Category Archives: Food

Garden Update: Mid-Summer 2011

We haven’t had the most ideal Summer for starting the journey of urban farming. There’s been little or no rainfall, and the temps keep sticking in the 100’s- unbearable, especially with the high humidity. Despite watering mornings and evenings, we lost our cucumber, pea, zucchini, and our second harvest of green beans fried on the vine. Those losses alone had us somewhat discouraged, however we’ve had big successes with other plants. We’re seeing peppers, potatoes, watermelon galore, and tomatoes popping out of our ears! The cherry tomatoes seem to be the most productive (an absolutely delicious), so we’re saving back seed for next year… we’ve been popping them like candy the last two weeks. The larger tomatoes are doing well, too, but have just started ripening. Our tomatillos had a batch that dried up and fell off a few weeks ago… sad, sad! But the second batch is hanging in there– extra watering required! I assumed they’d be as hardy as tomatoes in the heat, but I was wrong. This is a learn-as-you-go operation, and we’re still having a lot of fun!

Daniel spent the early afternoon weeding, and acidifying (coffee grounds & peat moss mixed into the soil) & mulching the two "test" Blueberry bushes. They're hanging in there, but boy are they struggling! Blueberry plants have shallow root systems.

we have some Russian Giant sunflowers hanging in the shed. We'll be putting paper bags over the heads to catch the seeds. These grew in our front yard, and put on an amazing display... a definite repeat planting next year!

Sky Bear carried this little bucket around and filled it with goodies today. The baby potatoes were harvested early from his little garden since the plants weren't doing too well. The ones we planted in the barrels are still doing great, though.

Last, but not least, I love our big Basil plant. I've been cutting from it weekly, and mixing it into pasta and sauces... fresh backyard Basil is amazing! For some reason it's tolerating the heat much better than our Lavender or Rosemary plants... I think it actually enjoys the heat.

 

 

 

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Filed under Blueberries, Food, In Season, Natural Food, Organic Food, River Living, Urban Farmsteading, Veggie Gardening, Weather

First Homegrown Green Beans

Picked today. YUM!!!

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Filed under Food, Organic Food, River Living, Urban Farmsteading, Veggie Gardening

Backyard Pullet Eggs

4 1/2 month old pullet's egg on the left, adult duck egg on the right

I couldn’t resist sharing a picture of the first egg laid by a hand raised chicken. Hens are not called “hens” until they are one year old. Until then, they’re known as “pullets.” We weren’t expecting pullet eggs for another month, so Ermengard is an early bird!

The scale isn’t apparent in the photo, but her little egg yolk was the size of a quarter. Pullets start out laying small eggs, and become larger as the pullet grows. As adults, the bigger hens lay larger eggs. From Prasad’s review, this tiny delicacy was “very nice, supreeemely delicious.” Not bad for Ermengard’s first egg. Sorin wants the next tiny egg, so I guess we’ll have to create a waiting list.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Chickens, Ducks, Eggs, Food, Natural Food, Organic Food, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading

Urban Farm & Garden Update: Late Spring 2011

Potato barrels

Our potatoes are taking off like crazy. We have two experimental barrels this year. Prasad & Sky chose to grow some in their own little garden plots, and those are doing great, too. We’ll get to experience ground versus barrel potatoes, and decide what to repeat for next year. When the plants are towering above the barrels like this, it’s time to add more soil, burying almost half the existing plants. We’ll wait for blossoms to appear, and do a partial harvest of baby potatoes.

Green Beans & Snap Peas

Remember when we first planted these? You can see them here in an older post. The green beans and snap peas have entwined, creating large, happy vines. The peas are already flowering.

Snow Peas

Our snow peas were started much later than the snap peas, which is why they’re so small. We started them directly in the ground with seed from a generous neighbor friend, Kristen. We thought we wouldn’t be able to find snow peas this year, and were thrilled when she contacted me. Thanks so much, Kristen! They took off pretty fast, but we noticed something started nibbling on them. They must be pretty tasty leaves, because nothing else in the garden was being nibbled. Daniel put a little rabbit wire fence around them, and they’ve been doing much better ever since. These are my favorite peas for salads, so we’re hoping they continue to do well.

Tomatoes

The tomatoes have gone insane! If you look back at our Early Spring post you can see how much they’ve grown. We’ve had a lot of rain, followed by sun and heat so they’re very happy so far. We’ve had no problems with staking, but when they’re taller we plan to add wood poles for extra support. Our tomatillo plants don’t have any cages, just poles, and they’re doing great, so far. They’ve got blooms, and so do all our peppers!

Zucchini

We thought this little guy was history a few weeks ago. It was tiny when we planted it on a small hill, and it got trampled a few times before the fence was up. I think it was down to two small, very sad look leaves. Now it’s thriving and blooming. I am a zucchini fanatic, so cannot wait!

Our front yard was tilled, and we planted a large strawberry patch, watermelon, and Russian Giant sunflowers. All three are taking off like crazy. Despite living in the Sunflower State, we’ve never been able to grow Sunflowers from seed. Our front yard plants are taking off, and we’ll have to post pics soon!

Summer heat is coming. We’ve had several humid days in the 90’s. The challenge in our climate comes during the intense heat & drought periods of Summer. We’re hoping the loamy soil helps significantly, and that we don’t have to irrigate excessively. It’s something we have to pay close attention to, or we could lose all our yummy crops. If all goes well, I’m pretty sure we’ll have enough food to feed several families!

Complete List of what we’re growing this year:

Potatoes (barrel & ground), 14 Tomatoes, 9 multi-colored Cherry tomatoes, 2 types of peas (snow & snap), Green Beans, 2 Blueberry bushes, 50 Strawberry plants, 1 Zucchini, 2 Cucumber, 1 Bush Cucumber, 4 Jalapeno peppers, 6 mixed pepper plants (red, yellow & green), Garlic, Onion, 9 Eggplant, 8 Tomatillos, Kale, Broccoli, Sunflower, Watermelon, 2 Peach trees, 1 self-pollinating Apple tree, Cilantro

Plus, don’t forget we have a duck & 3 hens laying eggs every day. By August we’ll have 6 more starting to lay. It’s a wonderful feeling when your food comes from right outside your back door.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Blueberries, Chickens, Do-It-Yourself, Ducks, Eggs, Food, Fruit Trees, In Season, Natural Food, Organic Food, River Living, Seasons, Shashwat, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading, Veggie Gardening, Weather

Farmstead Harmony

Today I’m feeling especially struck by the perfectly harmonious relationship we have with our animals. I was pulling weeds around the roses this morning (which have their first blooms of the season and the fragrance is to-die for) and threw all the weeds into the chicken run. It was a large pile, but they were all devoured in less than thirty minutes by both the ducks and chickens. Instead of tossing them into the garbage or compost heap, they disappeared into a perfect cycle… we’ll basically be consuming the weeds through our eggs. There is something primal and beautiful in having that symbiotic type of relationship with other living beings.

I’m noticing we have the most ideal mulch now. Every month we clean and rake out the entire chicken run. All the old straw and manure goes into the compost pile. Chicken and duck poo breaks down quickly since it’s dry and grainy, so we’re able to stir it around a month or two and see the most ideal mulch appear for our garden beds– rich, organic straw. We laid a heavy layer over our tomato bed, and they’ve been taking off like crazy. (**PLEASE NOTE: The compost we put on the beds was from the Fall/November. Compost should be aged at least 3 months for above ground crops, and 6 months for ground/root crops**) My point- we fed the chickens our scraps, weeds, etc. and they produced fertilizer resulting in mulch that both protects and nourishes our plants while at the same time saving us a lot of money on mulch. Then we’llĀ  consume the most amazing tomatoes we’ve ever eaten (if all goes well). I’ve been so excited about the mulch, we’ve been putting it everywhere. Note: we have to be sure to use the very broken-down straw compost since it can burn plants if it’s too fresh.

I should add that we have a new type of Dandelion control going on within the yard. We consume it ourselves, but never from our back yard due to the dog waste. Prasad walks around every day picking Dandelion and Violet to feed Forest, our growing Flemish Giant. The Dandelion that was taking over the cellar door is trimmed way down (sometimes he even gets the whole root out), and this week he’ll be pulling out the plants behind the air conditioner. Would Prasad be so willing to weed without his bunny? Probably not. Once again, it’s a sweet example of the natural harmony that takes place when you have the right animals around.

There are so many other examples of this in our lives, and I’m wondering if I’ll ever get used to it and take it for granted… it is, after all, the most natural of things.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Chicken & Rabbit Gardening, Chickens, Clean Planet, Collaborative Love, Ducks, Eggs, Food, Order & Balance, Organic Food, Peace, Rabbits, Recycle, River Living, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading, Veggie Gardening, Wild Food

Urban Farm & Garden Update: Early Spring 2011

Pole Beans!

First, I’d like to point out that we have to put in a fence around our veggies. This is because of our Boxer pup, Hanu. He usually leaves the beds alone, but has occasionally trampled over them and pulled out one of our Marigold plants last week. He was the reason I was having such a difficult time actually planting anything a week ago- I was apprehensive out of fear that he would destroy our goodies. I was bummed out for a few days because I can’t stand the look of typical chicken wirey fencing around that large of a space. We’re talking about a 20′ x 60′ foot area- a small portion of our property, but it’s clearly visible from our sun room. I wanted to keep it visually appealing. After some brainstorming, we decided to utilize natural materials that are readily available in the woods behind our property– logs and branches. A nature fence! There is an endless supply of logs next to the river, so it just seemed like the most logical choice. It won’t be completed until this weekend, but I’m LOVING the fluid, gangly, funky feel of it already. It blends beautifully with nature, and the posts will not be cemented in… we want to be able to move and expand the garden easily over time. Instead, they’re put into very deep holes (the soil is like butter and easy to dig out). When they rot, we’ll go back into the woods for a free replacement! I personally love how right-brained it is… there is no measuring required, and it feels like we’re sculpting. Both Daniel and I are having so much fun log hunting and building that we can’t stop admiring it and talking about it. We’re looking forward to diving in more fully this weekend. More pics to come as it develops.

Now, for the garden- So far we have four 4′ x 8′ garden beds, two large rum barrels, and this homemade tee pee trellis for pole beans and snap peas. We wanted snow peas (the flatter variety) but have had no luck finding seed or plants in town. The two plants in the picture are Kentucky pole beans, and the beans get 7″-8″ long. We left an opening on the front of the tee pee so Amelie will be able to sit inside when the plants go wild. We’ll also have a large, rectangular 12′ x 19′ plot for more blueberries, and other larger plant crops. That’s also where Prasad and Sky will have their own little garden squares to plant whatever they want.

Tomatoes!

On the right you can see 9 small tri-colored cherry tomato plants, only three of which have their cages. Behind those are 9 wider, taller cages with a tri-colored variety of large tomatoes. After a lot of research on tomato cages, we opted for a more durable version of the classic metal tomato cage (the wires are much thicker and stronger). We considered building our own out of wood, twigs, or concrete re-bar wire, but these seemed the most do-able for us this year. I didn’t want to spend valuable time building, or bending very hard re-bar to shape. It’s all an experiment, so we’ll see how these do this year.

The far left bed isn’t filled up yet, but it contains 8 tomatillo plants, and 8 eggplants. Another bed (not pictured) has garlic and onions, with red peppers and jalapenos.

The past two weeks we’ve done more digging than ever before. We are very impressed by the soil. It’s extremely rich with organic matter, free from rocks and clay, and doesn’t really need anything added to it. A farming friend told me the proper name for our soil is “Eudora Silt Loam”, and it is Capability Class 1 soil, which is a tiny percent of the world’s soil. We’ve noticed just about anything can grow here, and the soil can be worked easily, wet or dry. No tilling required. And it’s never too muddy after a rain to dig in the dirt due to the extremely fine sand. With our hot, dry Summers, the soil stays moist just a few inches deep, so we won’t have to water as often as one might expect. When I was digging up the soil for the pole beans, I ran into some of the longest, fattest, juiciest earthworms I’ve ever seen. It’s incredibly fertile soil, and I can’t say enough about it. If we’re successful at growing our own food, most of the credit will go to the soil.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Collaborative Love, Do-It-Yourself, Food, Natural Food, Organic Food, River Living, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading, Veggie Gardening

Wild Food: Dandelion

the kids especially enjoyed their salads

Daniel and I are just recently becoming aware of the outstanding nutritional value of Dandelion. I’ve always known you can purchase it for about $9.95 in capsule form for liver health, but I had no idea about the other benefits you get straight from the plant itself.. the blooms, stems, leaves and roots. Despite the fact that it grows like mad in North America, did you know it isn’t native here? It’s originally from England. The seeds were brought over by immigrants for their great nutritional and healing properties. Since ancient times they were used as a diuretic and liver tonic.

As of two days ago, Dandelions are “in-season” for us. A lot of it is blooming just outside our back fence. The name comes from the French, Dent de Leon, meaning “Lion’s Tooth”, but the botanical name, Taraxicum Officinale, literally means Disorder Remedy. Apparently, it’s a nutritional gold mine. Of course, you should only consume plants that haven’t been chemically treated. This means no plants from public parks, school yards and such. The area on our hill next to the river levee is dotted with yellow beauties, and the kids have had fun harvesting them. Little Plantain weeds are sprouting up, too, but I’ll leave their value for another post when they mature and we sample them.

I have a new respect for this amazing plant, and consider it a super food. Why?

1) Dandelions contain more Vitamin A than broccoli, chard, collards, spinach, or carrots.

2) They contain Vitamin B Complex (all the B’s), Vitamin C and E, Calcium, Magnesium, Potash, and Zinc.

3) The leaves are high in boron, calcium and silicon, which are good for bone health.

4) Dandelion root is an excellent diuretic for flushing out the bladder and kidneys.

5) Dandelion is recommended for stomach, spleen, pancreas and intestinal health.

6) It is recommended for stressed, internally sluggish and sedentary individuals. Anyone consuming excessive fat, white flour and concentrated sweeteners would benefit from a cup of Dandelion tea per day.

7) Dandelion Rootis Inulin is a type of sugar that doesn’t elicit the rapid production of insulin. It helps Mature-Onset Diabetes and can be used as a holistic regime for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

8) The stem’s white milky sap is used to treat pimples and warts, and soothes bee stings and blisters.

9) Did you know that the Ethobotanist, James A. Duke who analyzes plant compounds for the US Department of Agriculture has been known to eat a hundred Dandelion flowers a day for their beta-carotene and ascorbic acid?

10) Duke also points out that they are high in lecithin, which is being studied for prevention of cirrhosis and its potential as a major brain food. Lecithin has been proven to improve memory in lab mice.

Daniel and Sky went out on the levee hill last evening to gather leaves and blossoms for our mixed green salad. To me, the leaves taste like any other green (not bitter), but I’ve read they are slightly bitter. The blossoms had a somewhat sweet and bitter taste, and mixed with my favorite dressing they were a delight to eat.

I’m not sure when we all collectively, as a society, decided that certain plants are bothersome ‘weeds’ and have little value to us. It’s a shame people don’t benefit from these wild gems more. We’re planning to consume fresh Dandelion on a regular basis now, as long as it’s in-season, of course.

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