Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Month of May...

May has come and gone and June has set in with it's summer heat. Before spring 2013 departed, the May winds almost never let up and I was sure the calendar should have read March, especially with a cold snap or two. However, May was filled with all the drama that one expects as spring wraps up and summer approaches.

By June 1st, I finally was able to put tomatoes and other heat loving vegetables in the garden with confidence, albeit late, so I'm hoping they take off and catch up before the first frost sets in. This year's crop is an experiment with a variety of heirloom tomatoes, an assortment of peppers, and at least 5 varieties of eggplant. I'm hoping to find the variety that is best in my "something less than zone 7" garden.

If I've learned anything this past winter in gardening, it's that I'm NOT a zone 7 (no, no... much colder!). I lost 2 fig trees and 2 bay trees in the first cold snap this past winter despite the weather app that said it only dipped to 19 degrees. However, that was 15-20 miles away in town. Lesson learned... my micro-climate is NOT the same.

Another May event that was more emotional by far, was the near loss of our beloved Golden Retriever, Belle. At 12.5 years, she was suddenly going down fast, but a great vet and one surgery later, Belle's feeling better than she has in years! Unfortunately, they also found cancer in her despite preliminary tests that were to the contrary. We will enjoy the final days we have with her, make her as comfortable as possible, and let her go with the Good Shepherd when He calls. But with great tears. She's simply the best.


On the other hand, our cup runneth over with goats (and thankfully, the milk pail has been, too). We've seen one come and go (not a fit for our small homestead), and two join us to stay for a while. Never boring, our caprine friends keep us smiling and on our toes...


Not to be outdone by the goats, the bees created some drama as well. The remaining 2012 hive decided to split and swarm (best as I can tell). Carniolans are infamous for this kind of behavior, but they do amazingly well in this cold mountain climate. Thanks to my husband Andy's observant eye, he saw them trying to settle onto a wild shrub on the mountain behind the garden. He quickly put together a nuc box for me, and being that they were only 2 feet off the ground, we easily slipped them into the box to re-home them. Kate has since moved them to the farm until fall in order to prevent them from robbing the original hive.


The meat chickens got a new home this year (although they don't know it!). The tractor is a dream... easy to move, roomy with enough head room to get inside if necessary, and well constructed. Unfortunately, raccoons or foxes felt it was just the challenge they had been looking for in our little community. They decided to pick off the birds, one by one; just reach in and dismember the "not so bright" chicken and pull the parts through the opening (I decided not to post that photo). 

This first problem was remedied by adding hardware cloth to the bottom walls of the two ends. Lasted 48 hours until the culprits solved that issue by digging under. Did I mention meat birds aren't very bright? Totally unaware of danger, they continued to sit there until the raccoon (or fox) dug a hole and pulled them under with ease. This was even easier than their first strategy!

The next night, I placed large heavy bricks around the tractor, but only on the ends where they could see the birds. Obviously I forgot... raccoons are much smarter than broilers. They don't have to actually SEE their prey to attack. 

By now my chicken dinners had diminished by 9 and the cost of the remaining 10 had increased significantly. Determined to solve the issue, I put our other Golden Retriever outside for the night and placed the tractor on a hog panel that extended beyond the border of the cage. With only a week to go, it appears this has solved the issue for now. 

I would like to raise the next batch just outside our fence line (where the grass is more abundant), but the dog would only be able to get so close and not actually go after a wild animal. I'm definitely open to viable solutions should anyone have one that is reasonably cost effective and would allow my tractor to remain portable. 

Despite all the happenings, we were able to wrap up the final weeks of our regular school year, much of it outdoors. Gotta love homeschooling! We're now working on some extra summer work during the heat of the day in order to knock off some needed high school credits.

By now you've probably noticed that my photos are no longer watermarked. Oh, yes... that was after you noticed I hadn't written a post in WEEKS. As much as I would like to keep my photos copyright-safe, I'd much rather spend the time it takes to stamp them... outside, in the garden. So I hereby deputize all Homestead Revival readers to kindly send me a link should you come across a site where someone has "borrowed" a photo without linking back OR without proper acknowledgement. I'm grateful for your extra eyes. 

And thanks for not giving up on me! Just for sticking around, I'm giving you advance notice that I hope to have an awesome giveaway later this week.... HINT: Think "Bakercreek". What could it be?

Gotta run... The garden calls.



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