Friday, April 4, 2014

Seedling Progress

Red Romaine Day 3
So here we are the beginning of April, still buried in feet of snow.  It's getting just silly.  However, we are still trudging forward with our gardening and CSA adventure.  Our seedlings are growing, new fruit bushes are arriving, chicks are arriving, pigs are ordered and sap water is pouring out of our trees for maple syrup.  We have more volunteers for helping with the expansion and are making plans for where to start as soon as this snow does finally leave us.  We promised to keep you updated with our progress, so you can be a part of this gardening experience, whether you're a part of our mini-CSA or not!
Red Romaine Day 4
First up:  Seedlings

We've planted a number of seeds so far, so they'll be ready for transplant at the right time (hopefully).  So far, we've got a few started that are a bit earlier than we normally would.  Since we're doing this mini-CSA thing, we're trying to see if we can have a few early season veggies ready for transplant and picking, sooner than you would if we just direct sow as we typically would.  Once the snow melts and we can start to till the ground, we will get these early bad boys in and covered with a new mini row "hoop".   This should protect them enough to continue growing through the slightly colder temps and give us a few extra treats in our boxes!  Those seedlings that we've started a bit early are Red Romaine Lettuce and Chioggia Beets.   We will be starting more lettuce this weekend, allowing for a hopefully continuous stream of lettuce, rather than LOTS and then none.

The rest of the seedlings planted already, are because they need a lot of time to grow big enough for transplanting outside.  So far we've started, Anise, Jade Eggplants, Curly Parsley, Lemongrass, Himalayan Rhubarb, Bandit Leeks, Colorado Shallots, Stevia, a special variety of asparagus, Pepino Melon, some tomatillos and a variety of currant tomatoes.  We'll be starting a lot more seedlings this weekend, as soon as they arrive from the supplier!

Himalayan Rhubarb

Lemongrass

Curly Parsley

Chioggia Beets

Red Romaine Lettuce - Day 14

Pepino Melon

Bandit Leeks

If you ever thought to yourself, vegetables can't be cute, this is proof that you were wrong.  Baby asparagus seedling.

Tomatillo

Jade Eggplants and Currant Tomato


Second up:  Fruit plants

We are adding a lot of new fruits to the yard this year.  Many of those come dormant, expecting to be placed into the ground immediately and then grow in as the weather slowly warms.  Our ground is still snow covered and frozen solid, so transplanting right now is not an option.  We have planted these in buckets inside and are keeping a watchful eye.  We are pretty sure with the way the weather is headed, they are going to come out of dormancy, they'll be inside so long.  So we'll have to make some judgements and hardening decisions before moving them outside. 

So far we have received two grapes, which is a brand new addition, we've never had grapes before.  Not sure yet where they will go, want to be sure we leave room for more next year. 

We have also gotten two saskatoon bushes, another brand new addition.  Also not sure where the saskatoons will go. 

We got one bush cherry, which is essentially a bush, that grows cherries, so we'll see how that goes.  Our other cherry trees are in the front yard, but I am thinking perhaps this bush cherry will go over the hill below the gardens.

We have two new gooseberries, both different varieties and both different from the one four year old bush we already have.  We are hoping to put them all near to each other, which is to the right of the existing terraced garden, if you're standing at the top of the hill. 

We have two honey berries, which are again, new additions.  They are sort of like an oblong blueberries, but they appear and ripen before strawberries!  Very excited to have this new early fruit on the homestead, I think these may actually make it into the front yard herb gardens. 

We've gotten 25 new earli-glow strawberry roots.  Those will be added to my existing strawberry bed (on the left side of the large back deck) and will be a welcome addition.  Earli-glows are my favorite variety, they are a bit smaller, but are pretty much the sweetest of all strawberry varieties.  Very pumped for these to expand the patch.  We also should be receiving another variety of strawberry later this month, to completely fill the rest of the patch.

Finally, we've already received four different varieties of blueberry plants.  They are completely dormant, so we'll see if they can manage to stay that way until we can transplant.  The blueberry patch was started just last year and is on the hillside just above the existing tiered garden.  These will be added in along the stairs and up the top edge of the berm.  We should be receiving more blueberry bushes later this month.

Gooseberries

Blueberries

Grapes, Honeyberries and Bush Cherry


Third up:  Root Veggies

We have already received our American Groundnuts and our Jerusalem Artichokes.  Both of these are vegetables that grow underground, like potatoes and sprout leaves and beautiful flowers above.  Both of these are probably going to be put into new gardens down below, that don't yet exist....  So right now, they're in the refrigerator to stay dormant.

Fourth Up:  Chicks

Our first batch of baby chicks came in this week.  This first batch has some of the most rare and EXPENSIVE birds I've ever ordered.  We are adding Welsummers, Salmon Faverolles, Lavender Orpingtons and Blue Ameruacanas.  All should be a great addition to the beauty of the flock and the diversity of the egg colors! 

They are cuter than ever this time around.  Arya is in love with them, even reading them books and showing them the photos.  They arrived in very cold weather, unfortunately there were more dead on arrival than normal, SIX dead!  It is a bit sad, but it is the reason I order more birds than I actually want/need.  You never know what will happen in transport and the rare breeds are nearly impossible to reorder in the same season if you haven't already ordered in the previous year. 

We are excited to see their stunning growth process unfold before us.  Already at a few days old, their pin feathers are coming in and they are getting their cockscombs!

It's also refreshing to see new babies that can eventually be added to the flock.  Particularly today, as a predator dug through the frozen earth, 18 inches, into the chicken run and escaped with two of our lovely ladies.  A white cochin and my only remaining silver laced wyandotte were taken.  Since we have had many predator attacks before, we aren't exactly shocked, though it is still sad and deeply frustrating.  We have refortified the coop and run and hope that tonight the little devil fox doesn't fair so well.  Unfortunately, we don't think we have a trap big enough to catch him, but we'll set it just the same and see what happens....


Blue Ameruacana
Salmon Faverolle




Welsummer

Lavender Orpington

Lavender Orpington

Lavender Orpington


Fifth Up:  Pigs

For those unaware, we are going to be finally adding pigs to our homestead this year!  We have ordered five little buggers and will hopefully be welcoming them sometime in May.  After transplanting and cleaning up the expansive raspberry patch their new run and structure will be top priority!

Sixth Up:  Maple Syrup

This is our first year collecting sap water and making maple syrup, but so far we are beyond happy with the decision to try.  It has been extremely easy and we are kicking ourselves for not having tried this sooner.  The sap is pouring out of the trees and we're getting so much that there's no more room for the bags in the chest freezer, so boiling now became a crucial advancement in the process and could no longer be put off.  Today is the first day we have started boiling and so far it seems to be going great.  No boilovers, no burning and it smells awesome.  It's amazing to us how quickly the water starts to tint to syrup color.

After hearing about all the rage of drinking sap water like coconut water, we obviously had to try that too.  The verdict delicious.  A little hint of syrup and a nice refreshing feeling.  I learned that there is a company in Canada that sells it bottled, but carbonates it, so we are totally going to try that too with our soda stream.  We'll keep you posted on how that goes.



I think that's finally all our gardening adventure updates!  We'll keep you posted as things progress!  And in the meantime, keep thinking melting snow thoughts!!!!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Garden Plans and Seedling Planting 2014

So Spring is here and we are still knee-deep in snow.  We wake up, snow is falling.  Undeterred, I move forward with our large garden expansion plans. 

Snowy scene as of March 23, 2014.  Nice fresh dusting this morning.

Snow still comes halfway up the doors - March 23, 2014

This year we're hoping to expand our gardens immensely.  With the help of Howard (Thomas' Dad), myself, Thomas, Arya, Mae, Paula and Ezra, and other friends and family, we are hoping to largely expand our garden.  We already have multiple tiers trailing down the hill, as well as lots of herb beds, fruit trees and bushes in the front yard.  Our goal is to put in a new bed below the chicken areas, large areas down below on the flatter portion of our property, nearer to m22 and expanding the herb garden into the two large front gardens.  This is going to take a lot of hard work and investment on our part.  We not only have to get the ground tilled, we have to put in compost and nutrients.  Then, since the deer love fresh produce, we will have to fence like no ones ever fenced before.  We are also hoping we might finally get some dripline in throughout the gardens, rather than traditional sprinklers (this will conserve water and help the plants do better).  If we do really well with our time and plans, we may even put in a hoop house down in the lower area.


The garden last year, prior to planting

The garden hillside last year

One of our herb gardens that will be added to this year


At the end of Fall last year, we finished expanding the chicken run area to more than double what it was.  This year we are also going to put in a new chicken area, getting multiple new breeds of heritage or rare breed chickens (check out olive egger chickens- GREEN EGGS!) and its also looking like we are finally going to be getting the pigs I've wanted for over three years now. 
Blue Laced Red Wyandotte

German Spitzhauben

Silver Spangled Hamburg, Blue Andalusian, New Hampshire Red, White Cochin


And to help us in this quest we are embarking on a mini CSA (that we've offered just to close friends and family) to share in our wacky and unique crops.  This will not only help the funding along, but also be able to share our excitement for unusual and rare vegetables.

A little explaination, CSA's are community supported agriculture.  You put money into the farm in the beginning and each week get "shares" of the produce coming out of the farm.  You are not guaranteed any vegetables - if tomatoes all die from deer or disease, sadly, no tomatoes in the shares, however if zucchini is plentiful, you'll know it.  Additionally, you can be a part of the process, if you want, or not, if you want.  You can come to our little homestead any time and help weed or plant or till or lay straw or pick vegetables and fruit or watch chickens, OR just enjoy the produce in the comfort of your own home.  

Now, we at Lord & Lady have never run a csa before - we have been in many, but never run our own.  Because we have never run one before, we don't really know how it will go, except that by the end of the summer, our friends who joined us in this quest will definitely be getting some produce and we'll alleviate our overload that always occurs.  Because we do not have a greenhouse, we are quite certain that we won't be able to start deliveries until mid-June, and in the first few deliveries, there might not be a lot.  However, if the season is somewhat normal, we will probably have produce through till October time.

We also know we will have chicken eggs available.  Our eggs will always be available by the dozen, and you could add them to any week's delivery, however, this year we will have to charge $6 per dozen if ordered week to week, as this is what we will be charging at the market.  However, we also decided that if you would like to order an egg share (that you pay all at once up front), 1 dozen eggs will be delivered to you every week and they will be only be $5 per dozen.  An investment in an egg share will help us get the new bigger chicken coop built! 

Check out our hopes and dreams for what we'll try to grow.  As mentioned, we may not get all this, but we can dream.

Lettuces/cabbage/brussel sprouts/kale/chard/etc:
Red Romaine
storage no 4 cabbage
diablo brussel sprouts
nautic brussel sprouts
red kitten spinach
salanova mix salad
ridgeline lettuce heads
five star lettuce mix
Korridor Kohlrabi
alfalfa sprouts
Bright lights chard
Flash Collards
wasabi arugula (arya picked this specifically)
Watercress
black summer pac choi
golden frills mustard greens
Spring Tower Chines Celtuce
Green Afro kale
Beira Kale

Potatos:
beauregard sweet potatoes (we have not had good luck with sweet potatoes before, giving it a go though)
gold rush potato
elba potato - this is going to be switched for something else, not sure what yet
stampede jerusalem artichokes
American Ground nuts



Squashes:
Alligator aka Jacare
6823 butternut squash
spaghetti squash
tuffy acorn squash
yellowfin yellow squash
alexandria zucchini
dunja zucchini
red kuri squash
god nugget winter squash
delicata squash
munchkin pumpkin
casperita pumpkin
dill's atlantic giant pumpkin
champion pumpkin
racer plus pumpkin
new england pie pumpkin

Melons:
Navajo Winter watermelon
Pepino Melon - very rare variety of melon look it up yo!


snow leopard honeydew
san juan melon
serenade melon
sweet granite melon

Cucumbers:
Lillie Mae's Little White Cucumber
Suyo Long cucumbers
Salt & Pepper Cucumbers
Northern Pickling Cucumbers
Mouse melons (gherkins)

Beans/peas:
Barton's Broad Bean (Fava bean)
Large Green Lentil
Large Red Lentil
Fordhook Lima beans
Cannellini Beans
Rockport bush beans
provider bush beans
shiraz snow peas
super sugar snap peas
maigolt shelling peas
sienna shelling peas

Eggplants:
Jade Sweet
Rosa Bianca
Traviata
Kermit (arya picked this specifically)

Okra/Peppers/celery:
Red Velvet Okra
jambalaya okra
Tango - Celery
ancho pepper
gourmet pepper
flavorburst pepper
yankee bell pepper
Variety of hotter peppers

Broccoli/Cauliflower:
Skywalker cauliflower
belstar broccoli

Herbs:
Anise
Ginger
Stevia - Sweetest Stevia
Saltwort
salad burnett
papalo
giant of italy parsley
mountain mint
mint
calypso cilantro
amethyst improved basil
sweet thai basil
Genovese basil
oregano
multiple varieties of sage
lovage
goldkrone dill
zefa fino fennel
thyme
arat (parsley root)
Goldenseal (not harvestable for 2 years)
American Ginseng (not harvestable for 2 years)
Feverfew
Epazote
Staro chives
garlic chives
chives
vertissimo chevril
chamomile
angelica
borage
Perfect Skewer Rosemary
French Tarragon
Red Shiso
Green Shiso
Britton
Stevia

Root Vegetables:
Salsify - Mammoth Sandwich Island
Black Salsify
Purple Plum Radish
Gobo - Japanese Burdock
Laurentian Rutabaga
Mars - Celeraic
bolero carrots
atlas carrots
yaya carrots
chioggia guardsmark beets
touchstone gold beets
moneta beets
helenor rutabaga
chiko burdock
belstar super salsify
red meat radish
nero tondo radish
rover radishes
javelin parsnips

Tomatoes/Tomatillos:
San Juanito - Tomatillo
Cuatomate - currant tomato
hawaiian currant - currant tomato
ildi - currant tomato
granadero tomato
toma verde - tomatillo
624 cherry - tomato
tomimaru muchoo tomato
german johnson tomato
defiant tomato
amish paste tomato
indigo rose tomato
artisan tomato collection

Corn (we have a terrible track record with corn, I will be amazed if we get any - this year we are going to attempt to grow it with the pumpkins, like the Native Americans did):
Country Gentlemen
Spring Leaf Corn

Flowers:
Short Stuff - Sunflower
Bees delight mix
edible flowers
Lemon Drops
Big Smile sunflower
nasturtiums
cherokee sunset sunflowers
bicolor sunflowers
procut gold sunflowers
johnnys sunflower collection
giant sungold
giant dahlia mix
Benary's dahlias
ocean pearls
bells of ireland
orange granade
bombay yellow gold celosia
ruby parfait
sun ball gomphrena
strawberry fields gomphrena

Asparagus/Horseradish/Rhubarb:
Precoce d'Argenteuil - Asparagus (takes 3 years to be harvestable)
Jersey Supreme asparagus (takes 3 years to be harvestable)
Variety of rhubarbs
Himalayan Rhubarb (takes 2 years to be harvestable)
Victoria Rhubarb (Takes one year to be harvestable)

Onions:
Bandit Leek
Colorado Shallot
saffron shallots
evergreen hardy green onions
sierra blanca onion
red zeppelin onion
candy onion
forum onion
king richard leeks
garlic
ramps

Grains/seeds (we've never done grains before, so very excited at this prospect):
Hi Yield Quinoa
Multi-Hued Quinoa
spring wheat
Hard red winter wheat

Fruits (all of these are very variable, some years we get lots, some years none):
Peaches
Raspberries
Blackberries
Apples
Plums
Tart Cherries
Sweet Cherries
Bush Cherries (if we get any, this will be a new planting)
cranberries
blueberries
gooseberries
pears
thimbleberries
rowan berries
Honeyberry (if we get any, this will be a new planting)
Red Currants (if we get any, this will be a new planting)
Saskatoons (if we get any, this will be a new planting)




Miscellaneous:
spruce tips

Chickens:
Variety of Heirloom Eggs (if you choose this plan)
meat possible (if you choose this plan)

Turkeys:
Heritage breed Meat (if you choose this plan)

Pigs:
Meat (if we get them and if you choose this plan)

So that's our quest for this Spring, Summer and Fall.  Every year I (Laura), have big ambitious plans for the upcoming season.  And every year it's great, but I am particularly excited for this year.  I will work to keep everyone updated on our exciting and undoubtedly interesting process.

So far we've still got so much snow, we're just into planting seedlings.  But even that, is thrilling, the smell of dirt, fills our home.  We're using coconut planters this year, with organic and heritage and rare seeds from Salt Spring Seeds, Southern Seed Exchange, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company and Johnny Seeds.  We've got the seedlings in a room in the basement with windows, hopefully safe from the cats!  And some upstairs in the loft in clear tubs, with lids, again, to try and keep safe from the cats! 










Additional NOTE:  If you are super interested in joining the mini CSA and we didn't offer it to you already, email me, we might have room for one more.  And if for some reason you are interested in donating funds to the cause, but don't want any produce at all, don't let us stop you.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Do You See Cracks? Tips for inspecting your home's condition as spring arrives

The weather is finally beginning to warm up, ever so slightly.  What was negative temperatures is now in the 20s and 30s, so its positively balmy!  Or at least that's what it feels like, and the hope of spring is in the air.  You can see the snow melting everywhere, in a few spots I even saw the side of the road!

This is wonderful for our hearts, minds and gardens, but not always as great for our homes and foundations.  In our depths of winter, the frozen soil swells, slightly raising our homes.  When the ground finally begins to thaw in spring, the structure can come back down at different rates, causing uneven settling and therefore cracks.  Some problems you'll want to take care of right away, before further damage occurs, but not all fissures are cause for alarm.  The best way to deal with this situation caused by our Michigan winters, is to take a tour around the exterior and interior of your home, looking for any areas of concern.

Inside:  If your windows or doors are not closing or frequently get stuck, it's an indication that they are out of square.  Now, this could be because the door was never installed properly, or it could be a sign that your house has shifted, especially if it the door or window never seemed to stick before.  Out of square doors and windows are sometimes an easy fix, and sometimes not.  The longer a door has been out of square the more it warps to that new position, and therefore, when you correct it, the harder time it has fitting to that new, correct position.  So the sooner you call Lord and Lady Construction to correct this (usually easy) fix, the better!

Another inside indicator to look for is cracked tiles, sagging floors, cracks in the drywall and trim separating where it joins around windows, doors, etc.  All of these issues can also typically be easy repairs, but are usually more of a visual concern than a serious problem.  If you're unsure, you can always give us a call at Lord and Lady, we offer free consulting and estimates and are delighted to come out and give you our advice on the situation.

A crack in the drywall could be as simple as drying plaster, or could be a sign of a shifting home
Outside:  Check for gaps in the window trim, one of the first places you'll see damage.  Look at the roof-line; if you see a gap in the frieze board (the outer trim right below the roof) your home may experience wall rotation.  

Do you have a brick, cinder-block or stone facade?  Stair step cracks in masonry that are one quarter inch or wider are a telltale sign of movement and should be addressed.  Once these cracks have started, they will most often progressively get worse, and could also let through water as the snow melts or rains fall.  

If you have a chimney, try to check out the condition both on the lower level and up top (PLEASE:  never rest a ladder onto the chimney for inspections, if it isn't secure, your weight on the ladder could dislodge it and cause serious damage to yourself and the home; don't go onto your chimney for inspections if there is still snow or ice on the roof; if you have a steep roof or are unable to safely and carefully inspect the top of your chimney, but you're still concerned, give us a call and we'll do it for you, even if we don't find damage, your safety is more important).  When it snows, sleets and rains, water often will run down the edges of the chimney, this over time, can cause significant damage and should be addressed before something catastrophic (like a chimney collapse or even just portions collapsing).  If you're unsure if the damage is serious enough for repairs or not, just call us at Lord and Lady Construction, better safe than sorry!
 
Chimney top cracking away, this should be addressed right away - it allows water to go straight down the chimney - it will work its way into the ceiling, walls and more.
Cracking and mortar coming away

Cracking down the chimney - this is an issue that should be addressed immediately - it will only get worse
Large cracking and movement of the columns, which hold up the porch roof that is connected to the house, despite holding the home like this for years, this should not be ignored.
The cracking and separating that you can see in the other photo of this home, over time, caused the column to begin to split under the pressure of no longer being at the correct angle/position to hold up the home.
Another example of a chimney top that is degraded.  Again, this should be addressed immediately, as it will allow water to travel straight down the chimney into your home, ceiling and walls.
Degrading and cracking stone chimney.  If the stones on your chimney appears to have little mortar left, flaking mortar or cracking mortar, you should address it immediately and be careful not to use the chimney as support in anyway (with a ladder, hand, etc).  When stone chimney's begin to degrade, just the right touch can easily cause the stones to dramatically start to fall away.  This is not only a problem for your chimney, but also the roof and most of all your safety while inspecting.

Below Grade:  Pressure from soil, bushes, trees and water outside can cause basement walls to bow in, leading to a major red flags; a horizontal crack, usually 4 ft up from the floor; or more stair-step cracking again, usually 4 ft up from the floor or higher.  If you can see daylight through any of these cracks - this is a serious issue and should be addressed immediately before water starts coming through it.

Any below grade issues should warrant a call to us here at Lord and Lady Construction or another expert, to ensure that further damage, cracking or water damage, does not continue and cause larger financial woes.

Some serious bowing happening here - caused in large part by bushes and trees outside, right on the foundation, that were pushing.
Stair-step cracking
Stair-step cracking
Stair-step cracking
Here the crack in this old stone foundation got so bad, that the stones just fell away from the corner.
This crack in a poured foundation, looks innocent enough, but the crack was pouring water through it.
With this crack in a poured foundation, you could see daylight through the crack, upon snow melting, water was gushing into the basement of the home.
If you spot trouble or something you think is up to no good, call us here at Lord and Lady Construction, (231)386-7668 or Thomas@LordandLadyConstruction.com.  We serve the entire Grand Traverse Bay Area, including Leelanau County, Grand Traverse County, Benzie County and Antrim County (if you aren't in these counties, you can still give us a call, we have done consulting on homes all the way down to Kent & Berrien county before).

We will bring our equipment and expertize to the site and help you evaluate how serious the issue is and what should be done about it, whether that's a rebuild, repair, or just keeping a close eye on it over the spring, summer and fall.  Remember, we offer free consulting and estimates everyday, so there's no charge to you to give us a call and even if we find an issue, there's no obligation to do the work immediately.  So as the snow melts away, do a tour of your home and give us a call if you spot any issues!