Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer Harvest

Here are the Roost we are busy harvesting from our summer of 2013 garden. A few things didn't pan out as much as we had hoped, and the constant overload of rain we received caused some mildew and mold problems. But, overall we did pretty well with trying to improve our harvest from last year.

The spring season was perhaps our best yet with a constant supply of lettuce and TONS of kale and collards. We also harvested onions and radishes for the first time this spring and our garlic crop turned out rather well too.

Below are some highlights from our gardening efforts:

Cucumbers: We had a great harvest in the beginning with tons of fruit coming in, but eventually from all the rain the leaves succumbed to mildew and the plants died back. We planted more cucumbers so hopefully we'll get another big late summer harvest. I made refrigerator pickles and canned relish with our cucumbers this year.

Green Beans ("lazy wife greasy bean," half-runners, and rattlesnake beans)
The beans have grown wonderfully this year! We have been blessed with basketfuls every couple of days or so during the growing season. In addition to eating them fresh, we plan to dry a bunch for shuck beans and also preserve some in jars.

Note to self: do NOT place basket on porch railing while harvesting green beans or the turkeys WILL try to eat them!

Our Squash plants were pretty much our only major failure this year. They were all growing beautifully with leaves and flowers, but no fruit was being produced except for some zucchini. We figured out it was probably squash borers that go through the stems of the plants that caused this. Surprisingly, we do have some pumpkins actually producing a couple of fruits as well as a mystery squash.

We were pleasantly surprised with how well our Potatoes did and wish we had planted more. In a very small space, we planted yukon gold slips and reaped a very good harvest! They are so yummy. We also planted sweet potatoes along the edge of the screened in porch

Tomatoes (Romas for canning and heirlooms for eating)
Several of the tomato plants didn't make it and died to disease, but of the ones that did we are got only one decent harvest from. It has been disappointing because as soon as they started producing they all began dying. I think the heavy rains for so long really affected them followed by the short heat wave. I always wish we had planted more tomatoes when it gets to be the middle of the summer, and the same is true this year. You can never have enough! To satiate our tomato fix, we bought a big flat of home-grown romas and some slicing tomatoes from a local farm.

the tomatoes pictured here are from our garden

This is the first year we have been able to harvest Carrots. Although a small, one-time harvest, we enjoyed them!

carrots and some potatoes just pulled from the ground earlier in the summer

Peppers (bell peppers, banana peppers, and hot peppers)
Our peppers are doing pretty decent considering everything. We've harvested mostly banana and hot peppers thus far, with a couple of bell peppers. The bell peppers on the vines will hopefully get a little bigger soon, but we aren't getting a ton simply because we didn't plant many pepper plants.

Herbs (basil, rosemary, chives, oregano, parsley, mint)
The herbs are fairing pretty well! The basil is looking great, and everything else seems to come back year after year.

The okra is starting to come in, and soon we should have a fair amount. So far I've gotten a couple of ziploc sandwich bags full of okra waiting to be pickled! You have to watch okra almost daily when a new pod starts, because it will get huge and tough very quickly. You want to pick it while it is still small to medium sized and tender.

Still growing in our garden are peppersokrasweet potatoes, beans, winter squash, zucchini and pumpkins. We plan to plant a late summer/early fall crop of lettuces and other greens as well. Some of our plants don't look too great simply because we (mostly me, especially being tired and pregnant) haven't had time to tend to the garden as much as we've wanted. The squash plants look like they are starting to get a fungus on the leaves, I've spotted squash bugs on some things, and the garden needs a good weeding.

This year we actually succeeded at succession planting, and will definitely keep it going next year. Replanting crops as they ran their full cycle supplied us with a fairly steady stream of produce to where something was ready for harvest most of the time. Even when our cucumber plants, which had already given us tons of fruit, were stunted from a powdery mildew due to all the rain, we replanted and the new growth is doing okay.

Hopefully we can keep several things going this fall if we have warm enough weather. Even if the temperature gets chilly, we can still grow a few things in the cold frame!

Happy Harvesting,

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The Scoop Link Party at the Farmhouse Porch

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vintage Children's Armoire Makeover

A 1950s children's armiore comes back full circle for use in our twins' nursery!

I found the manufacturer's sticker on the inside, indicating it was the "Storkline" brand of furniture, which made all sorts of children's furniture from the 1930s through the 1960s. I believe the wooden pulls are original to the piece, as they seem to fit that era and we have no record of my Grandma ever changing the hardware on it. It was originally owned by my Grandma for my mom's nursery when she was a baby, and subsequently used by other mothers in our family, including by my mom for me in my baby nursery (which was, by the way, done in Peach and "Williamsburg" blue colors with a stenciled teddy bear theme- classic 1984!)

The last person to use it was my cousin for her children, and she is giving it back to me to keep the tradition going :)  It has been painted many times, and its last treatment was a coat of solid plain white flat paint with no finish on it. Since the walls of the nursery are an off-white and we have white cribs in the room, I wanted a piece with a little more contrast.

the armoire- "before"

Soooo, I'm trying out a new color in our house- the beautiful Annie Sloane "Duck Egg Blue" from her Chalk Paint line. I chose this because its non-toxic and without strong fumes like a lot of traditional paints and I just loved the lovely, calming look of the color. It's very versatile and is easy to make lighter or darker with added tinting or coats of wax and other treatments overtop of the paint. It also works well in our gender neutral nursery since we are not finding out the sexes of our babies until birth.

We took these steps we took in giving this piece a new look:

1. Removed knobs and any other exterior hardware from piece

2. Sanded down the piece (I used a handheld electric sander) and wiped with damp cloth

3. Applied a coat or two of the chalk paint (it dries very fast in between coats!) and let dry

4. Applied coating of clear furniture wax, let sit for an hour, polished piece

5. Heavily sanded wooden pulls for a distressed look, cleaned, and returned to finished piece

Here is what the armoire looks like now in our nursery:

my little vignette on top of the dresser: a lamp, some vintage books, antique blocks, my newborn hospital photo and my baby shoes that my mom had bronzed

I added a bulletin board above the armoire covered in fabric and showing off family photos

The armoire actually holds quite a bit, and will be a great storage piece for many years to come. Besides "hang up clothes" for the twins, we are using it to hold items such as crib sheets, blankets, burp cloths, pacifiers, socks and mitts, baby safety and hygiene items, bibs and baby spoons, baby slings/carriers, and hooded towels.

I am pleased with this furniture makeover and love how easy the chalk paint is to work with. I guess you just got another little sneak peek of the twins' nursery, but no more until the final reveal :)  Now on to the next nursery project!

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Raising Heritage Turkeys

I'll admit, we were pretty clueless when we first decided to raise heritage turkeys, but it didn't stop us from taking the plunge! We chose the Bourbon Red breed as it is supposed to be a beautiful, hardy breed with good-tasting meat and some old instinctual traits still left. Having a heritage breed was important to us as well for breed preservation. Plus, our neighbor farm down the road raises them and was willing to sell us some of their baby Bourbon Red turkey poults!

Hatched in April, our four poults did pretty well considering many have trouble surviving, but we still lost one around 8-10 weeks old. He/she was completely fine and out of nowhere one morning was found lying dead on the floor of the pen. We aren't sure what happened.

young poult a few weeks old

We raised the turkeys from day-old poults in a brooder box (actually a clear plastic bin) with food, water and a heat lamp. We made sure to put shiny objects or marbles in the water and put their food on top of aluminum foil so that they are tempted to peck at them and figure out that it is food and water for nourishment. We changed and freshened the food/water every day. Eventually once they had grown we moved them to a larger brooder box full of pine shavings with holes in the top and sides for ventilation. They weren't too happy not being able to see completely out of the sides of the box at all.

turkey poults, around 6 weeks old

Probably around 6 weeks or so, or whenever they had fully feathered out, we moved them outside to their permanent pen with a heat lamp stationed overtop of the roosting structure that we turned on at night for warmth. They love being outside! We built a higher up roost and carved out a makeshift "window" with chicken wire screen in front of the roost so they could have a place to sit and see outside of their pen into the rest of the yard. They now roost on this bar every night, even in the rain. I think they like their lower roosts during the day since they are covered and in the shade.

We waited quite a while until they were bigger to let them outside their pen for free-ranging time, which also inevitably meant mingling with the chickens. They were probably around 11 or 12 weeks old. Oh my, how they have LOVED free-ranging! Firstly, they LOVE eating greens (but not as much as human treats) and they are super curious about their surroundings although are a bit hesitant to wander off too far. Sometimes they chase the chickens around, who are either afraid of the turkeys or annoyed by them. At first some of the hens (chickens) as well as the young cockerels were challenging and pecking on the turkeys, but now if they start to get into a dominance battle, the turkeys usually all gang up on the chicken perpetrator and run him/her off. They seem to work together as a team.

I will say, though, we foresee problems with bullying by the turkeys as one hen sometimes gets singled out by all three of the turkeys. We had to put who we think is the tom turkey in "time-out" the other day because he was incessantly biting the top of one of the hen's combs and wouldn't stop.

We have taken some preventative precautions for Blackhead disease since we allow our turkeys to mingle with our chickens. Mostly this consists of mixing cayenne pepper into their food and water but we have also given them a medication a couple of times to discourage anything that might be developing in their systems.

I was not expecting the turkeys at all to be like they are in reality with their funny personalities and attachment to us. They follow us around all the time, want to be right up next to us constantly, crowd us whenever we try to pay attention to the chickens, are extremely chatty and expressive of their excitement, and will hop up in our laps if we are sitting down outside. They are super inquisitive and investigative about each and every new thing, sound, or sight in their surrounding environment. Often they will tug at my dress, peck at my painted toenails, and try to steal whatever item I am carrying in my hand that halfway resembles food or plants. Although their constant attention can get annoying, I guess they can be quite endearing :)

On the other hand, they are not nearly as smart as the chickens (but much more friendly). They can't figure out to go back to their own pen for food and water once they are let out, and other times do pretty dumb things. The other day I was feeding the birds leftover fruit and one got a hold of a cherry which got stuck in the turkey's airway on the way down. My husband had to do a quick turkey rescue and propel the cherry out of the neck area to restore breathing. It was that turkey's lucky day :)

But someday, we know we will have to process at least one or two of them for meat that we don't keep for breeding, and that will be very, very hard. If they are big enough by October, we may process one then, or else wait until December. The other option would be to keep these turkeys for breeding and then process their young (once grown) for meat. It will be tough either way, but we want to have that experience of raising our own meat, giving it a good life, and being thankful of the nourishment it provides us.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Nursery Progress Sneak Peek

I just couldn't resist showing you a sneak peek of our twins' soon-to-be nursery. I think it's coming together nicely and I'm really looking forward to working on all the little details :)

We will use this antique chest of drawers as a changing table, the baskets above will hold
diapers and changing supplies. The curtains will be changed out for a new fabric.

We still have quite a bit of work to do, but it's slowly getting there. We ended up having to move the giant desk to a different room after all--there just wasn't enough space for two cribs, a dresser, armchair glider, storage, and everything else we needed in the room. I bet you could guess that it would have a vintage/cottage feel to it, huh?

Can't wait to show you the finished room!