Author Archives: Rose

A Year in Review: Our Journey Continues!

I started this blog a year ago today... I wasn't sure where it would lead or how I would use it I just knew I wanted to share our journey with others. I have this deep need to teach others what it takes to start a homestead and live a cleaner more sustainable life. The number of post's I've made are much less than I thought I would have but my life has been very full! poults and chicks The spring brought a litter of kittens, a brood of chicks, a dozen ducklings, and two turkey tgvng2015016.jpgpoults! Then on April 14, the day before my birthday, our precious Liam finally arrived a week and a day late! My fourth child arrived fast and furious, 29 minutes after I entered the hospital! He has been a perfect happy baby and all of us have adjusted well over the last eight months!   family We planted an orchard and a perennial food plot at the beginning of the year and after Liam was born we planted our vegetable garden after adding a truckload of compost to the new ground. We had 325 tomato plants with over 40 heirloom varieties as our main crop! And then summer arrived in Georgia! Oh what a summer it was! It was so hot all summer that nothing could grow... We got enough tomatoes to eat fresh (our family can consume 6-12 fresh tomatoes a day in summer months), cook with (tomato pie is amazing!), share with close friends and freeze some for later canning in cooler weather! Not enough to sell though as we had hoped...IMG_20150809_191734_773 This winter I have traded seed with many heirloom experts and have over 100 heirloom varieties to try in the spring! Tomatoes are my obsession! Peppers waited till fall and then went nuts! We bartered and sold them well! Cucumbers, beans, okra and eggplant were good but need to plant more for next year! dsc_0149.jpg Ryan, my better half, made a big career change in June! He left the organic garden we had cared for for four years and took a job at a sustainable pastured sheep dairy! They have the best sheep milk cheese in the country! He milks, does farm chores, and cares for the sheep, pigs, and chickens. He's learned so much about rotational grazing and even got to spend a day in the cheese house making cheese! His new job is really a perfect fit for him! We are excited to apply the new skills to our own goat milk herd we plan to have in the near future! At the end of the year a friend reached out to us in need! She had a registered Hereford hog that was in desperate need of a new home! She and her kids had grown too attached to her to slaughter so she will be a breeding sow. They came over and fenced the old riding arena and got it ready for Petunia. She will be bred and have piglets in the spring! We won't get attached to piglets, I promise! They will be sold or raised for meat. But Petunia is going to continue to be one spoiled girl, belly rubs and all! petunia Wont you continue on with us? Follow us as our journey continues! Subscribe for email updates now! I can't wait to share all we hope for in the new year! We have so much more to teach you about gardening, raising animals and kids, and eating healthy food!

Happy New Year!

Cultivating Mushrooms at Home…Yes, it is possible!

Oyster mushrooms

Oyster mushroom slices ready to saute for dinner!

So yeah, we love mushrooms in this house! Almost as much as we love tomatoes! It only makes sense we start growing our own! I have done it in the past on a small level but now I want enough to share, barter, and sell to the chefs! My dad has a friend who propagates mushrooms in a lab and I have received the mushroom blocks like you get in kits from him. I grew them on my counter and they worked well but lets face it, I need more counter space for all my other projects! Growing the blocks is easy and fun but on a large-scale, I just don't have the room. I got to plug a log and bring it home at a class years ago and it was fun. I put it in a shady spot and watered it well... at first... Then I got busy and didn't water it all winter... In spring when we were cleaning up the yard I considered it a loss and just tossed it back by the compost pile and forgot about it. A year later there were mushrooms all over it! So I figure it has got to be easy if neglect created that many! So this time I'm going to really give it my all! A friend of ours placed a bulk order for mushroom plugs and we bartered some tomato plants for 100 Blue Oyster and 100 Shiitake plugs. We got too busy with the garden this spring to start our logs and summer is too hot so we finally got around to it in the fall. The plugs waited patiently in the fridge. So we got our logs cut and set up a work station on our front porch and made a fun evening of it. Pandora radio set to Blue Oyster Cult and a cold drink in hand we started out...here is how we did it... Ready to plug logs! Logs We researched up and down what would be the best wood to use and got a good list together. Soft wood and conifers are not recommended for mushrooms. Certain species of mushrooms do best with certain tree species so do your research for what you are growing. We planned on getting some of the highest recommended wood possible. But then the universe stepped in and steered our decision... A huge pecan limb fell in a storm and was the perfect age to cut when we were feeling motivated to do this project so pecan is what we went with, good or bad... One thing we try to do is, use what we have on hand and not waste resources. So the most sustainable option for us at this time is to use the pecan. We cut the huge limb into 3 to 4 foot sections and used the ones that were 3 to 6 inch diameter. At this point it was a couple of weeks old which is a good aging period for the wood. You don't want to use it too fresh or too old. A couple of weeks to a couple of months max. It has to still be holding some moisture inside so if it has been really dry you want it aged less. drill holes Drilling We charged the battery to our 18V drill and put our spare battery on to charge as well. A 5/16 drill bit is the right size for plugs to fit into. We used a Sharpie marker and drew a line on the bit at the one inch mark so we would go the right depth every time! Starting 2 inches from the end of the log I began drilling holes. I alternated about 6 inches apart in rows approximately 2 1/2 inches apart. Enough space for mushroom clusters to grow big and strong. Ryan took over the drilling because pecan was harder than I expected, lol! We got 20-30 plugs per log. It is recommended to cover each plug with a thin layer of wax. Waiting We put them in a shady location in reach of the hose and watered them in well. We just stacked them up checker style and if it hasn't rained we give them a good hose down! It's important to keep hydrated! Our friend just contacted us about another bulk order and we will be doing more varieties in spring!!! Can't wait for all the yummy mushrooms! Let us know if you are interested in ordering them in the future!

Wellness Tea: a Delicious Way to Boost Immunity!

Wellness Tea to Boost Immunity

Wellness Tea to Boost Immunity

So it's winter but it has been 70 degrees out... El Nino, Climate Change, Global Warming, Indian Summer, whatever you want to call it, it confuses our bodies! So now we are left with a stuffy nose and occasional cough. Not too bad but enough that we are taking steps now to prevent it from getting worse. We always try to use natural remedies if possible! My first sign of a sniffle and I bust out my essential oils! DoTERRA (click this link if interested in learning more or placing an order with me) is my go to brand for many reasons, but that's a whole 'nother blog for a different day! The Breathe Respiratory Blend always helps us with clear breathing and On Guard Protection Blend helps us from catching anything else! Usually I have a batch of elderberry syrup made this time of year for daily consumption but haven't made it yet as winter hasn't really arrived. So I figured tea is always good! I grabbed elderberries, mullein, and a wellness tea blend my mommy made me. It has rose hips, nettle, herbs and who knows what else she threw in there!? Go ask her at Grammy's Potager! I boiled it all together and steeped it for over ten minutes. Ran it through my cup sized strainer as I pour and add some local raw honey! It smells and tastes so good my toddler is begging for more! You can add anything you like is the beauty! We are feeling better already! I'll keep adding more water and heating up again all day till it has no strength left to it. Then the spent berries and herbs will go to the chickens and help them stay strong! What are your tricks for staying healthy this warm winter!?

CSA: What Is That?

Community Supported Agriculture or CSA...what does that even mean... CSA's were established as a way for the farmers to get payment at the beginning of season when they need it most for seed, compost, and fertilizer. You, as a community, are supporting the farmer. When you sign up for a CSA you are agreeing to accept whatever the season produces. Every year is different on a farm and it can mean one crop does better than another. Farmers typically have no control over Mother Nature so they never know if it's going to be a great tomato year or a great lettuce year or maybe even a bad year. You, as the consumer, get whatever did well that week. Every week, or bi-weekly, you pick up, or some deliver, your share of produce. Some CSA's let you decide which items are included and some choose for you but either way it is an assortment of items. A select few CSA's even include meat, dairy, and eggs like my friends Mike and Judy at Country Gardens.
CSA week 17 pick up. On the farm!! Sign-up for our fall CSA now beginning October 13th!

CSA week 17 pick up. On the farm!! Sign-up for our fall CSA now beginning October 13th! ----photo by Ashley Rodgers at Serenbe Farms

Farms offer different packages depending on growing conditions and harvests. Some are year round and others are seasonal. One of our local farms that my friend Ashley Rodgers (read about her here) manages, Serenbe Farms, is opening up their Fall CSA now. If you need to find a CSA near you Local Harvest can help find one! What are the benefits... for the Consumer...

Relationship - Knowing where your food comes from is very empowering! Meeting your farmer who grows it and developing a friendship that last a lifetime is priceless.

Fresh Food - Most CSA items are picked the morning you receive them! You will notice a difference in flavor when your food is that fresh!

Try New Things - Some items in your share are going to be new to you. You will have an opportunity to cook new recipes and discover new favorite veggies! Maybe even some turmeric or ginger from our friends Scott and Nicole at 180 Degree Farm.

for the Farmer...

Relationship - A farmer spends 90% of their time in the fields growing food and not a whole lot of socializing. The CSA pick up or delivery is a chance for them to get to know their customers and to talk to a human instead of plants.

Seed Money - Farmers make most of their money during growing and harvesting when their sales are highest. Very little is left after the slow winter months and this is when they need to make their biggest purchases. Having money at the beginning allows them to purchase the seeds they need to grow.

Time Management - Farmers work very long hours in the fields so spending time advertising or marketing is the bottom of the list. CSA allows them to focus that marketing time.

for your Community and beyond...

Economic - Keeping money local always helps your local economy. It is also a good thing to support small business and family farms, they need your money much more than Big Ag or grocery chains.

Environment - Keeping our carbon footprint as small as possible makes a difference. Eating and shopping local is reducing the amount of fuel being wasted shipping vegetables all over. Supporting local farmers is supporting the environment.

So whats stopping you! Sign up now for a local farm CSA share! Help your community, the environment, a farmer and yourself! Do you already belong to a CSA? If so, tell us what you love about it!


 

Tomato Tidbits: Saving Seed

Tomato seed saving!

Tomato seed saving!

Tomatoes have always been my favorite plant to grow! We grew them when I was a child and I have been growing them on my own for twenty years now! To say I'm obsessed with tomatoes is an understatement! The last five years Ryan and I have been actively saving the seed of our heirloom open pollinated tomatoes we grow. We grow more and more varieties and colors every year! I love saving seed because it saves me money on seed orders and I can trade with other seed savers and get even more variety! This year we grew over 40 varieties of heirlooms, next year will be even more! So to start, be sure the plant that you are saving from is an heirloom so the seed will be true to parent plant. Hybrid plant seeds can have all different results from their lineage. If you don't know you can just research the name of your tomato plant and find out easily. Next, choose your healthiest plant with the best fruit. Read more »

IPM: Integrated Pest Management

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Attract beneficial insects with flowers!

Integrated Pest Management or IPM is ...

an ecological approach to pest management that combines understanding the causes of pest outbreaks, manipulating the crop ecosystem for pest control, and monitoring pest populations and their life cycles to determine if and when the use of pesticides is indicated.

---dictionary.com

The basic idea is that if you really pay close attention to your garden you can prevent pest populations from getting out of control and if and when they do you can use the least toxic control methods first. The goal here is to impact our natural environment as little as possible and still feed our families. There will always be some pest in your garden and that is okay! They are the menu items to entice beneficial insects to come by for a snack! There is a certain balance in the pest community, that once achieved, is very effective! Mother nature balances things out if we allow her to. Not every leaf or fruit has to be unblemished to have a successful harvest! Monitoring: It's as simple as strolling through your garden on a daily basis! I do this in the morning with my coffee and find it to be my favorite activity of the day! Just walk through looking at your plants and notice any changes in them. Are they beginning to wilt? Turning brown or yellow? Are there holes or spots on leaves? If you catch the problem early you can take the steps necessary to ensure a healthy garden! Read more »

Asparagus and Strawberry: Perennial Match Made in Heaven

So we decided to start some perennial food beds at our new homestead as we plan to be here for quite some time! Two spring foods that our family loves but are hard to find local organic and when we do they are super expensive is Asparagus and Strawberries! We love them! So I was pretty confident it would be a worthwhile investment!
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Asparagus roots.

When we did our big orchard order we got some bare-root dormant plants of both. We got 10 'Mary Washington', 10 'Jersey Giant', and 20 'UC 157' asparagus. We didn't know which variety we would like best or what would grow easily for us. This mix will help us decide which ones to buy next time we expand our asparagus beds! Read more »

Starting Our Backyard Orchard or Fruit Guild

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Backyard Orchard in bloom!

So we finally did it! We took the plunge we have been dreaming of for years! I have been wanting to plant a fruit orchard for years and years but also trying to find a house to buy so we always put it off... Well we moved in October to a great property that is still a rental, but we will live there for a long time and we know the family who owns it so even if we have to move out we know we could always come visit and pick fruit! So I insisted our tax returns would be spent on a long-term grocery investment! buyingorchard.jpg We picked up our orchard from a local nursery that happens to be one of the best fruit tree suppliers in the country! Ison's has so much to choose from! They were very helpful and patient with our large list. We got some combination fruit trees: (multiple varieties grafted to one tree, 5 on each), Apple, Pear, Asian Pear, Cherry, and Fruit Cocktail (peach, plum, apricot, and nectarine). Three different varieties each of Figs, Blueberries, Blackberries, and Raspberries. A pair of Elderberries, a Pomegranate, and a Goji berry. Two each of the top three muscadine varieties. Three Paw Paw. 100 strawberry in three varieties, half June bearing and half Ever bearing. 40 asparagus in three varieties. 3 rhubarb, and 3 horseradish... I think we are good to go for now! Read more »

Water Kefir, Starting My Dehydrated Grains!

So I recently received some dehydrated water kefir grains in the mail from a trade on Facebook for some of my 300 year old sourdough starter. Fermenting folk tend to be quite generous and trade and share often if you're looking to get started... If you liked my post about Milk Kefir than you will also like this! Water Kefir (WK) is a carbonated probiotic beverage that is quite simple to use and tasty! Many people compare it to soda and use it to get away from that unhealthy beverage. I have done water kefir in the past from already hydrated grains I got from my mom (but I lost them in a box during the move and killed them...oops!). This time I had to learn about rehydrating the grains and getting them active again. It ended up being quite simple... IMG_20150204_144411_505 Read more »

Cultured Cornbread, Good for Your Taste Buds and Health!

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Mmm... Yum!

  Cultured cornbread? What exactly do I mean by that? Well cornbread is a part of southern culture but that's not what this recipe is about. In this instance I'm talking about two cultured ingredients that give this cornbread a healthy twist and make it taste amazing. They add a pleasant zing that will have people asking for your recipe! Cultured foods have added probiotics making them easier to digest. This cornbread includes sourdough starter and whey, both add probiotics and an incredible flavor profile! Ingredients: 2 cups organic cornmeal 1 cup sourdough starter 1 1/2 cup whey (buttermilk can substitute, I used the whey left from making Milk Kefir Cheese) 1/4 cup melted organic butter 2 beaten eggs (ours are from our free range chickens) 1/4 cup organic cane sugar or honey 1 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 2 tablespoons bacon grease Read more »
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