Open Thread, October 3, 2020

Well, folks. The world still turns and gets stranger every single day. There are many people that daily outline the events taking place around us – political, criminal, availability of everything from food to ammo to canning supplies to baby chicks to anything, you name it. 

Right now, and all day everyday, we request your prayers beseeching the Almighty for the quick, total recovery of our President and his beloved First Lady, President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

The turmoil, unrest, and uncertainty of the future of our country appears to grow everyday. Every single day. There is something that happens, information that comes to light, or the placement of one more piece of a puzzle that is so deep and wide that it truly seems beyond the human mind to fathom.

So we step back, take a breath and attempt to decipher what is real, what is conjecture, opinion or outright lies and fabrications. Then we go outside and enjoy what we have been blessed with. A beautiful place to live. Flowers. Hummingbirds. The final harvesting of the garden. 

The sweet potatoes are dug and curing in the greenhouse. We grew three varieties to compare productivity and flavor. We will use those potatoes and plants for next year’s crop.

The only other things left in the garden are okra and peppers, which are declining since we are already having lows in the 40’s and 50’s. The turnip greens are growing well, they like the cool weather. The spinach is trying to grow, something killed all of the lettuce and it needs to be replanted. Yes, we are still growing some food stuffs. But it’s going to be an early winter this year, or so I have been feeling for about a month now. I would recommend you stock as deep as you can and prepare for a long, cold winter. Just a feeling.

We are canning chicken today. Baking the last dozen we had in the freezer and getting them all on the shelf. Next week we will start butchering our older laying hens to can as well. The young hens are laying well and we are over run with eggs. We also have another batch of young chicks that will start laying in January. So we have meat and eggs on the menu for part of a future food supply.

The goats are drying up. Three does are due in January. One more doesn’t seem to be bred or show any indication of doing so. We don’t know what is going on with her. Braum’s (an ice cream store in our area) has started selling A2 milk which is a very pleasant surprise. Our vet is drinking it with great success. He hasn’t been able to drink milk in years due to a gut issue. That proves to me that there really is something to the A1/A2 issue. We are buying milk from Braum’s to get us to January and our own fresh supply again.

Just walking into a store now days is a strange, eerie experience. Half of the people look at each other like they are scared to be around anyone, another half is wearing masks and doesn’t like the ones that aren’t, the other half just tries to act normal, but hardly anyone talks. It’s quiet and suspicious. I know that’s three halves, but you’ll just half to deal with it.  Just like living in this dystopian virus controlled world.

My mom is now on hospice and continues her slow steady decline. I haven’t been able to go into the nursing home to see her since March 12th. It kills me to go see her through the window and not be able to touch her and hug her. Knowing there are hundreds or thousands of others in the same predicament doesn’t make it any easier, but I am very empathetic to the pain it causes so many of us in these days and times. A person we know just lost a healthy, active parent with underlying conditions to this virus. It hits close to home since they were younger than Frank. 

Pray for our President and First Lady for there are those that take joy in their sickness. These people that wish our President and First Lady harm are part of the deep, entrenched, putrid, decay of our country. If they win the election, if they take over, we are doomed. If you are not prepared for either outcome, I fear for you. 

Please share what is going on in your neck of the woods. We are all in this together and we all need help from each other. Please share. Be safe. Stay healthy. Be extremely vigilant. Use discernment in all you read, watch and believe. Pray for guidance always.

Until next time – Fern


What’s Growin’ in the Garden 3

I looked back at the pictures from the previous garden update and realized what a difference a month makes. We have had a few more storms and wind, but the plants are much larger and there was not much negative affect from the weather. This article is long on pictures, so grab a cup of coffee and enjoy. 

June 22nd

July 13th

The rest of these pictures are from July unless otherwise indicated.

Pinto bean weed patch, July 13th


This looks like overgrown weeds, doesn’t it? This is the pinto bean patch interspersed with crabgrass and other delectable weeds…. I have begun to slowly pull the plants and harvest what I can. Next year I will know these need a trellis. An error on my part not knowing pintos are a vine like pole beans. I just made the assumption they were a bush variety like the Jacob’s Cattle beans I have been growing for the last few years.

Once the pinto beans are harvested, this area will receive carrot and beet seedlings. I will probably plant a couple of hills of yellow squash and see if we can have a fall crop for fresh eating.

The trellis next to the pintos has the peppers and Missouri Wonder pole beans. The peppers are just starting to produce well. I will be freezing some of them soon. We have found that frozen, chopped peppers come in handy cooking through the off season.

The yellow squash is finished thanks to the annual squash bug invasion. These will be pulled up and replaced by another cowpea patch.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen and we have begun to freeze them. We have two gallons in the freezer so far. Last summer we froze 20 gallon of tomatoes that we turned into tomato sauce. They seem to be ripening late again this year. Last summer many people in our area barely got any tomatoes and most folks we talked to indicated their gardens didn’t do well at all. We’ll see how this year turns out.

 

We tilled between these tomato trellises about a month ago with the new electric tiller and this is all that has grown there. Without the tilling it would have the same crabgrass overgrowth you see at the opening of the row. I remain very impressed with how this new tiller helps to eliminate grass and weeds compared to the Mantis that I used and liked for years. These amaranth seedlings will be planted between the tomato trellises and in the now harvested corn patch which I’ll show you in a minute.

Amaranth seedlings

Speaking of amaranth, we have harvested some of the heads and are drying them in the greenhouse. I probably picked the first few before they were quite ready, but this is a new learning process for us. There are more heads to harvest from the original growth and we hope the side shoots will now continue to grow and produce more grain. For now we are not harvesting the entire plant, only the top most portion of the main grain head.


How are we going to winnow and clean the grain? Well, we have yet to figure that out. We have some fine strainers that may work and will cross that bridge once the seed heads are dry and ready to work.

The cowpeas we planted right before the last garden article are growing well. They will soon fill in this area between the tomatoes and okra. For now the zinnias are taller, but that won’t last much longer.

Purple hull cowpeas

The okra has been slow to grow and produce this year. It just hasn’t liked the cool, wet spring and the lack of sunshine. One of the nice things about this patch is that it was grown from seed that we saved last year.

And speaking of seeds, much of the garden this year was grown from our seeds. This has been a goal for many, many years, one that we are starting to make some progress on. From our own seeds this year we planted green beans, okra, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, winter squash, turnips, zinnias and marigolds. And yes, you read that right, carrots. As you know, carrots don’t seed the first year, so I had to plant them in a separate part of the garden two years ago. We harvested these seeds last year.


The last of the corn has been harvested and I have a question. I didn’t realize that corn grows suckers similar to tomatoes. I broke them off thinking they would prevent the stalk from producing good ears, but I think some of those plants didn’t produce any ears. Would someone increase my knowledge about the growth and production of corn? We haven’t grown any in a number of years and have never been tremendously successful.

 

  
The strawberries have died. Last year after we planted them they grew very well. Then toward the end of summer, some of the leaves started getting brown spots, curling and dying. The only information I could find was that a virus in the soil causes this problem. The solution? Kill the plants and start over somewhere else. I tried inoculating with nematodes to see if that would have any impact, but it didn’t. The plants started growing this year and trying to produce in the wet, cloudy spring, but most of the berries rotted from the excessive moisture. Now, the virus has wiped out the rest of the plants.





We had a plum harvest this year. Here is half of it. Tasted great!

We have some lettuce coming up in the small bed by the back porch. I’m not sure how well it will do in the heat of summer, but fresh salad greens do sound good.

  
We are blessed to be able to live where and how we wish, and we certainly hope this continues as long as possible. There seriously appears to be very troubled times coming. Plan and plant ahead.

Until next time – Fern

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.

What’s Growin’ in the Garden 1

Frank had a good idea earlier in the year. We’re going to be showing a time lapse of the garden growth as the season goes along. Harvests and production rates will be noted as well as any difficulties we encounter along the way. In the long run, this will probably be more useful to us, but we hope you find something of interest along the way.

Last year we had a real problem with mosaic virus. Not only did it affect our green beans and Jacob’s Cattle beans (a shell variety like pintos), it affected the tomatoes as well. Not in time to affect last year’s growth and harvest, but hopefully to have a good impact for this year, we applied nematodes. Lots of them. Aribco Organics is a place I have found for beneficial insects. We applied nematodes from them about four or five years ago for slugs and it worked great, I rarely see a slug

in the garden. Well, last year we also started a strawberry bed that seemed to be doing well until later in the season when some of the plants started having brown leaves and dying. The only thing I could find in any of my books was a type of virus and the recommendation was to kill all the plants and move the bed somewhere else. We didn’t want to do that, so they got a healthy dose of nematodes as well. The three pack of various nematodes affects a wide variety of garden pests, so that is what we used. It takes a while for the nematodes to multiply and affect the health of the soil, so we’ll see how it goes. Nematodes are a natural part of the soil which will continue reproduce and become part of the soil as long as nothing comes along to affect the population. There are beneficial and ‘pest’ nematodes that can help or hurt the growth of garden plants.

March 31st

Winter spinach in the back porch bed

Freshly tilled dirt

April 10th
Time to clear some brush from the fence row

Apple blossoms

Turnips blooming and going to seed after spending the winter in the garden
April 12th

Brush removed, tilling complete

Trellises in place for tomatoes, beans and peppers

April 19th
Tomatoes by the trellis, pots of basil, carrots down the middle

Mostly dirt, but lots of potential!
April 22nd

The corn is peaking out.

It’s all planted. Whew! The greenhouse is now empty and in need of a good cleaning. We’ve planted around rain showers and muddy ground. Luckily, we’ve had some pretty windy weather in between that has allowed us to keep planting. I could keep adding more and more pictures and updates, but I’ll take up here with the next garden edition.

Now, we wait. As always we hope to have abundant harvests with lots to eat fresh and even more to put in jars on the shelf. As of today the plantings have included: corn, okra, Thelma Sanders and Cushaw winter squashes, amaranth, beets, tomatoes, carrots, basil, zinnas, nasturtiums, yellow squash, pole green beans, peppers – sweet, bell, banana, jalapeno and our cross pollinated surprise peppers, sunflowers, pinto beans, lettuce, cress, turnips and swiss chard. I think that’s everything.

The strawberries are blooming and have lots of green berries. We hope they continue through the season.

Has anyone grown amaranth? If so, any pointers? We hope to be able to harvest leaves and grain. Another new adventure in gardening and nutrition.

How are things growing in your neck of the woods? We hope your harvest is abundant and your shelves are blessed with many jars.

Until next time – Fern

P.S. Frank bought me a surprise bag of red potatoes yesterday to plant. We had planned on picking up some seed potatoes at the feed store a while back but never made it. The potatoes we saved from last year sprouted a long time ago. They look like some extreme, wild hairdo with long straggly sprouts. Frank was at the store yesterday while I was visiting my mom at the nursing home and spied a bag of red potatoes with lots of eyes. Thus, my surprise. 

After the rain showers pass in a few days, we will have one more addition to squeeze in out there. We plan out our garden with annual maps for rotation and companion planting. After the potato surprise yesterday I got out the map and my Tomatoes Love Carrots book to check for companion placement for the new addition. It’s already pretty crowded out there, but we have a place to squeeze them in. If you looked at the garden now, you might not consider all of that dirt crowded. Just wait about a month or two and you’ll wonder where we walk to harvest and get around.

Some wives want flowers, I wanted potatoes to plant. It’s a great life!
 


Simple Meals

We have found our meals getting smaller and simpler as time goes by. Part of that is age, we just can’t eat as much as we used to and we don’t need to because we burn fewer calories, otherwise it is a matter of choice. I have found myself using fewer ingredients and trying to incorporate what we grow or store in almost all of our meals. We buy some things – olive oil, apples, carrots, onions, cabbage, occasional eggs, milk when the goats are dry. We buy wheat, oats and flax in bulk buckets. But there’s not really much else we buy. Coffee, we definitely buy coffee, for we are daily coffee drinkers. 

After I thought about it a while I realized that if we do experience a collapse, everyone will be eating much simpler meals made out of what is on hand. So our advice is to have on hand what you want to and can eat. Some folks have dietary restrictions because of their health, that is something to plan ahead for. Part of what we eat is to keep our bodies regular and provide adequate energy and nutrition. We have found that most people find our meals lacking enough items, ingredients or flavor, and that’s okay. We truly believe everyone should have the freedom to choose, whether it is meals, location, weapons, vehicles or religion. This is the way we choose.

Here are a few of the meals we eat regularly. Sometimes they are like this, sometimes there are variations of the same theme. I didn’t take a picture, but the other day we had a quarter pound ground pork burger on one of our sourdough buns with a slice of onion. Frank has mayonnaise and I have mustard. The side dish was a bowl of turnip greens. Different? Probably. Good? We like it.

 
Ground pork from the pigs that are no longer with us, eggs and salsa we canned last summer.

 

Okra we grew last summer and froze whole after washing. We slice and saute it in olive oil with salt and pepper. The purple hull peas were grown and canned in 2017.

 
Spam and cabbage, both store bought. Yes, Spam. We consider it part of our meat food storage and keep a good quantity on the shelf. We buy a head of cabbage about once a month and eat on it until it’s gone, usually over three or four meals.

We eat greens regularly and keep a good stock on the shelf. We prefer our own turnip greens, but have others just in case we need or want them. We had quite a few comments and questions about turnip greens recently, so I was going to do an article about the nutritional benefits until I realized I had already done one. You can find it here, The Nutrition of Turnips & Turnip Greens. What we do differently now than when we wrote the previous article, is a serving of greens is simply water, salt and greens. We drink the water after eating the greens for the nutrients it contains.

Soup. Frozen tomatoes, cowpeas, cabbage and peppers. Canned green beans and squash. Ground pork, carrots, onions.

We are slowly using up some of the things we froze last summer. This batch of soup provides us four meals, some we eat fresh and some we freeze for later.
 

We have made a number of variations of the meat pie.

This version is made with our canned chicken, salsa, frozen peppers, cheddar, sourdough starter and store bought onions. It’s okay, but we like it better with ground pork instead of chicken.


This meals takes little effort at this point. Turnip greens and Jacob’s cattle beans. The tape measure was part of Frank’s meal, um….. humor…. for this picture. Does this food taste wonderful? No, not really. We eat it for the nutrition and the taste is okay, but nothing great.

 

 

Think about simple. Think about how your meals would change if the SHTF. How would your diet change? What choices would you have? Are you used to eating what you would then be forced to eat? Would it make you sick? Can you afford to be sick in that situation?

Our diet is the way it is by choice. We like it that way. It’s interesting to think it may benefit us if the world continues to spiral down into the abyss we seem to be forced to march a little closer to everyday. Eat what you store. Store what you eat.

Until next time – Fern

Goat Stock Garden Soup

Recently, when we butchered one of our wethers, we made some soup stock with the bones, and since this was a first, we wanted to try it before we made any more. I wanted to see if I could make the soup with ingredients that came from here, just like the wether we made the stock from, so off to the garden on a treasure hunt I went, and here is what I came back with.

Starting from left to right there are purple hull peas or cowpeas, green beans, carrots, tomatoes and some roast from the wether that turned out pretty tough. I was hoping the soup would make it a little better, it didn’t. You can see that the soup stock doesn’t have much meat, but a decent amount of fat for flavor and nutrition.

I also found enough okra in the garden to saute as a side dish. We now cook it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper in a skillet and it tastes great.

This is not a lot of food, but if it was what we had to depend on for our sustenance it would provide for our needs. That is something I look at more and more. In the past I would experiment with all kinds of seeds in the garden, sometimes to see what would grow here, but usually just for fun. I have now grown much more serious about what we grow and I have written about the nutritional content of some of the vegetables. My purpose was to try and determine if what we are growing would be adequate nutrition. I haven’t had the time to sit down and analyze our common vegetable combinations, but it would be interesting to know. I think it will all boil down to what grows well here, the physical demands of the crop itself, the physical demands of growing the crop and how we can preserve it to last until the next crop starts producing, not to mention the ease and success of saving seeds for future crops. There are many variables that will impact the possibilities of adequate, or inadequate nutrition after the SHTF, many of which will be unpredictable. Even if things don’t work out, at least we have to try.

Until next time – Fern

Garden Tour, End of April

We have had far more rainy, cloudy days this month than sun, and it shows. The garden is getting off to a slow start, but it is growing. I didn’t count the number of sunny days compared to the cloudy ones, but this year, it would have been an interesting statistic. There are still many folks around that are just now trying to get things planted, and it is still very, very wet. The weeds are starting to get a foothold, just like the vegetables, and with the sunny weather we are having this week, everything should take off. Our garden is no longer all dirt, God’s masterpiece has begun again. Here is the tour.

Broccoli

Store bought cabbage

Green cabbage

Michilli cabbage


Cabbage leaf with green lacewing eggs mixed in bran sprinkled on it

And I have to tell you. I think the green lacewings eggs that I sprinkled on all of the garden plants are really making a difference. They are too small to see, but the directions said the evidence would be a decrease in insect damage to the plants, and I think that is the case. We just might have our first ever cabbage crop this year. I am very hopeful. I will do a more in depth article on my beneficial insect experiment later on.

The new Comfrey bed is doing great. I harvest here almost daily.
Cowpeas are trying to make an appearance

Okra does not like cool wet weather and is not very happy….yet

Cushaw squash with nasturtiums

Yellow squash with nasturtiums

The tomatoes got off to a hard start with lots of flea beetle holes. I think the green lacewings have made a difference there, too. But the tomatoes don’t like the cool, wet weather any more than the okra. It’s been in the 40’s the last few nights with highs in the 70’s. Today was the first day of sunshine in about a week.

One of the apple trees has a surprise this year for the first time

We each had a strawberry for breakfast this morning. The first of the year.

More on the way

The new strawberry bed is growing despite all of the slugs I pick here every morning.


We have beets planted in several places that are just starting to grow well.

The carrots are happy.

We’re trying collard greens for the first time.

Cucumbers are just getting started.

Onions are finally putting on some growth.

In just a few days, these turnips have just about doubled in size.

And the Clematis is just beautiful.

It won’t be long before the garden will be in full swing and need much more tending than it does right now. That means we need to get a few more projects completed while we still have a little more time. You know the old saying, “April showers bring May flowers.” Well, with all of the April showers we’ve had, the wild and tame blackberries are blooming in profusion.

And the honeysuckle won’t be far behind. I pick it almost daily for the goats. It’s good for expelling worms.

We watch the garden grow with great anticipation for that first fresh squash, that first pan of turnip greens, that first red, ripe tomato and much, much more. So, tell me, how is your garden doing this year?

Today we drove about 100 miles to the east to visit one of Frank’s family, which took us through rural eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. We noticed along that way that there weren’t many gardens planted. This is sad. Why aren’t people raising their own food? Sad.

Until next time – Fern