Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Early Harvests

I love the earliest harvests of spring, especially asparagus and rhubarb. The first taste of grilled asparagus reminds me why I'm a farmer. These two crops pop up so early and easily in the spring that they seem effortless. Of course, I've conveniently forgotten that I composted and mulched them last fall. Right now, they seem almost miraculous and provide enough inspiration to lure me outside to the gardens.

This morning I harvested baby carrots, kale and bok choi. I started them by seed in February, beneath grow lights indoors. They were transferred outdoors into a covered raised bed in early April. The weather was lousy and I didn't expect to harvest anything. It isn't much of a harvest, but I'm grateful that anything managed to survive this spring.

The herbs have done nicely in the greenhouse--basil, chives, rosemary, and sage--also providing a little inspiration for my gardening soul.

That's all for now. I'm off to bake rhubarb custard pie. It's what's for breakfast in the morning.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Managing the Orchard

Anyone who has gardened for more than a year or two knows that the garden is never finished. Most great gardens are in a constant state of transition as the gardener discovers which plants flourish in any specific location and which do not. This is also true at our fruit orchard here at Red Bucket Farm.

Last year, our large peach tree produced ninety pounds of juicy sweet fruit. We're still eating from that harvest! But the winter of 2013-14 was cold and colder, and the peach tree has barely survived. This tree is located at the bottom of the hill in a micro-climate that didn't fare as well as the trees up the hill. It didn't bloom this spring at all, and we're nursing it with chicken poop tea and hoping that it will recover this summer to produce again in 2015.

On the other hand, our three cherry trees bloomed beautifully and are developing little fruits. Hooray for winter-hardy pie cherries!

The new trees in the front yard orchard are doing well, or most of them are. Two peach trees, three pear trees and one apricot tree all bloomed lightly and are making a few small fruits---not bad considering these are still very small trees. One additional apricot tree (important for cross pollination) is struggling. This is the second tree of that variety we've planted in that location and it's just not happy. We suspect that the roots are too wet and the soil isn't draining well. We've removed the tree to a container for recuperation, and we've ordered a different apricot variety to plant in its place. We'll create a mounded hill to help with drainage and we'll amend the soil with Turface and chicken grit.

Every evening we wander through the orchard and check on our trees. Slowly we're discovering which trees belong in each location. A fruit tree gives a lot of bang for your buck, so it pays to be attentive and invest in the home orchard.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Gardening Hand Tools

All our gardening efforts at Red Bucket Farm occur in raised beds or terraced beds, so hand tools are very important. We've never used a rototiller! So without further ado, here are my favorite hand tools.

This is my cultivator. It's triangular head moves large amounts of soil with minimal effort. I use this extensively in the spring when I'm preparing the beds for planting---loosening the soil after the compaction of winter snow and stirring in fresh compost. I use it again in the fall when I remove old plants and add more compost. I painted the handle bright blue after I lost it in the yard for a few days.

This garden knife is awesome. Manufactured by A.M. Leonard, the six inch blade is serrated on one side, good for cutting off those volunteer black walnut trees that the squirrels insist on planting. This tool is the perfect dibber, opening a quick hole in the soil to drop in seed potatoes or tiny onion plants. It's also great for opening bags of chicken bedding and food. Please notice that I washed it nicely for it's photograph.

I've had this hand rake for many years. I use it to remove the straw mulch covering beds in the spring and fall, for raking the yuck from between the currant bushes, and for a hundred other things that I can't remember. It's not particularly valuable, but I don't know how I would function without it.

This is a CobraHead weeder, made right here in Wisconsin. It's tiny head is perfect for weeding in small spaces. A bright blue plastic handle means that I don't lose it too often.

Forget those adorable little hand shovels that move dirt a few tablespoons at a time. This scoop moves a considerable amount of compost. Sorry that I didn't wash this one.

Remember that hand tools do not require gasoline or spew pollution. Their storage needs are simple---just clean them up, oil them occasionally and store in a dry location.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Accidental Rooster

Our spring chicks are now eight weeks old and no longer little balls of fluff. They have grown adult feathers and spend their days outside comfortably in the portable coop. The only problem we're experiencing is that one of them isn't a pullet (hen). He's a cockerel and he is quickly becoming a rooster.

We named him Bob. His feet are huge. His comb and wattles are impressive for only eight weeks. He's bigger than the pullets in his breed (White Rock), and he's much bigger than the other breeds (Australorp, Wyandotte, Americauna). He protects all of his girls dutifully.

The Chicken Whisperer came home for a short visit today. When she picked up Bob, he immediately raised his hackles and was as fierce as possible, but soon calmed down. Impressive, isn't he?

Roosters aren't allowed in our municipality, so Bob will move on soon. It's been fun to watch his distinctly rooster behaviors. We'll miss him. I think....