Tag: garden

Happenings Around the Homestead

As I have said in a previous post, I am not planting my garden in full this year.  I decided to only plant those things which were already ordered (sweet potatoes and herbs) and some things I had already planted before deciding this (corn, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and garlic).  So even though I am not doing a lot this year compared to previous years, I am still planting quite a bit.  This weekend I needed to plant some sweet potato slips that arrived a couple of weeks ago, as well as Goldenseal plants.

I must have ordered more sweet potatoes than I remember ordering.  I planted 45 slips, 15 each of Beauregard, O’Henry, and Purple Passion.  Those are orange, white, and purple sweet potatoes, respectively.  Oh, you didn’t know there were different colored sweet potatoes?  Yep, and while they taste similar, they do not taste exactly the same.  I find the purple sweet potatoes to be more dry and a little less sweet, while the white sweet potatoes are more mild, and actually make a pretty good white potato substitute.  Here is a picture of one of the slips I planted:

O'Henry Sweet Potato Slip

O’Henry Sweet Potato Slip

The garlic is coming along nicely, and it won’t be too long until it is ready to harvest.  It is not all that is doing well though – the mint is growing like wildfire this year.  Check out these pictures:

Chocolate Mint

Chocolate Mint – one of my favorites!

Orange Mint

Orange Mint

I mentioned the Goldenseal.  Check out the roots of this plant!  They are so golden in color:

Goldenseal Roots

Goldenseal Roots

Here is picture of the leaves.



I am anxious to see how this grows.  It is native to this area, so it should grow well.

Happenings Around the Homestead

How I love this time of year!  The weather has just been amazing!  The plants are coming out everywhere – I love it!

One of the biggest pieces of news around the homestead this week is the number of apples on the apple trees!  I cannot believe this!  We have had these trees since we moved in here, and while they have made one or two apples a year, it has been truly pathetic.  This year, as you may remember, I pruned them heavily.  I can’t say that made all the difference, but I have to believe it made the bulk of the difference.  There seems to be hundreds of tiny apples now growing on the trees.  Check it out:

Growing Apples

Growing Apples

The other big news of the year is my almost-firm decision that I am not going to put out a full garden this year.  I have decided that there is wisdom in letting your soil rest periodically, and with us having just converted to a new type of gardening, this is a fine year to let it rest.  I have already ordered some plants, and I have already planted some things, so anything that grows from that will be permitted to grow, but we aren’t going to do anything else.  Basically, this means we will have garlic, some greens, some popcorn, and sweet potatoes.  The rest will be left to rest.  (I sure hope we can find someone with plenty of fresh tomatoes this year!)

One of the nice things happening in the garden right now is the portable chicken coop is allowing our chickens to fertilize the garden like mad.  😀  We are moving it around the garden regularly, and they are not only eating any grass that remains there, but they are stirring it up, fertilizing it, and helping to prepare it for next year.


Happenings Around the Homestead

Whew, this has been a busy week around here, even though I have been on vacation from work.  In fact, I think I have worked more this week than normal, and I can sure tell it.  I need a vacation!

Before I get to the accomplishments of the week, let me share a few pictures I have taken of some seed I was sent a week or so ago:

Dutch Brown (Bean) Cross

Dutch Brown (Bean) Cross


Harmony Flour Corn

Harmony Flour Corn


Joseph's Popcorn 2014

Joseph’s Popcorn 2014


Glass Gem Corn

Glass Gem Corn


New Popcorn

Unnamed Popcorn from Roadside Stand

All of this except the last picture came from Joseph Lofthouse, who I consider to be one of the premier Landracing Proponents right now.  The last popcorn came from another gardener in Indiana who happened to pick the popcorn cobb up from a roadside stand in Kentucky.

The big activity regarding homesteading this week has been the 2014 popcorn trials.  Yes, I know it is 2015, but I was doing popping trials on my 2014 popcorn.  I am almost done now, and there will be a post later this week or next week telling all about it; however, the most important part is I am happy how well things are popping.

You may be wondering why I am doing the popcorn trials.  There will be more details, I am sure, in an upcoming post, but basically I am trying to find which of the corn cobbs pop the best for selectively saving seed.  The point being to improve the crop year over year, ultimately getting to the point I am growing a great popping corn that tastes much better than what you might get in the store.

The other big homesteading activity of the week has been garden planning.  Our garden is many times larger this year than it was last year, which is going to allow me to do a number of things, not the least of which is have a more viable population for seed saving.  I still have a little work to do on my garden plan for the year, but I should be able to share how it looks in a week or two.

Speaking of gardening, can you believe it will be time to start growing some cold weather crops like peas in just a couple of months!  Wow, how time flies!  More to come on that too.

Happenings Around the Homestead

Wow!  I logged in today and noticed it has been nearly a month without a post!  Needless to say, the last month has been very close to chaotic continually, and what little time I have had has been spent on living, not writing about living.  🙂

Despite the chaos, I have had a pretty productive month or so around the homestead, mostly in planning for the upcoming gardening year.  By next week I should be able to share the plans for my garden for 2015, which will be a very different garden than any I have planted before.  You have already read of the Back-to-Eden style gardening change that has been made, but I am also planning on a much wider use of companion planting this year in order to get the most out of the garden.  More to come on this soon.

I was pleased this Christmas to get a few new yard tools that I have been wanting, including a pole pruner, a pruning saw, and pruning shears.  The pole pruner is the only one of the three I have used yet, and it did great.  We have a couple of pecan trees on our property, and one of those has branches that stick out above the power lines coming into our house.  Twice since we have lived here those branches have caused and issue with our power after a winter storm and both times cost a considerable amount of money to fix.  I was able to safely trim the branches back for the most part where they didn’t extend over the power lines.  There is still one troublesome branch that is just a bit too high for me, but I may try to trim it back using a ladder on a warmer day.

The other pruning tools have a more interesting purpose.  I plan on pruning back my three fruit trees this year: two apple trees and a cherry tree.  I have been learning quite a bit about pruning, and I think I am ready to give it a shot.  More to come on this as well.

Finally, I have been blessed to already receive numerous seeds for the next growing cycle.  Today I am hoping to take some macro photographs of the seeds to share their amazing beauty with you.  Who would have thought a seed could be beautiful?  Just wait and see!

Oh, did I already say finally?  Hmm – I have one more thing.  😀  First, let me begin by thanking those who saved babyfood/small jars for me.  They have come in so handy.  Several of you have asked what I am using them for.  I grow popcorn, and I selectively save the seed from the popcorn in order to grow better popcorn next year.  In order to do this faster and better, I need a controlled environment for the popcorn so that I can ensure all the corn has the same moisture ratio.  Moisture is a key component of popcorn’s popping ability, and if I am going to truly save the best each year, I need to be sure the moisture is the same during the popping trials, which commence soon.  So, here is a picture of the filled jars:

Jars filled with unpopped popcorn.

Popcorn Jars

Even though I have enough of these for this year, I still need about 300 more jars, so if you or someone you know is feeding a baby babyfood, I would love to have the jars.  Even better are pimento jars or any other jar that holds about 4-6 ounces.  Bigger or smaller also work, but I don’t want anything larger than a half-pint.

Happenings Around the Homestead

It has been another slow week around the homestead.  I’ve been wresting with a cough for a couple of weeks now, so I dare not get out and work in the cold.  And cold it is!  It has already reached the mid-teens.  For some, that may not be that cold, but it is quite early in the year for us to experience that in western Kentucky.

As I was going down to work on the chicken coop Saturday (more on that tomorrow), I noticed how healthy and vibrant the horehound and catnip are.  It is such a joy to see plants growing and thriving in the bitter cold like this.  That is one reason I enjoy the mints so much, the thrive all winter long.

We have also received our first snow worth mentioning this morning, with the ground and the roads barely covered.  I thought we might get more snow that we did, but honestly, I am indifferent about it as long as I can safely drive.  My boys, however, love the snow.  I don’t, however, like the bitter cold, which is what we have going on right now.

I guess the last think worth noting for the week is that the wood chippers seems to have moved on, and I am two loads short of what I need.  I do have enough to move forward with my Back to Eden garden though, and I will begin working on it as soon as this cough subsides.

Happenings on the Homestead

Whew!  This has been a busy weekend around the homestead, though that doesn’t mean much at all when comparing it to the busyness of the spring, summer, and early fall.

The number one task I had for the weekend was to get the Carolina Reapers potted for the winter, and that is done.  I also had hoped to pot the Pineapple Sage, but I didn’t have enough room on the drying trays to dry it all yet, so I will pot it later this week.

Speaking of the Pineapple Sage, this little beauty is still in full bloom!  It is such a refreshing jolt of summer red in a world of fall-like colors right now.  Look at this shot taken yesterday:

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage in Full Bloom

In addition to Pineapple Sage, I needed to dry some Horehound as well.  As soon as I get a little more room, I’ll trim back the Pineapple Sage some more, dehydrate the rest, and then pot it up for the winter.  Speaking of that, I am still trying to determine if I will pot the Horehound or not. I  don’t know if it can survive the winter or not outside.  Okay, I just checked.  The Horehound seems to be hardy, so I will hope it survives the winter.

I do have at least one other plant I need to pot up for the winter – a small Eucalyptus tree.  This thing is kind of amazing.  The leaves smell just like Vick’s Vapor Rub.  😀  It won’t survive the winter here unless it is older and more established, so I will pot it, I think, for the winter so it can live another year.

I almost always write these posts over the weekend, and this post is no different.  After I wrote it though, I ended up shelling some of my flour corn.  I shelled all the Cherokee Gourdseed Corn that I grew this year (about 2 gallons shelled) and about half or a little less of the Cherokee White Flour Corn (about a gallon shelled so far).  I was shocked at how easy it was to shell the gourdseed corn – more to come on that later.

The other big task of the weekend was knocking down corn stalks, which my oldest son took care of for me.  He also worked on burning a big pile of brush and weeds that has needed to be taken care of for quite some time.  I am not sure he knows this fully, but I really appreciated his help.  He wasn’t alone though. My middle son also was out there with a machete whacking away at weeds and brush, trying to clean up this corner of the yard.  Good boys, they are.

I am so ready to start spreading these woodchips I have been collecting for next year’s garden, but I am still at least two loads short of what I need.  I am not sure where the wood cutters are working this week, but they only dropped off one load. I might try to catch them again Monday morning at the gas station to encourge them to drop off some more.  It’s too bad this isn’t the same priority for them that it is for me.  🙂


Happenings Around the Homestead

The last few weeks have been busy ones, and thankfully things around the homestead haven’t demanded too much attention from me.

Most of the summer crops are exerting their last energy for the season, and in fact, we expected frost on early Sunday morning, though we didn’t get any at our house.  Even so, I covered the Sweet Basil, the Carolina Reaper Peppers, and the Pineapple Sage so they could all live another day.  It seems we won’t have danger for another frost this week, but next weekend I might cut the basil and the Pineapple Sage back and dry the leaves.

The Pineapple Sage may live all winter.  It can survive some cold, but the leaves would all die in a frost, which is why I covered it.  It sure is nice seeing it right now though, as this is the first time I have seen it bloom – nice red flowers that the butterflies seems to love.  I’ll cut it back to about four inches above the ground, and I’ll try to remember to cover it if it gets bitter cold this winter.

The basil, however, will die once the temperature goes below freezing.  I am trying to decide yet if I will take a cutting to bring inside in an attempt to keep a plant alive all winter, hoping to kickstart the season next year.

The Carolina Reapers are a pet project of mine.  This is the world’s hottest pepper right now, and no, I don’t plan on eating one.  They do, however, make an interesting pesticide that keeps most animals away from the garden.  They are REEEEEEEEEEALLY a long season pepper though, so I plan to prune them, dig them up, and bring them in for the winter.  Yes, peppers will survive all winter, and they will even flourish the next year.  It will be nice to get a kick start on the season with these bad boys.

Speaking of flourishing next year – I hope that is what I say about my garden next year.  I have finally taken the plunge and officially taken delivery of my first truckloads of woodchips.  Last year I began Back to Eden gardening, which is basically covering your garden with a biodegradable covering such as leaves or wood chips.  This past year I used dry oak leaves, and let me tell you, it made a difference.  The soil was much more moist underneath the leaves all year, and presumably they began to decompose during the year feeding the plants.  The more proper way to do this is with wood chips though, which is why I have taken delivery of them.  THREE LOADS!





The next step is to begin to spread these over the garden.  I also plan to expand the garden this year, so I will spread them there as well, with a thick layer of newspaper underneath in order to keep the grass from growing through.  More to come on this …

It won’t be long until the soil begins to rest and replenish, and while the soil rests, I will begin dreaming of next year’s garden.

Landrace Gardening

I have long had an interest in gardening, which has only grown more intense as I age.  I can recall early on only being interested in growing the biggest, tallest, most productive plants possible.  That meant excessive fertilization.  I then slightly altered that with black-plastic gardening.  Finally, I became interested in organic gardening.  About that time I began to have a real interest in heirloom vegetables and trying to keep these historic strains alive and well.  However, changes are underway in my gardening maturity, my way of thinking, one of which is landrace gardening.

Let’s step back a bit and talk about heirlooms.  My interest in heirlooms wasn’t just about preserving the historic strains, but it was also about avoiding genetically modified crops, or GMOs.  Both of those things are still important to me.  However, I have begun to realize that I was confusing myself.  I thought heirloom vegetables were the only right way and that all hybrids were bad.  In other words, I was equating hybrids to GMOs.

I heard all the hype about hybrids: that saved seeds do not produce true to their parent, the plant is modified in some fashion by humans, and that these are somehow created plants.  The truth is, I believed the hype, but I didn’t use my head.  If I may be candid, however, I still avoid store-bought hybrids, but hybrids themselves are not bad.

I don’t want to spend this post getting into the topic of GMOs except to say there is a difference.  GMOs are plants that have been modified genetically in some fashion that could likely never occur in nature.  That, my friends, is something I have no interest in.

A few years ago while perusing gardening sites, I ran across a gentleman named Joseph Lofthouse at a site called Homegrown Goodness.  I don’t remember what my initial thoughts were, but it there must have been things he said that I liked, and it wasn’t long until I began to really appreciate the projects he was working on.  You see, Joseph gardens in a unique climate that cannot handle many plants grown in other places, but due to his selective seed saving and landrace gardening, Joseph has produced landrace vegetables that grow well in his climate.  His story of growing open-pollinated cantalope is amazing, even though it is just one of his success stories.  In short, Joseph’s plants are in a battle of the Survival of the Fittest.  The seeds of the winners each year go on to live another year.

Since learning about Joseph and his gardening ideas, I have implemented this in my garden gradually.  For example, I am now in my second season of growing Joseph’s Popcorn, from which I am saving the best seed each year.  I am also in my second year of landracing okra.  Other plants that are on my list are watermelon and Joseph’s cantaloupe.

Despite the changes in my attitude toward hybrids in a landrace project, I still have an appreciation for heirloom plants and the history some of them have.  For example, I am growing two ancient corns this year that are both used for flour.  I intend on continuing to save pure seeds from each of these plants using a similar “survival of the fittest” technique, even though they will remain true to their strain.  Another plant I want to follow this same protocol on is Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, which happen to be my favorite tomatoes.  There are some winter squash I want to also save seeds from using this protocol; however, due to the ease at which they can be controlled, I will landrace some winter squash while I am at it.

My goals have adapted over the years, but I am really liking where this is going: organic gardening using “survival of the fittest” selective seed saving from open-pollinated plants which may include heirlooms or landrace varieties. Will that goal adapt more over time?  I am sure it will, but the thing that won’t change is my desire to grow tasty, healthy food that is far better than what can be bought in a store.

Happenings Around the Homestead

This has been a slow garden year for us.  First of all, spring arrived late this year, and, second of all, with my work travel schedule, I was hardly home to work on the garden.  I also started a new garden spot this year which didn’t account properly for the position of the sun in the spring, and the new chicken coup is partially shading a garden.  In short, we have struggled with our garden.

We have yet to harvest peppers worth speaking of, and while we have harvested some great tomatoes, the crop has been small.  I have only harvested my first cucumber in the last week or so, and the summer squash, while being one of the plants which was out as early as possible, has already stopped producing.  Speaking of squash, my winter squash was hit by vine borers while on the mission trip, and there is nothing left.  My okra landrace project is coming along, however, it isn’t producing quite like I had hoped.  Oh, and let’s not forget the sweet potatoes!  The deer are having a hay day with the leaves.  🙂  I still expect a good harvest from them though.  The corn has done well, I think, other than the possible cross pollination issue.  Even so, the corn looks healthy and I am expecting a good harvest.

It may sound like I am whining about the gardening year, but I am not.  I consider every year a learning opportunity.  I have several good take-aways from this year that I will be sure to implement next year, and if the Lord so blesses me, next year this will happen on a proper homestead property.

Speaking of vegetables, last Friday we stopped off at The Farmer’s Market in Nashville, Tennessee.  If you haven’ t been there, you have really missed out.  This is a true joy for me.  Let me share just a few pictures:

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Huge onions

Huge Onions!

Colorful Bell Peppers

Colorful Bell Peppers

My family is really blessed though, despite the lackluster garden year.  My father-in-law also gardens, and he has blessed us with an abundance of melons, peppers, tomatoes, and more.

Speaking of peppers, we have already smoked a good amount of peppers, some of which are already dried and ground.  Others are in various stages of processing, but I should be able to share a picture soon.

The chickens didn’t work as hard for us yesterday, and only produced two eggs: one blue and one brown.  I did eat the first of the eggs last night, and wow, were they tasty!  Hopefully there will be three more today.  I had to smile at my first egg issue yesterday.  One of the ladies laid her egg in the run below the cage, which is not fun to get into during the day while they are playing.  I could have just waited to get it, I suppose, but I was impatient.

I have to wonder, am I the only person out there who is already thinking about next year’s garden?  The growing season is not even over yet, and I am sitting here dreaming this morning of what I will do different next time.  Don’t worry, I am sure I will share the plans here as the days roll on.