2015 has officially ended. Let’s look back at how our farm and gardening endeavors played out this past year. We had a fairly steady year with good food being grown and plenty of animals to keep us busy.
We dabble in a variety of things related to farming and gardening, but chickens will always be a main stay for us. That being said, this year we did take a slight step back. We didn’t incubate eggs, we didn’t attend any shows or swaps, and Farm Kid2 decided not to continue with poultry in 4H. But, that doesn’t mean we’re short on chickens.
The majority of our birds are Rhode Island Reds and Easter Eggers. But, we still have two golden polish hens that are nearly 4 years old. They lay a fairly small egg and are such a great looking bird.
Mo, our Easter Egger rooster, has been demoted. For a number of years he was our top rooster. However, some young, cocky boys have moved up and taken his spot in the pecking order.
Three of our handsome fellas.
We were given this Old English Game bantam. I think he’s beautiful. He’s meant to be a show bird, but at the moment nobody in our family is showing poultry.
This wasn’t an outstanding egg year. One day, though, Farm Girl decided to count how many eggs we had.
We raised 10 birds for meat. Usually we roast the whole chicken, but one night Farmer John made chicken strips. They were delicious!
Four white leghorns, one buff orpington, one barred rock and one black australorp were added to our laying flock this year.
The ducks have given us a bit of excitement by each hen hatching eggs this year. That’s a first for us.
Our two Welsh Harlequin ducks.
Sally, our male Muscovy. The left photos are from January and February of this year. The right was taken in September. His looks changed significantly.
I’ve enjoyed watching how the Welsh Harlequin/Muscovy cross ducklings change as they mature.
Unfortunately, we lost Sally and one of the Welsh Harlequins to predators in the fall.
The goats are cute as can be doing goat type things. You can read more about them here.
We’ve had two sets of hogs this year. The first round Farm Kid1 raised 2 and sold them to earn money for a computer.
The second round was to fill our freezer, as well as to sell. The pigs were a Hampshire/Berkshire cross.
OLIVER & LOIS
A couple weeks ago we acquired a pot bellied pig named Oliver, and his friend Lois, a pygmy goat. My hope was we could be their forever home and they would live happily ever after with Sven and Olaf. Unfortunately, things aren’t working out as well as I had hoped. So, we are in the process of finding them a new home.
There wasn’t a lot of action this year in our flower beds. But, the same ol’ trusty trees, shrubs and perennials put on a pretty show mainly in the spring and summer months.
The ducks, unfortunately, are not great for the plants. They step on them. They sleep on them. They poop on them.
The deer also make flower gardening a challenge. Apparently some of our plants are quite tasty.
The only new additions to our flower beds were 10 lavender ‘grosso’ plants. They’re in an area that I’ve struggled with for years. I finally decided lavender was the thing to spruce it up.
We have two small ponds that I love. Our farm critters as well as wild critters love them, too.
GARDENING FOR FOOD
Another thing we didn’t spend as much time on as in years past, was the garden. It is incredibly time consuming keeping up with the weeds and by the end of summer it had gotten a bit out of hand. We did harvest some produce, though. We got onions, potatoes, a few eggplant and squash, cherry tomatoes & herbs.
We tried the three sisters method in one area of the garden. Corn, beans and squash all growing together. It worked kind of . Everything grew. But, we tend to have trouble with corn and it didn’t grow fast enough before the beans grew tall. The squash (pumpkins & gourds) grew well, though.
Many of our seeds didn’t germinate this year. I think the birds got to them. Darn it. I should have had a fabulous showing of tall sunflowers mixed with viney cucumbers growing underneath. What I got was one sunflower. One.
This was not a great year for tomatoes. We only picked a handful of big, juicy red ones. It was so hot this summer, I actually think we didn’t water them enough. We did, however, get renegade yellow cherry tomatoes. They reseeded from last year and were a pleasant surprise.
Fruit. My favorite items to pick from the garden is the fruit. Our grape vines are finally producing well, we got a couple apples, lots of plums and lots of raspberries.
Our only big project of the year was pouring a much needed back patio. We decided to do stamped concrete, which was a lot of work. But, I’m so happy to finally have a patio. The ducks, too, are quite happy with the patio. It is one of their favorite places to hang out and poop.
This was our first full year experimenting with aquaponics. We have three grow beds, one fish tank and a sump tank.
A good sized pump cycles the water and aquarium heaters keep it warm. Depending on the time of year we keep the water between 70 and 80 degrees.
We have a fan for circulation in the greenhouse.
Grown in the garden beds were/are peppers, Mexican sour gherkins, tomatoes, eggplant, mixed greens and okra. This growing method works very well.
I also started nasturtiums right in the garden bed and overwintered geraniums that loved the greenhouse.
We grow tilapia in the fish tank part of the aquaponics system. The fish aren’t growing as quickly as we thought they would. But, at the beginning of December we did finally catch a couple fish and have them for dinner. I was hoping they’d be good, and they were.
Whew! There were no major plant or animal changes this year. But, just keeping up kept us plenty busy. It’s so much work living this way, but so rewarding. I can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring.