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Learn Something New Every Year

We have been very busy here of late at Whitaker Gardens. Flexibility has been the key and if the truth be told I have had to figure that out the hard way at times.

As is normally the case in May the weather has been temperamental. 80 degrees with high humidity has been followed by early spring temperatures of 60 degrees with near freezing at night. I still am working on my "garden muscles" and have found myself spent when working in the peak heat of the hotter days this month. A blatant reminder to work early in the day and evening and to rest in the mid afternoon heat. I have been trying to get a jump on the final planting this weekend, fingers crossed, by putting in some hours while the temps. have remained low. I am curious to see what sort of impact all the rabbit manure will have this year.

The lilacs were in full bloom early in the month and our trees were heavy with both scent and flowers. The garlic and shallots were making headway and the leeks took to the cold soil with little problem.
One of the new apple trees here at Whitaker Gardens

We planted 50 strawberry plants, a mixture of ever-bearing and June-bearing varieties. We also planted three apple trees, which I am really excited about! Two of them were a gift from our neighbors to celebrate the birth of our fourth child and the third was a columnar tree I had bought before I realized they were providing such a lovely gift.

We decided to try our hand at grapes again this year. The asparagus bed , which is in its second season, responded with a full show. Some rascal, probably the chipmunk who lives in our stonewall, has been stealing my lettuce seed I believe. We have yet to get a successful planting.

As we head into our first spring and summer with chickens I have learned some interesting things. Last fall we purchased four leghorns. They spent the winter with four hens I had been watching for friends. There was a bit of dispute for top bird but nothing too serious and within a few days it was resolved. When our friends took their birds back I added an americuana and a barred rock. Things got ugly real quick. I believe I put the new birds in when they were too small to properly assimilate so I removed them for two weeks and tried again. One leghorn in particular just tormented the new birds for nearly 4 weeks so I removed them again. This time I put them in a contained area right next to the leghorns with the hope they will all get used to one another and in another week I am going to put them together again. If this does not work I think the leghorns may end up in the stew pot.

Our doe rabbit had six babies six weeks ago. We decided , upon the suggestion of a friend, to try to sell them to a local farmers market. We ended up making five bucks a rabbit which in turn we used to buy some seed and starter plants. It was a nice way to end the venture, makes me feel like we were able to break even.

Our neighbors , who have always been very supportive of our homesteading lifestyle, were kind enough to help us remove some bushes so that we could extend our main garden closer to the property line of our two homes. We easily added another 100 square feet of space that is immediately ready for use while another 100 is waiting to be cultivated.

My wife has created a beautiful and lush flowerbed in our front yard. Everything from roses to black-eye Susan dot the landscape. It is a fantastic addition to her well established flower garden in our backyard.

I can't tell if I am the oldest young man or youngest old man I know. . . 
The trees are beginning to come into their own , the forget-me-not , tulips and lilac are all beginning to fade. The clover and bamboo are taking root while the bramble develops its canopy of leaves. I have been turning the dirt with my children preparing for the final push of the spring. In the meantime I have been simply trying to take a moment here and there and enjoy the simplicity of it all.  

 Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here


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