What’s Growin’ in the Garden 2

Interesting that I was thinking of doing a garden update today since we had rain forecast. I have some pictures from May 25th and was going to add a few more today. Well, it is raining. We had and inch of rain in five minutes, then ended up with 2″ in about 30 minutes and it arrived with 25MPH winds. Here are some pictures from the porch.

Our creek has extended into the backyard.

North side of the house, water running, now the corn is facing west laying over.

Our new creek through the turnip bed.

Lots of water – this is normally dry

I won’t know if there is any permanent damage for a few days and will let you know about that in the next update. Message for me – always plan for the unexpected. Always…..always.

Here are a few comparisons from the last article. Then pictures and comments about what’s growing out there – or was – or maybe is still growing. Time will tell.
 

April 22nd

May 25th

We are still using coffee grounds for acidity around some plants, these were for the blueberries. The eggs shells have made their way around the base of all squashes and tomatoes, so these were given to the peppers.

 

 

Pinto beans

The pinto beans are doing well and I have learned something. They vine like pole beans. I thought they were a bush bean, but they look just like the Missouri Wonders, except they don’t have a trellis to grow on. Another thing we’ve noticed is that some of them appear to have the same type of curly top problem some of the tomatoes have. Because of that I think the person that commented about the soil being too fertile is probably right. Some of the beans look great and some of them are wrinkled up. Another good learning experience.



Missouri Wonder green beans next to the pinto beans


While we are in this corner of the garden, here are the two apple trees. In the past we have harvested about 20 apples altogether in the seven or eight years these trees have been here. This year there are many apples. We hope they remain on the trees long enough to ripen and harvest. I’m wondering if I will have enough to can a few which leads me to pondering the best way to do that without any added sugar or other ingredients. Any ideas?

Comfrey by the apples. The chickens get a handful each morning.

Sunflowers are planted at the end of each trellis and here and there in a couple of other places.

 I told you about the potatoes Frank bought for me in the last article. Well, right after we planted them it rained and rained and rained. Four plants survived the wet soil. They look healthy and vigorous, though, so we will see what kind of harvest we get.


We have had a few meals of the first small yellow crook neck squash. There is nothing like those first few meals, they always taste so good. Soon we will be overrun with too many, but that’s not such a bad problem to have. We can always share with the chickens. We lost a few winter squash and one yellow squash plant to vine borers before I got the wood ashes around the base of the plants. I’ll put some more out after this rainy week passes.


The carrots, and all of the surrounding weeds and crabgrass, are doing very well. I started the carrot seedlings in pot makers again this year which makes all the difference. They get a good head start and produce much better than direct seeding.

 

Our winter squash this year is Thelma Sanders which is a type of acorn squash, along with some seeds we saved last year. They are a mixture of five different winter squashes we grew last summer. We’ll see what they produce.

 

There are a few pots of nasturtiums, marjoram and basil here and there throughout the garden.

 
The Japanese beetles really like the amaranth. Even so, it is growing well.

 The beets are doing well this year due to being seedlings in pot makers just like the carrots. I hope to can some this year.

The okra has not liked the cool, rainy weather. It is very slowly coming along.

The corn is doing okay. The 2008 Painted Mountain seed germinated very well, much to our surprise. It has tasseled first when the open pollinated sweet corn has barely begun. We hoped to cross pollinate them, but that won’t be happening since the timing is off. And now, after the rain and wind, we’ll have to see if any makes at all.

 


Our experimental patch of sorghum is coming up. It will be very interesting to see how it does, along with the amaranth. We’re curious about the harvest, the labor involved and how we can add these to our diet. Learning, just can’t do without it. There is always something to learn.

That small patch of dirt back there is the sorghum.

 

I planted some lettuce in pots on the porch to see if we can have some through most of the summer. Another experiment. This pot has a marigold coming up in it along with the Romaine.

What is surprising is how much the garden has grown in the last week since these pictures were taken. We’ve had sunshine and many things are really taking off. I realized when looking through these pictures that there aren’t any of the tomatoes, but they’re out there, along both sides of the carrots.
 
Well, that’s it for now. We hear thunder not too far off and there is more rain on the way. Just hope it doesn’t have any hail or high winds with it this time.

How are things growing in your neck of the woods?

Until next time – Fern

P.S. We have a question. Do any of you have experience with a corded electric tiller? We are reviewing this one. Please tell us what you think or if you have other recommendations. I have a Mantis and it works fine, but it just won’t till. It is a cultivator, not a tiller. I need something vastly smaller than the tractor with the tiller attachment to help take care of some of these weeds. Please tell us what you think. Your thoughts are appreciated.

Picking Wormer….From The Yard

As spring has come on, I’ve been thinking more and more about being able to grow natural wormer for our goats. For now, we still administer Fenbendazole (Safeguard) and Cydectin, and since it’s been an exceptionally wet spring, we have prime conditions for a heavy worm infestation. We allow a five day withdrawal period before we keep any milk for human consumption, but we do continue to milk, then feed it to the cats, dog and chickens. I didn’t want to experiment with all natural wormers only to have the goats become ill from worms, so this year we’re doing both.

The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette di Bairacli Levy is an amazing source of information if you want to learn how to treat most farm animal ailments naturally. I have spent much time reading and re-reading about many different herbs and plants, especially pertaining to worms. I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in herbal remedies for farm animals. As I read through this book, I began making lists of plants that are good for goats. 

This little notebook contains the beginnings of my research, with ideas for several categories including: plants for feed, plants for overall health, plants for worms and plants to increase milk production.

 

Now as I head out in the morning to do the chores, not only do I take a bucket to pick slugs and weeds from the garden for the chickens, I take a bucket for some goat pickings as well. The amount and variety of things I pick has grown since I took this picture, but it gives you an idea. Here is a tour of my morning wanderings as I pick for the goats.

 

I usually start off with comfrey, with anywhere from three to five leaves per goat each day. I am having to limit how much I pick for now until the plants are really at full production. Because of that, the chickens don’t get comfrey very often for now. Comfrey is a highly nutritious fodder plant for animals of all kinds.

 
Once the cabbage plants got big enough, I started picking leaves from the Michilli cabbage for the goats. It’s a very good source of sulfur and other vitamins. It turns out cabbage is good for lice, as well. Each time I introduce something new, it may take the goats a day or two to get used to it, cabbage was one of those things, but now they really like it.

I have also started including a few mustard leaves in the last few days, which helps to expel worms. Some of the goats seem to really like them, but some of them don’t. It’s always interesting to see how they will react.

 Next to the mustard is the dandelion patch. I always try to have at least a handful of leaves for each animal. Dandelion leaves are good for overall health as well as expelling worms.

 

I usually alternate between lemon balm and marjoram, which are both good for overall health. I want the plants to continue developing well for our own use, so the goats only get a few sprigs. They probably wouldn’t eat much more than that anyway. It’s part of the browsing nature of a goat.

 
Next comes garlic leaves which are high in sulfur and is an effective worm deterent. The goats won’t eat much, but they will eat some. I have started to include just a little each day. Behind the garlic is a patch of honeysuckle.

I have a couple of healthy chive plants that I have started picking small handfuls from as well. They are also effective against worms.

Honeysuckle

On Saturdays, I also pick a big handful of honeysuckle along with around four or five wormwood leaves for each goat. These two plants are especially good for expelling worms. One thing I have observed that I find to be very interesting is how the goats choose to consume them, or not. I have found that if I walk out into the barn with a large handful of honeysuckle vines, the does will gather around and heartily begin to strip the leaves from the vines. Until they are finished. Not until the leaves are gone, but until they are finished. My theory is, once a goat has eaten enough of a certain plant, they stop. Too much is not a good thing. And enough for one goat, may not be enough for another. They each stop eating the honeysuckle at their own timing. And the wormwood? Sometimes they will eat it and sometimes they won’t. Last week I wormed One Stripe and Copper with the commercial wormers on a Monday. Saturday when I brought up the honeysuckle and wormwood, neither one of them would eat them, even though they always did on the preceding days I had brought them. As I wondered why, I realized that they didn’t need the plants because I had just recently wormed them. Interesting, huh? Since tomorrow is Saturday, one week later, it will be interesting to see if they will eat these two plants tomorrow.

 

I started this wormwood from seed several years ago in this large wooden barrel. Now that I know it will continue to grow and have started using it, it’s time to move it back into the fringes of the herb bed. Many other plants don’t get along with wormwood too well, so it will be out on the edge of the bed next to the camphor wormwood I planted last year. It really does smell like camphor, and I haven’t quite decided what I would like to make out of it. I don’t use the camphor for the goats, though.

Since I recently read that blackberry leaves are good for goat feed, I stop at this patch of wild berries on the way to the barn and add a good handful of leaves to my bucket. 

Last week when the vet came to disbud our youngest baby goats, we found out they had lice. As far as I know, we have never had a lice problem on our goats before. The vet said our extremely wet spring has created prime conditions for lice. I got out my Herbal Handbook again and looked up lice. It turns out that sulfur is a good natural remedy and you can add a teaspoon of sulfur to the goat feed. Well, that wouldn’t work for the young babies that needed treating, so we put a little Sevin dust on them, and the teenage goats that are being weaned. But I needed a natural remedy for the does I am milking. It turns out garlic and cabbage contain sulfur. I was already feeding the cabbage leaves, so I increased the amount each doe was getting. That’s when I added in the garlic leaves. They ate more of them the first day, but since then, they will only eat a limited amount. But so far, I haven’t seen any lice on the does, so I hope this works.

So what do I do with all of these leaves? I dump my bucket on top of the big round bale of hay by the milk stand and sort everything out. I want to make sure each doe gets a portion of the harvest I have brought. And I only do this for the does I am milking, not the babies or the billy and wethers. As each doe comes to the milk stand, I give them their grain ration, then pile all of the leaves I have brought right on top of it. At first they seemed to be a little irritated with me, but now they just dig around the leaves, eat their grain, then usually have the leaves for desert. It’s rather comical. But if I took all of these leaves out to the feeder and spread them out for the goats to eat, they would just turn up their noses and go graze in the pasture. I’m not sure why they will eat them from the stand, but not from the feeder. It’s like it’s a treat or something.

I am hoping that feeding the goats plants that we have growing here will eventually be enough to keep them healthy and somewhat worm free. I don’t want to experiment to the detriment of their health, but I do want to try to eliminate the commercial wormers. I know there are companies that sell a natural wormer, but if I am going to change over to natural, I would like to see if growing our own plants will work. Only time will tell. It may take a year or more to really see what the outcome will be. I’ll let you know.

For the off season when the plants aren’t growing, I plan to dry the herbs. But, with nature, worms generally aren’t a problem in the winter months since the worms go dormant, some in the ground, some in the goat. There are other techniques for controlling worms, pasture rotation, short or tall grass and others. 

This brings us to another question. If the time comes when we are dependent upon ourselves, and we get worms, will these remedies work on us as well? Many of these plants are a common part of our diet and I have read that wormwood can be used with humans. But that is a whole different research project. Just food, pun intended, for thought.

Until next time – Fern

Herb Cheese & Planting Roses

We have another respite from the rain today with some sunshine off and on between the clouds. I went out yesterday and pulled back some of the free mulch, from the hickory and pine trees, off of the plants that are peaking up in the herb bed. It’s about all I could do since the ground is super saturated right now. We have slowly been building up the milk supply in the frig to the point where we can start making a couple of batches of cheese a week. Last week we made a small batch of mozzarella with one gallon of milk. When we have plenty of milk, I make two or four gallon batches of mozzarella and freeze the extra. For now, we are making fresh cheese to eat, and we’re very glad to have it. Once our three young does, Lady Bug, Cricket and Penny, kid and begin producing enough milk, we will have way more than enough to really ramp up our cheese production. First up will be cheddar since it needs to age at least three months to start having a mild cheddar taste. We have been out of homemade for quite some time and once you get used to it, store bought just doesn’t hold a candle to it in flavor, freshness, consistency and nutrition. 


So today I made a fresh, pressed herb cheese. It is the same recipe I used last year, with the same ingredients, but only the second wheel of herb cheese I have made. I mentioned last year that I thought it would be good as a pepper cheese, and that will probably be the one I try next. After that, I think I will try one with oregano and maybe marjoram. Both of those plants are coming out in the herb bed, so by then I should be able to use fresh herbs in the cheese.

Oregano peeking out, March 15th

Here is a pictorial of the cheese I made today. As I mentioned in the article last year, there are other cheese making articles that will show you some of the specifics of the process we use. If you have any questions about any step of this procedure, please let me know and I will address them to the best of my ability.

Time to dust off the old cheese press

These are the multiplier onions I accidentally planted, and then dug up out of the garden last year. They’ve been waiting all winter in this tub on the porch to be planted in the herb bed where they belong.

One of the garlic patches

The garlic is doing well. I chose the largest of this bunch.

The curds are ready to heat and cook down

Time to pour off the whey

We save the whey in plastic jars for the dog, cats and sometimes chickens.

I had to crumble the curd so I could add the garlic, onions and salt.

Last year I thought the cheese was a little dry, so I didn’t press it as hard, and I only left it in the press for three hours.

Frank wanted to taste the cheese right after I took it out of the press. I warned him that it wouldn’t taste like what he was expecting. He only ate half a bite and said it wasn’t any good. Then he asked when it would be good. I told him tomorrow or the next day after it has time to sit and let the flavors blend together.
 

The recipe recommends putting the cheese on a plate covered with plastic wrap. I chose a bowl and our reusable food wrap instead. After the cheese was in the press, I had three hours to do other things, like feed us lunch. 

We received the rose bushes we ordered in the mail today, which we opened right away, then started them soaking in water. Since they are bare root, they needed to be rehydrated and kick started before I put them in the ground. I guess one advantage for them now is the fact that the ground is so saturated. There will not be any shortage of moisture for them to get off to a good start, not to mention that we have a chance of rain everyday this week starting again tomorrow afternoon. Otherwise I would wait a few days for the ground to dry up before planting. But I think these bushes would be better off in the ground than sitting around another few weeks waiting for better conditions.

 

I planted four rose bushes last summer that had been living in pots on the porch waiting for a permanent home. Plants here have to be willing and able to live in rather primitive conditions without a lot of TLC, or they just won’t make it. These bushes are a mix of red and cream colored roses.

That being said, three of the four are budding out and seem to be doing just fine. The verdict is still out on the fourth one. It appears the upper branches are dead, but maybe not the rest. We will see. [After I wrote this I found this leaf budding out toward the bottom of the plant. Yea!]

One of the main reasons I am planting roses is for the nutrients in the petals and rose hips. We also have many wild roses growing around here and there. I used the rose hips I picked last summer, which weren’t very many, to make rose water for the last batch of lotion I made. I thought that was very neat.

The new rose bushes are called Harison’s, which is the name given to the classic Yellow Rose of Texas. You see, Frank and I are Texans, that have been transplanted to Oklahoma. If you are from Texas, you know how we feel. We will always be Texans. That’s why Frank requested I find and plant the Yellow Rose of Texas here on our homestead. And since these roses will have to fend for themselves in our semi wild yard, I bought four of them, just in case some of them don’t make it.

I gave the roses a small dose of this great barnyard compost.

I saved some extra coffee grounds to give to these new bushes since they prefer a slightly acidic soil.
 

I’ve said a little prayer that they will do well. Just for Frank. It’s nice to be able to do something special for your spouse, even if it takes years to accomplish. I envision a big, wild entanglement of rose bushes all over this fence with beautiful, yellow roses that I can pick to adorn our table. This is one dream I do hope comes true.

The herb cheese is beautiful and I really get a great deal of satisfaction making it. We will have some tomorrow with our lunch. I hope it’s edible then.

By the way. Yesterday at our small country church we sang Brethren, We Have Met To Worship, and it really touched our hearts. We both went back and looked at the words again. Here are two different versions of it, one very country, and one with a church choir. If you care to listen, I pray it touches your heart as well. The second verse really stuck with me. “Brethren, see poor sinners round you, Slumbering on the brink of woe; Death is coming, hell is moving, Can you bear to let them go? See our fathers and our mothers, And our children sinking down; Brethren, pray, and holy manna, Will be showered all around.”

Here is the site of tomorrow’s planting

 

I hope to get the cole crops into the garden tomorrow before the rains come again, so the next post may be a little muddy. I’ll let you know how that goes and how the cheese turns out. Spring is just a few days away and life on the homestead will get much busier. We will get the garden in, and spend time tending it. I have many, many more seedlings to grow, especially for the herb bed. After we kill off all of the weeds and scrubby tree stuff at the end of the garden, we will be starting a new comfrey bed. The extra strawberries that have spread out into the garden area will also be used to start a new bed. More baby goats will be arriving in a little over two weeks, and that means more time milking each day, especially with three young does to train. I haven’t gotten much more done on the rag rugs, but it will be sitting here waiting on me when I am ready to pick it up again. Life is good. It would be so much easier to sit back and be lazy, and I am actually pretty good at that, as well. But there is nothing like having plenty to do. It keeps you going, learning, dreaming and accomplishing. Blessings to you all.

Until next time – Fern

Working in the Herb Bed

After 2013 heavy rain

Having a self-sustaining herb bed has been a goal of mine for many years. I started working on this one about four years ago. It is definitely a process to take a piece of ‘lawn’ and turn it into something useful and sustainable. First we tilled it up, then I covered it in brown painters paper and a hay mulch

April 2014

to try to kill out the grass and weeds. But we had a heavy rain and it washed all of the mulch and tilled up topsoil away. Then we tilled it again, and had another flooding rain that washed the topsoil away. Some people would say I needed

a new location, and that may be true. But we are limited on space in our yard due to the size of the land around the house, the little seasonal branch that runs through here, and the topography. Right on the other side of the branch the land goes uphill and is much drier. Most of the rest of the yard is the garden, or driving area. We have tried to pack as much as we can into this small space. So this is what I have to work with, and I will keep trying.

April 2014

I actually have quite a few things started and add a few more each year. This year I am getting very serious about having certain things growing. Some of these plants are for culinary use, some for medicinal, some for animal feed and some for both or all three. I have tried a few plants that I would really like to be able to grow for the qualities they have, but they just aren’t sustainable in our growing zone, which is zone seven. Some of the plants I have been able to establish are doing quite well, and some are doing so-so. Here is a run down.

I haven’t tended to my garlic patch enough to get a good start of ‘modern’ garlic. There are a few growing from the patch I harvested last summer, but they are small and few. What is growing is what I call my ‘old fashioned’ garlic. I have two patches. One came from a neighboring homestead where it has been growing for at least 40 years, and the other came from a fence row by an old church. I don’t know how long it has been growing there. Both of these older varieties are growing very well after only one year. I think I will stick with them instead of the more common smaller leafed varieties. 

Let me back up for a minute. When we moved here six years ago, I increased my book collection for growing, harvesting and using medicinal herbs. From this collection of books, I planned out the herbs I wanted to grow along with their preferred locations, soil types, sun/shade requirements and companion planting needs. From this I made a ‘map’ of my herb bed, or what I dreamed my herb bed would become. It is now very wrinkled and stained from being stuck in my pocket so many times when I am out digging or planting. I knew that I would need a way to identify each plant until I 

learned what they were since I have never grown many of these plants before. We came up with using wooden builders stakes with the name of the plant painted on with black enamel paint. Now some of the stakes have been in the ground long enough that the bottoms are rotting off, so eventually I will need to find something more permanent, but for now this works. This year as I add more plants to the bed, I get out my beautiful (to me) wrinkled, scribbled on map to see where each plant should go. This little piece of paper represents dreams come true to me. It’s the culmination of long-term dreaming, planning and working toward a goal. So, on with the tour.

Next we have the peppermint which is spreading everywhere, as it is prone to do.

I have two leeks. I know that is funny, but they have come back after last year. I would like to have a patch of them so I will leave them and see if they go to seed and spread. I have done this with several plants hoping to create a self-seeding bed of the annuals I have planted.

The multiplier, or walking onions are right next door. They are doing okay for a small patch. I hope they ‘multiply’ much more this summer so I can start harvesting some next year.

The marjoram is doing great. It has been here for three years now. It almost dies off in the winter, but not all the way. Once the weather warms up a bit, it comes right back and spreads a little more each year. It is a beautiful plant. The parsley that I let go to seed right next door has yet to show any signs of coming up so I probably need to replant it. I know the seeds are very slow to germinate and the weather has been unseasonably cold, so I haven’t given up hope of seeing them start to grow.

The lemon balm is just beautiful. What else can I say?

The rosemary turned a little brown during our very cold winter. I have been thinking of trimming it back and letting it regrow itself.

The elderberries I planted last year are doing very well. I added two more plants that I ordered this year. The more I read about elderberry syrup for coughs and colds, the more I want to make sure I have a good stand of it.

The green tea is growing well since I planted it last summer. I think the elderberries may want to invade this space, but I will keep it at bay enough to let the tea have it’s spot. You will notice that many of my plants are fairly close together. That is by design. I hope to fill this entire bed with wall to wall plants. If my entire dream does come true I will have to pull a few up to keep some walkways available. That would be great.

 

I have two kinds of sage growing. One of them has been here for two years, the other was planted last summer, and both were started from seed.

In between the comfrey and garlic I am adding some chamomile and savory this year. The chamomile is both German and Roman. I wanted to see which one does better in this location and growing zone. 

The chives that were planted here by the garlic last summer came back up which surprised me. I hope they will become a regular site each year now.

This is a witch hazel bush. It has been here for three years now and still isn’t very big or tall. It is a slow growing plant.

The horseradish is doing great, it spreads a little each year. I think it has been here for three years now.

 

I have added some dill between the lemon balm and the horseradish. I also plan to plant more dill to see if I can get a bigger patch established.

A few years ago I planted cilantro here. It promptly went to seed and died. I thought that was the end of it. Last summer I was out pulling weeds an came upon this plant that looked a little familiar and out of place. I almost pulled it up, but stopped to smell a leaf first, when I realized the cilantro had reseeded itself. That was great! The only problem is it doesn’t like our hot weather and goes to seed way before my tomatoes and peppers are ready to make salsa. It has come up again this year, and I have added two more plants to enlarge the patch. I am going to try drying it to use in my salsa this year so I don’t have to buy any. Last year I bought some for one batch of salsa, but for the second batch, I used the seeds, which are called coriander. They tasted okay, but Frank and I prefer the leaf flavor, so this will be one of my new experiments.

The oregano has come back this year for the third time, so I think I can count on it being here. 

Last year I let my basil go to seed hoping it would come back, but so far, there are no signs of it. I have added rue, savory, swiss chard and arugula as new plants this year. We will see how they do.

 

Right after I planted this catnip, along came Brother. I have never had catnip and cats together before so his behavior was very interesting. He started rubbing and chewing on it right away. Then he went over and laid out on his back all stretched out. It was funny.

This old stump is kind of a decoration, but it is actually sitting here waiting for some wild yams to grow on it. I have yet to get any of the seeds I’ve bought to germinate, but I will keep trying.

I have probably missed a few plants, but I will keep you updated on the progress of this project. I hope to start harvesting and storing herbs from this bed this summer, so I have much more to learn. I’ll let you know what works and what doesn’t as I go along. The next thing I need to create for myself is a calendar or schedule of harvesting times. I know some plants need to be picked before they bloom, or others have blooms that need to be picked at a particular stage to receive the most benefit from the plant. There is always much to learn and do and I am ready to get at it. I believe this will be an invaluable skill in our future, and I do know, that I don’t know enough at this stage. 

Until next time – Fern