July 16, 2016

Self-Reliance by growing vegetables and raising chickens for Canadian Families

Ann's Weekend Homestead
This blog is about a lifestyle of part time homesteading.  I live this lifestyle of working outside the home and homesteading part-time because I love gardening and pets but also because I want to be poised to be self-sufficient.  What if I lost my job?  What if conflicts from overseas come to Canada?  What if I can't drive because there is no gas to buy?  What if all grocery store food is GMO?  I can't live with leaving all these what ifs unanswered.  I have a plan to be self-sufficient.  My solution is preparation.  I want to be prepared to switch from the full-time job to living sustainably from my own property and families labor...read more

Heirloom Vegetable Plants in the No Dig Permaculture Garden

Artichoke Plants
 We're now in mid-July and the heirloom vegetable garden is thriving.  Last night's dinner featured four fresh artichokes from the garden.  Dee-lish.  Amazingly, the artichokes are the first vegetables I've harvested from the garden.  Artichokes are a perennial vegetable so that has given them a head start over the tomatoes and cucumbers.  I have planted more perennial vegetables this year, so that should help with early summer harvests in subsequent years.

These artichoke plants are ready for dividing.  When they stop flowering I will split them up and hope they survive another winter.

Here's a tiny bird enjoying the light rain.  He's sitting on the garden fence post.  Milkweed and tomato plants are in the background.  Our wood rack is seen at the side.  No sign of monarch butterflies yet in my eastern Ontario garden.

There are a few tiny pea pods growing and a few flowers showing.  The vines have grown up about four feet tall to the top of the trellis.  The cucumber plants are growing at the base of the pea vines.  So far I've only seen one female flower out of all the cucumber plants.

These are growing in the new garden bed that was started lasagna style.  In all the photos you can see mulch added to the top of the soil.  It's been very dry here and mulch has made a huge difference in trapping in the moisture.  By adding mulch your adding a permaculture element to save water and to save time watering.

There are sunchokes, a perennial vegetable, in the background.  The tallest ones are about four foot tall and look very sturdy.  These plants are making a great privacy screen.

The beets are really growing well.  There are enough leaves that I can pick one here and there and cook them for dinner.  Some carrot tops are showing at the bottom of the photo.  I found that less than half the seeds I planted germinated.  I reseeded but hardly any grew.

You can see the different materials used to build this lasagna garden bed.  Some topsoil that I purchased, grass clippings to help trap the moisture, wood chips and leaves.

A sweet potato plant.  I hope the leaves will be cold resistant because I starting growing the slips too late.

A watermelon plant.  The kids chose to plant this.  I'm not sure if this is a great choice for Ontario but the weather has been  hot for many weeks now.  

Here are some rocket plants, a perennial vegetable, with a tomato leaning in on the right.  These were grown from seed.  They seem to be healthy, but aren't growing super fast.  It'll be interesting to see how big these plants get.  I've never eaten a leaf before, I hope it's mild enough that the whole family will like it.

July 3, 2016

Eastern Ontario Homestead Wildflowers

There are lots of lovely wildflowers and perennials growing on the homestead at the beginning of July.  I've haven't done anything to help these beauties along except protect them by not mowing the lawn.

Over the past three years, I've been protecting a small area of milkweed, and the amount of plants has grown significantly.  These are growing just outside the vegetable garden area.  I'm located in Eastern Ontario and I've never seen any monarchs on the milkweed itself but we have seen a couple monarchs fluttering around the backyard.  I will continue protecting them, despite the neighbors offer to mow my lawn.

Here is chicory plant, a pretty daisy like blue flower on long strong stems.  This one is growing beside my garden in the front yard.  This is the third year that this wildflower has popped up in the same place.  I always find this wildflower hard to recognize until the flowers bloom.  Good thing I kept the weed wacker away.
Black-eyed susans growing amongst the raspberry bushes.  I left one to grown last year and this summer I have about 4 plants growing in the same area.  They seem to be choking out the grass from growing around the raspberries.  That's a good thing.

How to Build a Mobile and Strong Predator Proof Chicken Coop

The chicks are growing up fast on the homestead and we needed to move them out of their little heated chick nursery.  Our coop was too small for five additional hens so we built a new and improved coop.

Our coop set-up includes an outer cage to keep the large wild animals out, like raccoons and coyotes, and an inner coop to keep the chickens safe from smaller wild animals, like weasels.   The outer cage is covered on all sides, including the roof and floor with welded wire mesh and framed with 2x6 pressure treated lumber. 

The new inner coop is custom built from plywood.  There is about 1.5 foot of space underneath the inner coop so that the entire footprint of the outer cage is open space for the hens to peck around on the sand.  There is a large area for laying eggs, with a door that swings up, with a sturdy lock.  The door is big enough that I can put there food and water through the opening for super cold days in winter when the chickens will want to stay in the inner coop.  There is enough perching space for all the hens with a window view.  There is also an air vent on either end of the coop to keep the humidity low.

The young hens love all the space to move around.  The transition for the older hens is harder.  I had to put them in the inner coop the first night myself.  The second night the hens went up the ramp on their own, but only after if was getting quite dark.  The third night they've gone into the coop at the regular time.  However they have not laid an egg in the new coop yet.  I detached the laying area from the old inner coop and inserted it in the new coop with an egg to give them a hint.  

July 1, 2016

Protect Chicks from Being Eaten by Racoons

Twos weeks ago, one of our six new chicks was eaten by a racoon.  We had left them outside in the backyard too late in their little play cage.  I went into the backyard just as it was getting dark to bring the chicks in and I was shocked to see their play cage dragged a few feet from where I put it and what at first glance seemed like an empty cage.  Then I saw a racoon at the corner of the cage, trying to pull out a chick through the bars.  I ran out to the cage shouting, but I was too late.  The racoon had killed the chick.  I thought they had all been eaten.

But then we heard a little 'peep,peep' from under the sunroom and a little chick ran out to us.  We scooped her up in our arms and thought thank god that one has survived.  And then we found three more chicks hiding near the sunroom.  We brought them all inside and gave the four chicks a quick inspection and none of them were hurt.

One chick was still missing, so we had the kids help us try and find the last one.

Forgot to Buy Hamburger Buns?

July 1st is Canada Day.  Many families are planning gatherings with friends and family with a bbq and fireworks.  And what do you do if you forgot to buy hamburger buns?  Improvise and make your own buns in seconds!

How to make hamburger buns:

Step 1:  Find a glass that has about the same size opening as the diameter of a hamburger bun.
Step 2:  Take out two slices of bread and place on a cutting board.
Step 3:  Turn the glass upside down and press into one slice of bread, twisting down on the glass until the glass pushes through the bread and touches the cutting board.
Step 4:  Pull out round piece of bread from top of glass.  Repeat to make the other side of the bun.

This is also a great way to avoid throwing out hamburger buns that have been frozen so long they have terrible freezer burn.