Friday, October 30, 2020

Garden Friday



It's Garden Friday and we are holdin' on to our hats!
The remnants of Hurricane Zeta came through yesterday
with a vengeance.
Fortunately, we were spared any real damage
and ended up with an inch and a quarter of beautiful rain.

A few plants got blown down with the fierce winds, 
but we're hoping they will recover in time.
We are grateful that most of the storm missed our area,
 and humbled by knowing that others were not so fortunate.

Before the storm hit,
we were able to check on our fall crops.
The broccoli is getting some serious size to it.
Cabbage, chard, spinach and tat soi
are all doing well and should supply us with ample greens.
So far, we haven't noticed any pest issues.

All of the raised beds were given a dose
of turkey poop this week.
The beets are growing well,
but with next week's temperatures plummeting,
I'm not sure if we'll get an actual harvest.
We'll see how well the row covers help these lil' guys.

The parsley was visited by the sweet gum seed pods.
I'm glad the row covers had not yet been placed,
because the wind was mighty strong
and could have damaged them irreparably.
The parsley we have planted is for use in cooking,
but also for the butterflies to enjoy in the warmer months.
I have had parsley overwinter in the past,
so we'll see what happens with these seedlings.

With most of the larger projects completed,
I'm working on a few smaller tasks,
like creating a wooden pathway to the garden using pallet wood.
A trip to the landfill in Crouse is in order,
so that I can pick up a load of free mulch
with which to use for the walkways in the garden.
It'll make it look so much tidier.

I discovered how much the chooks enjoy the taste of pea shoots.
Had I known, I would've planted a lot more.
They won't be getting too many more,
as I haven't yet harvested the first pea.
If I do an early spring planting,
I'll plan on sowing some just for them.
Here's hoping for calmer weather this weekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Cattle Panel Row Covers

We've used cattle panels for all sorts of garden projects.
On our original site, they were placed as arches
along the east side of the garden
where we grew snap peas, beans and melons.

Since moving the garden to our new location,
we've used them to make a storage area, a compost station 
and these frames for our raised beds.
We want the option of covering the beds in the colder season,
and since these are easily constructed, we got to work. 

Each frame can be cut to size to fit most any raised bed, 
using a sawzall or heavy-duty wire snips.
The cattle panel used here was simply cut in half,
bent over on itself and placed in the bed.
This actually consists of two 4-foot wide pieces placed side by side.
Depending on the crop,
the panels can be made higher or lower to accommodate the size of the plant.
One of the aspects I like the most about using these panels
is that it is easy to access the bed through the holes in the fencing.
Sowing, harvesting and maintenance are all fairly easy to do,
even for folks with hands larger than mine.

Most of our covers are 6 feet in length, so that when bent in half to form the arch,
three feet of space is created. 
That six feet doesn't include the ends,
which were cut so that the bottoms would sink into the soil.
Upon Big K's suggestion, the spiked ends were bent 
so that the frames would tuck in closer to the edge of the bed.

I also cut off the four spikes on the outside corners of the panel.
This allowed me to rest the end of the panel
on the concrete block corners
and left less of a gap between the board and the first crop.
These panels are solid and rust-resistant,
so I should never have to make them again for these beds.
Each frame took about 15 minutes to construct
and yet, will give us years of service.
They cost a little over $20 a piece and with a small investment,
many of these covers can be fashioned, 
along with a number of other garden projects.

I love the way they turned out.
With colder weather on the way,
it'll be our first foray into creating a greenhouse effect
to see if we can keep our crops going into the new year.
In the spring, it will give us an edge on pest control,
with row covers creating a barrier from harmful snackers.
I'd love to know if you try this project!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Vegan Stuffed Peppers


We've been getting our produce box from Misfits
for going on nine months
and still enjoying every single delivery.
Truth is, the service has gotten even better,
now that one can customize the order.
The organic goodies included in our bi-monthly order
save us money and it couldn't be more convenient.
These beautiful peppers came in our last box,
and I knew I wanted to do something special with them.

I usually roast most of the veggies we get on a sheet tray,
using olive oil and the most basic seasonings.
From there, it's easy to put together several suppers or sides
in a fraction of the time it would take if I were starting from scratch.

I made some yellow rice, by using basmati and adding turmuric,
and simply added the roasted veggies and red lentils.
Having prepared the rice and lentils the previous day
made this meal come together in no time.

I haven't made stuffed peppers in a long time,
but this encouraged me to add this meal to my repertoire,
especially with plans to grow peppers in the spring.
Chick peas or any type of bean could be swapped out
for the lentils,
and quinoa or orzo could be used in place of the rice.
You could add cheese (either vegan or dairy)
to make it even more satisfying.
This recipe is very adaptable,
which is helpful for those with allergies.
All I know is, 
this was some 

Vegan Stuffed Peppers

1 C cooked red lentils
1 C yellow rice
2 large bell peppers
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 small bell peppers, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 C parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
pinch cayenne pepper

After chopping peppers, onion and garlic,
add olive oil and a pinch of salt and combine until coated,
then roast in 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes.
Prepare large peppers by cutting the top off
and removing the seeds.
Once veg is roasted, add to a bowl
with seasonings, rice and lentils.  Mix well.
Stuff mixture into large peppers
and place in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Garden Friday

Welcome to Garden Friday!
The weather continues to WOW us
and make our chores so much easier to tackle.
The constant blossoms from our zinnias are being enjoyed indoors
and shared with neighbors as well.

One of the main tasks completed this week
was burying all of the hose underneath the soil
after completing the drip irrigation installation.
Thankfully, within an hour I had all of it dug and covered.

We will most likely sow more white Dutch clover over these areas,
so that the chooks stop digging it all back up!
It will also provide forage for pollinators and rabbits.

The garlic is in, folks!
Pretty much my favorite crop to grow,
it has become a yearly tradition that I cherish.
Forty cloves from last year's crop were planted.
Now we wait and watch Mother Nature do her magic.

The strawberry pot was moved from the old garden site
and placed near the new location.
I haven't decided if they will be planted in a dedicated bed,
or left in the big wash tub for springtime.
They have certainly multiplied over the past season
and we look forward to enjoying many luscious berries.

A few new frames were created out of cattle panels
to cover the three smaller raised beds and one larger one.
This will come in handy should the crops need to be covered
with row covers if a freeze is expected.
(A post on this project will be featured next week.)
Most of what we have planted can handle frosts,
but I would love to be able to pick broccoli, chard, 
kale, lettuce and spinach all winter long.

Some time was taken to shred some leaves
to use to cover all the planted crops in the raised beds.
Our handy-dandy portable leaf shredder does a great job
and within an hour, there was enough organic material
to cover almost all of the beds.

A few samples of seeds were collected from wild flowers
around the property.
These are frost asters and we also found some 
yellow asters that our neighbor has growing.
These will be added to our meadow-like drain field.
More for the pollinators to enjoy
with very little investment from us.
And so much more interesting than grass!

Most of our big garden projects have been completed.
I'm grateful that I was able to fill all of the raised beds
with crops that will grow into the winter.
Spring will have its own busyness,
so having this time to finish certain tasks has been satisfying.
Onward and upward!
There is always something to keep us busy and
we are counting our blessings every step of the way!


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

No More Plastic Water Jugs!

Water is the main beverage in my life.
Our son, C, drinks it like a fish.
I'm thankful that he never developed a taste for soda,
and has made a conscious choice to stay away from sugary drinks.
Up until now, we've used bottled water from the grocery store
in order to satiate our thirst.
The plastic bottles always bothered me,
as I am ecologically-minded.
Even though they can currently be recycled,
that day will eventually end
and we will need to find a way to deal with all of the plastic in our lives.
When we moved into this house,
there was a water filter on the kitchen sink,
so we thought our water buying days were behind us.
Unfortunately, even though we replaced the old filter,
we were unable to drink the water.
Both C and I got sick and so we gave it up
and went back to buying bottles.

 Until a few weeks ago.
After watching one of the homesteading vlogs that I follow
where the Berkey water system was featured,
and doing some research, 
we decided to invest in it and are so glad we did.
The water tastes great, it's easy to incorporate the system into our routine,
and it will pay for itself in a matter of months.
 Since I'm up first in the morning,
I fill the upper canister with tap water
and listen to it trickle down into the lower tank.
It can be filled throughout the day as needed,
but since only two of use it regularly,
filling it up once a day usually suffices.
It feels good reducing our recycling needs
by using a renewable and reusable item.
The only expense after the initial investment
are the filters that sit inside the unit.
From their website:
"The included filters have been tested to remove 
203 contaminants commonly found in drinking water. 
Contaminants are removed as follows: 
viruses (99.999%), pathogenic bacteria (99.9999%), 
Chloramine (below lab detectable limit), trihalomethanes (99.8%), 
pharmaceuticals (99.9%), 
pesticides (below lab detectable limit), heavy metals."
Depending on the amount of water used
as well as the diligence in monthly cleaning,
these filters can last for years.
We use filtered water for cooking as well as drinking,
so the Berkey is a welcome addition to the family.
It feels good too, knowing that we will always have water,
no matter what happens with future shortages at the store
(remember what happened just a few months ago?).

The Berkey water system 
is helping in our quest for self-reliance.
Another homesteading win.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Garden Friday

Welcome to Garden Friday!
The weather has been absolutely spectacular lately
and my time outside has been well spent.

Our raised beds have all been hooked up 
to drip irrigation,
so the watering just got a lot easier.
We have been blessed with ample rain this week,
but as the drier season begins,
we should not have to concern ourselves with watering.

The tat soi is really gaining ground and I've learned
that this is the best time to grow it here in the Piedmont.
It was started last spring,
but didn't go anywhere,
so I guess it favors the cooler temperatures.
This should give us delicious greens for at least a few months.
I'll be curious to see how it does in the wintertime.

The kale and broccoli look like they are problem-free
and enjoying the sunshine.
Another welcome addition to my daily salads
that I can look forward to all winter long.

The netting that was added to the raised beds
has done a great job of deterring squirrels from digging
and kept out the chooks as well.
My girls have plenty of room to scratch elsewhere.

It looks like something might be eating the lettuce.
I'm not sure if it's rabbits or bugs,
but we'll be adding a fine mesh row cover soon to thwart the problem.

The peas share the same space with those lettuces,
so I haven't figured out how to put the row cover on
without interfering with the peas' sprawl.
I may just have to pull up the lettuce and plant it elsewhere
and put in more leeks or broccoli in its place.

It's really thrilling to grow something new
and these walla-walla onions are a first-time crop for me.
I can hardly wait to see all those bulbous onions bursting 
underneath the soil.
My goal is to never have to purchase onions at the grocery store again.

We have several patches of nasturtiums planted
in various places.
I usually sow them where the veggies grow
to attract beneficial insects as well as deter pests.
This variegated variety is so unusual
and I was sure to save seeds for planting again next year.

These beauties keep flowering into the fall
and give us something colorful to enjoy
when dreary days set in.
If you've never tasted a nasturtium leaf or blossom,
give it a try.
It's a peppery sensation you may want to add to your cuisine.

cactus zinnia

Another flowering plant I'll be saving seeds from
is this hyacinth bean vine.
I collected seed pods last year from a friend's plant
and they've done quite well this year.
If I ever get the garden fenced off,
this would be a lovely addition to the spring or summer garden.
(If you want some, just email me 
and I'll be happy to send you some seeds.)

The black-eyed Susan vine has been sprawling 
across the drain field,
where our garden used to be.
It, along with the white Dutch clover seen here,
have been filling in the space nicely.
They can both be mowed over if necessary,
but during the cooler months when mowing slows down,
they can be left to their own devices
and give the pollinators a delightful haven.

I'm hoping to pick up a few more flats of pansies,
as I can't seem to get enough of these this time of year.
This old minnow bucket serves as a wonderful planter.

Netting was also used near our front walkway,
where the chooks were doing a fine job of creating a daily mess.
After planting some pansies in the front porch garden bed,
I placed the netting over them to deter the chooks
from digging them up.
Worked like a charm!

Unfortunately, several Monarch chrysallises did not result
in butterflies.  It seems we had an unusually high number of them
that just didn't make it.
This sweet butterfly was found in the grass,
struggling to fly.
I placed it up in one of the beds
and when I went back to check on it,
it was gone.
Fingers crossed.

 We are so grateful for the beauty and wonder all around us.
When things in the world look so bleak,
it's time to count our blessings and take stock of all we have.
Hope you are feeling blessed today.