Tag Archives: Homesteading

Our Sweet Potato Harvest

The Harvest

Growing sweet potatoes this year was really just an experiment and unfortunately one that I did not document. While I regret that I don’t have exact dates, time frames and pictures, I was so impressed with the results that I wanted to share the process.

Below is a photo of our sweet potato harvest.

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It might not look very impressive until I tell you that all of those sweet potatoes grew in that pot (approximately 3 gallon).

The Process

I think it was late February or early March when I noticed a sweet potato that I had bought at the grocery store was beginning to grow roots. Rather than send it to the compost heap I decided to let it live.

I poked a toothpick into each side of the sweet potato at about the halfway point then put one end of it into a large mouth jar filled with water where it continued to grow more roots. The toothpicks held the top end above the lip of the jar. It was important to keep the jar filled with water and in a couple of weeks it began to sprout leaves.

I kept adding water and the leaves grew into vines. Once the vines were over 12 inches long I cut six to eight inches off and put them in a jar of water to root. I think it was early April when I planted 4 of them in the pot filled with potting soil. I also gave some to my cousin so she could grow her own.

I kept the pot near a sunny window and kept them well watered and they continued to grow. I think it was mid to late May, when the weather warmed enough and the threat of frost had passed, that I moved the pot to our deck.

From there it was just a matter of keeping them watered. If we did not have rain the soil dried up quickly and the leaves would begin to droop.

It was the first week in October, when we were having cooler overnight temperatures, when I noticed that even though the soil was moist the leaves were drooping. I decided it was time to harvest them. Harvest was as simple as dumping the whole pot out then breaking up the soil and picking the sweet potatoes out.

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Doing It Again

Since this variety grew so well I decided to try to keep it growing. The vine was not dead so I cut some slips from it and have them rooting in a jar right now. Soon I will need to plant them in a pot of soil.

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Eating Them

Sweet potatoes are a great source of many of the nutrients that our bodies need to stay healthy. You can learn more about that here. While searching for a link to provide you with those benefits I discovered something I did not know. Sweet potato leaves are edible. They can be prepared and eaten like other leafy greens (think spinach) and are very high in nutrients. This article explains more.

We usually eat sweet potato baked but sometimes cut it up and add it to soups or stews. I am now planning on adding sweet potato leaves to our diet as well.

Do you have a favorite sweet potato recipe you would like to share? How you ever eaten sweet potato leaves?

 

It Was The Perfect Day For Planting Garlic

Sunday, October 20th the weather was the perfect for just about any type of outdoor activity (except snowmobiling, snow shoeing, ice fishing or anything else the requires temperatures to be freezing or below). We reached a high temp of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius), the sky was mostly clear and there was little if any wind.

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We were surrounded by beautiful fall colors.

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The chickens were happily doing what chickens do.

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Our activity of choice was planting garlic, or playing in the dirt as we prefer to call it. This year planting did not take nearly as long as it has in the past, mostly because of the small amount that we had to plant. If you are a regular reader you probably remember that our harvest this year was much smaller than we had hoped, and that we had fewer bulbs that would be large enough to use as seed. We ended up with between 450 and 500 cloves planted. Much less than we have planted in years past.

A couple other things made our task easier. We try to rotate our crops at least every two years so this year we planted in a new location. We have not used this area for gardening in the past, but when my husband tilled the soil it was a moist loam which made pushing the cloves into the ground very easy. If the soil is too wet or too dry planting can be more difficult.

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The other thing that made for light(er) work was this weed guard mat that we used. The mat is made from a heavy biodegradable, organic paper. It is pre-scored so that we could simply punch out the hole while pushing our garlic clove into the ground.

In past years we have not used the weed guard because we were concerned the mat would shift and the garlic sprouts would not be able to find their way through the holes.

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To hold the mat in place my husband was able to get these broken or damaged paving stones from his landscaping job. While they might not have been suitable for building walkways or patios they were perfect for our needs. Remember One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure.

Once we had the weed guard rolled out we were able to get the planting done much quicker than in past years when we have used 4×8 sheets of lattice for our planting grid.

After we planted all of the garlic we put a temporary fence around it as an added protection, because while the paver stones may keep the wind from blowing the weed guard they may not hold up as well against deer running across it.

Ideally the weed guard will serve to keep the weeds down and help the soil retain moisture, lessening the time and effort that we will have to spend watering and weeding next spring and summer.

So with a “WOO HOO” (I always say that when we finish planting garlic) and a prayer of thanks our 2020 garlic season is under way.

Thanks for visiting.

 

Wrapping Up Summer

It’s hard to believe that autumn is here. I just wanted to hold on to summer – perhaps indefinitely. Since it is humanly impossible to stop time, the best I can do is hold onto and treasure the memories that Summer 2019 gifted me.  I have decided to place some of these precious memories in this post where, like keepsakes in a trinket box, they will be safely stored and I can return to them whenever I like.  I will also share them with you.

At The Farm 

In early August I used my hours at the farm for picking blueberries, watering plants, and mostly weeding the prayer garden (this is the time of year that weeds really start to take over if they are not kept in check). IMG_5686 (2)

I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that the prayer garden was in full bloom. My husband said he wanted to correct that statement but didn’t. He is right of course – by design the prayer garden is in continuous bloom, from early spring, when the daffodils appear, until late fall, or at least until we get the first frost of the season there is always something blossoming.

By mid August my chore list had changed. We had some decent rain so we didn’t have to do much watering. We began picking tomatoes and peppers and I began cleaning our 2019 garlic crop.

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For the past four weeks or so the focus has been on harvesting our garden and either cooking and eating or preserving the harvest. While most of the tomatoes have been frozen so far, I did manage to get 15 quarts of tomato sauce canned. We have been enjoying fresh red skin potatoes (boiled or made into potato salad), Swiss chard (sautéed with garlic, cooked into an omelet or added to a cream cheese stuffed chicken breast), baked butter nut squash, tomatoes (fresh on the side, on a sandwich, or cooked into homemade pasta sauce) and stuffed green peppers. I also cut up three small cabbages and started the process of turning them into sauerkraut. This is the time of year that all of the work pays off.

The Bees

Busy, busy, busy.

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We have eight healthy hives right now and our son-in-laws hive is thriving as well.

 

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We have harvested honey three times this summer from three different hives. Each harvest yielded approximately 30 lbs. of honey. After we harvest the honey and wax from the frames my husband sets the frames back out for the bees to finish cleaning them up. The picture above shows the bees completing this task.

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A few weeks ago one of the hives swarmed. My husband captured the swarm and put it in an empty hive. He then placed a feeder with honey in it on top. The next day the bees had left that hive. We are not sure why they weren’t happy there but they did fill up on the honey before leaving.

The Chickens

The eight Jersey Giants that were cute little chicks this spring are now full grown hens. They began laying in eggs in August and will hopefully keep us in fresh eggs through the winter months.IMG_5650

Soap Making

Normally I don’t make a lot of soap during the summer months but I found I was out of a few varieties. I decided to have some fun with it.

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My sister had given me some silicone mini molds so I made a few small bars using them. I can see making holiday themed sample soaps or using teddy bears or duckies as favors for a baby shower. They would however need to be clearly labeled  “Don’t Eat It!” as I would want someone thinking they were white chocolate.

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I have also been practicing using my soap stamp and getting better at it. It’s really a matter of stamping the soap when it is still just a little soft.

Family and Fun

In early August we planned a family picnic at the farm. Not all of the girls could make it but Tina and Ken brought our grandkids and Kara also came out. After we ate, our three year old grandson, Jackson, went fishing with his dad and grandpa and caught his first fish. I didn’t get any pictures of this because Tina and Kara and I had taken (granddaughter) Addy to pick blueberries.

Not only did Addy enjoy picking the berries she enjoyed eating them as well. The cutest part was that each time Addy, who is learning to talk, picked a berry she would say appo (apple). The first time she said it we thought it was so cute we laughed before telling her “berry”.  So after that each time she picked a berry she would say “appo” and laugh then when we told her berry she would say “ber-ry”. Her laugh was so contagious that we were all laughing each time she said “appo”.

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In August my husband and I went plant shopping. Normally I don’t like shopping. The exceptions are going to a greenhouse or nursey and shopping for yarn or other craft supplies. Each spring we usually go to a local green house and pick up a least a few plants for the year but it’s quite easy for me to get carried away and buy way more plants than I need.

You may remember from this post that my husband was working at a greenhouse this spring and was able to bring home many plants that would have otherwise ended up in the dumpster. With all the free flowers we had there was no need to go plant shopping…until August. While working the landscaping job that he started in July my husband had to make a trip to a nursery where they purchased anise hyssop plants that would be planted at one of the jobsites. “They had pretty purple flowers and the bees were all over them,” he said as he told me about the plants. I knew this herb had some medicinal  properties and if the bees like it then we should definitely plants some.

I did a little homework and found that anise hyssop is generally a plant the deer avoid because of it’s strong fragrance. This sounded like the perfect addition to our prayer garden.

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We purchased two large plants that were in full bloom and two smaller (less expensive) plants that should continue to grow each year until they are about a foot wide. I understand that these plants also drop seeds each year that will readily sprout into new plants. These plants are still blooming more than a month after we planted them and I saw bees foraging in them yesterday. 🙂

As we were walking through the green house I noticed a table full of flowers that I was not familiar with. They had bright orange and yellow flowers. They were marked $5 each. After asking an employee if the deer would eat them and being assured that it was not likely, I picked out two yellow and one orange. (There I go getting carried away.) The plant is called lantana. It wasn’t until we got them home that we realized that they are an annual so will not be coming back next year. 😦

We took a Sunday off in August to visit the Armada Fair and watch the tractor pulls.

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My husband and I wore our matching tractor pull t-shirts so my daughter snapped a photo of us. We were joined by daughters Kara and Lindell and Lindell’s boyfriend Brysen.  We arrived early enough to walk through the animal barns and view the exhibits before the tractor pulls began. I’m not sure which is cuter baby goats or baby cows. I love seeing them both.

We also filled up on lots of expensive fair food. I wonder which was higher the calorie count or the price.

For those of you who, like Brysen, have never seen a tractor pull, let me sum it up. Basically tractor pulling is a competition to see who’s tractor can pull a weighted sled the farthest. If you would like a little more information see this article.

IMG_5576This tractor, named Cruel Intentions, is owned by the Capozzo family. They also own and operate the excavating company that dug our pond. This is the tractor we were rooting for that day and they did take first place in their class.

 

After the tractors were finished they brought in a couple of semi’s that did an exhibition pull.

In the photo below I was trying to get a shot of the score board that electronically records each tractor’s speed and the distance they pull but my aim was a little high.

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After viewing this photo I did spot something I hadn’t noticed before. The street signs to the right of the score board mark the intersection that leads to the adult beverage tent. If you can’t make out the signs they say “Good RD” and ” Beers LN”. That made me chuckle.

The beverage tent was the other place we visited at the fair and while I mostly stuck with non alcoholic beverages that day I did end up drinking a glass of hard cider when Lindell ended up with an extra one.

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Lindell, Me, Kara

Even though autumn has arrived, and the temperatures have been slowly cooling, we are forecast to have at least one more of summer-like day today and I will happily take all that we can get.

Have you ever seen tractor pulls?

What is your favorite memory of this summer?

An Interesting Creature

Last week while I was staining our deck I had company. This bug, which I have always called a walking stick, but may go by other names, hung out on our siding for a couple of hours in the morning.

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I caught a second photo of it as he/she wandered off.

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After downloading my photos I realized I really didn’t know much about these creatures, so I did a little research. This article on sciencing.com provided some interesting facts.

  • I was a bit surprised to learn that walking sticks are herbivores.
  • They are mostly nocturnal, feeding at night and hiding under leaves and such during the day, so seeing one like this is a little unusual.
  • I also read that there are over 3000 species of walking sticks. WOW!
  • Probably the most interesting was the fact that in some species female walking sticks can reproduce without the aid of a male. All of her offspring will, however, be female.

For more information click here.

Have you ever seen a walking stick?

 

 

Mornings At The Farm

September 5, 2019

My plan this morning was to clean garlic. There were about 150 bulbs that I wanted to get done. I figured it would take me about an hour to complete this task so I also took some time to enjoy the day. Would you like to join me?

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As I walked past the garden I was greeted by this sunflower. I wonder, is it possible to look at a sunflower and not smile? As you can tell I was not the only one happy to see this flower. The honey bees were all over it.

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This was the view from were I was working. Nothing but blue sky and sunshine this morning.

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While walking through the prayer garden I discovered that the honey bees were also foraging the anise hyssop. This is a recent addition to the prayer garden and was largely added for the benefit of the bees.  I only see one bee in this picture, but I assure you there were more that the camera did not capture.

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My husband discovered that bees like this plant while working at his landscaping job. They had to go to a greenhouse to purchase some anise hyssop plants for a job they were doing, and he said the bees were all over the plants. A couple weeks later he took me to that greenhouse to purchase some for our farm.

Another visitor to the prayer garden this morning was this Hummingbird, searching for nectar in the hanging plants.

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It is a bit camouflaged by the green plants in the background. Do you see it just left of center?

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It is now to the right of this basket.

In recent weeks we have seen the return of an annual visitor. For at least the past 5 years we have seen this bird (or one like it) in and around our pond in the late summer. I am assuming it is the same bird and although we usually see just one at a time on rare occasions we will see two.

Since it was not a bird I was familiar with and was unable to positively identify it through our bird books or internet searches, in 2016 I turned to my blog readers for help through this post. While the answer did not come through the post comments, I learned  that our bird was a Green Herron.

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He or she is a quiet bird and blends well into the grasses that surround the pond.

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Can you believe this is the same bird? It’s appearance certainly changes as it makes a quick getaway.

Before noon I return to the house with that batch of garlic cleaned.

September 6, 2019

Though there was rain in the forecast I was hopeful it would hold off and I could finish up cleaning the last batch (about 100 bulbs) of garlic.

The sky was gray and the sun was hidden. Before getting started I took in some of the surroundings.

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Maple leaves are indicating that Fall is not far off.

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Squirrels have been collecting nuts.

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This sunflower with a fancy hairdo.

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The Norway Spruce that is loaded with pinecones.

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With the threat of rain it was not a good morning for cleaning garlic so my plan B was to work in the prayer garden.

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As I brought out my garden tools the rain began.

Perhaps plan C, canning tomatoes, is a better job for today.

Thanks for joining me. Are you seeing signs of Fall in your area?