Category Archives: Gardening & Healing the Land

Gardening, Trees, Herbs, and healing the land.

Continued Establishment

This past weekend was packed with planting trees, planting bushes, moving our turkeys out of their brooder, a surprise birthday party for my Mother-in-Law and Mothers day.

It was a good, good weekend.

Turkeys

Let’s start with the turkeys.  We have two white broad breasted turkeys we bought from Meyers Hatchery.  We brooded them until they were feathered out (when all of their down turns to feathers).

The gobblers in their brooder

Yesterday, Chris built a three sided lean-to for their protection out of scrap left on the property by the last owner, and we moved the turkeys outside into the electro-netting.  Electro-netting is a flexible fence that can be easily electrified to keep out predators such as raccoons, fox, and coyotes.

Now, if you are a fox, raccoon or coyote, I’d appreciate you stop reading.  The details I am about to provide will lead to heartache for me and dinner for you.  So as a favor, please stop.

In our move, we seemed to have misplaced our fence energizer.

This means that during the night, the only thing that is standing between predators and  our little turkeys is a sheet of old plywood haphazardly placed in front of their three sided coop.  We now have sitting ducks, or more correctly, sitting turkeys.  Being so small makes them extra vulnerable.  ***UPDATE*** while I was writing this post, Chris created a door.  Our Turkeys are now safe.

Aside from predator fears (which are now allayed), watching them running around and experience the grass between the clawed toes was so much fun to watch.  They are now hanging out in their lean-to.

Turkeys relaxing in their coop. Fresh water, fresh greens, fresh air. Turkey-ing it up.

The coop was made of trash the previous owner left behind. No trip to the hardware store needed!

Trees/Perennials

We are still filling in our food forest landscape with trees.  We received another Plum, a Golden Delicious and another paw paw.  We planted the paw paw and the Golden Delicious in our backyard orchard, and we added the plum to the front yard orchard.  (as we’re keeping track of cost, each tree cost $18.16, but we already accounted for the paw paw, so let’s add another $36.32 (2 x $18.16) to our overall bill.

We decided to put our fruit trees in two concentrated areas.  This will allow to care for and harvest a bit easier.  We should also be able to fence off and fend of any deer that may think they want our trees or fruits as a nice snack.

Blueberries:

My in-laws gifted us with two blueberry bushes.  What a fantastic present!!  They are large and beautiful.  One was a “Blue Crop” and the other is “Patriot “.

Blueberry plant that was gifted to us is ripening. YUM!

We are planting the blueberries on the north and west side of the strawberry patch. This will allow for the strawberries to soak up all the morning sun, but be shielded from the afternoon sun.  Both strawberries and blueberries like acidic soil, so these berries are happy to be together.

More of What We’ve Planted

We are working to invest in perennials on our property.

In our Stark Brothers order, which included Strawberries, we also bought oodles of other plants.  Including:

  • 1 Bare-root Sugar Maple
    • Why: This is a hard wood tree.  It doesn’t really have a lot of food value, unless we decide to tap for maple syrup (which I know nothing about).  It’s beautiful in Fall and helps to create a diverse environment, as well as provide habitat for whatever creatures.
    • Where: We planted this in our front yard.  Our driveway is pretty long, but you can still see the house from the street, and the street from the yard.  I would like to feel like I live in the middle of a forest. How do you do that?  By reforesting, of course!
    • Cost: $26.99

Sugar Maple

After being planted for about 2 weeks, the leaves are starting to come forth.

  • 2 Elderberries (Adams and York)
    • Why: I planted these are the old house, and had great success with them.  They turn into bushy plants with white flowers and medicinal berries.  The birds love it.  I plan to add the other two cultivars Stark Brothers has available.  I couldn’t find any real difference between the York and the Adams.  I’m not really sure what the difference is, aside from the name.
    • Where:  I planted this out back of our porch.  We have a beautiful view of a valley, but I don’t really get to see the little song birds flit around.  I hope that by giving the birds a place to congregate, I can see them play from my kitchen table.
    • Cost: $8.99 and $11.99 for a total of $20.89Image may contain: cloud, sky, plant, tree, outdoor and nature
  • Chicago Hardy Fig
    • Why: Because, YUM! We planted this at our old house and hand a harvest of 5 figs the first year, and over 50 by year 3.  Fresh figs in a store cost about $1/piece, so this tree paid for itself, quickly!
    • Where: I planted this between the two elderberries.  A nice little place for the birds.  The birds left the figs alone at the old house.  Let’s hope they do the same here!
    • Cost: $21.99
  • Hall’s Hardy Almond
    • Why: this is starting to sound like I’m on repeat,  but it’s true! We had this tree at the old house, and it did really well. It didn’t bear fruit (nuts, actually) while we lived there, but the flowers were beautiful.  Chris and I drove past the old house, and saw the Almond Tree in full bloom.  I went home and ordered this.
    • Where: Out front of the house
    • Cost: $29.99
  • Paw-Paw (Pennsylvania and Seedling)
    • Why: I want to taste a Paw-Paw!  And Stark Brothers didn’t have many left.  It takes 7 years for a tree to bear fruit, so we wanted to get these in the ground ASAP.  We bought 2 Pennsylvania cultivars and 1 seedling.  The seedling will work as a pollinator for the Pennsylvania.  We will continue to add varieties as time goes by.
    • Where: We are starting a small orchard so that we can effectively fence this off from deer pressure, if that becomes a problems.  While it’s good to have similar species spread out to avoid a total wipe out due to disease or pest infestation, having similar plants with similar needs together allows for easier care and harvesting.  This is an area where I’m stepping away from a Permaculture ideal to move towards my own simplicity.
    • Cost: 2 Pennsylvania Golden Paw Paw (2 at $18.16) and a Seedling ($26.99) for a total of $63.31
  • Asparagus (Purple Passion from Stark Brothers and Jersey Knight from a local nursery)
    • Why: this is really simple.  it’s because I love asparagus and because I like to try new things.  So purple asparagus.  SURE! I bought the Jersey Knight Asparagus because that’s what the store had.  The crown were a little sad, but I was able to plant six crown total. The Jersey Knight gives good yields and is heat and cold tolerant.
    • Where: In our asparagus bed.  We have it heavily mulched with wood chips.
    • Cost: Purple Aspargus ($14.99 (better qulaity and more crowns)), Jersey Knight ($5.99) for a total of $20.98
  • Beauregard Sweet Potato (not perennial, but I bought this from Stark Brothers)
    • Why: Sweet potatoes are amazing and super healthy.  See my post here.  Clearly I’ve had them before.
    • Where: They came super early and cannot be planted until the ground has warmed up.  Probably June.  I’m not sure where their final place will be.  To store them until planting, I put them in a quart Mason Jar.  The spruced right up, and have roots that are starting to sprout.  We’ll see how it turns out when we actually plant them.
    • Cost: $31.99 for 25 slips

Sweet potato slips biding time until it’s warm enough to plant them in the ground.

  • Bubblegum Plum
    • Why: I like Plums, and the name!!!  I have another plum tree ordered as a pollinator.  It should be here next week.  At that time, I’ll update you!
    • Where: In front of our home.  It seems to be doing well.
    • Cost: $29.99

So far, we’re really enjoying building our food forest. Its been rather expensive thus far, but we only have to plant these trees once, and we should get to harvest from them for years.  Perennials are also better for your environment, as it is a steadfast habitat for critters in the soil and above.

 

Strawberries of 2017

When we moved into our cottage (aside: Yes, I want to call this a cottage.  It is 1200 square feet with two bedrooms, one bath and NO STORAGE), I wanted to focus on the inside of the home and really make it ours.

In our old house, we did NOTHING inside and spent hundreds of hours installing chicken coops, chicken runs, turkey coups, gardens and trees. When we got ready to sell, we painted, installed new carpets, and made the inside shine.  I decided the new cottage would be different.  We would put our mark on the inside of the cottage.  After all, it’s on the inside that counts, right?

And we did.

Kind of.

We painted everything in the cottage except for the bedrooms.  And it looked great. But it’s been almost five months, and the bedrooms have yet to be painted. And then we stopped.

Now, I have 22 chickens ordered, two turkeys in the brooder and various things planted and planned to be planted outside.  So you can see I didn’t quite learn my lesson.  But the soil calls me,  having a part in creating my own food is so wonderful, and helps to make me feel connected to the real world around me.  I also feel like it’s making my place in space a little bit better and healthier, as far as the environment and soil is concerned.

For my record, as well as (possibly / hopefully) your enjoyment, I’ve outlined what, where, why, and the cost of what I planted. As I will being detailing our adventure thoroughly, this will be a series of posts.  Starting with our Strawberries.

When:

We  planted these on April 29 and 30.

Where:

I used the garden bed that was established by the previous owner to plant strawberries.  This bed is optimally placed.  It has perfect Southern and Eastern exposure and is shaded from the afternoon sunshine.

I have heavily mulched the bed with straw and wood chips.

 

75 strawberry plants of three different varieties: Sparkle (25) , Honeoye (25) and Ozark (25).  These came in the “All summer long” variety pack from Stark Brothers.

I love Stark Brothers for two big reasons.  The first reason is that they have the BEST descriptions. I’ve done research on certain varieties that I’ve found on other website and local garden centers.  I’ve found that the Google machine seems to send me to Stark Brothers page first. Secondly, I have an account on Stark Brothers.  This keeps track of what I bought and when. When deciding what to buy, I was able to access my account and see what I planted at the old house.

Back to the planted strawberries.

Cost:

I chose the “All Summer Long” package because it was on sale.  And I thought it would be nice to have strawberries all summer long.  I bought 75 bare-root plants for $18.16.  This was part of their anniversary sale and they were founded in $18.16.  If I would have bought each variety by itself, each order of 25 bare root plants would have cost $14.99 for a total cost of $44.97.  My savings: $26.81.

What:

The first variety I planted was Sparkle, a June Bearer.  Per Stark Brothers’ website:

Shining taste and appearance. Medium-sized fruit has outstanding flavor whether they’re enjoyed fresh, frozen, or in preserves. Plant are productive and easy to grow, bearing reliable crops of deep red berries even in northern gardens. Escapes frost injury. Cold-hardy. Ripens in late June. Self-pollinating.

Sparkle Strawberry

After that I planted Honeoye, another June Bearer:

A hardy, consistent producer. This vigorous plant bears crops reliably, with good runner production. The strawberries are delicious fresh, frozen, or in jams and wines. Cold hardy. Ripens in June. Self-pollinating. A licensed variety of Cornell University.

Honeoye Strawberry June Bearer

And finally, my “everbearing” variety, the Ozark Beauty:

Enjoy fruit and a protective ground cover. In addition to keeping weeds at bay, this everbearer produces wave after wave of sweet, delicious, scarlet-red strawberries. In our test plots, this is one of the hardiest, most vigorous, heaviest-producing everbearing strawberries. Cold hardy. Ripens in early summer and continues to fruit until first frost. Self-pollinating.

Ozark Beauty Strawberry

Why?

So, uh, have you tasted a strawberry?  Well, they are delicious, especially eaten directly from the plant, slightly warmed from the sun.  YUM!

I’m also planning on making Jam from it for my kid’s peanut butter and jelly.

How are they doing so far?

It has been just under a week since we planted the strawberries, and I think they are doing pretty well.  We had almost a full day of perfect rain for the garden.  That light rain that soaks deep into the ground an nourishes the root systems of plants.  Our strawberries have turned from brown to vibrant green.  I think they are settling in quite nicely.

 

 

Our New Place in Space (and other Updates)

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned.  It has been over one year since I have posted.

Here’s what’s going on in my world:

We recently purchased a new property.  It is lovely.

  • 4 acres
  • Flat (oh, I don’t have to contend with a hill when making design plans!)
  • Beautiful View
  • Cute, small, simple house

Did I mention the view?

Okay, I guess you have to see it!

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You can see three miles into the distance.  And when fireworks go off in the valley, you can see those!

I know in a past post, I declared that I was D-O-N-E with all this DIY.  Well, in order to sell the house, we needed to rip out the garden.  I also went all-in on work.

Well, all work and no play makes Julia a dull girl.

I missed getting my hands dirty.  I missed growing my own food.  One full season away from anything agricultural showed me that.

And now, I’m working on cultivating this piece of flat land.  And I’m doing it more simply, and I’m not trying to do it all.  All at once. or All by myself.

I am doing this one step at a time.  I’m using some more conventional methods.  And my husband is walking arm and arm with me.

I’m sharing this journey so that I have an online record of where the property and our family has been, I want to see where we end up.  And I’d like you to join me!

I’m also intending to keep track of yields and what, when and where we’ve planted things, along the the results.

Turkeys!!!!

In previous posts, I briefly mentioned the fact that I we have turkeys on our homestead this year: (Posts: First Day of Meat Chickens, I Get To…).

Why did you get Turkeys?

Two reasons: Fun and Yum.  Or Yum and Fun.  Either way, for eating and entertainment.  Those are generally the two reasons anything (other than dogs) come to live on our patch of land.

The more I can grow from my land the better.  I want to use the land, and by using it responsibly, we help make the land more healthy.

Another reason I actually got turkeys is because when I did a quick search of Craigslist, a  woman was selling some day old chicks and some turkeys.  I was in her general vicinity to pick up our meat chicks, so I stopped by, and brought home to turkey poults.  I believe they were 2 to 5 days old at the time.

What Kind of Turkeys did you get?

I don’t know.  I bought them from someone I found on Craigslist.  I really liked her facility, and I will definitely buy from her next year.  I will probably also buy my laying hens from here on out as well.

One of the turkeys walking around outside of the chicken paddy wagon.

One of the turkeys walking around outside of the chicken paddy wagon.  You can see the grass is pretty beat up.  That’s where the wagon was the day before.

I can’t remember the exact breed.  It is either a bronze or a broad breasted bronze.  The broad breasted will fill out most like the grocery store turkeys.  The bronze is a little smaller.  I’m not sure which one it is.  And quite frankly, with my limited turkey experience, I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell by turkey processing time.

How do you raise Turkeys?

I put the turkeys in the brooder right along with the chicks. Most of the literature instructs keeping turkey poults and chicks separate.  I decided to ignore that.  The reasons sited to keep them separated is due to a disease called blackhead (a parasitic disease) and the large turkeys may injure the smaller chickens.

Young Turkey Poult in the brooder

Young Turkey Poult in the brooder

I had six meat chicks and those two turkeys in my first round of brooding for the year.  I cleaned the brooder daily and the flock was small.  This generally stops any disease problems.   A lot of problems with disease is due to overcrowding of animals – no matter what the species.  Also, the smaller flock allowed all critters to have plenty of room to spread out.  I had no problem with getting the chicks up to butchering weight.

I moved the turkeys outside into the chicken paddy wagon (chicken tractor) with the meat chickens at about 3 to 4 weeks old.  The chicken paddy wagon moves daily, so the chickens and the turkeys get fresh greens.  My original plan was to move the turkeys in with the laying hens at the time the meat chickens met their last day.

This did not happen.

Turkeys don’t move quickly.  And when I was moving the chicken paddy wagon one morning, one of the turkeys got his foot stuck under one of the runners.  He either sprained or broke his foot.  I thought I would have to put him down.  But he rebounded, and he’s almost 100% healed now.

But being that he was injured, I did not want to put him in a new flock.  He would probably be bullied to death.

So at this point, the turkeys are still in the chicken paddy wagon.  While not ideal, it is not forever.

According to my reading, the space needed in a turkey tractor for happy turkeys is 12 feet by 12 feet for 24 turkeys.  This works out to about six square feet per turkey.  Their current space is 10 feet by 4 feet.  So our turkeys get 20 square feet per turkey.  So they should be pretty happy.

The chicken paddy wagon is moved daily for fresh green for our gobblers.

The chicken paddy wagon is moved daily for fresh green for our gobblers.

They look pretty happy.

They act pretty happy.

My goal is to provide a happy life for them  (and all of my critters).

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I will be moving them to an open paddock in a week and a half after I process my second batch of meat birds.

What do they eat?

They began eating chick starter.  I fed them exactly what I fed my meat birds, and I still do.  But as turkeys age, their protein requirements decrease.  In the first seven weeks of life, their protein in take should be 26% to 30% of their diet. And then from 7 to 14 weeks of age, the require only 16% to 24% protein. After that, they thrive on feed that is 14% to 16% of their diet.

Our turkeys have access to fresh grass and a new insects everyday.  They go wild when I move the tractor, and seem to prefer eating the white clover.  (Oh, how I love white clover, almost as much as I love dandelions).

White clover also known as Turkey Candy

White clover also known as Turkey Candy

Costs

So far the costs have been low.  As I’ve had the turkeys mixed with the chickens, I can’t pinpoint how much they ate versus how much the chickens are consuming.  I am certain that I could buy a chemical laden turkey in the grocery store for less than my costs to raise these guys.  But there is a peace that comes with raising your own food.  I know my turkeys are having a good life, and living the way a turkey should.  I also get a lot of entertainment raising them.

So basically, my hobby produces awesome food.  Sign me up!

Overall

Overall, I love raising the turkeys.  They are hilarious and look like little dinosaurs.  Even more than the chickens.  I love their gobbles, and they seem to have so much more personality.  It’s also  neat to have wild turkeys in the area.

Wild Turkey with her two babies

Wild Turkey with her two babies

I feel like the turkeys are meant to be on this land.  I will continue to have turkeys well into the future.  In fact, I believe I will expand my flock next year, and sell a few extra turkeys for Thanksgiving meals.

Always an adventure, just out my backdoor!

I Get To…

I woke up at 4:30 this morning.  In order to take care of all of our animals and get out the door in time for work, it’s essential.

4:30 am is early.  It can be hard to do.

When I told myself I HAVE to get up to take care of these chores, it was difficult to get out of bed.

But then I changed the conversation I have with myself.

I decided I GET to take care of my critters.  My turkeys, my egg chickens and my meat birds.

I’ve had agrarian dreams for as long as I can remember.  I primarily wanted egg laying chickens.  I thought my homesteading yearnings would be quenched by having a few chickens running around.

Not so much.  We started off with six hens.  Then we added more chickens, and now we have 17 laying hens and one rooster to watch over them.

This year, I got to add two turkeys and chickens raised for meat.

My garden is huge and we got our first plum from our plum tree.

All of this takes a lot of work.  And in order to balance this, my work life and time with my family, I have to get up at 4:30 am.  (and having an amazing husband helps!)

But the reality is that waking up at 4:30 in the morning is what living my dream looks like right now.

So it’s really wonderful that I have these chores to do.  I love them, and I love having my animals.  I love providing a good life for them and eating off of our land.

I move differently throughout the morning when I realized that I get to do these chores.  When I “have to” do those chores, I trudged.  I was bleary eyed.  But changing “have to” to “get to”, I look forward to getting out of bed and seeing my chickens and turkeys.

So getting out of bed super early is a luxury for me.  So while I may be tired, and sleeping in sounds wonderful, the payoff of homesteading is worth it for me.

I also get to share this with you.

So thank you for reading and sharing in my journey.

Spring is HERE!!

This past weekend, our entire family enjoyed being outside working on projects.  I spent Friday morning in solitude and I walked around our property marveling, as I always do, at the beginning of Spring.

Naming this season “Spring” is no mistake.  The greenery springs forth from the ground and the buds spring forth from the trees.  I feel like I can actually feel the excitement from the plants.  They are waking up after a long winter’s nap.

Blueberry Buds in the Spring

Blueberry Buds in the Spring

Spring makes me feel hopeful.  Spring is filled with possibilities and new growth.  I wonder what trees and bushes will fruit this year.  I wonder how my lettuces will do (I have been learning how NOT to raise lettuce.)  I am so excited for all the possibilities.  All of the cliches, all of the sayings feel so true to me.  It feels as though they have been written just for me.

Maple Buds, welcoming the sunlight

Maple Buds, welcoming the sunlight

Everything seems to be waking up to welcome the warm weather.  As we stretch out our arms after a long rest, the trees and bushes reach out their leaves to collect the sunshine and feed themselves.

Pear Tree waking up to Spring

Pear Tree waking up to Spring

The dandelions open to feed bees the first nectar of the season.

Dandelion Blooming

Dandelion Blooming

Strawberries are starting to bloom as well.

Strawberries starting to bloom.

Strawberries starting to bloom.

Strawberries in bloom.

Strawberries in bloom.

And we already have some of cultivated edibles ready for eating.

Parsley we planted last year.  We used this in our Thanksgiving dinner and its the first thing ready to eat this year.

Parsley we planted last year. We used this in our Thanksgiving dinner and its the first thing ready to eat this year.

Welcome Spring, we are glad you have back again!

 

Plant Your Own Cash Crop: The Sweet Potato

This is the time of year to start planning your garden.  The time for thinking about the first warmth of spring and the taste of a salad made of lettuce straight from your garden.  As such, I want to discuss a an unexpected “cash crop” that we planted last year.  The sweet potato.

I’m not sure why I decided to plant sweet potatoes, but I’m glad I did.  I planted them by way of an experiment.  I do plant a lot of things in my food garden, but I like to plant things in random places.  I like to experiment.  After all, who says my herbs have to be in an herb garden.  I have parsley planted next to my blueberry bushes in the front of the house.  Why? Because the area gets wonderful sun exposure, and I wanted to see if it would work.

Back to the sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes (especially the organic ones) are very expensive in the stores.  They are about $3 for one sweet potato.  That’s crazy.  And they are easy to grow.  I planted mine in less than ideal conditions, and I got a huge return on my inputs.  I highly recommend going organic for your sweet potatoes.  The conventional sweet potatoes have all sorts nastiness sprayed on it.  Here is a smart young woman who shared why we should be going for organics (or just growing your own).


Quick Aside, Vocab Lesson:

When you plant sweet potatoes, they come from slips. A slip is a sweet potato sprout that shoots off of a sweet potato in storage.  Mine were white, about an 1/8 of an inch in diameter and about 6 inches long.  I bought 25 slips for $15.  They probably sent me more like 35 slips. For the $15, I got baskets full of sweet potatoes.  Well over $100 in sweet potatoes.  And I don’t have to do any fancy processing to store them.  Easy, with a high return.  AWESOME.

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What are Ideal Sweet Potato Conditions?

LIke almost every planting instructions I’ve run across, it is ideal to plant your sweet potato slips in “loamy, well drained” soil.  I planted mine in a range of soils that went from 90% rocky (as in, there was almost no dirt) to only about 30% rock.  In the super rocky soils, I barely had a yield,  I got one sweet potato per slip. But where it was only mildly rocky, I had a wonderful return.  I got pounds of potatoes off of one slip.

I’ve read that sweet potatoes do not do well in clay soils.  They grow thin and gnarly.  I say give it a try.  We’re not trying to win any veggie beauty contests, we’re trying to grow some yummy food to put on the table.

I had them in full sun and I watered them when I first the planted them.  As in, I watered them once, and never watered them again.   However, these guys do like their water.  So if you have a dry season, be prepared to give your sweet potatoes a drink weekly.

How to Plant Sweet Potatoes?

Place the fat end of the slip in the ground.  Cover  a few inches with soil and water a bit.  The End. That’s all I did.  These guys are so resilient that if you unknowingly leave a slip on the ground, you may very well come back to a plant there.  This is my kind of gardening.

I live on a hill exposed to the south, so the soil heats up nicely, but if you live in a colder climate, or you have a short growing season, you may want to heat up your soil by laying some black covering over the ground for a few weeks before planting

They are beautiful viney plants. so be sure to give them plenty of room to spread out and grow.  If you’re doing the whole row thing, plant the potatoes within the row 18 inches apart with the rows spaced 3 feet apart.  Or do as I did, and plant them all around your property.  It was landscaping we could eat.  Pretty and Tasty.  Sounds good to me.

In fact, here is a photo of one of the the blooms I got to enjoy while the tubers were growing:

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Climate Considerations:

Sweet potatoes like it hot.  They also enjoy a long growing season.  They need about three months to reach maturity.  So plant them as soon as the danger of frost has passed.  I have read that you need to get the potatoes out of the ground the day before the fall frost hits.  If not, the potatoes are ruined, and you may get grumpy.  I was very careful to get my potatoes out in time, but I missed one.  When the chickens were free ranging, they dug it up, and it looked beautiful and food worthy minus the fact that the chickens ate half of it.  This was in December.  We had had several snows.  This makes me believe that I didn’t have to be so hyper about getting my potatoes out of the ground.  But maybe it was luck.  Do what feels right to you.

Harvesting Sweet Potatoes:

Dig them up.  dig a little wider, pull gently and brush the dirt off.  Try not to bruise the sweet potato.  I try to use my hands for the most part.  Brush the dirt off.  DO NOT PUT ANY WATER ON THEM.  The only time you should wash them off with water is right before you eat them.  They store best with a little dirt on the outside. Keep any potatoes out that you may have bruised (damaged the skin) for eating soon, BUT NOT IMMEDIATELY.

Curing Sweet Potatoes:

Put them in a cool place for at least 10 days ( I waited over a month). Then you can eat them as regular.  I have not experimented with this, but I have heard that eating freshly dug sweet potatoes is disgusting.  I didn’t have to try that myself.  Maybe you would like to experiment?  If so, let me know how it turns out.

Storing Sweet Potatoes:

Store them in a root cellar or basement.  Some place cool.  DO NOT STORE THEM IN THE FRIDGE or any place below 50 degrees F.  This will make them go bad.

They store up to six months, although use your judgement.  If after 6 months, the potatoes look good, keep them and eat them.  Six months is just a rule of thumb, not  law.

Eating Sweet Potatoes

Oh!Boy!  This is the fun part! Make them how you like them.  Baked, Fried, mashed.

This is one crop that will earn it’s keep in your garden.  This plant has a high rate of return, stores easily, is super good for you and is relatively easy to grow.  Plant on, my friends!

 

Views Around Our Home

I love our home.  I love the location of our home. I love the land our home is on.

Recently, I wrote about how I was treated to a Bald Eagle in our back yard: here.  Being treated to a beautiful natural view around here is part of normal life for us.

I went for a run around my block and it started to snow.  It was so beautiful, I had to stop and take a picture (thank goodness for small camera phones!):

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So then, I hopped of the road to enjoy the snow coming down on the creek.

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I even get to see healthy foxes by my home.  I always see him about a half a mile away from my house and my chickens.

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And in the morning, I get to see this sunrise:

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By moving out into the country, I have one day a week that I spend 4 hours commuting, 2 hours to work and 2 hours home from work.  The rest of the time I work from home.  It is worth every second of every minute I spend commuting to have this sanctuary be my home.  I love it here.  I love the people here and I love my life here.  I can have chickens, a huge garden, and a wood stove.  While it’s not perfect, it’s my home.

As time passes, I will continue to make updates to our home that will make it more and more ours.  We’ve lived here just over two years, and have spent all of our resources on the outside: Planting trees, bushes, shrubs, a garden and creating a home to have happy chickens.

I look forward to continued growth in our home and ourselves.  Thank you for sharing in our journey.

Herb Profile: Lavender

Lavender is beautiful, smells great and easy to grow.  It is one of my favorite smells.  You can use it infused in your teas, as a garnish on your soaps, or simply as fodder for bees.  And super bonus for lavender: It’s a perennial!! Which means you plant it once and you’re done.  It will continue to come back and you can harvest it time and time again.  The roots will continue to grow and harbor an ecosystem that continues to mature.

Variety Selection:

There are many different types of lavender.  I have four planted in my garden: English “Jean Davis” Lavender, French “Boysenberry Ruffles” Lavender, “Grosso” Lavender and “Lady” Lavender.  My Lady Lavender is only grows to a height of 10 inches, while the Grosso Lavender can grow as high as 2 feet.  Lady and Grosso have purple flowers while the Jean Davis has white flowers and Boysenberry Ruffles have reddish-purple blooms.

The point is not to outline the differences in each variety, but to draw your attention to the fact that there are many different varieties that are better for different purposes and different planting zones.

20141229_103057The Grosso Variety has the strongest aroma, while the Boysenberry Ruffles does not have as strong of an aroma.  How do you make sure that you get the best Lavender aroma from your selected plant?  When you are at the nursery, brush the top of the plant and inhale.  You will be able to detect the different intensities of each plant by doing this.

If you want a beautiful blooms, you may want to select a variety that blooms a bit longer.  For example, Jean Davis only blooms in summer, while Grosso and Boysenberry bloom spring and summer.

Buying and Planting Lavender:

I purchased my lavender from a nursery.  They come in little pots and are easily transplanted.  You can plant certain varieties by seed, but you need to start them inside, and only certain varieties do well propagated from seed.  Most other lavender can be propagated from cuttings.  However, lavender is rather cheap to buy and easy to grow.  I will be experimenting with growing lavender from cuttings in the future.

Plant your lavender in a sunny location, in well drained soil.  It’s that simple.  Select a location, dig a hole, put the roots in, cover the roots with dirt.  I also mulch mine down with straw.  I mulch everything with straw, though.  I use straw because it is local and sold by a small, family owned farm.

Two types of Lavender: English Lavender in the foreground and Grosso in the back ground.  They are still green in December.  What a treat!!

Two types of Lavender: Jean Davis Lavender in the foreground and Grosso in the back ground. They are still green in December. What a treat!!

What can Lavender be used for?

Lavender naturally adds beauty to your land while feeding bees and butterflies.

Culinary: You can have lavender infused teas, oils and vinegars. It can flavor cheese, sugar and honey.  It is also a wonderful garnish.

Medicinal: The medicinal uses for this is long: the scent causes a relaxation response in the body, relaxing muscles, while having sedative, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.  Lavender is anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-septic.

Other Uses: It can be used in a sachet for your drawers or as an add-in to potpourri.

Lavender is a beautiful addition to any garden, and also works as a companion plant as it repels fleas, moths, whitefly and ticks.  Although the ticks may seek refuge in the  plants just outside the lavender barrier.  The lavender sachets can also repel mice and rabbits!  These qualities make it an ideal companion for:

  • Your Veggies: carrots, leeks and you brassicas (this is your broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, etc).
  • Your Flowers: Roses love the benefit of the pest repellent from the Lavender.  The Lavender also works as a living mulch, shading and protecting the soil.
  • You Fruit Trees: By bringing in pollinators and repelling the moths and whiteflys, lavender will make your trees happy!!!

I will be adding a lot more Lavender around my property in the coming season.

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