Archive for the ‘Virginia Here We Are!’ Category

These photos are long overdue- if anyone is still glancing at the blog from time to time, here are some of our farm this overly hot and dry year in Virginia.

Photo 1:  The tomato patch-  The lack of rain gave us complete control over the watering situation of our heirloom tomatoes and the first round was spectacular.  The best I have seen and tasted in many years.  We have about 1000 plants here- half cherry and half heirloom.

Our Tomato Harvest

Photo 2:  Our gorgeous tomato harvest!

Photo 3:  Our greens and roots during April and May.  The intense heat and drought caused these to shrivel prematurely.  Lesson learned- lay drip line down on everything planted, even if it is raining all of the time when you plant.  These beds were quite generous!

Photo 4:  Our first CSA box- Bordeaux Spinach, Snow Peas, Haikuri Turnips, Swiss Chard, Toscano Kale, Baby Bok Choy, Kohlrabi, Tat Soi, Dill, Spring Onions, Lettuce and baby Daikon Radishes.

Photo 5:  The squash, melon and cucumber patch.  The plants are up to my waist now.  The squash vine borer has attacked the summer squash- we are dealing with round two of the infestation.  Our treatment is to make a slit at the base of each vine where the worm has drilled its way in and spray Bt into the stem.  The worm is killed and the squash plant heals itself- a certain check in production, but otherwise an end to the plants life.  For our next planting we will cover the plants with row covers until the plants begin to flower to prevent the borer wasp from laying any eggs.  The stink bugs should be kept off this way too.

Photo 6:  Our chickens!  They range around on our post-harvested field during the day and are secured in their chicken tractor on the right during the night.  The predators on our farm are quite active.  We found a hawk on the turkey pen today!  We scared him away from the turkeys, only for him to find the pastured chickens.  Luckily we have a rooster who sends his gals a warning to run for cover in the tractor.  The white netting more or less keeps the chickens contained, with a few strays here and there, but does a great job keeping curious dogs out.

Photo 7:  The outdoor shower- cool down and clean up time.  Haven’t used the indoor in months!

Photo 8:  Canned Heirloom Tomatoes- you won’t find these in the grocery store!  Another part of the joy in growing your own!


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Our Flock

The Deceased

Roots and Feathers Farm has officially hatched its first batch of Spring Chickens!  The story began a month ago on a blustery, flurry-filled late-Wintery day when our flock was decimated in one afternoon by a frenzied fox.  We lost 12 of our 16 birds, including our rooster, in a horrendous display of predation.  The birds were not eaten by the sneaky fox, who crept in the yard through a small hole in the fence, but tossed about, broken apart and left for dead, only one being carried off to the den.  And to kick us while we were down, the next morning our “sweet” dog intercepted a chicken from the woods returning to its home and made the poor bird a nice meal for himself.  Arghhhh…..  The three hens who remained did not leave their perch inside the barn for days.

Instead of settling on defeat, we had the idea to gather the last few days’ worth of eggs, buy a $50 incubator and see what the possibilities could be.  We had no idea if the eggs were fertile, and no way of checking as the shells on the eggs were too think to candle, but we knew we had a busy rooster.  After 18 days of incubation, turning the eggs three times a day, trying to keep the temperature at a steady 99.5 degrees, plus an additional 3 days to let the chicks position themselves for hatching- a crack!  March 31 the first chicken came out of its egg to be followed by 18 more!  Out of 24 eggs, 22 were fertile, but three never made it out of their shell, but 19 did!!!  So we are now the proud hatchers of our succession flock- over one bird for each bird we lost.  We even have a fuzzy footed friend, just like our Madame Cornichon.  We could not be happier and neither could the birds.

The Newborns!

We are amazed at this circle of life, at the same time, learning not to become too attached.  These birds will have a new home on lockdown- a super secure mobile coop to be moved about daily for rotational grazing in our vegetables fields.   They shall have fresh grass, bugs, protection and sunshine.  We shall have fresh eggs, manure fertilization and insect control.   Symbiosis at its finest!

A Close-Up

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We have made it safely to Virginia after a treacherous trip northward with a 26-footer U-Haul towing a 16-foot trailer with our tractor in tow, followed by myself in a V-8 pickup with my truck in tow- a cat in the front seat and three dogs spread amongst our vehicles.  We are so thankful to have made it here without a glitch (never mind having to unload and reload the U-Haul the day before…but that’s another story:).

The Caravan

We arrived to a snow storm and ended up with over a foot of snow the next day.  The U-Haul had to be towed into the driveway- the 34hp Kubota is a work horse!  We were snowed in for a few days, but the property could not have looked more beautiful with huge snowflakes falling and the pure snow untouched.  The dogs were loving it and what a treat to explore the forest, pond, fields and barn while stomping through a substance I had hardly seen in ten years.

The old farmhouse has been home to a number of young bachelors over the years and has needed some serious TLC.  Hunger prompted me to clean and unpack the kitchen- an all day endeavor.  The bathroom and porch came next.  Thankfully, a few of the rooms had already been cleaned prior to my arrival.  The house is huge! a secret bathroom, two staircases, and a tiny storage cellar under the stairs.  Quite a step up from the single-wide.

Chopping firewood, stacking and building and tending the fire takes up more time than one may realize.  The wood stove provides the heat for the house, as well as a few space heaters, so we mostly stay in the same few rooms.  Every morning we see our breath in the kitchen, which is doubling as the root cellar for now.  I think the refrigerator might be warmer than its surroundings.  Much of our focus is on keeping warm and showers have been scarce.  Ah, country living!  I love it…

The Homestead

The chickens have found a nice home in the barn.  We shored up one of the stalls to protect them from any critters coming out of the woods.  They have plenty of space to peck around, but not much light right now, so eggs production has dwindled.  As soon as the snow melts, we will let them out into the run connected to the stall.  We have plans to add at least 100 more hens to our flock and have found a local hatchery that raises them using natural feed (no GMOs!) and produces healthy, heritage breed birds.  We are hoping to add some ducks and possibly guinea hens to our farmstead.  Hopefully a few heritage piglets, mushrooms, honey and a milking goat, along with all of our vegetables are in the works.  We are staying very busy!

Next week, we are building the greenhouse to start our brassicas in the following week.  Photos to come…

The Barn

The Pond

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