Friday’s Farm: Onions

Ah, onions. Spring onions, bunching, storage, or fresh eating onions, they are a must for the home garden. Not only are they easy to grow, but they are sweeter and moister fresh from the soil. No to mention that onions and garlic are my favorite crop to grow for market.

The easiest way to grow onions is to purchase sets. Sets are small onions from the previous year. I purchase mine from the local co-op. They cost $1.25 a pound. They’re not the best option for storage onions when planted in early spring. However, they do alright when planted in late spring. Sets are the standard for spring onions and fresh from the garden onions. If you plant them every two weeks you can have fresh onions from late March until the first week of October.

For storage onions the easiest option is sticks. Sticks? Yes. That’s what the locals call them. Sticks are simply young onion plants. Just like sets they go straight into the ground and grow. I usually set mine out the first week in March. They are a little more expensive, and frankly a little more fragile than the sets. But if you want storage food they are the way to go.

Soil

Since onions are bulbing they need room and loose soil. I find that growing a sweet onion requires a sweet soil. I like to work fresh cow manure into my soil in the late winter before the ground freezes. Once the sets are up several inches I mulch with composted sheep manure. Even my white onions are sweet and mild. They are one of my best sellers and I find rotten manure makes the difference.

How I plant

I’m not a row gardener at heart and my spring onion crop is a testament to my preference for intensive space saving methods. While my neighbors plant one onion per row with eighteen inches between rows I plant mine in a twelve foot wide row, four across, and twelve inches between rows. In short I pack three times as many plants in the same space. I like to leave about 2.5 inches between my plants. Once planted I water. I prefer planting right before a small rain. It’s less work. Since I only sell spring onions I pick the largest first. This allows room for the smaller ones to grow. By July I’m pulling fist size onions and replacing them with fall crops. To actually plant I just rake the soil and then push the bulb in, root end down, with my index finger. I stop at my knuckle and then pat the dirt over. Easy peasy.

Onion Enemies

Onions do not like weeds. This is the big reason I mulch them with rotten manure. They also like to breathe. So, I avoid using wool or other heavy mulches on them.

Drought is a huge issue for any type of onion . So is drowning. Keep the soil consistently moist.

I have yet to experience any diseases in my onion crops. However, thrips do attack in summer. However, I find keeping a healthy army of ladybugs, lace wings, and damsel bugs along with removing infected plants clears up the problem quickly without intervention. The few times I have taken action I’ve only used an organic garden soap.

So what are you waiting on? Go get some some sets and sticks this weekend and plant something easy!

Until next time,

Kindness day by day.

Life Without Guile

Guile. Charm. Slyness. Hidden Agenda. Cunning. Trickery. Deception. Call it what you will, it’s all around us. It erodes trust and simple, straight forward communication. What is the opposite of guile? Frankness. Trust. Openness. Sincerity. Honor. Honest relationships.

I am surrounded by guileless people. It is incredible freeing to have simple, straightforward conversations. I never doubt what I’m told. I never doubt an act of kindness is anything other than genuine and heartfelt. I never doubt my relationships with those in my faith circle. It is only in experiencing relationships with complete lack of guile that I have come to understand deep trust. It is freeing. It is a return to innocence and purity. And in that innocence and trust is a healing very few of us in the modern world get to experience.

Can you imagine every conversation being charged with that deep trust, openness, and sincerity. No flippant attitudes. No false charm. No guessing if the person really likes you or is just playing a part. Imagine every “Good Job” or “I’m so happy to see you” being true. Imagine a relationship where you may not hear “I love you” often, but when you do hear it, you know with no doubt that it was the truest statement you ever heard.

A total lack of guile, a totally open and honest relationship with your family, friends, and co-workers begins in the hardest place – Humility. Only when we let go of our egos can we begin to drop the facades. Only when we delve into the setting aside of “me” can we begin to trace the root of kindness – Humility and a heart freed from Guile.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah and the flock

 

 

Monday’s Musings: The Illusion of Control

Today (Sunday) was one of those days. I overslept, and while stumbling from my camper up to the main house I discovered the cattle were out. Cash had “the calves” out front and upon seeing me directed them towards to logging road leading up to the woods – and eventually Kentucky. I hollered at mom and ran after them. Remember that running… it’s a theme. Fortunately, Profit, my little Jersey Angus ox to be likes me happy and helped me bring them into the barnyard. He and his baby brother Asset stopped off at their stall and had a snack while the rest of the bunch returned to the momma cows. I went back to get the boys and discovered that Asset was bit, well, on his namesake. He’s also bit on the leg. I think either a dog or coyote got after the younger animals. I lean towards a dog running them.

Later, we made a hay run. It was pleasant. But we spent a great deal longer than expected. We came home, started chores, and then chased the cows and “the calves” across the river and through the woods. Okay, I chased the cattle. Finally, mom appeared with the grain in the front field (after I chased them there) and into the secured paddock they all went with plenty of hay.

They sheep were WILD. The excitement with the cattle really lit a fire under their silliness. It was actually pretty funny to watch. My rooster Kang and his hen got out. I finally ran him into a stall and closed the door. Nancy the Gander became separated from the rest of the gaggle. Again – running. I no sooner had him in when Dragland the head gander attacked him. Draggy is spending some alone time this evening. Somewhere during all of this Henny Penny, my blind hen, started having breathing issues. We rushed her into the house and performed the necessary vet care. She’s much better.

These are just the highlights from today. Today with plans of fencing, baking breakfast bars, gathering wood violets for homemade candies violets, clean sheets drying on the line, and a Sunday afternoon nap. We had a plan. We had poise. We had control.

No. We had a plan. We had poise. We had chaos. Control is only an illusion. I can call today a bad day, or I can call it today. Today was just today. I accept today just as it is, as it was, as it will be. I have no control over today. I have no control over tomorrow. By simply accepting today as today I have no real disappointment. While chasing the cattle I discovered a patch of dyer’s broom, a glorious patch of violets, a new red flower I’ve never seen before, and found out my old retired milk cow has allot more agility than I thought. Profit proved that he can listen even in trying circumstances. We have a new hay source.

The only control I have is to accept and allow each day, or to fight every moment and rob myself the pleasures that each moment bring. Control is only a feeling, and it’s a feeling born of fear and disappointment. I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I really want in my life.

Until next time,

Craft no harm

 

Moriah

Friday’s Flock – The Mighty Ox & How NOT to Handle Mucking the Sheep Pen

The Mighty Ox

 

I always wanted a pony growing up. I’m a good rider, and I trained hunter/jumper. I’m also good at using a horse to round up, drive, and cut cattle. I was never horse obsessed, but I was definitely horsey. So, I was excited to get my first horse. Then I was relieved to rehome her. Living with a horse and riding a retired champion are very different experiences. Somehow I expect them to act more like cattle.

So, when Bossy had a calf in 2016 I decided we needed an ox. Duke just isn’t cut out for life as a riding ox. He knows every command, he loves to do what you tell him. But, he’s a hot mess on his top line with a shark fin down his back. If you’re looking for a year old Jersey to pull, I have a deal for you!

So, a few months ago I decided to train Asset as an ox. He’s my little bottle mini Jersey. He has always looked and acted more like a little doe than a steer. He isn’t especially bright either, but he’s sweet, calm, loves me, and has a smooth back. He just can’t figure out right from left.

A few weeks ago we were walking through the woods. He heard a squirrel in the bushes and jumped between me and the bush, pawing in a challenge.  Yeah. That’s my boy and his heart of gold. He’ll never be big and strong, but he’s my mighty ox.


Mucking 

Oh mucking! It’s the great challenge of keeping animals in a barn. Be it horses, cattle, ducks, geese, chickens, or chinchillas, somehow all that wonderful fertilizer has to get out of the barn an be transformed into usable compost. I use composted manure in my garden. It makes gorgeous, healthy, disease and bug resistant plants. People say my tomatoes are excellent. I tell them to thank the sheep.

Like many homesteaders I own all most every Joel Salitan book written. He has some wonderful ideas. One idea is to let everything stay in the barn until spring and muck it out in with a tractor or skidder. The hay and the flock’s deposits are supposed to break down into beautiful compost. I don’t have a tractor or skidder. I think that was my first mistake.

The second was thinking my gang of mutannous hooligans would actually eat their hay instead of pulling it out and using it as bum fodder. In Joel’s defense we do have some gorgeous compost absolutely. However, the day I realized my head was even with the barn loft, I decided to abandon ship.

Now, you’d think I would just get in there with the shovel and rakes and the truck and be done. After all, it’s only twelve sheep, not one hundred. After three hours and several truckloads the pen floor is now three inches lower. Yep, one inch an hour. Keep in mind it usually takes me five minutes to rake out the pen daily. Five minutes of raking versus an hour of heavy shoveling. This definitely did not save time, energy, or my neck.

So, for now I’m back to raking out the top layer of bedding everyday and spending an hour or two every week hauling compost to the garden. I expect to be dug out by summer – just in time to haul bags of gorgeous, clean compost to the farmer’s market.

In all you do, craft no harm

Moriah