Thursday, January 26, 2012

2011 garden review.....

Well, last years garden is done and mostly gone.  I have a few quarts of dried tomatoes, a couple quarts of canned tomatoes, three bags of frozen zucchini and one bag of frozen green tomatoes.  Add a handful of pint size salsa and that's what I've got....and it's only January!  It's time to do some planning for the 2012 season (hopefully I'm not already to late). 
Last year's crop of heirloom Yellow Mortgage Lifters was my pride and joy.  Luckily I did save some seeds from it (and all other tomatoes that actually fruited).  The other tomatoes did okay (listed in order from best to worst) - Stupice, Red Zebra, Black Prince, Amish Paste, Gajo De Melon (although later maturing with a small crop these were awesomely tasty).   The Spear's Tennesee Green MAY have made an appearance, but since my row marking system left a lot to be desired - who knows if they were just overlooked as the unripe fruit of another variety. 
My beans - both Contender Green and Purple Royalty - were pretty much bug food once the Rose Chafers invaded the neighborhood.  Although the the bugs also hit the apple trees quite hard, I still got a very large apple harvest - which the horses, goats, pigs and chickens enjoyed along with us. 
 I saw a handful of Delikatesse cukes but never saw one Fin De Meaux cucumber.   I suppose the weeds were to thank for the cukes I couldn't find until they were as big as a size 10 shoe. 
The weeds also choked out my beets, radishes and carrots.  Although the pigs did find their share of puny carrots while tilling my garden for me. 
 Peas did alright, but should have been put in the ground earlier (along with the poor broccoli and brussel sprouts). 
I think it's hard to do anything wrong with zucchini and I did get a good harvest of zukes until the squash bugs withered all the plants.  The squash bugs also had a side helping of summer squash plants and then moved to my Minnesota Midget Melons,
Australian Butter and Bush Buttercup for desert so I never saw any harvest of the last three.  I did however get a nice harvest of some volunteer decorative gourds for my fall decorations (which I later fed to the pigs - waste not want not). 
Due to a late planting along with some plants I improperly hardened off - the peppers didn't even get a chance to bloom before dying off in the first freeze. 
Lettuce did quite well in the containers this year and I did get a good amount of it. 
I forgot where I planted the onions AND the garlic so I can't properly judge how they did - perhaps they are thriving somewhere under the snow?
As mentioned earlier, the apples did quite well despite a bug invaision.  I planted a new cherry tree this year in anticipation of the slated destruction of the mature one on our property.  However the tree trimming crew only took one branch off the awesome cherry tree - and that was AFTER I had a chance to harvest bowls and bowls full. 
The herbs did awesome this year and I will see how well they survive the winter.

The potatoes were also a success in their towers. 

So, with all the above info I'm going to change a few things this year.  Here is how I plan on changing things somewhat.
I am going to put in at least a few raised beds this year.  I will not use "sterile" soil, but instead our nicely cooked compost. 
Hardening off the plants properly will be a priority this spring.  We have such a windy area that I need to take extra precautions to protect them until they are ready for it.
Plant markers, row markers and a planting guide are all going to be utilized fully this year.  I can't be expected to remember everything I planted and WHERE in the yard or garden I planted it!
WEEDS I think were my number one enemy last year.  I MUST be diligent in my fight this year.  Perhaps the raised beds will help along with the fact that Roto and Tiller did quite a job tearing up and eating all the plants and roots in the garden. 
Bugs, well let us just say a prayer that the plagues of 2011 are only a cyclic occurance every several years.  I will have to do some more research into organic repellants to use on the plants along with companion planting that may help.  Otherwise there is last years standby of the shop-vac again.
I think I will attempt a few different varieties of plants this year in place of the few that didn't seem to thrive here last year. TheYellow Mortgage lifters were awesome as far as  fruit size, taste, amount of harvest and plant hardiness.  I also saved seeds from all tomatoes (other than the Spears Green) and will attempt to increase yields from them by keeping the weeds down. I will purchase a few more heirloom peppers (both hot and mild) and try raising them from seed again. 

 I will plant another batch of Purple Royalty bush beans.  However I will plant some type of green pole beans to utilize my fencing around the garden - or I will try making a nice tee-pee pole type trellis for them to climb. 
I will continue planting my lettuce in containers this year but with two small changes.  Number one - I will NOT place any of the containers below a bird feeder.  Number two - I will make smaller containers and use succession planting a goal.   I found that as the season progressed it would have been nice to have smaller containers to move according to sun and shade needs.
I don't think I'll change anything with the zucchini or summer squash - other than the bugs they did well.   Weeds don't affect these fast growing plants much.  I will have to figure something out on my heirloom squash (Australian Butter and Bush Buttercup) to give them more growing season.  I will start them eariler this year and if that doesn't work well, I will have to find one that can do better in our shorter growing season. 
I will be doing some sort of trellis system for the cucumbers this year.  I think I will also try some type of hybrid "store bought" seed this year.  The vigor just wasn't there in those I bought last year. 
Potatoes will still be grown in their towers but I will have more than three built this year.  I may put another material inside the burlap or fencing to help retain more moisture as the burlap seemed to allow too much drying of the soiI.
I planted a few sunflowers around the yard this year and they did great so I hoping to get a larger amount planted this year to use for the birds in the winter - they have already finished off the harvest of 2011.
The decision will have to be made if I'm going to even try the beets, broccoli and brussel sprouts.  I'll think about that one over the next couple of weeks. 
Corn will NOT be part of our garden this year.  I have never had a green thumb when it comes to corn and although last years crop did pretty well - by the animals standards not mine - I won't do it again.  The ears were puny and mealy and made fine animal treats but weren't meant for my table. 
Melons just don't do well for me either, I think I'll just continue buying mine at the store.  If anybody has a suggestion though for a good Michigan growing variety - I'd love to hear it.

Well, I think the seed catalogs (all twelve of them I received this year) are calling my name!

Untill next time......

Monday, January 16, 2012

No Kidding...

     Well, so far there is ONE very lovely buckling. Welcome the arrival of the first 2012 kid here at Cornerstone Acres. Rosie graced us with a beautiful little buckling - officially named CSA Yukon.  Ruby is still busting at the seams.  I had hoped they had taken early in their exposure to Challenger, but I had to resign myself to the fact that wasn't the case.  They had to wait until the weather got REALLY cold.  Rosie had her kid while we were gone picking up the new puppy.  Yukon was already up and about by the time we arrived back home.  He had also decided he would sneak thru the gate and go visit the other goats!  He is the most active kid we've had to date on the farm - quite a gregarious fellow.   Weighing in at 10.25# at birth and up to 11.5# within the first 36 hours...he's a good eater for sure!!  Rosie is being a very attentive and protective mom - she doesn't miss a thing, she makes sure to warn any cat, dog or other goat that Yukon is HER baby and she isn't ready to share yet.  Rosie does have extra teats, which is not an ideal trait  - but all are working and Yukon hasn't had any issues with nursing.  I do however think I will milk Rosie this lactation as I have already started to dry off our milking doe, Lily.  She is very willing to allow me to milk her and I have already put away 10 oz of colostrum just in case we may need it someday. 


     Ruby is quite large again this pregnancy, but can't really tell if she's any bigger than the last one.  Last spring she gave me, Snapdragon, a lovely single doeling.  I am hoping for another doe (or two) from her this year.  I'd like to add another of her doelings to our breeding line up.   As of today her udder has swelled to giant size and her ligaments seem to be gone.  I'm going to have another one of those long nights tonight!!

     Although this isn't generally a "nice" topic, I am hoping to FINALLY try goat meat this year.  Our goats sold so well last year we didn't have a chance to even think of putting one into our own freezer. I may try raising one of the boys for our freezer this year.  I'm thinking that if Lily gives me another boy as large as the one last year, he'll be the freezer candidate winner.  Besides if he's a pretty as the last one, he'll make a nice little rug or wall hanging. 

We have decided to sell off one of our Yorkshire/Old Spot gilts for somebody elses freezer and process the other one here at home.  We will do our own cutting, curing, processing and smoking.   Even if we don't do a great job, we will  have lots more practice when we have our first litter of AHH.    Unfortunately I don't think we will get much lard off the york/old spot cross we will be slaughtering, perhaps that is a peril of raising pigs in the winter months? 

Working on the garden plan for spring...going to have to get seeds started soon.   With the odd winter we've been having it's hard to decide if we will have an early or late spring.   As soon as we have a plan in place I will be sure to share it with you.

Thanks for checking in and until next time......

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Name the Guardian Angel

Or name the new puppy to be specific.  The newest addition to our farm is going to be a BEAUTIFUL Great Pyrenees female puppy from Rebelwood Farms in Fremont, MI.   This little sweetie will be a constant companion for both our goats and our family.  As she matures she will help protect our goats from predators. 

We will be picking her up on 1/14/12 and will add pictures on the blog then, but you are welcome to make submissions anytime!!

Here are the general contest "rules": 
Have fun!!
Keep it clean!!

Contest guidelines for the "Name the Guardian Angel" contest:
1) I would like to have a name of strength.  It can be either a feminine form or a masculine form. 
2) Maybe a name related to guardians, warriors, protectors...something along those lines. 
3) It could be a name related to her looks/coloring (picture future looks - great big polar bear LOL)
4) Remember she is a dog....I need a name that is both decent for the neighbors to hear and is easy to use.  If it's a long name then perhaps including a possible "nickname" would be helpful. 
5) If submitting an unusal name please include the definition and if needed, the pronunciation. 
6) Submit as many choices as you like.  If two or more submissions of the same name are submitted, only the person who submitted it first will be considered the winner.  (time/date stamps on comment posts will be used to determine "first" poster)

PRIZE:  A gift basket of MY choice (check out our website at for ideas of what you might get) sent (or delivered) to you!!

Contest will be shorter than usual as I would like to get this little lady named as soon as possible.
Contest begins:  TODAY 1/10/12 
Contest ends:  1/18/12
I will try and make Winner annoucement on 1/19/12

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New CATegory of blog post........

I suppose when your children are young you feel compelled to take tons of pictures of their tiny little smiling faces, their angelic poses in sleep or even their adorable and unforgettable toddler tantrums.  I know I did.  Of course back then I didn't have a digital camera that allowed me to photograph hundreds of shots a day.  Now that I do, my son is grown and on his own.   What will I fill my camera and computer memory with now?  OH,  I know - how about adorable kittens?  More specifically - Seven our newest "baby" in our home.  She constantly amazes me as to how cute she can be, how profoundly perfect she can make sleeping look and how often she can make me laugh.
 I thought I would share just a few of those hundreds of photographs and their stories with you.

Seven decided she wanted to try her hand at being a thief and stole my egg money off the table.
Cat Burglar

At Christmas time I had a small sleigh out on the coffee table for decoration...Seven thought playing Santa might be fun.
Santa Claws

 We watch a lot of Bonanza around here...enough said?
Seven CATwright

She is constantly climbing on anything and everything.  For awhile my dresser was her favorite place.
Puss n' Boots

Then when the Christmas decorations when up.....she changed her MO.


Not only does she like to play and climb in unusual places, she liked to sleep in them as well. 

Copy CAT

When Christmas rolls around - all the animals must participate.  Like it or not.
CAT in the hat

I have found that cats are much easier to entertain that children...well maybe they are the same.  Lately she hasn't been able to stay off the computer.

And what toddler worth their weight doesn't like the packaging better than the gift?
Who let the CAT out of the bag?

After finding things to amuse herself alone, she usually decides to find a friend.  Despite the fact that she is drastically outweighed she fears nothing, even a JRT. (NOTE:  Turn on your sound!!)
                                         Dog CATcher

And lastly, she gives an amazing amount of love!!

Happy New Year!!

January 1, 2012.  Blog number ONE!!  Thought I would start out this year right by starting a new blog and making a promise to keep up on it better than before!!