April

Monthly Garden Update for April

April has been an action-packed month for us. The garden is producing, the hummingbirds and butterflies are back and the dog(s!!) are getting covered in ticks. And it’s time for a general property update. Lots of projects have been started at our homestead- some expected, some a complete surprise. Below is a series of photos that highlight some of these changes.

New Developments

Lots of things have happened around the homestead that didn’t always make it into the blog.

First, we finally learned what was happening to all our guinea fowl eggs! We never found many in the coops and thought we might have some males-until Ian started discovering clutches of eggs all around the yard. Some had dozens of eggs in them! But guineas are notoriously terrible mothers so all these clutches had long been abandoned. And we still don’t know if we have any males, so they might not be fertilized either.

guinea fowl eggs
Sadly we can’t eat them because there is no knowing how old they are

Not everyone was such a terrible mother though. Ms. Silkie had roostd on and off all winter and we thought nothing of it… UNTIL one of the eggs started peeping. We now have four fluffy, mutt-ly chicks.

Our first chick
Our first chick
chicks
Their unique genetic heritage should make for some…interesting…looking chickens.

The early part of the month was spent at the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC, where a highlight for me was connecting with Homestead Iron, a family owned metal-smith company that makes hand-forged garden tools.

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Homestead Iron trowel

Ian started his new on-farm enterprise: mushrooms! He successfully inoculated half a dozen shiitake mushroom logs and in nine months time we should have our first fungal crop.

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waiting for the logs to fruit

A parcel of land bordering our land trust was intensively lumbered this winter. The site was left a mess, but Ian had the insight to collect native plant seeds, grow them in our greenhouse all winter, and then transplant them at the most damaged sites. Way to go dude!

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Planting some ironweed transplants.

In other exciting news, we are well on our way to getting a piglet! Ian’s been using his spare time to build a pig pen from old pallets. Getting enough pallets for a project like this has been an adventure, but we should have enough now to complete it. A full post is coming soon.

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the pallet pig pen

And rain. So. Much. Rain. We started this month in a drought period which is hard to imagine now. Since then, we’ve gotten dumped on for days and there is no break in the weather in sight. My garden is soggy and our rain barrels are flooding. One thunderstorm was so powerful it took down a telephone pole, rendering us without electricity for a day and a half.

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Thank goodness for kerosene lamps and candles

Last but certainly not least we adopted a second dog. Aldo (Leopold) has officially joined the family, though his balls didn’t. Those were removed immediately. Sorry not sorry.

Your guess of what kind of mutt he is is as good as mine.
Your guess of what kind of mutt he is is as good as mine.

Main Garden

Even with the inclement weather, our main garden is proving to be a success! It was tilled early March and I’ve been slowly filling it with seeds and transplants. Things are growing and I’m able to pull something out for dinner just about every day. And really, what more could I ask for from life?

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Back when our potatoes were just beginning to sprout

And asparagus! I could write an ode to this delicious stalk. Asparagus is my very favorite vegetable but it is notoriously hard to grow for transient people because it takes years to fully develop root-stock. It’s not a lie to say that the mature asparagus bed at our house was a selling point for me in moving there. And so far it is performing! Every couple of days we can harvest enough for a full meal for the two of us. YUM

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purple seems to be the dominant color in this patch
asparagus
I would eat asparagus all year long if I could.

I’m working towards a sunflower patch and have plenty of varieties to plant, including a giant head of seeds from my wonderful mother in law. Thank you!

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my sunflower seed collection

The constant downpours have been good for my plants…and the weeds. It’s difficult to tell in some parts of the garden that it was tilled at all!

hoeing
hoeing the potatoes has been necessary.
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My hoeing’s paid off-the potatoes are really thriving

The tomatoes? Not so sure about them yet. I never meant to put them in our main garden and instead planned to use the one at Big Laurel for all my nightshades. But the weather has made it impossible to till up the garden, and I’ve watched my seedlings grow tall and spindly in the greenhouse to the point of no return. Finally I had no choice but to stick them in the ground at our house and hope for the best.

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a little too big to be a transplant

As luck would have it, I planted these guys right before a cold snap. Poor babies. Now they can’t hold themselves upright AND they’re cold. I’ve probably killed them all.

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these tomatoes need to get warm and be staked
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the beds. surrounded by weeds.

My cukes reached the same growth danger point as the tomatoes so they are also in the ground. The cold and pelting rain has damaged them too, but the new growth seems healthy so I’m optimistic they will make it.

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building a cucumber trellis
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the older leaves are yellowed and torn but the new growth is lush and sturdy 

My carrots are coming up! Surprisingly with the clay soil it looks like just about every seed has germinated.

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now lets see what sort of root they can form

And finally, my sugar snap peas are having the time of their lives. Most have come up and are growing into their trellis. I think they are smaller than my neighbor’s who planted the same day I did, but I don’t even care. it doesn’t bother me at all. I’m not competitive or anything.. honest. 😉

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Grow baby grow!

Other Gardens

If you’re not overwhelmed with details about my life yet, I have some updates for a few of the smaller gardens around our homestead.

This time of year it’s nice to revel in the work that someone else did on the property long before us. Like planting these irises.

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what incredible colors

I also finally harvested my radishes from the cold frame. They were planted in February, which meant they were growing far beyond their supposed 28 day lifespan. While the leaves grew thick and lush, I kept waiting for real radishes to form. Eventually I called it a loss and pulled them all up.

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there’s nary a radish on here! Just half formed, shriveled roots.

The radishes didn’t go to waste though. They made for a hearty, surprisingly delicious radish top soup. And everything we couldn’t eat went straight to the rabbits.

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Just enough radishes formed to garnish the soup

With the radishes out of the cold frame, my brassicas really began to thrive. I’ve been harvesting chard and collards for about a week now.

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The plants have gotten so big we no longer put the window down

And finally, in the small raised bed next to the house my arugula and second planting of radishes are doing well. There is some crop loss because water splashes from the rooftop gutters right in the middle of the bed, but the plants around the perimeter are huge.

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This just looks like a weedy mess but I promise there is food in there.
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my french breakfast radishes are performing far better than the first crop

……………………………………………………………………………………..

And that’s it for my garden wrap up for the month of April. The rate of change in the garden is beginning to pick up exponentially, so stay tuned for more updates in May. And let me know what you think! What’s growing in YOUR garden now?

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9 thoughts on “Monthly Garden Update for April

  1. This is the best line I’ve read in a long time…”Aldo (Leopold) has officially joined the family, though his balls didn’t. Those were removed immediately. Sorry not sorry.”

    Lyd, never change.

  2. It is raining and cold here in eastern Ky also and my plants on the porch are dying to get into the garden.

  3. Hi Lydia, my parents raised Guinea fowls since I can remember in our home country the Dominican Republic. Looking for eggs was actually an egg hunt. They go miles from the house if allowed and they nest among the tall grass mostly. You are right they aren’t good mothers that’s why my mom would put the eggs with the hen that was nesting and the chickens and Guinea fowls were siblings 🙂 rarely I saw a Guinea fowl with babies. I can tell you this, we used to keep the eggs under the sink cabinet not refrigerated. Some we ate and some were sold. Over 50 birds that’s a lot of eggs for a family of 4-5 I bet my dad didn’t find those eggs the same day they were laid. Around noon is the egg laying time so late afternoon or after 2 pm my dad would go egg hunting across the street from our house in a pasture field. Not even once they laid the eggs in our property, we didn’t have a proper fence so they were free range and free will. We always had males and females so our eggs were always fertilized. Until recently I didn’t know chickens and other birds could laid eggs without male assistance. I can ask my dad and brother to help you identify the males if you have any. Just send me pictures. They’re difference in size and color I know. Open those eggs and see if they look different or smell. I’m sure they’re safe to eat. My email is gmail. I’m nellyoliveri on all social media and that’s my email also

  4. Hi Lydia

    I have been following your blog since you started. You are having a great time. I run a small B&B in Co Wicklow, Ireland. All our life we have experimented in self sufficiency. Making chicken huts, home made incubators, home made polytunnels, home made stone ovens, etc. etc. Great to see you tackling the same challenges. No home made beer or wine?

    We are at Knockaderry Lodge on booking.com. Love to see you both if you are ever over this way.

    Oh, and you can check the freshness of found eggs by placing them in a bowl of cold water. If they sink and stay on their side they are fresh. Sink and stand on their end 2 weeks. Float, throw them away.

    Best wishes

    Howard

    1. Hi Howard! Thanks for commenting. It’s very flattering to know you have been reading my blog for so long. And your life in Ireland sounds ideal! If my travels ever take me that way I will be sure to look you up. As for brewing beer, I wish! Sadly making alcohol is against the bylaws of our land trust. Some arcane rule from the days of Moonshine production. Here’s to hoping that gets changed someday soon!

  5. I’m going to guess Aldo is Australian Shepherd or Catahoula leopard dog, Black Mouth Cur, and many more. But definitely100% cute!

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