Without Food, You Are Dead

Everyone needs to read the opening dialogue from Ol’ Remus at the Woodpile Report this week. He’s right. Food is a Weapon that can, has been and will be used against you. There is a reason Bison Prepper is always writing about food first, wheat, calories, wheat, wheat, wheat. Without food, you are dead. End of story. Not to mention the disease and debilitation that comes from malnutrition and starvation. 

I’ve been thinking about sharing our fall/winter growing plans for a while and the thoughts from Ol’ Remus decided for me that today, I had better get with it. We are working on putting most of the garden to bed for the winter. We’re in the process of taking down the tomato/pepper/green bean trellises. After they are out of the way Frank will brush hog all of

the plants, including the okra forest, into a type of organic mulch.

Then we’ll clean out the chicken house and barn and add that to the garden and till everything in for the winter. If the weather isn’t too cold by that time, it usually isn’t in our latitude, we will broadcast some winter peas for an edible cover crop. It’s good for man and beast.

 
This is the plan for most of the garden anyway. The two ends, east and west are planted with a few more food crops. Not to mention these volunteer squash plants that came up in the yard close to the compost pile. We’re enjoying a few last meals of squash. The first frost we had, we covered these plants with a frost cloth which prevented death, but did not keep the plants damage free. We’ll be covering them again this weekend to see if we can get a few more meals before winter takes it’s toll.

We have a small patch of turnips planted for greens. These are seeds we saved this spring from the turnips we planted last fall. It seems to be a good cycle to get into. We were also able eat fresh greens well into winter, again in the spring and even canned a few jars in June. Our permanent turnip bed idea didn’t work out, so maybe this cycle is a better alternative.

On the other end of the garden we have planted some beets for canning, if they make it that far. 

Some carrots for winter eating.  
 

And some cabbage. We still have some frozen, shredded cabbage we grew in the spring of 2018 that we are using in soup. It’s a great addition. If these cabbages make, I’m hoping we won’t have insect problems this time of year, we’ll eat some fresh and freeze the rest to continue our soup making routine.

 

This small bed on the east side of the house is the only place I have successfully grown spinach. We have had our first salad with miniature spinach and lettuce leaves. I was too impatient to let them grow any bigger before we had our first taste.

In the greenhouse we have started our winter salad collection.

We have two kinds of lettuce. Romaine

Black Seeded Simpson

Russian Kale

Pak Choy from seeds we saved this spring.

Cress

I have also planted a tub of amaranth since it is supposed to be good in salads and we know it’s packed with nutrition.

Even though I don’t expect success, I planted some of the tomato seeds we saved this summer. I wanted to make sure they were viable and wanted to try one more time for winter greenhouse tomatoes.

On a whim back in the spring I bought a six pack of sweet potato plants, put them in some rather rocky ground under a trellis, and pretty much ignored them. They made a few potatoes, more than I expected. We’ll try one for supper tonight with some of those turnip greens we canned in June.

I tried keeping the vines when we dug the potatoes and planted them in a pot in the greenhouse to see if we can use this for our plants in the spring. I don’t know if they will make it when the weather gets cold. We’ll find out.

This is the first year we have had anything close to an apple harvest from the two trees we planted about eight years ago. The apples are good, not too sweet, but homegrown which means a lot to us. We have one with lunch almost everyday. 

 

So, food. What do you have? Is it enough for everyone you need to feed? For a while? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? Can you replenish the supply on your own without any outside assistance? 

Food has always been used to control people. Always. Think of Joseph in Egypt. His father and brothers had to come and beg for food. They had the money to pay for it, but that didn’t mean they would receive any. It’s no different today. Look around the world. Look at how interdependent everyone is. Some countries have oil. Some have water. Some have the type of land and soil that will grow food, some don’t. If any one thing goes wrong, one spoke of the wheel breaks, all systems fail. No water, no food. No oil, no fertilizer, no commercial farming apparatus, no food. No transportation, food rots in the field. No workers, no food. 

Food can and will be used against you as a means of enforcing your compliance to any and all demands. Moral, immoral, just and unjust. Be ready. Provide for yourself and those you love. Otherwise……. 

Without food, you, and everyone you love, are dead.

Until next time – Fern
 

Winter Greenhouse Salad

The greenhouse has turned out to be bountiful, and a good learning experience. I have tried to grow a number of things that were failures, but in the process we learned a lot. We have also been able to eat fresh greens for the past few winters that weren’t available to us before.

Since we have changed our diet to healthy low carbohydrates and quality proteins, our meals have become more simple, with less ingredients, and contain as much homegrown food as possible. Actually, we have gotten to the point that we have to be very careful what we eat from the store, because most of it makes us sick. But that’s another article for another day.

We are far enough into the winter growing season that the spinach and lettuce in the outdoor, back porch bed is slowing down and buried in oak leaves, while the greenhouse vegetables now provide a good plate of salad fixings.

Small garden bed by the back porch. We have wanted to use this area for a long time.

For these salads I picked…..

Romaine, Buttercrunch and Black Seeded Simpson lettuces
Simpson lettuce

Bloomsdale spinach

Pak Choy cabbage

Cress

The cress is still pretty small. I transplanted it from the back porch bed about a month ago since it had really slowed down it’s growth from the weather.

Kale

We have finally found a way to eat kale. All of the other ways we have tried, we don’t like because of the strong flavor. Here I pick the leaves when they are about the size of a quarter to half dollar. They are starting to get that kale type of flavor, but mixed in with the other greens, they aren’t noticeable.

Parsley

The parsley wasn’t growing well back in the herb bed this year, and neither did some of the other herbs. I’m not sure why, but I ended up transplanting them into pots and growing them on the porch instead. Now all of those herbs have moved into the greenhouse to see how they do over the winter. We had a bit of parsley in some of the salads, but it didn’t set well in Frank’s stomach, so it’s just growing in here for now.

When the forecast is in the teens at night, like it is tonight, we cover everything with some frost cloth and turn on a small electric space heater. Tonight is the second time we have used the frost cloth and space heater this winter. I don’t worry about 22*F and above. The water barrels seem to keep everything warm enough and most of the things growing in here are cold hardy plants. The space heater and frost cloth seems to help and we haven’t lost anything yet. Not even the yellow squash, believe it or not, or the flowers.


I never thought this would grow. We haven’t done anything special for it.

It’s nice to be able to tell Frank I’m going to go pick some lunch, even in the winter. I feel like I am providing some good nutrition and at the same time, get to enjoy the process of growing things, something I have always enjoyed.

Until next time, Fern

Foraging in the Garden for Vegetable Soup

Back in late December I had some left over ham and broth that needed to be used up in some kind of meal. Surprisingly to me, we still have a few things growing in the garden and herb bed, so I went foraging to see what I could come up with.

Our fall/winter garden has surprised me with the bounty it still yields. It’s not a lot, mind you, but it is a bit of a harvest on these cold, cloudy, winter days. And it’s a first for us. So here is my foraging tour.

First, I stopped off at the turnip bed. I didn’t think it would continue providing any greens let alone turnips through the winter, but it has. I even covered some of the them up with frost cloth for the last week or so of temperatures down to 13* and they are still producing.

November 23rd
December 21st
January 2nd
January 12th without frost cloth
I was really surprised at the difference the frost cloth made.

The carrots aren’t growing much, but I sure get a kick out of going out a picking a few for a meal here and there. I decided to sneak some greens into this meal and tell Frank afterwards. So I picked a few leaves from the turnips, kale and mustard.

Kale, December 21st
Mustard, December 21st

After I gathered up this garden produce, and dug around in the refrigerator, I decided this would make a good vegetable soup. Sounded yummy for a cold winter day.

Ham broth & ham with veges from the store.

The results of my foraging trip.

Some of the squash we canned.

Yum!

The funny thing about sneaking greens into the soup was this. As we sat down to eat Frank told me this would be a good meal to add some greens to. I laughed and told him he was right, and that I already did. It was a really good soup.

We didn’t really plan on having a winter garden. It’s the first time we’ve ever tried one and it’s worked surprisingly well. We’re not only enjoying the greens, so are the chickens, and we like the turnips, too. The carrots are just a great bonus. Frank has always liked turnip greens, but he used to only get them at the church potlucks. Now, I’ve learned to cook them as well. Do you have anything you are harvesting from your garden? Now is a good time to start planning for your spring garden. The seed catalogs are here and more arrive every week.

I’m grateful to have some slow, peaceful days of winter. The pace is slower, there is more time to read, and ponder, and plan for spring when the pace will be faster with more things to get done for the coming growing/preserving season. It seems rightly so. A season of work and harvest followed by a season of rest and rejuvenation. But, you know what? I’m starting to itch for spring already. I’m ready for baby goats, milking, cheese making, planting seedlings and digging in the dirt. Ah, spring. It’s just around the corner. Can you smell it in the air? Soon new life will be bursting forth across the earth with it’s promise of good things to come. Even in the midst of the trials and darkness across our globe in these dreary days of winter, there is always hope.

Until next time – Fern
 

The Frost Cometh

Well, it’s our turn to have our first frost tonight. The nice piece of trivia about having a frost tonight is October 31st is our first average frost date. This year, we are hitting it right on the nose.

We have had a faucet trying to leak on the north side of the house for some time now. Yesterday it decided to become a small, constant little stream. So, this afternoon, Frank replaced it. I thought it would be more difficult and take more time than it did. Having a husband that is able to fix just about anything is a blessing indeed. 


Since the frost is coming tonight, I picked the last of the peppers and tomatoes this afternoon. It’ kind of sad it’s going to frost because the okra, tomatoes, peppers and purple hull peas are all just blooming away right now. We have had some warm days in the last couple of weeks and these plants just don’t seem to be ready to shut down yet. I was surprised to find that even though the okra has been blooming, and still has a number of buds, I didn’t find one pod of okra to pick this afternoon. It has been about a week since I picked the last few pods, so I expected to find some today. The only reason I can think of is that we have been having cool nights in the 50’s for a while and okra does not like cool weather.

I am very curious to see how the turnips, kale, swiss chard, broccoli, carrots, mangel beets, brussel sprouts and potatoes do with this cold snap tonight. You can see from the weather forcast that we are not expecting anymore freezing weather very soon. I’ve read that the flavor of turnips actually improves with a frost, and the same is true for brussel sprouts. But I’m curious if the turnip leaves will die with the frost. If they do the chickens will miss them since I feed them the greens every morning.

The turnip patch

Kale, swiss chard, broccoli and one lonely cabbage

Carrots and Mangel beets

 

I know the potatoes will die back with the frost. Since I am not quite up to digging them up yet, and we have had some come up here and there from the ones we missed during the spring, we wanted a way to find them after the plants died back. Frank had a great recommendation. We have some of that bright orange spray paint that is used to mark the ground for construction sites and such. It worked great and made it easy to mark each plant. The potato plants haven’t grown as big as I would like. They were very, very slow to

come up and get going. I can only speculate why. It was still pretty hot when I planted them, so I wondered if that affected their growth rate. After they finally came up and the weather cooled off, the growth rate increased quite a bit, but the resulting plants are about half the size of the springtime plants. I don’t expect to have near the harvest we had in June, but I know the potatoes will keep better, stay crisper and be slower to sprout, so I can use some of them for seed potatoes come spring. That makes the effort to grow this second crop worthwhile.

Even though autumn has arrived, I look forward to being able to continue our harvest for a little longer. The more we can learn about extending our growing season, while we still have time to practice and it is not a life and death situation, the better we off we are in the long run. It also gives us the opportunity to increase our harvest, and have more food to eat. You just can’t beat that.

Until next time – Fern

Growing Animal Feed

Growing some of our animal feed is something we have wanted to do for a long time, but it’s a goal that is not easy to meet overnight, in a year, or even over a couple of years. This summer we have been able to make a little head way on this project, and we want to share what we have learned.

In the spring when everything was turning green, I started gathering grasses and weeds to feed the chickens. Our chickens are not out ranging at this time, but they do have a run outside of the chicken house. We need to add a chicken proof barrier along the bottom of a couple of gates to keep them on their side of the yard and out of the garden. So, for now, they get some kind of greens almost everyday along with other garden or kitchen scraps as they come along.

In the early spring, I started to feed them beet greens as soon as the plants were big enough to spare a few leaves.

I also planted some new comfrey roots to expand our ability to provide more animal feed. This patch had really done well. For most of the summer, the chickens received a handful of comfrey leaves almost everyday. This was a great addition to their feed. The goats like them as well, but since they had lots of good things to eat out in the pasture, they were not a crazy about these leaves as the chickens were.

We grew some sunflowers this year to be used as animal feed for both chickens and goats. Our patch was about six feet by thirty feet with four rows of plants. Here is our harvest. All of these plants were grown from seeds we harvested last summer from our very first plants. I think there were about six of them. It’s good to know the seeds are easy to save and replant. If we wanted to grow enough to feed a little all winter, we would need many, many more plants than what we grew this year. But it is a start.


 
The corn we grew ended up being dried for the animals instead of canned for humans. Sometimes things just end up that way. It is interesting to see how it has dried, and figure out an easy way to remove it from the cob. Once it is this dry, the kernels separate from the cob fairly easy just by rubbing two cobs together. I will keep the dried shucks to see if the goats will be interested in them this winter. Another thing to learn. This small amount of corn won’t go very far as animal feed, either, but it has been a very interesting learning experience.

 

Now that the fall crops are up and growing well, I pick a batch of greens for the chickens every morning. They get a bucket full of turnip greens.

Turnips, Kale & small Swiss Chard

Add a handful of kale…..

 

 And a handful of beet greens.

The fall carrot crop is growing pretty well. It will be interesting to see how the animals take to carrots, turnips and Mangel sugar beets as a source of winter feed. Very interesting. This is something I have wanted to try for a long time.

 Our patch of purple hull peas has been taken over by the grass and weeds. But before that happened, we were able to pick several batches that had dried on the vine and fed them to the chickens and goats. They were all more than happy to eat them, the chickens just the seeds, but the goats, pods, seeds and all. This is a very easy crop to grow that is highly nutritious, for both animal and human.

I still throw in a few comfrey leaves every now and then, but I am letting the comfrey put energy into their roots for winter. The original comfrey plant I added to the herb bed about four years ago stays green until about January when our weather turns cold. I have been surprised every year that it takes that long for it to die back. It starts peaking out new leaves in late March when it starts to warm up, but doesn’t produce enough leaves for fresh feed until sometime in April.

The amount of feed we are harvesting each day for our animals really doesn’t amount to a whole lot, but it is a start. There are some other things we also want to try. Our friend Grace found a article in Mother Earth News that talked about Austrian Winter Peas that can be used for chickens and deer. Some folks also eat the shoots in salads saying they taste just like peas. It is better known as a cover crop for fixing nitrogen in the soil. After Grace told me about them and I read about them, we ordered some seeds. It will be another thing we can try for animal feed. Thank you, Grace.

If times get hard and we have to provide for ourselves and our animals, this small amount of experience will hopefully help keep us on our feet while we learn even more. Challenges will always come our way, and we have had more than a few this year. Even so, our little animal feed growing project has taught us a lot. And we hope to learn even more through the winter and during the growing season next year.

Until next time – Fern

Gardening When You Can

Our gardening experience this year has been different. Not a total failure, just different. It started out like it usually does in the spring, in bits and spurts around my work schedule at school. Then Frank started having serious trouble with his back. School was almost out, so work continued around his medical needs and the garden was last in place. We still got it planted and many things came up, but then they were pretty much on their own. I did get some squash and squash relish canned but that was about it. After that, I picked and cooked what I could, but haven’t canned anything since spring, that in itself is strange. We have frozen many tomatoes and a few peppers for later use, and hopefully canning. For now, here is a tour of the garden, which in spite of me, is still producing.


The green beans are worse for the wear, between the grass, weeds and grasshoppers.

 


The Cushaw squash is growing and starting to put on quite a few squash. There is this one big one and many small ones. I have been checking for, and squishing squash bugs morning and evening on the way to the barn to milk the goats. Powdery mildew has begun to grow on some of the leaves. Most of these I have cut off to try to prevent spreading. One organic remedy I have read about is mixing one part milk to 9 parts water and spraying the stems and leaves. I haven’t tried it, but it sounds like an easy solution if we need one.


The turnips are up and doing well. I have thinned a few plants in places and fed them to the chickens. As the plants get bigger we will be enjoying turnip greens as well as continuing to feed them to the chickens and goats. This is one of our experimental livestock feeds. We hope to be able to supplement the animals feed with turnips and cut down on the grain we buy.

The kale is doing okay. It hasn’t really taken off yet, but it has a decent start. I don’t think it likes the hot weather we have been having, but that should change before long.


The carrots and broccoli are just barely peaking out. The challenge will be to keep track of them among the weeds that are growing faster than they are. Here is where they are growing, and I have to be very careful even walking out here, let alone trying to weed without getting the vegetables. The carrots are another crop we hope to use for supplemental livestock feed. They will be left in the ground until we need to till the garden again. It will be another experiment of how to store some feed sources in the winter.

There are a few Mangel beets coming up here and there, but not in any abundance. The extra patch of beets we planted down by the okra appears to be a tasty snack for someone. Our experiment of making sugar from beets will probably have to wait another year. We’ll see how big these get before winter gets them.

 


Our fall potato crop is almost non existent. Out of the two rows we planted, only these two plants have emerged. I dug around in one of the rows and found the potato we planted and it has just begun to grow. I don’t know if the hot weather is holding them back, or if growing a fall crop just won’t work in this area. The interesting thing is that some of the potatoes we missed when harvesting the spring crop have come up here and there down by the Cushaw squash, so either way, we hope to have enough fall potatoes to use for seed next spring.

 
The purple hull peas are still there, it’s just that the crab grass has taken on the roll of camouflaging them. That’s a nice way of saying the grass has just about taken over the pea patch. Interestingly enough, more peas are coming up next door in the potato patch and other areas we tilled for the fall garden. I don’t know if they will have time to produce before frost, but they might.

 

I have tried something different with my okra harvest this year. As I picked the pods, I trimmed off some of the leaves that stick out into the isle I was working from. This way I can see better to pick and I am not getting itchy from constantly brushing up against the leaves. I got this idea last year from CQ at Hickory Holler. It works great.


Another thing I did a few weeks ago was cut the top off of the plants that were too tall to reach.

 This prompted the plants to sprout out from the bottom forming new ‘branches’ or suckers. I wasn’t sure how long it would take, but now as the branches get big enough, I am cutting off the top part of the plant altogether to concentrate the energy into the new branches. I have already started harvesting okra on these ‘new’ suckers.

I continue to be surprised at how many tomatoes we are still harvesting. I have lost count of how many gallons we have in the freezer, at least 15, that we plan to can plain and make into salsa later on.



It has been a very wet year compared to most. We have only had to water a handful of times. In years past, we had to water regularly from the beginning of July, so that has been very nice. We have had a cooler summer, like everyone, but still days with the heat index at or a little over the 100 degree range. Overall, the garden has been very happy among the weeds and grass. It’s nice to know that during years like this, with surgeries and accidents, there is still food to be had from a forgiving garden. I hope the first frost of winter holds off until October 31st or after, which is our first average frost date. But many are talking about an early, long, very cold winter. Even so, we will manage. Hope your pickings are plentiful and your shelves are full.

Until next time – Fern

Researching a New Feed Ration

The more I read about and learn about GMO corn, the more I wish we could totally eliminate it from our diet, even though I know that’s close to impossible. We do have a few cans of store bought corn in the pantry, which I don’t even like to eat anymore. But, for me, the biggest stumbling block we have is the feed we give our animals. So, more research and more reading.

We used to have our goat and chicken feed mixed according to our own recipe at a small, family owned feed mill. This location does not have that option, so we have been mixing our own. Wheat was one of the ingredients we used to include that has not been available here. A few days ago when we were at the feed store, I noticed a bag of wheat bran that I didn’t remember seeing before. I didn’t know what the nutritional value of wheat bran would be for goats, so I came home and looked it up. According to Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, wheat bran has 13.3% digestible protein and rolled oats have 10% . Hmmm….okay. The alfalfa pellets we use have 17% protein and the sweet feed has 10%. 

Summer 2013

The ideal protein ratio for milking does is around 12%. So, what I am trying to figure out is a mix of these grains, minus the GMO corn chops we are currently feeding, that would give me about a 12% feed combination. Another thought I have had is sunflower seeds. Black oil sunflower seeds are very nutritious for both goats and chickens. We grew our first ever sunflowers last summer and actually had seeds to harvest. This summer I hope to grow hundreds of sunflowers all around our place with the plan to harvest them for animal feed.


So, the new feed ration we are going to try is:

  • 6 parts rolled oats
  • 4 parts sweet feed
  • 1 part alfalfa pellets
  • 1 part wheat bran
  • 1 part sunflower seeds

For now, all of these ingredients will come from the feed store. This combination will give me a feed ration of about 11.5% protein. Of course, the protein content is always dependent upon growing conditions.

Summer 2013

I am also going to start several patches of comfrey this summer. Right now I have one plant in my herb bed. I have ordered and received 5 more roots which will begin bed number two. Then the next step will be to start comfrey seedlings. 

Once I have them up and established, I will plant bed number three. Comfrey, also called knitbone, has long been used as a medicinal herb and as a supplement for livestock feed. It is very high in protein and vitamin B12.

Another crop I am going to try to get established for supplemental livestock feed is plantain. I have read about it for a number of years, but didn’t really pay much attention to it. When I was ordering some more herb plants from Crimson Sage, I ran across plantain again, right after I had read another article about feeding it to chickens. I have been wondering what I could grow that would supplement our chicken’s diet more naturally than grains. It would have to be something that is easy to grow, pick and dry for winter use. So I ordered some. I will let you know how it grows and how the animals like it.

Fall 2013

The third thing I am going to grow more of this summer is kale. I have a few rather sad looking plants that made it through our cold winter. After reading this article, I started picking off some of the bottom leaves and feeding them to the chickens. They took to them right away, but the goats didn’t seem to care for them. I will try feeding them to the goats again after they have started producing newer leaves.

Summer 2013

We will try our hand once again at growing carrots, sugar beets and turnips for the animals. Last summer, our fall garden didn’t produce much of anything. I got started late and the weather didn’t cooperate very well either. If we are really going into another Maunder Minimum, we will see how that affects our ability to produce plentiful gardens like we have in the past.

We may all be learning to garden a little differently if the quality of our sunlight and warmth are affected by decreasing solar activity. Another thing to learn more about so that I can adjust our growing habits to match what nature is providing.

 

There are many things to take into account when pondering feed rations for both animals and humans. Learn all you can, put it to good use, and hold your family close. They are the most important thing there is in your life. Don’t let anyone, or anything, convince you otherwise.


Until next time – Fern