Spring is inching its way forward here in north Idaho. In fact, for the last week the weather has been delightful... which always triggers in me the need to get my hands dirty.
The tulips we planted last fall are starting to come up.
The garlic, also planted last fall, is doing well.
I can also tell it's spring because the chipmunks are all over the place. And I mean we're dripping with chipmunks. They may seem awfully durn cute, but let me tell you collectively they're a terrible pest on a farm. Last spring they ate down all my seedlings in the greenhouse. They nibble through bags of chicken feed. They get into everything.
So forgive me if I don't have a lot of sympathy when I find the occasional critter drowned in a cow's water bucket.
In fact, last year's seedling disaster in the greenhouse meant we had to do something about it this year before attempting to plant anything.
We have grandiose plans to turn the entire south side of the barn into a lean-to greenhouse, but right now we can't afford the materials, so we'll put it off. For the time being we'll use our tiny greenhouse.
Here's our greenhouse. It's a little shed we rescued a few years ago when we took down someone's barn for scrap wood. The shed was in fairly decent shape, so we took it whole and added windows and made it a greenhouse.
(This is what the building looked like when we first brought it home.)
Anyway, over the winter I used the greenhouse as a catch-all for anything related to gardening. I would literally open the door and pitch things in, mostly milk jugs donated by friends (we're saving them for seed planters). There's also a tangle of bird netting in addition to a whole lotta other stuff. First job: clean it out.
I cut all the milk jugs in half. With holes punched, the bottoms can be used as planters. The tops can be used as miniature greenhouses to place over planted seedlings in case frost threatens.
I also paused to do something I should have done last fall: planted some acorns. Arching over our booth at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival is an enormous burr oak tree. This type of oak drops huge acorns, some of them almost two inches across. Last fall our booth managers send me a bagful of acorns for me to plant. I finally got around to it (and hope it's not too late).
I also had a bagful of regular acorns (not sure what species) that I scooped up last fall under a line of very pretty oak trees in Spokane. You can see how much smaller they are than the burr oak acorns. I planted some of these in pots as well.
When the seedlings sprout and get a little established, I'll plant them around the property in hopes some will survive.
Anyway, this is what the greenhouse looked like after it was cleaned out.
Next step: chipmunk-proofing. The floorboards are so widely-spaced that chipmunks would slip through them and devastate my seedlings.
There were also large gaps up near the roofline, perfect for chipmunks to come through.
So Don and I measured and cut some hardware cloth...
...and fitted it across the floor.
He used metal staples to hammer the hardware cloth down firmly.
By the way, this hammer belonged to Don's father, who died in a car crash when Don was a young man in the navy. He cherishes this hammer and uses it often.
We stapled smaller pieces of hardware cloth over the holes near the roofline.
Next we needed to do something about the big gaps in the door, top and bottom.
Don put boards at top and bottom to block the gaps.
In short, we plugged every hole we could find. Let's hope it works!
Next I decided to plant a few seeds. Not many, since we can't expect truly frost-free weather until the beginning of June; but onions have a 120-day maturity, so I need to plant them early. I decided to plant a few broccoli seeds, as well as two tomatoes (just for fun). Needless to say these are all heirloom-variety seeds.
First I had to make some potting soil. I always make my own out of composted manure...
...topsoil (bought last year for the strawberry beds)...
After mixing, I filled some pots.
First I planted onion seeds with the help of a seed spoon, which is just a plastic gizmo with a tiny depression at either end into which a single seed fits. I have two seed spoons with scoops of different sizes, for a total of four scoops.
I planted four seeds per pot, in twenty pots, for a total of eighty onions.
I also planted ten broccoli plants, one seed per pot. I'll plant more in a couple weeks, rather than planting a whole bunch at once.
For slips and giggles, I also planted two tomato seeds. I'll probably end up bringing these in the house if the weather turns cold.
I gave everything a good watering.
A nice day's work!