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!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Growing Shallots

Shallots have never been a part of my menu planning. I've heard of them, especially when watching cooking shows on television. But they are difficult to find in the grocery store and quite expensive for something described as a "mild onion." Just use a little onion or scallion, right?

In December I decided to educate myself about shallots so I added them to this year's garden plan. I chose Zebrune shallot seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. Zebrune shallots are a heritage variety from France. It's called a banana shallot because of its long shape. The bulbs are pinkish-brown and store well.

Just after the new year, I sprinkled shallot seeds in four inch pots and placed them under lights in the basement. Each time their green tops grew a few inches tall and began to flop over, I would give them a little haircut. In early May, I gently teased the little bunches apart and planted them individually in a raised bed outdoors. They grew tall and strong and without drama. Last week I harvested them and placed them in the sun to dry.

Truth be told, I can't quite figure out why this is a big deal. Shallots grow every bit as easily as onions and scallions. The bunnies and chipmunks leave them alone and they don't require any attention at all. It's a no brainer. If you haven't tried growing your own shallots, I recommend adding this to next year's wish list.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Man's Best Friend

If you've ever visited Red Bucket Farm, you know that we have a loud and protective dog. Beta is a German Shepherd mix. She came to us in 2006 after having survived a couple of different shelter situations. At first Beta was afraid of nearly everything, but given time and love she slowly recovered. Beta is occasionally helpful on the farm, herding chickens and chasing squirrels. She's in charge of farm security, but mostly she's just a good companion.

Over the last several months, we've noticed that Beta no longer enjoyed her daily walks around the neighborhood. It came on gradually. She didn't seem to be afraid of anything necessarily, but she didn't want to go outside very much at all. As the spring rolled into summer, her reluctance grew even more. By June, she refused to walk entirely. I would hold her on the leash at the end of the driveway and she would simply refuse to move. I finally gave up and left her alone, abandoning our daily walks. I knew she was physically healthy, but I wondered about her mental health. Eventually, we got her to the veterinarian for a check up and we decided to put her on anti-depressant medication for a few months.

Beta is much better now, but after some reflection, we don't think her recovery has much to do with medication. We suspect that Beta has been protecting the human she loves the most in the whole world--my husband. In early June, Mr. Red Bucket had his right hip replaced. The previous six months were painful for him as the cartilage in his hip wore away entirely. Of course the rest of the family was willing to walk the dog, but some people prefer to persevere in pain rather than sit around. Using trekking poles, he would walk slowly with the dog trailing behind him.

Recovery has been sweet. My husband and the dog walk every morning. Beta's ears are up, her tail wagging, and she's leading the way once again. If that's not love, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Three Sisters

Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans planted a trio of complementary crops: corn to grow tall, beans to vine up the corn stalks, and low growing squash to shade the root systems. This trio is known as the Three Sisters.

We've grown pole beans and squash together at Red Bucket Farm for a few years, but this year we added corn, the third sister. I was reluctant to grow corn because it encourages raccoons, and heaven knows they don't need any encouragement. But I could hardly resist a little package of corn seeds known as Blue Jade, a miniature plant with ears of sweet steel-blue kernels that turn jade-blue when boiled.

This raised bed is growing nicely. The beans are indeed crawling up the corn (see the photo above). It's important to keep a close eye on the beans, as they grow from toothpick-size to the size of a cigar seemingly overnight. The ears of corn and the squash are still developing. It's a different kind of sisterhood!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Marilyn's First Egg

Marilyn laid her first egg today! She's been preparing for this big moment for a few weeks. Yesterday morning she snuggled in a nest box for a good thirty minutes--she was practicing--and for the last couple of weeks she's been hanging out in the hen house watching the older girls carefully as they lay. This morning Marilyn was mighty bossy to the other pullets, and I could tell she was feeling all grown up and important.

Marilyn is a Silver-Laced Wyandotte. We named her after actress Marilyn Monroe because a Wyandotte is a full-bodied and curvaceous hen, and the silver lacing on her plumage makes her an awfully glamorous addition to the chicken yard. Marilyn was hatched on March 10, 2014. The previous Wyandotte on Red Bucket Farm took a full seven months to lay her first egg, so Marilyn is ahead of schedule.

This morning's egg is tiny--less than two inches long--with a perfectly smooth and shiny tan-colored shell. Subsequent eggs will grow in size. Marilyn has finished bragging and strutting. She's settled in the dirt for a quiet afternoon in the shade. Well done, Marilyn!