|Laura over at Homeschool High Plains is letting me live vicariously through her and taking us on a trip through her farm as they spring clean. Come along and join the journey…|
Every spring I dream of deep cleaning my house. . . as I tug on my muck boots and hit the back door. That’s ok, dust is just part of life here in Nebraska. The furniture wouldn’t know how to survive without it.
With eight acres, most farmers wouldn’t call this a farm, but to this east coast girl, it counts. We have all the farm basics:
- chicken coop
- old house
- more weeds
- mixed-breed dog
- cats bearing kittens
- plenty of animal poo
- and the never ending to-do list
The busiest time of year is springtime. I have a wonderful gardening book that says of April:
“This is the month that gardening starts to be fun. If I had my way, April would be 60 days instead of 30, each marked with a new blossom, a new blade of grass, or a different tree coming into bloom. . . . For the gardener, April’s 30 days are filled with feverish activity.” – Jane Pepper’s Garden, by Pepper, p.19
1. Sunday afternoon: Taking inventory. After church, take a walk and see what you might need. Make a shopping list of garden tools that need replacing, bedding items to pick up for animals, soil amendments, etc. If you live in a dry climate like I do, where watering is critical, you may want to check your hoses and sprinklers for winter damage or cracking. Fix or replace as necessary. Pour some coffee and make a list of the seeds you’ll need. This is my favorite part of spring!
2. Monday: Shop and Sharpen. Pick up those things on your list. If you live in the country, you’ll be glad to get it all in one trip to town. Don’t forget extra bulbs for the heat lamps if you’re getting chicks! When you get home from town check on all your garden tools. Make sure they are clean and sharpened and ready to go. I take my mower blades to the neighbor for a sharpening. Any garden tools should be washed up with soapy water with just a touch of bleach. This will help keep any plant pathogens from spreading from last years garden.
3. Tuesday: Perennial Maintenance. Clean out your garden beds, which can nearly take all day around here. We live in the Cornhusker State, a name given to us because we hoard them in our yards all winter. When fall garden prep calls for mulching your beds to protect them, I don’t worry on the years my neighbor has corn… the wind takes care of that for me. This spring we hauled off two garden trailer loads, from each flower bed! Underneath were my lovely perennials begging for sunlight, but safe from the cold snaps that are inevitable each spring. This is also an ideal time to divide or move your perennials. The only ones you may want to wait on would be your early spring bloomers, like iris and daffodils. They can be moved in the fall. This spring I will be dividing my peppermint and sage, and also relocating some allium bulbs. My sweet hubby spent an entire day raking last year’s brown grass off of the lawn, so the new stuff could come up. You can also get a “de-thatching blade” for your lawn mower and do it faster.
4. Wednesday: Barn and Outbuildings. Clean out the chicken coop, and deposit the “good stuff” in the compost bin. Make sure the laying boxes have fresh bedding and put clean straw under the other animals (like we do under our rabbit cages). Some of our neighbors are already done with this step as they welcome baby goats and calves. Such a fun time of year. While cleaning out an empty chicken coop, we discovered a nest of new barn kittens! This is why I love farm life. This is also a good time to scrub and sanitize (again with a little hot soapy water) your animal waterers and feeders. Remember that these animals are your food providers. Our 4H club taught the kids this standard: if you wouldn’t eat or drink out of it, it’s not clean enough. Needless to say, we do this step much more frequently than just springtime.
5. Thursday: Pruning. There are several things around the farm-yard that benefit from pruning. It’s a principle that applies as well to the farmer as it does to the vine. Small branches leach away energy from the main vine. When plants aren’t putting so much energy into expanding they can focus on producing. I put on my gloves, grab my snips, and head out. I’ve always been nervous to cut off too much, but after the first year, seeing the yield on my grapevine doubled, I’m more willing to make the “cut.” A great resource on how to prune grapes and other fruit trees and vines is the Backyard Homestead, by Madigan. Other plants that you can prune this time of year are lilac bushes, raspberry canes, and other woody shrubs. My rosebushes always have a significant amount of winter-kill to prune out, but the reward of profuse blooming makes dealing with the thorns worthwhile.
6. Friday: Garden Prep. If you haven’t done it already, have your soil tested so you know what amendments are needed. Pull out any dried up rubbish from the previous year, and turn it under. We do this part rather early in spring, since we add chicken manure all winter, and want to give it sufficient time to break down. Check the condition of your tomato cages and garden hoses. One of my favorite early planting tricks is to lay two boards down the sides of a three foot row, and laying old storm windows across them to create a cold frame. I lift the glass for watering, but can get earlier germination for my cold weather crops, like peas and lettuce. Another reason to get your garden turned over early is so you can have your potatoes in by Good Friday. This year we had a late snow, so I didn’t make that old adage deadline, but potatoes can truly be planted quite early. This goes well with my spring cleaning in the cellar, since I often have a box of last years potatoes already sprouting down there.
7. Saturday: Burning Brush. Be sure you’ve picked up a burn permit from your local fire department, and call it in before you begin. Around here spring is full of the smell of smoke as farmers burn all the weeds in the irrigation ditches. The weeds must be cleared before the water is turned on. In our yard, by the time we’ve cleaned up all the corn-husks, pruned branches, and dead weeds and perennial plant parts, we have quite the burn pile assembled. It’s hard to find a day when the wind isn’t blowing, but if we find one, we carefully burn off all of the old. . . and water well to get on with the new.
This may all seem like a lot of work, but when the sun is setting, and the barn is basking in it’s golden glow, you know it was all worth it. Bring on the summer heat, baby chicks, and garden bounty! The joy of working the ground with your hands is a reward in itself.
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Laura is redeemed by Jesus, a wife to Ben, and a mom to 4 miracles on Earth. Making her home on the high plains, far from the east coast bustle she grew up around, she loves worshiping, homeschooling, gardening, baking, chicken keeping, reading, and being a birth Doula. Laura writes about her adventures in country life on her blog www.homeschoolhighplains.blogspot.com.