The months of February through June were a series of time-delayed successes.

A.k.a. “failures”

I learned, relearned, and forgot what I learned–then remembered it again.

All this is to say that today is June 7th and we have fresh sugar snap peas, new spring kale (as opposed to the old flowering kale from last year), orach, green chard, and lots of robust plants that we’ll harvest over the summer (like carrots, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, shelling beans, cucumbers, squashes, and peppers) .

This post is also to say that I will be taking up a new hobby next winter. This winter my hobby was “planting seeds too early and watching them die.” It was tedious.

I learned this winter that if you plant seeds that need to be in their pots for more than 2 weeks, you need to have a bigger pot. I used tiny cells and 90% of the seedlings died. I also learned that just because last April was hot didn’t mean that this April, or May or June (so far) will follow suit. It’s been a cold + wet spring. Even the cold weather crops languished.

Our family loves being outdoors–and we’ve hiked and backpacked together for many miles. Someone once asked me a question on one of our backpacking trips that I think can be applied to gardening:

Do you hike to camp, or camp to hike? (Not that it’s relevant here, but I’m a “hike to camp” person. I love getting hunkered, cozy and settled under a tree.)

So, when it comes to gardening + eating fresh produce, which do I love more–being in the garden or eating the food from the garden? Do I live to garden, or garden to live?

Both. The fresh produce feeds me physically and working in the garden feeds me spiritually. I love the cycle of sowing + reaping. I love the being surprised by scrappy, vigorous volunteer plants. I love watching seedlings reach toward the light while building a strong root system underground. I find physical and spiritual nourishment in both the garden and the harvest. It’s no surprise that throughout God relationship with mankind, he chooses to show his love for us in gardens. It’s a place where I feel gratitude, peace, and abundance.

Today I got stuff done.

I planted all my cilantro (15 plants??). I put a few mizuna plants on the greens row. I planted 3 packets of carrots (white, red, black). I also planted a few kales. Happy day!

This week is spring! I think the ground is ready to get things growing.

I wanted to plant spring hard white wheat this week, but the ground is water logged in the area where I want to plant it. I might wait until fall. Or I might wait a few weeks and plant once the ground drains a little.

I talked to my sibs this week, and they said they’re not planting a garden this year because of the drought where they live. Having a garden not only heals the earth, provides biomass, and sequesters carbon, but the large leaves of some garden plants can serve as a mulch and living shade, which preserves precious moisture. Many plants are water wise. When they said that none of them were planting a garden, I felt my heart rip in half. And then rip in half again. And then one more time, but not as loud as the first two times. So, eight pieces total. Of my heart. Sad.

Back to happy things. My greenhouse is working! Everything in there is growing and happy! I even have a gopher that pops up every couple days to say hello, and bask in the warmth. The gopher’s name is Sheila.

One. More. Thing. Let’s all give a big South Dakota welcome to our new drake, Franklin. Franklin is from Newberg. He was best friends with two donkeys before he joined our farm. He adores Maggie. They swim together all day. Their goal is to raise 12 ducklings this spring, then 12 more next spring. ❤️

I have a kale goal:

I want year-round kale.

That means that I have to plant kale seed indoors in the winter, so that when our over-wintered kale goes to seed (which it did last week) we can set out the new baby kale.

I did that. I planted my seed in early February, then killed it late February. I started more seeds in early March, but the plants are as teeny tiny as the lovely, lush Central American country of El Salvador.

We are eating our flowering kale like it’s broccoli, because it looks exactly like broccoli. I’ll steam it, then put a half pat of butter on it.

Because of my singular kale goal, I had to say goodbye to our last two turkeys. They were sweet, but the kale was their favorite treat. It was at beak level, and they nipped off every fresh leaf, every day this winter, leaving us NONE leafs of kale! We have a fenced back pasture, but turkeys can fly 10+feet, and no fence can hold them.

We have some fun varieties of chard and other greens that we’ll be growing along with our kale. The more greens, the better.

I’ll share one more goal. I want to eat fresh from our garden 365 days a year. I think I might make a little sign for our house that’s like “_____ Days Since Last Safety Incident” (but for Days We’ve Eaten From Our Garden) just to see if we can eat from our garden every day this year. I think we can do it.

Sometime in the fall, Heather obtained a boatload of manure for the garden. Actually, not a boatload; more like a yachtload. Today I used the tractor to scrape off a few cubic yards of it and spread out the remainder across the garden.

Heather is super excited about having seeded her first indoor starts for the season: little gem lettuce, red Russian kale, mizuna, romanesco broccoli, Chinese broccoli, and green cauliflower. She made some garden markers, too.

I love getting early spring harvests! The overwintered kale is about done– and getting aphids, so it’s time to pull it out–but the chard is super sweet and should keep going a bit longer… hopefully long enough to tide us over until this year’s planting starts to produce. I’m optimistic about the tatsoi.

Front the incubator, we ended up getting six ducklings. Turkeys are more fragile: some never made it out of their egg, and a couple died after hatching, but two have survived.

We applied about three yards of aged manure to the garden today. It’s still soggy out there, so we got the trailer stuck a couple times.

We’re still harvesting kale, but it looks like it’s going to start going to seed soon.

I spread more sulphur on the garden a couple weeks ago to lower the pH further. A couple days ago, I lightly pruned the young fruit trees. This weekend, an ice storm encased everything in up to an inch of ice. Our kale still looks like it will survive, though.

Kale choppin’ school is in session

This morning I harvested 12 ounces of dinosaur kale (lacinato). I chiffonaded it and bagged it up in 3 ounce portions.

I like the dinosaur kale because it’s a beautiful color, it’s sturdy, and when it’s sauteed with butter it turns a deep green.

Kale is wonderful. Swiss chard is terrible, but we have to keep growing it because the birds like it more than the kale. It saves our kale from the birds.

We picked our first ounce of beans today. 😉 The beans that were barely alive are now looking quite healthy and should produce a good crop. The first cucumber and pepper should be ready this week. My peas are almost done for the season. They weren’t nearly as productive as last year but still provided some good table fare. The chard and kale continue to produce like gangbusters.

For the last few weeks Josh has been threatening to pull out the kale if we don’t start using it. The truth is that by the time I’m done making dinner, the last thing I want to do is harvest a fistful of raw ingredient, dirty up another pan and prep a side dish–I’m just mentally ready to sit down and relax. Truly, I LOVE having kale with dinner. When Josh comes in from work with a bouquet of kale and pulls out a pan, I am so grateful.

Late last night as we sat around the table with the kids, Josh started looking up ways to preserve kale. (No way I’m canning it–that’s gross) He suggested freezing it raw or blanching it first then freezing it. Less work is better, so I ran out to the garden in the dark and grabbed some to wash and freeze so we could test it out.

This morning I cooked the frozen kale, which didn’t even need to be defrosted. I put a little water in the pan, threw in the frozen kale, steamed it, then quickly and buttered/salted it. It was PERFECT!

Today I picked, portioned, and processed 2 lbs 12 ounces of kale (both varieties that we have). I froze them in 3 ounce chunks, wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a freezer bag. I was able to get 9 three ounce pouches of washed, deveined and ready-to-steam kale.

I seeded some carrots and spinach along the center of my row. The peas have been giving us a sparse harvest, and the beans are barely surviving, let alone growing. On the other hand, we’re harvesting plenty of chard and kale.

I transplanted kale and chard, and I direct-seeded Oregon sugar pod peas, which were really productive last year. This time, I only seeded one row, leaving more room for planting beans later.

Heather transplanted rosemary, parsley (curly and flat), sweet oregano, and Italian basil (with cloches covering the oregano to promote growth and basil to protect from frost).

I noticed chives growing next to the well.

Yesterday, our friend help us get the town-behind lawn mower that our neighbor gave us running. A kit with a carburetor, spark plug, fuel filter, and air filter was $20. Next I need to buy new wheel bearings for it and for the small tractor trailer.

We changed the oil and spark plug in the Sears tractor.

The Case tractor is not doing so well. The past few weeks, it has been hard to start, which was not a problem before. I replaced the spark plugs today. Most of them were black with carbon. I also topped off fluids. It took about 3 quarts of fluid in the torque tube and a gallon of oil in the transmission. The 3-gallon cooling system took a gallon of coolant. I replaced the engine oil, and there was coolant in the oil. That probably means it has a bad head gasket. Also, yesterday the clutch started to fail. Today I had to use the hand clutch, and even then, I had to turn off the tractor to change gears. One of the back wheels still has a slow leak, too.

I re-routed the temporary pasture fencing on the north side of the barn so that I can access the tractor parking area again. The sheep will probably have that extra pasture area finished off in the next two weeks or so.

The chickens have finished off my kale. 🙁

A few months ago, we got to use a hydraulic log splitter to split a bunch of wood we had gotten from arborists. Today, we stacked it along the west side of the barn, probably about 1.5 cords. We don’t have a woodstove, though.

We also reapplied wood chips around the young fruit trees after adding some landscaping fabric.

The sheep have mowed the entire pasture down to stubble, due to our not implementing paddocks. Heather has installed some temporary fencing allowing them to graze the area north of the barn.

We haven’t gotten any chicken eggs for months. But they don’t have a proper chicken coop in which to lay eggs, nor are we giving them any feed beyond table scraps and what they find in the pasture.

Something happened to the carburetor on the John Deere mower and it will barely idle at full throttle. I fiddled with it a bit, then ordered a new carburetor. At about $15 to buy new, they’re hardly worth trying to troubleshoot.

The Case tractor has a rear left tire that loses air over the course of about a week. I need to see if I can remove the wheel so I can take it to a tire store for repair. Otherwise, it’s probably about $100 for a field service call.

We’re still getting some kale from the garden, but the chickens have been escaping the pasture now that we extended it for the sheep, so the kale isn’t going to last much longer.

I got my first handful of beans a few days ago. We haven’t been able to keep up with the pea harvest of a pound every few days, so I’ll plant half as many next year. My kale and chard are very healthy and producing well. My Mortgage Lifter tomato finally has some blossoms that have become fruits. Overall, my garden row hasn’t needed much watering.

This my first pea harvest of more than just a few peas that I eat while in the garden. About 4 oz. My pea plants have been growing like crazy. I also got another 4 oz of kale.

Our neighbors’ fields were cut today.

I got my first kale harvest (4 oz). I found one green worm eating some kale.

My peas are looking fantastic. I picked a few today, but I think I should have enough to be part of dinner tomorrow or the day after. I added a one-foot-high fence for them to climb. I probably could have added something taller.

My second planting of beans is up, and greener than the first planting, which is yellowish.

My Mortgage Lifter tomato seems to be recovering and greening up.

The NHS plant sale is a dangerous place of you’re wanting to have the value of your harvest exceed the cost of planting. We spent $31. I transplanted dwarf blue curled Scotch kale, Italian silver rib Swiss chard, and Mortgage Lifter tomato in my garden row (all heirloom), plus Delicata squash, yellow summer squash, and spaghetti squash in the row that we planned to leave fallow this year. Grant transplanted a black Krim tomato in that row, too.

Heather transplanted herbs out into the pasture along the fence.

I ran a 1/4-inch soaker hose on my row. It’s not very good. All the water leaks out within the first 15 feet–especially the first 5 feet. I might try a 1/2-inch soaker hose.