Category Archives: Organic Gardening and Farming

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 »

Seeds…So many Choices! How to Choose the Right Seed For Your Garden?

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Seeds, and more seeds, oh my!

  Of course seed catalogs are arriving in people's mailboxes left and right this time of year! It's time to snuggle up by the fire and dream of what you will grow this summer in your garden. Flipping through the pages of glossy pictures with new varieties can be a little overwhelming at times. What do all of these terms mean? How do I know what to choose? I hope I can help you understand this all a little better after you read my post! Knowing who you are ordering from and the quality of your seeds and service can make it a little easier... Read more »

You Should Really Get to Know Our Family

IMG_20150103_223157018_HDR I thought that being a new blogger I should do a better job of introducing all of us. We all play a part in making this home a Homestead. You can read about me anytime in my bio but you should really know the people who make me whole! Read more »

Our Homestead Then and Now

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The sun setting over our pond... breathless every time!

  Where we were. We spent the last 6 years in a run down rental home trying to find our dream home. It had 6 acres most of it woods that we were able to hike in and enjoyed that. In the small area that was open around the house we had a large organic garden and a small flock of chickens. Of course we canned, cooked from scratch, and made our own natural hygiene and cleaning products etc. But we longed for more... Read more »

What is “Homesteading” Anyway?

  cropped-carrots13.jpg Definition. Homesteading (v)- The act of living off of the homestead.
Homestead (n)- House, land, animals and outbuildings that operate as one, frequently a farm.
The term homesteading is traced back to The Homestead Act in the 1800's. It was designed to open up the west. People were given a plot of land to establish and if they stayed at it for 5 years it was theirs!!! Boy, how I wish we could do that still today! It became more about getting back to the land in the sixties and seventies when people like my parents realized how important it was to the natural environment, and the political and economic environment also. We are seeing another surge in the homesteading movement in our current day as well. The sons and daughters of the hippies are realizing that they can make a difference and be more sustainable. The values our parents taught us are becoming more important to us as we have children and desire to raise them well. More and more ivy league graduates are turning in their ties and offices for overalls and organic farms.   What it actually is. People who are trying their best to survive off the land where they live. This can be very broad as some live in urban areas and sign up for local CSA's to provide their vegetables. They are growing herbs on the windowsill and are committed to grass-fed local beef. While others have acres of vegetable fields they grow organically and can stuff all summer long. In addition to raising their own eggs and meat, they probably build all the fences and outbuildings with as much reclaimed materials as possible. The key is to be as self-sufficient, sustainable, and environmentally friendly as you are able. What it means to me. Freedom. Growing most of our food and raising some of our meat gives us the ability to eat healthy and put our food dollars towards local organic food when we need more. We are free from the constant poison that is put into our food system. Family. Many activities we do on the homestead require a group effort! We all do our part no matter how big or small. My 3-year-old collects eggs every day and loves it! We cook and eat together every day as a family. My older two kids are very capable of creating a wholesome complete meal with little to no directions. Future. I have big plans for our little rented homestead! We hope to be here long-term if not forever and we are invested in making this our very own fully functioning homestead! We already grow a lot, can, cook and ferment most of our food. Our chickens give us plenty of eggs even in the winter and the occasional chicken soup. We will be adding to our gardens and even planting fruit trees for a home orchard. I should be getting bees in the spring for honey if that works out for us. Some day I will have dairy goats and will make cheese and soap from the milk. A pig or two for bacon and chops is not out of the question either. If I do all this just right we should even be able to sell at local farmers markets making us even more self-sustaining. Homesteading is...? What is it to you? How are you fulfilling your homesteading dream?  

Freezing in Georgia: What to do for Your Garden?

Arctic blast could damage your plants!
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Frost fabric for the win!

How cold is it going to get? Temperatures are plummeting into the low teens here in Georgia this week! Wednesday and Thursday are looking to be some pretty cold days for us southerners. Wind chill could be as cold as 4 degrees Thursday morning! For more information on the forecast visit these two links. I always look at both myself! Weather Channel: http://www.weather.com/weather/5day/l/USGA0028:1:US National Weather Service: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ffc/ What should we do for our plants? Long periods of cold  and extreme low temperatures can damage even our heartiest winter crops! In Georgia we are privileged with being able to grow year round if we protect our plants from these extremes. Hopefully you have already mulched well if you don't have raised beds. Raised beds naturally retain more heat and mulch protects the root zone from cold damage and also generates some heat. Read more »

Want to Know About My Homesteading Childhood?

My childhood has influenced me in many ways...
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My childhood homestead in print.

  I grew up in a small coastal New England town in a dairy-farming community, in quite a different manner than most of my peers. While everyone else I went to school with had cable and video games, I had gardens and animals. We had a small self-sustaining farmette that provided most of our food. My parents were very passionate about raising their five children off of the land.   Picking the ripe raspberries and cherry tomatoes was a summer-long chore that I remember fondly. We had gardens everywhere and preserved or fermented what we didn't eat fresh. My mother encouraged diversity in the garden to keep the insect population happy and well-balanced. She had an eye for attractive chaos in her layout and still does to this day on the same land. You can visit her Humble Jungle at Grammy's Potager on Facebook. Everything was grown organically, of course. My parents wouldn't have it any other way! Read more »
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