Summer is humming along here at the farm! The geese and the chickens have gotten through their introductions without a single feather plucked, but there are feathers EVERYWHERE as Herdie and Gerdie go through their annual molt. The gardens are doing wonderful, with lots of veggies being harvested, despite the onslaught of slugs that we are battling! The fall garden has been planted and the seedlings seem much happier than they did when planted in the wonky spring we had this year... here's hoping for a fantastic second harvest!
I have had my two Toulouse geese, Herdie and Gerdie, for a little over a year now. They are beautiful birds which have provided us with entertainment, compost amendments, and of course, eggs! We have enjoyed the fresh eggs immensely, and this year I was able to sell some of them to cover the cost of the goose food (which really does not cost much at all). Geese do not lay all year like chickens can, instead having a breeding season in the spring like many wild birds tend to do, so the eggs are a real treat.
Last month, towards the end of the season, I decided to let Gerdie hatch some goslings. She was getting increasingly desperate when I took eggs from the nest, and it is, after all, what comes naturally to her. All went well, smooth and uneventful, and seven goslings made it! It was great to have her sit on the nest, eliminating the need for constant monitoring and attention like an incubator can require, but the most wonderful thing about this experience was that my 5 year old daughter and my 10 year old son got to watch something so amazing. They observed the eggs as they hatched, helped me tend to the babies, learned a lot, got a bit emotional, and are looking forward to doing it again next year!
The frost is no longer a danger, the flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, and Gerdie is sitting on 9 eggs! So many things are springing to life around here that I thought I would share a few more pictures with you guys!
The flowers are blooming...
Lettuce is having its best year ever!
Remember the 6 Sunchoke roots I planted last year?...
Spring appears to have arrived early this year, and although most of us have experienced snowfall in May, we all seem to be having a difficult time refraining from planting the entire garden by Mother's Day weekend! Honestly, in most of the Matanuska Valley and Anchorage area, your seeds can be safely planted now, if you take a few steps to warm the soil a bit.
Raised beds are a great way to maximize the heat from the sun. They tend to thaw faster, and if you cover them with black plastic or row cover until you are ready to plant, your soil should be plenty warm. Cold Frames are usually insulated on the bottom, and that, paired with the heat brought in through the glass, make a great place to keep starts, or to plant cold tolerant veggies such as lettuce and spinach a little earlier in the season. Hoop houses are essentially cold frames on a grand scale. They make great season extenders, and can be custom built over raised beds with the plastic removed once the danger of frost is past.
If you decide to brave the frost and plant out your starts, the first thing to consider is micro climates within your space. Generally the south facing side of your house will provide the best cold protection. Large rocks strategically placed amongst your starts will absorb heat during the day and release it at night, and a black garbage can or jugs full of water will retain a surprising amount of heat. For more active frost protection, some sort of nightly cover may be needed. You can buy specially designed fabric to cover your plants with, but an old bed sheet will do just as well.
In my garden, the best protection I have found is to cut the bottom inch off of a clear plastic milk jug and place it over the plant like a miniature greenhouse. You can remove the whole thing on nice days, or just the cap on colder days.
If you do decide to plant now, remember to harden off any starts for a few days before placing them in the dirt, and be sure to use air temperature water so you don't sent the roots into shock! Good luck, and happy planting!
The weather has been warm and beautiful, the days are getting noticeably longer, and the snow is slowly melting. These are all wonderful things, but this year the sure sign of spring at Woodside Gardens is goose eggs! Gerdie has laid 3 eggs so far this season, and it has me excited for the year to come! My geese are most definitely my pets, and I would keep them simply for the compost boost they give me, but I've decided to sell her eggs to cover the cost of their food (see the facebook page!), which really works out nicely!
A goose egg compared to a large chicken egg from my Mother's flock.
I have been ridiculously impressed by how well these birds did over the winter. Their coop is not heated or insulated (except lots of straw, of course), and I had no supplemental light other than a string of small white LED Christmas lights around part of the fence perimeter to help me see the MOOSE. I kept a metal trash can in the coop for food storage, along with a heavy ceramic dish for them to eat from and an elevated (so they don't try to swim in it) heated dog dish for water. That's all it took! They have 24 hour access to their fenced run, and they actually chose to spend most of their time outdoors. I filled the coop with a bale of straw last May, and added another this past January, stirring it a bit every month or so.
Having a permaculture-centered garden means that I don't purchase fertilizers, I make them myself. My compost bucket in the kitchen doesn't fill up very fast anymore because I feed the geese all the edible scraps. Those scraps still make it to my garden soil, but first they provide free food for my birds! They also eat all the weeds I pull out of the raised garden beds, and every dandelion they can get their beaks on! After Gerdie is done
laying eggs for the season, I'll pull all the straw out and throw it
into the compost pile, and start the whole process over again. The compost feeds the soil and also builds it up, so every year I have more soil to build more gardens, which feed my family and birds, and feed the compost pile! It's a beautiful, never-ending cycle!
I do feel that it is important to note that geese are BIG birds, and they can be dangerous. When I steal an egg, Herdie wants to kill me, no kidding. I know how to handle them, and I'm not afraid of them, which helps, but they are NEVER near my children or visitors. Geese are easy to care for, but I don't want anyone to think they are cute and friendly like chickens (which can be vicious also!). Some geese are sweet as can be, but most are not, and you must realize this before you get them. That being said, they have provided endless value to me, and I'm glad I have them!
I just wanted to drop a line real quick, and let you all know that I'm still around! I don't have a lot to blog about this time of year, but if you visit on my facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/woodside.gardens, you will find lots of relevant articles I share, as well as random pictures of the geese and other wildlife that hangs out here! I'll be back with more blog posts here, as well, once I'm out in the garden again, and doing something worth talking about! And as always, if you have questions, or something specific you want to learn more about..... ask!