Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What to do with green tomatoes

We finally gave in the other day and took down the tomato plants and got the garden beds ready for winter here at the city homestead. The plants still had tons of green tomatoes on them that were just not ripening. Given the time of year they were probably not going to ripen before the frost gets them. So we picked all of them because we knew we could do something with them.
Turns out that you can make chutney with apples which I think i will try making with the second bucket full. With the first bucket full i made this green tomato relish. With one bucket full we were able to make eight pints and one quart. That is a lot of relish not sure what we are going to do with all of that, but its better than wasting the tomatoes.

Out at the liberty farmstead, we got a load of horse manure which we are going to mix with layers of hay and mushroom compost to get beds ready for the spring. 

If anyone wants to come help with making garden beds let us know.

More to come soon.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Our newest addition is the garlic bed. After this year success with garlic we wanted to try a few different kinds, so I got a variety pack that has a little over two pounds of garlic in it. I made a bed of mushroom compost and wheat straw mixed with the tilled dirt for the bed and after we plant it all we will give them a little top coating of more compost to feed on through the winter.

The outhouse is almost done just needs one more coat of paint on the outside.

More photos to come...

Monday, September 20, 2010

The 'toilet' room.

Our outhouse is officially underway. So far the sub-floor is in place & 2 walls have been constructed (though still not in place). We're hoping to have it ready this week for 'christening'. 

Here are a few shots:
pieces are built & then assembled at the site because power tools work faster.

truing the sub-floor. no wobbly potties, please!
one wall.
the not-builders enjoying some r&r in a new hammock donated by sweet Grammy.
& potty training on the prairie. not really. she is not trained & it's not the prairie. but, it's cute & someday probably embarrassing.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chicken Weeders

The backyard garden has gotten out of control. this year we were hit with a really bad case of Bermuda grass. It started out in just one little bed but it slowly has taken over the entire garden. There is no eradicating it that I know of. If you pull it out, the next time you go outside it has doubled in size. If you till it the next day your entire garden is filled with it. I tried organic pestiside, which was just like spraying fertilizer on it. I tried a blow torch which kind of worked for a day or two. I also tried vinegar and boiling water. The boiling water sort of worked, the vinegar not at all.
Post Bermuda Grass Invasion

So my next effort on killing it has been my best grass killers, the chickens. Here is the idea. If you leave the chicken tractor in one place for about a week, by the end of the week it is nothing but dirt. You can add to the destruction by pouring the feed in the same spot too and then they scratch that down even faster. I have penned them into one row of garden, which in theory in a few weeks should be weed free. Then after that I am going to cover it in black plastic. We might still go for a fall garden but its kind of late so I might just leave the plastic on all winter.

We have completed one row to my satisfaction here are the before and after pictures.
Launch of The Chicken Counter Attack

First row completed, there are still some weeds around the edge but for the most part it is just dirt.

Row two is being setup to be invaded by the chickens

Stay Tuned for the next step, somehow i am going to beat this grass with out using Roundup.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

We have Water!

Queen of the water!

Since we bought the land we have been trying to get water out there so that we could water animals, plants, and ourselves. This has also turned out to be one of the most difficult projects that we have undertaken so far. 

Here is the deal. In order to get a well dug you have to have a well permit, which means that you have to have the health department come out and inspect your proposed site. The requirements are pretty simple; 25' from all borders, 50' from all structures, and 100' from septic. Where we wanted to have the well met all those requirements. So after spending an afternoon finding the right department i was able to get all the documents signed and payed for and we were on our way. That was back in June. Once you have the permit the well guy can drill after you show them where you want it.

The Well with power poll in background, the well is actually the large white PVC pipe behind the blue tank. The blue tank is what gives the pressure (i think)

Then there is the electric side of things. You can not just say I want power on my land, so i can plug things in. That is not a good enough reason. you have to have a need, for instance a light pole, an electric fence, or a well pump. We wanted to have power before the pump was installed so it could be tested immediately and we could be done with the whole thing. So our trusty electrician took out a permit for an electric fence. The inspector being the great guy he was, said he needed to see an electric fence and failed the permit on a few minor details. So on the second attempt we made a small fenced in area and electrified it. By small i mean something that was like 7' x 8'. The inspector didn't like that either. It seems that maybe the small area made him a little angry, so again he failed us on some small details of the code. Things like the electric fence needed to be labeled electric fence. So after that we decided to wait until we had the well dug. I put in a call to the inspector and he said that now that we had the well i had to bury the electric from the well to power poll. So i had to dig the ditch which was 18" deep and 10' long. 18" doesn't sound that deep, but it is deep, it was past my knees and took me a few hours in 100 degree weather to dig. Again i thanked the good L-rd that we have sandy soil. After all that we again tried and failed on some more minor issues it seems now that the inspector is out to get us. Hopefully with a few more small corrections he will finally be appeased, stay tuned.

But then today the girls and I went out to the land to escape a baby shower at the house for one of friends. When we got out there the meter was in the power pole and the well was working! I don't know if duke power got tired of waiting on the county or what, but we now have power and water. Eat that inspector...haha 

a little turtle we found, anyone know what kind it is?

While we were out there we tested the water pressure, swang on the big tree swing, hammocked a little, check out buckwheat crop and went on a little nature hike.

Some time in Naomi's favorite climbing tree.

Buckwheat in full bloom

Now that we have water next on the list is the outhouse. Don't worry it will be kid friendly. We also have located some roofing for the picnic shelter. By the time the Farm Day rolls around we will be ready for everyone to have a good time. We are planning to have Open Farm Day the weekend of September 25 and 26 with camping, farm work, kids activities and much more.

If you haven't already done it please make sure to become a fan of our farm facebook page. We will be sending out more information about the farm day through the facebook fan page. If you are opposed to facebook send up your email, click here so we can add you to the info list. Click here to join Facebook page Farm Page

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A table, a sunset & slowing down.

I blame the heat. Well, that and funds...we have a lot of projects planned, but needed to take a break on spending all our extra earnings on farm-related items. Like breathing, we're exhaling right now.

But, this offers us an opportunity to truly appreciate the free-er side of farming. Like, magnificent sunsets across the open field.
And beautiful tables made by talented friends/contributors who are really good at building things with your suggestions in mind...
Have something you want to contribute/help with? well...we've picked some dates to have anyone who's interested come & join in the fun. Come Saturday evening, the 25th for some camping, or just come on Sunday the 26th for some 'farm' playing around. Contact us if you're interested!

SORRY: September is the month. So, Sept 25th & 26th.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Some Firsts

Not much in the way of farming was done, but we spent our first night at the land. It was a nice temperature & although wet, once we strapped a tarp to the top of our shelter structure, we stayed really dry. I think we'd all prefer cool & damp to hot & damp...
Our first camp fire:
Our first hammock: (actually our second, but the first was only suitable for little people).
Our first morning in the camper: (we all slept comfortably. There were several 'noises' that woke us up, mainly the pouring rain--sort of like sleeping under a tin roof).
Our first outhouse hole: (we worked on this a lot a few weeks back with family in the extreme heat. Drew finished up & got us down 1.5 more feet so we're good to go...well, first we'll build the house part ;) ) First pic, what Drew wants us to believe he dug. Second--what he actually did.
We had a hike back to the farthest we've all been on the property. It's a long narrow piece so only a few of the men folk have seen the back property line. This is Leviah snacking on an apple while enjoying a lift in the Mei Tai.
We explored & found some neat things along the way.
Naomi is becoming a regular woodsgirl. She found this neat fungi:
& several different types of mosses, 
and evidence that we're not the only ones around...
It was a really fun night. As the autumn comes and the weather remains at tolerable temperatures i'm certain we'll be out there more and more. Of course, if you're interested in coming to visit we'd love to have company. (be aware, we will put you to work). & we are picking a date for a 'weekend' type of event, so anticipate that!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sowing the Field

The Shelter just needs a roof now. Next comes my outdoor grill/oven/smoker.

We have been hard at work trying to survive the heat and yet get something done before the growing season is over. The bees are doing good but the extra cold winter, the move out to the land and some of them being new hives has really limited the amount of honey that we got so far this year.
The buckwheat "field"

There are two times a year that there is a honey flow. One is in the spring this is where probably about 95% of all honey that you eat comes from. Sometimes in this area there is a really good fall honey flow. Usually this honey the beekeeper lets the bees keep. That honey will give them something to eat through the winter and ultimately can be the deciding factor as to whether the hive lives or not. However the last few falls have been really bad and there has really been very little nectar for the bees to make their honey. So in an effort to try and help the bees we planted a high yielding nectar source, buckwheat. We planted about 1600 square feet of it to see how it does. But if all works accordingly it will give the bees a big boost going into winter.
Planted last Friday, sprouting today, in four to six weeks we should have flowers.

We also tilled up another area that we are going to plant a fall/winter cover crop. The idea behind the cover crop is that the "weeds" will grow all winter long adding lots of nutrients to the soil. Then when spring comes we will mow it all over and let it compost right where it is, again adding nutrients and smothering out weeds.
New garden spot

I also have had to add a layer of what is known in the camper world as "cool top" to the old Nomad. It had a slight leak, we were planning on redoing the roof but it just came a little sooner than expected. This new stuff is some sort of silicone stuff that is energy star rated and has a ten year warranty so hopefully we wont have to mess with it for awhile. The old roofs and cheaper sealer is black, this stuff is white thus reflecting the sun and heat, ergo "cool top". The only pain is that you have to do it in coats and you have to wait 24 hours between coats. So if anyone is going by the farm and wants to paint a layer let me know. :)
Before picture. Did you know you can stand on the roof, seems a little sketchy but i do it.

After two coats i think i have about three more to go.

Lastly we have as of tonight installed round two of the guineas. This time we are going to keep the little peepers in the coop for a few weeks before releasing them. We also moved them into the woods and more near to where we usually are. We want them to eat the ticks in the area near us. So we will see how things go with them. The people that we picked them up from said that at the beginning of this year they started with 12 and as of today they only had 2 left. So it seems like we might have to make plans for getting them to procreate pretty fast.

the peepers in a cricket box, it was a tight squeeze but they have plenty of room now.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Canning Fresh Corn

Breaking down the costs:
3 dozen ears of (organic) local corn: $15 
14 (reusable) Canning Jars: $11.65
Total: Approx $1.90/pint
Savings: waste, trips to store, freezer space, peace of mind. & ultimately I wouldn't count the jars as they will be used again, so minus cost of jars: $1.07/pint for local, organic, non-gmo, canned corn. 
We have another dozen & are thinking about doing some creamed corn--ideas?

Breaking down the methods:
(approx 2 hours 'til ready)
1. Cut corn off cob.
2. Spoon corn into jars leaving 1" head room.
3. Add boiling water & salt (optional)* maintaining 1" head room.
4. Wipe Rim of Jar & add canning lid & loosely apply ring.
5. Place Jars in Pressure Cooker (& follow your canner's directions carefully!)
6. Cool & Stow.

**we've read that non-canning salt can turn your canned goods clowdy, however we've not seen this with sea salt. Perhaps the issue is with iodized table salt, so avoid that to preserve color.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Garlic and Archery

We spent a few hours at the land this morning. What was accomplished:
Another timber was cut down for the finishing beams on our 'shelter'.
We made some adjustments to our tree swing, it's less of a 3 person size & more individual now...still a little wonky in it's swing style--to think we thought the tree swing would be a simple project!
We attempted to till some of the field to plant some cover crops--not much success on that front. We're going to need a bigger tiller.
We're pretty certain the guineas have relocated permanently. Not sure where to, but we prefer the relocation idea to other possibilities...
We target shot a few arrows (thanks to a family of boys we know)
Meanwhile, back at our urban homestead, we have harvested a large amount of Garlic. We have several braids, each with about 6 heads, of fresh & DELICIOUS garlic. If you're interested in purchasing a braid we'll meet you at the Wed. curb market in Downtown Greensboro, or elsewhere. $5/braid. (dirt included ;) )
found this great blog when 'studying up' on garlic braiding.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Tick Solution

Development number 2: Guineas.
not a guinea. a newborn calf we saw at the guinea farm.
A week or so ago we ordered a dozen guineas and planned to pick them up at 6 weeks old. That day came on Friday, & we were a little unready. The men (drew & lane) finished a rustic coop for them on Thursday evening & Drew & I carted it out, and 'fenced' it Friday before we drove an hour to pick them up. It was silliness really. While the chicken wire around the outside was a temporary thing (as we want them to be free-range), it was more temporary than we expected and by Saturday evening all but 4 of the guineas had escaped.

guineas are faster than chickens. & some cats let you pick them up (not ours).
what's making that noise?
By Sunday we feared we'd never see them again.
Fortunately, they are coming back. There has been a sighting or two but not of the whole flock, so we're not sure how many are left. We backed the coop up to the wood line & they run for cover back there whenever we approach. They have water, food & the comfort of a coop to return to, hopefully they'll continue to do just that...
What did we learn? Secure your chicken wire. Plan ahead (i.e. have the housing ready before the livestock is on its' way). Secure your chicken wire. Secure your chicken wire.