The wind is blowing real hard right now, 35 mph with 50 mph gusts. We have had very little rain so far. That is a blessing as we are having difficulty getting into the big garden area to plant. The ground in that area has been saturated for almost 2 months now. We have had no really big  

rains like last year, but the rain has been constant since about Christmas time. No floods yet this year like last year.

We did manage to get in our potatoes (in wire cages), onions, garlic, collards, and some spinach.

In one of my many experiments with different plants, I was able to winter over some of the tomato plants from last springs garden, and as a result, we are still enjoying vine ripe tomatoes. We did this in the small greenhouse Roger and I constructed last year. I do not know how any homesteader could really get along without some sort of greenhouse.

I do not know if I mentioned it in any of my other articles, but the greenhouse cost us exactly $8.45 in materials to construct. That was the price of a roll of 6 mil plastic I used to cover it with. I had helped my brother in law tear down an old barn on his place and had plenty of lumber for the construction.

At the present time, we have about 900 new tomato plants growing in the greenhouse. I would like to have them set out between the middle to the last of March. Any later than that, and we run the risk of hot weather setting in and the blooms dropping off before they set fruit.

We also constructed a new brooder house for our mother hens to hatch and raise their young in. It is large enough for 4 hens and their broods. They will have their own outside pen to run in also. We use buy about 100 chicks to raise each year for our own use and some to sell to others here in the community. This year we are allowing the older hens to set and will raise our new chicks that way.

I have found out that I can sell all I can raise when they are 3 months old. I get $5 per head undressed and $10 dressed. People pay this rather than buy the slimy, slick, pale chickens in the grocery store. We have the added benefit of getting all the fresh eggs we can eat, and have plenty left over to sell also.

If you have trouble with fire ants (which we do here on the gulf coast) you can let the chickens take care of them. They seem to really enjoy eating them. Everywhere our chickens roam, we have absolutely no fire ants.

We have narrowed our breed of chickens down to just two that we prefer to raise. The first is the "Sex Links" and the other is "Aracauna". Both seem to be very productive layers, and grow fast enough and large enough to make a good eating bird also.

I gave up on the chicken tractors because I felt it confined the chickens too much, and even though they would clean a spot for a garden in just a matter of days, I felt guilty confining them to such a small space. So now instead of the small chicken tractor, I just fence a 100 ft by 100 ft area off and turn them loose there to clean all the grass, weeds and insects out. In just 30 to 45 days, they have the area completely cleaned and fertilized and ready to convert into a garden area. It is just a matter of then moving them to another area to start all over again. When the garden in the first area is finished, I turn them back into that area to clean up the old garden plants. This cuts down on the amount of feed I have to buy, and also cleans up the garden areas. It is very simple then to go in and redo the beds and replant. By having 4 areas like this, I can keep the smaller garden areas in constant rotation.

The chickens do sort of level out the beds I worked to get raised up, but when the ground is soft as my beds are, just a few hours with a shovel has the beds mounded back up again and ready to plant. I noticed right away the benefits of chickens roaming free over an area like this. No insects, no grass or weeds, plenty of fertilizer, and soft ground that is easy to work.

God bless and happy gardening from all of us here at T-N-T Farm.