We daily lifestyle bloggers are lucky because our blogs read like journals and for farming bloggers the weather is one of the most important notations in our journals. So, all I had to do was scroll back to see when we last had rain.
Our last rain was on May 8th. You and I remember that because it was the night of the storm and the mink attack when we lost Nelson.
So it has only been a month without rain. And one month does not a drought make. It feels longer. Everything is still green and we are a long long way from drought conditions but it is pretty dry. I make a habit of only watering the kitchens gardens every three days to encourage root growth. If you water too often the roots will stay close to the surface and the plant will not be as resilient and robust. Watering too often also compromises the nutrient levels. Watering deep and twice a week is actually better for the plants long term survival.
Everything is dusty and still and why am I so cold? This morning it was just cold.
Today it is so cool outside that I am sure I will get a lot done. Also I am going to walk out into the wheat and bring in the furniture. This is one of the things I keep reminding myself to do then just don’t get time or simply lose the inclination. I have nightmares of forgetting and then the harvester hits them. Though most combine harvesters actually have metal detectors on the outer reaches so if there is something metal the machine will stop. And while we are on interesting bits of information about combine harvesters – the combine also has a cute device called a rock stopper. And until the rock is removed the machine will not go forward. Cool – huh!
I am at my best in the mornings – are you the same?
Here we are then.
🦋 Friday. (Not that Friday means any less or any more work on the farm but it always feels like an achievement).
My latest podcast is UP! This is a hard edged work in progress – really pushing me out of my safe space. Which is a good thing. Taking risks is the way to stay alive.
This one is called Three Kitchens and an old, old love. I should pay someone to write my titles – I have always been crap at headers.
I have discovered as I write that I have had the most amazing education in living sustainably. This exercise of placing myself in these old homes enables a huge raft of really clever information for self sufficiency and frugal living. Which as we know is sustainable.
As I describe all the kitchens and houses that I visited and stayed in as a child I feel even more sure of myself as I begin to teach these methods for developing ones own Sustainable Style.
If you like what you hear please share my Substack link with a few of your friends. There is a chance one might become a subscriber. To date I am being paid $55 a month to write on SubStack – which frankly is a damn sight more than I have been paid in the past! So, thank you to you all! $5 dollars a month.
You are too young to fly!
And Miss C lifted the little bird, for the fourth time that day, off the floor and placed it back into it’s pretend bread basket nest.
Little bird glared at Miss C and waited for her to leave the chook house full of savage chickens before hurling himself back to the floor in protest.
Not long now little bird and you can join your cuzzies!
There are many young barn swallows flying about now. If we can keep these three alive for a few more days, I think they might be able to fly out of the chook house on their own steam
Still having internet woes so I am trying to make this post and save as fast as I can. It can wink out at any moment without warning. The tower is now attached to the house with a bracket so it cannot move at all (which means I have even less signal reaching the house) the 12 year old (do they keep him on a diet like a jockey so they stay thin for climbing the towers?) is booked to come back tomorrow afternoon. Fingers crossed some more.
I attached a broom to the fence to see if the cows use it to sweep the flies off their faces though it is getting so dry and so cold in the nights now that there are way less flies. This is a trial. If they use it I will dismantle a soft old broom and screw it to the post.
But not unless they use it – these are not instagram cows!
Free Bee and Big Jude are really enjoying a bigger sleeping space. They will never be fed treats in here so that they are relaxed in the barn when visitors come to say hullo to the biggest pigs ever. If anyone approached their feed gate they are a noisy pair. Here they are all laid back, harmless and friendly.
Have a lovely day now! I am going to try again to record my story for substack but this bloody bollocksy inclement internet winking in and out is making that difficult.
Lets hope it is better tomorrow!
Take care now
Th-is hazy dry morning brings a post with many images and few words. We don’t always need words right?
“Tell Miss C not to take photos of cows when they have something in their teeth. It is just not cricket, sir.”
Or maybe this big beastie needs to say a thing or two every now and then.
Broken Wing the Rooster stays far away from the others. Even Mr Flowers will chase him when he sees him.
Birds are not kind to the old and infirm. Or the broken. But we are. Because we are evolved, they say.
Speaking of birds:
These three are still going strong. Though I picked two up off the floor again this morning. Squawking their heads off.
Cows in the field.
Hogs in the barn.
And WaiWai in his robe.
All is well with the world.
I should 😂 say more, add more words, add more value to the post 🦋 ! Thats what they all say I should do but I explain gently to all the well meaning unsolicited advisers that this blog is not about content planning, and value for money and attracting new readers and commerce – we are not like that (though we don’t mind making a little money) this blog is all about yesterday. Wherever I am and whatever happened and what I saw and what do you think. And as hard as I try I just cannot plan that.
Though we have the new website to look forward to.
I see our new website as three beautiful, tall, layered, terraced houses standing together on a leafy street.
Starting from the Left is The Kitchen’s Garden Archives full of rooms within rooms stuffed full of history and cobwebs with an aging knowledgeable curator sitting on the front steps reading a book. Dogs and cats curled up on corners.
The middle house has a shiny new The Sustainable Home shop front at street level. All glass frontage with a Sheila logo etched in gold. Full of really good IMPORTANT STUFF and ideas, and boards, and workshops and discussion and a fighting spirit; T shirts and straw hats with more Sheila Logos. Whole racks of second hand stuff and pens and paper and words. Working on creating Sustainable Styles together.
Then there is the third house that spills out into the street and into an allotment beside it; The Kitchen’s Garden DOT ORG is a refurbished grand old building with a cafe and a thousand sit upons and food plants in pots and ten thousand people and plants and cats on the chairs and cows out the back and noise and bustle. Seasonable plates. Local food. With daily newspapers and more good coffee and local wine later, after next doors TSH workshop of the month. No menu and no plan. And all the usual farm stuff and travel stuff and pictures of pigs and cows on the wall because why not. And we would feed everyone who visits the other two houses.
And all these houses are connected by secret doors and circular staircases and rambling corridors and verandahs and lifts with grills and ancient lift operators in livery and – am I getting carried away? Gone too far?
Because this is all online.
This could be a painting. We need an artist. I wish I were an artist – I would draw this for you.
We are doing it. You and I. (And Duane – poor fellow).
Have a lovely day.
PS – Bonus reel.
What if you could take your vitamins and minerals as a dressing. Or as a salad. Or even as breakfast.
If you think you might be short on magnesium – I am here to help.
Thank you Chat GPT for that little list that I abridged – Chat GPT does tend to go on!.
If you think you are short on magnesium you don’t need supplements. You need fresh food. Eat well. (And maybe cut down on the wine – talking to myself).
Supplements and pills are not part of my Sustainable ‘Styles. They are processed, come in plastic containers, travel a long way, 86% of Americans take vitamins or supplements; over 90% of those supplements are made from materials imported from China and the overseas regulatory authorities are difficult to track and I do not recognise a pill as food so why would I put it in my belly. So if you do take supplements – check the origins.
(This is just me though – I totally get that we all have different methods).
“The best supplement is not a supplement at all. It is a good well balanced meal. Eat well and make sure you are pairing your vitamins and minerals for maximum absorption, for instance; magnesium rich foods help absorb calcium, phosphorus and potassium. Vitamin D helps you absorb magnesium”.celi
I am NOT a dietician. But my studies support the theory that local fresh seasonal food and plenty of it is the essence of good health. And you don’t need to check with a doctor before taking a salad for your health.
At the moment I am picking a lot of dark green leafy greens and piles of fresh herbs. And harvesting a lot of eggs. (eggs have a little magnesium too). Early summer fare.
A perfect dinner, rich in magnesium is salmon, with a salad of dark leafy greens and seeds topped with Celi’s Yoghurt Salad dressing followed by a 😆 banana dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with honey oats. Did I miss anything?
Here are two recipes (the second is a riff on the ever wonderful Green Goddess Salad Dressing) As you know I am a recipe developer not a recipe writer so I get frustrated with ingredient lists. My recipes are suggestions – offers – you just go ahead and sub this with that and have fun. Use whatever you have in your garden.
But you will need: plain yoghurt, olive oil, two lemons, garlic, a dried (or fresh) thai chili, honey (and some other stuff) plus piles of green herbs from your windowsill.
🦋 Trust your tastebuds.
For this you need a whole lemon. Including the peel. Organic will be best but if you have to buy one scrub the wax off it with a vege brush.
🐞 Slice one whole un-peeled well-scrubbed lemon as thin as you can. Paper thin. (Pick out the seeds). Stack the slices into a jar with a sprig or two of rosemary and cover in good local virgin olive oil and one tiny whole (halved down the middle) dried chili. (If you do not like chili omit or remove the seeds) Allow this to sit for the day to exchange flavours.
Store in refrigerator up to a week. (this is great with EVERYTHING) – pour through a straining lid. This is a great dressing on its own! For everything.
In a larger jar:
🐞 🦋 use your favourite herbs – today I used:
Oregano, basil, thyme, spring onion, mint, parsley. More parsley the better. (Parsley is very high in iron and tons of Vit C – the perfect pairing- eat parsley every day).
Throw this all together, stir well and allow to sit in the fridge for a few hours to exchange flavours.
I made a jar full of dressing this morning to eat with zuchinni fritters with feta and butter-browned sage this evening.
I have a jar of this dressing in my fridge all the time in the summer so feel free to double the ingredients.
This recipe is also high in magnesium. Muesli. 🐞
Here is a reel for fun.
Because I don’t have a lot of pictures today.
Have a great day.
Tonight is the full moon. The time for harvesting not sowing or planting. The best moon for planting is the new moon.
Of course there are many theories behind why we might garden by the moon.
I personally think that it is the pull of the moon on the tides, bringing up water, maybe more light; I am the pragmatic one. Not the spiritual one. Have they done field tests?
This moon was caught in the reflection of the sunset. Always a joy to see.
So next week I will sow another round of root crops and greens. Then the weeks after that, I will prepare to sow more beans and peas and capsicums and aubergine. Plus butternut and courgette.
Thank you Aunty Google: The principle behind lunar phase gardening is fairly simple. When the moon is waxing (changing from new to full), the time is right for planting seeds that yield fruit above ground. When the moon has passed full and is waning (diminishing) the time is right to plant root crops with edible parts below the soil.
Got it? Do you note the moon when you are gardening?
As a kid I thought my grandmother planted by the full moon because that gave the plants a good start with extra light. But then I discovered that she had been planting just before the full moon because it was a drought year and the last quarter up to the full moon is considered the wettest for drought planting. She did not much talk about it though because of the risk of being accused of acting un-catholic. The priest did not approve apparently.
So, root crops next week. Beets I think – beetroot is my favourite root crop – after potatoes. And fennel.
The kitchens garden is planted in a rotation so food ripens in a rotation too. The moon reminds me of the planting order. It reminds me to keep planting all summer long – with the changes in the climate you just never know when you might get a long summer or a protracted autumn. So I Hope Plant.
Plus I go away in a month and I need piles of plants established before then.
The big black cow has been sold so now the big white cow gets a chance in the fly blankets. The calves just hang out in the barn.
What is the law called when you call the service man, but the service starts going again the moment they turn up? Like Murphys Law but better. Celi’s Law?
He agreed that the signal was very poor.
But, he deemed the tower too rickety to climb up. It was too dangerous.
“How did the last guy get the thingie up there?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“No shit, Sherlock,” I thought. But, you don’t say that to a 12-year-old service person because at least he is working, right?
“But I don’t have a television or a home phone, so this is the only way I can get my signal,” I said. “I need this fixed.” The poor fellow just looked at me with total incomprehension on his face. “Well – duh,” his face said. “No one has home phones or TVs anymore.” But he did not want to say that to an old lady because at least she knew what the internet was, right?
So now I need to find brackets and secure the tower to the house and call the 12-year-old for the third time to come out and check why this internet signal that I am paying a premium for is so intermittent. And I am not convinced that tweaking the thingie 2 degrees is going to make the biggest difference. But maybe it is just physics and the little dish has to be facing the other tower in a near by town exactly.
The pond plants were overwintered in a bucket in the glasshouse, and now they are back in the water barrel nursery, they are greening up nicely and I think they might be good food for the fish too!
They are too small yet to go into the pond though, they just float straight into the filter which is cleaned daily.
By the way I have not seen even a flicker of the fish that are there in the pond. Though I have not seen any dead bodies either so I think they are good. I throw in fish food then later fish it out of the filter! I hope they are not down there eating each other! (squirms at that horrible thought).
Maybe I need to buy domesticated fish that already know how to find a bit of fish food. So visiting children can feed them. That would be fun.
Have a lovely Saturday.
PS Due to the lack of internet – my website launch is still on a hold. But it is so beautiful and I am so looking forward to introducing you all to it.
PSS Because this weeks original story is turning out to be more writing than I thought here is an Excerpt from the TKG Archives. This one is short – just long enough to listen to while you peel the potatoes. I am so grateful to all of you who support me in this endeavour to find my voice in long form writing.
Or is it a toad?
It can’t all be beautiful pictures. Though let us stop for a moment to admire the chickens in the weeds.
Every now and then we have to listen! And you know I love recording sounds.
I was out on my deck late last night recording these frog sounds. Or are they toad sounds? I have American Bullfrogs and toads – I am leaning towards the toads.
There are many. Have a listen to the audio.
The magic of living with nature. And having a bedroom with huge doors. Beautiful sounds of the frogs. All night long!!
What do you think?
I think this is a juvenile bullfrog but I am not sure.
We had a good downpour in the night – so I guess the flash drought is broken. (I read this term Flash Drought over at Jim’s star blog).
I really have to get out there and find that wrought iron furniture – now I wish I had not put it so far out in the field!
Have a lovely day!
If you have just subscribed to thekitchensgarden.com – we are migrating this site to a new platform at the end of the week. (Maybe. Fingers Crossed) So make sure to leave me a comment then I will have your email address to send a notification of the shift. I don’t want to lose you just as we found you!
The new domain name is going to be thekitchensgarden.org. It is not live yet. When it is you will need to re-subscribe. If you are on my email list I will send you the link. This .com address will stay live and linked and become the TKG Archives plus I will leave a button here for you to link straight to the new platform if you get here by mistake. (Lots to do!).
The flies have arrived with the heat. Though you would not know it from this idyllic image of wheat in the sunset.
Flies are hell for cows so this beastie got under an old jacket I had hung in the tree.
I re-purpose sacks and old hoodies, the pigs winter blankets, (pretty much anything) and hang them in the trees, so the cows can wipe the flies off their own faces and backs. This big steer is reminding me that I need to get their sacks out. I repurpose old large hessian coffee sacks, then dump a handful of Diatomaceous Earth into the sacks before I hang them in the trees or in the barn doorways where the cows can drift under them.
I was cleaning out WaiWais bedroom …
… and pulled out the old blankets so I hung those in the tree too.
These ones are long enough for the calves to brush off the flies too. So we will see if they use them.
Wai has more blankets in there that need to come out – the little pig has been pulling them out of his bed and into the barn corridor himself – deeming it too hot for the woolies!
Quacker – (above) in a hurry.
For another short vid from sunset go here then come back I have more for you to read here.
John’s Tall Teenager who is WAY past being a teenager now, brought me a few blue gills from the Old Farm pond to start off the pond stocking. He caught them in a bucket and drove them over in his jeep. He asked if I wanted any catfish! Well sure – I told him.
Evidently there are predator fish and prey fish and we need to start with the proper percentage. So that is enough Blue Gills – there were four. (Now you and I are going to learn all about pond fish.) I am thinking that catfish are prey? A horrible thought – hunters in the pond.
I poured water from our little pond into the bucket with the fish in water from the Big Farm pond, allowed them acclimate for a few hours then set them free. They were vigorous. (And when I checked this morning there are no dead fish in the filter so that is good! Right?).
My favourite picture from yesterday. Two little robins fresh out of the nest, walking about under the trees. Their mother follows them around feeding them. Here they are waiting for dinner on Nelson’s head stone.
This morning I awoke with a complete short story in my head. I am literally carrying the thread in my head. So I had better jot down the details. It is like juggling balls when I have a story in there. I throw it around in my brain and it is taking up all the space in there making sure I don’t drop anything. Until I get it written down my brain cannot relax.
I had better get to writing.
If you have just subscribed to thekitchensgarden.com – we are migrating this site to a new platform at the end of the week. (Maybe. Fingers Crossed) So make sure to leave me a comment then I will have your email address to send you a notification of the shift. I don’t want to lose you just as we found you!
Today I am buying the new domain name, FYI- it will be thekitchensgarden.org. You will need to re-subscribe. If you are on my email list I will send you the link. This address will stay live and linked and become TKG Archives plus I will leave a button here for you to link straight to the new platform if you get here by mistake. (Lots to do!).
The kitchens garden is all about planting and growing. Trees, bushes, all of it. Wild fairy gardens. No Mow Lawns. Wilding fields. We are 17 years in and already this little property has become a kingdom of movement and sounds and rustlings in and around and under the trees. (When I arrived here there were three old elms around a little white cracker box house and two mulberries by the barn so the land has come a long way and it is thanking us).
Yet I am always surprised by I see a little wild creature living its whole life way down underneath the canopy that the trees are creating.
For example – These fat toads.
We have lots of water in our well so I left the swamp hose running under a stressed lilac yesterday and when I came back, I saw a toad lazily hopping from one bush under another to get closer to the water. He just sat there in the damp earth. Thinking whatever toads think.
Every time a big terracotta pot cracks or breaks I pop it into the garden to become a hiding place for toads.
I got my wish and a bumblebee spent a good part of the day in the glasshouse (sleeping mostly – bumblebees sleep around 8 hours in a 24 hour period and love to take catnaps in flowers). Which meant that I left the door open so he could get back out when he was ready. (I was tying up the tomatoes so it was nice to have the company of a sleeping bumblebee).
I also hand pollinated a few zuchinni as they are already flowering profusely.
He is sleeping on a potato plant leaf in the glasshouse. A potato, I hear you say; in the glasshouse? Well, I answer, it was sprouting in the kitchen so I just popped it a corner of soil in the glasshouse. I mean – why not right? We will see.
Bees and butterflies at work in the flowers.
And birds and of course the obligatory rooster. The lilacs are fairly humming!
The corridor paddock has become a parking spot for the tractor accessories. The yellow contraption is the hay mower. That is a curtain to make sure the hay lays into a row.
At least in here I don’t have to mow around them.
Ever so slowly this region is warming up. I am glad it is slow. The gardens are doing so much better with a slow rise in temperatures. However – no rain still. So I am watering. I need all my plants well established and well mulched but the time I go away to NZ at the end of June.
It is Memorial Day here.
A day for remembering for some and a cook out for others. Or both. As usual I have been wandering the gardens for greens and tasty weeds to make a monster green salad to take to Johns family lunch.
Have a lovely day!
I have recorded The Boat Builders Daughter (a novel title if ever I heard one) – HERE.
Going forward (as I settle into a rhythm and after chatting with Darlene this morning) I am going to publish the recordings at the same time as the written chapter for ALL subscribers. So you have one email instead of two. And for the paid subscribers (thank you so much for supporting me to write and read) I will have an extra podcast for you from June 1st – the TKG podcast – it is a work in progress and might not be the same two weeks in a row but I thank you in advance for your critique!
If you have just subscribed to thekitchensgarden.com – we are migrating this site to a new platform next week. (Fingers Crossed) So make sure to leave me a comment then I will have your email address to send you a notification of the shift. I don’t want to lose you just as we found you!
I will have the new site address shown on this site – so if you land here by mistake you can find me easily.
There is milk weed in the fields and milkweed down by the ditch that was a creek and milkweed in the kitchens garden even milkweed growing with the asparagus. But until 2017 many regions of Illinois had outlawed this plant. The poor monarch butterflies just had to miss out and consequently have run into deep trouble. The monarch butterfly is now on the candidate endangered species list.
While Milkweed is a weed to many farmers and gardeners; Milkweed is a protected plant on this property. Even before they lifted the ban because the birds, bees and butterflies are a part of the environment I am sworn to protect. And monarch butterflies need this plant. (I have already seen some early monarch butterflies on the farmy).
The monarch butterfly lays her eggs on the milkweed leaves and the caterpillar feeds on milkweed leaves so they are critical to the migration of the monarch butterfly. (You know they fly in a relay right? It is not just one butterfly flying all that way). It is imperative that the monarch can find this plant and plenty of it. Yet it was illegal to grow milkweed in parts of Illinois until 2017. What the hell? The depreciation of the monarchs food led to that law being changed.
🦋 – YES – monarchs can change laws!
There are three popular varieties of milkweed: Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), swamp milkweed (A. incarnata), and butterfly weed (A. tuberosa). There is another milkweed that is not a native and holds its flowers so long that the monarch hangs around too late to migrate, this is called a tropical milkweed. So make sure you don’t plant that one. Plant the natives.
We have the common milkweed (of course) and swamp milkweed (because this used to be a swamp).
You can get free milkweed seed for your butterfly and bee lawn at Live Monarch dot com.This site sells milkweed at low cost or no cost. The milkweed plant likes a lot of sun. And is highly scented – you will love it.
Weeds are only plants in the wrong place.CMBWG
The milkweed is still illegal to grow in some regions – (conventional farmers hate untidy weeds) but thankfully this is changing and in Illinois State Law trumps the regional bans. Here is an interesting article.
And speaking of weeds there is Boo hiding in the weeds.
The pawpaw trees are popping up all over the place. Much to my delight. There are even more than I last reported. And the mature trees are flowering like crazy. It might be a good pawpaw year!
Is almost over. More weeds!
The No Mow May lawns are now designated NO MOW forever. This very shady piece of lawn is now officially wilding. I have mown a pathway beside it so we can navigate through without bothering the bees. And there are still a bunch of bees in there. I am carefully going in and removing any really nasty weeds. Because you know weeds are only plants in the wrong place. Like Burdock. Burdock is a bi-annual and throws out those nasty velcro seeds in its second year. The cows will eat it but it is NOT a protected weed here. Very invasive. And those burrs are the bane of my life. Off with its head. Actually it also had a very deep tap root which is great for drainage but I still hate them.
More Nanny Boo hiding. Waiting for the mower to go past so he can bite the tires. You know I can see you right? BooBoo? I CAN see you!!!
The big cows leaned on a gate to get to the little cows and broke the gate. So now they are all together. I did not want this to happen before this weeks beast went to the locker but ah well, there you are.
To avoid bloat in the little calves, who have not been in the long grass before, I let them graze for an hour yesterday afternoon then locked them all back up on the concrete. This morning I gave them all a big feed of grass hay and after they have filled their first belly with dry hay – I will let them out at noon for a few more hours grazing. I will do this for a few days. The last thing I need is a baby with bloat!
And yes! Tima is still with them, she is part of the herd too. She probably talked them into leaning on the gate. Leading from behind as usual! Can you just see her – steaming up shouting orders to the big cows?
I hope you all have a lovely day.
PS NEW READERS. If you have just subscribed to thekitchensgarden.com – we are migrating this site next week. (Fingers Crossed) So make sure to leave me a comment then I will have your email address to send you a notification of the shift. I don’t want to lose you just as we found you!
Email addresses will not be shared at all ever.
Other than opening the windows and doors?
The most natural air freshener in the world is 179 bales of freshly cut hay stacked into the barn. Hay has this newly mowed grass crossed with bright notes of sunshine kind of scent. If we could bottle this scent it would be a best seller. Of course the scent of a wild sea is my other favourite and in a month I am taking you to a beach in NZ to get a hit of that too!
These bales are more grass than alfalfa but that’s ok. We grow our cows for a long time so they don’t need to be fattened too quickly. Alfalfa is very high protein. And the chickens and pigs and cows all gobble it up no matter what the hay is comprised of. They all love fresh hay too.
But the conditions are dry and dusty, and driving the tractor that is towing the baler that is towing the hay rack in a smallish field with lots of turning (and combine that with being clinically allergic to hay) has resulted in a true bout of hay-fever for me.
I work in the hay totally covered because if the hay touches me I come up in welts. Sigh.
I have told John that I will rake the next lot of hay myself. The hay needs to be raked for drying and easy baling. There is a particular method and pattern to raking. So I am going to do it myself. Driving that rig all over the field following the mad kings patternless raking about did my head in.
179 bales is a goodly number. And this is lovely hay. He did well to get that all cut and baled. And in the barn (today).
Luckily John has two sons and a strong daughter living in the area now so I no longer need to throw the bales up into the hay barn. I have passed that particular back breaking baton. Plus (you know) – allergic!
I tool Quacker off her nest and threw all the rotten eggs away. But then she stood exactly where her nest had been for the next hour looking SO SAD and SO LOST. That I collected five perfect green and aqua CHICKEN eggs, made her a new nest in her old container and laid it back on the floor in her nasty corner. She dived for the eggs and immediately settled back on them.
I know, I know I said no more wild hatching of chicks but I just had to. That duck was so lost without her flock or her eggs. She has food and water close by because she has already been sitting for a couple of weeks. I hope this helps her transition to living with chickens.
Here is the vid of Jude drinking his water from the hose on my instagram feed this morning – check out the sound effects! Let me know if this plays. I am trying something (as usual).
There is always a particular time of year when my children and I experience the same temperatures. Have a look at this!
Central Illinois, USA
The overnights are exactly the same!
It is Saturday in this hemisphere, though honestly out here on the farm it is any-day-at-all day. There are no weekends per se – but after the last few years it feels like a Saturday every day.
Have a lovely day!
I am going to start the waters, all the gardens need watering.
Lots of pictures today. Because. There is nothing quite like stumbling off a cramped shared-air airplane and straight back out onto the Midwest farm with its wide open spaces and air as sharp and clean as a whistle. And so much green growth. Everything is flourishing.
I am back on the farm for a month and there is LOTS to do.
Actually, I rushed straight off the plane (everyone rushes off planes – barely concealing their anxiety to get the hell out of that strange metal capsule as fast as possible), the drive home takes an hour and and then I jumped straight into throwing hay. It makes the 3.30AM (in CA) start all worth it. And the bales were not too heavy which is always a bonus.
While I was away the lilacs came into bloom and the mulberries came into leaf.
The flock of ducks are gone. I can only surmise (and hope) that they were scared up and fright-flying (like pheasants but they don’t fly as far) ended up in the creek where I hope they would have made a swift getaway. The gate to the creek was left open. So I do hope that is what happened.
No sign of the flock at all (not in the fields that were cut for hay or in the wilding field) and more importantly no bodies. When there is a mink attack there are always bodies.
Only one duck is still here. Sitting on her infertile eggs in the big barn. So she would not have been with the flock. She has been sitting for too long now so I have to tip her off her nest today and dispose of the rotting eggs. I suppose I will put her in with the chickens.
Two bobbies. All fat and happy.
Chickens leaving the chicken shed in the afternoon.
WaiWai. Grumpy and whining at me. He always punishes me for going away.
Or it takes him a few days to realise it is me – one or the other.
These early flowers on the zuchinni are all male so far, I think, and I bet Mad is going to tell me to stuff them and eat them which is something I have never done but must try. When the female flowers begin to make an appearance I will pollinate between them with a paint brush. (Unless I can talk one of my bumblebees into popping in).
This is the Soft Red Winter Wheat.
Heading up. This happened in 7 days. When I left there were no heads at all. The table and chairs are totally disappeared from view, swamped by the rising wheat. So I will go in and take them out now. Farmer Ross and I are thinking maybe we will try bar stools next time!
We are baling the last two fields later this morning. So I had better get a wriggle on.
What do you do when you first return from a journey? I check every corner of the farm and check every animal then I set up my desk. The keyboard, the laptop, the bluetooth mouse, the microphone (I will be recording later today). Leads and chargers.
As I travel – anywhere I land – setting up my writing space has high priority. Before a Gin and Tonic even! That is serious don’t you think?
As I write Boo is sitting outside my studio french doors with one eye on the sun and the other on me. If that dog had a watch he would be checking it every few minutes. Pointedly.
It is cool, unseasonably so I think – with a cold Easterly blowing. The cool breeze and low humidity is why this first cut of hay has dried so nicely. The temps are in the low 50’s overnight and the mid 80’s for the next ten days. No rain as far as I can see. But these temperatures are perfect.
It was cooler than usual in California, too.
When the heat finally arrives we are going to be moaning our arses off.
What are you up to today? Hay and suitcase (in that order) for me. Maybe a second coffee first.
Have a great day.
Just one click and read my latest story. The Boat Builders Daughter.
It is quite new – you have never read it before.
And I am really proud of it so I would love you to read it and let me know what you think.
Here is the link . Click Here.
It is called The Boat Builders Daughter. Quite short – they are all short.
And you don’t need to subscribe to substack to read it though I don’t mind if you do.
This one took me three days to write – and when I proof read it (I always proof read by reading aloud) I cried.
Mercy, I am turning into a water pot lately.
I am going to set this post to send while I am in the air – I never write my posts ahead of the day so please forgive me. It make me happy to think of you reading a story about the sea while I am flying.
Have a gorgeous day.
I am updating The Cast page. Check it out and make sure I have all the present residents. There are not as many now but with the new website imminent it is time for an update. (Make sure I have your email so I can send you the new link – then you won’t miss a thing!).
The Cast of The Farmy (off broadway since 2011), (“snort “said Tima)
BooBoo (thanks for the reminder Mad)
NannyBoo is my help meet and my right hand dog.
Mr Flowers is our watch dog peacock! He screams any time there is any kind of ruckus. And his tail is so long he is endlessly searching for high perches where he can see everything but not drag his tail. He is a cross between a white and a blue.
WaiWai and his constant companion Boo. I know he would be prettier from the front but this picture shows Wai’s Eeyore personality perfectly. WaiWai is a rescue pig who came to us badly burned which has resulted in his rather motley skin. He took a long time to nurse back to health and consequently is a delightfully grumpy old man.
Nelson the Wescue Wabbit lived on the farm for a couple of years before she succumbed to a mink attack during a fierce summer storm on the farm in 2023. She was the sweetest old rabbit and spent her winters sleeping in front of the fire with the dogs.
Big Jude and FreeBee
Big Jude is a black Berkshire rescue that I found as a newborn at a slaughter house. He lives with FreeBee, another rescue (Hereford) who was born so small the breeder was going to euthanize him. So he gave him to me which is why I called him FreeBee! And now look at them. Both these hogs worked for five years on an educational farm entertaining children and have come back to the farmy to live out their older years. They probably weigh 400 pounds each so they are on a slim pig diet.
These ducks lay eggs that are used to fatten the plonkers. They wander freely around the farm. It is May 2023 as I write and the flock has disappeared over the fence so I am going out to look for them. Check the blog for updates on the ducks.
TonTon in 2023. He is getting older now. He seldom works the stock anymore preferring to lie under the porch or in front of the fire. He is an old fella.
LuLu and Vandal
The last of the barncats – LuLu and Vandal. There have always been ginger cats on the farm. They are all neutered so as not to multiply. The wild birds do not need more cats. In fact when these two go I have no intention of getting more. I intend to encourage wild birds.
Tima the kunekune in 2023 – she is an old widow now, after Tane shuffled off this mortal coil. Tima is still so naughty (even in her old age) that she lives with cows. If she is out of her field and I leave the back door open, she will be in the house and running out with bags of potatoes within seconds! Very naughty and a great favourite with children (and cows), (and me).
We still have many many chickens.
All bred on the farm.
Update. Cecilia. May 22 2023
So who have I missed out of the permanent residents. I have a feeling someone is missing.
Have a gorgeous day! I am off to write yesterdays SubStack story then have a big fab meeting with my website team! Thank God for zoom. And phones. I said to my son this morning as he and the children were on their way out the door “How did we do all this before we had smart phones?.”
“God knows how you did it ” he said. “See ya, text me if you need anything!”.
I miss him so when I am not here. That boy who is now a man. We can always see the boy though, can’t we.
Last night as I prepared for sleep the whole house was ON. Everyone was in bed drifting off but this modern little house continued to blink and whirr and carry on. The dishwasher. The clothes washer. The clothes dryer. Air conditioning. Fans. The ‘fridge buzzed on and off. The Ice machine in the refrigerator clonking about.
A ticking clock would never be heard.
The house would not just shut the hell up and settle down for the night. We had taken ourselves to bed and left the house to do the work.
I am so used to the night sounds of birds, and ducks and the occasional barking dog.
Convenience is thine enemy I said to myself as I spread the sheet out on literally the biggest most comfortable couch in the world. And convenience – like processed sugars becomes an addiction.
Why does everything have to have a ding or a buzz when a cycle has finished, I thought as I rolled about trying to sleep. I NEVER have trouble sleeping by the way. I can sleep anywhere – it is my gift.
This is St Cecilia. A priest brought her out from Rome as a present for my mother. Probably about sixty years ago. She has been treasured. There was much discussion about whether she was marble or alabaster but – alabaster I guess.
After countless shifts as I carted her around the world she finally succumbed and broke.
In two parts. (Does her broken arm count as another part? Probably Broken into three parts then. St Cecilia and I are broken into three parts. When I come up out from the farm and face the real world it is hard not to feel overwhelmed. I am so sure of my path when I am writing then I see how hard it is for others to live with an eye to their environment and I have to rewrite half my work. I see more clearly the problems our people face in the cities and the suburbs. And no-one has time here. And they do not want to think of the repercussions of their purchases. ‘Wanting to’ is over half of any battle. They don’t want to see.
Even connecting with your farmers is hard here in the suburbs: If you are too late to the farmers market you miss out. If you are too early to the blue berry patch you miss out. So, if you have ten minutes you ‘run to the store’ and fill the house up with more packaging and food that is so far from their farms it is unsettling.
When I clearly look at the path I have set out for myself; designing workable environmentally sustainable lifestyles in the homes of our people and showing our blog readers how to grow and prepare your own food. Once I am literally out in the homes of our people I see the monster lift it is going to take to help our young families work towards a better future. Because everyone is working so hard at just surviving and everyone has problems and everyone is just SO TIRED. They are just trying to get through.
But through to what? The THROUGH part is where we live.
How not to feel broken when this is what is being sold in our stores as LUNCH.
How not to feel as broken as Saint Cecilia. I cannot lie down and weep. I cannot feel broken. I must pick up and continue to help the young ones see that there is joy in the old fashioned ways. The old ways can work in a modern house. A sandwich and an apple are a better lunch.
The most important feeling I must foster in myself is to do all I can do. That has to be enough. You and I must do all we can do and forgive what we can’t get done. I can’t tell other people what to do – unless they have signed up for one of my courses that is. I can only take control of what I can do.
That is enough moaning for me this week I think!
John said that all but one of the ducks have gone. He has not seen them since I left, he said. If the back gate was open I believe they may been chased through that gate and possibly found the creek. They will fly up like pheasants when they get a fright and if something had chased them into the wheat some would have come back out. So they must have gone to water. To lose them all at once means they left as a flock.
He said there is only one left and I bet that is the duck called Quacker. She only hangs out with the flock at bed time. (And I have to round her up when I lock them in at night). She follows me everywhere during the day quacking the whole time and has a strange angle to her neck from a mink attack a couple of years ago. I feel broken by this too. Her all alone. The duck on her nest is still sitting there I guess. I hope they are both there when I get back. I will put them together and they can live with the chickens.
The duck pond had still not been filled when I left. That was a big part of the problem – John did not want the ducks in his pond anymore.
I cannot do it all. My children would say grandchildren are more important than ducks and dogs. (In fact they do say that) And I agree. So I cannot be on the farm all the time. I have to trust the others. There are times when we must hope that everyone is doing their best.
St Cecilia is sitting on the table beside me. Broken in half. Reminding me that yes – we are all torn like this. Especially immigrants. We must get over it. We cannot give up just because we feel legless.
I must straighten my back – make a plan – and get on with it.
No-one is going to thank me for sitting on my arse weeping about feeling broken.
We got up as early as we could – it being a Sunday and the kids needing a sleep-in except for the kids that didn’t want a sleep in and and got up at 5.30 am regardless. But we did try to get out the door in good time. We were going blueberry picking in a little orchard close by.
Blueberry picking is a yearly tradition and everyone was excited. We gathered buckets and hats and off we went.
We had plans for blueberry jam, and blueberry sauce, and blueberry muffins and blueberry pancakes.
The little pick your own orchard was heaving with people. Everyone had to wash their hands before heading into the blueberry patch.
No problem there as we are all well trained in hand washing now.
Then out into the blueberry patch we went – but like the cherries the blueberries had very little size or colour. They are late this year as well. And we had been beaten to the ripe fruit by the people who were clever enough to get out of bed early.
We hunted up and down the rows but all we found were unripe light purple blueberries and piles of green ones coming. They had been stripped of most of the juicy black ones already.
We found a few, a pounds and a half and the kids had a great time.
This orchard is serious about hand-washing!
So we poked around for a while then went home. It was not a particularly exciting outing for the adults but the kids did not care. Everyone got a dose of sun and that always cheers a person up. They still got to have big fluffy blueberry pancakes when we got home. Made by Dad. CC does not make gluten free pancakes.
I am beginning to think that to catch the worm we need to get going pretty early in California!
I hope you all have had a lovely weekend.
We got to the farmers market a little too late and missed much of the produce but managed to buy enough food to make a few good local food feeds.
It was kind of strange wandering the farmers market with no crowds. And not much to take photos of in Visalia, California is hard on the imagination. Or maybe I need more imagination when I am in the hot dusty Visalia suburbs
I bought some fresh onions from a lovely farmer but why do they let kale grow so big and tough – it gives kale a bad name!
In some city farmers markets you might find a kiosk with a groups of workers who have come to an arrangement with a grower to go through and pick the seconds off the trees; then off to the market they go to make a few extra dollars. I always buy something there. Everyone is working to try and make a buck. And even ugly fruit is tasty.
Is so close! And it is looking so beautiful. All of a sudden in the last week it has begun to look like our blog. I hope you love it because I REALLY love it.
Now – there is a wee problem. (of course there is a problem) Our original blog site (which we are still on now) is just too large with too much data to migrate safely across to the next platform. So we cannot take it ALL with us. It would take too long and be too expensive to move – plus no-one can guarantee to me that all the data will land intact. Every time we try we lose images. Part of the problem is pictures are not landing -I did not optimise them properly from the start – and some of my original plug ins are no longer working. I know so much more now than I ever knew then. There is just too much data. And I do not want to lose any of it.
SO The Kitchens Garden DOT com will stay live and online and will become the TKG Archives. The TKG Archives will have a special button on the NEW site so you can pop back here anytime with just one click. All our photos, all our words and all your comments will stay in the Archives.
The Kitchens Garden DOT ORG will be where our farm blog will reside going forward.
I will let you all know when we switch and I will also send out an email so you can find the new site, re-subscribe and then all the usual farm and travel and food blog stuff will beam straight over to you – unchanged – business as usual – except the environmentally sustainable home content which will have its own home. So, You may ALSO choose to subscribe to The Sustainable Home newsletter (which comes out once a week) and will have all the new tips and news for your homes. The short newsletter is where you will get the announcements about The Sustainable Home Pop Up workshops, climate news, cool new stuff and will be a super fast read.
I will post from the old blog every now and then so everyone knows where we have gone so you might choose to unsubscribe from here when you have found your seat in the new blog site to avoid double trouble.
Do you see where I am going?
This is the simplest solution to what looked like being a very expensive problem but when you get to the new site and have a look around I hope you feel as at home there as I do! Plus you will all be able to comment again!
This will be happening very soon – maybe as soon as next week.
I sat in my sons wardrobe and made my podcast yesterday. The suburbs are noisy. It seems that any given moment during the day there is a strimmer (weed eater, weed wacker: depending on your hemisphere) noisily smashing away at any foliage that dares poke its head up in these square dull gardens.
But I shut myself in the wardrobe and had such fun making yesterdays podcast. I like them – do you like them? The podcasts? Pop over and have a listen. Let me know. Yesterdays podcast made me laugh reading it! It is all unedited!
Todays post took so long to write with all the comings and goings of young kids and their tired Dad – so I am late publishing.
Tomorrow we are going blueberry picking – a good thing I brought my hat.
Let me know if you have any questions about moving day and let me know if I do not have your email for the announcement. I am making a little list so I don’t lose you.
My son sent me this picture from New Zealand of a kumara (NZ sweet potato). Not strictly a vegetable but (you get the gist) they cost $14 NZ a kilo (a kilo = just over 2 pounds) so this kumara cost $6.12 NZ which is $3.80 US for one sweet potato. To be fair the kumara is a really amazing sweet potato but a tuber never the less.
I think the children have been painting his nails again; I am not sure about that colour!. Another member of my NZ family said that in the supermarket $5 is the new $2. No family thrives on only one income so who has time for a vege garden? (Me – I have time) It is a conundrum.
So I was wondering – have your vegetables jumped in price in the last year or so and what does a sweet potato cost at your place? When I bought sweet potatoes last in Illinois (out of season) they were $1 US a pound.
Maybe we should use potatoes as a comparison. But you see where I am coming from?
Speaking of potatoes I jammed a sprouting potato in the glasshouse because I was in a hurry (and there was a gap) the other day and it is growing like mad in there! Wait – I will take a picture for you.
This is why it takes me three hours to make a blog post each day – I never stick to the subject!
There is so much arithmetic when i compare stuff from NZ to the US – different currency and different units of measurement. And as we all know a mathematician I am not!
Do you see this big steer (below). He always lays right down on his side and terrifies me because he looks like he expired in the field but when he lays back against the gate I have got to hope that the chain will hold. He is not a small animal. And the clang as he fell backwards yesterday gave me such a fright.
We are having a run of chilly mornings. This May has been lovely so far! But unusually cool.
We have had a little rain so far. 48% humidity. So nice. Everything is growing.
The first cut of hay is imminent – we are just waiting for those few spots of flower and some heat behind the breeze. The ground is still a bit cold. But today we will rearrange some of last years hay so everything gets stacked in the right order.
I hope to post from the airport tomorrow at some point but you know how that goes! If my connections do not line up I will be either running through airports or sitting in planes with no wifi – they say they have wifi on the plane but literally half the time it is not working.
There is no such thing as sustainable travel (though I do try) so my forest is growing!
Have a lovely day.
Chapter Five: From Letters To My Mother. Pop over for a read. Remember that these stories/essays are FREE for all Forever. This one is called Write What You Know and stars Mrs Mooney.
We have work to do today! On The Sustainable Home pages of the new TKG website there is a space for Frequently Asked Questions.
Do you ever read Frequently Asked Questions on a site? I do – actually I hunt them out because they are a great place to hear the real voice of a company.
We are at the stage of creating the FAQ. And I need your help. What questions do you have about The Sustainable Home?
Here is what I have so far:
🦋: Answer:The FIRST STEP is to sign up for The weekly Sustainable Home newsletter; it will take no longer than 3 minutes to read and will be laid out for skimming. (Yes, I skim too!). The newsletter is the conduit straight into the engine room of your journey – you will get all the info about whats going on, links to cool stuff plus the pop-up workshops plus quick hacks to level up your journey as you go.
🦋: Answer: This is where you will meet your guide (usually Cecilia) in a one on one zoom setting. They will work with you to create a base line personalised plan for your home. They will take you through the four pillars for designing your own sustainable home and help you use those pillars to strengthen the components of your own plan.
🦋: Answer: YES! Check The Sustainable Home calendar, book and pay for your call there. They are priced reasonably so you can book any number of calls if you prefer to work one on one. Cecilia or one of her team will send you a quick email to confirm and let you know what to bring and answer any questions.
🦋: Answer – No worries! Life happens sometimes. Get in touch with TSH via email or the CHAT feature 24 hours before your appointment and we can change your date.
🦋: Answer: After you have completed your first workshop you will be invited into The Sustainable Home Slack Channel. This will be available to you 24/7. And because our community is world wide you will almost always find someone to engage with. Or use the CHAT feature to send a message and a team member will get back to you. Otherwise Book a One on One Call and bring your next list of questions. We love questions and we love a good problem to solve.
🦋: Answer: YES! Fifteen minutes into any call your TSH guide will ask if you want to proceed. This is the time to withdraw and we will send you a refund. No problems. The Sustainable Home Team also has the same right to call a halt to a meeting and issue a refund.
🦋: Answer: A Big Fat YES! Cecilia (who writes the daily TKG blog posts) will send out pop-up discount codes to the blog pages frequently. (Always in the PS) You don’t want to miss out on the Pop-Up Workshops.
🦋! NOPE! You can join whatever and whenever you like. The (Daily) Kitchens Garden Blog is all about the organic sustainable farm and garden and has been running since 2011. The (Weekly) Sustainable Home Newsletter is all about the home and garden and has been running since 2023. They complement each other and also stand alone. Think of it as a street (without traffic) and we get to pop in and out of each others homes for a cup of tea and shortbread!
🦋 : Answer: Safety for our team members and community members is taken very seriously. Cecilia is careful to ensure that the people who come into our community workshops are going to be generous, open minded and interested in making an environmentally sustainable difference in their environments and communities. All of these meetings are respectful collaborations and we need to be on the same page using open discussion techniques. If anyone is reported to be negative or unkind in the slack groups or workshops, or has joined to disrupt our meetings, then they will be gently and firmly removed.
To date: This has never happened because anyone who has applied and paid for a workshop is usually already determined to design a robust and resilient environmentally future. We all have the same goal. Live Lightly on this good earth.
What do you think? Offer any questions or suggestions for questions in the Lounge of Comments. Offer any edits or critique on the existing Q and A. Go for it. I want to hear it all! And as usual if you cannot get into the comments email me at email@example.com.
The Monday Substack post will be coming out later today. Yesterday got so busy! Not to mention this morning – a blog post takes a god three hours a day to make. (I am always darting in and out – I do not sit down that long!). But I love it here! And I need my second coffee!!
PS – FYI Thursday Blog will be either late or missing or weird because that is a travel day. And as you know – anything can happen on a travel day.
Do you remember the small patch of wild flowers under the trees on the South side of the house. With the flowering weeds. Though weeds are only plants in the wrong place!
It is now heaving with bees and even the odd butterfly has arrived. The flowers are fading but the bees are getting as much as they can from them.
Check this bumblebee out. Turn the sound up if you can so you can hear them – there were more than one buzzing about.
He is so determined to stay afloat.
Unlike honey bees that were introduced into the Americas from Europe; the bumblebee is a native to the USA. There are 41 species of native bumblebee in the Americas. Some are endangered. All are pollinators. When I banned pesticides from the fields we began to see an uptick in native bees and butterflies. This is the most bumblebees I have seen though. There were five in this patch alone. The queen hibernates in solitary splendour underground for the winter. In the spring she emerges and finds a hole in the ground to produce baby bees and start her annual hive. Her hive is built underground – maybe in an abandoned mouse or rabbit hole (or maybe a mink burrow if life is fair). Their summer hives can get quite big in the right conditions. We have plenty of native bumblebees out this spring so I suspect there is a strong bumblebee hive somewhere or maybe more than one. Yet another reason to have wild spaces full of wild flowers.
5 cool facts about bumblebees.
After struggling to get honey bees established here on the farmy I soon realised that they do not belong here. Honey Bees are not natives and need to be husbanded through the inclement winters, so I have turned to creating spaces to encourage habitats for the 500 different species of native bee, including this humble bumbler and mason bees. (Bumble bees, carpenter bees, plasterer bees, cuckoo bees, mason bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees and mining bees are all types of native bees in Illinois.)
It is super important to note that honey bees are not the only pollinators.
Bumblebees are great for helping tomatoes pollinate because they are so large they shake the plant. And tomatoes are pollinated via vibration.
As pollinators mason bees (also native to Illinois) are 120x more effective than honey bees.
Pawpaws are pollinated by flies which is why their flowers smell like rotten meat. Nice. Our pawpaws have begun to migrate. New trees are popping up in front of the old ones, chasing the sun, which is filling me with delight. More food for the birds when we are gone from this earth.
Talking of imported species: Mr Flowers is always grateful for calm days. On windy Midwest days he stays in his shed by his mirror. His tail is so long it makes it hard for him to walk on windy days. Hampered by his broken foot too.
Though he has been walking with his adapted peg leg for probably 4 or 5 years now.
The RugRats and the Big Pigs
And look who I found (below). One of the missing ducks. Sitting deep in her nest in the back of the barn. (I will not be bringing fertilised eggs in for her as John has stated emphatically that he will not support any more ducks. Which is probably why he is refusing to fill the pond. Real life is not instagram pretty).
I believe we have also lost the drake. There was only one – and I have not seen him for a few days.
Isn’t she beautiful.
We have had a couple of warm overcast days with showers. But now cool weather is approaching with the overnights going down into the low 40’s. All the tomatoes are out so let’s hope it does not drop further than that. I will wait on planting out the squash. They can grow in the glasshouse a bit longer.
Maybe I should let a bumblebee in to pollinate in the glasshouse! Once I get flowers on the zuchinnis I will lock the cats into the house and open the glasshouse doors. See who pops in.
I hope you have a great Sunday.
For those of you who are celebrating: Happy Mothers Day.
Here is the latest TKG podcast. I am working hard on this medium as I quite like it and I can only improve. Thank you for supporting me in this. This particular podcast turned out quite amusing because Boo decided to leap up and bark at the delivery man right in the middle of it. I left his addition in there. This is going to be a thoroughly modern podcast series after all. And I have not quite learned how to edit!!
When we think of the granny character we think of Security. Softness. Simplicity. Maybe quiet. Cardigans possibly. Granny knitting and cooking. Grandma with a kitchen bursting with good food and warm fragrant loaves. I can be those things.
Maybe we think of Nan and her recipes, and picnics in an old established garden and books at bed time. Walks on the beach. I can do all those things, too.
If the conventional Grandma is still working it might be in a secure position that she might have had for years. Working towards retirement with regular mammograms and pills for their blood pressure, nicely painted nails and regular appointments at the hairdressers. Yeah. I am not those things.
What we don’t think about is Grandma starting a new business “at her age” complete with trendy second hand clothing, research into eco friendly start ups, the latest apps, new website, brand new podcast, bright white long hair in messy buns, white T shirts and old jeans, red heels, too much eyeliner, feet up on the desk and an unapologetic writing style.
But this is the modern granny.
We are no longer bound by those old norms and expectations.
Starting a new business at the creative, rich, fruitful age of 63 years old means I have all the experience and knowledge in my pocket to do the shit and the tools to cut through the shit.
I am a hawk in owls clothing.
And I am not afraid.
There is a whole ageist movement out there – trying to sit the grey-hairs down and encourage them out of the job market and into their rocking chairs. Start ups are not for older folk, they say. New technology should be left to the young people, they say. I was literally told once by a boss that it was time to move aside and let the younger folk who know the right words to use take over. The right words? He meant keywords. I eat keywords for breakfast, I told him.
I know the right words, brother! Long Tailed Key Words are my magic tongue.
I am not going to take it easy. Though I still gather the eggs and feed the pigs, mind the babies and cook huge family dinners – I am going to be starting another new business on top of all that loveliness and because of it.
I see these advertisements for fit older women with short white hair on bicycles, smiling broadly with unnaturally white teeth. Riding into their retirement in exotic locations with handsome men and special panties. Screw that. I am SO not ready to settle down into retirement – I would starve to death first.
No. I am thrilled to be designing a new website and starting a new business at my very clever older age.
Because, like we were saying yesterday, we are all a collection of characters. We should not allow ourselves to be pigeon holed.
I was never going to be a classic well manicured Granny.
Starting a new business at 63 years of age is not for the faint of heart.
We have just finished the booking page in the new website for workshops, one on one consultations, zoom the rooms, The Sustainable Home Newsletter and pop ups; all this to enable people bring environmentally sustainable practices into their own home.
The new website will also house The Kitchens Garden (TKG) so we are all under one roof and the kitchens garden farm blog continues unchanged, just faster and with a better commenting ability so our readers can be more engaged.
I am still looking for more partnerships for TSH. So stay on the look out for companies that produce truly old fashioned and authentic products in an eco friendly way using methods the environment can sustain. I am developing affiliates and partnerships with small local companies that you and I would like to buy from. I am avoiding running ads (not going there) but if the product is good and the company is as eco friendly as they say, let me know. I am gathering their names so I can let you all know about them through The Sustainable Home Newsletter.
If all goes well we will be doing a soft launch in a couple of weeks. (Then it will all get very real).
Now I have to go and make our TKG podcast again. I lost the internet just as I was loading yesterdays podcast! GRRR! After recording for 40 minutes! It was all lost. Sigh. I am going to teach myself a new way of recording today so that does not happen again.
So, I will have Fridays podcast here for you later on today! Sorry about that! I am living and learning fast as usual. Sign Up HERE if you would like the podcasts to be delivered straight to your inbox. And remember; May is FREE.
Do you have more than one iron in the fire. Or just a whole bunch of different parts spinning independently. Why do we always try to pigeon-hole people when the edges are so often blurred.
Why do we have to be one kind of person. Because I am passionate about sustainability an living lightly on this good earth. But I am more too.
How to explain this – sometimes it is hard to put a thought into words – you know what I mean?
Its all about branding really. The talk is that we should find a brand and stick with it. For me this would be environmentally sustainable practices – in that; I help humans design a lifestyle that enables and supports habits and systems that protect and nurture their own environment.
So I bang on at my other platforms about plastic free and buy local and how to do without single use paper, etc. When in fact everyone comes at their contribution to a healthy planet from a different angle. Here are five suggestions for the different genres that all work together:
Which of these sound like you? Can you think of any more?
And – to be fair – I am all of them. Sometimes all together or separately. I can sustain that. I can be any of these people at any given minute though I lean into prevention. I am so much more than a guide for sustainable homes. We all are more than our blogging brand. We all have a lot going on. Sometimes we feel strong enough to do all the stuff – other times we just want to go to bed with a book.
And other times I just want to write my stories or play with pigs. Or cook. I feel like cooking today.
It is wonderful that we can all embrace our eclecticness. (is that a word?). Especially here in our safe space. Do you think we perpetuate anxiety when we do not embrace our diverse personalities and dare I say it – impulses? Or when we try to jam our selves into the box of societies divining, stick with our brand and stay there so that we are recognisable to a society trained to see in one social media dimension?.
Robins nest. One of these days I am going to look in there and they will be all gone. Baby birds grow so fast.
This is a shot of the field that the cows are in. This field is soft with all the long grass. No bare patches. This is a great field for water retention and soil health. The other fields are too short yet and not growing fast, (I hope we do get the rain today), so we are still feeding out hay. If this summer is as hot and dry as I hope it will NOT be, we will only get one good growing window. And that is now. So the cows are laying about in this side field eating really good alfalfa hay.
Speaking of hay – we will be cutting hay soon. It is May after all. That should bring the rain on.
The chickens are doing a little housekeeping in the old pig field. There is seed being thrown in there but I have to go shopping and buy the pumpkin seeds, once they are all sown, I will have to attempt to lock the chickens back out of this little space. But some seeds always survive.
About the same weather today as yesterday but cloudy. We are planting more tomatoes today in anticipation of some rain. As you can see there is a 100% chance of rain. Our perfect weather.
I hope you have a great day!
PS Speaking of me breaking out off brand:
My TKG PODCAST today will be from August 2011. I wonder what happened during that month? OH! You know what I found? TWO excellent stories, as well as some recipes. I will read them for you! JOIN HERE the podcasts are FREE for the month of MAY. Then $5 dollars (minimum) a month for two podcasts a week. Not bad right? Some weekend podcasting for you. If you like them – share them. Love it!
This is a politics free zone. Isn’t that a relief. The frenzy driven, spurious, destructive, puerile, gossipy politics that keeps bleeding into our lives makes me want to run and hide. I need to stand witness, but not here. Not on our farm blog. Even saying this is a politics free zone is a statement but I will only say it once.
I live in rural America which means I live in a very politically divided house. I am the cuckoo. I am not sure how other people deal with being in a political minority but I have learned the hard way to deal with it by saying nothing. There is no middle ground apparently.
(Also I am an immigrant with a green card – so I cannot vote here in the USA).
This means that I put all my energies into the farm and this blog and my writing and my new website for The Sustainable Home Consults and Workshops. Hard work is the only way to keep my metaphorical head above political waters. And the relief of travel. Just farming, writing, reading, travel.
That is what we will talk about here. Oh and the TKG PODCASTS – those are a delicious Work In Progress and nothing like any podcasts you have ever heard before. Unedited!
Speaking of travel what is going on in the robins nest? Does it look like one of these fledgelings tried to spread her wings to travel a bit early then realised her mistake and has not quite learned how to fold those wings of hers.
The two big rescue pigs Jude and FreeBee are totally relaxed in their new bedroom in the old barn. When I go in to put the calves to bed they are already tucked in and sleeping like logs! (Did you see what I did there?). Pigs always top and tail like that. Which is cute in little pigs and very sensible in big hogs so they can fit more hog into less space.
Pigs and hogs will always be in bed before the cows and calves because they do not not see well in the dark.
When I enter the barn I coo and grunt like a sleeping hog so they know I am there but I do not have food so no need to get up. I have observed that hogs in the field grunt softly frequently. This is so they all know where the others are. So I do the same when I am just passing through. In the evening in the barn after they have put themselves to bed, they raise their ears and grunt back but unless I make a sudden sound they stay all sleepy and tucked in. Positioning themselves and laying those huge bodies down takes some manoeuvring so they don’t want to be disturbed now that they are comfortable. All I am doing is bringing in the calves and shutting their outside door – no need for the pigs to get up.
I will keep adding straw into this space as they flatten it down so we build up a nice mattress for their old bones.
Last night Boo was out running through the yards and then ran out barking twice in the night . Something was out there. Thank fully not a skunk. We have had no more mink attacks since the night of the Storm Attacks. Boo and I have found evidence of old kills though, so I will continue my vigilance.
Today we are going to sow the sweetcorn. Everybody here loves sweetcorn so we need a big crop. Not so long ago the farmers in the midwest would plant long rows of sweetcorn in the field closest to the farm houses to put up for the winter. I prefer to put our sweetcorn where I can let the cows and pigs do the clean up so as not to waste the stalks, and missed cobs, so we plant the sweetcorn into Johns field garden. We will sell some but mostly the families will eat the corn fresh from the field. It is always sown in successive plantings a couple of weeks apart so we get a good months worth of freshly picked sweetcorn for all the kitchens.
Time for me to start the waters.
Have a lovely day.
The Kitchens Garden Podcasts have been very well received. Thank you so much – I am so grateful. These short ones were a bit experimental so I am excited that you are coming back with me to dig up some of these old posts and have a chat about them.
On reflection and after consultation with a number of you I am going to re-scale the timing. They will still be read freestyle and produced unedited but instead of TWO short ones a week I am going to produce ONE 40 minute TKG podcast a week.
You can listen as you work, or walk or cook, or clean or garden.
It will take a bit more work to produce a longer piece but I think it is important work. Looking back and thinking about how I did stuff is a great reminder of my roots. The early days. The mistakes and successes. Plus there are a pile of really cool recipes from back then. Episode Three talks about how to make cream cheese.
They say you should work in the media that you love to engage in and I always listen to podcasts when I am cleaning. So it stands to reason. Now I am listening to my own so I can improve. We can always improve.
Have a great day and watch out for tomorrows podcast; ready for your weekend. Join here.
Mink normally hunt in the predawn and dusk periods. Though this mink does not follow the rules.
Also mink should hunt close to their watery homes. In this case The Ditch that was a Creek. This mink has ranged right down to the house and into the barn.
We are missing ducks.
The American mink is a crepuscular/nocturnal and semi-aquatic mustelid native to North America that generally concentrates activities at <100 m from the water. Thank you Aunty Google.
Crepuscular – cre·pus·cu·lar means animals that appear in the twilight (dawn and dusk)
Well, these mink went further than the allotted 100m (300ft) from water. Yesterday I found one duck dead in the garden and there are two more missing. Which means the mink had flushed a duck off her nest then killed it on the night of the storm. (The sitting ducks will not go into their night house with the others if they hiding on a nest so there is nothing I can do for these girls if I cannot find them). But they are – literally – Sitting Ducks.
I cannot say where the other ducks are. Maybe gone. Maybe on nests somewhere. But not with the flock which is now down to nine.
Boo and I roamed late last night and before dawn this morning. He picked up the mink scent by the chook house this morning but it was cold.
Today is full of sun so if my cloudy and rainy day theory is correct this means the mink might lay low for the day.
The creek itself is running very high and fast after the rain so it is also possible that the high waters will influence their hunting. They may drift with the current and float right away! We can only hope. It depends on whether the mink has set up her own nest or not.
Also historically we have trouble with minks in the Spring. So we just have to tough it out.To be fair the mink was here first – they are natives.
The good news is the 3 inches or more of rain in that storm has perked up the gardens no end. The glass house is still not too hot. (I wonder how hot is too hot with a fan and ventilation). The courgettes are beginning to send out buds.
I was distracted all day yesterday. Shuffling between the key board and the fields. Still anxious about the loss of innocent, silly, sweet Nelson and the ducks and this continued threat.
The grass and forage in the fields is growing while I watch warm plus rain makes for lush fields.
I have been training with BooBoo to search from the verandah without me. I think he has a better chance of catching the predators if I am not with him.
It dawned fine and clear this morning. No wind to speak of yet and a lovely temperature.
I will sow more beets and some carrots today.
I have been called to California to help with family over there next week – just for a week – but I need to have everything locked down before I go so the farm minders and John don’t have any problems.
My NZ trip begins on the 26th of June. Mark your calendars!
The new website is coming along apace and I think we might meet our deadline of June. Hopefully.
Charlotte has created us a new Sheila logo. This is Sheila cleaning her Sustainable Home!
I love it!! More on that later.
Below is the link to yesterdays story on SubStack. This is a really sweet story about the first time we really watched a television. And it was to see a man landing on the moon! At school. It was a pleasure to escape into the past after the events of Monday morning and the Bastard Mink.
I am writing these Letters To My Mother and developing my Early Days Podcast in an effort to make a little money so I can focus on writing.
Really focus on real writing.
Here is the link to The Man On The Moon.
And I am beyond grateful to those of you who are encouraging me to stretch my writing. You who are my cheerleaders and marketers and all of you who are sharing these story links with your own email lists. Word of Mouth (or in this case – Word of Keyboard) is simply the best. Thank you.
For the month of May the podcasts are FREE to all. My little Monday stories will always be FREE to all. The Early days on the Farm podcasts come out Wednesday and Friday. The Letters to My Mother Podcast comes out on Thursday. The Letters to My Mother is a paid subscription podcast. All are a Work in Progress and the work is growing fast.
I will continue to keep you in the loop.
Let me know your thoughts!
The mink has killed Nelson the rabbit.
Every summer Nelson lives outside in a shabby old chicken tractor under the big tree but this year I deemed the chicken tractor with its broken door; unsafe. So I brought her into the chicken hospital which is built like Fort Knox – specifically to keep animals safe from predators.
Everything works until it doesn’t and most errors have a collection of causes. This incident was no exception.
I had been distracted with children visiting yesterday; a big family dinner, and the kids and I had been feeding the rabbit scraps. I was hosting a large group and working on getting all the food on the table. Darting back and forth. I did not double check that they had latched the door all the way shut. It was my job to make sure she was secure.
Then last night we got this warning blaring through the phones.
So I quickly ran out and checked the barn doors and the calves. And Nelson’s Easterly door. And the chickens. All the pigs were tucked up in their beds already. Boo would not come outside with me. Any sign of a storm at all and he goes straight under the bed. So I did not have my hunter but that was OK. All seemed well and I was running, and did not do my checks thoroughly enough.
A dust storm caused a 72 car pile up on a highway not far from here the other day, I had never even heard of dust storms and huge dust devils around here before but I did not want to get caught in one.
As the wind blew up, I finished fast and ran for the house. It was around 9pm.
Then these warnings pealed out from the phone.
Then the storm escalated into one of the loudest storms I have experienced here. The electricity went off. The world went mad. I had not been expecting this at all. The wind was relentless and fierce, rocking the house and dropping inches of rain and hail. The lightening lasted literally hours. The storm seemed to be sitting above us. I worried for my cows in the field with all this lightening.
The wind must have blown Nelsons little top Westerly door open. His hutch has strong doors, it was very safe, so the door cannot have been latched properly. And early this morning the bastard mink must have taken advantage of the open door. The bastard. He had probably been sniffing round for days looking for a way in.
Totally my fault.
Here is a little of the dramatic storm that is the sound track to Nelsons eulogy.
The clattering you hear on the video was hail. The continuous roar of wind and rain. The storm was so loud we heard nothing else.
I did hear Mr Flowers shriek his alarm early this morning but I thought he was shrieking at the calves. He is still not used to them being in there.
I was out super early to check the calves (when I discovered Nelsons body) but I must have just missed the mink. Bastard. Boo had refused to come with me – sure that the storm might still get him.
This all pales next to the repeated news we read of violent gunshot deaths here in the USA. Every week it seems to me – it feels like there are more. Schools, homes and supermarkets, streets and shopping malls. It worries me a lot. How unsafe we are. How angry people are. My one rabbit cannot compare.
But there you are; a wee rabbit dies because of my negligence and I feel unfurled. All the misery every single one of us carries because we are human and feel stuff can be triggered by the smallest death.
So the subconscious Sorrow Box, that lives just below our surface, opens its door just a little to let another rose of sadness hop through, then softly closes the door again with a click of the key, and allows us to forgive ourselves and carry on. The Sorrow Box carries it all for us. I have to let her go now.
And you and I carry on. The better for knowing a wee silver wescue wabbit.
Poor old Nelson.
This birds nest is way up high in the old elm tree, can you see it? The nest seems to be almost suspended on a curving branch that looks a bit like the boot of Italy. It looks so precarious there. And that branch does not look strong. The nest is tall – probably about 18 inches in depth and wide at the top.
Could it be a heron nest? It does not look wide enough for a heron – plus I have not seen any herons yet.
Herons do often sleep in that tree in the summer so it might be an old nest?
Actually there are two nests here I think? One under the other. The top one is the one that interests me. It is long like a wide funnel. More than one heron will often nest in the same tree, and build their nests quite close. Hmm. I will have to keep an eye out.
Both nests are up so high it was hard to get a shot of them with my old mediocre equipment.
Was it you little mourning dove? I don’t think so. The mourning dove nest looks a little like a pie plate.
This mystery nest is abut 18 inches deep and wild and messy like my hair in the morning .They have used anything they can find to make it – even a peacock feather. Can you see it?
Speaking of nests here is Miss Robin and her chicks in the cherry tree. I think there are three? What do you think?
Chickens often pile into nesting boxes one on top of the other. I have not been able to work out why but it makes gathering the eggs easier. These eggs have good hard shells so there is no risk of breakage.
I still have to gather the eggs often though as there is a chicken who is eating the eggs. I am not sure which one but when I catch her she will be sent to live in the barn. Egg eaters are not welcome in the hen house.
The ducks are opportunists and lately have gone back to laying their eggs in the box I collect the baling twine in. I collect 6 eggs a day from here lately. No ducks are missing so I have no ducks sitting anywhere.
Asparagus has begun! Last nights rain will have made all the difference.
We had three great thunderstorms last night with some good solid downpours. So the tomatoes are well watered in. Today I will go around and close the damp straw up around the stems. Plant your tomatoes deep because they can actually grow roots out of their stems, unlike other plants that will rot if planted too deep.
Lots to do today!
In this washed clean world. after a good rain I am dying to get outside but I have to wash the floors first. The floors are my challenge for the day.
Don’t you hate having to choose between housework and gardening! Gardening always wins! (So, I am going to force myself to clean the floors before I escape).
Have a lovely day.
PS Pop in here to collect your Kitchens Garden Podcast. Free for all of May.
This is probably one of the most important plant revival hacks to know. If you, like me, just cannot resist rescuing dried out herb or vegetable plants from the supermarket. I found a few the other day that were in pots so dry it was practically rocklike and grey. The potting mix had shrivelled up, pulling away from the side of the pot.
Poor wee basil – my favorite herb. Basil just smells like summer don’t you think? This is one I saved from dying of dehydration. It just needed a good drink, a good drain and a good home.
I learnt this hack at Massey University years and years ago (when a hack was a nasty dry cough, a miserable old horse or a butchers preference for stew meat) and it has never let me down.
This plant revival hack will work for pot plants too. But generally I use it for vegetables or herbs before planting out in the kitchen’s gardens.
This process will work for indoor pot plants plus rescued vegetable or herb plants in pots or cells.
Do not plant into full sun just yet, a few days in dappled shade will harden the plant off.
Much of the cheap modern potting mixes are virtually impossible to re-wet when watering from above. Pouring water into the pot is a waste of water as it will just run around the dried up media and out the bottom.
Submerge the whole pot in water and watch the magic!
Soak the plant thoroughly again before planting.
And remember good drainage is just as important as a good watering. Do not let the plant dry out again. Nor let it sit in standing water.
This happy little rabbit will help you eat up any veges that cannot be revived.
It defeats me how the people who work in these big box stores cannot just water those plants!
As a bonus hack if you have chicks who are overheated put their feet in cold water. This will revive them too!
The straw garden has begun. The straw needs to be deep, a good 6 inches deep to suppress weeds and keep the ground underneath moist in the hot summer that I am expecting. Luckily I still have straw. Because we should never leave soil uncovered.
First I mow as low as the blade can go.
Wet the soil, then lay the straw, then wet the straw.
I will tell you more about that tomorrow because there is rain in the forecast and I want to get the field tomatoes planted on the off chance that we get a good soaking of rain. Plus I did not get down to the asparagus yesterday evening to check for new shoots. So I had better get busy.
Then I hope to get back back into the glasshouse to sow more vegetable seeds. I need a rotation of plants going into the gardens every two weeks. The growing season is already short. And you know how I love my veges!
Very cloudy here today and the possibility of rain coming in later this afternoon.
Have a great weekend day!
The clouds are thickening – time for me to get outside and get busy!
See you shortly in the Lounge of Comments.
Join me for podcasts and story telling here. This is my experimental space – where things can get fun – off brand – and unpredictable.
The Podcasts are FREE for the month of May. The Monday story will always be FREE.
I am writing a totally different kind of story for this Monday and the podcasts are great to listen to when doing your weekend chores , In the TKG podcasts I am reading and chatting about some of my favourite early blog posts.
I am really enjoying SubStack as a space to stretch both my writing and my voice. I am so grateful to have you along for that journey too.
Don’t forget to comment. I will always answer a comment. I love that side of engagement.
Ducks don’t actually need a pond full of water as long as they have deep bowls of water but they LOVE it most when they can have a proper bath in a pond. Ducks preen after a bath. The main function of preening behaviour is to re-distribute the oils secreted at the base of the tail throughout the feathers. This is a natural waterproofing.
They have a good wash then redistribute the oils back through their feathers. In the sun. On a lovely farmy day. With Boo on guard.
With the big rock pond still out of action, I let the hose run into the old duck pond in the corridor field. The corridor field is where the feed hut is. I call it the corridor field because it is in the centre of all the little fields. A corridor to everywhere. The ducks were beyond excited to have a little pond again.
I dug this deep puddle myself years ago when we first got ducks. It has no lining (of course – you know how I feel about plastic) so it takes a few weeks for the sludge to build up in the bottom to hold water for very long.
I am sure it is empty again this morning but the ducks had a good wash and a thorough preening yesterday afternoon. They looked so much happier afterwards. I will fill the puddle pond up again this afternoon to begin to develop that base layer. Wai will lie in the shallows too, this is his wallow. And I think we are going to have a hot summer so he will need his wallow.
Mud is suntan lotion for pigs. Wai and his thin skin need mud.
The chooks (we call chickens chooks in NZ) got in on the action and decided to have group dust baths in the dry dirt beside their house. They all bathe together like ancient greeks.
Aren’t they funny. Dust baths are important for chickens to keep their feathers free of parasites and make sure their feathers don’t get too oily. The opposite of the ducks.
Though to be fair ducks will have dust baths too on occassion.
Free Bee sat, Eeyore fashion, morosely, with his bum in the mud; watching the circus from his seat in his cool wallow.
The apple trees are full of bees and wild native pollinators. Hopping from blossom to blossom. And if all goes well with the weather, touch wood, these blossoms will set and we will have fruit. Delicious apples. I will leave them now until mid summer when they will get a summer prune to help train the tree into a shape that is most efficient for fruit development and picking.
WaiWai and Boo waiting for the snack bar to open. They are even a similar colour these two old friends. Both grey. The pot belly and the mutt.
Another excellent day ahead.
I think (touch more wood) that the danger of a late frost is almost passed so I am going to begin the no-till field tomato experiment.
When I was really young my brother and his friends and I were employed to do the first pick of field tomatoes. We turned up to the fields at dawn and were driven out into the fields in the back of a truck with other pickers then given buckets and a row. You could not really even see the row because these tomatoes grew along the ground. The tomatoes for sauce are grown in huge fields. I have never forgotten the thoroughly daunting view of acres of dusty hot tomatoes to be picked through. We went through and picked any perfect tomatoes that had ripened early – these were sent off to the markets.
Later the machines would come through and strip the fields for tomato sauce.
It was back breaking filthy hot work. I must have been about 14 or 15. And I hate to admit it but I only lasted a day. I got home and told Dad I was never going back and the next day I started in his workshop. He was a boat builder. Welding was much more fun than tomato picking. The money was better in the tomatoes, but it was horrible work. Horrible!
Anyway – I have thought of those fields often and this year I am going to spread thick straw out here in my kitchens garden and plant the last of the emergency tomatoes in there. I will let them grow with no training and no support along a bed of straw. I have the space!
Have a lovely day.
You can find me in the garden!
I will be reading from July 16, 2011 today. Talking about the origins of the farm plus my favourite potato cake recipe. Go here if you would like to sign up. I would love it if you join me there. The podcasts are free for the whole of May. The Monday stories are free forever!
I suspect these cows of grooming Tima. Their long rough tongues must feel good on her back. And she is not choosy.
She is getting much more comfortable with the cows being in ‘her’ field. But lying down behind them to wait for her massage seems less than sensible. They are enormous and she looks so small next to them. If left to themselves cows are slow to move about and seem to have sixth sense for obstacles such as fat pigs. So I am not too concerned.
Mostly though Tima the little old kunekune pig does not pay the cows much attention. I wonder if she likes it when they sleep close to her house.
In the photo below you will see how the Charolais, the cream steer, has a bit of a dirty bottom. That is from the higher protein in the spring grass. In that concrete tile is their mineral block. A mineral deficit is the other possible reason for a runny bottom.
The mineral is in that tall tile so that Tima cannot get to it. Because she would. She would eat as much as she could and then she would be lying down and playing dead for real.
Mr Flowers the peacock has been entertaining Nelson the rabbit with beautiful tail displays. He has been a year now without his mate and chooses to spend most of his time in the shed next to his mirror.
IIn the flowering cherry tree I hovered the phone over the robins nest because I had not seen the mama or papa robin on there in a while and I was afraid the cats had found them. This little Robin chick popped their head up with mouth gaping wide. It popped up so fast I got a fright.
And actually squealed.(How embarrassing). I have to admit to being a little unnerved by hairless chicks and their forthright ways. The instinct to pop up and open their mouths the moment they sense movement is innate. But they look like those nasty Jack in a Box clowns my Pa used to scare us with. I hope they get their feathers soon because they are freaking me out.
Actually just outside the barn.
The calves spent a few hours out in the sun yesterday. In their little backyard. Just outside their North door. They were born and raised on concrete so I will introduce them to green forage very slowly.
We do not want bloaty bellies. And that black one with the blaze on her face is already a puffy wee thing.
I am going to California for a week in two weeks so I have to work hard to get a simple manageable system in place for the farm hands.
I particularly like the night chores. On my last walk of the day I cover Wai with his blanket, and lock up the chickens and Boo and I walk the perimeter to check for baddies. No baddies last night thankfully.
The view to the East
To the West
To the North
Mr Flowers was calling out when I walked in to the barn to check the calves. He does not like to be disturbed which makes him an excellent lookout. He raises the alarm fast! And loudly.
Finally this morning was a little warmer.
Let the Garden Games commence!
Have a great day!
For those of you who are interested in hearing me read my favourite blog posts from the old days of The Kitchens Garden they will be read in chronological order (this month we are beginning in 2011) and this month the podcasts on the platform SubStack will be free.
They will come out on Wednesdays and Fridays of every week. They will be around 20 minutes long.
When our new website is finished I think there is a podcast feature so we will explore that too when the time comes.
Yesterday’s podcast was recorded with the windows open so let me know if you hear the birds. I think I would like it if you can hear the birds.
Nelson the Wescue Wabbit who has been living in the upstairs of her outside rabbit hutch, like a posh rabbit, has discovered the downstairs. Yesterday she joyfully leapt up and down the ramp showing off her newfound freedom. She has joined the rabble!
Her food and water are still upstairs so it is super easy for her minders to feed her.
I have the bird water bowls close to her hutch so she is visited by wandering pigs and ducks and even a peacock in the evening.
And as Bastard Mink is in our minds rest assured her netting is very strong. Mink will tear apart ordinary chicken wire but not this. She is safe.
And when Boo and I go on our rounds every night Nelson is on his list to check. Last night we went out to do night checks twice – it was a dark night and Boo was anxious, so he spent most of the night out there guarding his chickens.
The wind yesterday was coming out of the West so the Big Pigs set up camp in the shelter of their water tank. Do you see how their ears have popped up when they hear me approach. Just the ears mind you. At this point they are saying a gentle hullo in their deep piggy grunt. I always grunt back and we have a little “I see you” conversation – though they are too comfy to get up!
Below is Tima – well over her fear of the cows grazing in her field.
She snapped at the black cow for coming too close to her food which bothered the cow not at all. KuneKune only really need forage but she gets a little egg and lean pig feed as a treat when there is no restaurant bucket. (Or she continues to shout at the human). She doesn’t need it though.
KuneKune run to fat very fast so they should not be fed grain at all really.
The big cows discovered that there were baby cows in the barn yesterday and tried to break in. This was the first time I had heard a sound from the calves as they mooed to the big cows to let them out! This barn is in a very fragile state after over 100 years of use and abuse and endless patching up. (In fact the insurance man will not even insure it anymore). So the cows are officially shut out into this big field with great feed.
The cows are huge and could probably bust those calves out if they just leaned on the doors! The barn has the potential to collapse in on them so I am always careful with how animals are managed close to the barn. I need it for a few more years to help me feed Johns families. And live our self sufficient, sustainable life.
I think that the weather will begin to warm up from now on. I hope to get some of these plants back outside to harden off while we wait for the ground to warm up.
Plus today I will sow some more summer vegetables.
About the same as yesterday but I am hoping the wind will drop. It is still pretty cool outside as I write.
But the over night temps look a trifle warmer. Then significantly warmer going forward.
I think we should prepare for a hot summer.
Thank you for all your input yesterday! My new story telling venture on the platform SubStack is going well! Keep spreading the word – I am so grateful.
I am going to be recording my first audio entry from TKG 2011 today. It will be the Best of the Kitchens Garden Farm Podcast. (Can you think of a catchier name?) I will start at the beginning and choose entertaining posts and record them in chronological order. If all goes well Episode One will be up on the TKG SubStack page tomorrow. Each episode will take a long time to make so fingers crossed that it makes the farm a few dollars. I will provide the link to the post as well so people can look at the pictures if they want to.
My hayfever is crazy with this dry spring? I hope I do not sniff through the recording!!
Everything is experimental and my whole life is a work in progress so let me know what you think.
Take care and talk soon in The Lounge of Comments!
There was dramatic drama yesterday and a delightful delivery. Let’s begin with the delightful delivery.
These two bobbies are so quiet. We brought them back from a big noisy place so they are probably quite shocked at the warm straw and old barn and relative peace of The Farmy. Angus cross.
They quickly found their water and their food then toddled about chewing on pieces of bed straw. So far, I have not heard them make a sound which is good. They are not unsettled by the move at all.
This morning they were politely standing at their feed station waiting for breakfast. They are not tame so I am moving slowly and singing to them as I arrive so they hear me coming.
These two little ones will stay in the barn for a few weeks until the grass gets a bit harder. They have never been in green pastures before and we need to be wary of bloat. So it will be grass hay and dry feed for a wee while.
Baby robins in the robins nest.
Not pretty yet – but pretty hungry. I still cannot work out how many there are. What do you think? Mother Robin is very attentive.
The big cows have come across to live in the field with Tima for a couple of weeks. It has some great forage in there now.
And the gates in the barn are not strong enough for these huge animals to be leaning over to inspect the new calves. I have had this field closed up waiting for this day so they are more than happy out there.
Tima is less than happy about sharing with cows but I will watch closely. She did not appreciate them escorting her to bed last night! Then poking their heads right in to her house to check that she was settled. But they cannot get into her tin hut so she is safe in there. (And grumbling a bit – but they all know each other).
Cows are nosy but by this morning they were back in the middle of the field grazing. Tima is having breakfast in bed – then we will see if she comes out to graze herself.
Yes you read that right. The Mink came hunting yesterday at lunchtime. As a rule Bastard Mink do not come out in bright sunlight – they usually hunt at dawn and dusk but it has been so overcast and dark with this heavy cloud that I guess this big mink risked it.
Boo and I heard the chickens screaming and ran over. As I unlatched the chook house door Boo was quivering beside me waiting for his command. I opened the door – told him to hunt and he flew in – scattering birds in all directions, out streamed the flock of screeching fluttering chickens followed by the mink. Boo in hot pursuit.
The mink ran straight under the feed hut. The hut is on two runners so has two open ends and for the longest time Boo darted back and forth trying to get under the gap.
It was hiding under there. And all the chickens were outside due to the kerfuffle. And they were all around the hut hunting for grain and immediately proceeding with dust baths. Oblivious to the danger inches from their feathery fluttering. So Boo and I could not leave until it was done. The mink would grab one for sure if we left.
In the end I put Boo at one end of the hut (with the command to Wait which as you know is not the same as Stay) and I got long sticks and poked under the other end making a lot of noise and calling to Boo to hunt. (Hoping it would not run towards me – a cornered Mink will bite). Luckily it tried to escape out the other side and Boo caught it and killed it fast, without a sound. Then brought it to me and laid it at my feet while I was still on my knees at my end of the hut banging away with sticks and shouting.
It was a big long bastard mink and a male.
Boo sat behind the dead mink and looked off into the distance – his standard photo shoot look.
The mink has had a good christian burial. I hope it was a lone shark. It is not unusual for a male to go off alone to set up a hunting ground.
After I had settled the calves into their new home I proceeded to find and block anything I thought might be a hole in the chicken shed. A mink can collapse its head, kind of folding in the bones of its head, so it can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter. I hate mink. It needs to get back to being tight as a drum in there.
Boo and I will stay on high alert. It is spring after all.
Boo and I went out twice in the night just in case there were more but he did not smell any.
Lest you feel sorry for the mink: Here is an old post about Bastard Mink. You will remember they killed 11 chooks in one night at one point in the last battle with them. When they killed a wee bantam I had nursed to almost adulthood – that broke me. This post is from a little later when they started in on the ducks.
All is well this morning though.
The weather, like my mood, is still grim.
Overcast – maybe a few showers – high winds. We will stay alert. It is mink weather. Wet. Cool. Dark.
If I am allowed to wake naturally, I wake at dawn. No matter when the dawn is. Always a dream is with me. Like a mist. A diaphanous fabric of colour and movement and air and dreams.
Do you wake up like that?
I rise fast and often write down as much as I can of the dream. If I forget to write them down they are lost.
Don’t worry I will not tell you my dreams. They are often colourful and layered with detail and there is nothing more boring than listening to another’s dreams. Or is there?
I feed the cats . Feed the dogs. Make my first coffee – all with images of the dream trailing behind me like echoes. Like footsteps. Half there and half here. Sometimes mostly there – even for the whole day. Dreamy.
Then through the morning, as I link one thought to the next the images are gone. They just slide off into the ether and unless I have imprinted a thread of imagery onto paper the whole dream is gone. And I always feel that loss – there is a wave of sadness that accompanies the the leave-taking of a dream.
Sometimes I mourn all day. Sometimes I am angry with someone who did something mean in my dream – I can be angry with them for weeks. Even though I cannot remember the dreamt slight.
Is it the same for you?
I have often thought of having a private blog just for dreams. To document them. Invitation only – where we could all share our dreams and see if there is a common theme. I did have a dream book once. God knows where that is now.
Years ago I read a book about a person who bought dreams – or rather a woman who sold her dreams for a few coins to buy food. Regularly. And then the dream buyer left or had enough dreams or something. So the woman was left with her dreams. Or was that a dream? No I am sure it was a book or short story.
I might start a dream book again – a dream book needs to be literally beside the bed with the pencil on top. So I can write the images down immediately. Though when a person writes a dream out it is no longer a dream – it is a story.
My best friend Donna ( the one who died – the tree I planted for her is blooming now which makes me think of her), she and I used to try and find each other in our dreams then compare notes ( over the old fashioned phone that you would talk into) the next morning as to where we were. I don’t think we ever did though – find each other in a dream – too long ago to remember – maybe?
Do you dream? Would you sell your dreams? How would it feel to sell your night dreams to a Buyer of Dreams.
John says he never dreams which makes me feel sorry for him. Not to have this alternate universe to visit. Not to look froward to sleeping because that is when we get to step over.
Last night (I dreamt), (after having told you I would not bore you with my dreams) that I was having dinner with my daughter (who lives in Australia) I could describe for you every detail of the room and all the food – the plates. The table setting. What we were wearing. The heat. The open doors. The lighting. The night. The night sounds. She told me she had eloped and got married to a man who I hate. But I could say nothing. Because we are all allowed to make our own decisions. A mother cannot judge. She is caught into silence by this knowledge.
When I was young I could direct my dreams – I called it rethreading the needle – If I ran out of thread before I had finished the stitching I directed my dream self to go back and thread the needle with more cotton and start the dream again.
Now it is time for me to leave you – I will dreamily go and make my breakfast, then load dry straw into the Black Mariah so the calves have a comfy warm trip back here. It is cold again today. It was freezing at dawn – lucky that I brought the tomatoes back inside for the night.
A Dream Blog could be fun. I would call it Sell me your Dreams. (Maybe next winter).
Have a great day!
I have been thinking a lot about memories lately.
With all the new writing I am doing.
All my life I have believed my first childhood memory to be two linked moments when I was in a push chair looking at outdoor fresh water fish in a tank at a neighbours house. Our neighbour on the road that ran along the beach front had a line of concrete above-ground fish-tanks at their house. They were within walking distance so I am of the impression that my mother had me out for a walk in the pushchair.
My memory is of not being able to see the fish in the concrete ponds. I was in a push chair so I must have been quite young. No one was allowed in a push chair after they could confidently walk.
So let’s estimate 2 and a bit years old? It was winter I think.
This was not a movie style memory. There are two very clear still shots of the visit. Fragments.
The first is of sitting in the pushchair riding along on the footpath outside the fish tank place.
The second is a view from the entrance to their driveway; straight down the drive to the concrete fishtanks tanks that ran down the right hand side of the driveway. A couple with green water in them. A few empty. The concrete was stippled with beach stones, not smooth. Grey and black and white and sharp. But the driveway was smooth and green with a little patch of tufty grass running down the middle.
I have the impression of disappointment and wintry dreariness.
I have two – well three – problems with this memory. The shot of me outside the fence on the footpath was from the side. Shooting straight into the pushchair – low from the side. How could I see it from the side if I was IN the pushchair. The second problem is the view of the fish tanks – I would have to have been high up to see them lined up like that. My memory tells me I was in the pushchair the whole time. We just popped in on the way to somewhere. And thirdly I cannot remember my mother taking anyone for a walk. She was not a friendly walky visity pop – in kind of person.
Or, maybe she was a friendly kind of person before the car accident scarred her face and took her voice and her teeth.
Maybe there was a pre-accident Mary and a post-accident Mary. It is possible. Probable even. I never thought about that before.
In those old beach houses there was a lot of concrete in the front yards. Often no grass at all. The gardens were in the backyard out of the sea winds. Concrete in the front. Low concrete walls, rocks set into concrete, concrete surrounded flower beds filled with beach stones – small areas for some stunted dry beach plants and maybe a pine. Low concrete walls and high concrete walls. A lot of the landscaping in those post 40’s beach front properties was uninspired concrete. Easy maintenance maybe?
The concrete was often coloured too – green or pink and always too hot for our bare feet.
Profoundly ugly. Skinned knees. No running.
(WaiWai only likes to eat whole orange or red capsicums – he won’t eat green ones! The bottom shot is the Big Pigs dinner – they like their veges chopped up!)
I wonder where the rest of that day out walking with my Mum went. Can the memory bank get full? And memories spill like kittens out of a box and run away?
My chariot awaits. Time to start mowing .
The days are getting longer. It is very still and very overcast today and my face aches. Which means the barometric pressure is dropping. I wish I had a working barometer again. Mine is broke. My face is my barometer now.
So, what is your earliest memory?
Have a gorgeous day!
I let the chickens out in to the wilding field yesterday evening. We are safe from the rooster threat now.
A few roosters went to one place and a few roosters went to another place (to introduce new characteristics to the gene pools of other flocks), so now there are only 5 roosters left on the property.
So, I hesitantly let the chickens out into the field last night.
And they were very happy. I love keeping hens.
There are no really good data in regards to how many rural or urban homes in the midwest keep chickens. (In rural areas there is a profound mistrust of authority and if they can hide it they will). But of the numbers gathered the major reasons for keeping chickens were as food (eggs) for home use (95%), gardening partners (63%), pets (57%), and obviously a combination of these. (Thank you Aunty Google)
These chickens are not pets and though they do eat buckets of weeds a day I would not call them gardening partners exactly. Our flock is registered so we can sell the eggs. Though we don’t so far (sell eggs) – the flock is much smaller now. The primary reason for keeping chickens was the manure and eggs for the house and eggs to feed pigs. Well, I cannot find any pigs to grow on this year. So we will have a lot of extra eggs.
Anyway late, late yesterday afternoon I let the chooks out for a scratch. (Sorry about this pic – wrong exposure).
The roosters who have so far escaped me are whily (sp) fellows. They fight each other all day long and attack the ducks but late in the afternoon my flock looked calm as they ranged through the long grasses. And when dark came they were all back in their chook house – all I had to do was shut the door.
I will keep three well behaved roosters but hope to catch the 2 scrappers at some point. They will go across the way.
From now on the chickens only come out in the evening and are locked back in at night. No more chickens laying in corners willy nilly and wildly hatching chicks all over the place. The hawks and the cats get most of the chicks and I do not want a repeat of the Rooster Problems.
Sometimes I leave this door open for Nelson while I do chores. It is quite high up so she does not jump out – she just sits in the sun.
Of course in this shot she is looking for a way to get closer to me because I have her bowl of dinner!
Blossoms. Apple Blossoms.
Boo waiting patiently for me to finish outside. I told him “Boo, I am never really finished outside”.
Because I have not been able to find any pigs to grow on we will do broiler chooks this year. I will order them to arrive after I am back from NZ/Aus. I do not like to have fat broilers in the heat of the midwest summer so we will start them late August. They cannot take the heat when they are fat. Heat is fine for the little ones but it is better if they fatten in the last few weeks of October weather – though honestly – I really have no idea what the weather will do and am taking an educated guess at the best time for field raised chicken.
And they will grow well out in the field, eating grass and fed on boiled eggs and delicious organic corn from the fields.
First I need to call and see if the local organic chicken slaughter house will take them – it has been a while since I grew chickens for the freezer.
I am going to trial a new housing/field system. You’ll see.
Still freezing over night. But it is going to get lovely and warm today!
The next ten days will be a little like this – cool nights and warm days – but it looks like this might be the last freezing night – so now the soil might start to warm up. I am going to go out and take the soil temp this afternoon to see what we have so far.
None of my seeds have sprouted out in the kitchens garden so far. I thought the peas might have come up but nothing.
Have a lovely day!
We have a lot of wild areas out here in this corner of the prairie. I used to call them my faerie gardens but really they are just wild and out of control. I have no time for formal gardens that I cannot eat. I guess I garden with trees.
Re-wilding is a way to contribute to carbon capture quickly and naturally. A tree will take decades to grow but letting a field run wild will also capture carbon dioxide and sink it into the soil. Live trees and plants use the process of photosynthesis to absorb carbon dioxide from the air. They then release oxygen that we breathe and retain the carbon to store in the wood and roots of the tree – transferring it into the soil.
This is another reason why I insist that our fields are covered in a crop at all times, whether a crop to harvest or a cover crop to nurture.
But back to re-wilding as one of our carbon capture tools.
Aunty Google tells me that Wilding means: a gang of youths going on a rampage creating havoc and doing violent things.
Re- Wilding is a little like that. The plants are left to go wild. The plants are allowed to do whatever they like. No more mowing or trying to establish our human order over the wild kingdom. The occasional grazing is OK too. Quite a natural process. But not yet, I am gong to let the trees in there show themselves first.
Once every four years is perfect for a gentle graze.
As usual we have to pass a few of the animals before we can reach the wild meadow. In the above shot you can see Nelsons hutch – (under the willow tree – can you see it?) she still has not gone downstairs, which has a big area to wander about- even a door so she can come out. But she is content to sit up the top and enjoy the afternoon sun through her upstairs door. Getting room service.
The field I have set aside for re-wilding is the one with the old root cellar in it. This is its third summer growing wild. And already the thistles have been choked out. There are some oak trees coming up which I found interesting and now I am wondering if the black walnuts will propagate. Boo has access too, as this field backs on to the chook house and this is great cover for a carnivorous critter.
We check around the back daily to make sure nothing is amiss.
Many people are creating wild areas more intentionally by clearing the space, eradicating the invasive species (good luck with that) and sowing the area in native flowers etc. I am not going to do that.
And ‘meadow’ is not the most honest description but it sounds nicer than scrappy abandoned field!
I have just closed the gate and let it do its thing. The more green the better. I will be adding native marsh land trees but not much else. As well as being another carbon sink for my carbon co-pay it is also somewhat of an experiment to see what grows. Probably just weeds and wild trees but we will see over time.
If you squint and look really hard at the above shot you will see the strip where John is going to sow the corn and plant his tomatoes.
I am going to sneak a couple of trees in there too, while it is garden. This field backs onto the slow growing Fellowship Forest. So trees (and bushes) belong down there.
Planting trees is like planting hope. Hope that they will be shade, air purifiers or provide food in the future when we are gone.
Still coolish this morning.
The asparagus has stalled totally and remains covered.
I am going to get scurvy waiting for my vegetables to grow!
Have a great day!
I do. I talk to myself all day. Mainly because I am by myself all day. I think talking to yourself is perfectly healthy. Here are some of the things I say to myself “OK”, “Right”, “That’s not heavy”, “Are you crazy?”. “Coffee time.” “What the hell is he doing?” “DRINK!” (did you ever watch Father Ted).
96% of people have an inner dialogue. Do you think in words? That is an inner dialogue.
25% admit to talking out loud but I think that the others lie! Afraid that being caught talking to themselves might be an indication of mental illness. Well, it’s not. It is NOT an indication of mental illness. I think more of us talk out loud to ourselves more often than we will admit too.
And we probably answer ourselves too – in the comfort of our own homes, thank you very much.
It’s a good thing and honestly if I did not talk to myself during the day I would not talk at all. With my husband working off the farm, I solo farm most of the time, write alone with dogs, and have chosen to give up my paid job and start my own business (more writing alone). So until The Sustainable Home launches (with its workshops and Zoom calls and communication) it is just me talking to me.
The sound of your own voice galvanizes a person. I do believe that.
How many of you pretend you are talking to your dog?
“Where did I leave my phone BooBoo?”
Or your pig.
“Its a quiet day today, Wai, lets go find Tima.”
“Talking out loud to yourself can motivate you to move forward with your goals, help you focus on a task at hand, and combat self-criticism. Gary Lupyan from University of Wisconsin-Madison calls this phenomenon “feedback hypothesis.” – quoting Aunty Google.
Thank you Aunty!
Our new calves are weaned at my friends and ready to come to the farm. We pick them up on Sunday. They are bottle babies so will be stupid tame.
Plus I have another contact for feeder piglets. They are hard to find nowadays. The little breeders like me gave up during the pandemic period when all the little slaughter houses were taken over by the big slaughter houses that were closed down due to people getting sick. This broke something in our local food system.
And if organic field grown meat is the protein of your choice and you are being particular about how it is grown, it should be getting harder to find. If it is harder to find then you are doing something right. However we can eat less meat and more plants. (I don’t eat fish – unless I can see the sea, I worry too much about the sea to support the big fisheries. Personally I think all deep sea fishing should be banned for twenty years). And no – I do not accept substitutes, I am not going to eat a science project masquerading as meat. Or a turkey made of soy. Meat or no meat. Fine with me.
You know, it just occurred to me that blogging is a form of talking to yourself which is why I love our Lounge of Comments. Then I get to talk to you!
Here is the link to the story I wrote for yesterday’s publication (Monday) and I have decided that for the Thursday Subscribers ($5 a month gets you a Thursday Feature) – I am going to trial reading the story aloud. Does that sound crazy? Do you think people will want to hear me read the story? (I will be reading to myself! Is that the same as talking to myself – if I read to myself so that you can hear me read?)
Substack has a podcast feature so I am going to give it a go. (I need to terrify myself at least once a day).
Chapter Two – Looking Down from the Clouds
(I really need to work on headings!). Anyway – The Kitchens Garden Blog is still my Mother Ship – and you are all on it. We are good. Everything begins right here.
Which is why you get all the offers! And all the pictures.
We had a little rain in the night. Which means good digging and weeding today. Mostly digging – as I turn over the beds for planting in a few weeks. No sign of any of my garden seeds popping up yet. Maybe soon.
Until then my main vegetable is the silverbeet that continues to grow in the glasshouse beds.
And the greens in the big pots that are getting rather tired of pot life and going to seed. But thats OK. I gather and resow the seed.
Still freezing in the night-time. Sigh.
Two great grey geese just honked above the house, circled and flew down to the ditch, I hope they land in front of my field camera!! What are the odds do you think?
Have a lovely day!
Don’t just sit there – get up and walk!
I know right ? (wriggles in chair and sits up straighter) – our bodies were not designed for a sedentary existence. When I was working with the online tutoring company I spent way too long sitting and I ached! My whole body went out in protest to all the sitting around. Now that I am active again I feel so much better, no more achy joints (or bottom).
Sitting at a desk for long periods of time is not natural.
Walking every day is mandatory on a farm. And now we have a new reason to walk all the way down the back. Follow me and Boo Boo because Ton always chooses to sleep on the verandah and wait for us to return.
Good morning Jude.
Through the gap in the fence.
Past the Fellowship Forest. Forests take a long time to you know – which is why I am adding Fellowship Bushes to help with our Carbon Co-Pay.
Past the asparagus that is so sad after last nights hard frost that I am not looking.
And over we go to the Ditch that was a Creek.
Can you see my shadow, taking a photograph of the tracks through the long grass down to the ditch. (I will get a better shot this afternoon without the shadow).
I want to know who is making those tracks and whether it is a bastard mink because you know I hate bastard minks badly enough to wear them as a hat. And they like to make their burrows along ditch banks. But then again it might be a rabbit. Nothing too big though.
So I have borrowed one of those trail cameras, and set it up down there to watch that track. And the ditch, and see what we can see. I know the coyotes walk this track when they are out checking the perimeter of their territory so maybe (I hope) we might get a shot of them one day.
Even colder this morning but the sun is out!
😒 Still cold. Maybe I hate April more than I hate May.
Here is a post from April 2020 – I was looking for weather related stuff. But got pandemic related stuff. And nothing at all about the weather. It still makes for interesting reading though. Plus I have discovered a lot of lost months. I am not sure how that happened but I am getting in touch (again) with wordpress to see why that happened and where they are.
I don’t want stuff lost.
Have a great day!
The sun is out here!
PS – All you Substack subscribers – (thank you so much for choosing the paid subscription of $5 a month – your faith in me is beyond wonderful) – today is Story Day! If you miss it I will leave the link in the comments later today and again tomorrow.
I am off to edit it now.
So easy to make and quite delicious.
The secret is in the pause.
The tang of the cranberries with the sweetness of the shortbread is a perfect marriage.
And (of course) eating dried fruit with my cookie makes me feel that surely I am doing something good for my body!
Remember that all ovens are different so adjust your temperatures and baking times accordingly.
The tomatoes are all back in the glass house.
The air temperatures need to be above 50F before they can be back outside and not lose their momentum.
So, no more tomato plants sitting out in the dappled sun for a few days. Next week the temperatures are still quite low and we need a soil temperature of 60F to plant out tomatoes.
So they will be coming in and out for at least another week or so.
The problem is that tomatoes are John’s domain and he will almost certainly not wait until the ground is warm enough (he always plants too early and his plants stall or are frosted down – every year – it was a family legend long before I arrived), so I will plant the back up tomatoes into bigger pots today and mind them until they are needed.
The idea is to plant the plants without shocking them – if a plant gets a shock she will send out the message to flower and try to propagate before she dies. Diverting the energy needed for a good root structure. Best to slide a plant into the soil when the soil and the weather are at optimum.
I went down the back yesterday to work in the asparagus and was blown back in by a squall of stingy snow – twice. But with a lot of grumbling, the beds are all covered with straw again so the spikes that have popped through do not get frosted off and rot back into the asparagus root bed.
Although I want everything planted and underway before I start travelling again – there is another two or three weeks at least before putting our the tender plants. I am aiming for mid to late May.
More cabbages and broccoli and more greens will be planted out after next week. They are cool weather plants.
Cold but not too cold. And just cold and cloudy enough to keep me inside writing.
We are past our last frost date for this area (Central Illinois) and approaching the last frost date for Northern Illinois. So I think things are pretty much on track.
It was very chilly at 6.30 this morning.
Hope you are having a great Spring (and Fall).
This is the time of year where my children (in NZ) and I have about the same temperatures as our seasons shake hands on the way past.
Take care and talk soon.
Before I came to America I never thought about directions in relation to the compass. In New Zealand I never said going North for instance, I would say I am going up to Auckland. Intellectually I knew the sun rose in the East but I did not put that together with an East Facing window. That was just where the sun rose. I never made the choice to think about it being East.
Did that sentence even make sense?
To get to Christchurch meant travelling in a Southern direction. But I would say I am off to catch the ferry then driving down to Christchurch. South was down, North was Up. East and West were across; if you go too far across you end up in the sea.
Here is the rural US they say Drive North for 10 miles then turn East into 1800. (Or something). It is all very sensible.
( I remember when I lived in London being told everywhere else was down because London was at the top – as in: I am going Up to London. Never; I am going up to Kent. I don’t know if that was true or just someone pulling the foreigners leg. But that does make me wonder if people in the UK use points of the compass as much as they do here in the US.
Which brings me to my present thought. My desk faces North. I look straight out the big French doors past the house deck and out to the North.
And watch all these rain clouds pass us by.
Then I go outside and shoot East or South. Should I be telling you which direction I am shooting? My direction for the above shot is out to the South.
Does this help you feel a sense of Place?
This one is to the East.
We are surrounded in open ground to the North, South, East and West. The asparagus fields are to my East.
I think that childhood changed into adulthood with such speed that I was not even conscious of thinking about stuff. I must have though right? Which is why this blog is so important t me – it is where I store those thoughts that I never really thought about before.
The very nature of writing well forces one to stare at the page for a while and work out a sentence before writing it down.
Who does this when they are talking – we just talk right? Or do you think before you speak?
Do you think that animals have an inner compass. We know birds do. And dogs. They all know where bed is and where their feeding spot is. Ton has lost his compass completely – when we walk he keeps walking straight until I send Boo out to turn him. He just walks right past the drive – every time. Boo and I have turned into the driveway but Ton just keeps going straight. At a fast clip.
WaiWai’s compass takes him straight to the back step in the morning. And the feed hut in the afternoon. The rest of the time, like Ton, he is resting in his bed.
Wai comes into the feed shed when I am working in there and just quietly watches. Navigating the step up into the little hut takes some thought and he has no intention of doing it twice so comes in and he just waits quietly. He is determined not to be sent back outside. He will stand waiting like that for minutes at a time using mental telepathy to send me hungry thoughts – Feed Me. He is quite still. Quite focussed on getting his message across. He knows perfectly well that that kind of well mannered behaviour is always rewarded with a little bit of everyone else’s dinner.
Then when I shut the door he will race after me, calling out – slow down, slow down, as I walk to his own barn door to fill his own bowl with his proper feed.
This pig does not suffer from hunger at all.
Plus he has to stay light or his broken body will not carry his big head which houses his big brain anymore.
Another cold spell is ahead of us now.
Do you have days where you are struggling with a concept and so you can’t think of anything else until that question has been answered, the words have been found – allowing you to move on.
I am having a day like that.
I know I can think of more than one thing at once. But this one thing is like a cloud in my head that refuses to rain. It is just hovering in there – and must be allowed the time to sort itself out into logical pieces.
Oo it just got darker, we went down a stop, maybe we will get a little rain – that would make it so much easier to prepare the asparagus beds – the ground is so hard.
Now I can hear the rain coming across the wheat. This land is so open. I can hear weather coming. I hope it reaches us.
Have a lovely day
PS – Yes! I was right – just as I went to push Publish the rain arrived!
I am not going to write an awful lot today – I think these pictures speak for themselves.
We did get some sun yesterday but the winds were very high. So the weeding in the asparagus was a trial. The ducks were fine but Mr Flowers did not come out – he does not do well in the high winds with his long tail.
But the warm wind also hauls the grasses up, so the cows fields and the wheat fields grew a pace yesterday!
In the evening the clouds came in and there was every indication that we were going to have another good storm.
Which, frankly would have been great as we are beginning to need the rain.
These clouds were all out to the West and lit by the sunset in the East. Incredible light.
As the sun set and the light dropped the intensity of these storm clouds built but they held on to their rainfall.
And Soared past leaving nary a drop of rain.
Maybe this is how this summer will go. Less rain. I am going to make sure to plant the vegetables that need more water closer to the hoses. As a rule we don’t need to irrigate a lot out here but the gardens have more mouths to feed this year so we may have to water to get the food onto tables.
Take Care and Talk Soon
Have a lovely day.
I was born in a house at high tide, on a beach in New Zealand, in the last few days of the 50’s.
I spent the next 16 years of my life living in the house on the beach on the East Coast of New Zealand.
We have a number of new readers this month so allow me to re-introduce myself.
I am Cecilia. I am the owner and writer here at The Kitchens Garden. Since 2011.
I grew up in a big family. My father had inherited a rambly old house just above high tide from his father. We had a generational vegetable garden, old walnut trees, pepper trees, quince trees and a beach for a front yard.
My grandfather and mother had planted so many trees on our 1/4 acre section it was a jungle. Kids could climb through trees from one end of the property to the other without touching the ground. This was the best challenge on a slow day.
We did not have television until I was 12 years old (and only watched on Sunday evenings for Walt Disney) but Mum had a big old record player built into the corner of the front room so we played records. All classical (Tchaichovskeqy for dancing) or we listened to the National Programme. None of that modern music was allowed in the house. Actually we did not know it existed.
Our lives were noisy and sometimes organised and full of adventure and good food and books.
Everything was collected, reused, saved, darned, handed down, handed up. My mothers pristine linen cupboard was big enough to hide in, her rag bag and button boxes were the stuff of legend.
I would give just about anything now to have her linen closet. But there you are.
I was 14, when my mother went to bed and stayed there. She had contracted TB when she was young. Then a serious car accident. The TB returned, then a bout of glandular fever then a long painful struggle with cancer. Years of it. By the time I was 14 she could fight no more and took to her bed with her books and her writing and art. So, as well as tending to her, and going to school, I was the cook and minder for my brothers and sisters. ‘Chief cook and bottle washer’ as my dad said, trying to be cheerful about it. There were 8 of us all told.
And the beach was our front yard.
Our dog would not to come up from the beach until everyone was home so I did not lose a sibling!
We never had a plastic bag in the house. No paper plates, paper towels or tissues. Everything was used until it became a rag – pots became water buckets, rocks were bird baths. We had chickens down the back. A garden big enough to feed us all the vegetables. A compost heap. Butchers paper and the newspaper were never thrown away.
Mum did all the ordering from her bed and groceries were delivered from the corner store. Our meat was delivered by the butcher. The vegetable man drove a truck around the neighbourhood ringing a bell and I would buy straight from his truck. (Mostly cauliflower and carrots which Dad had a ‘helluva time’ growing). Milk was delivered in glass bottles to a special shady box below the letter box at the front gate by a kid pushing a jingling milk trolley, always early in the morning. Early enough for fresh creamy milk with our porridge (don’t forget the brown sugar). (The first person to get to the kitchen got the cream that had gathered at the top). The newspaper was pushed through the slot by another kid on a bike and the morning was begun.
Dinner prep time was me at the stove and the Littlies ranged on stools around the kitchen doing their homework.
At 15, I could make one chicken last three meals.
Dad worked 6 days a week and by bedtime Sita (the dog) and I had everyone counted, washed, fed, read and into bed.
In the evening Dad always did the dishes with whoever was on the roster so I could start my homework. I loved school.
These were long years with Mum bedridden.
At 16 my Dad asked the church women to mind Mum (who looked like getting better) and the kids, then sent me away to the USA as an American Field Scholar. I was clever. In a way he saved me. He said I could be anything.
So I proceeded to do everything.
Upon reaching American soil I ran as wild as humanly possible and even managed to get suspended for 3 days from school for hanging out the window of the art room with a cigarette!
I laugh now! It felt like the end of the world, then.
At 17, I returned to New Zealand. Mum was on and off sick, in and out of hospital then in remission for a short period. Soon I met a boy and fell pregnant. My horrified family sent me away to one of the convent laundries that took in wayward girls.
I am gifted with the ability to find joy almost anywhere but it was hard work – work that taught me incredible lessons. Convents are entities in themselves and it was there I seriously learnt the art of sustainable self-sufficiency.
At 19, after leaving the convent (with a broken heart) I married a boy my parents liked and proceeded to have four more children. And ferried back and forth between my home and Mum who deteriorated again. There was a lot of chemo in those years.
But by 28, my mother had died, my father remarried and left the island, I had five kids, was divorced and fiercely fending for myself.
And now here I am years later living off the land in the midwest of America.
Not much money to speak but I owe no-one anything, I have land to work and I have a wealth of knowledge and experience to write about and share.
And I might add, I am living lightly on this good earth with cheerful frugality.
Rain last night. And a wind advisory again today. It is SO windy out in the asparagus fields!
We all have stories. Have you ever written your story down like that? In a linear form.
It is an interesting exercise and as we have a number of new people it has doubled as an introduction of me and my early years.
Take care and have fun!
(If you have just arrived at The Kitchens Garden and recently joined through wordpress find a way to leave me your email address – we are migrating in a few weeks to thekitchensgarden.org and I have no guarantee that you will automatically move across with me – so comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or search for The Kitchen’s Garden at SubStack or Instagram or even Facebook and leave me a message there. One way or another I want to be sure not to lose you).
I will let you know when we switch over. I will keep you in the loop. Promise!
Lucky for me I have you reading these words.
My title refers to the other stories we all write. Or think of writing.
Many people journal – in fact it is quite the thing in some circles. We used to call it a diary and I have many but I will admit to you here that they were written to be read. And one of the reasons I started the blog was so I could journal the journey of the farm and join with you all in chatting in the Lounge of Comments.
Anything I write for no-one to read is burned. Writing is not a therapy for me.
I was speaking with Jim in the comments yesterday – trying to answer his question as to why I was using the platform SubStack to publish my new stories. Or even needed somewhere to put them. It was such a good question because it made me think.
Here is my (amended) comment.
“I am at a point in my journey as a writer where I am ready to take myself seriously and lock down a style in my long-form writing. Writing that is not dependent on the farm or location. Or my ‘brand’ (The short stories).
Substack may give me the encouragement to write consistently – every day. As a training if you will.
I have so many short stories and early days stories written and tucked away that need working on.
What good are these unread words.
See how I wrote this comment? All in short choppy form. A prime example of why I want to enable/retrain myself to get back to that long gorgeous sumptuous lilting writing again – where did I lose that habit – Social Media? — I think Substack may be a good place for me to recover my real writing. What do you think?
I think setting a Monday deadline and maybe developing a small cadre of paying (and of course free subscribers) might enable me dig deep into long form writing. Explore words again. Hold me accountable.
I will be launching there (SubSTack) with only words – no personal pictures. I am taking my crutch out from under myself. (There will be wobbles).
Can I get up every morning and continue using the same style and voice? Or am I too fractured.
I will develop a platform that is not dependent on the farm for subject matter. Or travel or sustainability. (I am trying to find again that girl who wanted to be a writer – a writer of short stories who ironically loves to read long novels). The writing will be from my own head and the challenge of holding a reader purely with words and how I arrange them is a heady one.
Plus there is the paid subscription option. The kitchens garden blog has always been free. And will remain so. Same with the Sustainable Home Monthly Newsletter. (But I do need to make some money to feed all these animals), (and for me so I can have time to write).
Not wanting to become this fellow living on red wine and crackers in a back room garret. Thank you Misky!
Which led me to look for a platform where readers are set up to pay someone to write. I think four stories might be worth 5 dollars a month.
Do you think?”
I wrote an haiku last night:
If I write to you
And you do not read my words
Do I write at all
I am not a poet but this is a real thought trying to battle its way out. And one way or another I do want my words to be read.
Anyway. Time for action! I end up doubting myself for doubting myself. I am old enough to know better!
Wai wants feeding or else he going to run amok in the feed shed.
Just the thought of this old blind pig running amok makes me laugh – not at you WaiWai definitely with you!! More laughter! WaiWai never laughs – he takes pig life ‘very seriously’!
I can almost hear the chug of the milking machine in this abandoned milking parlour.
This is the last hen to be caught. And she had a terrible time before I was able to trap her. Being out with all those roosters resulted in really nasty wounds on her shoulders.
While mounting a hen the rooster stands on top of her and holds on with his claws. This girl has had the skin ripped open on her back. Repeatedly by the looks of it.
Chickens can be mean to each other too (especially if weakened) so she will stay in her little cage until her wounds are dried up – this will give her a chance to acclimate, too. Maybe the others will just ignore her when I let her out tonight.
She really is a pretty young hen. Pretty angry at the moment!
We did get a tiny dusting of snow overnight and have one more night of cold before it warms up again.
I may have made a mistake leaving my pots of big potted plants out. But sage and rosemary can take a bit of cold. Fingers crossed.
The warm snap is over. Cold snap coming up. Then warm snap then cold snap again.
I just hope that these cold days don’t stop the promise of apples in the trees. They are all blossom. .
It’s cold. The house is cold. It’s cold outside. Cold inside. I am not turning heating on for this short shift of weather. Though I see in the forecast that this will repeat itself next weekend. Taking us right to the last frost date for this area. April 16 – 30.
There are some farmers out planting but our farmers don’t begin planting the organic corn until after the 10th of May. By then the ground should be nicely warmed up. Plus we don’t want organic corn tassling at the same time as the GM crops.
Found this (below) in a facebook memory the other day. Seven years ago!! Oh My.
Our Sheila. Well, the caption says Sheila but I think this may be Poppy. Sheilas scar was on her left I think but still. Poppy’s ears flopped forward like that.
Have a lovely day
PS My next story goes up on SubStack this afternoon. And every Monday going forward. I hope you can subscribe from this link – otherwise I will leave the link at the bottom of tomorrows post. Love to see you over there, if you can. Hugs.
Blogging is a little like that television/Netflix program: Chopped?
Did you every see Chopped? A bunch of chefs would line up and they each had a basket with weird ingredients in it and then, with the clock ticking and random badly behaved judges, (there purely for their entertainment value), the poor cooks had to make a meal from the mystery ingredients.
Those poor people took it all SO seriously!
It was on years ago and I remember watching it while visiting in California.
I was thinking that it emulated every night in my house where I pulled open the fridge door, walked into the gardens, dug about in the freezer and turned whatever I found into a meal. Applause!!
Anyway – blogging is a bit like chopped. Sometimes (actually often but don’t tell) I wake up to begin my post with not one single useful thought in my head.
Then I open my basket of mystery images. And I look at the photos and they become the ingredients for a great blog post.
The weather is taking a nosedive – we are literally at the high for the day and it is 6.30 in the morning.
It’s all downhill from here. So no more wallows for a few days. We do not want chilly hogs.
And it is Sunday.
What do you think Wai?
Bed. Wai says, Back to bed! Breakfast then Bed with a good book, he says. OR, he lifts his head and looks in my direction; Bed and WRITE a good book. How about that, he says dropping his heavy head again and wandering off.
I am going to tell you very quietly – I have begun to write my stories on SubStack. This Monday will be my first real story. Every Monday will be a new piece of writing. This is brand new virgin territory for me. I am not even sure I have set it all up correctly but you know how I am!
My first series is Letters to My Mother. this link will hopefully take you to SubStack. (I always write better when I am writing TO someone which is why I love TKG because I am writing to YOU. So the first Act will be written to my mother who missed out on most of my life – she died young – poor lovey).
It will be chronological starting right at the beginning with The Beach stories, (otherwise know as The Early Years – snort). The chronological bit will be the hardest actually – we do not remember stuff in that kind of order.
It is a lovely rainy day today – perfect for writing Chapter ONE.
I will be writing stuff like this:
This is a good way to corral all the stories into a series of documents – just in case a big shot publisher rides in on her dark horse and offers to publish me!
Which one of the TKG stories was your favorite so far? (TKG means The Kitchens Garden you will remember – my fingers get tired). Finding the stories I have written for you, here on TKG will be a mission in itself!
There is an option on SubStack for people to pay a subscription of $5 a month to read the stories and listen to the podcasts (soon). (Plus the Free option – not everyone has money to throw around you know).
I will leave a link here every Tuesday morning too.
Charlotte Rains Dixon writes on SubStack too – in fact it was her that introduced me to the platform. Do any of you write there?
Sometimes the High is the temperature that I watch sometimes it is the LOW.
Today is the Low. Tonight is going down to freezing so all the tomatoes and little seedlings have been brought back inside.
At lest they are all watered with the rain overnight.
Have a great day
PS It is Raining! Oops – no – false alarm.
The Kitchen’s Garden is really FIVE gardens.
But first the trees are blooming.
I was working in the Spring Garden yesterday. This has the raised anti-duck beds (which may or may not work). They have full sun for most of the day. Raised beds warm up fast so this garden is great for fast spring food.
And a kitchens garden is all about the food.
Yesterday I sowed peas, beets, a big patch of assorted greens and set a hundred onion sets into the ground to grow over the summer.
I dug up a whole lot of wild garlic from an old garden that is now grass.The garlic has adapted beautifully to our environment coming back up every summer. So I have brought it into the Spring garden for extra care and propagation. I double dug this patch so they have room to grow downwards and I will collect the seed.
These garlic are not for eating yet. (Though I am sure there will be tasting). I want to accumulate a good number for next years planting. (There are a few tough old green onions interspersed in this shot. They returned after the winter. I am growing those for seed and bulbs, too)
Growing plants that do well in your ecosystem develops resilience in your garden.
When I plant the onion sets I plant them very close together and thin them into the kitchen. This uses less space. After a while I will stop pulling them for greens and have rows of well spaced onions for storing over winter. (Did that make sense?)
I cannot get enough onions or garlic. Either green or mature.
After the heat of the summer is past the Spring Garden will have a green cover crop for a month or so then become the Late Summer Garden.
The rhubarb garden is the mid summer garden. At the moment there is only rhubarb. This garden was left to rest last summer while I was away and will come back a bit smaller. This was my first Kitchens Garden so the weeds are well in control even after last summers wild growing.
As the weather warms I will be rotating zucchini and peppers and aubergine through here.
Then there is John’s walled garden which has descended into madness. Like the basement, this is his domain and I (thank god) have nothing to do with it. I think he has potatoes in there so far.
He was in there with a flame thrower the other day. I suggested goats but that did not go down well.
We are not allowed to visit.
After the cold is properly over we will start the field garden. This years field garden is down the back.
This will have the sweetcorn and tomatoes and pumpkins and whatever else gets planted in there. With a lot of cover crop in between.
The cows have been in there all winter so some areas will have very few weeds after months of stomping. We will till it back into order (sometimes we do have to till and rake the soil flat and plantable) and I will put in a few row crops where the cows have prepared the soil for me. Tilling is unavoidable sometimes but I only till a garden right at the beginning – if properly managed the following years the gardens can be hand dug exactly where one is planting. .
We are feeding four households (plus the extras) this year so there is plenty to do.
The asparagus is a field garden too but much reduced since the old days. Asparagus does better without weeds. So without the help of my interns in the past, I am keeping things within my ability. I will be using a lot of straw to keep the weeds down however it is wheat straw so there will be wheat growing too! Ah well.
I will put on another 6 bales of straw today.
The abandoned asparagus beds will join the WildLands.
For the foragers of the future. I will be sowing wild garlic and onions out here too for the future foragers!
Now, out into the garden for me. I am dying to get outside today!
After today the weather turns nasty and cold so this afternoon I will begin to heave all the frost tender plants back inside.
I have to keep in mind that I will be away all of July and a little of August. So these gardens will have to grow on without me then. And my harvest dates need to be August and September into November.
I will have to organize a rotation of gardeners or I will come back to weed city!!
Have a great day
I love to grow salad greens in one big pot. It is so easy.
And anyone with a deck or a patio (or a sunny window in the winter) can do this.
I sow all the salad greens that I love to eat, into one big pot, then pick the leaves when they are small. It will be an aromatic medley of salad greens.
Low maintenance and convenient. Easy peasy.
No need to plant them separately and no need to plant them in rows. If the seeds are sown thick enough there is no need to worry about weeds. You will thin the plants as you cut them so one variety will not take over the other.
Above is a picture of the pot that I sowed mid winter in a sunny window. It is outside that window now. I have not been cutting hard enough these last few weeks and the lettuce has taken over! Which is fine.
These pots are wonderful for your sustainably managed kitchen. No food waste, the greens are picked fresh and highly nutritious. No transport costs. No plastic. All good.
But first: a sunrise.
You can see that the rock lined duck pond is coming along.
For those of you following the Greens in a Pot. Above is what is on my deck at the moment. These seeds are still germinating. More come up every day.
After I mix the seeds all together in a cup I sprinkle them (somewhat) evenly over the top of the media in the pot. Cover with a little sifted soil/potting media. Then a newspaper and keep moist. Water the newspaper. Take the newspaper off the pot when the seeds start to sprout.
This pot has begun to germinate.
In this pot is parsley, beets, cabbage, spinach, kale, arugula and lettuce.
Into those gaps I am going to pop some onion sets, for green onions as well.
This suits a lazy gardener like me! I eat salad greens every day. If you pick (with little scissors) low and often – but not too hard – the greens will continue to grow for months.
I will try and post this for you every week or so, then you can see the progression, this is the easiest way to plant greens for your salad. A one stop shop!
I will sow a similar mix into the garden today (though I will add peas) – it is overcast and I like to sow and plant in overcast days and later in the spring I will sow the chard and silver beet. Chard and silver beet do not mind the heat.
Kale tends to bolt if it gets too hot. And if this happens I move the pot into a cooler corner.
Still debating whether to find some fertile duck eggs to put under a duck.
I suddenly realised that I have not explained this weather screen shot.
I take a screen shot of the weather app in the morning .
So today it was 56f at 6.30 am and will reach a high of 80f then an overnight low of 56f forecast for tonight.
Today we have lovely night temperatures so all the pots are outside.
But Sunday and Monday the overnight temperatures are forecast to go back down to freezing with a little snow forecast.
The plants in pots will all be crammed back into the glasshouse for the weekend!
It is springtime and the temperatures are still heaving themselves all over the place. So whats new?!
Take Care and Talk soon
A hard wood or semi hard wood cutting needs help to grow good strong roots, usually from a rooting hormone.
You can make a natural and very effective rooting hormone at home. With willow cuttings.
When I was a very young Mum. In New Zealand. All us Mums would visit each other for a cup of tea and a home made bikky and some actual sane conversation.
In those days we did not call them Play Dates – we called them Dropping in for a Cup of Tea. They were for Mum. Kids just came along for the fun because it was frowned on to leave them home alone. All these visits were in the morning because afternoon was nap time.
Morning is the perfect time to take cuttings.
Each of these visits always had a garden tour. Our gardens were our paradise. Our very own space. Our peaceful place. If our friend admired a plant we would pull them off a piece, wrap it in damp newspaper, then dry newspaper. We would scrawl the name of the plant on the dry newspaper (this was not a fail proof system but we persevered) tie the bundle up with kitchen string and tuck it into the pram at babies feet.
On the walk home we would snag a few willow twigs from some random strangers front garden and this was our rooting hormone.
90% of our gardens were grown from cuttings from our friends gardens and when we shifted house – like I did often – we would take little bundles of wet newspapers full of cuttings with us. (I never bothered to label anything – I would know what the plant was by the leaves).
I always have a jar of home-made willow rooting hormone – you just never knew when you might see the perfect plant growing over someones fence right into your hand. oops! It will store for around two months in your ‘fridge.
I can take a cutting and have it hidden up my sleeve before anyone even sees the dip of the bush.
Here is one of my willows. It is a twisted willow. ‘Morning FreeBee.
Cut a couple of long willow cuttings. About a pencil width.
Cut up into 4 inch sticks.
Strip off leaves.
Bundle together (rubber band or string).
And fill the jar with boiling water (make sure this is natural water – no chemicals).
Soak the willow sticks in the water for 24 hours.
Strain the willow water into another clean jar.
Take your cutting from the mother bush. Cut just below two shoots, with two or three buds higher on the cutting. Cut on an angle and strip off the bottom shoots. The roots will grow from these wounds.
Immediately pop your cutting into the jar of cold willow rooting hormone making sure the two shorn bud wounds are in the water. Leave for a couple of hours. The cutting will draw the willow water up.
Grandma would place her cuttings in a jar with the willow cutting. (The willow cutting was literally growing in the jar for the whole summer). It would occasionally share its water with a cutting Grandma brought home.
Even more effective is whole jar of willow water rooting hormone. Waiting in your refrigerator. (Warm up to room temp before use). To be fair mine lives on a cool windowsill.
Pot up your cutting in a pot of potting mix and make sure the water stays damp (not too wet). It is important not to grow cuttings in a medium that already has fertilizer added, the roots need to grow at a natural pace. At Massey University we grew our cuttings in river sand.
Willow Water Rooting Hormone is great for soft wood cuttings or semi hard wood cuttings like hydrangea and lavender, sage or basil. I think lavender is on the cusp of a hard wood cutting but it still grows as long as the cutting is from first year wood.
The sap is rising fast at this time of year and I have always had the best luck with cuttings in the spring.
Today I am taking cuttings of another hydrangea plus my favourite lilac and a pompom tree.
These are all considered semi-hardwood and grow easily with the help of the willow water rooting hormone.
And of course – every year- I grow a few more willow trees. All the twisted and regular willows on the property, except one of each, have been grown from cuttings.
When you are done with the willow water – add it to the water in your watering can and water your plants with it. It is a tonic!
The cover crop is being sown. We are late this year, due to such a rainy winter.
Asparagus is up.
I will cover the asparagus beds in deep straw today – it was too windy yesterday.
Horrible shot – sorry about that. Pictures of asparagus are never pretty!
Asparagus for dinner I think!!
Have a lovely day!
Take care. Talk soon.
So yesterday was spent raising the South Kitchens Garden beds. The ducks can clean up a whole bed of greens in seconds. They LOVE their vegetables. So I am putting my favourite greens out of their reach.
These ducks don’t fly (and have a rooster guardian as you can see). So the beds don’t have to be too high to keep them out.
(You can see that the rocks for the rock pond are still dry as the ducks and I wait for the water blaster to come back to the farm.)
The South Raised beds are against the concrete foundation of the Coop. Facing South with afternoon shade. In the past we have had trouble with these beds drying out in the summer so making them deeper will help with that.
I only grow what I eat and I grow a lot of greens from seed for my daily salads. I cut the leaves as I want them – instead of harvesting a whole plant – this way I always have greens and if I trim them often enough I get greens all summer.
These beds are at different levels and the highest will be perfect for my greens. They are in layers – herbs in the middle layer and the lowest are going to be salad onions and chives. Ducks don’t seem to eat those!
I brought a bucket full of old compost with the tractor to fill the beds so we are ready to sow seeds once that has settled a bit.
I eat pretty much any leaf that is edible so I will be growing kale, beets, nasturtiums, cabbages, lettuce, spinach, arugula and peas. I pour all the seeds into a cup, stir them up and blanket sow the seeds across the top of the beds then cover with sifted compost.
A medley of greens!
I also have a huge pot for the South Porch that has germinating greens in it too, so I will be picking those first.
The rhubarb is up! Did I tell you? Now we REALLY do not want another frost.
The horse radish leaves are ready for picking and yesterday a small emerging asparagus was sighted (I have not even got the compost on the asparagus beds yet – better hurry up with that!).
So the Kitchens Gardens are already looking promising.
Farmer Ross told me that they should be top sowing the cover crop into the wheat fields, today or tomorrow.
The cover crop is Red Clover and will germinate in below the wheat so that when the wheat is harvested, the clover will take off and there is still a cover of green over the soil. This will hold the weeds down, introduce nitrogen to the soil and protect the field from wind erosion.
Covering the soil at all times is a very important component of regenerative organic soil management.
If the weather is good the clover will be mowed a couple of times so it does not go to seed.
There are 500 varieties of native bees in Illinois and they LOVE clover flowers.
So, right this minute I am going to run out and bring in my table and chairs from the field.
Getting warmer. Full sun. Might be a little windy later on.
Early in the day for watering (already done) and early in the evening for gardening.
Apparently there is rain forecast for Saturday so I am keeping that in mind too.
I hope you have a lovely day or at least see some loveliness in your day.
Take care. Talk soon.
Vandal the cat was laid out on his back totally still. So still that Boo actually went over to make sure he was not dead.
Hush, said Vandal, I am playing a trick on the roosters.
Then he leapt up and flew at speed through the assembled roosters (it was dinner time) scattering them in all directions.
Gleeful is the only word to describe this naughty cats face.
Boo sighed and returned to the porch steps where I was having a cup of tea and some blueberry shortbread.
Cats – he said.
Ducks don’t actually need a duck pond (though they wish John would hurry up and clean their rock pond and refill it so they could float about in there).
But they do need containers deep enough to get their nostrils and eyes and heads right into the water. They need to clean their eyes and noses well and often. Ducks stick their noses into everything.
And anything holding water becomes their splashy bathtub.
Did you see that egg? The day after Easter someone lays an egg with a teal stripe all around it. This does make me wonder how they actually attach the colour to the egg. You can scratch the brown off a deep brown egg when it is freshly laid.
I need to do some more research on this. Specific chickens will lay specific coloured eggs depending on their breed. But how does the actual colour get on the shell.
This was a night planting so there are these lovely curves when the tractor driver was resting his eyes – or swooping around the corner.
Ross my farmer calls the ducks his mobile organic fertiliser team. They will be out in the wheat for the whole summer.
Except when they see me. The power of the bucket!
Today I will continue to dig in the kitchens garden out to the South of the House.
And I will raise another raised bed even higher so the ducks cannot graze on my greens. The ducks (and the roosters) are a bit of a problem in the garden which is why I collect all kind of baskets and dish trays to set on top of the emerging plants.
We are not quite at planting time yet. May is a good month to begin that. For the moment I am sowing seeds into seed trays so they have a head start. And getting all the beds ready.
The tomatoes are outside hardening off.
Onion sets go out today. Greens are all in pots on my porch.
Which is why todays post is a little short on words.
I am off out into the garden while it is still cool.
My gardening hat and gardening gloves and my favourite spade are at the door – ready to go!
Have a great day!
Creating a backyard pond without the use of chemicals is all about using running water and life forms to maintain a kind of pond equilibrium. A balance of fishes, frogs and plants and people and moving water.
Ponds without a water source are not natural.
Without a human helping, the pond will end up being a big green puddle of muck.
Maintaining a pond naturally without wasting water became a challenge in itself. My favorite kind of challenge actually. We have a little waterfall and a pump that runs the water through a filter and back out to the waterfall. The filter is cleaned every day – with the hose – I clean the filter in the trees so that cleaning water waters the trees.
We hooked up the gutters to a system that siphons any rainwater from the roof to the pond so when it rains the pond is replenished, I open my little floodgates and let the excess water run out into my runoff garden.
But it has not been raining.
And there were one or two hot days.
So the pond began to complain.
So in the absence of rain, I got permission to puddle about with the pond ( this is John’s pond – one does need permission but I really don’t want a pond dependent on those chemicals and dyes – it is not organic or self sufficient or sustainable) so I have re-established the run off pond. The theory is that I open my pretend floodgates, (Can you see the raised flap of pond liner – held up with a plank and two rocks – kiwi ingenuity at its best. ) I run water out for about ten minutes, then I replenish the pond with clean well water. I do this every few days, and the pond has cleaned up beautifully.
The run off water runs down a channel to the run off pond which is really just a low bit of ground.
But we must not waste the run off water. So I am developing a food garden around the run off pond.
One thing leads to another you see.
Watermelons and pumpkins love lots of water. So they get a good water every two days. Plus there are native iris and young trees down there too. I had a native hibiscus that grows along waterways but I lost it. It may still pop up.
The channel running down to the run off pond/garden. (below)
Do you remember digging channels by the river or on the beach when you were a kid, leading the water along. It is the same premise. And still as enjoyable. I am digging little channels so when I run the green water out it goes down and waters the pumpkins and watermelons and tomatoes and now I am digging a little side channel to the tomatoes! And planting along the channel.
Can you see the larvae below? Food for the fish. The water lettuce is still in a cage – it is so small it would float straight into the filter.
Of course someone is horrified at my little irrigation ditches – how can he mow? Just like those men in the graveyards – it is all about the mowing.
I have glimpsed the fish a couple of times so they are doing ok in there, helping to establish my aquatic ecosystem.
The frogs, as ever, are doing marvellously. They need the pond (and my ditches) in this dry weather.
The brains behind the mower. Broken Wing and Vandal plotting a takeover.
I mucked about with the pond so long that Vandal took my seat on the mower.
Really perfect farming conditions.
I hope you have a great day.
PS – the barn swallows are still alive and growing. Even pecking at the flies that land on their bread banneton nest. One or two fall out at least once a day and I just put them back. (an oval basket is not an ideal nest but we work with what we have). So Mama and Papa must still be feeding them! (which means I still cannot fix the hole in the top of the netting – I am sure that is where they are flying in and out).
No – I am not going to bake them like blackbirds in a pie. We have Barn Swallow nests all through the barns- I think they might be my favorite birds. And my constant companions as I work or walk in the gardens disturbing bugs for them to eat.
Barn Swallows eat insects, lots of insects but especially mosquitoes, and flies. Lots of flies.
A single Barn Swallow can consume 60 insects per hour or up to 850 per day.
So it stands to reason that more Barn Swallows are more better!
I was in the hen house gathering the eggs when I heard the distress calls of tiny birds.
I heard little baby chirping and turned to find four little barn swallows without feathers huddled against the wall on the floor of the chook house ( literally the most dangerous position in the world for a non chicken chick) chirping their heads off. And you know what those chooks would do if they found them.
So I emptied the eggs out of the bread banneton ( my favourite gathering basket) laying them in the straw then picked up each of the fledgelings and popped them into the basket. Contrary to popular opinion you can pick up wild chicks and put them back in the nest. Mama does not care. So with the little chicks chirping frantically in the banneton; I looked up for the nest. The ceiling in the chook house is very high but I could not see swallow nest.
Barn Swallow nests are always high in a building and they must have been in the rafters above the ceiling panels.
So I climbed up and placed the banneton with the chicks still inside as high up in the wall as I could.
Hoping Mama and Papa would find them. It was the best I could do. Sometimes we have to take that risk.
With little hope for their survival I gathered up the eggs into my dress and left them to it.
I came back the next morning to find that mama swallow has begin to create a nest in the basket. And everyone was fed and settled.
One swallow chick fell out yesterday and is gone. They are in the most dangerous position surrounded by omnivorous chickens. But the last three were still there this morning (Day Three of their great adventure) and getting bigger and have more feathers. So I think their parents are still feeding them.
Living in the wild is a risky business. But we will see they have a ways to go yet. I am surrounded in robin chicks hopping all over the place so I am optimistic that nature has a plan.
I let the chickens out early this morning. Best they are engaged elsewhere!
Tortured by biting flies (with barn swallows flying overhead) Wai wore his cloak all day yesterday. He moves so slowly that it remains in place for hours.
It cannot be tied on to him. He twitched and growled at me as I walked around him like a dress maker trimming the excess off his robes. If I try to attach anything he leaps up and runs away in distress. It might be that it reminds him of his attackers roping him up. So I follow his lead. And lay his blankets and covers gently on him.
It is there – do you see? on the top of his neck where the skin is so thin that the flies give him so much trouble. He is bloody from their bites. Can you see them? And his back and his rear.
His ears are the hardest to cover because he hates them to be covered, understandably. Poor old Wai. Covering up is the most successful option for him.
He managed to keep his dress on all day and went to bed pre-covered.
I have begun spraying iodine on his ears and wounds. Iodine helps a lot to deflect the flies too.
Now I just need to train his minders to cover him while I am away.
As a rule he spends all day sleeping in his room in the barn. He only comes out to eat. So he is easy.
I have shut the door to the calf creep so the calves would move in with the big steer. He was feeling a bit lonely after his cow-friend was sold so this is a better arrangement.
He does tend to lie down flat out like a dog but the calves are big enough to get out of his way now.
Being the guardian of this many animals I need to make sure to lean on the gate and watch them as often as I can. Observation is key. I will work on rearranging the barn further today so the big pigs can get into the middle of the barn. They are thick skinned and not bothered by flies at all but I need to think ahead to the heat.
Have a lovely day!
PS The new website at TheKitchensGarden.org is now imminent. Even though I am still struggling with the internet – getting brackets to hold up the tower is beyond my pay grade so I must rely on help. But I have. a meeting with Duane today to check the last few things! Then we will do a Soft Launch with you all. As long as you are on my email list you will get to see it early. So make sure to get on that list! Love ya! c
We are enduring a real problem with the internet out here on the farm, these last two days. And we are so close to launching the new website that, of course, we are going to have connectivity problems.
It is Murphy’s Law, right!? What Can Happen , Will Happen and at the Worst Possible Time. And to be fair I have not been visited by Murphy and their annoying law in a while.
Apparently a technician is coming out today. We can only hope.
The internet comes through for moments at a time so I hang out for a window and hope it is long enough to get a message out to you.
Do you think the internet has actually gotten worse in the last few years? Many rural areas in the USA have the same problems. I often lose Wi-Fi during the day. Just not usually for this long.
And we pay for this service – it is not free. The internet is not cheap!
I would go to the Starbucks in the Book Store and work from there but it is a 45 minute drive. Then a 45 minute drive back after really awful coffee.
Plus I just cannot conduct video calls from Starbucks.
I often wonder about our dependence on a wifi signal. How long this can keep up. Whether we should check the mechanics of our lives to see how well we would manage without the internet.
Which is why I am happy to know that my food does not rely on this inclement connection.
It rained again yesterday. A downpour of biblical proportions for an unsettlingly short period then straight back to a sunny day. Just like turning a shower head on and off as the squall moved above the farm.
Lots of thunder too which terrified poor Boo.
Unless the thunder and lightning actually rock the house, Ton does not notice anymore. He feels sound more than hearing it now. To call him for his meal I bang his bowl on the wall.
I hope you all have a lovely day!
I will get this letter out to you while I am still connected.
If you have just subscribed to thekitchensgarden.com – we are migrating this site to a new platform at the end of the week. (Maybe. Fingers Crossed) So make sure to leave me a comment then I will have your email address to send a notification of the shift. I don’t want to lose you just as we found you!
The new domain name is going to be thekitchensgarden.org. It is not live yet. When it is I will let you know you will need to re-subscribe. If you are on my email list I will send you the link. This .com address will stay live and linked and become the TKG Archives plus I will leave a button here for you to link straight to the new platform if you get here by mistake. (Lots to do!).
How I Layout the Images in my Blog Post
Posted on April 10, 2023 by Cecilia Mary Gunther
On an ideal day.
This is my formula – you will all do this differently and I would love to hear how your construct your pages too and what you love to see on a page. The images on a blog page make all the difference to your work. Humans are very image based.
It has to be noted that sometimes I do not follow this formula at all! Especially if I am excited!
But more recently I have been trying to be more thoughtful and intentional. So, I thought I would share a little of my process with you.
I have taken the time in recent months to block out my day into Shifts. This has enabled me to really focus on my blog pages and how I share stuff with you. Time and Motion has always been a study of mine. It dovetails perfectly in with my sustainably managed lifestyle. So creating shifts for different tasks has been a sea change now that I am self-employed again.
Organise and Optimise your images.
I do all this on my phone. First thing in the morning. Before I do chores. I collate all the best images from yesterday. And delete all the rest. Then I crop and fix and optimise. I do all this in the app Snapseed.
If I have been working on my camera I literally email pics to myself in the evening so I can run them through snapseed too. As far as I know SnapSeed does have a desktop version. But I can do this super fast.
Load the shots in order onto the page
Still working on my phone I lay all the images into the post using the WordPress app.
The order on the page is determined by the story that has begun to emerge.
Make sure to use images that tell a story – often these are not technically the best image but the story is more important. – this is not a photography blog.
Then I save the draft, close the app. And go outside to feed everyone.
After chores I go to the computer with my second cup of coffee and call my page back up. The rest of the post is created on a big screen.
Below is an extra image I shot during morning chores to support the story that had emerged earlier.
I collected TEN duck eggs this morning – some news just cannot wait.
Pictures or Words
I always place my images in the blog post page first. Then add the words. So at this stage (now that I have loaded the images and shifted to my keyboard) I begin to write to you.
This blog is literally driven by pictures. Many of you will put up the words first then find the image. Your blog or your favourite blogs might lay down the words first then go find the pictures. Both are totally correct.
But in my world it is all about the sights of the farm. The stories that the animals and the gardens create.
The words accompany what I see and do in the 24 hours before I post.
Below we have my tiny new sage plants in the glasshouse. I am now beginning to take the plants out each day to harden them off. Tdday wil be a great day to introduce them to a little sun (under the trees for the moment)
One gallery per page.
Gallery images are harder to set up than you think. The gallery will naturally crop your image so make sure you have plenty of location around the subject.
Choose images that will balance each other.
I try to have the subjects looking into the centre of the page. This is an old trick my uncle taught me from when he used to set newspaper pages for print. He said never to have a subject looking out off the edge of the page, this would lead a persons eye in the wrong direction.
Use Images to break up text.
The attention spans of humans is shrinking. So images really help us to focus and process.
My sons (literally) only visit my blog for the pictures! That is all they look at. Too many words and they zone right out!
Finish with the wide shot.
This is another way to allow your reader to feel a sense of place. I call this the angel view. (I believe in angels you see). You will see this in the movies. When the camera pans back out they are settling you into the big picture and preparing you to say goodbye.
I want you to feel a part of my journey through sustainable living and a big shot is so comforting and including (is including the right word)? Inclusive? It grounds us.
Don’t forget to click on your image and then describe it for a blind person in Alt Text. This does help the visually impaired and also helps Google find your image in case someone is looking for TonTon, a border collie, standing in the track with an old barn and a sunset behind him.
Once my post is set up, I save it then I go and fry my fresh eggs for breakfast: chickens eggs on home made bread with LOTS of butter! You know how I am.
This pause allows my post to settle and when I return to eat my breakfast with you I immediately see the holes in my narrative. Any duplication of thought. Any extra words. I like to stay simple.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez always put a book (written on paper – can you imagine) in the bottom drawer to settle for at least a month before he began his final edit. I love reading his work!
if we have nothing else to talk about we can ALWAYS talk about the weather!
I am a farmer and the weather is what I look at first EVERY morning even when I am traveling I check the weather on the farm.
And I love hearing about your weather in the comments!
An image is great! SnapSeed lets you put a comment on an image. And today the weather is going to be REALLY NICE!
Thank you so much!!
So, (if you are a blog writer) how do you organise your page? And if you are a blog reader, I am one of those too) what do you love to see when you are reading a blog. Do you like the headings? I find that they help me a lot.
(If you cannot comment and Many People cannot at the moment – just send me an email – I gotcha!)
Writing todays blog page is literally the highlight of each day for me. I am feeling so much better with the world now that I am back to writing once a day!
Then I LOVE to chat with you all in the Lounge of Comments.
Take Care and Talk soon in the Lounge of Comments!