Streams, Gardens, and Animals

Well. If I thought we were productive the last time I wrote, it’s nothing compared to what we’ve been up to the last two weeks! We’ve worked on streams, gardens, and adding animals to the homestead. I didn’t expect to get so much done, but I am thrilled with this latest round of progress!

On Mother’s Day, we made major changes to the landscape around the property. I wanted to finish working on the flower beds in the Secret Garden, but I started to poke around at the stream because I was trying to decide if I needed to change the length of two of the beds based on where the stream flows through the garden. Scott came over to see what I was doing, and after talking it through, we decided that he could try to dig it out using the tractor. I had been toying with this idea anyway, but I thought maybe we could wait to see if the stream dried up more this summer like it sometimes does so we wouldn’t be ripping up too much of the yard.

It didn’t take very long, and he had the segment that runs through the Secret Garden all dug out! And after that, he and the boys started to make trips to the back of the property, collecting rocks so we could line the banks and clean it up so that it remains a visible feature all year.

Adeline and I worked on lining the banks with the rocks, and then she helped me reassemble one of the flower beds. So I didn’t get as far as I had hoped with the beds, but we made incredible progress on the stream that I’ve been dreaming of for 5 years!

I spent a bit of time throughout the next week collecting rocks with the kids and lining the banks of the stream. Two weeks later, and all of the big rock is in, and I have a load of small rocks to finish filling in gaps with and start lining the bottom of the stream with.

Elijah and Paul cutting up branches for me to put in the huglekultur beds because Gideon wouldn’t let me work.

A few days later, we decided that the big kids could get their very own rabbits and chicks. They had some chicks and ducks a few years ago, but Scott and I “absorbed” them into our flock when the kids started slacking on chores. But that was a few years ago, and they’ve started to show that they are much more responsible. I was going to be getting our new egg layers that day, so we spent the entire day running around getting ready for and buying animals.

We bought three rabbits, and we already had two hutches, so we just needed a solution for the third. It took less than two hours to whip up a “rabbit tractor,” and we were set for all three rabbits. (Yes, they could have been kept in one cage, but we want the kids to start out by being responsible for their own animals as much as possible.) As for chicks, it was decided that we’d work on making mobile coops for each of the kids, but we had just about everything else needed to start them with their own chicks.

Adam and Adeline bought 3 chicks each, and Aaron bought 4. There’s a mix of Barred Rock, Leghorn, and Buff Orpingtons. We set them up in a brooder, and figured we have about a month to get a coop situation figured out. The kids had to buy waterers for the rabbits, a bag of feed, and waterer and feeder bases for the chicks. All in all, they each spent about $32 on their animals and supplies.

My egg layers came in that same day, 20 ISA browns. They are set up in one of our brooders, and will stay there for about two more weeks, and in the meantime, I need to get their mobile coop ready as well. We are planning to use an old wooden livestock trailer and convert it to a coop.

All of the animals were doing great up until this morning. Adam’s rabbit, Sonic, appears to have escaped. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but it seems that perhaps the cage was left open at some point by some child. We had extra kids here this weekend, and I couldn’t get straight answers on what happened. My hope is that Sonic comes back around to be by his siblings, but more likely than not, Adam will be purchasing another bunny soon.

I was so close to wrapping up the project in the Secret Garden, and had really hoped to finish it up last weekend, but I didn’t get quite as far as I had anticipated because my attention started to shift from that garden to the main veggie garden. Scott started to pick up loads of horse manure from a co-worker the week we got the rabbits. We picked up three loads on Wednesday evening, and he got one more the following day. I ended up spreading some of the manure out in the garden beds that week because I wanted to make sure I had an opportunity to drive in there while the ground was dry. We’ve had a chance of rain listed for most days for weeks on end, so I started grabbing whatever opportunities I could get.

Scott took the spring tooth through the plowed area of the pie field and again through the section we plowed for friends to garden in that Friday after Mother’s Day so that they could plant by Saturday if they wanted to. On Saturday, some of them came to plant, and I helped answer some questions about garden layouts before running off to work on the rock project some more. My allergies kicked in bigtime that day, and I ended up crashing for a long 2.5 hour nap in the middle of the day. I made no progress after my nap, other than to get ready for a bonfire we planned to have that night with some company.

Scott has been plugging away at all kinds of odd projects around here. He’s still been doing lots of odd cleanup jobs, and putting quite a few hours on the Bobcat when he’s home. He collected the last of the rocks I needed for the stream that Saturday, spread out the rest of the manure on our garden, dropped one of the minibikes off at my brothers for some repairs, helped our friends with their garden, and set up for the bonfire.

This past week has been such a blur that I can’t remember what I all did, but I did manage to get the other big flower bed in the Secret Garden reassembled, and now I am just left with two to clean up. I cleaned up the remaining brush piles in the yard last Sunday using the new tractor, and since one of those was in the old coop area, it uncovered the last of the debris that needed to be cleaned up from the fire.

On Tuesday, we ended up having the kids come out and help pick out any wood they could find, we cleared up about a bag of random garbage that had gotten stuck in the mess, and we pulled out any of the remaining metal roofing that was tangled in the mess. Scott scraped the ground clean, and we added the dirt with random wood scraps to the banks of that segment of the stream. Hopefully, we’ll be able to level that out soon, and then we’ll work on digging more of the stream when we’ve got some free time.

Aside from needing to burn the pile of wood scraps from the coop fire, and needing to get a lugger box here to haul away the scrap metal, that mess is finally cleaned up! The yard looks so much better! Scott even cut down the old box elder stump that had been there for awhile before the coop came down so that it’s at ground level. It’s too big to pull or dig out, and the center was hollow, so I planted some flowers and such into it to make it look nice. A couple of days later, I raked out the scraped area and we threw in some grass seed so that the area isn’t all weeds when things finally grow again.

Originally, I was determined to finish up that Secret Garden before I worked on the veggie garden, but after my mom came to plant hers… I got motivated. Mom was here on Wednesday morning, and I helped here plant her garden, and after thinking about the upcoming weather conditions some more, I decided I should start planting my garden. We’ve got a week of rain on and off with warm temperatures, so it’s perfect for starting a garden.

I worked for a total of 5 days, but everything got planted! Wednesday I got maybe 1/3 of the garden in, and I picked up t-posts so I could start putting up my trellises. Thursday, I planted enough to be about 3/4 done with the whole thing, and that was about all I worked on all day aside from school work and clean. Friday, I finished planting the main garden, and threw in the kitchen garden, and followed that up with more cleaning in the house, and cutting some of the lawn for the second time this week.

Saturday, I prepped the field for pumpkin and corn, and I tilled up the kids’ gardens, the area in front of the produce stand, and a flower bed by the pigpen. We added manure into the pumpkin patch, just for the hills of pumpkins, and we added manure to the kids’ gardens. I did plant a little bit of squash and corn, but it was late by the time I was on to that, and so I got 6 hills planted, and 6 small segments of corn. I also did some weed whacking around the yard and mowed a portion of the yard.

I didn’t set my alarm to walk yesterday morning, but I thought, “If I get up early enough, I’ll just go outside and plant before church and see what I can accomplish.” I was so exhausted when I went to bed Saturday night that I fell asleep as soon as I closed my eyes, but I woke up at my usual time, so I went out and got the rest of everything planted! I may still go back and add some beans to the pumpkin and corn patch, but I’m not going to worry about it. If it happens, it happens.

I did good to church Sunday morning, and then we had the ordeal with a lost bunny, but by noon, I was ready for a nap. I slept hard for about two hours, but it felt so good knowing everything is done with the gardens!

The yard is looking absolutely stunning now that things are set up like I wanted. We have a working weed whacker, a working lawn mower, and a working tractor to get things done, and that’s not always a given. The weed whacker was broken last fall, but our friend fixed it while he was staying with us, and we did a lot of repairs and maintenance on the lawnmower last year. I’ve actually used it 6 times this spring, and I haven’t had any major issues, which is huge for us! I really hope it stays that way, because things get out of control when it’s not working.

The garden area is already looking great to me, and we don’t even have any plants growing in it. The whole garden area is divided into 6′ lengths. Each bed is 6′ wide, alternating with mowing paths that are 6′ wide. I used cattle panel and t-posts to make arbors and trellises for some of the vining plants and plants that need support, and now it’s starting to look like I wanted it to last year. And Aaron and I went through and cleared the mowing paths and planted clover in those spaces. I made the mistake of making garden paths that were two narrow for the lawn mower and too wide to weed last year, and it seriously impeded the success that we had. I don’t know how things will turn out, but I can tell you that I feel significantly better about this year’s garden than I did about last year’s at planting time!

Elijah was determined to unload all of the t-posts for me. and he did! 16 in all, that load. And he helped me move a few cattle panel.

Today, a friend from church took the older kids on a hike and for a picnic, and my mom is took the younger three for the day, and I was able to get in some housework. The house is the top priority for this week, as we have fallen behind these past few weeks.

This week I have to work on building a different, more permanently placed, rabbit hutch, and then I have to work on building coops, but I feel like that will be a bit more casual than everything else I have been working on. The gardening stuff is all so time-sensitive, and I needed to get ahead of the late-May growth of everything.

The last two weeks were intense, but that’s about how it goes every spring. Late May is a crazy busy time of year as we work to prepare gardens and get ready for animals. I’ll try to do a better job with updates until we get to harvest time, but I was using almost all of my “free-time” the last two weeks to work to get where I am today.

What kind of work have you been doing in your yards? I’d love to hear about it!

Love and Blessings~Danielle

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