Farming, Life, Vegetables

Our Imperfectly Perfect Gardens

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Our garden’s are not perfect. What is perfect about our potato garden (as I am calling our away garden as we have planted only potatoes, onions and shallots there), is that I have gotten to spend time with the entire family in them, all five of us working together (OK, sometimes more play or eating or drawing is happening by some members of the family).  Which has been so great, even though it can be challenging (only walk on the walkways boys, please don’t try to jump the beds, bahhhhh, I just asked you NOT to do that!)

We are also reorganizing our home garden. We realized that we were wasting a lot of space on pathways in the garden so we have been moving soil and laying down cardboard to cover weeds. Our goal is to cover all our garden area with cardboard, manure/compost and put wood chips in all the walkways.  Two years ago in the fall we spread a lot of manure in four foot wide rows, the entire width of the garden, there were four rows between some of our raised beds, we spread the manure on landscape fabric to repress some weeds think, bad idea, don’t do this, it keeps the new soil and the old soil completely separate and you can’t plant any root crops in it. I have been trying to remember why we did this, perhaps because we had landscape fabric and not cardboard to put down, not sure, can’t remember. Trace and I having been pulling up as many weeds as we could from the soil, finding the end of the landscape fabric, putting cardboard on the area we were moving the soil to, moving the soil and putting wood chips on the cardboard around the soil to give a visual area for people to walk on. The idea of the cardboard is to kill the weeds underneath it and help the roots rot, the cardboard will disintegrate eventually letting the soil on top meet the soil underneath. My hope is to not have to disturb the soil too much when harvesting etc, to keep weed growth at bay. I am also going to try putting a large dark tarp over my beds that are not in use, this is supposed to help kill weed seeds, killing them before you have things planted makes a huge difference in the time people spend hand weeding. We do not have a tractor so everything we do is done with people power.

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Pea pods are getting fat…either today or tomorrow we will be munching peas!

Needless to say, this is hot heavy work and River has been working on other projects, so T and I got to tackle this one ourselves. He is 12 and really into basketball and lacrosse and other sports, sometimes I have a hard time connecting with him as my interest in sports is slim unless he is the one playing. Being in the garden together, working towards a common goal without any distractions or little brothers has given us some time for him to talk when he is ready and for me to ask questions and give him lots of time to answer between sweaty grunts as we pulled up landscape fabric covered with 2 to 4 inches of soil, because we haven’t been hurried, it was a slow and steady kind of job.

This has been one of the slowest garden seasons for us in terms of getting seeds in the ground (I have never planted Brussel sprouts or carrots so late before – eeeekkkkk), but it has been rewarding for me in other ways. I have really appreciated the time spent with #1 and he has been proud of the hard work we have done together, things I needed an extra hand on and he is now big enough to be that extra hand.  Seeing the potatoes sprout prolifically in the new field has been very satisfying for him as he has hoed, planted, covered and helped to hill (we haven’t gotten very far on this part) the potatoes.  Number 2 is more interested in farming then #1, but #1 is willing to help which is awesome, my philosophy is if you like to eat, you get to help it grow in one way or another.

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Garlic!

Our peas should be ready this week, yeah! We have lettuce, kale, swiss chard, garlic scapes, and a few strawberries ready.

We have tomato’s and pepper’s blossoming, our next task is to make trellis’ for our tomatoes, I think T and I will tackle that this weekend. I have to measure the gardens to make the right size trellis’. I am using a trellis design from Four Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman. I will be hanging ropes for the tomatoes to climb instead of using actual rope trellis’ as that is less expensive to buy. I am so excited about this. We are also going to put up a rope grid between the pepper plants that will support them as they grow and get heavy fruits.

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I am enjoying this season of garden work and trying not to rush too much and stress myself out making for grumpy mama. This has been a challenge at times, but we have come up with a few things that help. I work in the mornings, I mostly take Tuesday and Thursday’s off for adventures or friend time and I let the littles watch some Daniel Tiger in the afternoons on Monday, Wednesday and Friday so I can write or do doTERRA research/work. This is a huge change as we have been a very low screen time family and I am still struggling with the guilt of feeling like they are watching too much TV, and needing to get some things done uninterrupted.

I am becoming immersed in essential oils, they are amazing, we are even going to use them in our chickens water to promote healthy gut health and prevent bacterial infections, so excited about this. If you would like to learn more about essential oils and uses in farming, contact me, I can help you find the answers if I don’t have them already! Visit my site below or send me an email.

https://www.doterra.com/US/en/site/firehousefarm

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Farming, Food storage, Fruit

Picking Strawberries

We went to Milkweed Farm, about 20 minutes from us to pick strawberries for the freezer as ours are in the first year and not prolific by any stretch of the imagination.

Milkweed Farm in Brunswick is a wonderful place, Lucretia Woodruff, farmer extraordinar, has created an amazing farm with her family. Her knowledge of fruit and biodynamic farming techniques, amaze me and I wanted to glean any information I could from her.

This was a perfect place to pick with small children. Lucretia had last years strawberry patch available for the kids to pick from, right next to this years patch. There is also a play area with slides and hay bales etc. I had three mama friends with me and we had 8 children under 8 with us, they were easily entertained for the hour and a half we were there.

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Into the freezer for a taste of summer anytime

T was with me as well and both of us picked 8 pounds of strawberries in less then 1.5 hours. I cut and froze 10 quarts, and the rest was for immediate consumption, yuuuuummm! So tasty! We may have to go back in the next couple of weeks!

Find our more about Milkweed Farm here:

Www.milkweedfarm.net

Farming, Food storage, Vegetables

The Last Squash

I used our last squash the other day, it was a delicata squash that was still perfect. This is the first year we have had squash this late in the year, not from the freezer. Winter squash are one of my favorite foods so I was really excited to have one last this long.

This year I made some trays, out of scrap wood that River brought home from work, with hardware cloth on the bottom for air circulation, that fit on the large shelves in our closet.  It worked pretty well. Our bedroom is unheated and as long as we kept the door closed most of the time the temperature stayed in a nice zone for keeping squash. My grandparents always stored squash under the spare room bed, which was also an unheated room, probably a slightly cooler temperature then our room was.

I was disappointed with the storage of our kabocha type squashes. I had planted three varieties; Sweet Mamas, Uncle David’s and Buttercup (my absolute favorite since childhood). They were the first to get soft spots, followed by the pie pumpkins, then the butternuts, last but not least the  delicata.

This year I didn’t plant any Kabocha type squash. I may regret this later, but for right now I went with my best storage and highest production plants (for us, this was butternut last year)…we will find out in the fall if this was a good choice.

Farming, Fruit, Vegetables

What’s Growing Right now…

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McFarland Lilacs are still blooming. I love that they arrive after the regular whites and purples. They re such a pretty color!

 

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Green beans, these are a variety called provider, I saved the seeds from last year.
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Swiss chard in the greenhouse, ready to be picked…
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Cukes in the greenhouse, ready to climb the trellis, it has blossoms all
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Zucchini in the greenhouse, blossoms almost ready to open…
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Peaches, yumm
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Pears, delicious, but time consuming to preserve
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Black raspberries
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Mulberries, these are so delicious. They will turn a dark reddish black before they are ready to harvest, so sweet and juicy.
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Basil, my first year growing it successfully from seed, strange that the have had so much trouble with it.
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Cilantro, can’t do without this tasty herb
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My home grown sweet potato slips planted in the garden. I managed to plant them Saturday morning before lacrosse games and before rain arrived.
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Peas! Something nibbled at a couple plants so I covered them with deer fencing, not sure if it was a little creature, like a bunny or a deer.
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Baby Leeks and kale and Swiss chard. Ready to be transplanted…
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Leaf lettuce, yum
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Mustards, planning to grow my own mustard seeds this year, whoop, whoop! I’m going to put some diatomaceous earth on these, the tiny holes could be flea beetles…
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Garlic Scapes, oh summer food we love you!
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Strawberries, this was our first ripe one, the three boys got to split it, luckies

 

 

Farming, Fruit, Vegetables

Farm update…

It has been a busy couple of weeks on the farm.

We added to our garden area at the away field, started hilling potatoes over there and are ready to plant another 35 lbs of potatoes and more onions. That is one of this weeks projects (hopefully, mom life means it isn’t always done in the timely manner that I wish it was) The Littles will be spending some time at my grandmothers on Wednesday morning and my plan is to work like crazy at the away field to get it all planted at least.

Adding more garden space meant collecting more manure from a local horse farm. We rented a dump trailer for this and hoped to haul poop all weekend. This was cut short when the tractor at the farm wasn’t working properly. River was able to get six loads. This is less then half of what we hoped for. We got 5 loads at the field and 1 load at our farm.

We laid down cardboard in the away field then put the manure on top of the cardboard. We will spread woodchips around the outside on top of the cardboard to keep the grasses from taking over the potatoes and onions.

I am also building some new beds at our house. We have a combination of raised beds ( it is extremely wet in our field in early spring) and beds directly in the soil. My hope this week is to add more of our compost to at least one of the ground beds and plant carrots. Surrounding the bed with cardboard and  woodchips to keep the weeds at bay. We would like all our paths to have woodchips on them as we use a no till system at this time, this would help keep down the weeds and give the boys a visual of where they may put there little feet. This is a challenge!

I will be weeding in the greenhouse and we will be taking the top and one side off the greenhouse. We do this to wash away salts and other things that can build up in the greenhouse soil. This year I have planted all my peppers and tomatoes in the field to have a little crop rotation in there. I have planted summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and Jenny Lind Musk melons in there. The cukes and melons will grow on trellis’.  I am going to plant some other goodies in there too as I have more space.

My vole traps are working really well. I am still catching critters in them, so I move them around a bit to keep it fresh. I don’t want the little critters to catch on to my tricks! I am missing a rat trap, it would seem that there is a larger critter that Has found our trapped critters make an easy meal. So they have taken to opening the boxes and removing  the rat traps, and leaving them strewn about the garden.

Our fruit production will be low this year. Two of our peach trees died. Our apricot, apple and plum trees all had lovely blossoms, but no fruit has formed. They may have gotten a touch of frost at the wrong time. Our peach and pear trees are loaded with fruit as are the raspberries, black raspberries and mulberry plants.  About half our blueberries have fruit. I think some may need new homes to produce more fruit. More sun perhaps.

We picked our first strawberry yesterday. That was the highlight of our week so far harvest wise.

This is just a little update on recent and current events happening at Firehouse Farm.

Farming

Growing Sweet Potato Slips

This post contains affiliate links.

This year I grew my own sweet potato slips. They are glorious to behold and look much healthier then the ones I ordered. I ordered some because I had heard the slips could be hard to grow and I wasn’t sure how my experiment would turn out.

First we put toothpicks around the middle of the sweet potato’s and set them into jars filled with water.

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Some of the toothpicks are broken on this sweet potato as we have been at this for awhile now.

The sweet potatoes start to grow roots, if they didn’t in a week or so, I turned them around and most of them grew roots, there were a couple of duds like the one above.

I read This Organic Life By Joan Dye Gussow earlier this spring. She said that she had tried to make her own slips for a couple years with little success. One year, when they hadn’t started growing after a week or so, she just turned them around and what do you know, they started growing roots!

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After the roots grew, little green leaves started growing. Most of the potato grew leaves out of the top, but there were a few rebels that grew leaves on the same end as the roots.

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Roots in the jar, leaves on top, a conformist.

Break off the leaves at the sweet potato and stick them in a jar of water. Roots will start to form and then they will be ready to plant when the soil is warm enough.

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You can see the roots growing in the jar, almost ready to plant!

Our harvests have been best when we have not used black plastic on the beds. This was recommended last time I ordered slips. So we laid down irrigation and put the black plastic on top. It did help with weeds, but initially many of our plants did not make it.

This year I will not be using plastic, just weeding and water if we have to. I will be trying to mulch it quite well to keep the soil moist.

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I have made a video about this, I will post it here as a link to our Facebook page until I can figure out how to post it here directly.Sweet Potato Video

Farming

Memorial Day Weekend on the Farm

This was busy weekend on the farm. Friday, River took the day off from work to help a friend cut down trees that had fallen in our big storm last October. It was our warmest day this year and there were browntail moth caterpillar’s everywhere. He said at one point they were practically raining on him. Needless to say he ended up with a pretty impressive rash. Saturday he ended up at the walk in clinic to get a prescription so he could sleep.

I was sick with a virus on Sunday, so we all hung out and I mostly slept. Luckily River was home to keep the boys fed and occupied.

We planted our tomato and pepper seedlings in the garden. I am loath to say how depressingly small many of my seedlings were. I had 5 good sized tomatoes out of 57 plants and the rest were tiny.

River put up electric fencing in the chicken coop which ended up being a bust because the chickens got out anyway. See my post on Chicken Fencing to find out how we finally solved this problem.

On Tuesday I discovered that something had dug up several of my tomato seedlings. It was in the bed that I had added eggshells to last. Adding eggshells to your soil for tomato’s and peppers can ward off blossom end rot because they contain calcium. This is the first year I have done this, so I can’t vouch for the effectiveness of the eggshells yet. I washed and crushed them with my hand, perhaps I should have put them through the blender to make them of less interest to critters.

It was nice to be working close together on projects as River and I are often working on things that are far apart and the Littles went back and forth “helping” as they felt like it. A was actually very good at transplanting tomatoes. Of the three boys he seems to enjoy the gardens the most.