Category Archives: Planting

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?

Celebrating

Woo Hoo! I exclaimed at 1:46 P.M. as the last bulb of garlic was planted. My husband chimed in with a Yee Haw! We began preparing bulbs last Monday and have been working towards todays finale all week long. We were blessed with a week of beautiful weather. We finished up today with 7700 cloves planted, and none too soon as tomorrow’s forecast is for cooler temperatures and lots of rain 🙂

It was 1:56 P.M. while I was cleaning up some of the area when I spotted the Blue Bird. Yes! Our Blue Bird of Happiness paying us a visit to share in our celebration. This evening we wrapped up a few things like running wire and twine around the area to hopefully deter deer and chickens. We would like to invite you to share in our celebration. You can do so by pouring a glass of your favorite beverage and raising it as a toast and/or saying a simple prayer of thanks to God and asking that He bless us with a bountiful crop in 2018. You could also hit the like button at the bottom of this page or leave your comments to let us know you care.

If you would like more information about what was involved in our garlic planting activities this week please check out this page https://donteatitsoap.com/a-year-in-growing-garlic/  that details our 2017 garlic growing season.

Thanks for reading and God Bless.

Fall Activities

To start off this post I want to send a great big Thank You to anyone reading this. My readership is growing and in the past few months the number of people who are following my blog has doubled. It’s still not a big number but it is very encouraging. Having followers is kind of like making new friends. Followers can visit our farm through many of the pictures I post and can keep up with what we are up to just by reading along. It’s always exciting when somebody hits the “like” button or I get hits off Facebook indicating that somebody liked my writing well enough to share it with their friends. Best of all is when someone takes the time to leave a comment.  It’s almost as good as having friends stop by for coffee and a chat. So again thank you to all those who are reading.

This is a quick update on some of our fall activities before we begin planting garlic this week. If you are interested in what we will be doing with garlic planting you can check out this page https://donteatitsoap.com/a-year-in-growing-garlic/ .

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My husband has been working on expanding our strawberry patch. He first weeded  them then cut and transplanted runners before mulching with straw. Since this picture was taken he has finished the center so there is now 7 full rows of strawberry plants. We are praying for a bountiful crop in 2018.

After finishing the strawberry patch he moved on to the asparagus bed. We added to the asparagus this spring so we now have around 100 plants. Over the past few days he has cut down the ferns that were dead leaving a few that were still green. With hands and knees in the dirt he weeded the areas directly around each plant. He then tilled in between the rows. Since I didn’t get a picture you’ll have to trust me when I say it looks beautiful. Straw will also be used to mulch the asparagus before winter sets in.

He has cleared out most of the garden since nearly everything is done producing. He cut corn stalks and gave some to friends and neighbors to use for fall decorations.

While he has been busy with all of the fall farming activities my time has been split more between the farm and the house. My activities at the farm were mostly preparing the prayer garden for winter.

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I gave it a good weeding, then I trimmed dead foliage and blossoms from most of the plants. I left any blossoms that were still open, as they were being used by bees and butterflies in search of food. I also dug out some Irises because they were spreading beyond where I wanted to go. I gave the dug up Iris bulbs to a neighbor who was happy to receive them.

At home I cooked up and froze pumpkins from our one volunteer pumpkin plant that produced this year. It was not a pie pumpkin but it made a fabulous pumpkin pie.  You can find my pumpkin pie recipe here https://donteatitsoap.com/2015/09/22/pumpkin/   I froze several packages of eggplant and I turned some of the strawberries, that I had froze in June, into jam. I also filtered the beeswax that had been tucked in the freezer after the our honey harvest.  Check out this post to see how I filter beeswax. https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/06/06/filtering-bees-wax/

After several months of not making soap, I made two batches last week. The first one I made was Sweet Dandelion. Since it was such a big hit when I made it in the spring, I knew that I would want to make another batch so even though they were nearly done blossoming, in late June I walked the farm in search of dandelions. I was able to find enough to make a pot of dandelion tea and infused the rest in some sunflower oil. I froze the dandelion tea and I had both of my key ingredients ( tea and oil) last week when I was ready to make this soap.

The other soap I made was coffee soap. I am really looking forward to trying this soap because I used a new and (hopefully) improved method. I will post about it in the future, probably in six weeks or so when the soap is ready.

For now I must refocus on the task at hand – garlic planting, so until next time I wish you well.

Time Flies

It is said that as you get older time seems to go faster. It is also said that time flies when you’re having fun. I’m not sure which it is, and I suspect it is a combination of the two, but time sure does seem to be going quickly. Here it is well into June already and it  seems I have missed a lot of the things I should have written about. I thought I’d make this a catch up post.

Planting and weeding were two of our priorities in the last week of May and first week of June. My husband and I worked mostly together to do a thorough weeding of the entire garlic field. We spread it out over 5 or 6 days working 2 to 4 hours each day and it looked really good when it was finished. We are now just pulling big weeds as needed in the garlic. I have also spent time pulling weeds in the Prayer Garden, and devoted almost a full day to weeding the strawberry patch and asparagus. We have pretty much waged war on weeds and for now we seem to be winning the battle.

My husband has also spent a lot of time getting the garden planted. He started with the fifty tomato plants that he has grown from heirloom seed, as well as some green peppers, cabbage, and cucumbers.  We had our annual date to the local green house. The green house is one of the few places I enjoy shopping and usually I spend way too much money buying plants. This year there were only a few thing that we needed because my husband had started much of what we needed from seed. He picked out a couple of egg plants and some leeks and I bought a couple of rosemary plants but they were all out of culinary sage that I wanted. I did get a couple of Russian sage plants. Although they are not edible they should look nice in the prayer garden and the blossoms are said to attract butterflies. Maybe the bees will like them as well.

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We had another swarm of bees. We watched the entire event. Above is the beginning when the group was starting to leave the hive.

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It’s hard to make out in the above photo but all the little yellow spots against the green areas and all of the black spots against the blue sky are bees. They settled in a picturesque location nearby.

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The flexibility of the  pine branches made it easy for my husband to slip a bucket up over the swarm. He then shook the branch while holding the bucket around the swarm. Nearly all of the bees fell into the bucket. He covered it with a lid and carried it to the empty hive.

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He dumped the bees into the hive and put the inner cover on. He placed a piece of wood over the hole in the top of the inner cover to keep the bees inside. He went back to the pine tree and repeated the process to collect the bees that were left behind.

We watched the hive and saw bees gathering at the small slot in the side of the inner cover. This was a good indication that the queen was inside and the workers were going in to be with the queen.

It’s now about a week later and this hive along with our other 5 are all doing well.

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The Irises are in full bloom in the Prayer Garden. When I was planting rosemary and sage the other day a lovely fragrance caught my attention. Since the Irises were the nearest blossoms I walked to them and took a sniff. Wow! Spicy-sweet. I then took a long deep breathe to fill myself with this wonderful scent. These have only been in place for a couple of years and have really just taken off this year. I always thought that Irises were planted for their showy flowers, and that is why I planted them. I never realized that they were aromatic as well.

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I guess this just goes to show that we should take time to stop and smell the Irises. I’ll consider this a lesson learned.

Harvesting and watering are now our primary activities. Our asparagus crop was significantly affected by the wet weather this year and we harvested less than 50% of what we had last year. The strawberries are ripening and I have picked about 7 quarts so far. I am freezing them for now and will make jam with many of them when I have more time. I have also picked and dried oregano, spearmint and chocolate mint.

We are now having to water daily as we have gone from overly wet weather to overly dry. I think our last good rain was before Memorial Day, and the lack of rain plus the summerlike temperatures, equals very thirsty plants. This post explains our watering system on the farm. Since the farm is off grid watering takes a little more time and effort than just turning on a faucet. https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/06/05/our-off-grid-irrigation-system/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

While there are many other things going on here, there is much work to be done and precious little time to write about it, so until next time 🙂

 

 

A Year In Growing Garlic (Part III)

On Thursday as we continued to prepare for planting we made a couple of “executive” (meaning my husband and I agreed) decisions. The first one is that we will not plant Spanish Roja garlic this year. We decided this because this variety does not store well and thus does not meet the standards that we have set. It seems to start going bad within three months of harvest even when properly stored, while the other varieties will remain fresh for 5 or more months when properly stored.  The second decision we made is that the chickens would stay inside the chicken yard while we were planting.

 

While the chickens have a large penned area, most days we leave the gate open and they are free to roam our farm. We know all too well that when our chickens spot freshly tilled soil or straw piles it is a free-for-all, they scratch and peck and then nestle their whole bodies into the soil or straw without a care for what they may be destroying. So for the next few days, until we are done planting, and mulching with straw, and the straw hopefully gets rained on and matted down so it is less appealing to the chickens, we will keep the chickens in their pen, and save ourselves a lot of grief.

WARNING: If a garlic farmer ever asks you if you want to “get down and dirty”, participate in “grounding or earthing” https://draxe.com/earthing/ ,  or “play in the dirt”, they may be trying to recruit you to plant garlic :).

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Friday October 14th was, as I like to say when we are about to start a big project, “Game On”.

The job started with my husband tilling up the garlic bed in the morning. The soil was very loose, with no big clumps like we have dealt with in past years and very few rocks. What a blessing this was.

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He also set out the stakes and twine, that we would use to mark the rows, as well as our lattice planting grids.

img_1948 In past years we have used one 8×2 foot piece of lattice to make our four rows. We plant in the rows that had four spaces across this gives us 64 cloves in the ground and then we pick up the lattice and place it in the next (8×2 foot) space in the row. This year we purchased 2 more 8×2 foot pieces of lattice. We placed them end to end in the row and were able to plant 192 cloves before getting up to move the lattice. We found that each row would accommodate eight, 8 foot, lengths of lattice, so our 64 feet long rows contain 512 garlic plants.

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We each started out with a bucket full of garlic cloves, our planting stick which we use to make the hole that the clove is planted in, and a foam kneeling pad. Although the foam kneeling pads were comfortable, we abandoned them early on as the  soil was soft enough that the kneeling pads were not necessary. I suspect they also would have negated any positive effects we attained from grounding.

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Using our planting sticks we poke a hole about 4 inches deep in the soil and then place a clove in the hole. The clove must be planted root side down/ pointy side up and this is the reason we are on our hand and knees in the dirt planting each clove with TLC. My husband eventually realized that the soil was loose enough, this year, that he could simply push the clove deep enough into the soil without using the stick to make a hole first.

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After each of the lattice sections were planted, while my husband moved them to the next section in the row, I cover each planted clove with soil. Since the soil was loose and not clumpy this was done by simple running the back of a garden rake over the area.

It took us an average of 45 minutes to plant one 64 foot row or 512 cloves of garlic. On Friday we planted Red Toch and S&H Silver and ended with 3 full rows and partial row planted. On Saturday we planted Music and Chesnok Red and at this point we have 7 1/2 rows or 3840 cloves planted. With the 20 lbs. of Chesnok Red that are arrived today, and will hopefully be planted tomorrow, we should end up with somewhere in the area of 5000 garlic planted this year.

 

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Once the planting was done on Saturday we mulched all of the rows with a thick layer of straw.  It took one bale of straw per row. Over the winter the mulch will insulate the ground and protect the cloves from extreme temperatures. The rain we got on Sunday weighed down the straw so it will not blow away. My husband also ran several rows of twine around the whole area close to the ground. This will keep the dogs out of the area and hopefully the chickens as well.

My husband and I agree that garlic planting this year has seemed easier than in any of the previous years. Continually amending the soil and some tweaks to our process are really paying off.