Saturday, April 25, 2015

Kids Everywhere!


Harmony with her two handsome bucks.


Our farm is home to Nubian goats.  We raise them to milk.  Our family has been drinking raw goats milk for the last 17 years. I'm a big believer in the health benefits of raw goat's milk.  We began this adventure because of allergies and ear aches with my young children.  Besides the milk, I make yogurt and goat cheese. And I really enjoy goats especially the kids.  



This season we did a lot of improvement in the goat set up. We decided to move them behind the barn and build better shelters. My husband built these fabulous buck barns for our two breeding buck, Jericho and Olaf.  I was a little concerned about how they would travel from the workshop to the barn area but with chains, an old backhoe, and my husband's ingenuity all went well.  






I was at the controls here but not for long.





On the move!

Approaching the barn.



My goal is to enjoy milk almost year round. Expect for a couple months in winter this has been possible. This season we had one doe, Harmony, kid in late February. With the weather it, requires a few heat lamps in the barn but the babies do fine.  We have a nice warm barn and a kidding pen that is very sheltered. We been enjoying milk to drink through early spring.but with a second goat we will have enough to make yogurt and cheese.  


Harmony and her two handsome bucks.

The dynamic duo!


My second doe, Mollie, had her first babies Sunday, April 19th.  One buck and one doe.  I love it when everything goes well.  In my experience, goats seem to have very few birthing problems.  My Nubians have all turned out to be very attentive good mamas.

Little buck resting.


Playing in the barn while I do chores.


The third doe of the season was looking pretty miserable and finally had her babies, triplets, Friday, April  24th.  One buck and two does.  Mama and babies are doing fine. 

Millie looking very ready.

Cleaning babies up.


Goats are a great investment for a small farm or homestead.  They are very hardy and healthy animals.  They consume less feed than a cow.  I like it because I can manage them easily from trimming hooves to birthing babies. They need one shot a year CDT, monthly worming, and a yearly blood test if you are trying to keep a clean herd.

Jumpin' High Jericho our oldest buck

Thought the pigs needed a mention.  Growing fast.




A well bred goat gives delicious milk with no off flavor.  It is a myth that goat milk tastes goaty.  With proper feeding, milking, and investing in well bred animals the milk tastes like whole milk.  I really like my breeding line.  It has produced some great milkers and adorable kids.

Jericho enjoy his new pen.
Olaf enjoying his new pen.


We raise Nubians.  I love the roman nose profile and the pendulous ears.  Nothing is cuter than a young Nubian kid with ears flopping as it leaps and runs.  Nubians sometime have a bad rap for being noisy.  I have found that depends on the goat.  Most are only vocal or talkative at meal time and are just anxious to eat.  I really like the milk from this breed.  The high butterfat content contributes to its delicious taste.  This breed is very friendly, easy to train to milk, very health and hardy, good mothers, and an all round great breed.




So if you are thinking about adding goats to your homestead, I highly recommend it.

New location of buck pens and pig pens.

Worn out.



Friday, April 17, 2015

Asparagus


 Growing Asparagus

 The tender, young spears of asparagus are an early spring treat. As the spears mature they are beautiful, tall fern-like plants that reach heights of 5 feet.  This airy foliage feeds the roots and ensure that you continue to have future crops. You can plan on asparagus producing for 20 years with proper care and maintenance. Asparagus is one of only a few perennial garden vegetables.  It is a healthy investment for the garden.  



Growing Conditions

Asparagus needs a cold winters where the ground freezes and a somewhat dry summer.  It needs well drained almost sandy soil to prosper.  Full sun is also an important requirement.  A crown is a one year old root system of asparagus grown from seed. It looks like a stringy mop or alien creature. Purchasing disease free crowns is the recommended way to start your asparagus patch.  You will not be harvesting the first year in order to let it establish a strong, deep root  system.  If you start from seed it will take and additional 2 years before you can harvest.


Choosing Asparagus Varieties

Asparagus plants are monoecious plants meaning they are either male or female plants.  Male plants produce more shoots while female plants must invest energy in producing seed and produce fewer shoots.  Jersey Knight or  Jersey Giant produce all male shoots.  While we commonly think of asparagus as green there is a purple variety called Purple Passion.

Plan on each crown you plant producing 1/2 lb of shoots when mature.  I planted a 4x8 bed which is adequate for my husband and me.  


Planting Guide

Planting in a raised beds makes weeding and maintenance easier.  A raised bed also warms up earlier in the spring and allows you to properly amend your soil with plenty of organic matter. Be sure to start with a sandy loam soil and add compost. Raised beds will drain better preventing the crowns from rotting.

Dig a trench down two sides of your raised bed.  The trench should be about 1 foot deep.  You can add a dry organic fertilizer to the trench.  Place the crowns in the trench about a foot to a 1 1/2 ft apart.  Cover with 3 inches of soil.  Continue adding soil as the plants emerge until it is level with the soil line.

Maintenance

Each spring add some dry organic fertilizer of bone meal and blood meal to the bed and mulch with compost around the plants.  Keep the bed free of weeds.  The first two years water regularly.  As asparagus matures it sends down deep roots and can go longer without water.  

After the fronds die back leave them there through the winter to act as a protective mulch.  In the spring before the spears emerge cut the foliage to the ground and remove it.


Harvesting

Remember not to harvest the first year.  After that cut or snap off 5-7 inches shoots with tight tips.  As the tips open or loosen up the shoot become fibrous and not suitable for eating.  The diameter of the spear does not affect tenderness.  When harvesting cut all spears not allowing any to fern out. This will stimulate budding.  Also you do not have to cut spears below the surface of the soil that may damage other developing shoots.  Below is the time frame for harvesting each year.

Second Year
Harvest for 3 weeks

Third Year
Harvest for 4-6 weeks

Fourth Year and Consecutive Years
Harvest 6-8 weeks

The length of your harvest season will depend on the air temperature.  As the air temperature increases the frequency of harvesting will increase.   Quit harvesting when 3/4's of the spears diameters are less than 3/8's of an inch.


Storage

It is best to harvest in the morning.  Submerge the spears in cold water to cool then store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What Does Spring Look Like in Your Garden?


Mini Daffodils I love the soft yellow color.


Peach trees pretty in pink.
A beautiful view of the king bloom on an apple.

Angelique Tulips with soft pinks very feminine.
 

Greening up.
 

Grape Hyacinth
 

Grape Hyacinth and Vinca


Angelique Tulips
 

Carpet phlox
 
Mini Daffodil
 Ornamental strawberry beautiful bright pink flowers and a great ground cover.


Angelique tulips

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pest Patrol: Aphids


 

  Aphids 

 
 Aphids are a pest to many garden and landscape plants.  Each type of aphid prefers a certain type of plant.   They are what is called a soft bodied insect and come in many different colors- white, green, gray, and black. The females can reproduce at a rate of 100 offspring per week and the offspring mature in as little as 2 weeks.

In plotting your strategy against the ever multiplying aphid, you need to understand what they are doing to your plants.  They suck the sugars and sap from plants.  This causes the leaves to curl.  The aphid is then protected in the curled leaves while they feed. Pretty clever strategy.   

Aphids produce a sticky, honey dew substance that covers the leaves. Sticky leaves are further evidence you have been invaded.  While you were giving little thought to the garden in the early spring, aphid eggs are overwintering just waiting for the weather to warm so they could fly to your trees or garden and begin feasting.  Knowing this you should have made the first strike by using a dormant oil on fruit trees, woody landscape plants, and berry bushes. This is best applied in early spring when the sap begins to flow.

Two beneficial insects that feed on aphids are lady beetles and lace wings.  If you have aphids the lady beetles and lace wings will find you. 




The lavae of both insects feed on aphids.  Make sure you are able to recognize the lavae because they look nothing like the adult insect.  Also it's a good idea to know what lady beetle and lace wing eggs look like.  


This is a lace wing larvae.  The eggs of a lace wing look like lollipops on a stem.  I included a picture of them on dill but the are hard to see.  Dill seems to attract lace wings.

 
 This is the larvae of the lady beetle.  Seeing both these insect larvae is a good sign that re-enforcements have shown up to help with the aphid problem.
 
 Plan of Attack

If damage or infestations are severe you can use an insecticidal soap or neem oil.  These suffocate the aphid.  They must be applied directly on the aphid to be effective. Insecticidal soaps should not be sprayed if temperatures are high so be sure to read the label.

 Another option is to remove any severely infected plant or prune off infected branch tips. Once the leaves, especially on fruit trees, begin to curl it is very hard to reach the aphid with your spray so prevention and early detection are important.

If it is a mild infestation you can spray them off with water.

Monitoring for aphids

In the garden they seem to like plants in the brassicaceae family including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and other cole crops.  They also like kale.  It's important to plant these crops in early spring.  Late plantings and warm weather are a sure invitation to aphids.

In the orchard, while leaves are budding out, look on the underside of the leaf with a magnifying lens for aphids.  Also watch for curling leaves.If you see signs of aphids spray with Neem oil and fish emulsion before the leaves begin to curl severely. Follow the recommended spray routine for organic orchards to prevent.


 This is a cherry tree.  In the past I've had problems with black cherry aphids.  I've been monitoring it closely and check the underside of leaves and it begins to leaf out.  Earlier in the spring I sprayed with a dormant oil.  


This is a plum tree with sure signs of aphids.  Notice the curling leaves.  
 
As I unrolled the leaves you can see the little grayish green aphids on the bottom of the leaf.  I sprayed this tree with Neem oil, fish emulsion, and kelp.  I will probably repeat that spray in another 3 days only because this tree has aphid issues every year.