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


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

What’s Growing in the Greenhouse? Volume 2

The plants in the greenhouse are growing quite well, so I thought it was time to give you an update. Over the past few nights we have had our first cold weather of the year. Saturday night the low was 28* outside, and since we still have electricity and didn’t want to lose the plants we have growing, we put a small space heater out in the greenhouse for the night. The low in the greenhouse that night was 43* with the heater running. An hour or so after daylight when the outside temperature had risen to 39* and we had turned off the heater, it was 66* in the greenhouse because of the sunlight. It warms quickly once the sun is up. We also ran the heater last night when the low was 31*. The plants would have probably been fine without the heater last night, but we are so happy with all of the growth and potential food, that we didn’t want to take the chance. 

 

Before the cold weather hit, we removed the exhaust fan and covered the four vents with plywood.

 

 

Generally, the temperature next to the wall of the house continues to stay about 10* warmer than the surrounding shelves overnight and all of the plants, with the exception of the okra which is a real heat loving plant, 

appear to be happy. During the day, we open the screen on the door, or the door itself when the temperatures inside reach around 85* or so. We just have to remember to shut everything back down about 3:30 or 4:00 pm once the sun reaches the point where cooling begins to occur. It continues to be a great learning process. We still think the cool weather plants will do well with the thermal mass of the water barrels. The warm weather plants might not make it, but there would still be food to eat. 

Here is the latest tour of the plants.

Sweet pepper dug from the garden

Tomatoes

Buttercup winter squash

Cucumbers

Green beans

Onions

Okra with comfrey leaves for fertilizer

Collard greens

Mesclun greens

Romaine that has been picked a lot

Tansy lettuce & endive

Comfrey that has been picked several times

Strawberries

Lettuce that has never been very happy

Mustard spinach that grows very well. We’ve picked it a lot.

Spinach, we’ll be picking soon

Beets

Broccoli

Cabbage

Carrots

Brussels sprouts

Turnip greens

Celery

Potatoes

 

Cabbage

Kale

Basil

Thyme

Stevia

Coriander

Lemon Balm

Dill

Oregano

Austrian Winter Peas

Jalapeno from the garden

Potato

My first experience with hand pollinating has been with the yellow squash.
 

Yellow squash on the left

Male flower collecting pollen

Female flower receiving pollen

Squash that was pollinated one week later

The muskmelon has had some problems with powdery mildew. One of my books recommended comfrey tea spray which I have been using for a few days. It seems to be gradually diminishing, but not before it affected the yellow squash next door as well.

Powdery mildew

Muskmelon on right next to the yellow squash

The muskmelon has had many male flowers.

I think this will be the first female flower on the muskmelon I have found.

 

Today I picked lettuce, spinach, winter peas, sweet peppers and onions for a salad. We still have a few tomatoes left from the garden, and I added some of our cheddar cheese.
 

There is not a lot of food to harvest yet, but there is a lot of potential. We’ve had a few small servings of cooked turnip, collard and beet greens which we’ve really enjoyed, and we really look forward to eating squash again, in the winter no less. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue learning how to produce more food.

Until next time – Fern
 

What’s Growing in the Greenhouse? Volume 1

Well, we did it. We actually built a greenhouse after 30 years of dreams and plans. Dreams really do come true, and they are appreciated all the more when the wait is long. To be honest, it still doesn’t seem real to me even though I tend the plants here everyday. Recently I had lots of fun, when I added another 18 pots of stuff, some alive and kicking from the yard, and some with newly planted seeds.

We decided to continue using our former seedling tables for planting, this is where the messes will be made. The set up is great, there is lots of room for dirt, gravel, pots, tubs and such, at first we were thinking that everything would move into the greenhouse, but not now. We’ve already started to wonder if the greenhouse is too small, when at first it didn’t look like we could possibly fill the shelves. It is quite the interesting learning process. I can only imagine the other changes we will make along the way.

I started out my planting foray by digging up some things from the garden and herb bed. I realized today that I missed getting some marjoram, which we have really come to enjoy. I will get some in the next few days and add one more pot to the greenhouse shelves, for now. My digging adventure turned up a number of things.

More potatoes from the garden
Comfrey

Mustard greens
Lemon Balm
Creeping Thyme
Two year old celery
Oregano

Tiger decided we needed to have a discussion while I was putting these plants in pots. 

 

Next came the seeds, more pots, and more trips to the greenhouse.

 

I have to admit, it looks pretty neat in here. With more pots on the top shelf to water, I started using the step stool. I am tall, 5’9″, and watering a few plants is not a problem, but now that there are a lot more, it’s time to ‘step up’ to the task.

I have been reading about hand pollination since we have a number of plants that will need help. Since I have several different cucurbits (squashes, cucumbers, muskmelon) growing, and I don’t want to cross pollinate them, each plant will have it’s own paint brush for this task. When I told Frank I needed some paintbrushes he reminded me there were some in the garage. It’s nice to go no farther than one of your own shelves when you need something.


We have picked some lettuce and spinach for salads. I even trimmed some greens from the onions once. We’ve also picked a few turnip greens, but that’s all so far. I don’t think it will be long before the pickings will be increasing, and that will be a real treat, especially as the days get shorter and cooler. Here is what’s growing in the greenhouse.

Onions
Collard greens


Comfrey
Romaine that is going to seed.
Lettuce
Strawberries from the garden thanks to a reader.
Spinach
More Turnips
Turnips
Brussels sprouts
Broccoli
Cabbage

Carrots in tub #1
Carrots in tub #2
Beets

As I prepared some of the new seeds and plants, I began to wonder where I would put them. Some of these plants thrive in cooler weather, so I thought about putting them on the floor. Even though the concrete will help with some heating via solar mass and ground temperatures, I could picture these plants going dormant because of the cold air that settles to the floor. At first I thought about raising them off the floor with concrete blocks, but they would be cold as well. I settled for scrap blocks of wood from some of our building projects, hoping the wood would not conduct the cold as much as a concrete block. We’ll have to see how this theory pans out. This also utilizes more of the space we have in the greenhouse.

Austrian Winter Peas in the tub, new potato plants in the pot
Celery from the herb bed
The first potatoes from the garden
Mustard greens
Okra, which is a hot weather plant. We really don’t expect it to produce.

The area next to the wall of the house contains the plants that prefer hot weather and/or need a trellis. So far with night time temperatures in the 40’s occasionally, this area tends to be around 10 degrees warmer than the main shelf by the outside wall. We are very interested to see how this will work out with freezing temperatures. Since the nights are not down to freezing and the temperatures inside heat up quickly on sunny days, we have not closed down any of the vents yet. Frank has a plan for easily opening and closing the vents as needed.
 

Back row: Green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers
Front row: ginger, buttercup squash, turmeric

Yellow squash

 

Muskmelon

The yellow squash and muskmelon are in the center of the room. So far, they are very happy. The squash will be blooming soon. I hope to be able to wind the muskmelon around on the table top as it grows.
 

The herbs, a few greens and some flowers, have found homes on the top row of shelves. When I was looking for herb seeds, I ran across some Thumbelina Zinnia, Livingston Daisies, Dandelions and Moss Rose (which we have always called rose moss), and just couldn’t resist having a few flowers in here.

2 kinds of Kale
Rose Moss
Zinnias
Mesclun Mixed Greens

 

Creeping Thyme

The almost dead Stevia is coming out again.

Oregano
Lemon Balm with a dandelion

It’s hard to imagine how growing these things may affect our diets, especially in a survival situation. This truly is our survival greenhouse. We have much to learn, and a short time to do it. There will be failure and there will be success, but most of all, I hope there is food.

Until next time – Fern

The Survival Greenhouse

Now that the greenhouse is up, has doors and looks wonderful, I want to fill it with plants! I’m not a very patient person and I’m ready to get started. The problem? This afternoon when it was 89* outside it was only 117* in the greenhouse. It would make an excellent dehydrator at this point, and would cook any plant I put in there. The solution? Plant seeds anyway, but leave them on the porch in the same place we have been growing seedlings for the past few years.

Speaking of growing seedlings in the past, the other day when we cut the hole in the wall of the house for the door, I did some reminiscing. The window we removed was the first place I learned to grow seedlings. It wasn’t ideal and they were usually a little leggy, but it was all we had at the time and we learned a lot.

This is also the time we discovered using newspapers and a Pot Maker to make our own seedling pots that would quickly break down the in soil and recycle newspaper at the same time. We have been very successful transplanting the seedlings we grew this way. 

So as that window was removed and the door installed, I remembered our learning process of the past and looked forward to this new learning process in our future. We have never had a greenhouse, so there is a whole new learning opportunity in front of us. My problem is I just can’t wait to get started. 

This afternoon after finishing up a batch of mozzarella from our fresh goat milk, I got out the seeds and sorted out the ones I want to try growing in the greenhouse. Some of them will probably make you shake your head and wonder, but we want to try all kinds of plants and see how it goes. Our greenhouse will be unheated except for the sun and the thermal mass of the concrete slab and ten 55 gallon water barrels. Our theory is that with the sunshine during the day, the concrete and water will absorb heat. The question will be how slowly that heat will dissipate through the night and what effect it will have on the air temperature surrounding the plants. This will be fascinating to observe, a great learning adventure. We also have some frost cloth to use if the temperatures are going to be very cold. I have only tried them in the garden up to this point, so that will be another experiment. We can only wait and see how our theories pan out.

 

For most things, I used some of the dishpans and bus tubs we have used previously. They get pretty brittle in the sunshine, but we will keep using them until they break down and are unusable. I still have a few on the shelf that will have to go. Eventually, when time allows, we will build some planting flats from wood that will last for years. For now, these will work fine.

 

I keep soil in a 30 gallon trashcan. After some seedlings have grown large enough to plant in the garden and are removed from the tubs, the remaining soil is put back in the trash can for use again the next time. Each tub has a layer of gravel across the bottom to help with drainage.

What did I plant today? Five kinds of lettuce: Romaine, Buttercrunch, Tango, Corn Salad & Endive.

 

 
Two kinds of spinach: Mustard Spinach and Bloomsdale Long Standing.

 I planted two kinds of peppers, yes peppers even though it is fall. We are going to try to grow a few ‘hot weather’ plants and see how they do. Banana peppers and Marconi Rosso Sweet Peppers.

Yellow Crookneck Squash

Banana Muskmelon

Danvers Half Long Carrots

Golden Ball Turnips

I ran out of space on the table and daylight before I got to the beets, kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, cabbage, chives and onions. I’ll also be planting more carrots at intervals along the way.

I thought this might be a good place to put these tubs, but then I remembered the cats always think these tubs are litter boxes. I hope they don’t get into them up on the table this time.

I didn’t plant tomato seeds today, instead, I went out in the garden and cut some starts off of a few of our tomato vines. I’ll root them in water then plant them in this pot.

 
My theory is to put the ‘hot weather’ plants against the wall of the house or in the middle of the greenhouse away from the outside walls. I’m hoping the heat from the house, concrete and water barrels will provide enough heat for these plants to grow.

And I cheated a little. We were at the lumber yard last week and they had some bedding plants. This is the first time I have seen fall seedlings and I picked up a few.

 

We really look forward to the possibility of eating fresh food during the winter. This greenhouse has long been on the drawing board with supplies bought and stored years ago. There are many different ways to accomplish a goal, sometimes sooner, sometimes later. Frank has had a saying for longer than he has had me. Postpone gratification for long-term gains. We have long lived by that motto. We buy most things on sale, and if we can’t pay for an item, we don’t buy it. It’s that simple. This greenhouse is a very good example of living by this creed. We have dreamed of having a greenhouse for many, many years. The time has now arrived and we are very thankful. It is unfortunate that the excitement of a new learning opportunity has an underlying sense of necessity. The coming storm will tax us all in our endeavors to survive. This greenhouse is one more means of producing food. Food that we will need for survival. A survival greenhouse.

Until next time – Fern

The Nutrition of Spinach & Garden Gossip

Spinach is something we have been eating a lot of lately, and I wanted to add it to our list of nutritional content articles.
 

1 cup of raw spinach contains the following nutritional content.

  • calories 6.9
  • carbohydrates 1.1 g
  • protein 0.9 g
  • Vitamin A   2813 IU 

  • Vitamin C   8.4 mg
  • Vitamin K  145 mcg
  • Folate   58.2 mcg
  • Choline   5.4 mcg
  • Betaine   165 mcg
  • Calcium   29.7 mg
  • Magnesium   23.7 mg
  • Phosphorus   14.7 mg
  • Potassium    167 mg
  • Sodium    23.7 mg
  • Omega-3 fatty acids    41.4 mg
  • Omega-6 fatty acids    7.8 mg

 
As you can see, spinach packs a good amount of nutrition into one cup. When we start getting more sunshine and less rain, I expect our little seedlings will finally grow into the normal, large plants I have been hoping to see for about a month now.

I have planted some more seeds in the last week. Some of them will go in the herb bed, but some will hopefully go in our salads. The new tubs of seeds include spinach, lettuce, baby greens, celeriac, parsley (which we have been eating in salads and the goats have been eating once a week to help expel worms), boneset, feverfew, moonflowers, psyllium, sweet woodruff, cayenne peppers, arnica, borage and fennel. We are also going to have to replant our pinto beans, which we will use for green beans and pintos, because there has only been one come up. And some day, if it ever quits raining four or five days a week, I can do some serious weeding and finish planting the last few rows of the new part of the garden.

This patch of turnips is sharing way too much space with the grass and weeds.


It is interesting how our tastes and interests change over time. We have always grown corn and potatoes in the past, now we are turning toward plants with more concentrated nutrients, like beans, cowpeas and greens. We do have about a dozen volunteer potatoes coming up from last year, which we are letting grow. It will be interesting to see how they produce. Learn all you can about producing your own food, then put it into practice. We have been gardening in this spot for six years now and no two years have been the same. The weather has been different, the insect pests have been different, and the harvest has been different. There is always much to learn. 

For example, the past two years the slug population has really taken off. Yesterday, I placed some scrap 2 x 4’s around in the garden to encourage the slugs to gather under them so I could ‘harvest’ them in the mornings. There were a few under the boards, but you could see dozens of them just sliming around on the ground. Once the plants are grown, they will still be there, I just won’t be able to see them. So, I have decided to treat them like the pest they are and try to ‘harvest’ as many as I can each morning and put them in the chicken bucket. This will hopefully help deter their population in the garden, and feed the chickens at the same time. I probably picked close to 100 slugs this morning alone. Yuck! There were several fat, happy ones that were making quick work of the new squash plants that are just poking their heads out of the ground. I didn’t take their picture.

Taking pictures of the garden from the porch while it rains.

Like everyone else, I can’t wait for the harvest to begin in earnest. We put very little food up last year due to surgeries and illness, and we hope to more than make up for that this summer. In the meantime, we are also working on a few major projects involving the house. Wait, a news flash. Frank just told me that after Tuesday, there is no rain forecast for Wednesday, Thursday or Friday! Yahoo! Everyone around here is more than ready for the puddles and mud to dry up at least a bit, and be blessed with the touch of the sun. 

Until next time – Fern