Happy first day of Spring!

AbeWell, we’re up to five lambs and two goat kids. Wallula had twins on March 9th, and Maggie had twins on March 12th. Ghost had a single on March 12th as well. ALL of them boys! We’re going with A names this year (to make it easier to remember which year someone was born in). So we have Amos and Andy (Wallula), Atlas and Ace (Maggie) and Abercrombiei – Abe for short (Ghost).
MaggieAtlasAceAnd then on March 15th, Fiona the goat gave birth to twins while we were out in the garden, working on irrigation. It was quick. We just missed it. She had one boy and one girl. Names are Apple and Jack. (We’re unlikely to keep Jack – so figured it would be OK to not name him with an A name).

Ghost&AbeI’ve never really gotten why people get so enamored with goats. Now I get it. It’s the babies. You can pick them up and snuggle them. They just relax and lean into you, and if they are hungry or missing their Mama they just make the smallest of noises to let you know. Dang. Hard not to fall in love with that!


Goat babies, about 15 minutes old (taken with my cell phone). Fiona is a good Mama.

So every morning and every evening, and sometimes several times in between, I go out and count heads. One, two, three, four, five lambs; one, two kids; one, two, three, four, five sheep Mamas yet to give birth; one, two, three turkeys sitting on the roost.


What, you don’t use your stock tanks for this?

We’re expecting more babies (based on when we noted breeding taking place – go husband for writing it down) on March 24th.

Can you find the turkey egg in this picture?
Yeah, it took me a while to realize it too. I had seen Peggy Sue in the chicken coop. Even saw her sitting in one of the nests. Just expected the eggs to be larger, and so totally didn’t put it together until the other day. I was cleaning off this lighter colored speckled egg, and thinking about how I like the speckled eggs the best, and that I hadn’t seen very many like this one, which started showing up a few weeks ago, and wondering what chicken had either just started laying (which would be weird) or had somehow switched the coloring on her eggs, when suddenly it dawns on me. Duh. I’m looking at a turkey egg.

They seem to have no interest in setting just yet. Which is fine by me. We’re trying to get a quonset hut metal building put up and moving all poultry into it, sometime in the next month. Once a turkey starts to set, you can’t move her easily without her abandoning the nest. So I’d prefer she wait. Meanwhile, Gracie Mae, the other female turkey, hops the fence every morning, and then paces back and forth in front of the fence wanting back into the poultry yard. I have to wonder if she isn’t stashing a cache of eggs somewhere I haven’t found.

Isn’t spring fun?

AspenCatkinsMeanwhile, I have 350 onions and leeks started, a first flat of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, and tomatoes and peppers that aren’t up yet. Thirty-seven tomatoes, something like 15 different kinds. Can’t wait!

ChickadeeAspenIn reviewing my notes from last year, I’ve decided to hold off on planting the early cool season crops until the first of April. Most stuff I planted in March just sat for weeks before it came up. And our weather has been cold, rainy and windy this last week. So will give things a chance to warm up and the soil temperature to raise before I start seeding. My soil temperature is just now hitting 45, which is the minimum for most cold season plants, so we have a ways to go.

I’ve been studying up on Growing Degree Days (GDD), which is kind of a misnomer, because they aren’t really days at all. They are more like heat accumulation units. I’m mostly familiar with this concept when it is used in insect pest management. Insects take a certain amount of time to mature and become pests on your crops, and that time is based more on temperature than anything else. Having a cold spring? The bugs will be late maturing. Having a warm spring? Expect an early invasion. So instead of deciding to always spray for X on April 15th, you pay attention to your growing degree days, and spray when you reach a GDD threshold for that particular insect.

GDD is based on a base temperature that you pick, depending on the crop or pest. Fifty degrees is pretty common. You take the max temp plus the min temp for the day, divide by two to get the average, then subtract the base temp. So for the day that Fiona’s babies were born, we had a high of 68 and a low of 43. Using a base of 50, that gives us 5.5 growing degree days. As the year goes on, GDD’s accumulate. Field corn requires 2,700 GDD’s to reach maturity. Codling moths, those insects that give you the worms in wormy apples and pears, start showing up after about 200 GDD’s.

This concept hasn’t really been applied to common garden vegetable crops just yet. But it is only a matter of time. I’d love to have a chart telling me how many GDD’s before I should plant spinach, or tomatoes, or melons. So this year, I’m going to keep track of it myself, along with soil temperature, and see if I can make my own chart over time. The Weather Channel has a really cool GDD calculator. Just punch in your zip code, and whatever dates and baseline you want, and it will tell you how many GDD’s you’ve accumulated so far. How cool is that?

Why should we care? Why not just always plant peas on St. Patrick’s day or when the Forsythia is blooming? Because as global climate change continues, most places are going to experience more volatile weather. That means that while it may still average out to 55 degrees for the month of March, the numbers to get to that average may be more extreme and variable than what was “normal” 50 years ago. Which makes knowing when to plant that much harder.

Give it a year. There will be an app for that.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2013, where we’re having roasted goat shoulder for dinner, in honor of the first day of spring, which so far has seen rain, wind and sunshine.