Thursday, July 28, 2011

Aphids Suck

The first two years we had this garden, we grew gorgeous Brussels sprouts but before we had a chance to harvest a single one, aphids found them. They left the other brassicas alone though so we got a good harvest of broccoli and kale, totally aphid free. This year, we opted against the Brussels sprouts. Unfortunately, it appears that in the absence of Brussels sprouts, aphids are perfectly happy infesting the broccoli, kale and cabbage that we did grow. I'm most disappointed by the loss of cabbage because we had some BEAUTIFUL heads forming!

We'd tried using non-pesticide type remedies in the past. Companion planting with lavender (which grows very well here) didn't help. The aphids were unaffected. Setting up two little lady-bug homes in our garden to encourage lady bugs didn't help either. I've seen all of one lady bug in our garden in the past 3 years. Chickens would probably eat ahpids, but they'd also eat our garden and I can't take that chance. (Chickens also love slugs by the way, but chickens sleep at night when slugs come out, so they are a terrible option!).

A little online research turned up an easy solution. Apparently tomato leaves (of the nightshade family) are poison to most bugs. You can make a 'tea' of tomato leaves to use as a pesticide. It's safe for humans and pets, but deadly to bugs.  The problem is that it's deadly to ALL bugs, so you'd also lose any beneficial bugs in your garden.  Since we don't have many of those, I figured it was worth a shot.  My plan was to only spray brassicas.

So I pulled off about two packed cups worth of tomato leaves and coarsely chopped them.

Then I added hot water and let the mixture sit overnight (or about 8 hours).

I then strained out all the leaves and poured the liquid into a clean spray bottle we had. I added plain water to fill the bottle (about another cup) and voila - organic tomato pesticide!

I immediately went out to the garden to try and rescue our brassicas. It took almost half the bottle just to spray our two kale plants. Then I tackled the least infested of the cabbages. The cabbages that were the worst, I just pulled from the garden. Same for the broccoli. Actually, it was as I was spraying the broccoli that it occurred to me that we DO have one beneficial bug in our garden...our bees! I totally hadn't thought about the bees, but I was careful to not spray any flower at all, so hopefully it won't affect them. I'd feel awful if I accidentally killed our three hives!

This was two days ago. Tonight will be my first opportunity to investigate the results. I promise to report back. Keep your fingers crossed for me that this worked!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

And then there were 5...

On Monday evening, we took Polaris and Skylark on a LONG drive from our place to their new home. We found a couple with a good amount of land that were looking for some goats. They'd just lost one of theirs to coyotes, so they needed new ones to be companions to their lonely wether. As we had decided to not breed Skylark any longer and since we didn't need another wether around our place, the two of them went together. We drove them ourselves so that we could see the conditions of the new place. It's really nice and I think they'll be happy. They'll have a small Alpine wether as a companion and a small female boer-cross as well. Two acres just for them with plenty to eat and places to explore. The couple were very nice and very affectionate with their goats (which Skylark will appreciate) and I think we made a good choice.

While I'll miss her to some degree, I know that she'll be happy there. I really hadn't formed much of a bond with Polaris, but I'm glad that they went together as he's still quite young and seemed to welcome the security of a familiar goat when introduced to the new surroundings.

The remaining goats are doing fine. Pepper is providing us with milk, but she has continued to find a way to nurse Penny (the other little black goat baby!) through the fence that separates them. We've finally decided that we cannot thwart her, so we are going to outsmart her. We ordred an 'udder sling' that kind of works like a bra for goats. It's designed to help goats with low hanging udders from getting injured on the ground, but it can also be used to help discourage sneaky goat babies that should be weaned already! Hopefully this will help as we just don't have the room to put more distance between the two of them without investing in some fence changes that we are not financially ready to tackle just yet.

Friday, July 22, 2011

5 months = many changes

I cannot believe that it has been 5 months since I last posted on this blog. Due to the directional shift that my life has taken lately, I cannot pretend that I'm going to turn over a new leaf and begin posting like a regular blogger going forward. I would sincerely like to, but I must be realistic and I know that I just don't have the time.

That said, I miss the part of my life that this blog was representing. When others ask me when I'm going to update this place, I think not about the camera full of photos that I have not uploaded or the piles of recipes that I've collected to try, or the times I've thought about documenting another aspect of our 'farm life'....I think about how much I miss it.

Before anyone gets all concerned on me, we still have the farm. We still have seven goats (yes, the most recent babies are still with us for the moment!), we are down to only 9 chickens and one rooster, and we are up to now three beehives, one of which my husband captured on our property when a swarm showed up a few weeks ago. We still have a garden, we are now using the new barn and I'm working on the start of an herb garden that has culinary herbs in boxes hanging from our deck railing and medicinal herbs growing in the flower bed in front of our house.

So what has changed? The big whopper is that I have a new job. I am now the College Program Manager for my company and as such, I'm building a college program (we had none!) including an internship program and a solid college recruiting effort. We hire predominantly masters and PhD level graduates, so I will have the opportunity to use my technical background as a way to connect with the hires, with the hiring managers and with the professors at the schools we target. I will be doing a LOT of travel and therein lies the biggest change to our lifestyle. I travel, my husband takes care of the farm and neither of us have time to blog or cook or do half the things we used to do around the place.

We are working on scaling back and considering where our future lies. At this point, we don't see a whole ton of changes in the immediate future as we have no intentions of attempting to sell our place in the current real estate market. We've also got entirely too much that needs doing around the place before we could even list it (like replacing the wood stove and doing some work on the septic system). I think that for now, we are going to just work on scaling back a bit. To that end, we are working on finding a new home for Buddy, Skylark and Polaris (the boy goat baby pictured above). We will keep and eventually breed Penny (the girl goat baby), Daisy and Pepper (again). Dollar will be kept as a companion and because I cannot part with him. He's my 'little guy' who is actually the biggest dwarf goat we own! He's sweet and super easy to manage, so he'll be a good companion goat when we have to separate someone for some reason (like weaning). For the chickens, we are going to rethink how we house them. Each time we build a new coop/run, we learn something new, so eventually we'll get a system going that is virtually 'kink' free. All the remaining girls are still laying, but considering that more than half of them are now three years old, their production has significantly fallen off. This is a good thing for us because the egg load is now manageable.

The fruit harvest is looking good for this year so we've sent out feelers into our local community for anyone wishing to glean our fruit. Basically, we'll harvest what we want for ourselves and then send out a email to a local collection of people who will come and pick the remainder of the fruit for themselves (or for charity). All in all, I think we are making good progress towards getting on top of all we need to do and learning to have fun as well.

Just so no one thinks it's all work and no play at our tiny farm, that's not the case. We have a sea kayaking trip and two hiking trips planned still for this summer and two different people lined up to watch the farm while we are gone. It's all about balance, right? We just have to learn to build up our balance muscles a little.