It's been a long time since either one of us took a few minutes to write a blog post. Since those first posts, we've had a whirlwind couple of months, and now we find ourselves in the midst of summer, enjoying the beginning of the summer bounty that will hopefully result from all our hard work while already preparing to plant fall crops. Way too much has happened to try to cover in one post or even several, so I'll just highlight a few things, and we will try to do a better job keeping up on our blog in the future.
We have 23 chickens now, 12 adults and eleven 2 month old chicks. The chicks have just transitioned out of our sunroom to their new mobile chicken tractor, which is basically a bottomless pen we can drag around in pasture so they are protected but can still forage for plants and bugs. It's been really fun raising them from chicks and watching how quickly they grow. The adults are already laying eggs, which taste amazing, and have provided some entertainment and a lot of good lessons in chicken rearing. It turns out that chickens are very trainable, and I discovered that when you need to get them back in their coop, it's much easier to get them to come to you than it is to suffer the embarrassment chasing them around. So, we taught them to come to a whistle (with some grain mixture, which they LOVE) and that has made management a little easier.
Much of our spring was very wet, though we have had a couple pretty significant dry spells, including one in late July that set things back a bit. Watching and learning just how dynamic the soil conditions are and trying to manage them for the best plant growth has probably been one of the biggest challenges we've faced. Learning when to cultivate, what to cultivate with, how frequently to cultivate, when to water, and where in our garden gets dry first and where the ground retains moisture longer has been a real eye opener. The experience has made for both some frustrating and revelatory moments this year, and hopefully all that accumulated knowledge will make next year a lot easier.
For a while in the spring, the ground stayed pretty bare except where we planted. Then all of the sudden, when the ground hit the right temperature, the weeds exploded. We hesitated, trying to prioritize our precious time, and we're still digging out (or digging up) of the jungle that the weeds quickly created in some places. However, we have substantially improved our weeding skills and strategy, and that in combination with the onset of drier weather is allowing us to finally catch up, which is very satisfying. The lesson coming out of the whole experience; weed early and often, even when you can barely see the weeds.
The wet year has also made the weeds in the prairie particularly large and aggressive, and we have fallen quite a bit behind in managing them. Thankfully, prairies are resilient (moreso than veggies) and things are still looking pretty good, especially with all the yellow and purple flowers in full bloom right now. We should have a little more time to get a handle on the invasive species we're trying to get rid of or minimize in the next few weeks, and next summer we'll have to squeeze in a little more time for prairie management.
It has been both an overwhelming and exciting few months, and we're looking forward to taking everything we've learned and improving upon what we've already accomplished. Packing our CSA boxes every week has been one of the most enjoyable experiences yet as we excitedly watch plants mature that we've worked so hard to grow and then get to share the delicious bounty they provide with our customers. There have been busts, no doubt, but by and large our hard work has been rewarded with amazing food, and five months in to this new venture I think we're starting to figure things out!