This is a post all about gardening but I need to address the barn cat apocalypse that has taken place over the last 11 months. We started out at nearly 12+/- cats wandering around the property when we moved in and now we are down to a single one. A few of the babies went on to better homes. I can only confirm two died because we buried them, and the others just walked over to the farm next door or into a car and on to the rainbow bridge in the sky. Its a damn mystery and because I got attached it leaves a little twinge of pain. I knew I was doing this to myself, but yet…. Our one remaining little black cat, Susie was the runt of her litter and up until this spring would mostly roam in between her hidey holes and would barely endure even a touch to the head. She’s now out and about and as a result of a slow exchange of pets for treats she as actually come to like us. Well, she loves Brady and kind of likes me. She wants to be right in the middle of what is going on as long as there aren’t dogs in tow, but even then she’s watching. See pic below of her trying to peep on Brady while he fixes the mower. She reminds me of Jiji in “Kiki’s Delivery Service”.
Susie likes to follow Brady or I around the yard and to the back field when we check on the “pumpkin patch” (3 pumpkin and two squash plants in the back field). She runs ahead of me, looks back to make sure I am coming, and if I am too slow runs back like a little dog; an even smaller Dot. When we go into the chicken coop she quietly meows at the door, and thankfully because she is so diminutive she isn’t really a threat to even the younger pullets.
In the gardening realm things are shooting up every which way and I am embarking on some new experiments. I have never grown garlic and decided last fall to haphazardly stick some cloves in the dirt to see what happens. I think I used some cloves from a head we had gotten from Brady’s dad, and the others were just leftover from garlic I had bought at Aldi. It all popped up and survived under a bed of hay during the winter but in typical fashion I never thought to do any research on if either type was softneck or hardneck. This distinction came into play when I was getting excited about the possibility of garlic scapes. Turns out softneck do not produce scapes and hardnecks do. So far about half of the “crop” is producing scapes that are just about ready to pick, and the other half is creating these crazy wiggly tiny not scapes. I did harvest a not scape-ey one because they are bigger and the bottom leaves are dying off and from what I can tell it is indeed garlic. Success! And it is even good when not dried for storage. The softneck needs to be used sooner because it doesn’t store as well but either way we will have an abundance of something soon so please mail me some altoids.
Another experiment was a potato tower that we will gradually fill with dirt and add more front slats until the plants reach the top in the fall. Then if all goes well, when it is tipped over and emptied there will be a bunch of potatoes. I was able to re-use an old feed trough left out in the field to plant some strawberries in herbs in, and although we have only gotten a few strawberries this year, I predict next year will be BERRY successful. Sorry.
A quick detour to talk about the feed trough. When we first moved in the back field was being rented to house 2 pregnant Shetland cows and a bull. They had huge horns and were kind of friendly, but the deteriorated state of the fence meant they were constantly getting out. One night early after our move one of us happened to look outside and see a cow right in the middle of the yard, and a number of neighbors gathering attempting to get her back in. She ran into the field adjacent to us bashed in a bunch of the corn, and sent us wandering around in the dark trying to look for her with a bunch of neighbors we just met. The owner of the cows lived 45 minutes away and would drive up but was such a big man that he would usually not get out of his car. He would then start up on a shpeil yelled out the window about how he was going to move the cows and pay us for the water he was using even though we don’t own the field, and our water is well water so we don’t pay for it. Sheister vibes. We later learned that he had stopped paying rent on the field months earlier. He had a guy who would come a few times a week to feed the cows and check on them, who was nice and was actually the one who fed the abandoned chickens during the interim when they were left ownerless. One day one of the babies was born so there was a little calf, VERY CUTE- and a few days later we learned the other cow had given birth but the baby did not survive. At this point the bull had been moved to go stud elsewhere. After another cow escape all of the cows were moved and we were notified the field would not be rented so our landlord said we were welcome to use it as long as we didn’t put livestock in there. Cool! It was essentially 2 huge fields with two big trash piles in the middle and a giant pile of aged manure, perfect for gardens. Jackpot. But back to the feed trough, it was dragged out the the back corner of the field and as we were exploring our new expanded yard we came upon it excited to make use of this new container. Dallas got there first and was very interested in it and we realized as we got closer it was because the dead baby calf was decomposing inside of it. I guess naïvely we thought once the calf did not survive Mr. Sheister or his dude disposed of the body, but no instead he just left it out in the sun in this old feed trough in front of its mother for it to slowly decompose. EW! Thankfully by the time we got to it the worst of the decomposition and smells had passed and was mostly just hide and bones, so we let it stay there a while to let all the grossness dissipate. I dumped it all out this past fall, stuck it on a wagon and dragged it down to be filled with some old manure and re-purposed it as a planter. APOLOGIES FOR THAT GRIZZLY ASIDE.
Another thing I have discovered this spring is our chickens are little plant destroyers. Last summer we got a late start to the gardening and the older chickens were a little traumatized from us completely overhauling their coop. They didn’t really venture out to check out any of our plants. This year I have tamed the raised beds and put them to use and our chickens are now completely comfortable roaming around and eating pea shoots and dinosaur kale down to the nub. My nice little raised beds are now taped off in orange snow fencing and other ad-hoc rigs that are really not aesthetically pleasing. They are however safe from chickens mowing down everything that comes up. I am hoping I will be able to take some of the fencing down soon. The birds’ escape hatches will be sealed up as we get ready to push the pullets out of their baby pen and in with the big gals.
Along with the influx of plants come all of the familiar pests from last year that I nearly forgot about. Holes in the screen door letting in flies, the first mosquito bite of the year that leads me to my daily douse of deet, the fireflies that seem to only want to die between the doors on the porch. Not to mention the baby horrible spotted lanternflies. We have a giant grape vine that they laid their eggs in last year and so far an insecticide spray has killed the first hatchlings, but it will have to be re-sprayed all throughout the summer. I can’t wait to taste those first pesticide rich grapes if we get any this year (it’s food safe, so I’m being kind of sarcastic but if they grow I will eat them). I’ve been excitedly awaiting the return of the brood cicadas, but so far they have not come out of the ground, despite the Lancaster online paper exclaiming they are imminent every week. I realized one of our raised beds seems to be placed on top of a giant anthill when I went to pick beautiful head of romaine. The disturbance sent ants all over my arm nearly up to my armpit. The head was so overrun that whenI cut a leaf off ants started escaping from the little hole of the spine. Now I did still eat it, it just took forever to get the ants, ant eggs, and ant bodies off just to have a little bit of salad. Cabbage worms are another pain but I just found out that the baby chickens absolutely love them so I can collect them and feed instead of smushing them between my fingers in anger and getting dark green goo on my hands. YES I KNOW THERE ARE BETTER WAYS.
Next post, I’ll get into how we have to show our baby rooster that Brady and I are stronger and more dominant roosters so he doesn’t attack our heads, and he learns how to respect us. In the meantime enjoy some photos.
Cat Count: 1 DEAR SUSIE! (sorely missed is Calvin, who I refuse to say RIP but will address his status as MIA. I can’t type more about it, too sad)
Chicken Count: 15 (-1) RIP Redneck who probably had a yeast infection in her craw, or some insane neck tumor. IDK she hated me touching her so not much we could do there.
After going out on our first one on one date post vax Brady ordered chicken wings and then got pretty grossed out about how many chickens he was consuming. As a result we are attempting vegetarianism at home, or I should say pescatarian lite. Send me some recipes, I made this veggie gyoza recipe yesterday and It was great.
We are just starting to really get some produce out of the gardens, 4 heads of cauliflower, a few beets, lettuce and arugula and spinach that has already bolted, but I’m eating it anyway. I actually really like the arugula after it has bolted, for some reason it really ups the spiciness and I keep forgetting to look into why although I’m sure its based on the diversion of energy to the flowers. Again, see slideshow above for reference pics.