Hexemaus Farms

Adventures in Homesteading

Hexemaus Farms - Adventures in Homesteading

Growing & Using Radishes

Growing vegetables, heck, even growing houseplants, is not something with which I have much experience compared to my farming-for-generations neighbors. In fact, there was a time when friends would laugh me off my front porch if I brought up the idea of me growing anything. I was, perhaps, best known for my black thumb.

That is, you see, until I actually put some effort into learning what I didn’t know. By far, the best teacher has been experimentation. Just throw some seeds in the ground and see what they do. Seriously.

Last year, we started with just a little 20 foot by 20 foot garden to do just that – throw some stuff in the ground and see what happens. Some stuff did well, others didn’t. Frogs made homes out of my corn stalks. Birds picked apart my onions. Ants made highways out of my watermelons. But, my tomatoes and basil plants ran like gangbusters. My sugar snap peas and cucumbers took on a whole life of their own.

This year, we decided to go big or go home. I ordered more than $300 worth of seeds and plotted out an ambitious 5,000 square feet of gardening heaven (or hell, depending on how prolific the weeds are growing this week.) So far, we’ve planted radishes, four types of lettuce, yellow onions, carrots, turnips, cucumbers, 20 tomato plants, two types of basil, spinach, broccoli, kidney beans, zucchini squash, corn, and sugar snap peas.

We’ve also planted some lemon grass, some apple mint, some peppermint, asparagus, strawberries, grapes, chives and leeks. Oh, and did I mention, we built a greenhouse for herbs, seed starts and to house tender plants over the winter?

Sound ambitious for a true novice? You betcha…but like I said, it’s go big or go home this year. And I haven’t even mentioned the bell and jalapeno peppers, the watermelon, cantaloupe, and shelling peas we have yet to get in the ground. Or all the spearmint, lemon verbena, dill weed, chamomile, and various other herbs still going in the greenhouse.

We’ve already harvested our first crop of the year, too. I put in about a half dozen 12 foot rows of radishes back in early March. Those are now all harvested and the bare spot waiting for another shipment of seeds for Round 2. In the meantime, I have a few jars of pickled radishes and a few pounds of fresh whole radishes slowly dwindling away with every dinner salad.

Last year’s radishes bolted straight to seed because I planted them too late and again, Mother Nature brought the heat a little too early. This year, the radishes actually grew well! Really well, in fact. As such, I learned a few things to keep in mind for the next crop.

See what happens when you don't hill your radish crowns?

  • Don’t mulch over the radishes. While this does keep the weeds down, it can also trap heat. Radishes are a cool weather crop – they don’t care much for heat.
  • As the plants mature, push dirt back up around any red that pokes up above the surface. This helps the radishes keep their round shape. If you see red crowns popping up, the radish will elongate if you don’t keep dirt hilled over it.
  • Make sure to thin young seedlings early and often, before the leaves get big enough to cover stragglers. If you miss any and they grow too close, you won’t get a radish, you’ll get long spindly roots you can’t use. Your rabbits will love you for the scraps, but your salads will be radishless.

Once you harvest your radishes, there are a few options for preserving them, if you have more than you can use. You can dehydrate them and eat them as chips, or you can pickle them and keep them in the fridge. A word of warning if you choose the refrigerator pickle option – hold your nose when you open them. The odor is pretty…um…strong – yeah, we’ll go with that one – strong.

Here’s the recipe I used. Each “batch” makes 1 pint jar of pickled radishes.

Refrigerator Pickled Radishes

2 dozen radishes, sliced

1 cup cider vinegar (white vinegar will work, too)

1 cup sugar

1 tbsp mustard seed

½ tsp celery seed

2 tsp dill weed

***you can substitute 2 tbsp pickling spice for the listed seasonings, if that’s what you have***

Warm sugar, vinegar and spices just enough to melt the sugar. You don’t have to boil it, just warm it enough to get the sugar melted and mixed in well.

Fill a sterilized canning jar 2/3 full with sliced radishes. Pour warm vinegar/sugar mixture over the radishes, leaving ½ inch headspace. Put the cap on and shake the jar gently. So long as the vinegar mixture isn’t too warm, you can put it right into the fridge.

Once a day for the first few days, take the jar out of the fridge and shake it gently to redistribute the spices. It takes 48-72 hours for the radishes to really pickle well. The vinegar will pull the red out of the radish skins and turn everything a soft pink. And, the longer the radishes sit in the fridge, the more mellow they get.

Pickled radishes are great as a small side dish (think cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving) or as a topping on salads. If you put them on salads, keep in mind the vinegar will sour dairy-based dressings. Go with an Italian dressing or some kind of vinaigrette. My favorite partner in crime loves them with raspberry walnut vinaigrette. Just remember…the jar will have a powerful odor, so you might want to open the jar in the kitchen and put some in a small dish, before bringing them to the table.

Wild Berry Pickin’ Time in Georgia!

We’ve had some record-breaking warm weather this Spring – darn near hit 90 degrees before the first week of April was done! After an unusually warm winter, that means everything is coming into season early…including berries.

Wild blackberry canes

While we’ve pretty much been garden slaves over the last couple of months…tilling, raking, planning, calculating, and of course, planting, we have managed to steal away a few free moments here & there. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, we took the time to kind of wander the property around the house a bit…just looking around for no real reason. Lo and behold, the side property (about 4-5 acres) is full of wild blackberry bushes! We’re talking hundreds, if not thousands of square feet of wild blackberries!


Along the back property line behind the house, we even found (what we thought) were some ripening blackberries. Little red berries dotted the overgrown grass, punctuated by the occasional beady little black colored berry. Over the course of a couple of days, we managed to pick a couple of quarts of these lovely little black berries – tossing a few into pancakes, eating some right off the vine, and digging up recipes for fresh wild berries.

I noticed that we seemed to have two different types of blackberries – and even pointed out the differences between the two plants to my favorite partner in crime. Not knowing much about foraging for wild berries myself, and having no pocket reference something or other conveniently stuck in a hip pocket, we concluded that perhaps we simply had two different types of wild blackberries. At least, that is, until I had some free time to hit up Google and do some digging.

Wild dewberries in our backyard

After researching wild berries and looking at hundreds of pictures – I found the answer. Sure enough…they’re two different plants. We have dewberries, which are, in fact, very close relatives to blackberries. These lovely little delights grown on vines, close to the ground. That’s what we’ve been picking the last few days.

They’re nearly indistinguishable from blackberries, except for the actual characteristics of the plant itself. Same white flowers, same green to red to black berries, even the same sweet-tart flavor. The difference is, these have red hairy vines and like to stick really, really close to the ground. (Watch those hairy vines…they’re really hair-like stickers you don’t notice until you brush your hand on something else and feel the sting of all those hairs stuck in your skin!)

We also have true wild blackberries – they grow upright on canes. Ours are somewhere between a foot and 3 feet tall. Some are just single “stalks” covered in green leaves and berries. Others (I assume more mature plants) are more bush-like.

Dewberries normally ripen in Georgia around late May or early June. Blackberries take another month or so. With our unusually warm winter and very warm spring, the dewberries seem to be coming in a few weeks early. They’re everywhere – both the dewberries and the blackberries.

Our dewberries seem to prefer the edges of the woods and small clearings between trees. They also seem to like the same kind of spots as honeysuckle, as the two seem to be frequent neighbors on our property. The blackberries, on the other hand, seem to like the wide open space of our side property. They do, however, seem to like the dips in the property, rather than the higher spots.

What I’m most excited about is taking these wonderful berries to market in a few days! We’ve made jams, fruit leathers, purple pancakes, muffins and all sorts of wonderful yummies for the house. Now, however, it’s time to share them with the rest of the world. We’re going to our first public market this coming weekend. Yippee!

For those of you in the CSRA, we’ll be at the Benderdinker in Evans on Saturday the 28th. The following Saturday, we’ll be Diggin’ the River at the Augusta Market on Riverwalk. If you can’t come see us in person, be sure to check out Augusta Locally Grown…we’ll be offering our farm wares there over the coming weeks. Pick ups are every Tuesday – your choice of Evans or downtown.

Hope to see lots of you there!

Oh…and stay tuned to the blog…we have exciting changes coming here, too! Wait ‘til you see the new farm logo I threw together. :D

Been Awhile…Missed You Guys!

So I’m finally home and settled back into normal farm routines. Figures, just in time to split wood and winterize the place. But, this is the time of year I love the most. :D

What happened since the last time I posted? Well, a lot. But the only thing that really bears repeating is I have a NEW GRANDSON!! He is so stinkin’ cute, it’s not even funny. See…look for yourself:

His name is Korbyn William Alan Conger. He was born on October 9th, 7lbs 14.25 oz, and less than 24 hours after his father landed. Jody got in from Afghanistan for his R&R late Saturday night. Roxie went into labor (again) Sunday morning, and by Sunday evening, little Mr. Korbyn made his appearance.

I left to come back to the farm the day they all came home from the hospital. I was surprised to arrive and find flowers from a dear friend waiting for me. That got me to thinking, actually. I’ve had several friends become grandparents in the last few weeks. I wish I had been un-busy enough to think to send flowers to everyone. (Sorry guys – you know I love you and if I hadn’t been busy with my own grand youngin’, I woulda sent ya somethin’.) Although, truthfully, one of my recent grandma buddies actually lives in England.

I mentioned to a writing colleague of mine that I guess it was a good thing I didn’t start sending flowers, as I have no clue if you can even send flowers internationally like you can in the states. It wouldn’t have been fair to send flowers to some and not the other, right?

I know you can find companies that do gift baskets and such, and most will ship overseas to certain areas. (There are limits as to where you can send things, and some places don’t let you send perishable stuff – are flowers considered perishable? It’s not like someone is going to toss up a salad out of the flowers you send, right?) So just to answer my own curiosity, I went looking. I’ve never sent flowers internationally, so I didn’t know if you could.

Well now I’m happy to say that I know. Yes, you can send flowers internationally. There are companies like Serenata Flowers that can arrange international flower delivery. Since my fellow grandma buddy lives in the UK, I could have even gotten same day flowers through Serenata – not that knowing that does me much good NOW. But at least now I know it’s possible. I browsed around their site (you can opt to have flowers delivered locally here in the States, too – even though Serenata is UK-based) and I couldn’t find information about their green practices. However, they do have a sister site that does plant delivery, for those of us who would rather send something that will live on.

In other farm news, I’m browsing around my local area to find some gardening classes. The fall garden has done horribly, although some of that might be due to Josh snacking in the garden constantly…and forgetting to water it while I was gone for nearly 3 weeks. I know places like Rutgers have classes for the home gardener, so I’m trying to see if one of our local universities has something similar. Perhaps there’s something I’m missing to get a big harvest (other than not being home for so long.)

I do know I need more space for the Spring garden. That’s part of our problem with harvest size. The little side garden just isn’t big enough to plant much. However, I want to find some community gardening classes so I can learn what I don’t know before spring gets here. The plan is to replant the little side garden so Josh stays out of the big garden. We’ve started referring to it as the Snack Garden. lol. But I really want to get enough out of next spring’s garden to start tinkering with canning. I love the idea of a pantry lined with garden goodies for winter. It would be nice, now that the cold weather is setting in, to be able to grab some tomatoe paste from the pantry to make a big ol’ pot of chili. :(


Busy, busy, busy…stay tuned

Wow, has it really been six weeks since I updated the blog? Gee, time sure does fly when you have hens layin’ and a garden bubbling over! I can’t believe we’re already heading into the Halloween season. Didn’t I just post about spring gardening stuff??

Let’s start with some quick updates…

The garage-turned-barn project – It’s going to take more than we thought to convert the garage over completely. Starting with the front wall – it’s nowhere near hoofproof. The normally-would-be-fine 2×4 stud wall just would never hold up to a few good kicks from a bored draft pony or an irritated don’t-you-have-a-clue-what-you’re-doing milk cow. So until Spring, the chickens have taken over the barn. We have nesting boxes mounted on the wall, but the girls seem to all favor just one or two nests. They have run of the yard during the day, but get closed into the garage-turned-henhouse-til-Spring in the evenings.

The Great Chicken Adventure – We lost a hen last week to a overzealous puppy. Chasing is soooo much fun to a young dog, but what do you do when you finally catch one of those birds? Well, you try to play with it and when it stops playing, there’s always eating it to fall back on. *shudder* Not a fun morning. As for our final head count, turns out we have four roosters in our midst…can you say bar-b-que? :D The remaining five hens have all started laying, although one or two of them aren’t consistent yet. Last week, we were averaging three eggs a day. This week we’re up to four. I haven’t bought eggs in a month & have sent a few over to my inlaws. I’m lovin’ having farm fresh stuffs…it’s so damn cool. :D :D

The garden – Our early summer cucumbers are producing more now, even with wilting vines and browning leaves, than they did during the summer. The new fall vines are working their way up the fenceline. The sugar snap peas have barely reached halfway up the little climbing fence we made for them (less than 3 feet tall) but they’re poppin’ out hulls all over the place. The limas are eeking out a little here and there. I had planned on pulling up the watermelon vines to make way for lettuces and such, until I went outside a week ago to find a half dozen watermelons slowly plumping up. Guess we’ll leave those a little longer. The fall corn is about 3 feet high and sprouting those little brown cat tail-ish tops.

Funny thing with the garden? I haven’t been able to bring in the first pea, cucumber, bean…or anything else for that matter in weeks. Josh keeps walking by me, mumbling something about having the munchies, and next thing you know? Everything in the garden is picked clean! He stands in the middle of the garden munching out on anything even close to being ripe. He does it every morning. I may not have anything to cook or can, but at least I know my boy’s eatin’ good, even if he doesn’t save anything for the rest of us.

We have a variety of other little projects moving along…working on the wiring for my office, fixing little odds and ends that bust before I can get to this project or that, and testing out ideas for other projects. Josh and Mike are itching to get started on wood splitting chores for the winter. Josh fired up the bench grinder and sharpened everything with a hint of an edge on it. He’s wanting to chop stuff, just so he can have something else to sharpen. Who woulda thought a Porter Cable bench grinder would be the perfect Christmas gift for a 16 year old? But Mom & Dad sure hit the mark with that one last year!

I leave for the first leg of my New York trip in just a few days. Going to see the oldest for a week, then back again in a few weeks after the grandbaby’s born. After three granddaughters in three years, I’m ready to buy some cute little baby boy stuff. Korbyn William Alan Conger is due the middle of October…and all us grandmas and great grandmas are getting excited!!

With chicken chores, attempting to beat a teenager to the garden so I can actually harvest something, trips to New York, and everything else going on in the next few weeks, I don’t expect to have much time for the farm blog. However, I’ll post as soon as I get out from under, well, a few things…something…anything. I’d really like to finish SOMETHING this month. :D

If we don’t see you before then, enjoy your Halloween or Fall Festival – whichever suits your fancy!

It’s Blog Jog Day! Welcome Everyone…

Welcome to Blog Jog Day! Glad you could stop by and visit for a lil’ while. Welcome to our little patch o’ heaven online, Hexemaus Farms. Pardon the construction debris and watch out for the chicken poop. If you can make it to the front door without muddy paw prints on your good slacks, we’ve got ice cold sweet tea waitin’ on the porch for ya!

So what is Hexemaus Farms? Well, ya ever wonder what it’s like to live on a farm? Ever think to yourself what an adventure it might be to cash in your city livin’ chips and head out to the boonies to live a greener, more self-sufficient lifestyle? Well, our family did just that! We chronicle our adventures here on the farm blog – from learning how to raise chickens to remodeling the garage into a 2-stall barn, from gutting the house down to the bare studs to growing our first vegetable garden. It’s all shared here on the blog – warts, dirty fingernails and all.

Please enjoy your stay here at Hexemaus Farms, then click over to VHP Author Blog to see what the next Blog has to offer! Lost in the links? You can always go back to the main Blog Jog Day Blog at http://blogjogday..blogspot.com and find a new link to jog from. Thank you for stopping by my site!

The Girls vs. The Bitches

Back a few weeks ago, I bought four more hens from a guy over in Augusta. He had Buff Orpingtons not quite old enough to start laying yet. Now that we’ve had the Australorp and Rhode Island Reds for a couple of months, I realized how cool it is to have chickens around the farm and well, I’m hooked. I wanted more.

Over the last couple of weeks, it’s been interesting to watch these 4 new, much larger hens interact with our existing hens & two roosters. The first couple of days, our hens pecked at and pestered the new gals. Nevermind that the Buffs are twice the size of the others. I guess hens and roosters are territorial just like cats & dogs. They don’t always take kindly to new additions. 

It’s been an entertaining and enlightening development. The roosters don’t seem interested in the new, fluffy girls. No, they prefer their slender, stylish hens. I swear, it’s like watching kids in high school. Our chickens are the jocks & cheerleaders. The Buffs are the square peg girls. Although, truth be told, they don’t seem to mind not getting the attention of the cool kids.

We’ve taken to referring to our hens as The Bitches. They’re hard to catch when it’s time to come in for the night. They’re rather witchy and like to peck. Truly, they’re ungrateful little wenches. I’ve raised them from chicks, for cryin in the mud! Red, the Rhode Island Red rooster is a particular bastard…chasing after me to peck my bare feet. He grabs the hens by their beaks, I swear just to hear them squaulk. And the hens aren’t much better in terms of temperament.

Our chickens would rather hang out in the construction area that has become the garage, rather than wander around outside in the heat. They really are a bunch of stuck up, we’re-too-good-for-that-nonsense birds. Kind of comical to watch, actually.

The Buffs, on the other hand, we’ve taken to calling The Girls. They’re much more docile and easier to catch. They LOVE being out in the yard all day, just wandering around and scratching for yummies. Play your cards right, and they’ll wander back into the henhouse all on their own if you just show them you’re tossing down feed.

I tell ya, if you need a good day’s entertainment, just watch a flock of chickens. I swear, these guys are more like people than most people realize. They have cliques and attitudes just like a bunch of teenagers.

When I do get more hens (hopefully in the next few weeks) I plan to get more Buffs. They’re just more pleasant chickens to have around. I swear, these guys remind me of Miss Prissy and the witchy hens from the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons. Makes me want to find a bunch of little blue bonnets for my Buffs. :D

You’re Doing WHAT With Your Garage?!?

It’s all Mother Earth News’ fault. Really. They planted the seed of an idea that I’m sure has my mother nearly ready to faint at the thought. Further evidence that perhaps I shouldn’t read so much…it gives me funny ideas. ;)

What am I babbling about? Why, turning my garage into a livestock barn, of course. What else would I be referring to? Doesn’t everyone do that nowadays? Just look at what the boys and I have already done in just a single day of work: (just a few hours before, there was a musty, crusty old sheetrock ceiling up there.)

See, it all started with this Mother Earth News article on one acre homesteads. It was a reprint from John Seymour’s book The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It. The article piqued my interest because it laid out an easy plan for farming on a one acre plot, including having a family cow, chickens, pigs, orchards, and a garden. It broke things down just the way I needed – how to divide up your property, how to rotate various growing sections, etc.

I went out this past weekend and bought the book. Man, why didn’t I find this sooner? But I digress…

One of the illustrations from the book was reprinted in Mother Earth News. In looking at the setup, I noticed they had a cow shed attached to the house, next to a tool shed and greenhouse. My brain started working on ideas.

There’s no way I can get the barn I want built until we finish the house itself. As tempting as it is, the idea of building a big six stall barn with a huge breezeway down the middle for my truck & a horse/cattle trailer is just not practical when we still don’t have a stove, outlets in the kitchen, lights in the dining room, etc. And then there’s that whole we-need-a-fence-first problem.

But…I have a garage that we closed in the year we got the house. The front wall (where the garage doors used to be) is still waiting for siding – showing bare OSB and big raw window openings to all who pull in the driveway. Originally, it was to be a guest bed & bath…that is, until we ran into problems with where we need/want to put the new septic system to accommodate another bathroom to current building standards. (The old system is dying, but that spot only has a 12″ drop – codes call for a minimum 15″ drop for the size system we’ll need.)

In looking at the article in M.E.N., and after further reading in the book, I came up with a temporary solution to the need a barn/have no fencing/but the house isn’t finished yet problem. We’re going to convert the garage into a 2 stall barn with an indoor chicken coop. I have the space. The windows for good ventilation are already there on 3 out of 4 sides. It’s a concrete floor.

All we have to do is widen the exit door, pull down the crumbling sheetrock ceilings (to expose the upper rafters & get more ventilation) and frame in the stalls/coop.

It won’t be a permenant solution, as I’ll eventually need more space/stalls. However, it does allow us to get a family cow and a small draft pony for now. That could seriously move things along. Seymour’s book even describes tethering single unit livestock, so we could get around the need for fencing for awhile. Since the chickens are now freeranging all day, they’d only be in the coop at night – further cutting down on the possible bad smell quotient.

When I mentioned to my mother what we were doing, I swear I could hear her citified heart fluttering through the phone.

“Won’t the smell get into the house that way?” She asks.

Um, Mom, barns only stink if you don’t keep ‘em clean. Otherwise, they have a wonderful earthy smell. Personally? I’d rather spend all day in a barn with hay crunching under my feet. Besides, the walls in my house are darn near a foot thick in some places. The house originally had 1×6 siding on the outside, over which they laid brick walls – adding on the garage later. Add insulation between the interior studs, thick plaster & lathe walls in the dining room…and I swear, you could explode dynamite in the garage without hearing it in the dining room. I don’t think smell is going to be a problem…really.

The worst thing that could happen is the project is an absolute disaster, I rue the day I ever read the article, and have a really pressing desire to get the house finished so we can build the big barn. The garage could be completely demolished in the process and I wouldn’t really freak over it. Space is not something we’re lacking in any way, shape, or form and to be honest? I hate the way the garage looks anyway. I might just tear it down after the barn is built anyway.

In the meantime, it offers a solution to move things along around here (oh, the things I could do if we just had ONE draft pony) as well as a treasure trove of good aged timbers we can pull out now that the ceiling is an unecessary obstacle. Check out all these aged 2x6s that did absolutely NOTHING but hold up the ceiling. (There are already cross supports up in the peek of the roof.) I think the only reason they used 2x6s was to lay down scrap flooring for storage purposes – which we’ll also find a use for at some point.

So, what do you think? Would you turn your garage into a barn if you had the option? Am I crazy for this idea? Nevermind, don’t answer that. I probably don’t have all my marbles in the same bag…but that doesn’t mean it won’t work or that we shouldn’t try. The world won’t end if it turns into a disaster.

The Almost-Failed Living Fences Experiment

Just the other day, I was reading one of my favorite homesteading blogs, NorthWest Edible Life. Erica posted about Being Everyone – drooling over the pretty close up pictures and seemingly no-fail efforts of other homesteaders and green livers. I can soooo relate. I read other blogs, then look at my wilting cucumber vines, missing walls, and garage siding that’s been waiting for almost 2 years to get finished, and think “I suck at this homesteading thing.”

Our living fences experiment is one of those projects that really, really makes me wonder if I can actually do this homesteading thing. After all, we’re talking about a woman who, just a few years ago, couldn’t keep houseplants alive. I haven’t updated our experiment because, well…I thought I had completely bumbled the project.

I planted six osage orange trees along the outside line of my garden fence. Of the six, only a few ever came out of dormancy. No big deal, right? I followed the directions from the nursery to a “t.” No big deal if all of them didn’t wake up – especially since we weren’t even sure the trees would grow in a hot, humid southern climate. I counted myself lucky that any of them started sprouting. That is, until the cat, a few bees, and my teenagers came along.

I realized my first mistake was not properly mulching around the plants when I put them in. First, the cat mistook the bare dirt circles as a wonderful gesture on the part of her humans to offer outdoor litter boxes. Oreo, that beloved pain in the neck feline o’ mine caused one little struggling sapling to turn brown and wither. Hmm…knock out one of the few plants that woke up from dormancy. Apparently, osage orange plants aren’t cat pee-hardy.

My no-mulch failure was further evidenced by the grass and weeds that almost immediately started to battle my little horseapple babies for the same space. Bermuda grass almost immediately grew back over the little bare dirt wells around each tree. I tried in vain to pull the stuff up, turn the dirt over, anything I could think of, short of spraying something that could potentially damage my little plants – no luck. Eventually, I ceded the battle and resigned myself to simply weedeating around the trees, to keep the boys from accidentally mowing over my living fence protigies.

Enter the bees and said teenage boys. I was weedeating around the trees and fence line one day earlier this summer. I was being sooo careful to make sure I kept clear of the tender little sprouts. Just as one of the boys called out “Mom!” in typically ill-timed teenagease, I spotted a yellow jacket buzzing around in front of me. Whether it was the boy’s call, the sight of my arch nemesis (I’m deathly allergic to bees stings) who knows? But the end result was a jerk and a jump – naturally, in just the right direction to chop down not one, but TWO of my three remaining bare root tree babies.

I nearly cried. I felt like a homesteading idiot. If I had paid more attention, done more reading, had a clue what I was doing, I wouldn’t have needed to get a weedeater anywhere near my little darlings. This is where Erica’s post struck a chord the other day. I have done that “I suck compared to everyone else” guilt trip on myself – and those horseapple trees are but one shining example.


There is hope, even for us less-than-perfect, unworthy, no pretty close-up picture type homesteaders. Sometimes, Mother Nature has her own way of counter-acting us bumblers.

I walked outside yesterday to snap a few pictures around the farm – mostly to document our garage-soon-to-be-barn project. (More on that later this week.) I’ve had to support my ONE remaining osage orange/horseapple tree with a brick, since it seems determined to grow at a weird angle. I was adjusting the brick and checking to make sure it wasn’t rubbing the tender bark off, when I spotted leaves peeking out of the well next to my solitary survivor. Little tiny green leaves, sticking up from one of the once-thought-slaughtered saplings.

Holy kaw! You mean it didn’t die after all? So I checked the next one…OMG! It was sprouting a bunch of little leaves. I checked the next well…more little leaves! Even one of the bare roots I thought didn’t wake up (and intentionally lopped off with the weedeater) was sprouting leaves!! Hot damn! The little buggars are comin’ back – in spite of my murderous slip of the weedeater!

Woo hoo! Granted, these little guys are barely more than 2 inches tall (compared to almost 2 feet tall for the formerly sole survivor) but I don’t care. They’re alive! Maybe, just maybe, I’m doing something right after all. Or at least, not terribly wrong to the point that Mother Nature can’t fix it. ;)

So, while I’ll still drool over Erica’s fruit trees, and fluffy leafy veggies, I don’t feel quite so much like a failure…today. Tomorrow, well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

I Just Spent HOW MUCH On Fall Seeds???

Well, now I’ve gone and done it. I spent a small fortune on seeds for the fall garden. We may not have utilities next month, but I’ll have PLENTY of stuff started for cool weather crops. Oh well. Electricity is overrated anyway. :D

On the agenda for fall…

I’ve already started some radishes, some iceburg lettuce, and some carrots in cups indoors. I’m gonna try my hand at container gardening inside for some of the stuff this year’s heat and drought burned up. I figure one of two things will happen – I’ll have plenty of stuff for salads in a few weeks…or I’ll have a ton of cups full of dead plants. Worse things could happen, right?

Most of the seeds have sprouted, thanks to a quickly rigged grow light over the Rubbermaid bin. For the first time this year (after 3 attempts already) I finally got some carrots to sprout. Cross your fingers they do more than just peek out of the seedling cups.

Now as for the astronomical amount I just spent on more seeds…all I can say is those folks at Johnny Seeds better have nothing but nice things to say about me. :) Even getting a bunch of seeds on sale for $1, I still spent $100 on nothing but seeds. No fertilizer. No seed trays. No garden soil. No nifty little gardening tools. Just seeds. Lots and lots of seeds.

So, what are we planting for the fall garden? Well, straight from my Johnny Seeds receipt, we have:

  1. Baby bunching leeks
  2. Smooth leaf spinach
  3. Arugula
  4. A winter density pack of Romaine & assorted other salad greens
  5. Indigo radicchio
  6. Endive
  7. Escarole
  8. Arcadia hybrid broccoli
  9. Hercules carrots
  10. Cherriette radishes
  11. Celery
  12. Candy onions
  13. Sugar snap peas
  14. Bicolor late season corn
  15. Diva cucumbers
  16. Buttercrunch bibb lettuce
  17. Chinese leeks (chives)
  18. Stiffneck (Ajo Rojo) garlic – won’t ship til September or November
  19. Sage
  20. Creeping Thyme

So, a few more herbs to add to my already-exploding herb garden, a bunch of lettuces/chicory/salad greens, some good late season veggies, and stuff that I’ll mulch over for the winter & harvest in spring.

I can’t wait! As a matter of fact, some of these I’ll have to start the day the seeds arrive, and even then I’ll be a little behind. According to our climate zone, I should’ve already started the leeks & the celery. I should be starting the broccoli, radicchio, and the peas this week. I think everything else can wait a bit. I think. I hope.

I should have everything (except the garlic) in the ground by the first week of September. That’s a good thing. Come September, my trees from the Arbor Day Foundation should arrive. Did you know that if you become a member of the Arbor Day Foundation, they send you 10 free trees? For a $15 yearly membership, that works out to $1.50 a tree. Not bad! I opted for the flowering variety for my zone. They’ll ship in time for fall planting. I’m thinking I’ll plant them along the driveway so that in a few years, we’ll have a nice row of flowering trees as we pull into the drive.

The other cool thing about joining the Arbor Day Foundation, and the actual reason why I signed on, I can get my fruit trees, living fence trees, and other tree stuff for around half what it would cost elsewhere. I was pricing honey locusts for our living fence project. For 3-5′ trees, everyone else wanted an average of $10. My member price through the folks at Arbor Day is around $5, with free shipping no less! Can’t go wrong there. And besides, my dues help pay for some of their educational programs, so I can feel good about tossin’ my hard-earned greenbacks their way. Always a good thing.

So what about you? Are you braving a fall garden? Whatcha plannin’ on plantin’, if you don’t mind my asking?

Anyone in the southeastern part of the US care to share tips/ideas/suggestions for our fall garden? If so, I’m all ears!

The Best Pesto Recipe for Fresh Basil

I love to cook. There’s just something creative about the cooking process that appeals to me. Now, if you ask my boys, they’ll say I never cook. My response is simply “independent living skills.” (They’re old enough to fend for themselves – and it’s a skill they should have, lest their future wives be forced to teach them how to be grown ups.)

While I don’t like “having” to cook every day (after cooking 3 meals a day for nearly 20 years, burn out is inevitable,) I do enjoy cooking for fun, on my terms, when I want to do it.

This past weekend, I harvested a boatload of herbs from the garden. I’ve got oregano, parsley and rosemary drying in the kitchen window. My basil plants, however, have taken over and are exploding through the garden fencing. I cut them way, way back to encourage bushier growth and to give myself a little break from daily flower pruning. As such, I wound up with a grocery bag full of fresh basil leaves. (And that was AFTER trimming away all the stems and sickly-looking leaves!)

Image courtesy Flickr user thebittenword, release under Creative Commons License

Sunday dinner was a lovely roasted chicken, some homemade mac & cheese, baby limas, fresh bread, and a divine pesto dip. I love pesto. Toss it in pasta. Dip fresh crusty bread in it. Sprinkle it on salad. Spread it on chicken. You name it, I’ll probably put pesto on it.

I thought I might share my favorite pesto recipe. Forgive my less-than-exacting measurements, but I’m one of those cooks that pinches, handfuls, and splashes as opposed to precision measuring. I add ingredients to taste – sometimes based on how much I have of a particular ingredient. With that said, you might need to experiment to get just the right flavor.

What You’ll Need:

  1. Fresh basil leaves
  2. Fresh garlic
  3. Pine nuts
  4. Extra virgin olive oil
  5. Kosher salt
  6. Parmesan cheese
  7. A food processor

Toss 2 parts basil, 1 part pine nuts, and 1 part garlic cloves in your food processor. Pulse until everything is finely ground. Add enough EVOO to make a thick paste and pulse some more. Add kosher salt (about a teaspoon at a time until it’s just the right amount for your tastes) and a healthy amount of Parmesan cheese and pulse a couple more times.  That’s it. That’s your basic pesto.

If you want pesto to toss in pasta or salads, you can just use the paste as-is.

If you want pesto as a dip for fresh bread, add more EVOO so that the pesto is a little thinner.

If you want pesto to spread on chicken, you might want to make the paste a little thicker. Remember, that EVOO is going to thin as the chicken bakes. Thicker pesto is also really good mixed with cold chicken chunks for sandwiches – especially on crusty bread.

If you find you have a really good basil harvest, you can freeze pesto for the off season.

What’s your favorite pesto recipe? What do you do with all that basil going crazy in your garden?