Progress is a Beautiful Thing

Pretty kohlrabi

Pretty kohlrabi

Another weekend is history and March is less than five days away! I never fail to question where the time went, but I can see through progress, that time is being spent well, here on the farm. We do piddle slower than some folk, not in too much of a hurry that we can’t enjoy a few minutes here and there just admiring the beauty that surrounds us. After all, it is well known that slow and steady wins the race, and though this human race is a long one, I’m sure the finish line will be sweet to happen upon one day.

Life is precious, in all it’s forms, and when it ends, suddenly, whether at the beginning of life or after much time on earth, there is reason to mourn. On the farm, we’ve experienced some failed incubating, and some peepers just weren’t strong enough to recover from the hard work of breaking free from their shell womb. We’ve lost a few heads of cabbage to a horrid pest that has to be uncovered, before the damage is realized. The same garden pest eliminated a few of our cauliflower heads as well. Alas, death is an avoidable part of life and serves it’s mysterious purposes as well.

Our 10 bunny rabbits are still hoppin’-happy. They are such a fabulous distraction from chores that I have accidentally added about 30 minutes to my daily rounds, just cuddling and giggling with the sweet babies. SuperMama is back in her own cage and getting geared up to be mated again. With Daphne and Ms. Bunny No-Name still expecting…note to self: It doesn’t do any good to mark the calendar if you’re going to mark it wrong!

SuperMama's SuperStar

SuperMama’s SuperStar


LillyBelle and a sampling of our first blooms

LillyBelle and a sampling of our first blooms

We’re hoping for plenty of chicks and bunnies to sell at the local Farmer’s Market for Easter. If all of my equipment comes in, I will also be selling a very special product that my Mom and I have been working on and honing. I’m still keeping this a secret, until I test a few markets, but personally, I have never had better! Ooooh, the mystery!!

I mulched and watered our fruit trees and roses and all our greenhouse greenery, and anticipate pulling them all out very soon! We need room to start our tomatoes and peppers! Dad and the boys did more work in the garden, preparing the ground for corn and squash, tomatoes, melons and much more. Even though this weekend was best for weeding and pruning, they planted a long row of purple hull peas and I planted mesclun, spinach, and romaine lettuce. We weeded around the onions, and hilled around the cabbages. I still need to do more hilling of the broccoli and cauliflower. There is always more work to be done, but nothing is more rewarding than reaping the rewards of gardening.

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The past week was filled with dishes inspired by our garden and chickens. I made a divine butternut squash casserole, and will post the recipe very soon. Keep your eye out for it. We’ve enjoyed our broccoli and carrots and chickens in a delicious pasta bake, and salads, complete with boiled eggs and fresh lettuces, carrots, broccoli and radishes, also from our garden. And as usual, our chickens, rabbits, pigs, and ducks have reaped many healthy benefits from our greens and scraps, as well.

I see buds on the redbud trees and our flower gardens are beginning to burst with color, ah the signs of spring are always such a welcome sight. As I write, it is rather gray out, and it is definitely cooler than yesterday, where I noted many a drops of sweat falling from my brow, while weeding. The free birds are just singing non-stop, such joyful odes to the return of spring.

My Dad scored several free cedars for posts. These posts will flank the long chicken run. He has taught me that it doesn’t take much to cut costs. All you have to do is be observant and bold. Always be on the look-out for resources, and if they aren’t on the side of the road for trash, then just ask. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll be told no. Our neighbor cut down many trees, clearing their land, and all Dad and the boys had to do was clean the cedars up and move the logs out.

He has a system going now that started soon after our arrival and my interest in working the garden with him. He has a carpenter that bags saw dust for him to pick up, he has tree trimmers dump mulch in our outer fields to season, and he then trades with the saw dust for other necessities…and/or extra chickens. This is the same man who bartered with the doctor who delivered me. The doctor was paid a nice smoker-grill for his services. That doesn’t happen anymore!

I realize not everyone is as skilled as my dad is in selling his perspective and goals, but I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with him and learning from him, as he pursues lofty dreams and visions of grandeur—farm style. If only everyone were on board, we might actually take flight sooner, rather than later. But there’s that pesky little element, called time, that has a way of changing and re-arranging things, so I’ll just go with the flow and learn what I can in the process.

Dad will pick up anything that he thinks he might one day utilize. I used to scoff at him, especially as a teen, when he’d make me wait in the truck while he jumped in the dumpster after a piece of lumber or scrap metal. But in getting the garden together, last fall, I began to see the method in his madness. He pulled out some rebar from one of his piles to use in mounting the low tunnels. I used to get in trouble for trouncing over the piles of those long metal rods, as a young child. He would warn me of snakes, and of the dangers of getting hurt or sick with tetanus, but mostly, he would get frustrated that I was going to somehow mess up his treasures. Fast forward 30 years, and he finally found the perfect use for a few of them.

He’s the tidiest of hoarders, and has running inventories, just as he had of his fittings and pipes during his plumbing days. I truly hope my boys learn all they can from him. He’s a big reason I moved my family to this farm. I knew he was just what the doctor ordered for my boys. It’s a messy world out there, and it is my hopes that my boys will be fully equipped to not only survive, but thrive, as grown men. So many skills are being lost in the wind. I want more for my boys than what a city could offer them. As a gal who started life in the country, I valued my upbringing, as it has served me well.

I’ve seen some progress in my sons’ growth and maturity, in the five months we’ve been here. A lot of resistance, but I think they’re wearing a little. It’s starting to sink in that the decision I made was made out of love and hope. One day, I believe that they will look back on this time in their life with nothing but gratitude. But until then…pray for us all! Ha!

And on that note, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

"You mess with me, you get the chicken!"

“You mess with me, you get the chicken!”

Vaya con Dios

Our First Winter Garden

I thought I would give you all a break from my chicken talk, and focus for a moment, instead, on our bountiful winter garden.  Gardening can give one a really unique perspective on life.  The wins, the losses, the pruning of the vines.  You begin to understand some of God’s more questionable maneuvers or at least see them in a different light.

First off, I need to confess a few things.  No matter how much you wish for compliance, not all of your family members are going to be as excited or helpful as you are about this garden.  You may get lucky and have a few happy helpers, but you are going to get a lot of whining and moaning too, unless everyone involved is over 25!!  In my little utopian fantasy, I saw all 8 of us planting and picking, laughing and enjoying each other’s company and keeping pace.  This is why I hardly watch movies anymore. They set you up for failure!

Secondly, it is important to plant crops at the appropriate time for your area. This year, we planted the following: broccoli, garlic, onions, carrots, radishes, beets, turnips greens, mustard greens, kale, spinach, red leaf lettuce, baby butter heads, arugula, spicy Cali greens, cabbage, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, Alaska and assorted peas and beans, sweet potatoes and purple, red and white potatoes.

In the beginning...

In the beginning…

Our pig rooted up the sweet potatoes right away, so that ended that quick! Our chickens will not let the majority of our broccoli rise above 2 inches. We only have about a quarter of the broccoli still thriving that we began with. And that is only because the chickens are full by the time they get to that point in the first row.

Right now, the broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are dormant. But we expect to have a great March-April harvest! The onions and garlic will be ready to pick about that time as well.

My dad tested the soil and added nitrogen and other nutrients to boost the soil content for the seeds to sprout. Through out the season, mulch, saw dust and a little miracle grow was added to encourage the best results. The first crop to produce a harvest was the radishes. We know now to stagger planting radishes, so they are not all ready at the same time.

Our harvest of radishes produced several big mamma-jammas

Our harvest of radishes produced several big mamma-jammas

Everything was coming up roses! Our hearts (dad’s and mine, mostly) danced in delight as all the leafy greens sparkled in the sunlight. We began to enjoy baby greens as well. I had never eaten greens before, after being forced to eat them as a child (do y’all remember canned Popeye’s Spinach?! Blech!). But as with so many other culinary delights, my taste buds have matured and I gave greens another try. I’ve grown to like them too, especially when I use the recipe my sister gave me.

One day, I might be kind enough to share my winter garden recipes with you, as through experimenting, I have really pleased our palates this fall/winter.

in full bloom

in full bloom

Things changed after the freeze snaps began. Within the first or second snap, we lost our entire summer garden. This was to be expected on one hand, but on another, the tomatoes had really started making a comeback. Boy, was that a heartbreaking day. Dad and I silently folded the clothes we had covered the tomatoes, butternut squash, eggplants, and a plethora of peppers with as we silently mourned our summer friends.

After the third freeze, all but the Alaska peas survived (like duh, haha!) in our bean and pea field, so we set the boys to move the loops to the winter garden. In the winter garden, the spinach was not fairing well. Even with the covering we provided that delicate crop, the spinach just couldn’t handle the unseasonably frigid Texas temps.

They are still hanging in there, but the leaves are all spotted brown with what I believe to be freeze-burn.

The kale are a different story. They just seem to get more lush and beautiful as the snaps come. They are native to Siberia, so that also makes sense! We recently enjoyed kale and beet chips, but I usually put kale in soups, and quiches. Not too much either, because it is a strong flavor not all enjoy. I especially like it in a sausage potato soup. But that’s just me!

Frosty, Happy-Happy-Happy Kale

Frosty, Happy-Happy-Happy Kale

As for beets, we planted them for Mama. The chips were bearable, but I’m not a beet fan and never will be. Now if we are talking beet dye…that’s a whole other ball game!!

By this time, we were enjoying our lettuces, as well as turnips, which can be used like a water chestnut in stir fries, and is a MARVELOUSLY surprising filler in meatloaf!! Try it, I dare ya! I think turnips are so pretty. We are growing the purple-top variety and it looks like a shiny baseball, only half purple and half white. I love baseball! But that’s not really relevant here.

I don't use this word often...but is this some sexy lettuce or what?!!!

I don’t use this word often…but is this some sexy lettuce or what?!!!

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Our rabbits LOVE Rocket Arugula

Our rabbits LOVE Rocket Arugula

Next were the kohlrabi and carrots. I use kohlrabi like broccoli, which it is very similar to, in taste and texture. I learned to treat it like a potato, peeling the skin off before cooking it. It’s great in stews, stirfries, blanched…like I said, think broccoli. At first our carrots were not that sweet, but as they’ve grown and as the cold days have lingered, they are getting better and better!

The night before the “polar vortex” touched Texas, the boys covered the hoops over the winter veggies. Up until this point, aside from the spinach, we had not covered the winter garden. It was a pure pleasure to see our veggies thrive in such cold conditions, but after having a cabbage head turn to mush due to a surprise freeze, dad was done taking chances!

We did not eat our cabbage for New Year's Day, but they will be ready to enjoy in the near future

We did not eat our cabbage for New Year’s Day, but they will be ready to enjoy in the near future

Did I mention our potatoes? Dad dug most of them up after the second or third freeze. The ones that were not affected were delicious, but immature…winter really isn’t the time for peas, beans, nor potatoes.

I am hoping that this new year brings new attitudes around the farm concerning farm work. I realize I drug my children and husband onto this farm with high hopes and great expectations, but I also know nothing is impossible with God! I feel like these experiences can only enhance and enrich their lives as well as nutritionally providing the best for them.

I’ll admit, it’s kind of ridiculous of me to have expected a smooth transition, but it’s slowly getting better. Everyone is slowly getting with the program, each in their own ways and own fields.

I want to thank you for stopping by my blog today. I hope you leave with new knowledge and with a smile…and I hope ya come back now, ya hear?!!

Until then, Vaya con Dios!

This is the Crazy Chicken Lady signing OUT!!