Saturday, May 14, 2011

What I Hope To Accomplish This Weekend

·         I guess I will have to become accustomed to working in the rain.  Although I have managed to find a dry moment or two and have transplanted the nasturtiums into porch rail boxes.  I'm working on tempting those busy little bees to visit my porch deck and do their pollination dance for the summer.  I'll have my eggplant up there and a couple of tomato plants.  I have an heirloom beefsteak and cherry tomato.
 Here's what I have planned for the weekend:
·         Transplant tomatoes 
·         Plant beets, turnips, beans, more carrots 
·         Prepare potato bed 
·         Bring home more mushroom manure
·         Buy 3 more containers for the deck
·         Do some wild food foraging (or at least see what we’ve got in our woods)

This should keep me busy until Monday!  If I have a chance, I’ll post again with what I actually do get done.  Have a good weekend.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Finally ~ A Day In The Garden!!!!

Wow!  Did I have fun today!  It did not rain and I took big advantage of it.  Well, as much as I could anyway

I got my raised beds ready for planting and while I was doing that, I found some shallots that came up on their own.  The garlic bed is doing fabulous, totally full of Italian purple and elephant garlic.  It will be worth the wait for harvest time.

My broccoli is now transplanted in their own bed.  The nasturtiums and sweet peas are up and still in their peat discs but if the weather warms up enough through the week I'll transplant into their porch rail and trellis boxes.  I'll be transplanting the cherry tomatoes in between the sweet peas.  I don't think the bees will be able to resist .

My poor kale is half drown in their container with all the rain we've had and the purple sprouting broccoli never made it.  I'm really hoping the kale will pull through.

My lemon balm has relocated itself!  When I looked it up on the Herb Mentor site I learned that it likes poor soil that is well drained.  It has come up all through the walk way I made with the stone from the creek bed.  (I dug it out 1-1/2 feet and filled it with sand and then a few inches of tiny pebbles.  I then placed the stones in the pebbles).  This is where my lovely lemon balm has chosen to reside.  And do I have to tell you how beautiful it looks?  A very healthy looking emerald green. I've decided to leave it where it is, even though it is inconvenient, but if it is not happy ~ it won't make very good medicine.
Lemon balm is good for strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy, it has calming and relaxing properties. Officially it is a relaxing nervine, an herb that relaxes, soothes and supports the nervous system.  It can be used for anxiety, hysteria, frayed nerves, stress, insomnia, seasonal affective disorder, nervous tension and general feelings of "I'm on my last straw!". Older sources list it as being helpful for heart palpitations as well.

I will make a tincture from it and honey infusion.  The honey infusion will be made with local honey which should help with my allergies.  I will also dry some at the end of the season for tea.  I should be able to get 2 harvests from it.

I went to the woods today also in hopes of harvesting some elder flowers.  This place was a homestead in the Civil War days and about 20 years ago children caught it on fire.  The fire department came and just took the place down.  We used to fish in the pond, I collected some daffodil bulbs, bricks for my old herb garden and garlic chives.  I wish I had known about the medicinal virtues of the elder flowers and berries back then ~ but I didn't.  So this year I thought how very lucky I am to know where wild elderberries grow and went off on an expedition to visit this beautiful spot only to find it has been completely bull dozed to become a part of the small airport that it bordered.  Not only was this a historical (ish) spot because of the old age of the homestead, but right next to it was the path for the first (and the only one as far as I know) cross country trolley ever!  Some of the line and poles were still there.  It went from Harmony, PA clear in to Pittsburgh and even crossing a river.   My heart truly sank at the sight of it.  All gone.

Tomorrow I will spend some time with my Mom and daughter for Mother's Day.  We've been getting together more often these days which has been a lot of fun.  I hope all you Moms have a great day!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tiny Rural Farm

So much is being written these days about homesteading and more often than not it is about Urban farming/homesteads.  Many people are digging up the lawns and planting gardens,  building chicken coops that look like children's play houses, and even bringing in miniature or dwarf goats.

Even though I am in a rural area I have land the size of a city lot.  As I continue to search the web for information and ideas, I am learning a great deal.  Most of it from city folk ;D

I've subscribed to a magazine called, "Urban Farm".  I sampled it by purchasing an older issue and downloading it on to my computer.  I just love all the great information.  So, I am going to give it a try and subscribe for the year.  I got a few good links from it and one I particularly like:
They prove that you don't need acreage to raise a couple of dairy goats.  When you breed them and have a few kids you can sell them.  I would want to have someone nearby who has a buck that I could use for breeding.  I've also learned that bottle fed kids behave more like pets (more domesticated) than those nursing from Mom.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  The author of an article in the magazine suggests milking in the morning and allowing kids to have the rest of the day until they are weaned.

One of the articles also suggested that city farms should raise rabbits as a small livestock and build housing like a chicken tractor moving them around your space.  Building a wood slat floor will enable manure to drop down onto the grass and the grass pokes up through the slats for the rabbits to eat!  Ingenius.

I like what the Path To Freedom family does with their miniature goats.  They have harness and leash for their two miniature goats and take them walking.  They have been a true inspiration to me with this small space challenge.

Another article gave step by step instruction on building your own self watering containers.  My container garden which is on my wood deck has grown this year.  I have kale at the moment and some herbs.  I have purchased winter squash seed especially suited to containers along with eggplant for container growing.  I will add cherry tomatoes for my salad garden which has been planted up in the wooden window boxes hubby made for me. 

The more I learn, the more confident I feel that we can build our small homestead successfully right where we are.

We will get bees at some point.  Not sure when, but local honey is a must for my honey infusions.  I thought my next post would have been more of an herbal medicine topic but when I found the Urban Farm magazine, I just went with it!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Now I Know It Is Spring ;)

My salad garden has begun to push up lovely little leaves!  Last year I saved seed from my French Breakfast radish.  I planted some last Sunday and around Thursday they began to sprout up.  Along with the radish I planted arugula and a salad green mix that looks interesting.  Such a diverse mix of seeds has to produce something out of the ordinary!  I planted a red bunching onion too.  I've never seen anything like it and look forward to the addition of them in my salad.

Leek seeds haven't sprouted yet, but germination can take as long as 21 days.  They are out on the deck waiting for the ideal weather.  I'm about to sow some flower seed in the house.  Sweet Pea and Nasturtium.  It's a good idea to include such an attraction to the bees for pollination.  I have a couple of rail containers to plant them in and I'm sure they'll do the job.

Last Sunday I also transplanted some kale to a large container on the deck, along with seed in peat discs which had sprouted purple sprouting broccoli and calabrese broccoli.   These will be planted in one of the raised beds.  It wasn't all that long ago that the ground was still a little crunchy.  They'll do okay in the peat discs a little longer.

Tomato seeds are up.  Roma plums.  I've potted up some containers of mushroom manure and topsoil to transplant them in.  I don't know about where you live, but gas and food prices are going up.  I just didn't want to spend money on potting soil that I really didn't need to have.  The Romas will live in the 2' X 10' raised bed down in the garden.

I'll start the eggplant and peppers at the end of the month.  I have a winter squash developed for container growing that I can't wait to see full grown.  The squash bugs are relentless.  I do plan to plant dill in the container with it though, after reading that it is supposed to deter the squash bug.  Let's hope it works.

Speaking of herbs, my sage looks ragged and I hope it comes back.  However, the last year's pot of chives came back in full force!  It was so nice to see that first greenery a couple of weeks ago.  I'm not absolutely sure what I'll be doing with the herb garden.  I've got several different ones to get started which will be the beginning of my medicinal herb garden.  I don't want to have them all in containers.  I would like to have them in a permanent place where the ones that will reseed have the space to do so.

So that's all I've gotten done in the garden so far.  Next post should be about my adventures with  A truly rewarding experience.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Getting Ready

Preparing to plant.  Ahhhhhh.  It lifts my spirit to set my mind on what I will be growing in the garden.  The planning and preparations are part of the enjoyment for me.  

I'm expanding my container garden this year as part of my 2011 plan which is growing fewer kinds of veggies in my beds, but more of each kind.  The beds will supply our summer feasts as well as stocking the pantry.  The container garden will be more of a kitchen garden with a little of this and a little of that.  Mostly supplying fresh salads every day.

I've found a lovely (new to me) Asian bunching onion:
#W468 BUNCHING CRIMSON FOREST (heirloom) - $1.25

HEIRLOOM Another bunching onion but this one has green tops and a red bulb. Both flavorful and colorful. 400 seeds

None of the purple sprouting broccoli I've tred to grow in the previous years have given me good results.  This is yet another type and will be in my container garden:

#W247 EARLY PURPLE SPROUTING BROC (35 days) - $0.95

This purple version of Raab is popular in the North. An alternative way to grow it is to plant in mid-summer, over-winter it and then get two months of delicious cuttings the following spring. High in vitamins with a tangy flavor. 100 seeds

One of the problems I had with gardening on the deck was the lack of pollination.  Very important to attract the bees.  I'm going to see how the scarlett runner beans will do in containers.  They will not only attract bees, but humming birds and butterflies!

There are others, but I thought I would introduce you to these two that seem so unique and interesting.  I can't wait to grow them.  Tess has found some awesome veggies suited to container gardening that I have also ordered.  One of which is a salad greens mix that will do wonderfully in the bottom box of my window box unit.  I will continue to grow the French Breakfast radish that we love for it's beauty and mild flavor.  They make tasty little sandwiches (thinly sliced radish sauted in butter) and contribute nicely to a tossed salad. 

I'm going to add the parsley root and some carrots to the window boxes.  The bunching onions will also grow in this garden.  Now, I like to have the cherry or grape type tomatoes for the salads so we will have a pot of one tomato plant on the deck for the salads.

I've begun my medicinal garden.  White sage, horehound, chamomile.  I'm going to try and incorporate these into my old flower bed.  I've got garden sage in a large pot now.  Thyme, hyssop and lemon balm are already in the flower bed and catnip pops up throughout.

Eat the Weeds

I've found a very entertaining and informative youtube channel.  Husband and I have decided that we will be adding these to our salads this year.  I hope you enjoy.  Check out his website too.

Also, look up his purslane video.  He suggests transplanting them from the wayside to home.  Do not eat from plants taken from roadsides, until the next year in case of toxins.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Where It All Began

When we first began our journey, it was without most of the knowledge we have now, on the subject of self sufficiency, or getting off the grid.  We knew about the “New Shelter” magazine which was the forerunner to Mother Earth News.

We found ourselves, in the 80s,  being  homeowners  and on a tight budget.  No room for error here.  I became a stay at home Mom with the birth of our first son.  Now we were living on  a smaller income  and had another child to think of.  We decided that it would help to begin a garden. 
Our house had a small greenhouse attached to the east side of the house and it faced south.  I began to putter in there, starting seeds and reading up on some  Rodale  Organic Gardening books in the library.  I don’t know, something just clicked I suppose and I became a huge fan.  I don’t even remember which book impacted me so, but I guarantee that any book you can get your hands on from them will enlighten and enrich you.  And your dirt too ;)
There are many reasons why we should grow our own food, cut our monthly expenses, do more things for ourselves and get out of debt.  But you have to agree with me that the future of our economic situation has a BIG question mark beside it.  Why gamble with your future?  Do you have even a small piece of land?  Do you have a flower bed you can turn into an herb garden or a veggie bed?  It starts somewhere.  Creating a plan would be a good first step.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy 2011

I've been busy.  Busy with work, busy with home repairs, busy re-evaluating our plan of self sufficiency, and busy with learning.  I suppose the start of a new year is appropriate for this type of post.

I've chosen to delete my other blog.  Since we've made changes, I thought a fresh blog start was appropriate.

We had been looking for land where we could build a cabin and small homestead for our retirement years.  We don't have enough land where we live now to have goats.  This is a big issue for us.  We found that it is almost impossible to get a loan for land.  The banks all want collateral even though we have exellent credit.  So they want us to take a home equity loan.

The economy has taken such a hit that we are afraid now to put our home on the line.  Who knows what will happen and we could lose what we have.  So, we decided to pay off the car before we look at any more land to be completely out of debt.  We've also come to the conclusion that we will probably have to sell our house before we can buy  land anyhow.  It would have been nice to build the homestead slowly, also using it as a place to vacation until we are ready to make the actual move.  While we are here, we will continue to work towards self sufficiency in any way we are able.

Another change is in the area of home grown veggies and food storage.  With space at a minimum, we're looking at reducing the number of different veggies we will grow, allowing for quantity of a few kinds.  I began to follow a web site which teaches how to dehydrate, store and use your food pantry.  It has been a wonderful experience.  I've purchased one and began to dehydrate for food storage.  I'll do a detailed post soon on this.

We've been researching solar energy panels in our area and planning what sort of set up we will most efficiently be able to use for our location.  Here in Western Pennsylvania, we don't have a lot of hot sunny days.  We will use our system and still need to be on the grid as back up.  Not a problem, we will be happy doing what we're able to do.

We haven't come to a firm decision on where to put the sun room but waiting rather than putting it in just anywhere has been fortunate for us, as we have learned more about how to use it,  as well as how we want our house to look.  It will be in the front part of our home which is facing south.

Now, most recently on our list is the making of a medicinal herb garden.  I've always wanted to do this and people who really know me, are aware of my continued interest in herbs.  It is nothing new.

I've joined a website online which is an educational organization that demonstrates how to make folk style remedies for home use.  The depth of learning available is far beyond this, but this is where we are beginning this adventure.  Scoping out what we can harvest in the wild first, and planting what we need here in the garden.  This is another consideration as we plan our 2011 garden.  Space is always an issue.  What I have concluded though, is we can grow a number of herbs in containers and when we have the sun room built, many of them can live in there.

These are a few topics I will be posting about in the days to come.  I pray we'll all have a healthy, prosperous, and blessed 2011.