Pre-bacon

This was bound to happen…

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It’s been fascinating to watch these two little girls – we have them in one of the large barn pens until the weather is better. This is the pen where we keep the beeves while they are waiting to be taken to the butcher, so there is a nice deep layer of cow poo, straw, and hay for the pigs to root through. As you can see, they got right to work looking for yummies to eat!

They have pretty precise control over that snout of theirs – I’ve seen them delicately root in one spot, but they can also use that snout like a plow and move through several feet of debris.

They also “nest” – we have a heat lamp for them, and I watched them paw the hay around where they were going to sleep until it was where they wanted, then they snuggled into the nest together.

Little Pink is more wary than Big Black, who will come right up to me now. They both know the sound of the feed bucket, and start running around until I get in the pen.

And they don’t stink. Really, they don’t. In my experience, stinky animals come from being confined to too small of a space, or being fed a poor diet. They do have a scent, but everything has a scent. ūüôā

 

As easy as garlic

garlic

 

If I would have realized that garlic is so easy to grow, I would have done it long before this year.

Garlic should be planted in the fall, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Be ready to plant about 6-8 weeks before frost.

*Do not use the stuff from the grocery store! If no one at your local farm market grows their own, buy from a good seed company. We support companies like Baker Creek.

Break apart garlic cloves a couple days before planting.

Plant about 4″ apart and 2″ deep. Plant the pointy side up and the flat side down. Mulch well (I used straw).

In the spring, remove the mulch (I forgot to do that…). When they flower (called “scapes” and very good to cook with), cut off the flower to keep the energy in the root.

For us, harvest was in July. Loosen the soil around the bulb and dig it out – don’t pull it like an onion. I read several ways to know when the bulb is ready – when the stem is anywhere from 1/2 dry to all dry. I harvested when they were a little more than 1/2 dry.

Dry the bulb (with the stem still on it) in a dry place, out of direct sunlight. Put them up on something so the air can get all around. When the whole bulb is dry and has the papery outside, it is ready to cut off the stem, brush the dirt off, trim the roots off, and store. You can also keep the stem and braid them all together.

These bulbs were on the small side, but I planted them in a new area that hadn’t been worked before – I expect that with looser soil, the bulbs will be much bigger.

 

I’ll be planting a lot more this year – the almanac says our first frost will be around October 25th or so. I guess that means I better be getting an area ready very soon!

 

More gardens

Growing herbs in pots is great, but I wanted a more permanent solution to growing culinary and medicinal herbs that didn’t involve lugging large planters around. Enter 24×4 cinder blocks, lots of sticks, and lots of dirt.

These are a type of hugelkultur raised bed, which uses sticks and logs as the base, and dirt piled over them. This website has a good explanation, with pictures! And since we have plenty of sticks around here, it’s a good way to use them.

 

First, set up the cinder blocks, and add sticks. The two closest beds don’t have sticks yet, but the two farthest to the right do. Break up the sticks, toss them in, and when you have a good pile inside the blocks, stomp them down. Repeat until the sticks are more or less halfway up the blocks.

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Beds filled with dirt. And a chicken…

 

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I will be filling the side holes for herbs, but the main bed is ready to go. I’m going to let it settle for a few days to let the dirt get in between all the sticks. It’s supposed to rain, which will also help tamp down the dirt. After that, add more dirt to even it up, and start planting.

Since we have free-ranging chickens, a welded wire cover for each bed is in order. I’ll build those¬†while I’m waiting for the beds to settle.

Cinder blocks around here are usually about $1.00. We used dirt dredged from our creek, but just about any dirt will do. You can put topsoil over the “fill dirt” if you like, or add compost. It doesn’t have to be an expensive process to get a nice raised bed. And if you decide to take the bed down at some point, the blocks can be reused, and the dirt/sticks (or what’s left of the sticks) can be spread around.

 

 

 

Food and medicine

This is the year of the gardens for food and medicine. I’ve rough-planned out the vegetable garden to take advantage of companion planting, and we’ll be breaking ground on the new herb garden. It’s going to be a hard-working spring. And summer, and fall. And I’m sure there will plenty of weeds (there always are), so if you just can’t find anything to do, you can always come help pull weeds. It’s hot, dirty, unending work, but the rewards are delicious.

“Let Your Food Be Your Medicine; and Your Medicine be Your Food” – Hippocrates

Smart guy, that Hippocrates.

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Fennel, Greek and Roman Chamomile, Chervil, Lady’s bedstraw, Mulberry, Elderberry, Lemon balm, Lemon mint, Peppermint, Spearmint, Rosemary, Greek oregano, Tansy, Lavender,and more. And these are just the trays of herbs I’m starting. The veggies will be started soon.

011514 – the bucket garden

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This is all it is – a 5 gallon bucket, some soil and seeds, and a light fixture with a grow bulb in it. Denny made the stand the light is hanging from (the vertical piece goes all the way to the bottom of the bucket). We have the light on a timer, but as long as you turn it off at night, you should be good to go.

What corner could use to grow things? Lettuce, carrots, radishes, potatoes, tomatoes….experiment and see!

011414 – food in a bucket

If you have room for a 5 gallon bucket, you can grow food. Fill bucket with soil, plant some seeds, put a grow light on it, and water. Wait a bit and you’ll get food! These are our first radishes, and we’re going to try carrots next. Growing food, in the winter, in the house – it can be done!

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Day 271

It occurs to me that I should be paying more attention to this blog!  With my laptop gone, I have to remember to use the “big screen” because my tablet makes it a little convoluted to post.  Here’s to good intentions! Things have definitely picked up around here – my two classes are taking their […]

It occurs to me that I should be paying more attention to this blog! ¬†With my laptop gone, I have to remember to use the “big screen” because my tablet makes it a little convoluted to post. ¬†Here’s to good intentions!

Things have definitely picked up around here – my two classes are taking their amount of time, and it doesn’t help matters that I’m creating everything for my humanities class. But that also means that when I teach it again, I will have much more time to tweak things and not worry about having to make a presentation for the next class. ¬†Good news there.

The barn is filled with hay – next step is to go back out and mow the second cutting. For that, we all need to be healthy and able to sit on a tractor for hours. We’re working on that. It may be a touch of the flu, it’s definitely allergies, and all the bean/corn dust in the air from harvesting isn’t helping one bit. If you’re driving down the road in the morning and notice what looks like smoke hanging over a harvested field – that’s probably dust still hanging in the air from the combine harvesting the day before. And it is horrible for breathing!

Remember these cute, fuzzy things?

IMG_0370

They now look like almost proper chickens, just smaller:

2013-09-28 08.26.46They still have the fuzzy chick head, but the rest of them look like proper Barred Rocks. I didn’t know this, but their legs have black bands on them.

Lovely harvest moon the other evening – hope you had a chance to see it. Yes, those are geese!

2013-09-18 19.27.31

 

We have a couple large stands of pampas grass (a tall, decorative grass) that the dogs love to hide in. You’ll be walking around and hear “swish swish” as they move through. I found Prince hanging out in here the other day:

2013-09-18 14.00.12He’s such a silly dog.

Interwebz shopping is just about awesome. Click, click, and here comes the UPS or FedEx truck with your goodies. I don’t remember ordering this though:

2013-09-19 14.32.27

 

The garden is finished – we got a lot more tomatoes of the vines, harvested the potatoes, and pulled the last cabbages. Now for the clean-up crew.

2013-09-28 08.25.34They’ve done (as always) an amazing job of eating, and they haven’t even been in here a week. After they’re finished, we’ll put them back in the “test garden” to work in there some more, then start our soil amending in this garden – cow/horse manure, straw, and green manure (a seed mixture that fixes nitrogen and other good stuff in the soil). After the green manure has a chance to get started, we’ll probably open the gate for the chickens to scratch around and do their thing. It’s going to be a lot of work (well, what isn’t around here!!), and a lot of poo to move, but in the end, we’ll have better soil for food growing.

If your garden didn’t perform “up to snuff” this year, chances are you may be missing something in the soil. Our corn was pretty lack-luster – small stalks, small ears that weren’t all filled out – so that was our clue that the ground needs some TLC. You can buy soil analysis kits at home improvement stores – try one and see what your soil is telling you.

 

 

 

Day 271

It occurs to me that I should be paying more attention to this blog! ¬†With my laptop gone, I have to remember to use the “big screen” because my tablet makes it a little convoluted to post. ¬†Here’s to good intentions!

Things have definitely picked up around here – my two classes are taking their amount of time, and it doesn’t help matters that I’m creating everything for my humanities class. But that also means that when I teach it again, I will have much more time to tweak things and not worry about having to make a presentation for the next class. ¬†Good news there.

The barn is filled with hay – next step is to go back out and mow the second cutting. For that, we all need to be healthy and able to sit on a tractor for hours. We’re working on that. It may be a touch of the flu, it’s definitely allergies, and all the bean/corn dust in the air from harvesting isn’t helping one bit. If you’re driving down the road in the morning and notice what looks like smoke hanging over a harvested field – that’s probably dust still hanging in the air from the combine harvesting the day before. And it is horrible for breathing!

Remember these cute, fuzzy things?

IMG_0370

They now look like almost proper chickens, just smaller:

2013-09-28 08.26.46They still have the fuzzy chick head, but the rest of them look like proper Barred Rocks. I didn’t know this, but their legs have black bands on them.

Lovely harvest moon the other evening – hope you had a chance to see it. Yes, those are geese!

2013-09-18 19.27.31

 

We have a couple large stands of pampas grass (a tall, decorative grass) that the dogs love to hide in. You’ll be walking around and hear “swish swish” as they move through. I found Prince hanging out in here the other day:

2013-09-18 14.00.12He’s such a silly dog.

Interwebz shopping is just about awesome. Click, click, and here comes the UPS or FedEx truck with your goodies. I don’t remember ordering this though:

2013-09-19 14.32.27

 

The garden is finished – we got a lot more tomatoes of the vines, harvested the potatoes, and pulled the last cabbages. Now for the clean-up crew.

2013-09-28 08.25.34They’ve done (as always) an amazing job of eating, and they haven’t even been in here a week. After they’re finished, we’ll put them back in the “test garden” to work in there some more, then start our soil amending in this garden – cow/horse manure, straw, and green manure (a seed mixture that fixes nitrogen and other good stuff in the soil). After the green manure has a chance to get started, we’ll probably open the gate for the chickens to scratch around and do their thing. It’s going to be a lot of work (well, what isn’t around here!!), and a lot of poo to move, but in the end, we’ll have better soil for food growing.

If your garden didn’t perform “up to snuff” this year, chances are you may be missing something in the soil. Our corn was pretty lack-luster – small stalks, small ears that weren’t all filled out – so that was our clue that the ground needs some TLC. You can buy soil analysis kits at home improvement stores – try one and see what your soil is telling you.

 

 

 

Day 232 ‚Äď apple picking

They ain’t too pretty, and I didn’t get out there early enough to get more of them, but we have apples from our own tree! The last few years weren’t very good to our fruit trees – no fruit for at least 2 years, maybe 3.  We have a lot of crabapple trees, and several […]

2013-08-20 20.32.19They ain’t too pretty, and I didn’t get out there early enough to get more of them, but we have apples from our own tree!

The last few years weren’t very good to our fruit trees – no fruit for at least 2 years, maybe 3. ¬†We have a lot of crabapple trees, and several apple and pear trees. ¬†They are all producing very well this year (except the one apple tree that we pruned a few years back -sigh).

The trees are old and have been left to their own devices, so we’re trying to be cautious about pruning, so as to not over-prune and kill the trees. ¬†And as the fruit comes in, I’ve been planting apples in pots to see if we can start some new ones. ¬†We don’t know what type of apples or pears we have, but they are tasty.

I’m now looking around the internet to find a nice fruit picker – I was out there balancing on a ladder, on uneven ground. ¬†Yikes!

 

Day 232 – apple picking

2013-08-20 20.32.19They ain’t too pretty, and I didn’t get out there early enough to get more of them, but we have apples from our own tree!

The last few years weren’t very good to our fruit trees – no fruit for at least 2 years, maybe 3. ¬†We have a lot of crabapple trees, and several apple and pear trees. ¬†They are all producing very well this year (except the one apple tree that we pruned a few years back -sigh).

The trees are old and have been left to their own devices, so we’re trying to be cautious about pruning, so as to not over-prune and kill the trees. ¬†And as the fruit comes in, I’ve been planting apples in pots to see if we can start some new ones. ¬†We don’t know what type of apples or pears we have, but they are tasty.

I’m now looking around the internet to find a nice fruit picker – I was out there balancing on a ladder, on uneven ground. ¬†Yikes!