Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Greenhouse is Overrun

When you first start seeds it's common to use flats with 72 or 90 cells. Cells are each little pot that's molded in the plastic. I use 72's because they give just a little more space for root development before I transplant to 4 inch pots. As you can imagine, 10 trays of 72 cells doesn't take up much space, perhaps 12x18 inches each. But once you transplant to 4 inch pots you suddenly have only 18 pots taking up the same space, and when you transplant to a gallon pot well you can only fit 2. My shelf is currently completely covered in flats and it's time to transplant. So herein lies my dilemma. What on earth to do with all these plants!?!

Running out of space to work. May 2015
Currently I have a dozen or so Amish Paste tomatoes ready to go into 1 gallon pots, I've got maybe 48 beefsteak tomatoes ready for larger pots or the garden, lettuce coming out the wazoo so I've been making salad and I started using it as an understorey in the gallon tomato pots (it'll shade the soil and then you can pick it when the tomato needs more room),  and I have a couple hundred tomato seedlings that are now ready for their 4 inch pots which is the bulk of my space problem. I do have some plastic stackable shelving in the bunk room off the barn so I'll probably have to layer those o the shelf to provide a little more room for the next couple of weeks until we're ready to begin selling our lovely little tomatoes. And thank goodness I didn't start them all at once or I'd really be pooched. I've got other tomatoes that won't need potting up for a couple more weeks. I know you can buy them in the stores right now but really the weather is still too cold for them so it's better to wait for warmer nighttime temperatures.

Another part of the problem is our hi-jumpin' lambs. Steve spent a good portion of the weekend fixing up all the fencing and they're still getting out. Bright orange electric wire may be the way to go. Once I know I can keep the animals out of my garden, I can put in my roses, herbs, sweet potatoes, cucumbers and greenhouse tomatoes and that will give me a lot more space. And if the turkeys move out, well then I'll be able to walk around again! lol  I'm thinking of actually just planting some sweet potato vines and tomatoes directly on top of the turkey poop once the little critters have moved out. The shavings and poop will compost and provide nitrogen, but the composting process does take nitrogen out of the soil initially so I'd need a good buffer of soil and small plants who won't need the nitrogen for several weeks. It's a good use of the space too. We'll see, I may yet put meat chicks in there too. Oh one thing to note. If you ever do this remember that chicks and chickens can give a nasty disease to turkeys (it's called Blackhead and you can guess why) so our rule is always that turkeys get the clean space first, and chicks follow. Never the other way round.  Yes, sometimes we'll put a chick or two in with day old turkeys to teach them how to eat, and yes, our older turkeys do live with some hens and a roo but they're older and free ranging anyways. I'll keep my turkey poults separate in their own tractor if I can. I have hens and turkeys sitting on eggs as we speak, let's see if they manage to hatch anything this year. Last year was a bit of a bust thanks to our gay turkey problem, lol.

It's an overcast morning, cool and damp so it's actually perfect weather to be in the greenhouse. It's still warmer than outside plus it's dry and not overly hot yet. Being in there some days at 120 f. is just plain awful so I try and work in the early mornings and evenings. I am not a hot weather person. 70's is my idea of perfect weather, afterall I come from a wet and cool island (Britain). One of my grandfathers serves in the desert in North Africa during WWII and told me some amazing stories about the weather, people and insect life there.

Ok, back to the greenhouse I go now that I've had a break for a nice cup of rooibos chai tea and a piece of toast. I rubbed up against the lemongrass in my greenhouse and the smell was making me hungry.  I figure I can get some more potting done and then if the weather has warmed and dried a bit I'll hang out some washing on the line and get the kitchen ship shape again. We had a great weekend visiting a new friend (Hi Michelle!) and just generally carrying on as well as working here at the farm. It's Wednesday now so I only have today and tomorrow to get things done before the kids are home for yet another long weekend. I think it's the schools way of breaking us in gently for summer when we'll have them home all the time.'s raining again. Maybe I'll start with the kitchen :)


Just a quick break from the usual farm-ish type stuff to say Hi to everyone and let you know that I appreciate the comments. I just went through and realized that I had more than a dozen to moderate. Sorry for the sometimes long delays. I do love hearing from all of you. I hope Spring has been kind to you so far. The chickens, turkeys, sheep and I are are eagerly awaiting a break in today's rather wet weather for some much anticipated planting. If not, I'll go re-pot tomatoes ready for sale in the greenhouse.

Love from Nova Scotia

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Long Weekend Report

May long weekend is always a mixed bag as far as weather goes, and this weekend was a good example. Saturday and Monday were beautiful, warm and sunny. Sunday rained but that's okay because if anyone was planting it got a good watering. We had a fantastic weekend. Got to hang out with a new friend of ours and also got some projects done around the farm. Not as many as I'd like but still, it's looking a lot tidier. Steve spent all day Monday doing fencing only to have them jump the fence into the garden. So today I'll have to go out and figure where they're shorting the electric fence and getting over. Next week is planting time so I need to figure it out quickly.The chickens usually free range but if we want to get seedlings out of the ground we need to contain them so I'm tasked with building new pens and tractors for them. I'm going to sort out the various flocks and give them their own summer palaces. The chores are never ending so I should get up and get going. Though I'd prefer to stay in bed. I'll take some pics of the place for you to see what's going on with us and then I've got to set up the cabin for our first wwoofer who is arriving earlier than expected. My list of chores is massive though so extra help is always good. I have willows, poplar and 48 rugosa roses to plant along the side of the property. And once the garden is tilled and animals contained we've got a heck of a lot of planting to do. Time to get up. Ooo I'm suddenly craving Ribena!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Feels like Summer ... But it's not

I notice that with the long weekend here people are eager to be getting out and planting in their gardens. The garden centres are open at every store and flowers and veggies are all out on the racks. With the temperatures in the high teens every afternoon it's easy to feel like the long Winter is finally over and to get out there, but the reality is that if you're awake with me right now at 5am you'll see that we've a really heavy frost for the second day in a row. It might be 4 degrees in the Valley and on the shore, but here it's hovering right around freezing. Brrr! It's warm in the house, my lovely little thermometer says it's 15 degrees indoors and 9.6 in the greenhouse. Of course that's on the floor of the turkey pen inside the greenhouse. It's not terribly warm but it's 10 degrees warmer than outside! Here's the view at 5am this morning from my south facing bedroom window into the lean-to greenhouse. You can see the plants up on the shelf and the red glow from the turkeys heat lamp. The shelf provides some shading from the direct heat of the sun during the day so the turkeys don't get too hot and the heat from them keeps the plants happy at night. You can't see it but there are lots of tomato seedlings on the left hand side of the shelf just out of the frame and a shelf set against the house and under the window with some tubs on and I use it for storing tools and turkey feed.
Inside the Humblebee Farm Greenhouse at 5am May 15th

When I got home yesterday from meeting a friend I rinsed out the duck swamp aka. the recycled sand box, and re-filled it with fresh water. The ducks will go for a swim sometimes and it muddies the water terribly. I can't wait to get them a pond of their very own.  Here's a pic of the ducks. Mojo is looking to see if it's filled up yet.

Mojo: "Is it filled up yet mum?"
Well I've been awake since 3am and now it's a little after 6am and I'm finally feeling sleepy. The sun is coming up over the hill behind me because I can see the golden glow on the trees opposite. The kids are stirring, maybe I can get an hour of sleep before I have to get up and drive my friend to her ultrasound appointment. Wish me luck!

I've got lots of planting and potting to do today, I'll try and take some pics. But there's still so much clean-up after this past Winter. It seems never ending.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Growing in the Greenhouse

Happy Mothers Day to you all! Here's what I got for gifts: a back massage, breakfast in bed, an arbour started (construction is ongoing) and a trench full of power and water. No, I'm not kidding about the trench. It's my usual practical gift from Steve. We're running the water and power underground from the house to the cabin we've got because that's what the building inspector would prefer and because it's less annoying then a line and cable overhead above the garden. Now I don't have to watch out every time I'm swinging a tall pole in there for the beans. I just have to finish the ceiling, repair the roof and put in a smoke alarm and the cabin is ready for wwoofers again this year. I also want to get some shelves out there but for now it'll be fine. We just have a single guy coming so it's not a big deal to get the bunk beds together as the queen size bed is there. 

In the greenhouse the baby turkeys are growing nicely. We haven't lost any I don't think, though trying to count them when they're running all over the place can be decidedly tricky. But it works well to have them under the shelf with the plants. They get a warmer and safer environment while they're growing up a bit, and their heat lamp provides a little extra warmth at night to the plants on the shelf above. Part of Permaculture is having things compliment and work together, in fact many different trends in gardening advocate symbiosis and it's a good and practical way of doing anything. It's essentially taking the waste from one thing and using it to benefit something else or being the most economical or efficient. Some gardening gurus almost preach it like it's a new concept but of course, like everything else that works well, it's ancient wisdom. Just as the Aztecs planted corn, beans and squash together in their 3 sisters method, and companion planting helped lessen pests while promoting growth, I recommend that you take the time to see if there's a way of increasing the efficiency in your garden. Then it becomes wisdom that is both personal to your garden and practical.

I'm trying to decide the best place to plant some blackberry bushes I picked up the other evening. I need to decide and get them planted today. On our way home from buing them the sunset was quite pretty so Meghan and I took a few pictures. The valley never looks as good in a photograph as it does in real life though. Of all my photos I like this one the best, it's Me taking a photo of Meghan taking a photo of the sunset while driving past our neighbours cows. Love the reflection in the mirror also :)

Reflections of a Spring Evening near Greenwood, NS

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


It's hard to believe that just 6 hours ago I was outside admiring the cosmos and how bright the moon was. This idyllic moment of time seems short lived as I woke up at dawn to a horrid stench. Yes, the dog has had her first encounter with a skunk. And it must have happened somewhere near the wwoofers cabin because the whole garden and back of the house stinks to high heaven. Maybe it was trying to break into the greenhouse again.

The dog for her part seems unscathed, just wet. I assume she went zipping over into the swamp for a good roll around before trotting off to visit the neighbours. Obviously we had to get her back which she wasn't impressed about but my goodness the whole yard now stinks. I'm going to have to re-wash all the laundry out on the line, wash down the cabin and of course the dog needs a good scrub too. I think the best thing to do is get to her ASAP and give her a good lather in de-stinking shampoo. Obviously she's tied up outside right now while I wait for the store to open and get the proper amount of peroxide. But I may mix up a quarter of a batch to use while we wait.


Not how I planned my morning to go.

In case this ever happens to you, this is the recipe for anti-stink shampoo. It breaks down the oils and sulphur compounds but you'll have to wear gloves and old clothes while using it and avoid getting in the dogs eyes. You'll need to lather, wait a few mins, rinse, repeat a few times so outdoors is recommended. And don't worry if your dogs coat gets a little lighter in colour, it's temporary.

What You Need:
  • 1 quart (32 fl oz, nearly 1 liter) Hydrogen Peroxide 3% (U.S.P)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) NOT baking powder or washing powder
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid soap (any dish or hand soap will work)
  • 1 quart lukewarm water (only needed for very large dogs)
  • A clean plastic bucket, bowl or other mixing container (do not cover)
  • Clean plastic utensils for mixing
  • Protective eye ointment or mineral oil (for your dog's eyes)
  • Latex or rubber gloves
  • A protective apron and eye goggles if possible
  • Plenty of towels if you're doing this indoors

**UPDATE**  The dog is washed down and tied up to a tree drying. In a couple of hours we'll shampoo her a couple more times and leave her outside a bit longer. It's a nice sunny, warm and breezy day. Perfect for drying a black dog.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Planning For Spring Planting

Given the fact the all of Nova Scotia is currently snowed under it might seem odd that we're thinking about planting in April and May. But we don't want to grow just the typical vegetable starter plants, we have some specialty ones we want to grow. So we grow most of our own plants from seed for several reasons. Firstly it's much cheaper, and second we can source organic seeds of varieties that grow well here or some exotic strains that we want to trial.And the snow is finally melting so I have a renewed sense of purpose now. Regardless of what's on the ground right now, in 6 or 8 weeks it'll be very different and we'll be planting in a hurry. So for me starting some of my seeds now is both a way to get a jump on the season and also a way to spread the work over a few extra weeks before wwoofers come to help out. I'm also making a plan of what gets planted where depending on my crop rotations, amount of shade and companion planting. It's more involved than you'd think.

My new Mantis tiller is ordered. While we still believe that a no till system can work, I'm going to use it to get the beds and rows all set up and also to start new flower beds around the front of the property to give us a little more colour and privacy. Picture sunflower and sweetpea hedges. The animals will be confined to the back 4 acres of pasture although we'll see if that really works or not, some chickens are wily.

Here's a video of our new tiller, well one like ours since ours is in the mail. Looking forward to being able to incorporate lime and compost easily and weed between rows if needed. We got the wider model so that 2 passes will result in a 30" wide bed. That's a good size for our use. Although many different options for attachments exist I'm just excited to see how the basic tiller works before committing to paying more money.

The other exciting thing happening is that Steve and Jordan are framing up a lean-to greenhouse for me at the  moment so I'll have somewhere to put my seeds and also some extra heat in the end bedroom of the mobile. I'll let you know when it's done and get some photos.

We're still working on our wood supply for heat and so far so good. We'll have burned just under 5 cords this Winter when all is said and done I think because we're still keeping the fire lit in the mornings. The plan is to cut 2 years worth of wood this Spring and dry it over the summer then store it in a wood shed. Every year we'll cut more, but use the wood stored the previous year so we never run out and so it's seasoned properly. Having a supply of good dry wood is essential to having a comfortable home for us. And it's like having insurance to have extra wood stored.
There was an error in this gadget

About Me

Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, Canada