July 2023 Garden Update

As you may know, this month Vermont experienced a “thousand year flood” that left many of our communities literally underwater. Up at Sky Meadow, we and the animals are safe and the land was spared the worst. Our hearts are broken for our neighbors who have experienced catastrophic damage from these floods. We know the power and terror of Mother Nature, and how one weather event can change everything overnight. We welcome you to join us in supporting relief efforts such as the emergency fundraiser by Vermont Community Foundation, as well as The Civic Standard, which has been on the ground doing incredible work in our local town of Hardwick. Funds like these will provide badly-needed help to families, farmers and local businesses who have been hit by the floods, as they begin to clean up and regroup.

The ponds are about as full as they’ve ever been, but thankfully, did not spill over in the flood.

Unprecedented weather notwithstanding, July is a beautiful time in Vermont. It’s the time of year when the land really rewilds itself, exploding in a symphony of lush greenery and wildflowers. As a gardener it can get a bit stressful as the weeds encroach and the harvests start coming in faster than you can keep up. But the hard work has its own rewards too. There are fresh raspberries to enjoy (and squirrel away in the freezer for later) and beautiful blooms to grace vases inside. Not to mention all those gorgeous fresh veggies to share with our summer guests!

In the Vegetable Garden

In the garden, the pea and garlic scape harvests have come and mostly gone, and we’ve started bringing in some of the earlier brassicas. Garlic is about to come out soon β€” around 500 heads! No tomatoes or peppers just yet, but we know they’re on the way, along with the first wave of zucchini and summer squash. Carrots, onions and potatoes are still in the ground to get a little bigger before we harvest them next month. And that doesn’t even touch what’s growing in our Three Sister’s garden β€” more on that special project here. πŸ™‚ All in all, it’s been a busy and bountiful summer so far, with plenty more harvests to come.

We grew shelling peas this year for the first time, and wow are they ever a huge difference from store-bought! I’ve only ever had frozen or canned peas until now, and the taste of homegrown ones is totally worth the extra bit of work. We’re also growing romanesco for the first time, which neither of us have ever eaten, but we couldn’t resist trying it out β€” look how gorgeous it is!

Romanesco’s fractal patterns make it look like it’s been photoshopped β€” but nope, that’s just how it grows.

In the Pasture

All the animals are doing well and up to their usual antics. The alpacas and sheep keep themselves busy grazing, exploring, and generally enjoying that free range life. Our sweet sheep are getting on in years, and don’t seem to enjoy the heat too much. They much prefer to graze early in the morning and later in the evening, and spend the afternoon lounging in the shade. Not such a bad life, if you ask me! πŸ™‚

Our chicks that hatched last month are growing at an incredible pace! Sometimes they seem to literally double in size overnight. Now almost 7 weeks old, they no longer sleep in their ground-level nest and now roost right next to Mama and the other big hens. It’s only a matter of time before they become more independent and no longer follow their mother everywhere.

The chicks’ first night roosting just like the big birds with Mama was extremely adorable.

The best part of raising chicks with a broody hen right in the main coop is how seamlessly they integrate into the rest of the flock. Many people have separate brooding coops for this, presumably to avoid other chickens being aggressive toward mama and babies. We took a hybrid approach of having a secure, separate area for them within the coop during the first several days, and then gradually allowing them to free-range and mingle with the rest of the flock. We found this worked quite well for our set-up. Our other flock members aren’t super aggressive, and it was clear that Mama Hen wasn’t letting them get closer than she was comfortable with anyway. As they got bigger she was more and more inclined to let them forage right alongside “Grandma Pumpernickel” and “Auntie Beebs.” So cute.

So fun seeing their different plumages and personalities emerge.

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