April 2022 Field Notes – Zone 3 Homestead
Welcome to my new monthly series I’m calling, “Field Notes.” This is my way of cataloging each month in an effort to get better at gathering seasonal data (if you can call blogging that), while also offering you a look into our small homesteading life. I’m happy to have you here!
My plan is to put together a new Field Note each month of the growing season, showcasing what we’re growing (or aren’t growing), building, cooking, reading, listening to, etc…
An inside look at our Zone 3 homestead!
A farm journal, if you will. A way for all the photos on my iPhone to make their way to a more permanent place.
But more seriously, a way to document seasonal temps and weather patterns that will come in handy for future garden planning in upcoming seasons.
I find it’s often these more mundane moments, the in betweens, the shoulder seasons, that can teach us more than expected about our environment.
So I hope you enjoy what I hope will be the first of many Field Notes from our Zone 3 Homestead!
April 2022 Field Notes
Artist, @lorepemberton always seems to perfectly depict each season through paint.
This scene of a gardener in her potting shed is reflective of many of my days currently. Staring at the greenhouse, dreaming of possibilities, waiting for the snowbanks to shrink.
If you had asked me in the Fall what our greenhouse and garden would look like come end of March, I would have confidently told you we’d be harvesting salad greens, radishes, pea shoots and maybe even transplanting some cucumbers and tomatoes into the greenhouse. None of that could further from reality.
As I write this on the first week of April, average daytime temperatures for my Zone 3 region are 1ºC/33.8ºF and average nighttime temperatures are still dropping to an average of -4ºC/24.8ºC.
It’s been a slow and chilly Spring to say the least. Mother Nature just loves to keep us on our toes.
April In The Zone 3 Garden
Welcome to my white garden!
If you are shocked, well…so am I!
This is my Instagram post from March 2021 last year, even a few weeks earlier from when I’m writing this now.
I was already planting greens into our cold frame. And as you can see this year, most of our garden is still covered in at least 4ft of snow.
All I have to say is thank goodness I mulched heavily this Fall!
Currently only 1 of 4 raised beds has made its way out from under the snow. This raised bed is one of my garlic patches with about 50 cloves planted beneath the mulch.
I typically remove my mulch in April, but since there’s still so much frost in the ground, I plan to leave everything covered for another few weeks at least.
I’m not sure whether it was the Farmer’s Almanac predictions for Canada’s long Winter or my own premonition that led me to mulch my bulbs, garlic and perennials with both straw and leaves in the Fall. Whatever it was, I’m so glad I did!
I feel a little sense of relief knowing my plants under the snow are well insulated.
Meanwhile inside, the seedling station is growing and expanding by the day.
I have hundreds (possibly thousands) of plants started for our own homestead as well as for my Organic Plant Sets, which are still available to pre-order for local Manitoba residents until sold out!
A few plants I’m particularly excited about this season:
- Mexican Torch Tithonia — A massive annual flower said to reach 7-8ft. This is my first year growing this beauty and I plan to plant it near my sunflowers.
- Grey Poppies — Another new-to-me flower that I’ll be direct sowing in the garden in the coming weeks. Poppies do really well sown into cold soil.
- Brightest Brilliant Quinoa — Also new for us this season, can’t wait to experiment with this one. I’ll be direct sowing it after our last frost come early June.
You can read my blog 20 Seeds To Start In March In The Canadian Prairies to get a better idea what you can start indoors now.
Plus, my April blog covering what seeds to start this month will be live in the coming days. Stay tuned!
April In Our Unheated Greenhouse
Oh, our darling greenhouse.
It’s been a place we’ve enjoyed many morning coffees in and evening cocktails alike over the last few months. And though it’s not necessarily at the “growing stage” I imagined it to be in April, I’m still loving it.
Now that the night time temps are steadily staying around zero, we’ve been able to start planting in here.
I was really stoked to receive a gifted steel raised bed from Canadian brand, Sproutbox.
Sproutbox is setting a new standard for raised bed gardening with their high quality metal raised garden beds that are built to last, safe for growing and easy to assemble.
We assembled our Sproutbox over wine and snacks one evening last week and were honestly blown away by the quality. Plus, the materials came in a small box that we transformed into a 3’ x 6.5’ raised bed.
We filled the bed using the lasagna layering method (wood, cardboard, soil) and I planted the following cold-tolerant veggies in it:
- Pac Choi
- Snow Peas
By the end of April I’m hoping all our indoors seedlings will be happily living in the greenhouse too, and we should also have a nice salad bar to harvest from by then!
April In The Hen House
The hens are thrilled to be free-ranging again after a long, long winter!
First thing each morning, I head outside to open the coop door. They run out and get going on their busy day of exploring the yard. It truly makes me so happy to watch them wander around aimlessly. What a life these girls get to live.
Earlier this month, we sadly lost another hen, brining our flock down to just six girls now.
It’s always hard to say goodbye and even worse when you can’t identify what exactly made them sick in the first place.
Our flock of hens are four-years-old now, living 4x the lifespan of average laying hens at most factory farms. Knowing that makes the loss easier.
This week I’ll be cleaning out the coop from all the deep litter built up over the Winter. The official Spring clean of the coop! All the bedding and droppings will head to the compost pile and eventually feed our garden plants this summer.
Earlier this Winter, I wrote all about the benefits of the deep litter method for Northern gardeners and why it’s the way to go.
April Homestead Projects
Always a new project to work on! This month there’s a few jobs on our radar.
First, my plan is to add some new laying hens to our flock! I’ve been talking about this for some time now, and with the warmer temps it feels like the right time.
However, I’m trying to avoid purchasing baby chicks. The main reason being the time and work they take to keep happy until they’re ready to join the other girls. I just don’t have time for that right now.
But the other reason being I’m not so comfortable with purchasing from mass hatcheries anymore. I personally don’t feel like it’s a humane way to raise birds.
So I’m starting my search on Kijiij and a few homesteader groups on Facebook (Chicken Rescue Manitoba is a great one for anyone also looking).
Next, we’re already planning some updates on the greenhouse despite just having built it last Spring — it never ends! I shouldn’t call these projects updates but rather just finishing what we set out to build.
We’re planning to insulate the greenhouse (maybe) this month as well as install a better door on the back. I believe Justin also wants to install some additional ventilation in the roof. Update on that to come in next month’s Field Notes.
And finally, we plan to set-up our DIY cold frame in the coming weeks to start warming up the soil.
Our DIY “cold frame” is made from a tempered glass shower door that we place over one of our raised beds around this time of year as well as in the late Fall.
It extends the growing season by protecting plants from frost. We’ll plant some brassicas and greens in here before the end of April.
What We’re Loving This Month
- Spend time in Birds Hill Park, walking the puddle-filled trails
- Drink Little Brown Jug Golden Ale in front of a bonfire
- Sit in the greenhouse for morning coffee
Loving to cook/eat…
- My Dump & Bake Vegan Curried Quinoa (recipe is part of my monthly series for the Sage Garden Greenhouses blog)
- Fresh eggs for breakfast from the hens who are laying regularly again, finally!
- Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP Popcorn
- Cooks’ Creek Kimchi — local and so delicious
Loving to read…
Loving to watch…
Loving to listen to…
- The Spring season of The Grow Guide Podcast — duh!
And there you have it!
That’s it for this month’s Field Notes, I hope you enjoyed this inside look at our Zone 3 homestead.
If you have any questions, be sure to comment below. I love hearing from you and answer all comments.