Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Berry Crazed!

Strawberry Harvest!

A few weeks back, a friend invited Julian and I over to pick strawberries which set off my new obsession with pies. We had a great visit, picked some strawberries, ate some delicious muffins, and let JJ skinny dip in the kiddie pool.   I plan on inviting her to my homestead when the blackberries are ripe to return the favor.  So that weekend I bought some Rhubarb from Sharon’s Natural Garden and made a Strawberry-Rhubarb pie, and a Strawbery Poke Cake. I also discovered that you can make whip cream with a hand crank egg beater.  My pie went over very well Memorial Day weekend which we celebrated with friends at a Firefly Marathon (the TV show).  Last weekend Sharon’s Cherries were ripe and I bought two quarts of sour pie cherries from her and made my first cherry pie. I don’t normally like cherry pie, at least not the stuff you get at a dinner that probably came out of a can.   But I LOVE fresh cherry pie!  We have two dwarf pie cherry trees planted that we will one day make our own pies from!

Currently at the homestead, the raspberries are ripening! I have this great raspberry salad dressing recipe that I think is too good to share!  I’ve picked and frozen several pints, and hope to make some ice cream from them this weekend.  I also purchased a black raspberry plant from Sharon!

Julian Picking Strawberries

My mother’s favorite ice cream is black raspberry, which is not at all like red raspberries or blackberries.  When I was a kid, we use to stop at Richmond’s Dairy near Woodstown, NJ just for the black raspberry ice cream on the way to and from grandma’s house.   Anyway, black raspberries are hard to find in the store, so I’m delighted to add them to my homestead.  They produce small berries in the spring a little earlier than the red ones. Sharon might still have some frozen, if you are looking for them!

So, with all this pie making, I was thinking how fun it would be to have a “in season” pie business, where I grew as much of the fillings myself.  Currently we have raspberries, a few blueberries, lots of blackberries and apples. I also have all the eggs I could ever want!  In the future we will have cherries, plums, more apples, peaches, and pears. If we add to that sweet potatoes, and pumpkins, strawberries and rhubarb  we could make pies from May to November.  And I could bake them or freeze them to be baked at home.  The question is, where would I sell them?

Review: “MaryJanesFarm” Magazine

If you have barnheart you will love “MaryJanesFarm” Magazine.  My mom first introduced the magazine to me last year, and a dear friend gives me her back issues.  It’s all about being a “farmgirl at heart”, weather you live in the city, suburbs or in the country, with a very strong organic, sustainable slant. It’s got articles on gardening, cooking, livestock,  organic products, crocheting, sewing, and other fiber crafts.  It gives ideas on how to transition to a more green lifestyle, use less electricity,  and how to be more “Do It Your Self”.   It looks like Martha Stewart designed the magazine, but with a “shabby chic” bend, which is beautiful, but it’s very commercial.  In fact Mary Jane seams kinda quite a bit like Ms. Stewart, but with a bit more dirt under her nails.  Mary Jane has her own line of products for sale, from organic towels, to baking mixes, to her own “Farmgirl” sewing fabric.  She even has a “Farmgirl Sisterhood” club complete with badges like girl scouts for adults.  It’s seams  like “Farmgirlism” is a good idea that got caught in the web of capitalism.   Still, if you can avoid the “Ooh I have to have that!” trap, the magazine is full of good info, recipes, and crochet and knitting patterns.  One issue even taught me a new slogan for eating local slow foods:  SOEL Food, meaning:  Sustainable, Organic, Ethical, and Local Food.  And commercialism aside,  if “Farmgirlism” can replace the “Princess” fad that so many girls toys are marketed to, I promise not to complain too much about the marketing. Just promise me not to buy the $47 clothes pin bag, please! (My clothes line didn’t even cost me that much!)

This Year’s Garden

Last year we used John Jeavon’s book called “How to Grow More Vegetables” to start a small vegetable garden.  This year we have the original double dug bed,  and  added several raised beds.  We also decided to purchase plants this year, as we just don’t have the space for starting seeds. We read in the Jeavon’s book that seed starting is just not a beginner skill. We hope to build some green house space in the future.  We are growing head lettuce, radishes, broccoli, beats, onions, three types of potatoes, cucumbers,  red cabbage, tomatoes,  green peppers,  zucchini, and a pumpkin,   in the Jeavon’s plot. In the raised beds we have some extra cabage,  cucumbers, a few strawberries, and some swiss chard. None of the strawberries came up from the box I bought at Sams Club, but the Rhubarb did!  The blackberries are blooming, and the eldest blueberry bush is full of unripe berries. The raspberries are blooming too.  Here are some pictures from about two weeks ago.   Last week I thinned out my apples, and the ones left have grown so much faster and bigger!

Raised Beds

Raised Beds

Jeavon's Garden Plot

Jeavon's Garden Plot

Giving Up Angel Food Ministries

Julian helping me in the kitchen

Julian helping me in the kitchen...

It’s been two months since I’ve ordered food from AFM.  When I first quit my job to stay home with my son Julian and raise some chickens, I was freaked out about money. We started buying food from Angel Food Ministries, and it’s been a big help! But since then, I’ve done enough comparison shopping to know where to find the best deals  (around here, Sam’s Club)  and we just don’t want to eat the processed foods anymore.  We have been eating most of our vegetables from Provident Organic Farms CSA or from our

Vincent learning to Vaccume

"I love vaccuming!" said Vincent! No really that's what he said!

own garden, and this year from “Sharron’s Natural Gardens”.  The Processed foods that come with AFM  taste so salty that we can’t  really eat them!  Also their cuts of chicken come so badly mangled that they are only good for making soup.  One good thing about living on the Eastern Shore is that chicken is very cheap! Until we have our new “Chicken Tractor” (a portable coop) built and we can raise more of our own meat, we will be taking advantage of the $0.88 a lb roasters at Sams Club, and the $0.95 a lb chicken thighs.  We are also considering raising our own pigs.  I’ve begun reading “Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs”.   The nice thing about being a part of the Transitional Movement is that over night progress is not expected…. and I’m proud to say that in this time of “economic re-evaluation” (aka Resession) we have been eating more local home cooked organic foods than we ever have in our entire lives!

A Slow Foods Affirmation by Liz La Posta

Sharing a meal is a sacred act of fellowship with our family and loved ones,
Eating is a sacred act of communion with the Earth,
Cooking is the sacred act of preparing food for a delicious meal,
Farming is the sacred act by which we grow the food that we cook, eat, and share,
joining our labors  with the abundance of Mother Nature to sustain ourselves.
The distractions that remove this awareness from our everyday lives are the true inconvenience.
-Liz La Posta

How We Got Started With Homesteading

Sharon, a neighbor who does biodynamic gardening asked me about my gardening experiences on her email list. Here’s my response…

I live out side of town limits (in Wicomico County, on the MD side) on almost 2 acres.  We moved here about five years ago and our first spring we planted several blueberry bushes, thorn-less blackberries, an apple tree and grapes. We also tried to turn our crab grass back yard into a huge garden with the help of  another family,  but boy did we bite off more than we could chew! We really had no clue what we were doing, but I’m very glad we got those perennials in the ground that first year. I did love the fresh zucchini! It was the only thing that grew well. We decided we didn’t know what we were doing and needed a better plan.  We were rather discouraged watching the bugs eat our veggies, but we knew we didn’t want to use any pesticides on them.

About two years ago we tried “Square Foot Gardening” which worked better, but not great. We didn’t have very good compost and our “Mell’s Mix” wasn’t right, but it was smaller and better planned. We learned all about Tomato Horn Worms.  One problem I ran into is that I just didn’t know how to prepare and cook fresh veggies! We started composting more, and we did put in a descent herb garden. We talked about raising rabbits for meat, and worm composting. We bought more books and read online, and subscribed to Mother Earth News!

Julian arrived in July of 08, and we decided my stay at home mom project would be chickens, not rabbits. We converted a dog pen that came with the house to a coop, and made plans to build better one next to it, where they could share the run. We bought some extra chickens from a vegetarian friend, mostly speckled sussexes: 7 roosters and 2 hens. Well, when the roosters started harassing the hens way too much, we thought we should eat them. That first kill was the hardest. Paul tried to break the neck by hand but, it didn’t go so well,  we didn’t know really what we were doing. We didn’t scald that first one, and the plucking was slow!  I was reading directions out of the book for Paul. We felt really bad about the botched kill, and opted to just use a hatchet next time, and to scald the birds. We did two at a time for next couple of weekends. After that we raised some leghorns, and butchered those roosters, this time I bought an orange traffic cone  for a killing cone, and that worked much better. I didn’t drop them in the bucket of blood this time.  And that was the last time we butchered any chickens. At the moment we only have two roosters and the rest are layers. We hope to raise some more to eat this spring. Also in 08, I was gifted some red wriggler worms  and got started with my “lazy no turning” worm composting. The black berries started to produce well, and I cooked several “Blackberry Buckles”..MMM!

In December 08 we planted 12 dwarf fruit trees and some more blueberries.  We ordered the dwarf trees from the Arbor Day Society.  The advantage of dwarf trees is that they don’t need a high ladder to pick, and you can plant more trees closer together. I’ve read that they will produce 2-3 bushels of fruit when they mature, which won’t be for several years.

So in 09 we decided to join Provident Organic Farms  CSA .  Paul still wanted to do a garden, but this time we used “How to Grow More Vegetables” by John Jeavons. I also got a great cook book from the CSA! . Paul double dug a bed, and we got some seed from our local farm store. I didn’t know anything about GMOs then, or seed saving. The first thing I learned is that sprouting seeds takes up a lot of space, which we don’t have. I hope to fix that this year, if it would ever stop snowing!  So we had the best luck with potatoes, and bush beans, but we had several pumpkins grow, a few cucumbers and the compost pile outside grew a lovely butter nut squash that I still have some squash from.  Those black berries that planted that first year were plentiful.   We were gifted some raspberries, a hops, and a fig too.   This past summer my mom taught me to can, we made grape jelly from our grapes, and some apple butter.

This year we need to put up a green house and build a chicken tractor. We might also be tearing down our deck and putting up a sun room with a wood stove. We are just a little too dependent on electricity for heat in an emergency for my comfort. I also bought a hand push reel mower. We have a riding mower, but needed something smaller for doing detail work around the trees and garden, and I thought a hand push mower would be perfect.  I also plan on making blackberry jam, which is my favorite.  I hope we get a few blueberries,  just enough for a taste.

Looking back, we were very discouraged after that first garden, but we stopped putting money and time into gardening for a few years, and bought books instead.  My mom bought me a copy of “Storey’s Guide to Basic  Country Skills” which is a great resource! If you have “Barnheart” this is the book you should start with! We also picked up the “Storey” book on chickens.  The CSA cookbook is called “Simply in Season” and it has really taught me how to use what’s coming out of the garden. I’d be lost without it! Every year we learn something new and get better at it. Finding the local organic community to help us has been the best blessing ever!  Thanks Sharon and Lisa!

QH

Fourteen Free Things I Could Use

There are some normally recycled or tossed out items that I could use. Here’s a list of them, I would deeply appreciate it if you could remember to save them for me, if you are local to me.  If the item is small, and you are one of my partners at http://www.swap-bot.com  feel free to include this in a package!

1. Old Candle Wax: I recycle it into new candles!

2. Large plastic Ice Cream Containers:  Great for organizing stuff! I use smaller ones for storing household batteries for recycling. I used another for my compost bucket. Another is a toy for my son Julian!

3. Buckets with Lids:  Like the kind cat food or litter come in. Also useful for storing things in the garage that you don’t want mice to get into.  I use one for my diaper bucket in my bathroom.

4. Plastic Bags in  gray,  tan, or blue:  I make these into plarn (plastic yarn) to make bags and other non-clothing items. I shop at Food Lion, so anything not white and blue I would love to have! Swappers, feel free to send me a blue one!

5. Mason Jars: For canning or candles!

6. Paper Bags: I use them to wrap stuff for shipping, and for covering school books.

7. Plastic Vinegar Bottle:  or anything food grade (no bleach bottles). I cut them into scoops for chicken or pet feed.

8. Grolsch bottles: the beer bottles with the buckle top, for making home made soda!

9. Egg Cartons:  For both eggs and fire starters!

10. Plastic Milk Rings: You can crochet around them to make ornaments! Another good one for swappers!

11. Chinese Take Out Containers:  esp the rectangle shaped plastic containers and the pints and quart sized liquid containers. Paul uses them for his lunch, and I freeze food in them sometimes too.

12.Ice packs and Styrofoam coolers:  for transporting eggs.

13. Box Tops for Vincent’s School:  I usually skip the fundraisers, but I work extra hard at collecting the box tops from anyone who isn’t already turning them into a school! If your a swapper who isn’t saving your box tops for your kids, please, send me some!! Honestly I don’t buy allot of the foods that have the Box Tops, so I can use all the help I can get!

14. Big Pretzel Jars: I usually see them at Sam’s Club, or smaller ones at Wall-mart. Also good for storing flour, pet food, yarn or plarn!  You can also cut the top off and stick them over plants in the early spring to create a mini green house.