Chicken Adventures and The Start of Harvest

Sorrel picking

And so it begins!

Sure, my first big harvest was a mere pound of baby sorrel for the area farm to table, Curious Goods at the Bake Oven Inn, but standing out in the field with the harvest bin and a pair of snips made me feel the way walking past the track in high school used to. Excited, expectant. Ready for spring.

bagged sorrel

This week has been one of rapid movement. We’ve seeded mesclun and a pile of beets, we’ve planted kale, broccoli raab, cauliflower, cabbages, radishes and spring turnips, and there’s still more waiting in the wings for bed prep. Mom has been clearing out the leaves and weeds from the herbs beds.

komatsuna and raab

Today, after I post this blog, I’ll be in the greenhouse with my mom and aunt thinning, potting up eggplant, peppers and herbs and getting transplants ready to sell at the store. The ladies at Green Heron Tools gave me their lady-friendly tiller for the weekend, so I’ll be prepping my strawberry(!) and onion beds, and perhaps some more greens beds, with that over the next couple days.

The flowers are blooming, the trees are budding and things are finally starting to look green. Yes.

Last week was one of adventures, too. My neighbor at Willow Haven Farm and I expanded his egg enterprise this year, and on Thursday we packed up chicken crates and headed down to Lancaster to get our girls for the season.

chicken2 chicken 1

We came home with 200 birds and sawdust for the nesting boxes. The day before we cleaned out the Chicken Camper, a hotel and spa bird resort with mahogany roosts (an accident, really – we just got a fancy pallet), and when we got home that afternoon we released our ladies into their mobile environment.

chickenbefree

The chickens are afraid to hop out of the crates.

chickenslucia

So Lucia, Willow Haven’s awesome intern for the season, helps them out.

chicken fence move

Poultry Paradise, Hen Heaven, Fowl Fantasy, Chicken Chalet

In the next few weeks I’ll be dedicating a blog post to the price of happy chickens. Between the moveable fence, the weekly cost of soy-free, organic feed and the labor of moving them around every week, the cost of happy, healthy egg-layers might be more than you think. But let me tell you, these are the best eggs I’ve ever had.

The pups are taking very well to farm life. Arya oversees our operations on a daily basis and Chases rolls around like a toddler and sleeps under things.

arya drives

puppies in the leaves Like a boss (above). Children (below)

I keep discovering these beautiful flowers that are coming up in the yard at Little House. In the mornings before I go to the farm I pull out some weeds from the front and back beds and plant lavender, lemon balm, sage, tulips and hyacinths. Operation Hobbit Hole is commencing nicely. Stay tuned for housewarming details.

snowdrops scillia

Also, for inquiring minds, our good friend Farm Kitten has become a bigger (but still somewhat little) terror.

stubbz

Prince cat.

I’ve been getting back into the swing of a schedule and am finally starting to balance the farm with the rest of my life. I see the folks I want to see (though never as much as I’d like, as it goes), I’m making time to read and run and, most importantly, write.

I used to write nonstop. Then I wrote a lot for whatever colleges and freelance roles I held at the times. Then I started this blog and ran it as infrequently as a busy outdoors person with touchy wi-fi would. But that’s all starting to shift. I don’t know if it’s my sister’s urging to blog more, or having a house where I can stay up until midnight writing on the couch if I want to, or just the natural progression of my life, but suddenly I’m writing every day. And not just farm-related things, though that is a big part of it.

I’ve been granted this magical opportunity to take an online writing course with my favorite lady author. Francesca Lia Block writes these beautiful stories that transcends genres. As many of my friends will tell you, I’m re-read one particular story line annually or in moments of emotional distress, and when I discovered she was teaching a series of classes, there was no way I could pass it up.

We received our first assignment last week, and it’s sent me back into the world of fiction writing, a place I haven’t visited since college. And it feels so, so wonderful.

So yes, things are great on this end. Now, off to the greenhouse!

garlic

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Spring springs some tasty things.

Garlic at the start of the week - happy and excited to grow!

Garlic at the start of the week – happy and excited to grow!

Note: this is a different side of the garlic patch. But yes, it was a swamp from The Great Flood.

Note: this is a different side of the garlic patch. But yes, it was a swamp from The Great Flood.

Swamp. Le sigh.

Swamp. Or, really, a running river. Le sigh.

So maybe you heard. It rained.

It rained for days. And as I am a terrible farmer who broke her rain gauge and never mounted its replacement, all I know is that it rained A LOT. I’ve got video of a veritable river running down the side of the field (and sadly, but not too tragically, running through the bottom of my pea rows), and the trenches it left behind are pretty impressive. My dairy boss nearby market it at 4.8 inches – which translates to a mess for a lot of friends and fields in the area. Today has been a soggy day of runoff and assessing any damages, and determining when we can get back on the ground.

Nature, my friends. It’s a heck of a thing.

Thankfully, one of the only upshots to growing on a hill (hah) is that everything above flood level is now really happy. The perennial herbs are stoked.

happy perennials

My happy perennials – rhubarb, lovage, sorrel, thyme, sage, chives, lavender, and more to come soon.

happychives

The Chive.

lovage

The lovage, which was pretty irate about the severe temperature change two weeks ago, has since recovered and is ready to be celery 2.0 for the masses.

It’s fun to see all these things come back to life.

We’ve had a busy, busy time of things since we last spoke. Lots of seeding, prepping, and now, finally, finally starting to plant. Everything feels so delayed – from the fluctuating temperatures and weird, late-April snow to The Great Flood – but in the next couple days all the happy greens and potatoes should be in the ground, the peas, radishes, spinach, beets and turnips should be a billion times bigger than they were two days ago, and June 1 will be that much closer.

purple passion asparagus

Some purple passion asparagus popped up yesterday!

breakfast radish baby

Baby breakfast radishes 🙂

Mizuna

Our friends Mizuna

tomato country

Big tomato country!

Darling dearest wife Olivia came up on her birthday to spend the day potting up tomatoes, peppers and eggplants and planting onions in the field. Momma Wags helped put in onions, scallions and onion sets, and Strider helped with the row cover on the first mesclun planting. Grow, babies, grow.

Liv workin

onion sets

Don’t worry – even if we get the cultivator working for potatoes and greens, we’ll still have some crooked rows of things. But they are less crooked with the Valley Oak Wheel Hoe!

dog helps

My dog is better than your employees.

onions sets

Stuttgarter and Red Baron sets – for tasty spring onions.

Certain tasks are easier than last year. We got ourselves a Valley Oak Wheel Hoe from Green Heron Tools with a furrowing attachment to make arguably less crooked rows when we do one row of things at a time. Allegedly the cultivator will be up and running for rows of greens and things, but I don’t want to get too excited until it happens.

In the meantime, this guy is great!

In the meantime, this guy is great!

And the hops are happy and alive and growing. As we gear up to bottle a ginger beer this weekend (which I am beyond excited about – Steve has a killer recipe), I can’t help but be stoked to use these guys in the future.

Hops1

Hops are hoppy and happy.

My dear compadre and exquisite carpenter friend Justin has been coming up to the property after a full day of work to build me a walk-in fridge. I love guys who can build things, especially when they are friends and like smaller projects. Tomorrow my air conditioner I shopped for on PortableACNerd.com arrives, and once this puppy is insulated and dry-walled, I won’t be quite as crazy about running around hours before market trying to pick last minute mountains of peas and beans and bunches of greens. The Coolbot will allow these veggies to stay happy and fresh despite the summer heat.

maurer climbs

Justin climbs around in the dark being awesome.

just walkin

Strider admires Justin’s skills.

On a bittersweet note, Thursday marked my last day official day at the dairy until the cold weather comes around again. I just couldn’t maintain last year’s crazy schedule with another Philly market in play. I am excited to get on the field full time, but I’m really sad to be leaving the hilarious and sweet friends/new family who have helped me grow so much and put up with me for over a year now.

And, of course, I’m going to miss the cows and other assorted farm creatures.

chilling

These punks don’t even care that I’m leaving.

dairy candy

This dairy family even gives me Easter cows. Cows! Good thing they’re stuck with me for life now.

totoro kittens

Goodbye, Totoro kitten!

brown swiss baby

I will especially miss my clan of baby Brown Swiss. Now who will slobber up my ears and hair and hands every day?

So now we’ll be getting down to business – Cue the Mulan!

If at any point next week you are feeling bored or sad or don’t want to be inside, you just let me know. I’ll make a frittata and some tea and put on whatever music makes you happy (because plants like all kinds of music – at least my plants, anyway) and you can come plant or move fencing or seed lettuces or play with the dog. See you there?

See You, Field Cowboys…

dairy and oakley

Photo by Miss Dairy Boss Lady Andrea S-L.