Tag Archives: garden

Garden 2017 Aquaponics

Another Garden Project:

While we were building the garden beds for the 2017 garden season, we also got our aquaponics system up and running.   We currently have a small system that consists of one barrel cut into two parts, with a bell siphon, an outlet pipe, an inlet pipe, and a pump.  This simple aquaponics set up is called “barelponics”.

Setting up the barrel-ponics for 2017 growing season. Picture taken before all of the grow bed stone was added.

We have had this system for several years now and it has done a great job of producing salads and greens for us.   This small system can produce quite a bit of lettuce because lettuce is ready to harvest about every three weeks or so. It recirculates water that both nourishes the plants and raises fish.  The plants clean the water for the fish and the fish provide the nutrients for the plants.

Barrel-ponics set up a few years ago when it was new.

It used to looks a lot nicer when it was new. A few years in the sunshine has taken a toll on it.

I wasn’t able to set up the barrel last summer because the pump broke at the end of the growing season the summer before and we did not replace it when we moved.  However I did set it out on my back porch and it filled with rain water and we had the most fun growing tadpoles and watching them mature into frogs last summer.

For my birthday this year, my husband got me a new pump.  So as soon as the weather stayed above freezing during the day,  we got it up and running. We also had some stone leftover from when we gardened with it before to fill the growing bed on top, so the only thing we had to do was install the new pump.  My son built a stand to hold the growing tub above the barrel and this will make accessing the pump much easier than before when we had the growing bed sitting on the barrel.

I loved using this barrel in the past.  It was so easy to grow delicious greens for most of the year.  I had so much lettuce, celery, green onions, and sweet potato greens from this one barrel that it was unbelievable.

Summer 2015

We put fish in the bottom barrel of water and the pump sends the water to the plants in the top.  Then the water returns back down to the fish and the process repeats.  The nutrients feed the plants and the plants help clean the water.

I am excited to have the aquaponics up and running again.  I plan to raise romaine lettuce, sweet potato vines, and other leafy greens as well as fish for the table.

Lettuce growing in my window February 2017

The lettuce in this picture is from my kitchen window in February 2017.  I re-grow lettuce after making a salad by placing the base of the head of lettuce in some water and set it in the window.  Within a week or so, new roots shoot out from the base and new leaves grow and within a couple of weeks they are ready to harvest.  You can repeat this process several times.

I have used different containers to regrow lettuce from leftover lids, leftover water bottles, to basic dishes.  As long as the base of the head has access to water, it will regrow roots and as long as those roots have access to water the plant will provide harvest after harvest of fresh lettuce leaves.  It grows even better in an aquapoinics setup.

But to make a simple system for your window, just cut the top off a used water or soda bottle.  Turn the top upside down in the bottom and fill the bottom with water.  Set you plant in the top with the base of the plant touching the water. Set it in the window or under a grow lamp.  It will soon show signs of new growth and send out new roots and new leaves.

So after harvesting the new leaves off the plants from my window sill, I put the rest of the lettuce heads and the plants I had already grown to the seed stage into the top of the barrel garden bed and will grow them outside now that the weather is warming up. Besides lettuce leaves, I hope to harvest some seeds once they have gone to seed heads too.

First lettuce harvest of the year!  March 2017

The first harvest for 2017 of lettuce from the window sill provided enough greens for 4 delicious fresh salads.  This is a wonderful way to increase nutrition and because you are re-using the lettuce heads you would have otherwise thrown away, it is basically for free.  It is amazing how much additional lettuce it will still grow!  The harvest just keeps going and going!

Do You Love Me?

Someday I would love to have a bigger aquaponics set up and grow more food to give away.  For a small investment, you can grow hundreds to even thousands of pounds of food including fish in your aquaponics gardens and recoup your initial investment the first growing season.    Churches, coops, clubs, etc could set these up too, and if easily accessible to the public like at food pantries, parks, libraries and other places around town,  simple food gardens, food forests, and aquaponics would be great way to increase nutrition for the homeless, the needy, and an entire community of people too.

When we stand before the Lord on judgement day, he is going to look at a couple of things.  He doesn’t care about your house, car, job, education, income, vacations, clothes, etc.   But there is something he deeply cares about.

The first question that will be answered is do we love Jesus as our savior and believe he is the son of God who died for us and his blood cleanses us from our sins.  If we are his, then he will separate us who love him (his sheep) from those who are not his  and did not believe (the goats).

The second question he has for us is “did we obey him and give him food when he was  hungry?”.  This may sound confusing, but he is in the midst of us and he said what we do for others we do for him.  So he will ask us: “Did you feed me when I was hungry?  Did you give me drink when I was thirsty? Did you visit me when I was lonely?  etc.”

“ When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.”  

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

“ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:31-40

What will be your answer to his question?  What will be my answer?

Will he find us faithful stewards who fed him when he was hungry?

I hope each person reading this note today will someday soon hear him say “Well done good and faithful servant, enter in to the joy of the Lord”.

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Garden 2017 A New Beginning

Garden Season 2017 Has Begun!

We moved last year just before planting season and didn’t put in a garden in our new location.  Moving is a big job, and it takes a while to get resettled.  It was a quiet summer, and we missed our big garden and fruit trees that kept us busy and well fed.  We didn’t want to go through another summer without a garden and thinking about all those delicious fresh fruits and veggies got us excited! We couldn’t hardly wait to get started for 2017!

Garden 2015

Growing a garden helps families in many ways.  It gives you ample opportunity to move and get some exercise, and it can improve your nutrition depending on what you grow.  If you enjoy watching plants grow, and spice up the garden with some flowers to attract butterflies and bees, and birds, then there is a good chance a garden will improve your mental health and outlook too.

Orchard 2015

With our large family, growing a garden helps reduce the costs of the weekly grocery trips. Though the initial cost of planting a garden can be expensive, you see a return when you are able to harvest during the summer and fall.

Berry Harvest 2015

Starting Over

The homestead we moved to is a quiet lovely location, with tall trees and rolling hills.  But it is a much different environment from where we lived before where we had mature fruit trees and rich soil for a huge garden.   Where we live now, it is hard for grass to grow and it goes dormant very early in the growing season.

We are basically starting over.  One of the biggest needs in this yard is to rebuild the soil.  That can take a while and requires a lot of input of compost. Our current home is surrounded by pine trees, the soil is dry and hard and there is less rainfall here, and it also has has a high clay content .  The soil is quite acidic and there is not much top soil to grow in.  The previous residents had built a few raised beds to overcome these disadvantages, but it has been many years since they were used and the wood has rotted and fallen down and the beds were full of weeds, moss, and small volunteer trees.

Old garden beds

Old garden beds in disrepair

As soon as the weather cooperated in March we got busy mending and expanding a couple of the old broken down raised beds and made them into our new garden.   The one advantage these beds do have is some depth of soil piled on top of the clay that will give room for the roots of plants.  With a few new longer boards put around the sides, and some nutrients added, we will be ready to grow.

I’m going to be honest.  I was discouraged at first.  It was hard to wrap my mind around relying on the broken raised beds when I was used to gardening in a large tilled garden with 100+ foot long rows in rich soils, abundant rain, and fertile crop land.  That garden and orchard was quite large and produced a lot of great fruits and vegetables for our family for several years.  Last summer it was hard for me to wrap my mind around how I was going to grow a garden here in this poor clay soil and in a small space. But now I am excited now that I have some new inspiration with these raised beds to help address these issues.

We put in some new longer boards expanding the size of the beds from 10 x 10  to about 12 x 16 feet.  We will make a second bed not far from this one.   Due to the small size of these beds, we plan to grow more intensively.  In the past we used long long rows with walking paths, but in the raised beds there is not enough room for that method.  Instead we are going to plant the garden with the “square foot” gardening method and not have well defined rows.  We will use as much space as we can in a square foot.  This method allows you to plant a lot of produce in a small amount of space. 

It was a big job to pull off the rotted boards, pull out metal rods and nails, and the heavy shredded matting.  These beds were neglected for many years and in poor condition.  We started off with a shovel to break open the dirt across the entire bed.  We also bucketed many many loads of dirt to the garden. We didn’t have a wheel barrow for this project so my son used my mop bucket and our dolly.  It worked very well, but took him about 100 trips over a few days to get enough dirt to the bed.  We plan to get a wheel barrel soon!

My son took the lead in this garden re-building project, and his younger siblings helped out a lot too.  He is interested in landscaping and loves working outdoors.  He added in some bagged compost to enrich the soil.  He also added ashes from our campfire pit, and dead leaves and mixed this all into the soil very well with a shovel, a rake, and a tiller.  Then he marked off each square foot and divided the entire garden with cord so we can plant with the square foot gardening method.

The garden sits on a small hill, so we only put boards on three sides for now to hold the soil in.  We may add a row of boards to the top side at a later date.  For now, we are trying to keep the expenses of putting in a raised bed garden down as much as we can.

One advantage to leaving off the boards on the top side, is to collect more rain water runoff from the hill when it does rain.  If it had boards across the top side, it would divert the rain runnoff away from the garden.  By leaving this open to the upside of the hill, we hope to maximise the opportunity for more water to run down the hill and end up in the garden.

The soil is prepped!  This garden is ready!

We are ready for our new beginning!

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Easy Roasted Roots

Do you like root vegetables?  I sure do.  One of the easiest way to make them is to roast them in the oven.  This method keeps all the flavor and nutrients in the vegetable instead of in your water or broth.  It also carmelizes the sugars in the vegetables and they taste really mild and sweet.

I enjoy eating several roasted root vegetables all together and taste the seperate flavor of each one.

CHOOSE YOUR ROOTS

You can use any roots that you like.  Some root vegetables have amazing health benefits and all are full of minerals and vitamins.  Here are some ideas:

Sweet Potatoes
Turnips
Radishes
Red Onion (or white or yellow)
Parsnips
Beets
Radishes
Potatoes
Carrots
Leeks
Etc.

Easy Roasted Roots

2 Sweet Potatoes
1 Parsnip
1 Red Onion
4 Beets
4 Carrots

Peel and chop your veggies to the desired size for cooking.  The smaller sizes will cook more quickly than the larger sizes because roots are very dense.  I like to leave my beets slightly larger than everything else because honestly I want the nutrition of part raw part cooked beets and this is the best way I have found to achieve that.  Bake in an oiled pan at 300 degrees until done, about 45 minutes or so.

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Everything got nice and soft except for the center of the beets and that is what I want.  However, you can get the beets very soft by keeping all your veggies the same size and baking for the same length of time.  Again, if you leave some big and some small, the small ones will get soft all the way through but the larger ones will take longer to achieve if that is your desired result. Check on them often to be sure they are not burning and also to rotate them in the pan if needed.

IMG_8182

When they are done, they have the most amazing flavors.  You can use them many ways now like blend them into purees for soups or smoothies, pancakes and quickbreads, and also use them in roasted root sides and salads. YUM!!!

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World Naked Gardening Day

Are you saving some time to work in your birthday suit in the garden today? Ok, ok, I really don’t want to know!  Feel free to keep it between yourself and the neighbors if you choose to join in.  The point is there are some health benefits (as well as a few potential risks) to celebrating this strange world wide holiday.

I need to locate the shovel…and a loin cloth…and get outside…look out world…my garden is getting a bare naked makeover!

On second thought…I don’t own a loin cloth.

Garden Naked Holiday

Did you know the first Saturday in May is WORLD Naked Gardening Day?

I sure didn’t.

Did you know that “gardening naked has its risks”? I hadn’t thought of that either.

Looks like there will be a whole lot of people across the world in their birthday suits planting their gardens today.

Better get out the all natural sunscreen, your going to need a lot of it!

You can check it out for yourself, and feel free to celebrate it in your own back yard,  READ THE FULL STORY and see for yourself, this holiday is happening today.

 

Real news and too funny!!!

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Christmas Shopping

Can I help you with your Christmas shopping?

Christmas Gifts

I will help you find the perfect gift for your loved ones on your Christmas list.

 

doTerra

You can find lots of great essential oils, vitamins and supplements, soaps, skin care, hair care, and more healthy living products to support your immune system and lifestyle for you and your loved ones at doTerra.

doTerra Diamond Kit

 

ItWorks

You can also pick up great healthy living items at ItWorks and while you are there, be sure to check out the WRAPS, natural super-food supplements, and body care products to make this coming year the best and healthiest year yet!  The most popular product is the Wrap Applicator which used to be sold in exclusive spas in Europe for over $300 and is available through ItWorks for $25 a piece. With products from ItWorks, you can create your own spa right at home for a fraction of the cost.

itWorks Pack

 

Garden Tower

Another great Christmas gift idea is a Garden Tower and try out a great way to capture water for your plants with the Rain Barrel.  You and your loved ones can grow organic food year around (indoors or outdoors) in these amazing vertical gardens. The Garden Tower holds 50 plants in less than 4 square feet.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

 

 

Just For Kids:

A great idea for those all natural creative kids (your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, and neighbor kids too) in your life, is to get them kid friendly healthy living items from doTerra and ItWorks .  There are so many totally terrific items for kids available that will help them live a healthier life.

Also why not Give the gift of creativity with Green Kid Crafts!  These awesome arts, crafts, and educational activities are sure to please kids of all ages!

Another option is to purchase excellent resources from the Answers in Genesis Bookstore for folks of all ages too. They have books, CD’s, DVD’s, Games, and more, and there is something special for everyone!

If you need assistance, or have any questions, just leave me a message, and I will get in touch with you with great gifts options you will love and help you make this Christmas really special!

 

This post will be linked up with
Raising Homemakers
Raising Memories

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Fruitful Homesteading


We are homesteaders.  We have always loved “living off the land”.  God has placed such an amazing potential in the land to grow what we need.  We love experiencing the process of planting, tending, nurturing, and harvesting.

Homesteading Is Our Heritage:

We have gained experience raising many kinds of plants and animals over the years.  Our experience in farming started young. My husband and I both spent part of our childhood living on the farm. He farmed with his grandparents in Indiana, and I farmed with my father and grandparents in Kansas.  We both showed animals and other projects in 4-H in our youth too.  We both learned allot from these experiences and we have fond memories of life on the farm.  Spending time on the farm in our youth seems to have planted a seed of love for the farm in us that continues to grow. 

As adults, we began homesteading in Kansas in 1991.  We started with gardens, canning and dehydrating foods that we raised, as well as fishing and hunting.  We hardly had to buy any groceries at the store.  Most of the foods we ate through out the year we either raised or caught in the wild.  To help me improve on my skills, I spent a lot of time with various elderly neighbors who valued gardening and homesteading.  I learned a lot from them.  Also my dad drove about 300 miles and came to stay with us for about two weeks and gave us a big education in gardening, fishing, and locating local and wild foods in our area.  We were hands on the whole two weeks and it was a great time.

Those first few years of learning to homestead were amazing.  We were always learning a new (yet ancient) way to provide for ourselves and neighbors.  We loved to go fishing often (every day of the week if we could).  We enjoyed bringing home crape, walleye, perch, catfish, and bass from our fishing outings at Tuttle Creek Reservoir and Milford Lake as well as at a local gravel quarry.  Once the fish was gutted and cleaned we bagged some of it to freeze and eat later, and some we set in the fridge to make a fresh meal with too.  My husband also loves to hunt quail, pheasant, turkey, and deer.   After hunting, we gutted the animal, cleaned, cut, and wrapped the meat for storage in the freezer.

In 1993 we moved to Indiana and set up a new homestead.  We bought a house and turned the yard into food producing.  We planted an orchard and began raising chickens and rabbits (for organic fertilizer), in addition to organic gardening.  The property also had raspberries, mulberries, and goose berries.  We continued to enjoy fishing and hunting.  My husband took up a hobby of night fishing too with a friend who owned a boat.  This allowed him to get even bigger fish than he was not able to get access to when fishing from the bank.

In 1995, I began visiting local farms and Amish families in the area and learning more about raising food and homesteading.  I learned about the Weston A Price Foundation, Poly Face Farms, and good sound nutrition regarding nutrient dense foods.  I perfected my skills in bread baking, butchering my own chickens, and learned to grow, ferment, and preserve variety of foods including meats.

We bought our first small farm in 1997.  It was a gorgeous rolling and wooded 10 acres of land that bordered a lake.  Our neighbor who owned the lake also owned 250 acres that surrounded our property.  We were surrounded by nature and wildlife of all kinds.  We built fence and began raising beef cattle, meat goats, milking Nubian dairy goats, rabbits, and several kinds of poultry for eggs and meat including: turkeys, ducks, chickens, geese, and guineas.  We planted a huge garden and a small orchard.  We had bountiful reserves of wild elderberries, raspberries, mulberries, and blackberries too.  Neighbors often let us pick their plums, cherries, crabapples and apples too.  Another neighbor made homemade maple syrup and allowed us to help and gave us syrup as a trade for our labor.  Other neighbors raised blueberries, and raw honey, and other foods, and we often purchased or traded for what we needed.


Honey comb raised by a neighbor, and deer sausage made from a deer my husband hunted.

We bought a bigger farm in 2001, and expanded our skills raising animals and produce.  We built lots of fence, a pond, a barn, and a farm store to sell healthy foods, in addition to raising grass fed Angus and Angus-cross beef, eggs, chickens, turkeys, guineas, geese, ducks, rabbits, Jersey dairy cows, Nubian dairy goats, Boer meat goats, Kahtadin sheep, and a few horses.  We raised garden produce, alfalfa hay, orchard grass hay, as well as bailed hay for other farmers too.  We also had a cow share program on our farm and folks would come each week to pick up a share of fresh raw milk from our Jersey cows.  My husband continued to hunt and fish at every opportunity.  The freezer was always full.  We enjoyed wild foods such as deer and fish a couple of times a week, and the rest of the week was filled with foods we had raised right on our farm.  Life was good.  It was the lifestyle we wanted for our family.

Besides farming, my husband owned a construction company and also served on the local board of zoning appeals and was President of the local Home Builders Association.  But the economy kept declining and construction in our local area took a hard hit.  Work was up and down and more down than up.  Over time, with medical expenses, a growing family, and financial hardship that seemed to get worse and not better, it became harder and harder to work in construction and pay for the farm.

Construction stats were still going strong in the Carolinas and after much prayer we sold the farm to move to North Carolina for a project management job in commercial construction.  He was offered a good job and the promise of commissions and bonuses.  We had planned to be able to get on our feet again and buy a farm there after a few years.   We had also planned for my husband to get a bible degree in ministry and help out in ministry outreach.

Under-estimated Set Backs:

Though we tried to stay positive and found things to enjoy and had some great adv
entures with our kids while living in NC, there were several things we did not anticipate.  We did not foresee the company my husband worked for cheating him out of all of his commissions he earned, and bonuses that were promised each year, or them lying about fulfilling the General Manager job they promised him.  He managed millions of dollars in construction for them, as much as 40 million dollars during those five years, and made them millions of dollars in profits.  He is an excellent and tallented construction manager. They cheated him out of everything they promised him.  Instead of getting on our feet, the move to NC only resulted in deeper debt and no hope to set up our farm.

We also had a some financial setbacks due to medical complications.  First, I was pregnant with baby number 5 when we moved.  Having babies is very expensive.  Then my husband hurt his lower back and needed xrays and weekly care from a chiropractor.  The next medical set back came when I got pregnant with baby number 6.  I went for an ultrasound, and all was good.  But in my fourth month, I had a miscarraige and nearly hemoraged to death at home.  My blood pressure dropped to 95 / 105.  I should have gone to the hospital at this point, but there was no money.  I continued to bleed for 12 weeks following the deadly miscarrage and I was physically weak.  It resulted in $4k in medical care, sonogram, biopsy, and numerous blood tests.  They found nothing wrong, and my body healed on its own.  Not long after that, I got pregnant with baby number 7.   This birth went well, and I trusted a midwife for the delivery.  She spent very little time with me, perhaps only two or three visits, and then passed me on to two interns for several visits.  We did not have a good due date as we had a sonogram at about 30 weeks, but to late to get a good delivery date.  During the last few days of the pregnancy, the midwife decided not to deliver the baby, thinking perhaps I was over due.  This resulted in a last minute search for a medical provider, a hospital admission, pitocin to start labor, an emergency c section due to their medical interventions, and over 40k in medical bills.  Once the baby was delivered, they estimated he was only 39 weeks, and not over due at all.  The stress from this ordeal was almost more than we could bare.  Then my husband needed surgery for a tear in his colon.  And the bills just seamed to mount higher and higher.  Those circumstances were tough, and I praise God we all came through those with no further problems and we are well today!

During the five years we lived in North Carolina, we lived in a subdivision and missed the homesteading lifestyle tremendously.  We actually grieved and I think this had a detrimental effect on our health.   Our children also grieved.  They missed their animals and the life we had on the farm much more than we thought they would.

We missed our way of life.  Grieving for our farm was taking its toll on our health both physically and emotionally.  Though we tried to find it, we did not find a good
replacement in NC for the life we left behind in IN.  Top of the list was expensive medical bills and second to that, was that my husband was unhappy in his job.  Thirdly we did not find good fishing or hunting opportunities.  We tried several lakes with no luck on fishing.  Then there was the challenges of trying to raise some of our own food. Our yard had no top soil to raise our food.  The ground was hard clay.  We worked at building up the soil with grass and worms, manure, and nutrients.  We made gardens in raised beds and added in purchased top soils, but it was a far cry from the rich soils we had enjoyed on the farm.  We also enrolled our kids in Henderson County 4H and they participated in animal husbandry with the Barnyard Bandits and showed animals at the NC Mountain State Fair.  They hatched chicken eggs, raised turkeys, and trained with and showed goats and turkeys at the fair.   It was wonderful to raise animals again in 4H, and we are grateful the 4H leader let the kids keep their animals at her place.  It was a lot of hard work to travel there everyday, or every other day, and take care of the animals.  It was not the same as raising our animals on our own farm.

The longing to farm again as we had in Indiana kept nagging at our heart.   The cost of farmland was the deterring factor for us.  Compairing the farms in both areas is eye opening.  Farmland in the Hendersonville and Asheville areas of NC sell for 25k to 100k an acre. The majority of the land is vertical due to the mountains, and orchards are the main crops, though there are some farms that lay flat in the valleys between the mountains that can produce well.  These are often flooded during the rains as they are the main route for water that comes off the mountains.    Farms in east central Indiana costs much less, about 4k to 6k an acre, are gently rolling landscapes, and are rich in top soil and nutrients, get ample rain and have abundant water resources.  The ground water table is high and plants and animals have good access to water.

When we finally realized the company my husband worked for would never honor the agreement he had with them, and therefore we would not be able to afford a farm in North Carolina and open our heathy foods farm store again, we were devastated.
How could we ever afford the life we want for our family in NC?  He tried to find another project management job in his field, but nothing opened up.  He also considered starting his own construction company there, but to own a construction company in NC requires a huge financial backing also.   Construction there is divided into size and dollar amount of projects and you are required to have a license and large sum of money in your bank account.  After five years of struggling, being lied to by people we trusted, and seeing our dreams of farming become a far off, if ever opportunity, we cut our losses and moved home to Indiana to start over. 

A New Start and Hard Work:

This season of our life finds us in a new homestead with new opportunities in Indiana.  It is hard work to start over in life.  This is some of the toughest times we have ever gone through.  My husband and I are in our forties and not as young as we used to be.  Life has sort of beat us down so to speak, and we don’t have the boundless energy or finances that we used to have.  We also have six young kids to take care of which is a huge task, and trust me when I say that it is a lot of work!  The laundry and dishes for
a family of eight people is overwhelming sometimes!  A broken house and no money to fix it gets to me sometimes.  But I know we can fix it when the money comes in.  My husband started up his construction company again.  He is very good at construction, and I know his business will be successful and the funds will be there to meet our needs.

It is also hard work to homestead.  It requires dedication and back breaking labor to clear the land, till it, plant, and cultivate it to grow food for your family and others.  But it has great potential and there is something very rewarding in this labor of love.

This summer we have been working on cleaning up the homestead: trimming trees, clearing brush, cleaning flower beds, mowing, etc.   The farm is over 100 years old.  We will do some research to find the exact age of the homestead, but we are guessing as much as 150 years.  The house is in desperate need of updating and fixing what is broken.  But it will have to wait until there are finances to do so.

A portion of the farm, about 7 acres or so, has been let go over many years, and other than mowing potions of it, it does not appear to have been farmed with animals, or gardens in at least 30 years.  The pasture, trees, bushes, and the fruit trees have been let go.

The back of the property has a nice field and borders fields on the side and woods at the back on the neighboring land.  About 7 years ago, a local farmer began renting the land at the back of the farm and cleaned it up, removing some trees and lots of bushes and brush, and planted organic crops on it.  He has raised both organic corn and organic soybeans on the back 22 acres, and for the past 3 years has farmed certified organic alfalfa hay in that space.  To have the ground certified organic, it was inspected, proven to have been free of chemical aplications that conflict with organic certification, and has grass buffer on all sides.  It also has to have 3 years of “rest” to build up soil following crops of corn and beans.  So in this rotation, the farmer planned to plant organic corn again next year.  But our hope is to continue with the organic hay.

It is pure alfalfa and did I mention it is ORGANIC!!!  We are so excited!  Alfalfa hay is high in nutrients and will be a perfect food for our livestock.  It has several good years of production left.   He will be finished with his lease on it in a few weeks and we will take over tending and bailing the hay.  Here in this part of Indiana, we usually can get three to four cuttings of hay in good years.   So that part of the farm is producing. 

This summer we are focussing on cleaning up the front part of the farm.  We we will eventually have livestock on this section of the farm as there is usuable pasture and a barn.  We will ad fencing and livestock when we have the finances to do so.  The barn has room for hay upstairs, and horses and milk cows downstairs as well as two workshop areas.  There is a seven cow milking parlor in one side of the barn.  There is another foundation without a building, and someday we hope to build a greenhouse there.  There are two sheds.  One is in good shape, and one needs torn down and rebuilt.

We have also planted a large garden, and a small fruit orchard.  So far, the garden has 18 rows of 60 sweet corn, 25 tomato plants, 6 rows of green beans, 2 rows of yellow beans, 6 bell peppers, 10 chili peppers, 5 jalapino peppers, 4 egg plant, 4 okra, 6 zucchini plants, 6 cucumber plants, 4 cantaloupe, 4 watermelon, 4 acorn squash, 12 winter squash plants, and one row each of: radish, beets, lettuce, carrots, sweet potatoes, strawberries, basil, oregano, thyme, mint, cilantro, parsley, dill, kale, sunflowers, xenia, marigolds, and more.  I want to plant another planting of several vegetables like corn, beets, radish, greens, and more as soon as there are some funds to do so.

In the orchard so far, we have planted a few apple trees, peach, pear, 9 blueberry bushes, 12 black raspberries (transplanted from the wild), 2 red raspberries, 2 black berries, and a concord grape.  We already have mature, but unmanaged apple trees of several varieties, pear trees, a plum tree, a huge amount of mulberry trees, and a white peach tree as well as well as wild raspberries, wild grapes, and blackberries too.   All of these mature fruit trees and bushes are loaded with fruit this summer.  They have some bugs, but they are all natural.  We are thrilled and are so excited for next year’s crop of fruit.  After digging several holes in an empty field, we tenderly planted our new fruit trees and bushes that are full of future potential.  Later this fall, we will trim the mature fruit trees and prep them for next year’s fruiting season. 

A fruitful potential.  It is a good start for our first season on the homestead.

We love participating in this process. We observe, learn, tweak, nurture, and are amazed at the manifestation of all the potential.  We are homesteaders.

I know we, our children, perhaps grandchildren too, will have a bright and fruitful future on this homestead.

They will be like trees that stay healthy and fruitful, even when they are old. Psalm 92:14

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Raising Homemakers
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Garden Study Update for May

The garden is doing very well during this month of May.  The weather has been beautiful here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

HSV Garden Challenge

We are participating in a Garden Challenge at the Homeschool Village.  The first month over 130 families joined in, and last month 100 families joined in.  Be sure to stop over and read their wonderful stories and gain more insight into gardening with your family.

We are also doing our own Garden Unit Study to go along with the Garden Challenge.  Our unit study learning will continue until the final harvest and the garden dies out later in the fall.

This month the children and I have continued to monitor the growth and health of the plants. The children remain motivated, and also continue to take responsibility in watering the plants each week.

We have had lots of sunshine and mid 80’s weather for most of the month, with a few scattered showers and two or three major storms.   The children enjoyed sitting on the porch and watching the storms as they came through.  A few of the storms produced tornadic weather, and a few miles from the house after this picture was taken, a tornado was spotted.

The ground is fairly dry over all, so the garden has needed water about once or twice a week.   Though there were days the younger children gave several of the plants water every day.

My daughter loves to give the plants a drink with a water bottle.  You can read more about how she enjoys watering the plants HERE.

We had a major storm about two weeks ago, that produced severe winds, heavy rain, and hail.

We had marble to a little under golf ball size hail, and I was really concerned about the damage it would do to the garden, as well as the house and vehicles.

I was hit on the arm, and the foot, by these flying torpedoes of ice when taking a picture.  It was very painful.

But just a few days after the hail storm, we reaped our first harvest from our garden beds.

We have harvested strawberries, spinach, green onions, leaf lettuce, and several herbs from the garden so far.

I have also seen some green cherry tomatoes on one of the plants too.  So far, none of the other vegetable plants have bloomed yet.

Here is a lovely plate of spinach, lettuce, strawberries, parsley, oregano, and the next photo is green onions from our garden.   I am putting all these ingredients and more together to make a special lunch today.

Read HERE to see what an awesome nutrient dense lunch these wonderful ingredients made.

We have continued to learn from our Garden Adventure Science Kit.  This kit is well worth the investment for your garden study. 

It comes with 16 experiments, a teachers guide, and student workbook, and all the equipment you need to do the experiments.  It also has additional suggestions for further study.

We have also continued to learn with our Garden Printables.    You can read about our Garden Unit Study components including the printables we are using HERE.

I have stored everything in our garden unit (except the garden and the live plants growing in the window sill) in this big tote.  It makes it easy to put the garden unit away at the end of the day.

The children have caught and observed various garden insects this month, such as worms, lady bugs, roly poly, ants, slugs, centipedes, caterpillars, spiders, and from a distance-bees.  We haven’t seen any butterflies yet, but that will come soon.  We plan to do a butterfly unit study yet this summer too.  We got some wonderful free butterfly resources a few weeks ago.  I will write about it soon.

The kids have also enjoyed watching a window sill garden grow.

We purchased these little greenhouse seed starter kits for $1 at the local Dollar store.  We added our own potting soil and the seeds that came with the kits.

I also recycled some disposable bakery trays with lids from the grocery store.  These make wonderful greenhouses to start your seeds in.  We added some potting soil and romaine lettuce seeds to the recycled tray.

This picture was taken two weeks ago and the plants were doing well.  They had grown so big we had to remove the roof of the green houses to let them have more space.

I will plan to write more in the days and weeks to come about each individual activity we did, in case you would like to follow along or repeat the Garden Unit Study with your own kids.

A garden is a fun adventure at any age!

How is your garden growing?  Leave us a comment, thanks!!!

 

This post will be linked up with
Science Sunday
No Time For Flash Cards
ABC and 123
The Garden Challenge

 

 

 

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Garden Weed Science

We have been doing lots of different scientific garden investigations as part of our garden unit.

Today is all about observing weeds growing in our planter boxes.

This is a fun hands on opportunity to teach several plant science concepts.

We pulled two types of weeds from the planter boxes.   We saved some for a science experiment, a clump of grass and a broad leaf weed, I assumed was a young dandelion, but I did not check to make sure.  I do wish I had set out a book with pictures for the children to identify this weed.  But I forgot.

We set these weeds out on a table outside for further investigating after our weeding project was through.  If you would like to read about our weeding project, read the article posted here.

We discussed how grass in a yard is not considered a weed.  But grass in our garden is a weed.  A weed is a plant we don’t want to grow in our garden.  It competes with our other plants for nutrients, water, space, and sunshine.  So we remove weeds from the garden.

We soaked the smaller broad leaf weed in a glass of water.

Then laid the plant on a paper plate to dry a little in the sun.

Once some of the water dried from the root, we could see there was one long thick central root, with lots of small hairlike roots coming from it.

This root system was very different from the roots on the clump of grass.

Next we put the clump of grass into a bowl.  We tried to shake off as much dirt from the roots as possible.

But the dirt still clung inside the root tangle.  The roots provided a net for the dirt, and it was very hard to pull any more out.

Next, we rinsed the roots in water to remove the rest of the dirt.

This revealed a whole bunch of roots we could not see before.

After rinsing the dirt off, we took a closer look at the roots.  They were like thick hair.  Soon the children realized there was more than one grass plant in this clump.  The oldest took his tools and carefully began to separate each system of roots and plants.

He separated out 11 different grass plants with their own set of roots.  Each root system was made up of lots of long, thin roots that joined at the base of the plant, but were totally separate from each other.

He also cut a stem of grass open to see what was inside.  He described what he found inside as a thick juice, and the stem was kind of like a hollow straw.

We talked about how this juice was from water and minerals in the soil, taken up by the roots, then moves up through the stem to feed the plant.  Kind of how people drink through a straw to drink up a milk shake.  The plant is using the stem to drink up nutrition (minerals) and water.

This was a great garden investigation today.

The children learned a great deal about what weeds are, what roots look like, and their function.  They were able pull the weeds from the soil with the whole plant in tact.  Then they were able to compare the root systems from two different plants.  Finally they observed the evidence of liquid inside the plant that showed them that the roots draw in water and nutrients from the soil for the plant to live.

How do you teach your kids about weeds, plants, and roots?  Leave us a comment.  Thanks.

This post will be linked up with
The Garden Challenge
No Time For Flash  Cards
Science Sunday

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Garden Challenge Weeding Planter Boxes

Today’s garden activities included weeding this planter box, and learning about two types of plants.

In the process of today’s activities, the children are also learning about annual and perennial plants.

Annual plants last for one year or one growing season.

Perennial plants return year after year.

I asked the children to come and see what lived in this box.   They looked at each plant growing in the box.

I told them that one of plants in the box was supposed to be there and one was not.  We were going to remove the one that did not belong.

Can you find the treasure hidden amongst the grass?

They looked all around, pushing the grass to the side.  Finally they found the plants that belonged.

We quickly got to work pulling out the unwanted clumps of grass from the planter box.  Dad had seeded the yard last fall, and some of his grass seed sprayed into the planter boxes.  It grew very nicely in there over winter and this spring, but it was just about to choke out the plants that were supposed to be in the box.  So its stay was not welcome anymore.

Did you figure out the perinial plants that belonged yet?  It is strawberries.

Three years ago, we started strawberries in this box.  We rented a house and we were not supposed to touch the yard.  We missed our garden from the farm so much.  So we got these planter boxes and set them on the patio.  We grew our garden in four boxes that year.

We planted a mixture of annuals and perennial.  We had combinations of vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
We had one box full of strawberries and flowers.  One full of herbs and sweet potatoes.  One with tomatoes and peppers, herbs and flowers.  And the last one had lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, herbs, and flowers.

Our garden boxes that year mostly provided us with fresh salads, culinary herbs for cooking and making fresh herb teas, gifts for neighbors, and lots of fun to care for them as we lived in a tiny little house after having just left our farm.  These boxes provided a way for us to get our hands dirty so to speak.

A year later we bought a home with a big yard and now can garden as much as we want.  But these boxes stand as a reminder of the year we made a planter box garden.  Some of the plants still return three years later, such as these strawberries.  There is also one with yarrow and some other herbs that return.  These plants that return year after year are perennials.

It is so much fun for the children to discover the world around them.  Here my eight year old son is pulling the weeds from around the strawberry plants.

We saved some of the weeds we pulled from the boxes for a science experiment.  We examined the plants, shook off the excess soil from the roots, rinsed the roots in water, and took a close look at them.  Our science experiment using these weeds will be posted here.

We will show you how the finished boxes look in a story posted here.

After weeding, we turned the dirt in the boxes.  Next we topped off the existing soil with a little more dirt.  Then we re-planted several of the boxes with more annuals and perennials.  They look beautiful and the children are so pleased with their accomplishments.

One box remained for strawberries and flowers.  Two boxes are full of herbs, lettuce, and flowers.  And one other box is full of flowers.   These will be lovely all summer long.  The box in the bottom of the picture is full of pansy’s planted by my three year old daughter.  She was so proud of “her” box.  The box that is just above the bottom box has a large yarrow plant that you can see on one side in this picture.  It is now three years old and looks lovely.

Do you have any plants that return each year?  What ways have you taught your kids about annual plants and perennial plants?   Please leave us a comment.  Thanks.

This post will be linked up with
Science Sunday
No Time For Flash Cards
The Garden Challenge
The Handbook Of Nature Study
We Play

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