Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Wait for it. Wait for it….

Posted on | March 18, 2015 | No Comments

I can’t wait any longer.  I really can’t.  Even though the 15 day forecast (Hah! Like they can predict the weather 15 days in advance!) is still calling for nights in the 30’s.  Even worse, a lot of the days are predicted to be cloudy or overcast.  Which means the passive solar heat in my greenhouse will be more passive and less heat.  But it’s the end of March!  End of March!  The summer transplants need 6 weeks of growing before they are set out in the garden.  Around here I can usually plant tomato, pepper, cucumber, eggplant, and squash seeds in the greenhouse in mid-February and put my plants in the garden at the end of March with a floating row cover to protect against a light frost.  But it’s already end of March!!  Did I mention end of March?!

None of the preferred lunar calendar planting days in March match up with planting weather.  The Farmers Almanac calls for continued cool and rain throughout March.  I should wait for April.  I cannot wait for April.  I cannot.

I tried to satisfy my planting urges by pruning the collards and the brussels sprouts.  I should pull up the brussels sprouts because the remaining sprouts have gotten moldy or leafy and conventional wisdom says the plants won’t regrow fresh sprouts if trimmed back to the main stem.  However, many of the plants became top heavy, leaned onto their sides, and wherever the sprouts touched the ground, they grew roots, and appear to be growing new plants.  Who am I to mess with a plant trying to defy conventional wisdom?

So I spent some time pulling off yellowed or moldy leaves and covering the remaining horizontal plants with sections of dirt to encourage rooting and divide them into separate offshoots.  I also broke some of the leafy sprouts off the main stem and planted them in the garden compost to see if they would root on their own.  I realize brussels sprout plants can be grown if a sprout is placed in water, allowed to root, and then transplanted.  These people are doing it.

I say dirt and rain in the garden are just as good as a windowsill of sprouts sitting in water bottles.  And easier considering brussels sprouts planted in the spring usually bolt before harvest in my climate.  Brussels sprouts make a better fall crop.  I don’t want sprouts on my windowsill for 6 weeks just so they can go in the garden, bolt, and attract cabbage moths before harvest.  But I don’t mind tucking them into the soil and seeing what happens.

I went ahead and started on the spring crops.  They can handle wet, cool temperatures.  I planted 2 types of lettuce by seed and 2 types of lettuce transplants.  Plus 2 rows of radishes.

Then I planted a long row of snap peas.  A very long row.

I weeded last year’s asparagus beds and then extended the bed with another 24 asparagus plants.  In order to kill time I actually dug a trough, filled it with compost, and gave the roots room to expand.  I know, desperate ridiculous fancy, right?

I did not make eye contact with the greenhouse as I walked up and down the driveway to the garden.  Wait, I told myself.  Wait.

The next day I put in the onions and potatoes.  I even mulched them with straw, which is not something I usually do until weeds start pushing up.

I planted beets, swiss chard, and kale.  I even meticulously planted carrot seeds into pots, taking the time to space out the teeny tiny seeds instead of just oversowing and pulling out extra seedlings later.  Wait, I said to myself.  Wait.

I weeded the herb beds and chopped back the oregano, thyme, and lemon balm.

I carried down extra wheel barrows of compost and let them just sit in the garden for later.  I pulled apart the decrepit chicken tractor and hauled it to the dump.  The kids helped me with that which added an extra 15 minutes of complaining and whining.  All that’s left of the chicken tractor now is a small portion of the roof to hold rocks as I find them.  Plus the feed can used to store shade cloth and floating row covers.

In an act of sheer time-killing desperation I got out the lawnmower and mowed the random tufts of rye grass between the rows.  When the neighbor heard the lawnmower running in March, he came out on his porch and looked at me.  He didn’t ask any questions.  The neighbors gave up asking questions a long time ago.

Wait, I thought over the roar of the mower.  Wait.  I did not look at the greenhouse as I returned the mower to the shed.

But I could feel it looking at me.

Having successfully passed my days off without sowing delicate heat-seeking summer seeds in cool conditions,  I went to my real job.  And spent my free time looking at dirty websites.  Very dirty websites.

Heating the seed trays with pallets over decomposing manure.  Eh.  Dirty and smelly.


Heating a greenhouse with a rocket stove made from pipes, bricks, and mortar.  Eh.  Dirty and sticky.

rocket stove

Heating a greenhouse with chickens.  Eh.  Dirty and crowded.

Wait a minute….hold on.  Aha!  Bless you internet.  These people are trying to warm themselves, not their greenhouses.  But if this contraption heats a small room it should do just fine for a greenhouse.


Thanks to a stockpile of clay pots, plus some tin pans from the dollar store, and tea candles in the cabinet I had my first prototypes up and running in a few minutes.  And they really did produce a fair amount of heat.  At least enough heat to keep the seed trays warm if I put 3 heaters on each side of the greenhouse, underneath the seedling trays, and lit them each night.

The only downfall was my cheap tea lights sputtered out in an hour.  Good thing amazon had 7 hour tea lights up for sale and Pretty had been patiently waiting to place a T-shirt order.  Around here the amazon cart sits quietly until we have enough items to get free shipping.  Because we’re cheap like that.  And if it sits long enough, we might even realize we didn’t need really it to begin with.  But Pretty lucked out.  I needed candles and she got some t-shirts.

While waiting for the tea lights, I killed some time in the barnyard.  Vanessa got a rather personal trim which will help to keep goat hairs out of the milk.  All the bucks got a hoof trim and sprinkle of DE.  Jeremy, our only buckling, got disbudded.

The bucks’ horn development is always ahead of the does, so we won’t have to do Carla or Tessa for another week or so.  This was Shana’s first year at disbudding and she did a great job.  She didn’t even scream.  Which I used to think was a prerequisite to pinning down a cute baby goat and pressing a hot iron into his skull amidst the smell of burning hair and billowing smoke.  But she didn’t scream.

Do not mess with that girl.  Do not.

I also started preparing for the big surprise.  Which will include a big reveal.  Which I cannot say anything more about.  But you’ll be the first to know.  As soon as I know….

Then I bleached out all the planting trays.

And I mean all the planting trays.

Because by the time I get back from celebrating my birthday at the beach, the candles should be here.  And those seeds are getting started.  Oh, yes, they are.

I’m comin’ for you, greenhouse.  The wait is almost over….


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