A True Family Farm

When our boys help in the gardens they represent the fifth generation of the family to work the soil on Kimker Hill. Four generations still live on the farm today. Strong family bonds and a deep love and respect for the earth influence all of our farm practices.

Our gardens provide us with the best and purest of food, matchless beauty, and the ultimate earth science classroom for our homeschooled boys.

Sustainability is a popular buzz word among small scale agriculture. To us it means giving more than you take. Putting back what you use. Remembering that this beautiful earth will last forever and it's our commision to care for. In our gardens we try hard to follow these ideals and work with the earth's design, not against it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter is here! Join me at the market on Saturday.

The calender may not agree, but winter has arrived. I can't believe how cold it is outside. Danny finally gave in and cleaned out the flue last week so he could start a fire in the wood stove. The house feels so much more comfortable now, there is just such a different feel in the air with the wood heat as compared to electric. We're all wanting to be in the basement to enjoy it. Danny and Zach moved all the plant starting equipment out of the way, and then set up the ping pong table and they've been playing ping pong and board games and watching movies and hanging out as much as possible. They even want to work on their schoolwork near the wood stove.

Out in the gardens, there's isn't much left. What the cold hasn't killed, the chickens have shredded or devoured in most of the gardens. We have quite a number of chickens that are impervious to the electric fence. No matter how often I move the fence, they still escape within just a short while of letting them out of the coop. At least they fertilize while they eat.

Over in the far garden there are still beets and turnips that have survived. We're enjoying them, I put a couple turnips in the Mixed Beans and Peas Soup that I made today. I love having fresh veges in December!

I'm hoping to be able to bring some turnips with me to the market this weekend. I guess it will depend on the weather. It sounds like we're going to get rain and ice maybe even snow this week. I sure hope it warms up a little before Saturday.

This Saturday, December 12th, is the next winter market in Tower Grove. Bear and I are planning to be there and we hope to see as many of you as possible. Remember, I won't be at the market in January, so you'll need to stock up enough to last until the February market.

Tomorrow I start filling bags for the market, so if there is anything in particular you would like me to bring for you, please let me know asap. Special orders get priority. Larger quantities are available if you e-mail me in advance.

I just updated the list of available products and prices. Hope this helps.

Oh yeah, one more thing, the chickens are in full egg-production now. I will have plenty of fresh, free-range eggs on Saturday as well.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I've been told it's time for an undate.....

So much has happened since my last post. The summer market is over, the Harvest Festival on October 24th was a success. Our whole family went to the market that day. The boys kept me very busy the day before making muffins. Nate had a ball selling them. It took him all day, but by the end he didn't have a single muffin left. Now he can hardly wait for the opening day of the market in the spring, he wants to do it all over again.

We were happy that we had fresh, ripe produce for the market right to the end. As each thing ended, Danny had something new starting to produce. The last day we still had swiss chard, kale, bok choy, Michihili chinese cabbage, green and purple beans, tomatoes, potatoes and more.

If the chickens leave the gardens alone, we will even have fresh greens for the first winter market next Saturday, Novemeber 14th.

We had enough of a frost a couple weeks ago to put an end to most of the summer veges, but the winter veges love the cooler weather. The excess of rain in October made it impossible to harvest the last of the beans, they could only pick the one outside row. Bonnie said every time they tried to step in any of the rows they sunk. Danny tried putting boards down to walk on, but they sunk, too. We had such a productive fall harvest of beans that we didn't feel too bad about it.

Since the end of the market season, the boys and I have been concentrating on schoolwork. I'm still playing catch-up on grading and logging their schoolwork and trying to organize everything.

Danny finally has time to do some projects around here and work with the boys on school projects.

Were all happy to have a break from the gardens for a while...before we know it the gardens will dry out and it will be time to clean them up and put them to bed for the winter.

Hope everyone's enjoying the beautiful fall weather this week!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The bounty continues!

Do you like the pictures? They give you just a little glimpse of what the gardens are like this year.

Right now, everywhere you look there seems to be something that needs to be picked. The okra is growing like crazy. It's well over our heads. Mom & Bonnie picked it again this evening & they said they had to reach way up to get it. I'll be bringing lots of it to the market this weekend.

The cucumbers are all finished now. Danny pulled up the last of the vines this evening & took down the trellis & t-posts. He tilled up the whole area around it & started hilling up new rows to get ready to plant more lettuce & spinach.

The tomatoes are still producing quite well, although certain varieties seem to be about finished for the year. We have a new variety that started producing this week. It's a yellow cherry tomato that came up on it's own in the front flower bed. They're delicious, I'm hoping to be able to bring some to the market Saturday. (If I can keep the kids from eating them all.) That makes our 18th variety of heirloom tomatoes for this year.

Are you hungry for zucchini? The new row of plants started producing last week. There are several varieties & they look really pretty together. I'll bring extra of my Zucchini Muffin Mix this weekend to go along with it. (I ran out last weekend, sorry if you missed out.)

The cantaloupes & honeydews are gone now, but the watermelons are going strong. They were all so delicious this year. Mom was telling us this evening that she just heard you have to have really good soil to get a good tasting melon. Since this is the first time we've planted in that particular garden plot, we feel very appreciative that it was so rich & provided us & so many others with such wonderful melons. We thought our favorite variety of watermelon was the White Wonder, but tonight Bonnie talked us into trying a Sugar Baby. It's a red variety & every bit as delicious.

The amaranth is beginning to flower. It's not as tall as we expected, but I guess that will make it easier to harvest. We have to wait until after the first frost.

Our second biggest producer right now is the beans. The Fortex green beans and the Chinese Long Red Noodle Beans are way up over the 8ft trellis & are covered in beans as well as blooms. The new rows of bush beans are all covered with blooms & should begin producing any day now.

All the flowers in the front flower beds and in the garden are covered in bright, beautiful flowers. The zinnias are a rainbow of color & the cosmos is a whole variety of pastel pinks & purples, now that the onslaught of Japanese Beetles is over. The lack of beetles has also allowed the Marigolds in the gardens to break out in blooms. They are a bright splash of color among all the shades of green in the gardens.

Fall is in the air now, I'll keep you posted as things continue to change.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer's harvest is keeping us very busy!

I suppose you've noticed the lack of recent posts. The gardens have been in full production and it's taking all my time to keep up with the bounty of the harvest. Bonnie and her helper, Katie, come twice a week to pick. My mom and Danny and the boys pick too.

My friend Sally has been coming on two other days to help me with the processing. My Grandma helps out as well when she's able. Today, another friend came and picked tomatoes and okra for me. (It's hayfever season for me now, so I don't venture into the gardens very often.)

The okra is finally producing, it seemed to take forever. Up until last week we were only getting about a handful at a time (off of two 70 foot long rows.) Now, it's needing to be picked every couple of days. I should have a nice basketful again this weekend at the market.

You would be surprised to see how much all of the chicks have grown. The ones that hatched in May are almost as big as the adults. It's getting hard to tell them apart. Of course their coloring is different. We love seeing all the variety of colors as they walk around the yard. My mom commented on how much she enjoys them when she was here this afternoon.

The second batch of chicks have grown a lot, too. Except for two of them, they are still tiny little things by comparison. One of them is dark brown and black, the other one is mostly white with little dark spots. The white one is our newest pet. It loves to be held. It comes up to your feet and just waits to be noticed and picked up. It wants to be petted and carried around. Nate carries it all over the place. Last week he brought it in the garden with us while we were weeding the squash. It just walked around eating bugs and enjoying being near us. But, when Nate walked away to get rid of some weeds, it tried to follow him and started peeping loudly when it couldn't keep up. We named it Peeper. It is so cute!

The gardens have changed a lot since the last pictures. The cucumbers and beans are over the top of the 8 foot trellises. The tomatoes are almost all to the top of their trellises as well. The okra is almost taller than Bonnie. And the new variety of sunflowers Danny planted are taller than all of us, even Zach . I think one of them must be close to 15 feet tall!

We got the first of our watermelons last Friday. We've been getting cantaloupes and honeydews for the past few weeks. They are so delicious! I remember now why we planted all heirloom varieties. I've even discovered that I love honeydews. I had a man at the market complain that everyone brings them before they're ripe, that they need to split open before you pick them. Well, I came home and tried one that was split open...it was the best tasting melon I had eaten in a long time. He was right. I suppose other people knew that secret as well, because I brought a split one with me this past weekend and it was the first one to sell.

All the potatoes have been dug now. Danny and Bonnie and all the kids, even little Phillip, dug the last of them Monday. This time they got some really big ones. I'm pleased because the final ones they dug were from the starter potatoes I saved from last years harvest.

This past month Danny started tilling the areas where the potatoes and a few other veges were and began planting the fall crops. We have a new crop of beans and zucchini and yellow squash and a lettuce mix that are off to a good start. Tomorrow, he's planning on pulling up the last of one row of cucumbers and planting peas. I'm looking forward to the fall peas because the spring ones didn't do well at all. We did get a few to eat as we worked, but not enough for a meal. I'm hoping to be able to get some in the freezer for winter.

Well, there's so much more to tell ... but this will have to do for now. I've got to go finish up for today. There are still tomatillos and cucumbers and okra and eggs waiting to get put away before I can go to bed.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Great day at the market!

What a wonderful day for the market! The temperature was perfect, there was a slight breeze and there was a wonderful turnout of shoppers.

I hope everyone enjoyed all the fresh produce. This was our first week with a good selection of fresh produce. We dug our first two rows of potatoes, Yukon Gold and a great red variety that I can't remember the name of. We had some of the Yukon Gold for dinner tonight, they taste amazing. I think Bear ate four of them. I'll have more of them at the market next week.

We also had lots of colorful Rainbow Swiss Chard. We had that for dinner as well.

I brought the first toteful of peppers, large bells, poblanos, jalapeno, anchos and more.

I brought lots of cucumbers, they're really busy producing now. We got a little basketful of tomatoes this week too, but they disappeared very quickly. We had a cucumber and tomato salad. We've all been waiting impatiently for them to ripen. It looks like there should be enough ripe next week to be able to take some with me to the market. Of course, the cool weather being predicted for the week may slow them down again.

Yellow squash and zucchini are in full production now too. I brought plenty of them with me today as well. We've been enjoying them for several weeks now. One of our favorite ways to fix either one is to thinly slice the squash and an onion and cook them with just a little butter and seasalt. Or, we make larger, thicker slices and Danny grills them after brushing them with olive oil, garlic and italian seasoning and sprinkling them with seasalt.

I've been chopping up lots of them and putting them in the freezer for winter, and spring. I use the chopped squash in my salsas and use the chopped zucchini in my Zucchini Spice Muffins and Zucchini Bread. I package it in ziploc freezer bags in the quantity called for in the recipies, and then it's easy to defrost and use all year long. I love putting it up while there is so much fresh, organic produce available. I highly recommend the practice to others as well.

I also had lots of our free-range eggs. The hens aren't laying quite as well as in the spring, but I'm not complaining, the ones they are laying taste so wonderful.

I took some new pictures of the chicks when we moved the coops a couple days ago. They are growing so quickly. The first batch of chicks are getting close to the size of the adult chickens.

Have a good night!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer's bounty is beginning!

Squash, squash and more squash..Bonnie keeps on picking and bringing it in. Plus, cucumbers, swiss chard, a few peppers and just enough beans to eat while she picks. This evening I found the first two ripe cherry tomatoes, I was nice and shared one with Bonnie, Danny was jealous. I discovered them while we were all busy pulling weeds and weaving the tomato plants through the cattle panels.

I'm still trying to get the transplanting finished. This past week I transplanted three more rows of Rainbow swiss chard and Bonnie planted a few more eggplant. And this evening, I finally put in the marigolds at the end of each row of tomatoes. Danny's been taking pictures so you can see the progress.

You should see how hard the bees are working. They seem to be everywhere. Danny says they're very busy filling the hives with honey. He added another hive body to one of the hives last week. Unfortunately for him, he found out firsthand why the longtime beekeepers warn about being careful around the bees when it's too hot or the weather is changing. Friday, he went down to check on the bees without putting on the beejacket with the veil. The first two hives were just like usual, he picked up a handful to "pet" and let them crawl all over his hand. But when he got to the third hive, they were not in a good mood at all. They swarmed all over him and he got stung four times. He said he went running away shaking them off as he ran. He had quite a bad reaction in one arm. But, he's much better now, the swelling's gone and he said it's finally stopped hurting. I bet he'll remember to put on the suit the next time he goes to "pet" the bees.

We were all happy to see rain over the weekend, the excessive heat wave was about to bake everything in the gardens. It came just in time to save us from having to start watering all the gardens. The plants all look so much better, they've really perked up.

It was just too bad the rain hit on a market day. It was storming so hard here we decided not to try to make it to the market. I'm sorry if I disappointed you by not being there. Unfortunately, I won't be at the market this weekend either. This is the one weekend I told everyone I would be missing. I'll be back at the market on July 18th!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chicks on the move!

This evening we moved the coops again onto fresh grass. This time we got them moved before they killed the grass under them. It's getting easier and quicker as we're getting used to the new routine.

Afterwards, I got the great idea to try to lure the big chicks into the Eggmobile. Only a couple of them followed the trail of chicken feed I left for them, so I deciced to wait until dark to try again. I closed their old coop so they would have more of an incentive to follow the chickens in to roost and we all went in the house. After dark, Bear and I went out with a flashlight and started catching them and putting them in one or two at a time. When we got down to the last two, we got tired of trying and decided to just wait until later.

The idea behind this new move for the chicks was to make room in the old coop for the baby chicks. We were planning to move them tomorrow afternoon, but we decided it would be easier on all of us to just get it over with while they were calm and it was cooler. It didn't take too long to get them all set up and now they can wake up to their new home in the big outdoors. They're still pretty tiny, but I think they'll do better in the coop than they would staying in the brooder, cooped up in the hot garage.

After we finished moving the little chicks, we tried again to catch the last of the big chicks. We got one easily, but the other one just kept alluding us. After too many trips around the yard to count, we gave up. But I couldn't quit worrying about it out there by itself (and Bear couldn't go to sleep.) So, just before midnight Bear and I went out to try again. We must have looked hilarious following it around and around. Bear finally gave up trying to be quiet and sneakily try to catch it and starting running after it while I followed them both with the flashlight. I couldn't help laughing. But it worked, the chick finally decided to try to escape out of the fence, as it wiggled its way out, Bear just reached over the fence and picked it up. Whew, I hope we don't have to do that again! As we came inside still laughing, Bear told me I had to get this in writing. So now you get to enjoy it too!

Goodninght everyone.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The first of our squash is here and delicious!

Monday, Danny picked the first basketful of yellow squash and zucchini!! We've already had it for dinner 3 times and had the leftovers for dessert. We love it!

This evening, Zach picked two more basketfuls of yellow squash and it looks like there will be even more ready to pick tomorrow. This will be the first market this year that I'll be able to bring fresh produce with me.

I sure wish this heat wave would let up, the weeds are going crazy. It's hard to get motivated to go out and weed when it's this hot. I so much prefer the air-conditioning, but I have to set a good example. We all went out again this evening to weed and mulch. When we all work together, it doesn't take too long to see definite progress.

I was hoping we'd at least see the rain the weatherman's been predicting for today. After all the weeks of endless rain, you wouldn't think we'd want or need any more, but the gardens are getting rather dry. If it doesn't rain tonight, we're going to have to start watering tomorrow.

Hopefully we'll be able to do some more planting tomorrow evening. Danny has quite a bit of swiss chard that's ready to get in the ground. The initial row of rainbow swiss chard is just about ready to begin picking. We got it all weeded and mulched again this evening. It looks so pretty with all the different colors.

Oh, here's a warning for all the tomatoes growers reading this: It's time to check your plants for hornworms! One discovered our extra plants on the back porch and devoured most of the leaves before Danny stopped it. They're not the only pests attacking the gardens though. My parsley suffered the same scenerio from a parsley caterpillar. Potato bugs are out in full force and Japanese beetles have arrived.

Danny's fighting back with organic remedies for each of these pests. I'll keep you updated...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Update on all the chickens!

Shortly after my last post, two more chicks hatched but two others didn't survive, so we ended up with 28 new little chicks. All of them are doing well in the brooder in the garage.

It's hard to believe what a difference six weeks can make. When the last batch of chicks hatched, we had to keep the brooder heat lamp plugged in to keep the chicks warm enough in the garage. This time, it's so hot we have to keep the big fan running to keep them from overheating.

Thursday, after Bear and I finished moving the last of the new chicks into the brooder, I decided to try letting the big chicks out of their coop to run around with the rest of the flock. Surprisingly, the older chickens didn't seem to bother them at all. I suppose our plan worked. We've been moving their coop alongside the "eggmobile" as we move it around the yard in hopes that they would all be familiar with one another. So far so good. At night, the chicks go back in their coop and the rest go in the eggmobile. I haven't even had to separate them. Its turned out better than we hoped.

Now I'm hoping that the chicks will all be ready to move into the eggmobile by the time the new chicks need to get out of the brooder. Time will tell....

Thursday, June 18, 2009

More "little peeps" are here!!

Wow! What a busy day for the chicks. Nate woke me at 5:56 this morning with the news that there were more chicks in the incubator. He said they were so loud that he heard them all the way up in his room.

When I went down to see, there were seven fluffed up little chicks waiting to be let out. I put them in with the other chicks and went back to bed. When Bear woke up, there were three more waiting to greet him. As the day has progressed, eight more have hatched and we can see several more eggs rocking in the incubator.

The nine that hatched yesterday have been moved into the brooder in the garage and are happily snuggling together. The ones that hatched today are still kind of sleepy and several are still wet.

We are enjoying watching them as they learn to get around. First they just kind of lurch forward toward the others. As they dry off, they start to heat up and want to get away from under the brooder light. Then they start walking around a bit with a lot of time to rest in between attempts. After a couple hours they begin looking for the food and water. The more they move around the more fluffed up they get until they look like little fluff balls, especially the buff colored ones.

So far, four of the chicks look like the buffs, most of them look like "chickmunks," and some of them are really dark like the Silver Wyandottes.

I'll keep you updated!

It's hatching day again!

This morning, about 10 o'clock, the first chick hatched as Bear and Nate watched excitedly. Two more hatched just a short time later. Then we waited all day, peeking in the incubator as often as possible....

We were gone for a few hours this evening and when we returned there were four more waiting for us. They were already dry and fluffed out. Within a few minutes of our arrival, another one hatched. Now, there are ten more that have broken through their shells and are "peeping to one another," but they haven't hatched yet.

Some of the excitement from last time has waned a bit, and it wasn't too hard to get the kids to bed, but they did have to come and check "just one more time" more than once. It is pretty amazing to watch as they hatch. Now it's my turn to go check "one more time before bed."

My camera is working again so we'll be taking pictures to post.

Friday, June 5, 2009

You should see the gardens now!

It's always amazing to me just how fast everything changes in the spring. I love looking out the upstairs windows each morning and taking note of the progress. Some days, especially after its rained, you can almost see the plants getting taller.

Most of the gardens are planted now. Just a few open spaces left to fill.

This evening we decided to add a couple more rows of tomatoes. The first ones I planted are about two feet tall now and Danny has started weaving them through the cattle panels. Some of them even have blooms on them already. The last ones to be planted haven't fared quite as well. They were planted when it was way too wet and I've had to replace a few of them, but they are growing. I'm starting to visualize picking vine-ripened, juicy tomatoes in all different colors. I think all together we have 17 different varieties this year.

We also decided to add a row of tomatillos. We have some planted in with the tomatoes, but they are coming up all over the gardens. We took Sam's advice (from Sunflower Savannah) and didn't start any from seed this year. She said the ones that come up on their own will be stronger and healthier. Last year, after the hail damaged all of mine, she gave me a lot of volunteers from her garden and they did great. So, Danny prepared a row and filled it with nice healthy transplants.

A few days ago, we planted more watermelons, bush beans, and sunflowers. We also planted amaranth. We're excited about trying to grow a new kind of grain, and I'm looking forward to the beautiful flowers it's supposed to have all summer.

My camera is not working right now, but we'll post pictures soon...

Oh, I also have another 41 eggs in the incubator. Hopefully, we'll have little chicks again in about two weeks....

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The chicks got a new home today!

We moved all 27 chicks to their new home today. They have really grown quickly, except for the two little ones that hatched last, they are so cute and tiny.

We knew it was time to move them out of the garage when they started getting out of the brooder on their own when we went to refill their waterer. It was just too crowded in there.

So, on this beautiful, sunny morning, Bear, Nate, Sydney and I carried them out, one or two at a time, to the "old big coop." Yesterday, after Danny got home from work, he and the boys moved it alongside the new coop and got it ready for them. It was fun to watch them as they discovered the big outdoors. The coop has a rather large screened in area with a tarp over it for shade, so they have room to explore. They all move around it in a pack as if they were still in the brooder.

After they were all settled, we moved the fence around both coops with fresh grass for the rest of the chickens. We had to laugh when I opened up "The Eggmobile" (that's what I'm calling the new coop) and the chickens came pouring out of it. It didn't take them long to check out their old coop. They seemed totally mystified when they couldn't get inside, and then taken aback when they noticed the chicks. We're hoping that by the time the chicks get big enough to integrate into the flock, they will already be used to one another and get along.

As the day progressed, we realized we moved the chicks outside on a rather frightening day from their prospective. New home, new neighbors and then rain followed by major storms. We had a lot of lightening, thunder and even hail (but nothing compared to last year's hail.)

This past week has been very productive in spite of all the rain. Danny took a few vacation days off work to be able to work even harder on the farm! He and the boys finished putting up t-posts and cattle panels for the tomatoes, cucumbers and beans. They spread a lot more hay on the gardens, and Danny got a lot planted (transplanted and direct seeded.) He also built inner covers for the beehives and got them installed. I'm almost finished planting the tomatoes, I think I have space for 12 more plants.

This year we are closely guarding our "just-in-case replacement plants." We have moved them in and out of the hoophouse repeatedly because of all the storms. Last year, when the golf-ball sized hail hit, all the extra plants were either on the back porch or in the hoophouse and they got shredded along with the ones in the garden. This year, we're not taking any chances.

Well, the summer market in the Tower Grove Park is off to a good start. If you haven't been there yet this year I hope you can join us soon. We're there every Saturday from 8:30am until 12:30pm.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Opening Day at the Tower Grove Market!

Kickoff Celebration was a great success! All five of us were there. It was fun getting to look around at all the different vendors and trying new items. Bear and Nate had a ball again at the playground. They even found a way to play and work. They took a basket of my muffins, a few at a time, and sold them all!

You can see Zach working in the last picture at Oh Crepes!

Now we're back working on the farm. Hope to see you Saturday at the market.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Good news!

Two more 'little peeps' were waiting for Danny this morning when he left for work. They seem so much tinier than the others. I'm waiting until tomorrow to introduce them to the rest.

We still have hope for the other fourteen in the incubator, but we haven't heard any peeping for a while now. Oh well, we'll wait and see.

Today my Dad and Grandma came to see the chicks. Grandma seemed as excited as I was. She was hoping another one would hatch while she was here, but it didn't. Grandma also came to help me transplant various plants to larger pots to get ready for the weekend.

This Saturday, May 9th, is the Kickoff Celebration for the Tower Grove Farmers' Market. It lasts longer than the usual market. It runs from 8:30am to 2:30pm. Check out the website for all the details: http://www.tgmarket.org. Hope you can join us!

We'll be bringing a lot of heirloom varieties of tomato plants, such as Green Zebras, Brandywines, Tappy's Heritage and Reisentraubes (at Earth Day I found out that means enormous grape). We'll also have hot pepper, sweet pepper and banana pepper plants, as well as herbs and flowers.

I've been taking more pictures. I'll try to get Zach to post some tomorrow. I even managed to get a good picture of Grandma working, not an easy task because if she sees the camera she makes a face.

Five more 'fluff balls' have arrived

They all hatched this morning and are all doing very well. All 25 of the chicks have been moved to the brooder in the garage. The five that hatched this morning just got moved a couple hours ago. They seem to like being part of the brood.

There are still sixteen eggs in the incubator. Technically, they were just expected to begin hatching this evening. We are beginning to hear little 'peeps' coming from them. We're guessing that the different varieties take different lengths to fully develop.

I want to go check on them one more time before I go to sleep.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Update on the chicks

As of 9:30 this evening twenty chicks had hatched! Almost all of them hatched in pairs. To us, it appeared as if they were racing to see who could escape first.

Only 4 of them look like the Buff Orpingtons. The rest are a mixture of colors. Quite a number of them have coloring like a chipmunk. The boys are calling them "Chickmunks'!

Fourteen of these 'balls of fluff' have been moved into the brooder in the garage. It had gotten quite loud in here for a while. They seem to all start peeping at the same time.

Six are still very sleepy and some are still a little damp, so they are snuggling together in the box in the kitchen.

Right now, two more have broken holes in their shells but are resting in preparation for the 'big hatch.' The ones in the box were peeping loudly in encouragement, but now they are all sleeping again and the kitchen is quiet.

The adult chickens seem to like their new coop. We let them out for the day and when evening came, about half of them went back into it on their own. We had to help the rest of them get back inside. Today, they even rewarded us with the most eggs we've ever collected in one day, thirty-one!

Oh, I think the other chicks are hatching, I want to watch!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Some pictures...

An eventful night!

We all had trouble going to sleep last night, no one wanted to miss seeing the chicks hatch. Zach had the idea of taking turns sleeping and he took the first watch. Everyone else went to sleep, but...

About 3:30am, Danny woke me up asking how the chicks were doing. I came downstairs and found Zach sound asleep on the couch. When I looked into the incubator, one egg had a crack most of the way around it. I was fascinated. This was a first for me. I've never actually watched a chick hatch before. It happened in little steps. It rested a minute from its pecking, then it pushed and broke the top apart from the bottom. Rested a minute, then pushed its head upwards. Rested again, then gave a mighty kick and the bottom flew off. Rested again, then wriggled away from the shell. I was so excited I wanted to go wake everyone to tell them the good news... I didn't, I restrained myself. After all there were still 38 more to hatch. I went back to bed.

At 5:30, I decided it should be dry enough to put in with the others. When I came down to move it, there were 2 chicks dried off and waiting for me. The second one was a buff, the first three are all Siver-Laced Wyandottes.

I put them in the box, checked on the others and then went back to bed. When Zach and Nate woke up, there were 2 more hatched and waiting.

Bear, Nate and I have spent the morning watching chicks hatch. They are every bit as excited as I am. The thirteenth one hatched a few minutes ago. So far there are only two buffs. It's fun watching them as they go from these tired, wet, little bodies to cute, soft, cuddly, adorable balls of fluff.

I'll update later, the boys are calling me, two more are just about to pop out!

Surprises in the incubator!

When Danny came downstairs this morning to make coffee, he heard little "peeps" coming from the incubator. The boys and I didn't get to hear them until later in the afternoon. I was surprised, I've never heard "peeping eggs" before, I didn't expect to hear them until they hatched.

When we came home this evening, we were surprised again. There were two chicks waiting for us in the incubator and "peeping" loudly. One was already dry but the other one looked like it had just hatched, it was still damp. They both seem to think Bear is their mom. When he holds them they are quiet and relaxed.

We had to scramble to get supplies together for them. We thought we still had a couple of days to prepare. For tonight they're in a big box in the kitchen. After they've all hatched, we'll move them to the brooder in the garage. Gretchen, our indoor cat, will be happy about that, for now she's locked in the basement.

Just wanted to share the good news.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The chickens have a new home!

We moved the chickens into their new home today. It really does look a lot like an old-fashioned covered wagon. The chickens weren't nearly as excited as we were. First, we tried pushing and pulling it ourselves. We found out we're only strong enough to move it on level ground. Then Danny hooked it up to the lawn tractor and pulled it over near the hay bales. He stopped briefly so he and the boys could load it up with some hay.

Then he let the younger boys climb in and go for a ride while he moved it into place. They were thrilled! He ended up having to go get the big tractor to get it precisely where he wanted.

The chickens were very happy to have a totally new area to explore and to scratch up. Of course, first they scattered all over the farm while I was moving the fence around the new coop. The boys and I spent hours rounding them up again and getting them back inside the fence.

We tried coaxing them to go inside the coop and check it out for themselves with breadcrumbs, but it didn't work. So, when it got dark, still they didn't want to go inside. They tried to get back to the old coops. We had to pick up each one individually and put them in. Zachary got a flashlight and put it at the back so they could see where they were. That seemed to calm them down and by the time we headed back to the house they were beginning to roost.

The plan is to leave them inside the coop for the next couple of days. We want them to become accustomed to their new home before we let them out. With all the hay in there it should keep them occupied for awhile scattering it around and eating all the seeds in it.

Hopefully by the time we let them out the new chicks will have hatched! I removed the eggs from the automatic turner this evening so they can begin positioning themselves for hatching. They should start hatching on Tuesday. I'll let you know when they do.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Time to recover!

Wow, what a busy weekend! We accomplished so much in the gardens.

Saturday, Danny finished tilling & hilling all the gardens. Then we started planting potatoes. We got all our seed potatoes saved from last year planted then started planting another heirloom variety that we decided to try. After that Danny and Zach rolled out haybales over them. We're trying out our own variation on the "Ruth Stout method" again. After the hailstorm damage last year, we don't think our results were typical. We're hoping for a much larger return per plant this year.

Then we finished our preparations for Earth Day on Sunday.

The weather cooperated nicely for Earth Day, it was sunny and warm, but a little too windy at times. The turnout was a big success. It was nice to see many of our regular customers and to meet so many new people that we hope to see again at the summer market. Our boys had a good time exploring and learning. We were all very glad to get back home though.

Today we're all trying to recover. Surprisingly, Danny managed to find enough energy to plant a couple rows of veges after work.

We'll, I need to go candle the eggs that we're incubating. I'm very hopeful that by this time next week we'll be taking care of a bunch of chicks.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Progress in the gardens!

We had a very productive day today on the farm. Danny re-tilled at least parts of all the gardens. Then he used the new hiller attachment on the tractor and started forming the rows for planting.

After that, he started planting seeds. He direct-seeded okra and swiss chard. Besides that he cut a bunch of grass with the push mower to get grass clippings to put in the gardens. He even mulched the onions.

Meanwhile, Zach was busy cutting grass with the riding mower. I love the way the yard looks just after the first cutting. Everything is so green now, we can really see a difference in the field in front of the house where we moved the chickens around all last year. It's funny, you can see exactly where the coops sat with each move. The grass is so much darker and thicker. It's hard to tell that it was mostly weeds the previous year. The chickens did a great job of eating the weed seeds and providing a multitude of fertilizer.

I was busy working on the front flower bed. I got quite a bit of weeding and mulching done and planted a few new plants. I added 2 new varieties of peonies and a new variety of bleeding heart. Right now, the bleeding hearts and the violets are in bloom and the peonies look like they're just about to bloom.

I also worked on potting plants to take to the market. I'll have quite a few with me at Earth Day and even more at opening day of the Tower Grove Farmers' Market on May 9th. So far I have crown vetch, daisies and violets. Tomorrow I'll be potting 2 varieties of hostas.

Time to get some sleep, tomorrow's another busy day.

Earth Day at Forest Park is this Sunday

Please come and join us at Earth Day this Sunday, April 26th, in Forest Park!

The celebration is located all around the Muny. We will be in a new location this time. The entire Tower Grove Farmers' Market will be located in the Food Education section. It will be to one side of the Muny, more centrally located than last year.

We have been very busy making preparation to be there. I have been grinding lots of flour and making lots of mixes. If you didn't get to the market early last time, you missed out on the new Buckwheat Pancake Mix. I sold out rather quickly, I'll be bringing a lot more this time. Come give it a try. It's made with certified organic, freshly ground buckwheat and flaxseed as well as steel-cut rolled oats. I may even be giving out samples of the finished product. Danny picked up the permit today to be able to sample our products.

For those of you who have been waiting patiently, the Amaranth has finally arrived and I'll have it with me at the market. Also, I have the Golden Flaxseed once again.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reminder about the market tomorrow

Just a little reminder, I'll be at the St Louis Community Farmers' Market in Tower Grove tomorrow from 9:00am to 1:00pm. It's the last one for the season.

I did get the new mixes, "Denise's Healthy Buckwheat Pancake Mix" ready in time for the market. Come and try one for yourself.

Hope to see you in the morning!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Changes on the farm

There is so much happening on the farm now! The little peach trees have bloomed. Flowers are popping up all over. The peas have sprouted in the front flower bed. The chickens are back inside their movable fence. Or maybe I should say, we're trying to keep them in. After all these months of freedom, they're not too happy about being restricted from the gardens. But we are trying, because every time they get out they eat the seedlings popping up in the gardens.

You should see the progress Danny and the boys are making on the new chicken coop. Both ends are up and connected, the doorways for us and the chickens and the openings for the nesting boxes are all cut out. It has a trap door in the floor for easy clean-out and its almost ready to put on the top. Danny's making it up as he goes along because he couldn't find plans for what he wanted. I think it's going to look like an old-fashioned covered wagon when it's finished. We're trying to find a good name for it, so if you'd like to make a suggestion, feel free.

I've been trying to hurry him up building it, because I expected to have a lot of new little chicks by now, but none of them hatched. I'm disappointed, but I'm about to try again. This time I'm going to use an automatic egg turner in the incubator.

We have lots and lots of little plants in the basement. There are literally hundreds of tomato and pepper plants. They've all been transplanted into larger pots now and are getting bigger everyday. We have about 15 varieties of tomato plants, most of the heirloom varieties. The Brandywine and the Old German Striped varieties are really taking off. Last night when I went to water them, they were so tall I had to raise the grow lights over them again. We also have a number of herbs that are growing quite well.

It looks like we'll have plenty of plants to bring to Earth Day at Forest Park. It's on Sunday, April 26th this year. It was a lot of fun last year. We hope you can join us.

I'll also be at the St Louis Community Farmers' Market this Saturday, April 11th. It's the last indoor market we'll be at this season.

I've been working on a new mix for Buckwheat Pancakes. If you'd like to be one of the first to try it, come see me on Saturday. It's wheat and milk-free, but I add milk and yogurt to the mix when I make it at home.

Hope to see you soon!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Excitement is in the air now!

The first tomato seedlings made their appearance today! I'm so excited, I started them in flats just a few days ago. When I came home from the market today about 6 different varieties had popped up.

It's been a busy week. Last Friday, Danny added the needed amendments to each garden bed and then tilled them all. Two of the beds he expanded, one a little, one a lot. We're hoping it will allow us to spread out a bit, some of the rows were just too crowded last year. Oh yeah, the chickens were thrilled. I got several great pictures of them following behind the tractor.

Since then, we've been working on starting seeds and ordering needed supplies in the evenings. Yesterday and today Danny's been working all over the farm. He built a very nice set of compost bins. He's been putting in raised beds for herbs, and putting in stakes for trellises along the edges where he can reach without stepping in the garden. After tilling last week and all the rain this week, you just sink in the mud if you try to walk in the gardens. He also planted snow peas in the front flower bed. We've never had them there before, but we're envisioning walking out on the porch and picking and eating them as a snack. (Last year my little nephew named them green M&M's.)

Besides all that, I'm trying to hatch chicks in an incubator. I set 46 eggs in it a few days ago, so it's keeping me busy turning them several times a day and monitoring the humidity level.

We were also getting ready for today's market. It was such a beautiful day, it was nice to see so many join us at the market.

Now I need to go turn the eggs.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Happy chickens!

Danny made the chickens very happy this afternoon, he plowed up the first garden bed for this year! They went wild when he finished. They definitely lived up to our slogan about them, "happy, healthy chickens with nothing better to do than walk around all day eating bugs."

Friday, Danny will be adding the organic amendments to that bed and tilling them in. Then, hopefully, the other 4 garden beds will be dried out enough that he can get them plowed too. I'm sure the chickens will be very happily following right behind him.

Meanwhile, I'll be starting to plant seeds in the basement. Danny prepared several flats for me this evening.

Can you tell we're finally beginning to get excited about spring? Hope all of you are too!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Okay, our winter break is over!

Time to get back to work! Not that we ever really slowed down, we just got busier making improvements to our house and concentrating on schoolwork with the boys.

Now we're back, thinking and planning for the upcoming growing season. Danny made improvements to my seed starting area in the basement this weekend. I now have running water in the basement with a hose to water all the little seedlings we're about to start. No more hauling water down the stairs, or bribing the boys to help me. (ha,ha) He also put in a new fluorescent light above my work area and generally cleaned up and got my work area organized.

This evening we've been going through our seeds, sorting, taking inventory, trying to decide what we still need to order... so much to do to get started again.

Recently we got the test results back from our soil samples from the different garden areas. Now it's time to start adding the recommended organic amendments. Overall there's not much that needs to be done, all the organic matter we've been adding the last few years has really paid off. It's just the newer beds that need a little extra help.

Time to dream about it now!