Valentines Day Projects

First of all, I sincerely apologize for not getting this post up sooner. Time has been flying by the last few weeks and just when I feel like I've gotten "caught up", I realize there's a whole other list of "to-do's" that I have completely overlooked. So here we are, 10 days AFTER Valentines Day, but I wanted to show you a little bit of what we worked on that weekend. 

Some people give romantic gifts.  (we do also)..., but we also give practical things like saw blades, screws and manure. Ha!   Regardless of the holiday, Farm Guy likes to be working on projects for me around the house.  It's his way of showing me how much he loves me and cares for me. Finishing up any project is always something I can truly appreciate. 

I actually was able to get quite a few seeds started. It was lovely outside for most of the weekend so I was able to sit outside, enjoy myself and get lots of new seeds planted up.

Noahh stayed busy, and kept us on our toes by causing as much trouble as possible. You know, typical toddler stuff.

Since we removed the deck a few weeks ago, we've been without a set of stairs coming off the back of the house.  That's right, no stairs! Just a short ladder that we had to climb each time we wanted in or out of the back of the house.  No biggie, but it was certainly getting old.

Erick had all of the materials we needed weeks prior to the project, but we just kept running out of time. It was nice that we were really able to focus on this big "to-do" that had been plaguing us for a few weeks.

While Erick built us a new platform and steps, I visited the chickens. Fluffy butt here was being quite the show off.  She's so pretty, I just wish those feathers on her feet could stay clean! They really add to her charm when she's all "cleaned up". 

So I want you to meet "Danny". (as in Danny DeVito).  I named him this because he's just SO tiny.  Even smaller than our smallest hen, "Anime", our Red Shouldered Yokohama.   We adopted him after we re-homed our malicious Polish Roo, "Nugget".    We felt like the girls still needed a guy around, but I didn't want to fear for my life each time I went into the chicken run. So this guy seemed to be the perfect fit for our flock and family.  Seriously, he's just the smallest little guy and a complete sweetheart.

My precious "Anime". This girl is one of my favorites! (mostly because of the super small, white eggs she lays)...

The girls blessed us with a beautiful Valentines Gift as well. So many pretty eggs, all different and unique, just like they are. 

Farm guy actually had gotten quite far along in this little project while I was meandering with the chickens...

Noahh just loved helping Daddy. She handed him each screw that he needed to secure the deck boards to the framing. 

He actually completed the whole project, I just failed to get a "finished" picture of it! I'll have to do that for you in the next few days so you can see how beautiful it turned out. Now we have a nice little "landing area" when you step out of the back door, and a few steps leading you down into the covered patio area. 

...and LASTLY for my Valentines Day surprises, Farm Guy magically constructed me a brand new farm-stand bench made completely out of reclaimed wood.  I LOVE IT! For those who are able to visit our farm-stand, you won't be able to miss it.  All of our goodies are placed on top of this rustic table, built by my favorite guy in the whole wide world. 

Growing Lettuce & Leafy Greens on your Patio

Now that we have plenty of seedlings that need to be transplanted outside, we're beginning to move them out into their new homes, one tiny plant at a time.  We started a bunch of lettuces and leafy greens a few weeks ago and they were ready to be moved outdoors! 
(so were our first round of peas!) 

Because we usually eat at least 1 salad a day, especially during Spring and Summer, this year I wanted to make sure our lettuces and leafy greens were close enough to the house so we'd be able to harvest easily.  Sometimes because of how busy my day is, how wild my kids are, or the weather being rainy and wet...I find myself not being able to walk down into the gardens each day so this year we're planting all of our greens right on our patio, for an easy harvest! 

We selected 4 of these large pots, and picked 4 perfect locations. Most were partial shade, which the lettuces and greens just love!  

I poured almost an entire bag of our Organic Blend potting mix into each container. 

Then I arranged all of our seedlings into each pot.  Each container has one "larger" leafy green like kale, or spinach in the center, and then has 5 smaller lettuces or greens surrounding it.

Each of our 4 containers are all growing completely different greens, so that's 24 varieties of lettuces and leafy greens I have growing right on my patio right now! Planting this close to the house, and in containers like this will make harvesting for salads or fresh juice making a cinch!

Get your own Lettuce & Leafy Green seeds here to build your own "Patio Salad Bar"!

How to Grow Onions from Onion Sets

Onions are a cold-season crop and very easy to grow. One of the reasons I love putting our onion sets into the ground in late January-mid February, is because they are very cold-hardy and usually can be planted without the threat of any damage occurring because of frost.  

We grow onions from sets, starts & seed.  We love visiting our local nursery and grabbing a few bags of their organic onion sets, like the ones pictured here. This year, we're growing white, yellow and red onions from sets.  

As I mentioned, growing onions from sets is very easy and a great alternative to growing onions if you don't have time to start them from seed.  Also, if you have a shorter growing season, you might want to think about growing them from starts or sets.  This year, we decided to use one of our 8x5 raised beds for the onion sets.

When planting onions follow these basic guidelines:

-Onions need full sun, where they won't be shaded by other plants.

-Choose a nitrogen rich soil, that is well drained and loose.  Sometimes if you choose soil that is too compacted it will affect the growth of your bulbs.

-Add aged manure into the soil before planting.  Onions require constant nourishment to produce big bulbs.   I usually lay a bag or two of steer manure onto the top of each bed before planting. I then add a bag of rich top soil as well before raking it all together, and planting my sets. 

-Plant your onions as soon as the soil is workable.  Make sure the soil temp isn't going below 20 degrees F. or use a straw mulch on top of your onions if you're worried about a heavy frost hitting.

-Plant your sets 1 inch deep, 4-5 inches between each plant.  
Grow them in rows 6-12 inches apart. 

-Each year, practice crop rotation with your onions.  

Once you have your onions planted, fertilize them every few weeks with a nitrogen fertilizer.  Once the bulb has started to emerge from the soil, you can stop fertilizing.  Don't ever push the bulbs back into the soil. This is a natural and much needed course for your onion bulb to take during it's development.

 They generally don't require much water especially if you use mulch like we do. If you want a sweeter onion, use more water.

Want a more IN-DEPTH planting guide on how to grow and care for onions? GO HERE.

Meet the New Duckers!

 What a week we've had here at the homestead. Between building the new coop, working on the deck/patio area, planting, and doing our everyday farm chores...we haven't had a lot of free time. We did manage to get away one day last week to Fall City, Wa. where we went to Baxter Barn.  There, we picked up a few new friends to add to our urban farm family.  

 Meet our new duckers!  Aren't they the sweetest, most beautiful? I know, I'm a little biased because I'm the mommy but I'm just in love with these pretty girls. With the help of our followers we were able to give them names too! 

Without further adieu....

Please meet ..."Flipper" and "Zsa Zsa"! 

We knew when we saw them that these were the ducks we were meant to have and fall in love with!
 Did you know that the crest on ducks are actually a genetic birth defect? The crested gene in these ducks is linked to a lethal condition during incubation. Ducklings carrying both genes for the crest do not survive to hatch. Of those that do hatch, typically 1/3 of them will not have crests.  

 The "crest" on the top of their heads, are just areas of fatty tissue that cover a gap in their skull.   These birds are known to have seizures and neurological problems, but we love them regardless. They are our "special" birds.   

While they are good utility ducks, crested ducks are often kept as pets and ornamental ducks due to their unusual, but lovely appearance. 

Crested Ducks weigh between 6 and 7.25 pounds, making them medium sized. They lay between 100-130 eggs per year making them decent layers as well!

The Duckers seem to be loving their new home.  For a "temporary pond" we went a little red-neck and busted out the kiddie pool.   Hopefully in a few days, we'll get them a real "in-ground swimming pond" for their enjoyment.  I love watching the ducks swim around in their pool.  We have it sitting right next to the creek, so it's almost like they're swimming in the real thing.

We're looking forward to receiving our first duck eggs from them once they get adjusted. They've already made their nests inside the chicken coop. We'll keep you posted on those eggs when they make their appearance!

Welcome lovelies! We hope you enjoy your new home.

Our New Chicken Coop, a Lowes Shed Converted

Our chickens were in desperate need of a new coop. When we built our last one, we didn't take into account how cold and wet it really can get here in the Pacific Northwest, and it just wasn't very function-able.   After plenty of debate, pinterest searching, and sketching up dozens of coop designs, we went the easy route.  Maybe not the least expensive choice, but it made sense for us.  

Now don't get me wrong, I love and adore all of those rustic and homemade chicken coops all over the internet. They are LOVELY!  ...and while I consider myself to be fairly artistic and able to come up with a cute design for our new coop, I just didn't have the time. Let's face it, running an urban farm, tending to children, trying to maintain the home and family life left me for little extra time to come up with and build a new coop. We just had too many projects going on at once, and this wasn't on the top of our priority list, even though it was still pretty important. 

We ended up taking the "easy route" and purchasing a resin shed from Lowes.  We chose the one with the design we loved the most and loaded it up into the pickup and hauled it home. 

I was totally sold on this idea of turning a shed into a chicken coop. In just a few hours, we'd have a fully function-able chicken coop, that was aesthetically pleasing and one that would withstand the weather elements and time. I didn't want to be re-building a coop again anytime soon.

When we got home we opened up the box, got the pieces laid out and began working. 

It took Erick and I just a few hours to get the entire shed constructed. 

The goats were incredibly curious. I think they were hoping this would be their new home! Hold your horses girls, your new goat shed is coming soon. I promise! 

Once all of the walls were up, the chickens became curious as well.  They were so excited, I could just see it in their little eyes.

The chickens just watched us so intently as we worked on their new coop. 

Erick cut a door in the side of the coop so they would have access in and out. we just had to make sure it was small enough so the goats wouldn't get in. They are famous for sneaking into the chicken coop! 

After he cut the door into the coop, we ran electrical and water down into the coop.  MUST HAVES. 

Our shed also had a window in the back that came with plexi-glass to install into the frame, however decided to leave the glass off to allow for adequate ventilation.  It worked perfectly! We didn't need to cut in any additional ventilation holes. 

In a few hours, we had a beautiful new coop that would keep our chickens safe, dry and warm!  
We've been working hard on decorating the inside of the coop too, and we can't wait to share that post with you later. 

Don't have time to build a new coop? I highly suggest purchasing a shed and converting it!

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