Gardening & Goats in February

The weather has been snowy and cold for a few days and doesn’t look to be letting up anytime soon. We don’t have it near as bad as some of the folks to the north, east, and west, so I thought I would share the sounds of the coming spring. There is hope that spring will arrive, even if you’re buried under feet of snow. Before long you will be hearing this sound in your area.

I started some seedlings back on February 10th. The age of the seeds made me question their continued viability, so I planted them pretty thick. Well, most of them have done really well, to the point that they are in serious need of thinning. Here is a pictorial of their progress.

Green cabbage, February 16th

Green cabbage, February 25th

Michilli cabbage, February 25th

Kohlrabi, February 25th

When I thin these out, we will either eat the seedlings in a salad, or I will give them to the chickens. Now, if I can just get these cabbages to grow to maturity without feeding another crop of cabbage worms, that will be great.

Mixed lettuce, February 16th

Mixed lettuce, February 25th

Spinach & mixed greens, February 16th

I was surprised how much they grew in one day. February 17th

Now they really need thinning. February 25th

Onions, February 17th

Onions, about ready for a haircut to encourage bulb growth, February 25th

The broccoli didn’t do as well, but there are enough for plenty of plants. February 25th

Yesterday I decided it was time to get the carrot seedlings started. I already had some pot maker pots rolled up, but during the cold, snowy, wet weather, I rolled up a few more. It was a cold day, but the sun was shining on the west porch yesterday afternoon, so I decided to give it a try. The garden soil we have in a large trashcan on the porch was so cold! It didn’t take long before my fingers were frozen, even with gloves on. I decided to bring the three trays of pots I filled inside to thaw out before I planted the seeds. 

 This morning I planted them and watered them in with hot water. As it turns out, our indoor growing area is getting pretty full. I hope the weather warms up enough to move these cold weather crops outside into the sunshine during the day to encourage more growth and to harden them off before we plant them in the garden. If all goes according to plans, I hope to plant them around the middle of March. Next up will be starting more carrots, along with beets and green peas in more paper pots.

In the meantime, I have collected a few more short videos of the baby goats. They are doing very well, strong, healthy and active. The vet will be here this afternoon to disbud them. Today is when we were originally planning to start penning them up an night so we can get more milk. But with the disbudding and predicted 19* weather tomorrow night, we will wait until it is warmer. Maybe Saturday. Right now we aren’t getting any milk, with the cold weather, the babies are drinking it all. But we don’t hold that against them, they are babies after all.

Here is Patch chewing on One Stripe’s ear and my jeans, along with a good look at Cricket, Lady Bug and Copper. I felt Cricket’s babies kick for the first time yesterday.

Here we have babies nursing and Lady Bug on the milk stand for the second or third time. I have started bringing in my three young does to eat on the milk stand so it won’t be such a foreign place when I begin to milk them. Penny is the most hesitant about getting on the stand. Cricket and Lady Bug are doing great.

These are our day to day events, and in some ways, year to year. I’ll teach the young does to eat on the milk stand and get them used to being touched because before long they will be milked, everyday. We did this last year, and the year before, and we hope to do it next year with Patch and Buttons and ????. The garden is also day to day and year to year. It’s a cycle, and it’s a chore, but that’s what life is about, isn’t it? Now, how do I train those tomatoes to attach to that trellis? Think maybe they’ll just jump right up there? Life is good. We have high hopes for a productive garden this year. And we have high hopes for productive goats this year. Hope your dreams come true. Mine have.

Until next time – Fern

Starting the Fall Garden

Now that we completed the unscheduled plumbing repair, it is time to start planting our fall crops. This is the area where we grew potatoes in the spring.


We dug them up and tilled this space again to use for some of our fall crops. We are trying to reclaim some of this area. It has been left to the weeds for a few years and they are very happy there. It has been tilled several times this year and we plan to use a heavy mulch around the fall crops in an effort smother out more weeds.

These corn stalks will be part of the mulch back against the fence area. It will add some good organic material as well as help with weed control. Or at least that is what we hope, we will see how it goes.

Some of the seedlings we planted last week are ready to go in the garden. It doesn’t take long for winter squashes, melons and greens to be ready to plant.

The broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, snap peas, spinach and kale will be ready to plant in a few days. Today I thinned out the seedlings. It is good to know that the 3 year old seeds I planted are still viable. 

Now that I have rolled up more pots, it’s time to start more seeds.

We are growing Detroit Dark Red beets for us, but I am also trying some Sugar Beets for goat feed. They are a mangel beet that has been used for stock feed in the past. They are also good for beet sugar which we will try to make if we have a harvest. We are planting collards, turnips and parsnips, too. This is part of our effort to grow at least some of the feed for our animals. We are very interested to see how these will grow and store over the winter.

And then we are trying carrots again.We are encouraged by our spring carrot crop even though they were rather gnarled up. We tilled this end of the garden deeper (thus, finding the grey water line), so we hope our root crops do better this time.

For now, the winter squashes are planted.


The Buttercup, Cushaw and Acorn are all tucked back in this corner. Since they vine out and tend to cover a lot of ground, this corner will be filled before long.

The melons are tucked in between the new overgrown strawberry bed and the potato patch.

We are planting potatoes that we grew in the spring. Since a spring potato crop is ready to harvest in June here, the potatoes don’t keep all winter very well. We have wanted to try a fall crop of potatoes for a number of years. Here it is. We hope it produces well.

This is another area that has grown an abundance of weeds for the last few years.

It is very fertile since we ‘stored’ a load of  barnyard there a while back. We are going to try the pumpkin patch here with heavy mulch and cross our fingers.

The mixed baby greens (on the right) were planted in the herb bed between the green tea, lemon balm and oregano. It will be nice to eat a few of these, but I plan to dry most of them for the goats.

This area in front of the winter squashes will be for the beets, carrots, parsnips and turnips. Then there is the cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, collards and spinach to be tucked in somewhere. Oh, and don’t forget the snap peas. They will be finding a home here as well. Yes, we do an intensive garden, using as much space for production as possible. So, it’s always an obstacle course to get to what we are trying to harvest.
We will keep you updated on our progress with the fall garden as we learn to grow more food – for us and our animals.
Until next time – Fern

Seedlings for the Fall Garden

Frank made a great discovery a few years ago – a Pot Maker. We had always saved up a bunch of newspapers to wrap chickens in when we freeze them and various other things. When we got serious about growing our own seedlings, we wanted a way that would be economical, practical and ecological. With all of the information coming out about GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds, we were determined to grow and eat the most natural foods we could. Thus, the discovery of the Pot Maker. They are very simple wooden forms which make great little biodegradable pots. And since it is time (well, actually a little past time) to start my seedlings for the fall garden, I thought I would share this with you.

The pot maker comes with instructions and measurements for the

size of paper to use. At first I cut them according to directions. I soon figured out that you can cut six strips out of a standard sized newspaper and it works just fine, so I no longer measure. Start off by rolling the paper up on the wooden form. One 

trick I learned was to begin the fold under where the paper ended. This tucks that open part of the newspaper in first and lets the other folds hold it closed. After all of the paper is folded under, place the form into the base and twist back and

forth, shaping and somewhat sealing the bottom in place. It doesn’t take much effort or pressure to do this. Children love to make pots for seeds. So if you have any kids at home, this is a great project. Gently slide the paper off of the form. They tear

sometimes, but are still usable. The dirt will hold them together. These pots are easy to make. It doesn’t take any time at all to make up a hundred or so, and then you are ready to plant.

For now, we are buying garden soil for our seedlings. My handy red crate holds 100 pots and that will be a start. I will need to roll up about 400 more, which sounds like a lot, but it really doesn’t take long.

We buy our laundry detergent in buckets at a warehouse market and have found out that the lids make great trays for our seedlings. Each tray will hold 20 plants.


Another trick I have discovered, is to make sure I pack the dirt into the pots until they are full. Some of the first pots we did ended up with about an inch of dirt in them because after we watered them in, the dirt really settled a lot. It wasn’t really

enough to support the plant well and they dried out very quickly.  It doesn’t take long to fill the pots and get ready to plant the seeds.

One more thing learned by trial and error was paying attention to the way the pots are turned. If I put the open side of the pot toward another pot instead of facing out, they won’t gap open when I water them.


I mark my seedlings with popsicle sticks and I reuse them until they rot or break off. I have a fine tipped marker for writing the name of the plant, but some of these I have already marked and they are ready to go.

A friend was at a yard sale and saw this bundle of popsicle sticks. She knew I used them, so she brought them to me. Some people may think that is funny, but I thought it was a great gift.


I am planting Acorn, Buttercup and Cushaw squashes along with some pumpkin and melons. The seeds we buy are heirloom or open pollinated or non-hybrid. This is so we can save the seeds. Hybrid plants don’t always reproduce the same product as the original plant.

Then there are the spinach, mixed greens, kale, kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce…… 

and snap peas…..

Here are some zinnia and marigold seeds we picked this afternoon. I’ll show you how I harvested and processed some cucumber seeds in another post.

There. I have them started. That feels much better. I hope I haven’t waited too late on the winter squash. We really enjoy it. The planter in the back in another experiment. We planted some of our chicken scratch to see what would come up. So far we have sunflowers and something else that could be wheat or milo. 

The seeds are watered in and ready to germinate. Tomorrow morning Frank will hear, “Did my seeds come up last night?” I am always impatient and excited to see new growth.

Seeds are truly miracles. It always amazes me to see what can come from a tiny little seed. Soon they will be worth more than gold. Do you have a good supply of seeds to grow the things your family eats, enjoys and that will provide the nourishment necessary to carry out your daily duties? Frank has been heard to say, “You can never have too many seeds.”

Until next time – Fern