At my zone 4 homestead, this winter seems to drag on. It's only January and I'm getting cabin fever. This seems to only be magnified by the 15-yep 15- seed catalogs I have received in the mail in the first week of this month. The pages are so colorful and give me so many ideas of things to plant. It seems every year there are new varieties of almost every fruit and vegetable you can imagine, whether they be ancient varieties of corn that have been around forever, or a new tomato that is early blight resistant.
Now would be a good time of year for me to actually draw up plans on where to put different things, but I am far too impulsive for that. I think I ordered almost everything that would grow in my zone 4 garden, including a new variety of banana tree that is supposed to be cold hardy down to -20! This tree alone has me very intrigued. Here is the actual link for the banana tree http://www.farmerseed.com/detail.asp?pid=3317 . I just hope I have enough room for all my trees and bushes. My wife and I went to the local hardware store and picked up a bunch of seed starting trays, and I already have the potting soil and peat pots so I should be all set to start my seed. This year I have decided to grow more unusual things than the normal farmer's market fare. Some of these things include blue and red corn for corn meal, 3 varieties of mushroom spores, two of those banana trees, currants, 3 varieties of cherries, three persimmon trees, and an ancient grain called Amaranth. I hope to save seed from this grain to propagate more for years to come. I plan on using it not only as a flour but a nice natural grain to add to my chicken's feed. I also have heirloom wheat and flax for the same purpose. Eventually I would like to have a parcel of my tillable land just for these grains for my chickens. I may add a few more grains to this mix but this is what I have so far. I'm thinking maybe rye and some triticale. These plants will provide nutrition and bedding material for the chickens and they will break it down more so when I add it to my compost pile it wont have far to break down. After a few years this should produce enough food for my birds that I shouldn't have to buy feed. I have a few more ideas on easy FREE food for my birds that I will go into in later posts
The winter has also been a good time for me to hone my shooting skills. Last spring I planted 5 Honeycrisp apple trees. Last week I noticed that the bark had been stripped on ALL of them, but only up to about 18 inches off the ground. There were also rabbit tracks leading up to each one. Last Thursday when I drove home I noticed 'Bugs' was sitting right next to my future chicken coop. I let my Brittany out of the truck and she ran right to it! It dove under the shed and there it stayed, till dark anyway. Then Sunday morning came, so I looked out my bedroom window and there she was again in the same spot! I leave a magazine with 5 rounds in it right next to my Ruger 10/22 for just this occasion. Needless to say, I have a fresh cottontail in my freezer. It was rather small being a female so I will go shoot a few of the dozens of gray squirrels on my property and put it all in a stew. I think I can smell it already!