Category Archives: garden

Autumn

Autumn or Fall as some people refer to it is one of my favorite times of the year.  To me it is like the Earth taking in a deep breath just before a long slumber.

Even in a person
most times indifferent
to things around him
they waken feelings
the first winds of autumn

Saigyo

 

Everyone feels the pull of Autumn.   Plants and trees make their final push to grow, dig deep, and get ready for a long sleep.  They then blanket the ground with their leaves, knowing that they will help them survive and produce for another year.

Autumn is a time for reflection, and a time for thanksgiving.   It is a time to look back over the year, applaud your accomplishments, and to learn from your mistakes.  It is a time to reflect on what worked on the farm or in the garden, and what did not work.  A time to make goals and plans for the next planting season.  It is also a time to slow down, to enjoy, and rest.  Autumn issues in winter, and winter is a time when the Earth sleeps, and gets ready for the wakening of Spring, and the hard labor of Summer.

I enjoy Autumn, the change changes in the color, the changes in the weather.  It is the time of preparation for the next planting season.

I hope that everyone will allow some time in the next few weeks to look at the Earth, what it has given us this year, and be thankful for its bounty.   And to also reflect on next year, and what we will do with the partnership we have with it and nature.

liddy

Beans

I almost always plant a lot of green beans, they seems to grow well under any circumstance, and it seemed like this season it would be the same. Except it isn’t. Everything seemed to start off well, the beans popped right up and got big and strong at first, then they stalled a bit, and started to look a bit poorly. I got an organic fertilizer, and some of them perked up a bit, but not all and not for long.

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I love the look of pole beans in the garden, the vertical towers add dimension and depth.

A few weeks ago they looked big enough to start staking and a few started their journey up, but as you can see in the photo, they aren’t very lush and look a bit, sad.
IMG_6705The green beans were planted in one of the two beds that we didn’t sheet mulch.  We didn’t have time to get it done before planting season and I figured that since they were such a hardy and easy-going plant that they’d do just fine with a little manure raked in.  I was wrong.  I think they might be jealous of their neighbors, who are planted in several inches of good compost and mulched heavily with bark and leaves.  Who knew green beans could be such divas?

In reality, I think 4 seasons of planting have taken every bit of fertility the land could possibly give and she had nothing more. In the next week I plan on taking out half of the pole beans and giving the land a nice layer of compost and bunny manure and then I will plant some short season bush beans for a good fall crop.  The other half I will leave, they seem to be doing a bit better and I hope to still have towers of green in my garden.

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buds just starting on my purple bush beans.

 

Beautiful Dissapointment

This is a picture of our freshly harvested carrot bed, it is currently waiting for a fresh layer of compost and a new generation of carrots.  However, if you notice in the fore ground a nice little group of flowers. Those are carrot flowers, and there is a story.
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The thing with a carrot is that it is a bi-annual, meaning they live two years, the first year they grow and produce foliage, the second year they flower, make seeds and die. Most gardeners harvest carrots after the first season, when the root is nice and tender, before it flowers and the roots get hard and fibrous.  I am not a seed collector (yet) I buy all my seeds and I never save seeds so I have never and would never keep a stand of carrots into the second year for seeds, and even if I did collect seeds I wouldn’t need this many.

So why do I have carrots flowering in my garden?
IMG_6859I. Have. No. Idea. None, nada, ziltch.

I bought purple carrot seeds from a company I have bought from for years, and I have successfully grown this variety at least twice.  These flowers are from a first year planting.  My other carrots did well, but this variety decided to skip year one and go right into year two.
IMG_6860I was quite cross when I first realized what had happened and I almost pulled out every single one of them.  Then I got curious and decided to wait and see.  I’m glad I did.  They are a delightfully un-expected addition to my boring vegetable garden, waving  their pretty little colors in the breeze.
IMG_6861I’ve fallen in love, and I believe that these little flowers are going to make a seed collector out of me after all, I want to duplicate them next year all over the garden.

And it makes me wonder, maybe this wasn’t a mistake after all, maybe it was a gift…..
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Carrots, Beets and Cotts, Oh My!

One of my very favorite summer chores is canning.  I know, weird, but I love it.

There is something absolutely satisfying to me about sitting down, with a chipped enamel-wear dishpan and a piles of vegetables in front of me.  I carefully and quickly peel each vegetable, quietly channeling the energy of all my grandmothers before me who did the same chore to ensure her family’s survival for another year. It feels primal to me, that desire to provide food and comfort, while it is not longer necessary to preserve my own food, the drive to do so is in my bones and manifests in my flesh.
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The beets are all peeled and cold packed in jars, ready for the pressure caner, beets are a family favorite.
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IMG_6835Carrots washed and peeled, I love the soft, translucent orange and light yellow of the roots when I peel them. I had planned on having dark purple carrots as well, but they had a different surprise in mind for me, something I will write about later.
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Jars of raw packed carrots, they too will go in the pressure caner.  They come out the prefect texture for eating, my kids will eat them cold right out of the jar and they are soft enough for the babies to eat too.

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And last, but not the least by a long shot, a batch of sun ripened apricots fresh from a neighbors tree ready for the dehydrator. In the winter they will be soaked and cooked with buckwheat for a warm sweet breakfast, much like a breakfast my great-grandmothers would have served to their hungry loves on a cold winter morning.

Carrots and Beets

We had a killer crop of beets and carrots this year.  They loved the deep mulching methods we used this year and all our hard work sure paid off with the root vegetables.
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Fresh beets and carrots are absolutely the best and we all enjoy eating them fresh roasted or raw, but these lovely ladies are meant for canning, to be stored for food when the winter winds howl.  The first of August we will be planting our fall crop of beets and carrots, those will stay stored in the ground until the first hard frost and then they will be roasted for autumn dinners when the land turns golden and smells of earth and pumpkins.
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Spring Greens

One of the first vegetables on the farm is lettuce, pretty little leaf lettuce.  It has a rather short growing season, when the fiery heat of the summer rolls in the lettuce likes to grow bitter and make seeds.  We are experimenting with methods to keep the lettuces cool and hopefully prolong the harvest.  But for now we will enjoy the pretty little fresh greens on our table and hope our customers do the same.
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Comfrey Harvest

When the comfrey starts blooming it’s time to harvest! I so love the pretty purple flowers of the comfrey plant. When the comfrey produces a long stalk and flashes her blossoms its time to start cutting.  Through out the season I do pick the big, broad leaves for infused oils, but it is that long stalk that I look for to dry.  The stalk has a concentration of the healing compounds that comfrey is so well known for.
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Comfrey-the-comforting, also known as knit-bone, strengthens and heals the bones, the skin, the ligaments, the tendons, and the mucus surfaces of the intestines, the lungs, the sinuses, the throat, the vagina, and the anus. It contains two alkaloid groups: alantoin and PAs. Alantoin is responsible for comfrey’s ability to heal any injury – from bedsores to vaginal tears, from lacerations to piercings, from abrasions to severe burns – quickly and thoroughly. Comfrey leaf infusion (not tea, not tincture, not capsules) is very high in protein, macro- and trace-minerals, and every vitamin needed for good health – with the exception of vitamin B12.
Drinking comfrey infusion has benefitted me in many ways: It keeps my bones strong and flexible. It strengthens my digestion and elimination. It keeps my lungs and respiratory tract healthy. It keeps my face wrinkle-free and my skin and scalp supple. And, please don’t forget, comfrey contains special proteins needed for the formation of short-term memory cells. Comfrey (Symphytum) leaf is free of the compounds (PAs) found in the root that can damage the liver. I have used comfrey leaf infusion regularly for decades with no liver problems, ditto for the group of people at the Henry Doubleday Research Foundation who have eaten cooked comfrey leaves as a vegetable for four generations. Comfrey is also known as “knitbone,” and no better ally for the woman with thin bones can be found.. Its soothing mucilage adds flexibility to joints, eyes, vagina, and lungs. Comfrey leaf infusion used internally and as a sitz bath is excellent at easing hemorrhoids .

IMG_6417Comfrey is quite easy to dry, but there are some considerations.  The leaves are quite big and hold a lot of moisture, therefore they need to be dried loosely.  Typically a person will gather a large bunch of plant materials, tie it in a bundle and dry.  This won’t work with comfrey, I have ruined many batches by doing it this way, the comfrey will mold, and we don’t want that.  Instead I have found that it is just as easy to hang each stalk on a nail and it drys very quickly this way, with out the mold.

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My herb drying racks, I love it when it is nice and full.

IMG_6419IMG_6420After a couple weeks the comfrey will be nice and dry.  At this point I will chop it up and store it in brown bags in a dark dry place.  The reason I use brown bags is so any moisture that is left can be wicked out, instead of growing mold. I will use this through out the year in herbal infusions and poultices.  Comfrey is one of my favorites for the garden, and for the body.

You can read more on Comfrey here: Comfrey 

Red and Wriggling

Back in March I stared a garden bed in which I was going to experiment with composting in place. You can read more about it: here.  So far things are going well.  From my investigating and poking around it seems like everything is breaking down nicely, although a bit slowly. I decided to give it a little help in the form of red wiggler worms.

Yes worms, did you know that you can buy worms by the pound? Yes you can, and I have, many times before and I have been so happy with the results of adding worms to my compost, thereby adding fertility to my soil.

Part of having fertile soil is protecting, maintaining and facilitating a whole ecosystem under the surface.  All those little microorganisms, bugs, grubs and worms work together breaking down organic matter and turning it into nutrients that plants can use.  Soil devoid of this secret ecosystem cannot optimally support life.

Worms are an irreplaceable piece in this puzzle.

Red worms in a natural ecosystem feed in the leaf litter — the surface of the soil that contains dead plants, leaves and animal remains. As red worms gorge on decomposing matter, they leave behind castings — excrement or fecal matter — that is highly concentrated in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. All of these are important nutrients that fertilize living plants. During the feeding and decomposing process, red worms help aerate the soil, creating pockets of air that allow for water and nutrients to flow more easily among plant roots.

“The Importance of Red Worms in the Ecosystem”

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Adding worms to the garden or compost is quite easy, you just dig a little hole or create a small trench, add the worms and cover, then water in well.  The worms will soak up the water and become active, eating everything and pooping a lot, helping the garden to grow.

It Begins

Along with all the pretty little vegetable, herbs and flowers the weeds are coming up in abundance. We are a no/low spray farm, and with a few exceptions we never spray chemicals on our land.  The one exception is for Field Bind Weed, it is taking over, and there really isn’t a good way to get rid of it other than spraying. Our weed management consists of two main approaches: pulling and covering. We pull and pull and pull weeds all summer long.  We also cover our weeds in a few different ways. Sometimes we will put down a weed barrier and mulch on top of that, that is my least favorite way of using cover, its limiting to me, plants can’t naturally spread and its difficult to add new plantings.  We also use deep mulching, laying down 4-6 inches of chipped wood and leaves, this not only has the advantage of choking out weed seeds and seedling, it also helps retain water and adds fertility and the weeds that do come up are easy to pull.  The last covering method we use is black plastic, we lay black plastic over large areas that need to have invasive grass and weeds cleaned out and let it sit for a couple weeks, the sun heats up the plastic and basically cooks the weeds and their seeds, this is quick and effective.  IMG_6131
When ever we pull weeds we keep them in place, its a method of deep mulching.  The weed is pulled and laid down right in place. It is important to pull these weeds before they go to seed. it acts like the wood chips or leaves, choking out weed seeds and seedlings, but it also keeps the nutrients from the weeds in place.  Weeds in and of themselves are not bad, they are only bad because they keep the plants we want from thriving.  Weeds are place holders, the are land restorers, land cleaners.  Weeds come into disturbed land, pulling nutrients from the ground and the sun, depositing them on the surface, allowing for long term native plants to eventually come in and repopulate the land. Understanding this, I have a hard time pulling weeds and hauling them off, they have a purpose too, and I like to honor that by pulling and using them to nourish the plants that I want to thrive there.
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Spring in Full Swing

Spring is in full swing here on the farm and new plants and popping up all over the place, from the diversity and organized chaos of the orchard meadow to the neat rows in the vegetable garden, there is green everywhere.
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This is the lettuce bed, we have several varieties of leaf lettuce growing here as you can see by the different colors and hues.  Lettuce loves the cool spring temperatures and will soon be big enough to start harvesting tender baby greens. In the heat of the summer we will have to cover with shade cloth to keep thing cool enough so they don’t go bitter.
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Little bitty onions making their first appearance, I think it is amusing how those long spears come up bent over, soon they will be popping up straight and tall.  From the looks of it we are going to have a bumper crop of onions this year.
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The pea beds are coming along, I am expecting to have blossoms showing up in the next week or so.  Some of the peas are looking a little yellow, I will be making compost tea this weekend and feeding my babies.
IMG_6128This is close up of one of my leaf lettuces, I am excited about this variety, its named “Flashy Butter Oak” and I think it looks like a lot of fun, definitely a splash of color to add to a salad!

I am optimistic that we will soon have fresh, local produce to offer our community.