The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

The Indestructible Vegetable Garden

May 26th, 2015 by Ed Bruske


My wife doesn’t play when it comes to designing raised beds for a vegetable garden. We’ll never have to worry about wooden structures rotting away because she hired a local builder to assemble our beds out of metal siding. A carpenter added the wood trim, giving us a place to sit while we putter with our seedlings in our dotage.

Yes, these beds should survive into the next millennium. They’re 18 inches deep, and that’s a lot. So we’re packing the bottoms with the bedding from the animal shelters. It’s full of manure and urine, which will break down over time and turn into lush soil. Then we layer a mound of topsoil and compost left by the previous owners and a truckload of fresh compost called Booth’s Blend from a local dairy farm.

What you see in the background are piles of tree branches and heavy vines we’ve started collecting from around the property to be ground up in the chipper to cover the garden paths. We purchased some portable fencing to keep the deers out (fingers crossed). Eventually, when the budget permits, we’ll want something more permanent. We’re hoping the local groundhogs are deterred by all that metal.

Just add seeds.


Two Years Later

May 17th, 2015 by Ed Bruske


Hard to believe this is our third season on the farm. I made the move to Upstate New York around this time two years ago and this is how things looked then, after I had spread tailings from our new well to fill some of the pot holes in the driveway. The view from the front porch is much the same, except we now have portable electric fencing surrounding those two sheds for the goat enclosure. If you were to take this photo now, you would see our eldest female goat, Dolly, raising the two kids she bore a few weeks ago. The other goats–including a mother Kiko with another set of twins–we moved into the main paddock with the other livestock.

Things are busy lately. We’re in a race to keep up with the grass, which is starting to grow like gangbusters even though we’re a bit short on rain. Except for Dolly and her two kids, the animals are roaming freely to graze, the sheep in the orchard, the cows and goats behind the house and on the upper pasture. With broiler chickens in the field, scheduled for slaughter in June, plus a new group of 20 layer pullets we moved outside last night, and another group of 52 broiler chicks in the basement, we have all kinds of additional chores to do besides moving animals around and mowing and scything with the line trimmer.

I’m finally getting around to moving the various trees and tree branches that have fallen on the property. We’re starting a raised bed vegetable garden (more about that later) and I’m making piles of debris to turn into wood chips for garden paths. Our plan all along when we purchased our tractor and wood chipper last year was to pile chips around the fruit trees in our orchard. That’s a big project waiting for a start date. So far, the sheep are doing a great job keeping the grass down in the orchard so we can at least see where those piles of chips ought to go.

On the subject of fruit, it’s been asked whether we’ll have any this year on account of another rough winter. The first year we were here, we had so many peaches some of the branches broke under the weight. We didn’t know at the time we were supposed to thin them. Last year there were no peaches because of a super-frigid winter. This year we’ll probably strike out again. We do have some blossoms on the apple trees, but nothing like what we saw a couple of years ago. The orchard moves at a glacial pace.

Soon we’ll be rotating the animals around the property behind electric netting in small paddocks. That’s a daily task, but we’ll be doing things a little differently this year. We have a couple of acres that have been overrun with golden rod and buffalo grass in the past. Now I’m mowing there and plan to erect some fencing so the boy goats and boy sheep can move in. Or will it be the girl goats and their kids? I’m thinking whichever doesn’t take up residence there will live with the Jersey cow and her calf in the paddock area and the adjacent pasture. Being novices at this, we improvise a lot. It’s all trial and error.

As you can see, the moving parts of the farm keep multiplying. It’s a challenge keeping things simple, especially when you have to separate the boys from the girls at a certain point. Meanwhile, we’ll be looking for people to buy the lambs and kids we don’t keep. When they’re ready to be turned into meat, I mean. If you know anyone, please send them our way.


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