quick update on the goings on around the ‘stead.  I’ve been busy doing spring cleaning around the property.  The trees I cut down over the winter left a lot of branches that need hauled away or burned.  I prefer hauling them away but some junk wood needed burned, so I burned some branches as well.  Mowing is a never ending chore that I continually put off.  Some of my grass is waist high because I put it off so long.  I could bale it if I had a tractor and baler!  But I only have a push mower, so that makes it more fun…

About half of the garden is in.  I’m falling behind in my schedule because of rainy days and other chores.  Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cauliflower, cabbage, were some of the latest plantings.  They all seem to be going through a bit of transplant shock or I didn’t harden them off enough before planting.  Some tomatoes had new growth so I think they will pull through.  I need to plant beans, pumpkins, corn, popcorn, whatever other seeds I have at the house, along with a second round of greens and radishes for staggered harvests.  I did finally get new cherry trees and grape vines from Lowes after losing some over the winter.  They still need to go in the ground, though.  Potatoes, blueberries, raspberries, and the seeds I planted a couple weeks ago all seem to be doing good.

This past weekend I traded the black rabbit buck I got as part of the three “does” I bought for a New Zealand white doe and bought one of her sisters as well.  They are only about two months old so it will be a few months before they can be bred.  When they are ready I will breed them to the red NZ buck.  I still haven’t decided what to do with the only doe of the three.  Maybe I should ask the person I got the two new does from if we can breed her to one of their bucks?  They live close so it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

A busy week and weekend lie ahead…  Work at the CSA tonight and Thursday.  Friday will be a travel evening after work back to my parent’s house in NW Ohio.  Saturday is a good friend’s wedding.  Sunday I will be coming back to the Rural Side, hopefully getting some work done around the house.  Monday is Memorial Day so I don’t have to work, which as a contractor means I won’t be getting paid at all, but the day will most likely be spent working around the house again.

In other news, I have launched my first business.  Still working on getting the name out and getting my first customer.  I’ll post more about it soon.  For now, check out the website for Cincinnati Backyard Farms (still a work in progress)

Plugging Away

I have again been busy for most of the past week.  The weather has been nice so I’ve been working outside quite a bit.  Veggies are going in the ground. Sunday, I planted about 50 tomatoes, 9 broccoli, 9 Brussels sprouts and a couple sweet potatoes before I was stopped by a thunderstorm.  Monday evening I planted cauliflower and cabbage before dark and the mosquitoes got too bad.  I planted about 24 of each of those.  The cabbage is destined to be sauerkraut if it grows well.  I still have to plant peppers, celery, eggplant, strawberries, watermelon, pumpkin, and a few tomatoes to replace ones that didn’t make it already.  I think that is all of the seedlings I have left.  I also have to finish making the rest of the tomato cages (a post for another day) and see if I actually have enough to support all of the tomatoes I planted.  More seeds will go in the ground soon as well.  I’m working Wednesday and Thursday evenings at the CSA so I REALLY need to kick it into high gear tonight and get the rest of the seedlings planted.

I need to post an update on all of our chickens sometime soon.  The cornish are getting pretty big.  Heather’s flock of d’uccles is doing good, except one little guy (her favorite of course) that had a bad toe, which we fixed, and now he won’t use his right leg, which I can’t see any obvious injury to.  And the girls have been laying 7-9 eggs a day.

Edible Landscaping

A blog post I read this morning mentioned that parts of the tulip are edible.  So I looked up what parts are edible and I find that the petals and the bulb are edible.  The petals taste like beans, lettuce, or nothing according to a couple sources.  The bulb doesn’t taste very good, could possibly be poisonous and would really only be used in a survival type situation, like World War II, when the Dutch were forced to eat them.  I have a few tulips in my yard but I haven’t tried eating them (mostly because I don’t know where the dog has gone to the bathroom!).

Another example I do enjoy eating from every spring is the Eastern Redbud tree.  I learned from a college professor that the flowers on the Redbud are edible.  To me they taste somewhat like soybeans.  There is a nice Redbud in our backyard and I will stop to sample them if I am hiking in the woods.

Eastern Redbud Tree

Eastern Redbud Tree

I’m looking for other edible plants, flowers, etc. that can be planted to add to the beauty of the landscape as well as provide something edible.  I would like to find plants that many people grow that they may not know are edible.

What edible landscaping plants do you grow?

Hard Work

I think most people don’t enjoy hard work anymore.  I’m the opposite.  I hate sitting at a desk all day.  I would much rather be working outside, gardening, farming or construction.  This weekend I had two days of hard work.  The kind of days where you are so tired you want to go to bed early.  Where you fall asleep the moment your head hits the pillow- or before if I happen to relax on the floor while watching a movie, which happened Saturday night.

Saturday I worked at the CSA for about 6 hours.  It was one of the most productive days that I have been there.  The farmer, coordinator, the other intern and I were all there along with a couple other volunteers.  We were all moving around non-stop, cleaning, organizing, potting seedlings, mixing soil, putting up brackets for hose storage, removing trash.  I was there for almost six hours and, besides driving my truck to get rid of some of the trash, didn’t sit down.  I got home from the CSA and did a few things around the house before watching the Kentucky Derby.  We then went fishing until it was almost dark, came home, watched 12 Years a Slave and went to bed.

Sunday I started off by making a peanut butter and radish sandwich, a favorite of mine that I learned from my mother.  Heather thought I was crazy when she saw me making it!  After taking care of the animals and doing a little work around the property I went down to help with the plant sale at the CSA.  It wasn’t too busy so after a little while with the four of us sitting around, the farmer decided we should plant some tomatoes in the greenhouse.  So three of us planted about 65 tomatoes.  Then we started weeding the rest of the greenhouse.  It was rather warm in the greenhouse and sun was shining so that really took some energy out of me.  However, as soon as I got home I felt like cutting up some logs and splitting firewood.  I did that for about an hour.  I figure if I do a couple hours once a week or fifteen minutes a day I will have the piles split so they can season in about a month.  I decided while splitting wood to build a new four section compost bin next to the fence with some of the pallets I had collected.  Two of the sections are ready to use but it still needs finished up.  I finished the day off building a little feeder for the cornish chickens.

After work today, I moved some manure from a pile next to the garden to the new compost bins.  I really should have taken it easy because my back was hurting after going to the chiropractor this morning.  When I went to the chiropractor this morning, my neck hurt from sleeping weird last night but my back felt fine.  When I left my back hurt but my neck felt fine.

Heather’s sister and her sister’s friend came out to fish in the pond tonight.  They caught several bluegill, one that was a pretty good size.  They are off getting ice cream, now.  They are supposed to bring me back some ginger ale for mixing with my whiskey, but I think I’m going to head to bed without it…

Chuck From the Rural Side

 

First Harvest!!!

photo 1 (1)

Here is the first harvest of the growing season- a plate full of asparagus.  This is enough for about 2 meals for us.  For my dinner last night I made a sausage, asparagus, egg and cheese scramble.  There were plenty of smaller shoots left in the garden so we will be eating quite a bit of asparagus in the coming days and weeks.  I might get enough to can a few jars, if I’m lucky.

I’m hoping we don’t get as many beetles as last year.  The beetles started popping up after the first week or so, laying little black eggs on the new asparagus shoots.  While they were still edible and I ate them, I couldn’t convince Heather they were still okay to eat, even after cutting out the areas with eggs on them.

5 Tuxedos – Officially Addicted

This was quite a busy weekend on and away from the Rural Side.  Saturday I worked down at the CSA pulling and hoeing weeds in one of the gardens.  After a few hours of that I went and helped a friend get mulch for around his house.  When I got home I worked around the property before supper and continued for a little bit after.

Sunday morning we went to Troy Swap, an animal swap and flea market in Troy, Ohio.  I have been looking for some rabbits since we figured out we got two bucks and a doe.  There weren’t as many vendors as last year when we went, with most of this year’s vendors selling flea market type stuff instead of animals.  There were a couple pens of rabbits but none that I was interested in for how much they were asking.  We didn’t go home empty handed, though…  The last vendor in the line had some chickens.  They were mostly roosters in cages with some day-old chicks in a pen.  As soon as Heather saw that they had D’uccle chicks she was interested.  At first she found five that she liked, 3 black and white and two lavender.  We put those in the truck and walked around a bit longer and she decided to get two more of the black and white.  So from the swap we ended up with seven chicks.  She decided on the way home she was going to call them her “5 Tuxedo” chicks because of the black and white chicks.

We stopped at Ludlow Falls which is near Troy on the way home.  There is a cool waterfall that Heather had never been to, so I wanted to take her there.  We walked around, went down to the base of the falls, hiked down the stream a bit, relaxed in the sun on a rock, before heading back to the truck to head home.  On the way home we stopped at Rural King to get some chick feed.  Of course they had to have D’uccle chicks in, which they had not had any of every time we went this spring.  They had Mille Fleur and porcelain colors so Heather got two of each, along with two brahma chicks.  We got the food and finally got home with our newest additions to the homestead.  I think we are officially addicted to chickens!

The cornish were still in the brooder because I was waiting until the afternoon when it was warmer to move them out to the coop.  I had made a temporary partition on the remaining side of the coop to keep them for the next month or so until they go to freezer camp.  I moved the cornish out to the coop, we cleaned out the brooder, sanitized it, let it dry, added new bedding and finally put the new chicks in.  The heat lamp had been acting funny and flickering sometimes so I was looking at that when I discovered that the metal end of the bulb was melted and blackened.  Not wanting to continue using that lamp we went to buy a new one quick so the chicks would stay warm.  Here are the new chicks in the brooder and Heather sitting in the brooder playing with them.photo 2 photo 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After everybody was settled in I started working around the homestead.  I finished moving the railroad ties from by the garden to by the driveway so that someone can easily take them all away whenever I post them on Craigslist.  Some of them are really heavy so it was quite a bit of work flipping nine of them end-over-end about fifty feet.  Taking a break between moving some of those I picked up sticks in the yard, mowed some of the grass, dead-headed flowers, and turned some compost.  My plan is to get rid of a lot of grass, keeping the area around the house and out to the road.  There might be the strips between the rows of grape vines left and a couple rows around the pond, too.  I’d like to mulch the area that will become the orchard and the west and south sides of the pond I would like to let be natural, if I can keep honeysuckle from taking it over.

After eating some dinner and finally relaxing, we had one more little task to take care of for the evening.  One of the tuxedo chicks had a toe that was curled under its foot.  We crafted a splint out of a piece of card-stock, tape and a band-aid.  This will hopefully get the toe to grown out straight, so that there are no issues in the future with the chick.  It even got an Angry Birds band-aid!

photo 3

 

First Plantings

After tilling on Tuesday evening, I started planting some of the vegetables that are more cold tolerant Wednesday and Thursday evenings.  If a heavy frost comes a lot of what I planted would probably die so I didn’t plant anything   I planted about a dozen different things in short rows to get a start and about forty feet of potatoes.  I’m trying to remember everything that I planted, but here is a list of what I can remember:

  • Potatoes – Red skin and Yukon Gold
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce Mix
  • Radishes
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Beets
  • Kohlrabi
  • Carrots
  • Romaine Lettuce

I think I missed a couple but it’s a good start.  The only issue is that I forgot until I was a few rows in that I was going to do everything as square foot gardening this year.  So I decided to do a test on my garden to see which way works best for me in the garden- traditional row gardening or square foot gardening.  I inadvertently started a few other gardening methods to test- one area I put annual rye on as a cover crop (ran out so the whole garden didn’t get covered), another area has leaves from last fall where I am basically doing the Ruth Stout method, while the final area has neither of those.  I’m interested to see which area does best, although I may not actually plant each type of veggie in each section to compare, I haven’t decided yet.