Category Archives: garden

Farm Happinings

Just a quick post with some of the photos I have taken at the farm in the past week.

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This year we planted patches of sunflowers in various areas around the farm. Some of the patches were garden plots that we would not be using this year, others were spots that we normally mow but decided to let them grow up in sunflowers this year. We bought oil sunflower seed that is normally sold as bird seed and hand sowed them. While we don’t intend to harvest the sunflowers they will serve several purposes: they are available for bees and other pollinators to collect pollen and nectar, the birds will feed on the seeds, and they are simply beautiful to look at. I am not sure it is possible to look at a field of sunflowers and not smile. 🙂

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We have also planted many areas with buckwheat. We use buckwheat as a cover crop to suppress weed growth and condition the soil. It is also a favorite food of honey bees. Since buckwheat is a fast growing crop we have stagger planted it so that when some of it is done blossoming some is just beginning to blossom.

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This is a photo of our main garden area. To the left beyond the sunflowers are two rows of strawberries that were planted this spring. There is another patch of sunflowers beyond that. The row of trees in the grassy strip are apple trees. The next area, to the right, is where we have our vegetable garden with tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, beets, Swiss chard, lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, melons, squash, pumpkins, egg plant, peppers, cabbage, parsley, basil, and dill. Beyond that is the blueberry patch. The white patch to the far right is blossoming buckwheat. This large (main garden) area is completely fenced to keep deer out.

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Some of the apple trees are loaded with apples this year. The branches are so heavy that my husband made support posts to prop up the branches. We expect to have a nice apple harvest this year as long as we can keep the crows away.

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Even though we have had some periods of rain the US drought monitor map reports that our area is abnormally dry. We really don’t need that map to know that as our gardens tell us all we need to know.  Last night while my husband and I were sitting on the beach and feeding the fish an unexpected rain shower popped up. Since we were sitting under a beach umbrella we continued to sit on the beach and offered prayers of thanks for the rain. As the rain grew harder we retreated to the porch of the barn to stay dry as the glorious rain watered the earth. This shower didn’t bring anywhere near the amount of rain we really need but we are thankful for every drop that fell.

Thanks for visiting the farm today. Until next time be well my friends. 🙂

 

The Garlic Is Harvested

The garlic harvest is complete and our new barn is serving it’s purpose.

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This photo is the loft area full of Chesnok Red garlic. Each bundle has 25 garlic bulbs. The other two varieties are hanging in the downstairs area. The garlic will hang for about three weeks before we begin clipping and cleaning it to prepare it for market.

Having the barn proved to be such a blessing. We were able to pace ourselves with the harvest. My husband primarily did the digging. He would dig one or two rows a day and move it into the barn. I mostly did the bundling. He pounded the nails into the rafters and hung the garlic and I tied the garlic nooses. Just kidding they weren’t really a noose, but I pre-tied loops in each end of the strings and the string was wrapped around a bunch of garlic then one loop was pulled through the other loop and the string would tighten around the garlic. The loop on the long end was used to hang the garlic from the nail.

At times, especially in the extreme heat, the work was grueling, but the process went pretty smoothly. We make a good team. 🙂

Besides harvesting all that garlic over the past two weeks we have spent time picking both blueberries and currants. Both have produced great crops this year. This has been our largest blueberry crop so far (we have picked over 3 US dry gallons) and I have put most of them in the freezer to be used throughout the year in pancakes and banana bread, but as a special treat I decided to make a blueberry pie.

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When I was making this pie I realized that this was the first time I have ever made a blueberry pie. I will confess that I used a premade, store bought, crust but the pie was delicious and it didn’t last long.

The other thing that we’ve spent a lot of time doing over the last two weeks is watering the gardens. Rain has been very scarce here this summer. The first three weeks of June were completely dry, then on June 24/25 when the rains finally came. Over those two days we probably had three or more inches of rain. While it made up for some of the deficit, all that rain at one time damaged some of our plants, specifically cabbages. We then went into a hot dry spell and our next rain fall did not come until July 16. That day our rainfall was probably less than an inch. We had a little bit more today and the forecast is for more tomorrow. Feel free to say a prayer that the forecast is correct. We are.

 

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Since the garlic was harvested and there was rain in the forecast my husband spent the day yesterday preparing the garlic field for next years crop. The garlic field has been tilled and seeded with rye grass as a cover crop.

Even though the garlic harvest is done I don’t expect our pace to slow down as there are so many things that need to be done. If we do get a good rainfall we can the spend more time weeding (always easier after the rain). The grass needs to be cut and my husband will be checking the bees and hopefully harvesting honey soon. The list is way longer than that and probably longer than I realize, but I’m sure you will read about some of it as time goes on.

I also hope to get back to posting more often and some of the posts I have planned include a second post about things we are harvesting (if you missed the first one you can find it here), a post about honey, and as I mentioned in a previous post I will be sharing my thoughts about natural skin care.

Thanks for reading and until next time – Be Well.

 

Pickin’ and Preserving

I just thought I would do a quick post about what we have harvested in the past week.

Strawberries – Since we began picking strawberries we have harvested nearly 50 quarts of strawberries. After I froze enough to keep us in homemade jam through the year we began offering them to family and friends. We have had a lack of rain so the berries are not big this year but they are delicious.  Due the dry conditions we are not certain that the plants will continue to produce berries much longer.

Garlic Scapes – Several people who visited the farm this week went home with some garlic scapes. We cut, bundled and delivered scapes to a local retailer and are having scapes for dinner tonight.

Oregano – It was time to start picking oregano before it blossoms. Oregano is a very prolific herb that is spreading throughout, and making a nice ground cover in our prayer garden. Since I will not be ready to can spaghetti sauce for at least a month I will dry the herbs as I harvest them and they will keep well until I am ready to use them. When it flowers the bees are very attracted to it.

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I find that air drying herbs works well. I have a couple different methods for doing this. One is to tie the herbs in a bunch, like I have done with the oregano in the above picture, and hang then where they will get good air flow until the leaves completely dry. Once they are completely dry I remove the leaves from the stems and store in an airtight container.

Basil – Basil is another herb that I use in my spaghetti sauce. It is an annual so we plant a few plant each year. It is not very large yet but picking some of it now will encourage it to grow more and discourage it from flowering too soon. Since the basil stems were pretty short I decided it was best to dry them on our drying screen (shown in the photo below).

The drying screen is simply made of a wooden frame with screen stapled together. The frame that we used actually came as packaging from a table that we had purchased. I saved it because I knew there was a better use for it the just throwing it away. The screen that we used was part of a roll of screen that I had picked up for a couple dollars at an estate sale.

Since the drying screen does not have legs I usually put a box under each end so there is good air flow all the way around. Depending on the temperature, leafy herbs will usually dry in a few days on the drying screen. They are then stored in air tight containers until we are ready to use them

Plantain Leaves –  When you see plantain you may think of a fruit similar to a banana that grows on trees (Musa paradisiaca) but we can’t grow that here. Apparently plantain trees grow best in zones 8 through 11 and require 10-15 months with temperatures above freezing to bear fruit. That doesn’t happen in Michigan.

The plantain I am referring to is know as common plantain (plantago major) and common it is. It pops up seemly everywhere and you would probably recognize it even if you don’t know it’s name. Along with not knowing it’s name you may not be aware that plantain had many health benefits and is often included in list of the top weeds that we should be eating. Although we have not yet included plantain in our diet I have been harvesting it for medicinal purposes for several years. The following website includes a photo and information about plantains medicinal uses https://usesofherbs.com/plantain.

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Marshmallow Leaves On The Drying Screen

 

Marshmallow Leaves –  If you are not familiar with the wonder benefits of the Marshmallow plant you can read about it here https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-marshmallow.html.

We have been growing marshmallow for several years now and in the fall I harvest some of the roots as I use it in my Hair Care soap. Last year I also harvested some of the leaves, dried them and stored them. I enjoyed marshmallow tea a few times and have begun harvesting and drying the leaves so I can replenish my herbal “medicine cabinet”.

I actually started this post last week intending for it to be a short summery of our weeks efforts but as the time passes we are harvesting more and more produce. Before I wrap it up I will quickly add –

Blueberries –  We are picking fully ripened blueberries and not having to worry about the birds getting them first. If you aren’t sure why click here to read about our blueberry patch update.

and last but not least

Currants – I have been waiting for months for these little berries to be ready. In my opinion they are a superfood and I intend on doing a separate post on them and how I am preserving them.

I am going to wrap up this post now before the list gets any longer. As I head to the farm to pick berries I wish you all a blessed day.

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Spring Happenings

The last weekend in May is known as the unofficial start of summer and the weather last weekend played right along. Temperatures were around 90 degrees Fahrenheit for several days. Time seems to being going so fast that I am wondering how I missed spring.

I went back and looked at some of my photos from the last few weeks for a reminder.

IMG_4094The fruit trees, including apple, pear, and tart cherry all blossomed and are now setting fruit. Berry bushes, including our blue berry, raspberry, currant and grapes are setting fruit as well.

IMG_4091The dandelions blossomed and my husband helped me pick a bunch for soap making before they went to seed. I have enough for two batches of sweet dandelion soap. Trooper didn’t help pick dandelions but he enjoyed being there.

Speaking of Sweet Dandelion soap, I had just made a batch in May when I received the Mother’s Day gift my girls bought for me. It is a soap stamp. So I began playing with it as this batch was curing.IMG_4128It will be tricky to figure out when the soap is the correct degree of hardness for the stamp to work just right and challenging learning to apply the right amount of pressure to the stamp so I don’t squish the soap. I thought about using some type of coloring to add contrast, but it has to be something natural since I do not use artificial coloring in my soap. In the above photo I used cinnamon in one and turmeric in the other. Learning to use this will be a lot of trial and error.

The dandelions have now gone to seed and last week when I was mowing the lawn I was getting bombarded with dandelion seeds. They were flying everywhere and they were stuck to my clothes and in my hair. I told my husband I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up with dandelions growing out of my ears. He thought they would probably grow from my belly button because “you know everyone has a little dirt in their belly button.” LOL!IMG_4106We have been hearing  pheasants a lot on the farm and in the neighboring field and every now and the we get a glimpse of one. We are glad to see them as it had seemed that the pheasant population had all but disappeared over the last thirty or so years.

IMG_4102We have spotted many new nests around the farm this spring mostly they have been empty when we looked but one had robin eggs in it and I did spot this momma sitting on hers.

IMG_4127We also have a pair of ducks who have been frequenting the pond this spring. My husband and I agree that we will not be surprised if we find out that they have a nest in the woods next to the pond. I guess we will know if they show up with babies.

IMG_4097This past winter was a bad one for bees in our area. We lost four of our five hives so we bought two more packages and installed them into hives. Since my husband installed them on his own I didn’t get any photos.

The garden has been planted. We have tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, egg plant, potatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, cantaloupe, water melon, lettuce, Swiss chard, celery, basil, parsley, carrots, beets, green beans, corn, winter squash and pumpkins.

Along with the hot weather came a dry spell – we weren’t really expecting it because the weather forecasters had predicted that we would get rain and storms as the remnants from tropical storm Alberto made it’s way North into our part of the country. Somehow all that rain missed us.

IMG_1233Fortunately my husband had put the pump in the pond and we were able to take advantage of the wind that we had last week to get the tanks filled and keep things watered as we awaited the rain.

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We finally got rain this morning and what a blessing it is. Not only will it give all of our crops the boost that they need right now, and give us a break from watering, it makes pulling weeds much easier. Pulling weeds is one of the thing we have been spending much time doing this past week as weeds were threatening to take over the strawberry patch, the garlic field and the asparagus patch. Pulling weeds out of dry clay soil is next to impossible so that task will go much quicker now.

IMG_4124.JPGSince the temperatures were so warm (hot) I did spend some time last Friday raking the beach area. If I have to work on a hot day cleaning the pond is the perfect job. 🙂 After I raked the leaves out of the beach area and used our small rototiller to rough up the sand we set up our beach chairs and umbrella. Woo hoo we are ready for summer!!!

The following day when the sun was high in the sky and temperatures soared, a dip in the pond was a refreshing treat.

Thus far we have picked and eaten and froze lots of asparagus and I picked some rhubarb and put several packages in the freezer as well. When I was freezing the rhubarb I discovered one small package of rhubarb from last year. I decided I needed to use it up. I also found the last of my strawberries from last year – another small package. Since there were only about a cup of each there was not really enough to make this into a pie or crisp, so I decided to make strawberry-rhubarb sauce. I put both the strawberries and the rhubarb in a sauce pan then added a bit of water – maybe a half cup. I wasn’t too worried about having too much because I could cook it off to get the sauce to thicken. I simmered this until the fruit was soft. I then mashed the mixture with a potato masher. I continued cooking it until it was thick and added sugar to taste. I can’t really tell you how much sugar to add because everybody likes a different degree of sweetness and some strawberries are much sweeter than others. I just started with a couple tablespoons and tasted until it was right. While this fruity dessert was good eaten plain, my husband used some as an ice cream topping and I mixed some with some vanilla yogurt as well.

They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and I have always believed that time seems to go faster as I get older, so I think both of these combined explains why it is June already and I feel like I missed Spring. Thanks for sticking with me for this recap.

Just curious – does time seem to be flying by for you as well?

2018 – Asparagus Season In Michigan

As I pulled the straw mulch off the asparagus plants yesterday I discovered a few of the plants had new shoots starting to poke their heads out of the ground. This post is specifically for those in Michigan or a similar growing zone (we are 6b). If you are growing your own asparagus or hunt for wild asparagus – it’s “game on”.  What’s the game? The trick to harvesting asparagus is getting it when it is just the right size – between six and nine inches is usually good, but since under ideal growing conditions asparagus can grow 1/2 inch an hour the field, or plants, might need to be harvested twice a day for maximum yield. I expect we will begin harvesting within a few days and if all goes well we should be able to continue for at least 4-6 weeks.

I found it interesting when I looked at my blog from 2017 I wrote a similar post on April 25, 2017, about one week earlier than this year.

If you would like to learn a little more about asparagus check out this link – http://www.michiganasparagus.org/interesting-tips/ . Also I find the best way to store fresh asparagus is to put the cut ends in water (in a cup or jar) then cover the tops with a plastic bag and refrigerate them.

Do you have any great recipes for asparagus? I’m sure we will be eating lots of it soon.

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Spring!