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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Clean up, Santa is watching!

Getting ready for next year's spring growing season is already in motion. Small things may seem small, but always lead to time consuming pain-in-the-arse moments. One may think to one's self, "Ah, a rake and one hour shall do." No, not quite. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was unintentionally making my life more difficult than it needed to be.

For myself and my family, organic gardening means using everything we have at our disposal to provide nutritious and healthy soil for the plants to thrive on throughout the growing season. There is no right or wrong way, it is about doing the best you can with what you have, what you can afford, and what you learn. I find that I'm more creative when there are restrictions on what I can use and have discovered ideas for how to prepare and create food for my plants on a budget. My plan for this year is to start using the chicken manure compost that my chickens and I have been working on since last year. which you can see below. I did the scooping, they did the pooping!
Current - Composted for 6 months

The picture above is chicken manure with pine shavings, as I often use shavings to keep their coop dry. Pine shavings take a long time to decompose, so I started a second pile for just chicken poop and other compost material.

Winter is nature's way of saying, "Up yours." ~Robert Byrne

The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination. ~Terri Guillemets
The raked leaves will be another form of compost to add to the garden when the time comes. Compost provides balance to the pH of the soil and helps keep plants disease resistant. Last year I relied heavily on bagged compost from Home Depot and this year I hope to depend less on outside sources to fuel my garden. It is easy-peezy to make a leaf compost pile: stake four wooden posts in the ground and attach chicken wire around the outside to hold it together. Now for some color to this winter garden post!
Thyme still looks beautiful - smells great!
I read somewhere that you can bring bell pepper plants inside for the winter and replant them the following year. So I figured, there is nothing to lose given the cold would surely kill them. After two nights below freezing, I dug up the bell pepper plants and brought them inside. They lost all of their leaves and the upper stems turned brown and black. I thought, surely they won't survive. After trimming them and giving them some organic fertizlizer, I waited...and waited. "They are alive" <in my Frankenstein voice> "Muhaha." Hot damn, it worked! Plants are a metaphor for people facing challenges in life, as they show resilience and can survive and grow through life altering changes. I'm excited beyond measure given that my first planting of bell pepper seeds were a flop, and my second planting was so late in the season that I only got 5 bell peppers total between the two plants. As Robert Byrne said, "Up yours" I say to the freezing cold. So next year I plan on eating yummy bell peppers all season long.

Last but not least is my other prize from the growing season. The only other plant I found difficult to grow and keep alive was rosemary for some reason or another. This pretty plant is a perennial, so it should stay strong as long as it is fed compost and fertilizer on a regular basis. All that is left to do is set up the beds for spring. I'm still thinking about whether or not to use rocks as a border or wooden boards, but I'll know in good time.
Rosemary seedling to small plant - Success!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Video Tour of Our Family Garden

Welcome to my blog and video tour of my garden. I normally don't upload videos of my garden, but I thought this would be nice.

My biggest challenge
Today was an all out war on bugs. I brought out the big guns and no aphids were spared. My allies in this sweaty, stinky, and dirty chess game were ferocious and hungry chickens, homemade insecticide, cornmeal, and coffee grounds. I hope that our efforts were not in vain.
Looking for worms
Organic FTW!

Mixture of 1/2 coffee grounds and 1/2 cow manure
2 cups water, 1 TBSP vegetable oil,
1 tsp dish liquid. I added onion,
red pepper flakes, and garlic
before straining the solution. 
Eloise is doing the best she can...bless her heart.
This post is short because the video will take some time to watch. There is one thing that I found in my bush bean plant leaves that is worth a look as I have never seen one until today. It is called the squash lady beetle and was not hard to identify when googling "yellow bug."

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mount Kalemanjaro

Mount Kalemanjaro - Kitchen in Cartersville, GA - Highly Active

Facing no rest and irritability, I spent an entire night cleaning and freezing kale, squash, green beans, and kale stems. The anger that comes from washing, pulling bugs off of, cutting, blanching, labeling, and bagging has no boundaries. Basically it was awesome and awful at the same time. Bitter and beautiful like kale.
The seeds I sowed in the paper towel rolls are growing so well that I jumped to planting the zucchini seedlings in with the squash plants. The cardboard rolls will be the method of choice in the future. I haven't had much luck with the bell pepper seeds I planted. This is my second attempt and I must be doing something wrong, but I'll give it some time and see what happens.
Last weekend I pulled up potatoes and lettuce that reached its end to replaced it with a direct sowing of kale, turnips, salad greens, bush beans, rhubarb, snow peas, and cauliflower. This may be old hat for some, but for me this is all new so I'll mention it, but I strongly suggest adding compost to your beds before you sow seeds again. I used some compost I had been working on since early spring and it saved me around 25 to 50 bucks. As of now, everything is growing and enjoying the sunshine and the rain. Two weeks ago, weather reports suggested a good chance of rain, but instead we got high humidity and heat. This past week has been optimally suited for germination and the seeds reaped the benefits of the balanced weather conditions.
I love pets that pay rent. Why am I saying this? We finally have eggs!! I felt so happy I could fly. I wonder if chickens ever feel that way? They do fly, but not... really well. However, their bug catching capabilities are unmatched. I can watch chickens for hours while they congregate around me and chase fireflies. 
I'm not sure what Ellouise is doing, but she sure ain't making any eggs. I'm beginning to think she is my trophy hen and that her rent is paid by looking pretty. I hope she gets to working because I'm standing a little bit closer to the deep fryer. Ok, yall know I'm not going to do anything to Ellouise because she is my baby girl. She stands with elegance and a raised beak. I even feel a little guilty for making the previous comment about the deep fryer. "I'm in love with a chicken!"
Rosemary has finally started to grow! It is slowly getting ready for planting in the herb garden. I can't wait to add this plant to my collection. So far I have chocolate mint, garlic chives, chives, lavender, basil, thyme, parsley, cilantro (coriander), a tiny dill plant, and oregano. Things couldn't be better in the herb sanctuary. I have chamomile growing too which can be used for herbal teas along with mint. 
After a failed attempt to dry herbs inside of the screened-in patio, I am now giving it another whirl. This time I'm going to take all precautions and use the inside of a dark closet which can be supplied with air flow from a ceiling fan as needed. I think my first attempt had too much exposure to natural light outside which in turn made the leaves lose their color or turn brown.

As usual, I have more things to share and would rather not bore you to death with my words any further so here are the pictures that tell the rest of what is happening on the backyard battlefront.

Corn! Hope I didn't get too late of a start.
Fuzzy Wuzzy...still alive...yes.
Much cuter than Fuzzy Wuzzy.
Carrying the loot.
Chickens panting on a hot day. No joke, they pant!
"Hello Mother! Please water my plants."
Happy thoughts...
Cluster of pure joy
Marigolds have bloomed
Butterfly Bush
First tomato from a caged volunteer plant.
Fully digested by now.
Different variety of marigold
Pulled the squash plants up off
of the ground and tied them to
the bamboo fort. 
Cucumbers are beautiful and growing like crazy!
Not as pretty, but more efficient use of space.
Also good for preventing easy access for bugs.
Overview of the Garden as a whole

Monday, June 23, 2014

Phase II is Operational

Before I started phase II in the garden, I went on vacation and came back to ungodly amounts of summer squash. Maybe I should take another trip! To be honest, it was a bit stressful being five hours away and knowing that the anticipated rain was a no show. In the past few days, the green bean and squash production has slowed down. The honeymoon feelings have worn off and I blame the heat and humidity. I keep telling myself, "Much to learn, you still have." -Yoda
To start things off today, I became captive to my chickens patrolling the outskirts of the garden for bugs and leafy bits. They seem to be learning how to catch bugs better each day. I am guilty of hand feeding them protein snacks from the garden. Sometimes they wait for me to throw a bug. I might be enabling these chickens...ruh roh!
I pulled up three beds that contained weeds, lettuces, potatoes, and onions that didn't quite make the cut. The potatoes were awesomely huge and better looking than the first half I pulled up. I plan on buying some sweet potato seedlings once I can make it to the store.

Before planting seeds, I cleaned up the beds and added compost that had been brewing since I started the garden project. The heat and humidity really takes the fun out of gardening. On a more positive note, I have planted some new things!!! Feels like Christmas every time I buy seeds, plant seeds, and see them pop up out of the ground. If am I honest, I enjoy harvesting and eating less because I enjoy seeing them grow more than anything else in the world. Gotta eat though too!
I was out past dark sowing the seeds, repositioning the soaker hoses, and running the water. With beds ready for planting, I was on a mission. I was not alone out there as I had what felt like a swarm of mosquitoes taunting me, buzzing my ear, and biting my arms.
So I planted more delicious and beautiful kale, turnips, salad greens, bush beans, and rhubarb (variety of colors). I also planted cauliflower in my keyhole garden which has turned out great.
I am trying out plastic mulch with some corn that I plan on sowing this week. From what I have read and observed, you bury the sides of the sheet with dirt and it becomes water efficient and weedless. I am improvising with some white trash bags and I can't wait to see the finished results once the corn gets growing. I am exploring the different options we have when growing vegetables and I'm trying to grow smarter based on what I have read and seen so far. My hands-on experience has proved that mulching has been the best method yet when it comes to weed control. However, I have grown fearful of using straw or hay as they seem to create a lot of their own undesirable growth. 
To wrap things up I will use pictures to give the run down on how things are going on our family food factory. 
Drying our own herbs
Beautiful cucumbers
Kale still thriving and ready for second harvest.
Favorite vegetable so far.
Hello Beautiful Sunflowers!
Happy bees moving from one to another.
Do marigolds get 2 to 3 feet high? I'm surprised.
Must not have read the package.
Herb garden showing off
Put the mint plants in pots to prevent them
from taking over the garden.
Chives look and taste great!
Strawberry rows taken over by weeds and grass.
Least favorite part of the garden at the moment.
Each tomato plant has green tomatoes. Not
sure I can wait much longer. It is killing me...
all I want is a tomato sliced with crispy toast
and melted cheese on top....Why me???
Sowed bell peppers, chamomile, oregano,
and zucchini using toilet paper rolls.