I’m taking a class called “Insights for Innovation” with IDEO. Part of that class is doing interviews for developing empathy and better understanding customers. Niti was the perfect person to interview to better understand the farm-to-fork community. I learned a lot in the interview and hope you do too.
The last two days have been a blur. We have been busy. Even with 4 people on the farm working hard, we still have more stuff to do before everything is been planted.
We are on still on a rapid learning curve as we work hard. The garden area in the pictures below was pasture for decades so we had to work to plow up the grassy area and then build new beds.
Using the BCS Tractor
The BCS tiller was also a new piece of equipment for us. The biggest challenge we’ve had with the BCS is laying out beds so that the rows come out the width that we want. Our BCS tractor has the 5.5 inch extensions added to the the 749 tractor. This makes the tractor wider by 11 inches.
The vegetable garden beds are on a sloped face. To help minimize any erosion issues during rain events, we kept a 10 foot ribbon of grass between each plot. Each plot was laid out to have 2 rows per plot (30″ wide rows) with an 18″ wide walkway between each row. When I added up 3 walkways plus a quantity of 2 of the 30″ wide rows, then we should need a plot that is 9.5 feet wide. In practice, it just isn’t working out that way. I suspect we’ll have to till and hill a plot and measure to see where I’m off in my estimation of the total width of each 2 row plot. There is definitely a learning curve to becoming a better farmer.
We just installed rows of trellis for pole beans and tromboncino squash. We are using a curved trellis for the tromboncino squash and pole beans. I keep seeing videos and picture of the curved and over trellis configuration, so we wanted to see at try and find out if it works as well as we keep hearing. The curved trellis (when covered with tromboncino squash) should provide provide shade for the young rhubarb.
One of my projects for this summer is to install posts in the field, near the rows, where we can hang the cattle panels (used in the trellis) this fall after we take the trellis down and store it for the winter.
Tagging Each Fruit Bearing Tree and Bush
One of the projects this month was to map and tag each fruit bearing tree and bush. My wife took this project and ran with it. We now have a map that shows the location of each fruit bearing tree and bush, indicated by a unique tag number. The unique tags number are recorded in a spreadsheet. Information about each plant is recoded with the tag number, such as variety and date planted. This will also us to track historical data about each plant. This data is also useful when we propagate cuttings, allowing us to properly identify plants for sale.
It is the time of year where you never know if it is going to be an 80 degree day or a 40 degree day. We are still getting ready to start planting our summer garden. This was also the first time I mowed the grass for the season. More and more plants are starting to grow. The drip irrigation system is still a work in progress. Once we have the planting beds made then we can put down the drip tape and test the system.
We had a fairly mild winter so the weeds started growing early in the garlic beds. This year we put down hay twice to try and suppress weed growth. Hopefully we can avoid a lot of weeding this way. I was pleasantly surprised that our garlic beds survived our neighbors cows getting loose and trampling the plants earlier in the winter.
We have several patches of wild American Mandrake. It grows in the shady areas. I’m hoping that we can actually try some of the fruit this year. That would mean that we would have to time picking it just right. If we wait too long the squirrels and deer will beat us to the ripe fruit.
The Mayapples are up and thriving. We noticed the fruit starting to form. We are hoping to try the fruit this year, assuming we can beat the deer and raccoons from eating it first.
Weed Control with Silage Tarps
We put down silage tarps earlier in the winter. The goal is to help with weed control and terminate the fescue grass under the tarp. This weekend we moved the silage tarp from the vegetable rows to what will become a cover crop area adjacent to the first row of fig trees in field #2.
Weed Control in Garlic and Onion Beds
The garlic should be ready sometime in early July. This year we’ve used hay to help and control the weeds in the garlic bed. This is the second application of hay to these rows. The hay adds organic matter to the soil as it composts.
The Iris are coming up. We planted them in the fall. We just added partially composted wood chip mulch around them to help protect them from the summer heat and control weeds. The chips came from a local tree service company.
The weather on Saturday was kinda crazy. It started out fairly warm and then just kept getting colder.
Sometimes You Can’t Do What You Plan
We had planned to plant beets, peas and radish. The plan was to pull back the tarps and build beds to plant in. The silage tarp has been down for several weeks. Last weekend we added more tarps before the rain started. The plan was to roll back the tarps and build beds for the beets, peas and radish. Then we could plant in dry ground. Sounds like a good plan.
However, it was not a good plan. When we pulled back the silage tarp and the other tarps, what we found was some very wet ground. Once again I was unable to impose my timeline on the farm. I say that as a joke. Our transition from backyard gardening to a small scale farm has been quite a learning experience. I’ve found time and time again, that we can’t impose our timeline and our will on the farm. Instead we have to be flexible and understand that everything happens in due time.
Getting the Food Forest Ready for Spring
Our food forest area consists of a mulberry trees, elderberries, blackberries, raspberries and figs. There is also a hugelkultur mound at the edge. We started our food forest last year in a field with very established grass. The grass is good because it holds the soil in place but creates a few issues. The grass competes with the bushes and trees for resources. The grass also hides the drip irrigation lines and emitters, making it easy to hit with the lawnmower or weed eater. Keeping the grass cut in the immediate are around plants makes it easy to damage the plants if you get too close with the lawnmower or weed eater.
We spent the day putting down a biodegradable weed blocker. The weed blocker we use is a paper mulch from Chatham Farm Supply in Pittsboro, NC The weed blocker is manufactured by www.7springsfarm.com .
- cut out a piece of the 4 foot wide paper that is 4 feet long, then put a cut in the middle of the paper that allowed us to lay the paper down around the plant.
- Put down hay on top of that paper, so the hay is at least 1 foot deep, and do it quickly before the window blows the paper away
- Once the plants have paper and hay around them then cut sheets to cover the grassy area between the string of plants (along the trellis or the drop line)
- Cover those sheets of paper with hay.
We originally tried doing a long length of paper, but the wind kept that from working. Doing small pieces worked much better and were easier to manage on a windy day.
Important Note about Using Hay or Straw in your Garden
It is really important to make sure that before using hay or stray in your garden, you find out what chemicals were sprayed on the hay as it was growing. Some of the chemicals used in the production of hay (which is typically used for livestock food) are safe for live stock but may kill the plants in your garden. Some farmers assume that safe for livestock means safe for the garden, but often that isn’t the case.
What a busy few days. When it comes to homesteading there is always a lot to learn and share. We worked on the following:
- installed an anti-deer fence
- installed 15 elderberry plants with a biodegradable mat around them with hay on top
- planted 7 fig and 2 peach trees
- planted a lantana in the pollinator garden
- put down a 50′ x 100′ foot tarp in the vegetable garden area to solarize and help kill weeds before we plant in April
Thanks again to everyone who helped!
If you missed out on this one, join us this fall. Info soon at www.nchomestead experience
Getting a farm up and going has been a big project. Sometimes it seems like the world has gone crazy, but on the farm there is a peace and serenity. We’re getting ready for growing season and the plants don’t care about politics or ideology, they just want great soil, rain and sunshine. So after a day or working on the farm we get a break from all the covid and politics and it is wonderful.
This was a busy week. We used our new BCS tractor for the first time. That went well. It should be a great tool for use in the garden.
Putting in the Blackberry Trellis
Having another set of hands made things so much easier. I drove the t-posts in the ground while Connie and her sister put the wire up.
Using an A-Frame to Help Determine Fig Planting Locations
We are getting ready for our 2022 NC Homestead Experience. One of the tasks is to locate where the fig trees and elderberry plants go. I wanted to plan ahead with the locations so I can add swales. So I used an A frame level. It only took a few minutes to build it. This allowed me to place the trees at the same elevation line on the hill. Here is a great primer on a frames in permaculture
Parting thought – plant a garden!
My wife and I have this love / hate relationship dynamic with horseradish. We only eat a small amount of it, but we have several family members and friends that really like it. We mostly use it in Connie’s homemade cocktail sauce or on roast beef. Here is a chart showing the pros/cons with horseradish. This should help you decide if you want to grow it. My suggestion is to give it a try, just grow it in an area where you can mow around it to keep it contained where you want it. It will outgrow many garden plants, including asparagus – sorry Connie.
One strategy is to have enough plants that you can harvest about every 3 months. That way you can always have fresh horseradish on hand. The spring and summer harvests may not be as strong as the fall harvest but fresh still wins.
|Easy to Grow||Can be mildly invasive, best to grow it somewhere that you can mow around (easiest way to contain it, in my opinion)|
|Roots did deep in the soil, which is good to breakup soil||It can be invasive, so you need to make sure it doesn’t spread into unwanted parts of the garden|
|Very hardy||If it spreads into an unwanted area that you can’t mow then you have to week that area to control it|
|Deep roots help breakup soils to a depth of 1-2 feet||Have to dig deeply to remove the roots for processing. Takes time to eliminate from an area because of the roots you miss when digging the plant up to process|
|Tastes great in cocktail sauce or on roast beef. Stores about 3 months (refrigerated). Very easy to grow and you can dig it up any time to make more horseradish sauce||Limited uses. No way to preserve long term after processing (if there is, please let me know)|
|Easy to process||Can be time consuming to peel smaller roots|
|Can be harvested any time in the season||Best if harvested late in the season for best flavor, but not a requirement. Look for yellow leaves, usually after first frost.|
|Limited storage life after processing||Easy to store in the refrigerator|
|Plant pulls minerals from deep soil||None|
|Leaves are mineral laden and make great compost, just leave them where they fall||None|
|Leaves are great supplement for chickens – https://tinyurl.com/2p85yuuz||None|
Step 1 – Wash roots and peel
I washed them outside first (they can be pretty dirty). Then wash them again in the sink. Make sure to remove any dark veins. Use safety glasses and good ventilation to protect your eyes.
Step 2 – Chop the roots up so they fit in the food processor
Step 3 – Pulse in food processor until finely chopped but not mushy.
Wait at least 2 minutes before adding the vinegar. The longer you wait the hotter the horseradish will get.
Step 4 – Take one lb of horseradish and add 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of cold water. Add approximately 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (adjust to your taste preference
Step 5 – Pour into jars – we use smaller jars because most of the time the amount of horseradish used is fairly small. These are great Christmas presents.
Note – we’ve had limited success vacuum sealing the jars. I suspect that we would need to do the vacuum sealing process fairly slowly to avoid making a mess.
Lets take a few minutes and talk about how redefining words and can be dangerous to you and your family.
Hoarding is a term you often hear from people who refuse to prepare for the possibility of a disaster (natural or man made). Often those people think anyone who prepares for bad times is just a “hoarder”. Even saying that while state and federal government agencies encourage people to have two weeks supply of food and water.
Discernment and common sense are in short supply these days. Some people make fun who people who take steps to protect their family. Those same people often had parents who stored up food for the winter. Those people have determined that storing up food for the winter or bad times is something that rednecks and preppers do. They feel that the world is a more civilized place now and that isn’t needed. At the same time they are spending way more for groceries than they need, just because they don’t want to put effort into preserving food (and buying that food in season when it is much less expensive). Maybe they feel like its too much work. Who knows. But you at least suspect that you need to prepare for an increasingly unsure future in America because you are still reading.
Don’t let someone’s ignorance and normalcy bias dictate what you do.