25 May 2015

Killing frost

The good news is that the 20 greenhouse tomatoes are still going strong

It's a different story out in the barnyard, however. The weather took an unpleasant dip below freezing on Saturday May 23rd, leaving all the tomato plants looking like this at 7.00am:

And by the time the sun had warmed them up, they all looked like this:

This, dear reader, is a dying tomato. Today, all that's left of it is a sad little pile of brown.

I still had a few of my excess plants left, which I've been selling from my mini farm stand at the front of the house. In fact, a woman bought $30 dollars-worth on Saturday afternoon. She's a regular customer, so I couldn't say no, but my heart was breaking a little bit as I saw her leave with 70% of my remaining plants. This left me with just eight to replace the 40-odd I had lost.

I have sown some more, in a spirit of optimism, and have also pinched out side-shoots of some of the greenhouse plants, in the hope that they will root and be useful to fill some of the gaps.

I also discovered a couple of volunteer tomato seedlings growing in the pepper bed, so I have recruited them to the cause as well.

Then I remembered noticing some other stray tomatoes in the front garden: they must have grown from the worm compost I spread there in the spring. Sure enough, there was a respectable crop of baby tomato plants growing in among the flowers there. I dug them up and potted them into a seed tray. At this rate I will soon be over-run with tomato plants again. ;-)

Of course I have no idea what variety these little plants are, but they will all be from last year's fruit, so should all be heirloom types. I can't think of a better argument for growing heirloom plants and for home composting than this!

The frost was forecast - in a rather last-minute way - but the night before was very windy, so putting any sort of protection in place wasn't easy. I managed to cover up the corn and squash plants with plastic, but even with that layer, most of those died, too. They were only sown a week or two ago, so won't be as difficult to replace as the tomato plants.

The brassica plants survived the frost, but even they have suffered some damage - I think the temperature was more like -2°C/28°F than the 0°C/32°F that was (eventually) forecast. Ah well, lesson learned: wait until June to be safe.

16 May 2015

Garden in!

The Victoria Day weekend is the traditional one for putting tender plants in the garden, but I was slightly nervous of doing so when I saw that the temperature was going to drop to 4°C/39°F in the coming week. I went ahead anyway, and the next time I looked at the weather forecast it had changed to 7°C/45°F - so with any luck all will be well.

It's been a madly busy week in the lower vegetable garden, which has only just dried out and warmed up after the cold Spring. There has been a lot of weeding and manuring leading up to the last two days when I've been putting in the tomato, corn, squash and brassica seedlings which had been growing on in the greenhouse. Last year I lost most of the cabbages to rabbits. so this year I'm experimenting with scattering some ground-up dried cayenne peppers around them as a deterrent. 

The tomatoes are all in the ground and surrounded by a mulch of grass-cuttings.

In the much drier upper vegetable garden I'm experimenting with some grain crops this year: barley, oats and wheat. The idea is to become a bit more self-sufficient in grain for the chickens in the future, but I imagine that this year we'll probably just keep any grain we gather as seed for next year.

30 April 2015

Spring, all of a sudden

 The weather has just taken a warmer turn, which is just as well, as I couldn't leave it much longer to transplant my peppers, eggplants and tomatoes from the warmth of the house. I spent a happy hour in the greenhouse on Monday, potting everything on. 100 tomatoes, 33 peppers and 12 eggplants are all now in greenhouse beds or in pots waiting to go outside once the soil is warm enough. It will be some weeks before that is true!

On Saturday I was up early for a long drive to Kitchener. I had to stop on my way out of the County to grab this scene: this is at Carrying Place, with the Bay of Quinte in the distance. It was a magical moment, just before the sun came up.

The chickens are really enjoying being able to run around in the orchard again. The older Buff Orpington rooster keeps his distance from the younger one (who is Top Bird at the moment), but the Welsummer rooster doesn't seem to have any disputes with the other two. I usually resist naming the chickens, but this one looks like he should be called Kelloggs, don't you think?

13 April 2015

Ice out

'Ice out' is when a lake is clear of ice after the winter. Usually it happens to 'our' lake at around the time of the Spring Equinox, but last year and this year it's been April before all the ice has melted. We had high winds the other night and they must have been responsible for the huge piles of drift-ice that have washed up in places along the edge of the lake. I've never noticed this happening before, but they are really quite something to see!

05 April 2015

Spring progress report

It is beginning to get warm enough for me to get started on the Spring jobs. Looming largest in my thoughts was the need to empty the chicken enclosure of the accumulation of winter litter. But I couldn't do that until the chickens were willing to spend some time outside. They aren't happy about walking in the snow, so I needed most of the snow to be gone before I could contemplate the task.

Here's the orchard on March 26th:

Still fairly snowy: the Buff Orpingtons were willing to brave the conditions, but none of the other breeds fancied leaving the coop.

By yesterday most of the snow had gone and the birds were spending their time outside. Here they are this morning. There was a light scattering of snow overnight, but not enough to bother them.

It took two hours of shovelling to get the barn free of the woodchips and chicken detritus of the winter. And there was a rat's nest. With baby rats in it. I won't say any more about that...

The resulting chicken manure heap is huge! You can see that there's still quite a lot of snow behind it.

There are some signs of life in the greenhouse. These seedlings are coming up in the bed where I sowed peas. They're clearly not peas, but I'm hoping they are something edible, so I'll leave them for now.

It's suddenly a lot easier to walk up past the barns, with the snow going. There is still a lot of ice in places - this patch along the fence line is a good ten inches thick!

I was actually quite grateful for the continued cold weather, as our fridge went wrong on the 25th of March and was out of action for  a week. I put our cool box into service and stationed it on the porch. Fortunately the weather stayed at fridge temperature for the whole week, so we didn't have any problem keeping things cold.

It wasn't the most convenient location for a fridge, but having all the food out on the porch did turn out to be a very effective deterrent against snacking!

19 March 2015

Springing up

The snow is going...so slowly...but it is going.

Outside enough has melted to reveal some bulbs starting to emerge.

 On the living room windowsill I've got a small army of herbs growing. I'm hoping to take these to the Seedy Saturday event in Trenton in a few weeks.

I've dug my way through to the greenhouse from the small barn and have sown peas, parsnips, lettuce, leeks and some onions in one of the beds in there. The water is still frozen, so currently the most effective way of watering the seeds is to dig up more snow from outside and sprinkle it over the bed. Effective but not necessarily easy!

20 February 2015

Regular February service

February seems determined to compensate for a relatively snowless January. It's been cold too, with an average temperature so far of -14°C/7°F (the month usually averages -6°C/21°F here). The temperature hasn't been above freezing since January 24th, and isn't forecast to do so in the next two weeks.

I seem to have spent a lot of time digging out the driveway and my 'eggs' sign: it's a bit of a miracle that the chickens are still laying (some of them have even gone broody in the last month!).

I'm reading Naomi Klein's book about climate change, This Changes Everything at the moment. I'm sure that this cold spell is one of those unexpected side effects of global warming, but right now I'm finding it hard to get upset about the idea of a bit more warmth in my life!