Monday, August 8, 2011

It's a Jungle Out There

Wendy, Wendy, Lazy Blogger,
How does your garden fare?
With chard, kale, beans and lettuce,
And cucumbers hanging in the air.

(My take on an old nursery you recognize it?)

I haven't been blogging much, but thankfully, the garden has been doing it's thing!  Here are some photos sure to amaze.  Well, they amaze me. can a person NOT be amazed at the miracle of Creation and how things grow?

The whole garden...mid-June.  We thought it was looking great!

Some of the tomatoes in mid-June

Same tomatoes on August 2nd.

My garden buddy, who is over 3 foot tall, next to tomatoes on the right and squash on the left.

Last week, the tallest zucchini I've ever seen!  The fence post is about 4 ft. high.
The cucumbers on August 2nd.  We've never grown them going up before.  I love it!  I'm also proud to say that I made those trellises with the help of Zach, the happiest kid on the planet.  And, yes, I may have planted a few too many cucumbers.  This week all of the plants are now ABOVE the supports.  We've been eating cucumbers every day for over a week.  In the foreground, you see the lettuce and kale bed.
Another shot of the kale,  isn't it gorgeous.  It's a mix of varieties.  We are really enjoying them.  I even made all of my in-laws eat some when the 10 of them invaded our house for a week.

The sweet peas and carrot bed in front, chard and aramanth in the middle, and kale and lettuce in the back.  Again, mid-June.  Over to the right side you can see the bush beans (in the front of the bed) and the pole beans (along the fence) just peaking up from the dirt.

My attempt to add color to the Little Farm.  Ruby Red Chard (on the left), Golden Chard (on the right) and Aramanth in the center.  Considered a weed by some, an ornamental plant by others and a grown as a grain in South America, Aramanth was new to me.  I was mostly going for the ornamental use.  However, being the cheap and adventurous gal that I am, I'm sure I'll be giving the edible grain thing a try, too.  If the human residents of the Farm don't eat it, I'm sure the Gals will.
The Spaghetti Squash are actually growing!  This is a first.  We have never been able to grown many (read 2 or 3 each year) squash.  My helper and I counted 20+ growing inside and (mostly) outside the garden.  In the past week, the big on ealong the ground has grown at least 50% more.  Oh my!

The beans.  Bush in the front, Pole in the back.  We've been eating Bush beans for a week or so now.  The Pole beans are taking their time.

 We've been eating lettuce, sweet peas, chard and kale for weeks now.  The beans, zucchini and cucumbers are starting rolling in just over a week ago along with a few yellow/orange tomatoes.  Hopefully, the tomatoes will get a move on!  They huge and viney and green, but I'd like a few more actual tomatoes on the things.  Time will tell!

So fellow "farmers," how do your gardens grow?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Starting Tomatoes from Seed

Part of a the crop from LAST year.

This is the Year of the Tomato here on the Little Farm!  We've got 70 (yes, you read that correctly) 7-0, little beauties in the ground out there and they are all looking great.  If you are doing a bit of quick math in your head, you are realizing how many tomatoes we may end up with come September.

Do we have a tomato death wish?  Are we envisioning paying for the Young'uns college education through tomato sales?  Have we been tipped off to some worldwide tomato shortage by the International Tomato Advisory Council?

No.  Actually, not a bad idea....hmmmm.  And no.

We just really like tomatoes and things made from tomatoes.  We like them raw - I even eat them like apples.  (In fact, I cannot wait for to eat them raw.  I haven't bought a fresh tomato at the store since last summer.)  We like salsa and tomato sauce and ratatouille and tomato soup and "sundried" tomatoes and the list goes on. 

We also like making the above items with tomatoes we've grown ourselves.  Homemade and home canned salsa and sauce and soup is AMAZING!  Not to mention cheaper than the swanky comparable stuff in stores and, well, I know everything that goes into it.  I like that, too.

Last year, our tomatoes did pretty poorly and we actually, I am not proud to admit, had to BUY tomatoes.  It was still worth it to us, but it did sting our "farmer" pride and pockets.  This year will be different!

How's that for optimism?

One of pots with seeds that didn't make it.

We ordered several types of tomato seeds from Fedco so if one doesn't work, something else surely will.  Also, variety is one of the great things about growing your own food.  Have you ever noticed there are pretty much only 3-4 types of tomatoes at the grocery store?

After making my nifty little paper pots , we planted 93 of those pots with tomato seeds. 

Here's what we planted:
Opalka Paste Tomato
Jet Star Tomato
Gardener’s Delight Cherry Tomato
Principe Borghese Cherry Tomato
Ida Gold Tomato
Pink Brandywine Tomato
Amish Paste Tomato
Rutgers Tomato

All the duds- ready for the compost pile.

I'm especially excited about the paste tomatoes which we've never tried before!  Homemade spaghetti sauce - here we come.  I'd love your secret family recipe if you have one...

A sweet friend offered to house all our little tomato babies in her amazing greenhouse.  They did great -thanks to her diligent watering and care (she'll be getting a bunch of salsa this Fall) and came back to us all ready to hit the ground.

Of the 93 pots we planted, 23 didn't make it.  We've never planted this many seeds before, so I'm no expert on whether or not that's good.  It made me happy, whatever the germination rate.  We spent about $42.00 on seeds (ALL our seeds, not just the tomatoes).  Getting 70, mostly organic, all non-GMO tomato plants for less than $42.00 is a steal!

The final result - 70 plants and 23 bummers.

After spending a few days getting used to living in the real world, they all went into the ground.  It seemed touch and go with many of them for about a week, but now all the inhabitants of tomato land are thriving.

 So, for now, all is good.  Come September when I am up to my neck (hopefully) in juicy red goodness and I complain a bit, feel free to remind me how excited I was in June.

Welcome to the Year of the Tomato!

Close up.  Isn't it interesting how different the leaves of each variety look?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Farm Report

The Farm is 90% planted!  We're about 2 weeks behind in getting the garden, but so are most other people around here as are the REAL farmers. 

Getting seeds and plants in the ground 2 weeks late isn't a big deal in some place warm, but on the Little Farm where the growing season is pretty short, it's a bit scary.  We're hoping for a long, warm Fall.  The bounty of our garden isn't our sole source of food, but it does help make a BIG dent in our grocery budget for the year.

Time will tell.

Before the raised bed.
This dependence on weather is one of those things about gardening that has made appreciate and stand in complete amazement of those families who lived a hundred years ago and depended 100% on what they could grow for their livelihood.  How brave and courageous they were!  For them, 2 weeks late could mean the difference between full stomachs and being hungry for the whole winter.  Amazing!  What faith!

We've made a major improvement to the garden this year.  We made the entire perimeter of the garden into a raised bed.  The inside of the garden has had 7 raised beds for several years.   The new bed looks great and should help keep things a bit drier in the spring, which means we might get things in earlier in the years to come and not have to worry so much about 2 weeks late...

After  boards were added, before dirt to fill it up.
One of the great things about our new raised beds is that they cost us about $4.00 total.  Our backyard fence is falling down (thanks to the previous owners of our house who didn't sink the posts in cement).  We've got plans for a new backyard fence and plan to use lots of the former fence to make it.  However, we won't need all that wood, so we were able to use the excess to make the raised beds.  The $4.00 we spent was for a box of screws. 

As usual, it's been an all family affair. The fence sections were torn down, nails removed and pieces stacked neatly by the male Young'uns.  The slats (or whatever you call the up and down boards that form the walls) were screwed together by yours truly.  I felt so handy wielding that drill!  The 2x4's which held the slats were cut and turned into stakes by The Big Guy.  He also put the stakes in the ground and screwed the slat pieces I made onto the stakes.  The dirt was hauled from the yard waste place and put into the plots by The Big Guy and the 2 oldest Young'uns.  Whew!  It was a project - but it looks great!

Farmer Ron hard at work.  He hates it when I do this.  Can you see the flowering fruit trees behind him?  We've got big orchard news!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Teaching Old Chickens New Tricks

What's a golf ball doing in our chicken coop?  Actually, there are 3 golf balls currently in the nesting boxes of our coop. The golf balls are teaching our chickens where to lay their eggs.  It makes me laugh.

This year's group of Gals were all about 1 year old and laying daily when they arrived on the Little Farm.  As you can imagine, moving from one "farm" to another can be a bit discombobulating for a poor hen.  That is a big change, especially for a less than genius chicken.

I mean...when, early in our marriage, I moved the laundry hamper from one side of a door to another it took The Big Guy about a year to get used such a monumental change.  I moved the silverware drawer (it moved from the top drawer to the one directly below) about 5 years ago.  The males in my house are still getting used to that one...but I digress.  (I love the differences between boys and girls!)

Anyway, when the Gals moved in, they weren't sure where their eggs were supposed to go.  For the first couple of days, we found them all over the ground under their coop.  This wasn't the end of the world, we still found them easily and such.  However, a few of them were broken. 

Broken eggs!  That's like throwing away a treasure!

So, Farmer Ron stuck one golf ball in each of the nesting boxes on the top of the coop.   Ta Da!  The next day, we had 4 eggs laid IN the nesting boxes.  All they needed was a good example.  Good thinking Farmer Ron!  The Gals sure are quick learners.

At this juncture, I could point out that the Gals are, in fact, GIRLS and that said girls adjusted to this change quite speedily.  And this stands in stark contrast to how the males on the Little Farm seem adjust to things moving around, but I won't...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yet Another First from Our Last Young'un

Feeding carrots to the chickens before breakfast.
Abby Grace is our littlest Young'un.  She's very smart, really independent, astonishingly busy, pretty darn cute and extremely hilarious!  Being the fifth child in a busy household, she's also has the opportunity to fly "off the radar" a bit.  I mean, I just can't keep track of her all the time.  I try and I even have help, but sometimes she's on her own. 

Most days, Abby's unintentional alone time turns out just fine.  In fact, usually the results of her alone times are quite impressive.  For a 3 year old, she is excellent at drawing.  Her most recent picture of our dog is displayed in our kitchen gallery.  Come check it out!

Her alone times also resulted in her infamous "Caboodie Dance."  Seriously, one day she walked out of a closet (of course, I had thought she was in a different room) and told me she had a new dance.  It's hilarious!  Abby has taught all of us the Caboodie Dance now.  She and the Big Guy do it best.  They've got the moves, those two.

See how one side is a bit shorter?
This weekend Abby Grace had some alone time which resulted in a first here on the Little Farm.  Abby used her scissors (yes, she has some scissors) and decided she needed a haircut.  We've never had a Young'un cut their own hair before.  New territory yet again!

Apparently the cutting happened on Friday night.  However, I didn't realize it until after she'd gone to bed (no, I didn't notice when I was putting her to bed.  I'm a good Mom, really...) and I found clumps of hair on the floor.  That would be clumps of pretty blond curls on the floor...

Turned out they were from our sweet Abby Grace's head.

The damage was such that a rather dramatic trim was necessary.  There are still a couple of spots where it's a bit uneven (we didn't want to shave her head), but that'll work itself out in a month or two.  I was sad to loose the sweet curls.  The Big Guy was even more sad.

The results of all the trimming is actually quite cute.  Her curls are still intact!  I actually think the new do fits her spunky little personality.

Abby and I have had a talk regarding scissors and their proper usage.  She's been briefed on what will happen should she decide to perform another haircut or some other such unauthorized use of her scissors.  Time will tell... it's always a crazy, fun, sweet, exhausting adventure.

Really.  How can you resist this face?

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Chickens Have Arrived!

The Gals have arrived on the Little Farm!  They moved in last Saturday morning and have already given us 6 eggs and some laughs.  We've even had some sessions of Chicken PE classes!

This year's group are all less than one year old.  We've got a Rhode Island Red, Americuna, Brown Americuna/Unknown cross and a Black Australop.  So far, their eggs have ranged from off white to dark tan.  The dark tan eggs are easily the size of jumbo eggs from the store.

The Gals are currently living in the backyard.  Farmer Ron moved their chicken coop/tractor thingy back there from its place beside our garden.  We thought we'd let them get used our place and roam around the backyard for a few weeks.  The garden is pretty wet and sloppy right now.  When it dries out, we'll move their coop out there and let them eat all the random seeds and weeds in the garden.  We love letting them do our work!

In their coop
We're all glad to have the coop filled again, especially the three youngest Young'uns.  They have been out to look for eggs about 3 times each day.  The youngest Young'un spent a good deal of time in the backyard talking and singing to them.  Hope they like company!

Hanging out by the sandbox

I know the Gals have been given names, but I'm not sure what they are...I've heard about 20 different ones floating around in the past few days.  When they've been officially christened, I'll let you know.

Be sure to check the Egg Count in the sidebar.  I'll keep it updated every few days.  We'll see if these Gals earn their keep over the next eight months or so.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Making Paper Pots for Starting Seeds

The seeds have arrived!  The next step, here on the Little Farm, is to get the tomatoes and eggplant seeds into some dirt so they can start growing inside.  We can't put plants or seeds into our garden much before Mother's Day each year.  This means our growing season is pretty short and we need to give some of our plants a head start if we want to have any veggies.

Starting seeds usually means getting a black plastic tray or two and some peat starter pellets from the infamous Fleet Farm.  Once home Fleet Farm, we'd put the pellets into the tray, add water, "ooh" and "aah" as the pellets puffed up into dirt, stuck our seeds into the dirt and wait for a few weeks.

This year we're doing something different...I bought a Paper Pot Maker from Amazon using some of my Swagbucks!

I'd seen one of these little babies a few years back and loved the idea, but hadn't gotten around to giving it a try.  My Amazon gift cards had been sitting in my account (thanks Swagbucks!) just begging me to use them, so I thought we'd give the Paper Pot Maker a go. 

The Verdict:  so far, I love it!

In the space of about an hour, I made 103 small pots out of newspaper!  They were easy to make, are the perfect size for starting seeds and the materials (newspaper) didn't cost me a thing.  Once the plants are ready to put into the ground, we can stick them in pot and all since the paper pot is biodegradable!

Besides all of this - I think they're cute!

Here's how it works...  Cut strips of newspaper about 4 inches wide. 

Wrap a strip around the Pot Maker snugly, but not too snugly or it'll be tough to slide your pot off when it's done. The ends of the paper should hang over the bottom end of the pot maker by about an inch or so.  Fold these ends in towards the center.

Press the Pot Maker onto the circle/base thingy.  I found it takes some pretty decent pressure to get the bottom to sticky somewhat tightly.  It worked best to have the base sitting on a table or some sort of firm surface.  There are grooves on base which help to make the bottom stick. 

 Here's what the bottom of the pot looks like after it has been pressed and mashed around a bit on the base.

At this point, you slide the pot off the end and viola!  You've made yourself a cute little pot that's all ready for your dirt, seeds and love.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Seeds: They Make Me Happy!

 On Saturday afternoon, our friendly mailman (I do know I'm supposed to call him a "postal worker," but he is a man and he was delivering our mail) knocked on our door and handed me a small, square box.

"Could it be?" thought I.

One quick glance at the return address and I knew.  Our seeds had arrived! 

Oh the joy!  Oh the hope!  Oh the possibilities!

I'm pretty sure I sensed the slight taste of a big juicy tomato in my mouth...

In my happiness, I gave the aforementioned mailman a big ol' kiss, took my package and shut the door.

The seeds for this year's garden here on the The Little Farm have come from Fedco Seeds on the recommendation of a friend, Laurie, who is miles and miles ahead of me in all things "farming."  She has a lovely garden, property and blog, Common Sense Homesteading.  She is so smart about so many things, but I digress...

We were looking for a new seed source because last year's seeds were a bit disappointing.  The catalog from Seed Savers looked gorgeous and I love the idea of what Seed Savers does, but the seeds didn't turn into many plants.  What plants we did get, didn't do so great.  And, to be honest, we're in this for the food.  We've got five Young'uns - two of whom are teenage boys and one 3 year old who's favorite summertime activity is to hide in the garden and eat veggies.  She's learned what jalepenos look like, but again, I digress...

Fedco.  One look at their website and they had me.  Here is the first line from their "About Fedco" page:
Welcome to Fedco Seeds, your source for cold-hardy selections especially adapted to our demanding Northeast climate.
See why I liked them?  The Little Farm isn't in the Northeast, but we still need cold-hardy selections.  This may have been the trouble with last year's seeds - not made to grow in the Frozen Tundra.  Did I mention we had snow falling here today on April 4th?

Back to the box.  I opened it with ooh's and aah's.

Do you think 31 packs of seeds is too much?

I loved the seed packaging - thick white envelopes with green printing and resealable flaps.  They also have explicit planting directions on the front of each envelope, something which is very helpful to gardening wanna-be's like us.

As I spread them out on the table, reading the names aloud, I got even more excited.  Amish Paste Tomato, National Pickling Cucumber, Over the Rainbow Carrot Mix, Arugula, Swallow Eggplant, Pink Brandywine Tomato, Mammoth Dill, Arugula, just to name a few.  (I know I mentioned Arugula twice.  Say it aloud - it's fun.)

The seed packs have been sorted into piles of those we'll start early in our basement (hopefully in the next couple of days) and those we'll sow directly in the ground.  I'll keep you posted.

Seeds!  Oh the joy!  Oh the hope!  Oh the possibilities!

(I'm just kidding about kissing the mailman.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Does Hope Look Like?

Hope - to expect with confidence of future fullfilment

If you live somewhere which is perpetually green or at least mostly perpetually green, you might not get this.  Here is what hope looks like to me...

Those little green shoots poking out of the ground are the brave little daffodils which have started appearing in the last week outside our house.  Again, if you're in a location where there's even a bit of green year round, these tiny sprouts probably don't look very impressive to you, but they are to me.

I've been going outside to see them at least once a day, sometimes more.  They represent my hope for the future...I am hoping for green leaves, green grass, juicy tomatoes, warm breezes, tanned kids with scraped, dirty knees and nights of sleeping with the window open.

After a long, cold, dark winter, I am confidently expecting new life to arrive outside my door.  Soon.  Please let it be soon.

What else does hope look like to me?  Like this...

The Young'uns in the Fall of 2009.  Photo by Hailey Brautigam.
The Young'uns.  Five of our greatest gifts from God.  I have hope that "he who began a good work in you (them) will be faithful to complete it." (Phillipians 1:6)  Sometimes during the day, I look at them and get excited to see what their futures will be.  New lives.

Finally, for me, this is what hope looks like...

In the cross I see hope.  I confidently expect the fulfillment of my hopes Easter.  The best new life of all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Frivolous Friday: Things We Do to Our Kids

Despite all my best efforts, I am sure I've done many things over the years which have traumatized the Young'uns.  Probably for life.  It's hard to be a great Mom all the time.  We have weak moments.

However, I can honestly say I've never been this weak... at least not when my camera has been around.

Poor kid!  This was his mother's cure for sunburn.  I think it is cornstarch.  Apparently, his left hand escaped the sun.  Maybe he was in a Michael Jackson phase and was sporting the sparkly white glove at the beach that day. 

Whatever is going on here, it made me laugh.  Happy Frivolous Friday!

Once again, thanks for the laugh Awkward Family photos!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sometimes I Think We're Too Trashy Around The Farm

A Disclaimer:  In posting this I am not wanting to enter into some debate on Global Warming and such topics.  Really.  I am not.

Sometimes when I am hauling yet another bag out to our trash cans...  Or better yet, sometimes when I am yelling for one of my sons to come and haul yet another bag out to our trash cans...  I get a bit sad.  Well, maybe disgusted is more the word for which I'm looking.

We recycle an overwhelming majority of our paper, plastic, aluminum, glass, etc. We compost an overwhelming majority of our veggie and fruit scraps.  We do most all our cleaning with clothes and not paper.

We still have trash.  Lots of it, it seems to me.  (Yes, I know there are 7 of us living here.  It still seems like a lot of trash even under these circumstances.)

I'm not prepared to go to the lengths of the family in this video.  I don't think human trash will lead to the utlimate destruction of our planet and life as we know it.  But I can't see how it couldn't be a good thing for everyone, including this earth God has given us, for our family to use and throw way less.

The family has gotten me thinking.  Check out the video and some of their ideas on the website.  They are pretty inspiring.  Their first line of defense is rather shocking:  Refuse!  They simply refuse to bring things into their home.  Wow!  How simple and yet, how revolutionary.

Don't worry Big Guy and Young'uns...I'm still very partial to toilet paper.  I won't go THAT far.