We have beautiful cucumbers and vibrant red carrots coming up in the garden. Lush, fragrant basil, and bok choi leaves. I have jars and jars of pickles I put up from last year but I wanted something really crisp and refreshing. These are great to serve with any meal. They are nutritious and little something different. Quick pickled veggies are great on sandwiches, on fish, or on their own! As the jar empties, you can always throw in another cucumber or carrot (or onion, or garlic, or beet…) to keep the batch going. I suppose after a few rounds you will have to pitch it and make more. But that’s okay, because it is super easy!
In a wide mouth pint jar add chopped veggies that would seem good pickled. Add in a good sprinkle of salt and some pepper. Maybe a little hot pepper. I filled 1/3 of the jar with rice wine vinegar and 1/3 of a way with white wine vinegar that my friend, Rodney made. Then I topped it off with a little filtered water so that the veggies are submerged. Replace lid and shake. Place in fridge for at least an hour. Farm fresh eating!
Okay…it’s a Fiat. But a mini farm deserves a mini farm vehicle!
There is something deeply satisfying about having enough food for the critters. We hauled home a hundred and sixty pounds of dog, cat, and chicken feed and scratch in Fernando the Fiat the other day. Heck, if we had put the top down we could have thrown on a bale of hay! The back seat has enough Great Pyrenees hair to weave a scarf. It may look like a city car but the little farm car works as hard as I do. It does seem fitting that Pumpkin Hollow Farm ought to have a farm car that looks like a pumpkin!
There were pros and cons to my quick raised beds but overall they are a success. I had first put down a layer of cardboard, surrounded it with logs, then put in thick slabs of straw, then compost, then organic gardening soil. The whole thing cost about twelve bucks.
At the beginning I quickly realized that I didn’t have enough gardening soil but was tapped out of funds so couldn’t get more. It took a lot longer to water because I think too much sand (we have sandy soil) got into my compost. Don’t forget to check your beds after watering. It should be wet to your second knuckle. Beds can be deceiving, they look wet, but aren’t! I will add more soil this fall or next spring to build up the bed.
The second issue was an obvious one, but I didn’t think about it. Some of the corn has to be staked up with re bar because the roots can’t get through the cardboard. The beds aren’t that deep and the straw takes up most of the space. So, some of the deeper reaching plants can’t get enough space and nutrients. They are doing fine now though.
The weeds certainly found their way through the cardboard but not nearly as bad as in the regular beds. I have had a much easier season this year with much less work keeping the beds clear of weeds.
My yard looks pretty and more organized with the makeshift beds. Doug can mow easier around them. It’s been so incredibly hot and dry here that the grass all died early in the season, but at least the weeds are green! Because of the early heat, my spring crops came up (if they came up) and promptly died or went to seed. I will be planting the same crops today as fall crops and hoping for better luck. I need radishes!
This fall I will build more of these beds and let them sit for the winter before planting in them. How quickly logs (that I can still use in the wood stove this winter) and railroad ties make creative beds. I like the look of them. The bark gently peeling off, the varying colors, the moist soil within.
The lizards dart here and there, drinking water from small leaves. The birds come for their seeds. And the cooler morning breeze rustles the sunflowers into dance. I hope you are all enjoying your gardens. How I love summer!
Gandalf the Great Pyrenees had a new toy. The story goes (according to him anyway) that Buttercup the chicken got out of the pen and he was simply attempting to corral her back in. Three quarters of her was stuck in his mouth as I screamed at him.
Forget hawks, eagles, raccoons, skunks, bears, coyotes, or any other predator you may have heard about. Dogs are the most common predator chickens face.
My friend, Addie- aka Superwoman…if war breaks out, we are heading to her house- brought us three chickens to make up for Buttercup. Buttercup, was of course, our best layer. These three have some work to do. They were in a large coop hanging out in the front yard when we got home. A lovely surprise! We quietly put them in the coop in the night so that the chickens would all be fooled and think that they were always there come morning and there would be no blood baths. It always works. Except when it doesn’t.
We used the portable coop she loaned us that the chickens had been delivered in to lock up the chickens. “Should I put the three new girls in the pen?”
“No,” she replied, “you lock up the bullies!”
She further explained (if y’all knew how many homesteading lessons I have had from this gal over the years you would think she should have written a book!) that if you put the new girls in the pen it only tells the old girls that they are indeed below them. If you lock up the mean girls then they come to understand that they are not the bosses. It worked like a charm.
Then the egg eating started. Oh, those three rascals. One of them was eating eggs like she was sitting in an IHOP. Addie suggested we raise their protein intake in their food because they were all molting and they needed more nutrients to get through it. We also laid golf balls around the coop so the culprit would peck those once and would stop pecking eggs. That worked but no one is laying eggs right now!
I have been a subscriber since I was twelve years old to a magazine about country living. I am afraid its gotten a little high falutin and ridiculous. Very pretty pictures but really geared for rich people who have no idea what farming is about. Photographs of chicken coops with pea gravel and curtains with lush, landscaped yards and chickens crossing the kitchen without any poo in sight. I love it, but it is a little deceiving.
We have a noxious tree that I love called Tree of Heaven here, or Chinese Sumac. It’s poisonous so the chickens don’t eat it. It has popped up all over the chicken yard creating a jungle atmosphere and shade. When they first moved in they had two foot high grasses to jump through. They will eat any plant that is edible, y’all. Do not landscape your chicken yard!
We looked around this place and saw the chickens, the infant orchard, the vegetables growing tall, and the pumpkins jumping out of their beds, and we have realized that we live on a perfect urban farm. A lot of people cannot afford to live out in the country and I have decided to reopen my Homesteading School. I will be teaching canning, preserving, baking, cooking, gardening, and much more as our little-farm-that-could gets more organized and utilized.
Check out my Facebook page for events here! I will also be putting a link on this blog. Happy Homesteading!
Five and a half years of writing about farming and homesteading. Almost a thousand readers. Full circle. I am peaceful as I write this. The sun is behind the large walnut tree, filtering its light through the dense branches highlighting the herbs and flowers on the medicine gardens. My front porch rocker is comfortable and my coffee is hot.
We started with chickens, a garden, some dreams. Moved towards alpacas, goats, and sheep, and bigger, simpler; somehow tripped and found ourselves in an apartment. Yet, we gardened at a community plot and hung a calendar of farm animals in the kitchen. Now we own a home of our own in a good sized city skirted by farms and friendly people. “This is not a farm,” I said. But I was wrong. Because being a farmgirl and having a homestead heart does not die. It just gets more creative.
So we have started with chickens, a garden, some dreams. Our house is similar to the one we started in. We have a third of an acre of urban space to dream and build. More raised beds, hoop houses, a greenhouse. We have a root cellar, a wood stove, and fruit trees, and a place to settle and be. By god, this is the urban farm we have read about. Every year it will grow, and get better, and right now it is perfect and warm, and as the cars zoom by to get to work, the hummingbirds drink from the geraniums and honeybees buzz in the pumpkin flowers. The Pumpkin Hollow Farm sign sits proudly on the porch. It would be easy to dream of an off grid homestead, but the challenge and dream will be to see how sustainable we can get right here on this humble plot of land.
A dear, young woman is living with us right now with her little, baby farmboy. I inadvertently see through her eyes what we have here and I am grateful. I have been on a little book tour with my newest book (http://authorkatiesanders.com) but we had time to put up ten quarts of corn broth and a dozen jars of corn yesterday. It is really warm here and the climate whispers of year round gardening with a little wisdom. The chickens frolic, the farm dog barks, the kitties mouse, and all is well in our little house.
So, the original carryall is an apron. Y’all know my great love of aprons! This one carried dozens of corn cobs to the porch to be shucked, to the kitchen to be canned, to the chickens as treats. Don your aprons, Friends, our urban homestead adventures continue…
Garlic is among the easiest of all plants to grow. The homesteader can simply top a bed with compost that has been recently harvested of its crops in October and plant a few heads of garlic.
Any garlic will do (organic always preferable). One does not need to pay exorbitant prices for “planting garlic.” Choose a variety from the market or health food store you enjoy.
Separate the cloves and plant them three inches apart. Cover with soil and top with straw.
They are among the first stalks of green in springtime. You will see them and be reminded of your clever fall planting. Who doesn’t love garlic? The humble cloves can rid you of the plague, flu viruses, and cancer while adding amazing flavor to any ethnicity of food.
Now, here is the fun part! Come July, the stalks will have turned mostly straw colored and will languish and fall to the earth. Gently unearth them with a hand spade, pulling out bulbs of aromatic garlic. Shake the dirt off. I always save twist ties and rubber bands for gardening. Secure the stalks with a twist tie and hang from a hook in an airy, warm spot. Like the kitchen! In two weeks or so, the papery husks will have dried and your garlic will last nicely. From there you can lay them in a box in the root cellar or leave them as a ristra in the kitchen so garlic is always in reach! Save a few bulbs to plant this fall!
Pour 1 cup of good olive oil into a sauce pan with 1 clove of garlic, a bit of salt and pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Heat over medium-low heat, swirling the pan often, for 15-20 minutes. Serve with great bread or drizzle over vegetables.
A new little farmgirl is joining our family this November. During Emily’s ultrasound yesterday I watched in awe as the little skeleton baby moved her knees into her chest, moved her arms, and turned her head. Is there anything more amazing than new life? My daughter is five months pregnant. Her five year old, our beloved Maryjane Rose, is overjoyed to have a sister coming. We have so much to show her!
New life is everywhere. My garden beds overflow and bees, goldfinches, and hummingbirds delight in nectar as a baby squirrel eats walnuts from the tree. I am not sure if there will be any left for us again this year. There were plenty of mulberries to go around though.
No matter what new endeavors I take on, no matter where my life and studies take us, I always end up back to this place.
“I keep asking myself what I do I want to do now? What are my goals?” I told Emily while we were waiting for the doctor. “And all I want is to be able to live on a big family farm, take the grandkids to see what is growing in the gardens, check on our general store and restaurant, and be together living sustainably.”
“That’s all I want too,” she responded.
At dinner the other night, my son has it all planned out.
In the end, all I want is to live close to the heartbeat of the earth, surrounded by family and community, and live sustainably.
There are many efficient and simple gardens out there and they are all lovely. I thrive on color and texture and I love a little whimsical touch.
We spend much of our time outdoors if it is nice out so we treat the yard as if it were an extension of the house. Two comfy chairs (not couches or discarded recliners please) make a nice place for settin’ with a glass of sweet tea, to watch the world (and neighbors) go by. They don’t match, but someday they will. I always have about twelve bucks in my gardening budget so we use what we have!
Trellises anywhere you can put them invite vines and climbing flowers. They add a vertical element to the garden. Of course, our old farm sign still graces the porch.
A yard (or a house) should never be quite perfect. Complete orchestration takes out the whimsy and comfort of a place. We have weeds and barren places and we have beauty and interest. Our gardens invite the visitor to look for fairies and sit awhile to watch the birds.
These trellises are a bit rickety after years of use but attached to the fence they make a lovely architectural image, like a large picture in the garden.
I have friends with very efficient gardens that are self watering, raised beds that can stand the test of time. Again with twelve dollars, I get more creative. I want my garden beds to become part of the earth. Each spring and each fall as I add more compost and chicken straw from the coop, I want them to nestle down into heaps of greatly fertile soil that restores Mother Earth. My simple method is logs surrounding cardboard topped with straw, compost, and soil.
This soon-to-be herb garden is awaiting its soil. The trellis in the center is for scrambling vines to add height to the bed but also to create beauty.
I love how the beds seem like they just rose out of the ground. I didn’t leave enough room for the mower in between the beds so I took empty chicken feed and mulch bags and lined the space between the beds then topped them with mulch.
The spring crops peek out of the soil. My fingernails are gloriously dirty. I love springtime!
Most of our decor are natural elements but sometimes you need a little bling. I added the wind vane/solar lights to create a fun vibe. The tractor and the bicycle are adorable. There are more beds to be made and more twinkly lights to be added.
We put pumpkins from the root cellar in the trees for the squirrels and put out a big bowl of bird seed along with a bowl of water for birds. The hummingbird feeder is full. We love the Snow White feeling here. We welcome all the critters.
We eat alfresco every night of the summer so it is time for me to clean off the table and put a nice woven blanket on it. Yesterday a lovely, rich rain fell upon the beds and the earth and the birds sang and is beautiful in this charming garden.
We have been busy putting the final touches on my new book and scheduling events and book signings.
I am both nervous and excited. To expose the shadow side of things -of people- is to rile up defenses. To illuminate the things that one has experienced that may seem different to society is to set one’s spirit out in the light. To write one’s memoir is to be brave.
“So why write it?” I have been asked. Because I am a writer. I have no choice but to write. I get up, I breathe, I write. In that order.
This book may expose the shadows (which I had to fight very hard to release my self-imposed secrecy of) but its main job is to illuminate the path for others.
“Why is this book important?” I ask myself, as if I am already being interviewed by Oprah.
Because silence is suffocating and we have stopped talking. Our children no longer look to the skies and recognize eagles. Our young people have no idea why they carry around feelings of knowing and intuition. They suffer from anxiety and low self esteem. The healers of old stayed quiet out of fear. To stay quiet is to let hundreds- if not thousands- of highly sensitives, intuitives, medicine people continue to try to be normal. To take anti-depressants (which lead to suicide in Intuitives). To possibly never take their place among the people as the seers, light workers, healers, and powerful workers is to allow the darkness to remain as a fog over the world that desperately needs every generation of medicine people to rise.
My book is now available on Amazon. I am offering the opportunity to my amazing blog readers to be the first to own this book. It is on Kindle and in paperback.
I am honored to have been chosen to experience it and to write it. Wado!