Garden, Bees, & Chickens – Photos

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Lots going on in the garden lately! After six years of killing plants, we finally have a decent garden at 7,500′ here in Estes Park. Everything is growing like crazy; we’re even getting vine ripened red tomatoes right out of the garden. No greenhouse, hydroponics, et cetera, just plants in dirt. Well, soil. Our success wasn’t due to any one factor, but rather a few changes. First, we planted everything in raised beds full of pure composted horse manure. Second, we watered a lot during dry periods (by hand). Finally, we tried to choose plant varieties suited to our environment. The tomatoes, for example, are “Silvery Fir Tree” plants that I grew from seed. (Contrary to other reviews, we’ve found that the silvery fir tree tomatoes taste great! Much better than the store bought tomatoes we tried them against last week.) We bought our seed from Seed Savers Exchange. Quick recap: snow peas, spinach, lettuce, kale, beans, sunflowers, tomatoes, red onions and wheat have all done great. Acorn squash, blue potatoes, and carrots are looking good but too early to tell for sure. Quinoa and chard have been a bit too thirsty for our hand watering. Radishes didn’t do anything for us.

The chickens are doing well, though it can be tough to coax a pose for the camera. Getting between 6 and 12 eggs per day from our fifteen hens. The “Red Broiler” hens are, evidently, fine layers as well. We’ve abandoned composting in favor of tossing every scrap of green waste (from weeding, kitchen, et cetera) to the birds, and they appreciate it. I spread the now six year old and not quite ready compost as mulch on some of the shrub beds around the house. The birds do a much much better job of turning scraps and weeds into protein and fertilizer….and they love it, as well. No onion peels, raw potatoes, citrus, or banana peels for those ladies, though!

The big new addition to the garden is a hive of bees, relocated earlier this week from Denver. It is a top-bar hive, made by the folks at www.backyardhive.com, and is full of thriving honeybees and their winter stash of honey. We’ll harvest their surplus in the spring. They wasted no time in locating all the flowering plants in the neighborhood, and bring back nectar and pollen to the hive. If the six foot wire and wood fence doesn’t keep the bears away this fall, we’re hoping that .6 joules of electric fence will. I touched it, and it doesn’t seem that bad…

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