This Year in Farmgirl School…

I am inspired by so many things and people.  From the Amish countryside to the Tuscany hills, there are people and principles there that appeal to me.  Perhaps the aspects that I so desire are the same.

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I am inspired by simplicity.  In having few material items.  More meaningful open spaces that are easy to care for and easy to feed a crowd in.  The openness and simple beauty of an Amish home.  The old worn villas in Tuscany where the doors and windows stay open, if possible, and streams of light and outdoors dance across the tiles of the homes filled with family and friends and wine.

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An emphasis on family, friends, and spirituality from Catholic to Amish, a love for community, a devotion to family, a loyalty to friends, and a love for God all speak to me.  To take the time to sit down and enjoy the company of those close, to pass a loaf of homemade bread, to pour another glass of wine or lemonade.  To be interested and care about what is happening and to share in the richness of these various ribbons of people gifted to our lives.

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Homemade food.  Tapestried gardens, local, fresh, healthy farmed, real food.  The taste of just pressed olive oil, or crisp kale from the garden, of earthy potatoes baked with cheese, or chicken just roasted with sprigs of rosemary and sage.  Locally made red wine or glasses of refreshing iced tea.  Things grown from our own hands or from a local farmer or artisan.  Knowing where our food comes from, proud of its origin in the back yard, or from nearby.

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Self sufficiency, or better, local sufficiency.  A can-do spirit.  I can get eggs from my back yard.  I can grow a bit of wheat.  I can put up vegetables.  I can harvest my fresh fruit.  I can grow mushrooms.  I can savor my own herbs.  I can….As my friend put it in a recent post when describing her grandparents’ farm, “The life of self sufficiency turned into a life of dependency.”  Profound words to me as most of us have been born into a life of dependency.  Being an incredibly independent free spirit makes me desperate to be able to provide more for myself and my family.

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Arts and beauty.  From paintings and pottery to home spun yarn and homemaking arts, I am inspired by them all.

Out here, folks do tend to move a bit slower, have less material items, and are comfortably Christian without the annoying evangelism.  They are friendly, and community minded.  I farm in town so that perhaps more people will be inspired to grow their own dinners and see that it can be done out here.  I do have dinner with friends and close family often.  I have many more arts to master.  This will be an even better year.

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This year in Farmgirl School we will be learning a host of new things.

We’ll become bee keepers.  We will not be afraid of a few ten thousand bees.

We will create a corn fence around the front yard.

We will grow an entire garden’s worth of produce in five gallon buckets.

We will create a portable orchard.

We will learn how to be market growers.

We’ll show you how to start a farm from a business perspective and succeed with farm diversity.

We’ll be playing midwife and welcoming in new kids next month.

We’ll master the art of creating hard cheeses along with other dairy products.

We’ll be shearing large unlovey animals.

We’ll master the art of spinning.

We’ll color roving with plants.

We’ll create lovely fibers and then learn how to make sweaters and socks and they will be straight and even!

We’ll be hoping for farm hatched chicks.

We’ll expand the Apothecary garden and teach you more about natural cures.

We’ll visit a local Amish community.

We’ll host a food swap.

We’ll entertain more.

We’ll have some laughs, some mishaps, some roaring successes, and we’ll learn.  Come learn with me.

Welcome to Farmgirl School.  This year is going to be fun!

Learning to Be a Farmer

book

I love farming books that inspire and make you laugh through antidotes and stories that actually help you learn.  I love Jenna Woginrich and many others that I told you about in my post about farming books.  I started this blog to be one of them.  I would have liked a book that was more step by step.  Like, how much to water.  Basic stuff so that I could actually get further than fried seedlings and an empty chicken coop.  I wanted to write one of those books (via blog) that would inspire, teach, and make people laugh each day.  The chapters unfolding throughout the week.  I appreciate each and every one of you that takes the time to read what crazy stuff we are up to on any given day.  Writers need readers.  Thank you.

So, here are the results of the experiments (some pretty nutty) that we did this year.  It may help you in your garden planning for next year (or make you shake your head in wonder).

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First, water is good.  Okay.  I have discovered that you must water more than once a week and more than a few seconds in order to feed the thirsty plants.  Daily watering (beer in hand) helped Doug and I, not only relax, for twenty minutes, but also helped us keep up with any problems or triumphs in the garden.  We discovered that hand watering saves a ton of water.  We’re talking fifty bucks a month off our water bill.  We also had the opportunity to wave at neighbors, catch up on the day, and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

We also learned that one can water till the cows come home (or goats, in our case) but nothing beats rain water.  We got a great amount of it this year and it was like pouring fertilizer infused water on everything.  Something our desert-like environment wasn’t used to!  Everyone’s crabgrass is still green!

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When the flea beetles went on the buffet and began decimating cold crops, you all chimed in and identified the little gorgers.  Also giving sound advice.  Bill was right though and the flea beetles were acting as the clean up crew.  It was too late for cold crops.  They knew it.  They were apparently smarter than the farmer.  Which leads me to the conclusion that I need to start broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts indoors next year then transplant them out in early spring.  Those guys still aren’t ready to harvest.

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I learned about diatomaceous earth.  I learned that when dousing plants and soil with “natural”, “organic”, and effective bug killers, that the substance cannot differentiate between flea beetles, leaf miners, and lady bugs.  Or bees.  Or all the micro-organisms I have so carefully protected.

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The results of the potato barrel experiment were…um…cute.  Seven tiny potatoes in one, five in the other.  Now, I did notice that the soil and straw were very damp.  Something I would not have had to worry about in past years.  I’m betting quite a few of them already decomposed.  The ones in the ground did great!

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I think mulching with straw is a brilliant idea, and I will do it more than I did this year.  We never did mulch with clothes like I considered.  Worried that I would trip, while holding my beer, while watering, while waving at passerby’s.  I have a cute farmer image to uphold here.

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Goats, in all their cuteness, are a pain in the %# and can get through anything.  We’ll decide what farm animals (home bodies, I am hoping) to get next year.

The fall crops came up enthusiastically, then turned yellow and died.  I forgot where I planted most of them.  The radishes are the only plants that hurried up and became ready to harvest.  Of course, I was tired of radishes by then.  Perhaps fall crops are overrated.

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I love chickens.

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Next year I will use my root cellar check list to plan my seed order.  I may line the porch with five gallon buckets of tomatoes and peppers.

I planted six plants of heirloom tomatoes.  Feeling very smug about myself for growing such a eloquent crop, I watched as dozens and dozens of them became ripe after the farmer’s markets were over.  They are too watery to make into sauce or to can diced.  Next year, I will plant the less cool Roma tomato.

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I have learned to grow where planted.  I have learned that I am a farmer through and through.  Still learning, granted, but enthusiastic, and in love with this life.  Turns out my husband is an unlikely farmer too.  Two kids born and raised in the city becoming the next great farmers….stay tuned…

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Farm Dreams Unfolding

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Pumpkin Hollow Farm is really coming together.  Thank you, Rod for making this beautiful hand carved sign for the farm.  Thanks to my friend, Deb, for helping me get past my twenty year plateau in farming. (Water more, for crying out loud!)  Nancy for praising my garden every time she sees it and for being my partner in crime at farmer’s markets.  Doug for watering in the evenings when I can’t get to it.  And for those enjoying my onions and greens right now, thanks.  The peas will be ready to harvest today.  I cannot guarantee there will be any left to sell.  I sure have been craving English peas!

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Farming has been good for me.  I have become more in tune with the seasons, what foods are specific to our bodies and what nutrients we need according to the time of year and how all of those things are wrapped up in what food is in season.  It is fabulous eating a strawberry in the garden after a long winter of no strawberries or those rubbery things in the store.  It is so satisfying biting into a swiss chard, cherry tomato, goat cheese, and fresh egg omelet.  It is a blessing to sit out with my husband in the back yard with the new goats and watch the sunset, beer in hand, and see all that we have accomplished and all we have been entrusted with.

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We are moving our shop to our home at the end of this month.  Order forms on the porch for those that need to place an order and we aren’t home.  When we are home (which I imagine will be a lot this fall and winter!), come on in and have a cup of tea while I refill your sleep extract.  The community is welcome to come up to the door and ask for two onions, a bag of lettuce, and a medicine for thyroid.  My dream come true.  To work from home on my own farm.  This place instantly, overnight, became a real live farm in my mind when the rooster starting crowing and the goats came home.  We are taking a leap of faith and it is fabulous watching it come together.  People signing up for homesteading and herb classes.  People already knocking at the door for a refill of lotion (alas, it won’t be at my house until the end of July!).

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Community, in season food, fresh, organic medicines, family, farm animals.  We are lucky indeed.  Walk onto our farm today via this post to see the before and after of what we have done since Emily, Doug, and I (and Maryjane) dug up the entire yard to start Pumpkin Hollow Farm.  And it’s only the beginning of July!

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IMG0128A Last year SAM_0634 This year