The FSA (Family Supported Agriculture)

veggie 2“Do you know what you want in your FSA this week?” I asked Emily.  Eggs, goat cheese, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, sage, and pumpkin piled into the cooler.

20170815_125536

I have always been on that in-between-sized farm.  I can grow a lot of produce, but I have run into a few problems with a small farm.  When I take produce to the farmer’s market, most folks will pass up my small display to go to the big farm tables.  You have to have a big, vibrant display to get folks to stop.  I tried to do a CSA (community supported agriculture) one year and some weeks my customers got a lot, and sometimes barely a shoe box.  We used to pick the best to go to the market and for the CSA’s and then ended up with the garden dredges ourselves, or worse, out to eat because we didn’t have enough!

produce

This year I took produce to the market early on and ran into the very same problems so I stopped.  Our kale is still four feet high out there and vibrant ruby beets line the row.  We have eaten more of our own produce then we ever have before.  We put up quite a bit as well.  I still have Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and cabbage to harvest but the garden is sleepily falling into slumber.

20170903_193511

I have found more joy in delivering large bundles of produce to my grown children then I ever did going to market.  Knowing that they are eating delicious, organically grown produce, cheese, and eggs makes this mama’s heart happy.  I always throw in some meat from my friends’ ranches.  It is my way of giving gifts to my kids.  I can’t always help them repair their cars or pay their bills, but I can feed them.  It’s what I do best.

maryjane

FSA stands for Family Supported Agriculture.  Payment comes in the form of a hug, and that is just right for me.

Surprise Fall Crops, Moveable Gardens, and the Moveable Farm

SAM_0049

I planted seeds every couple of weeks until mid-July in rows where the seeds didn’t germinate or after crops were harvested.  In the long rows where I had harvested garlic I had planted snow peas, radishes, carrots, beets, and pattypan squash.  Then I forgot that I planted them!  So, imagine my pleasant surprise when I came across a row of delicious radishes crowning from the soil and happy pea shoots waving at me.

SAM_0047

It pays to get an extra seed packet of spring crops and plant them later so that you get doubled the harvest of vegetables.  It doesn’t cost much, there seems to always be an open foot of row here and there and maybe you will forget and then be surprised.  I do know that many of the fall crops I planted, like the turnips and chard, did not come up.  I am sure the birds had a lovely lunch.

SAM_0046

Two Christmases ago Doug bought me a huge cast iron cauldron.  I wondered what he was trying to tell me. (I had expected a large carved wooden bear to add to my collection, so imagine my surprise!)  It has stood on the porch since then only coming out to the yard on Halloween.  Wouldn’t want to give the neighbors the wrong impression.

SAM_0044

I decided to bring the cauldron out.  I planted pepper plants and herbs in it.  I always worried it would be too heavy to move once I planted in it.  It takes two men to move it empty.  It has holes in it already.  It makes a great planter.  Why not empty the soil out when it is time to move it?  It is a great planter, I should have used it earlier!

The landlords are selling the house.  We will be moving our farm.  We have told them we will be out by spring in order to give us some time to save enough money to move and clear some things out.  I will want to move all of my herb gardens to the new homestead.  Sometimes I feel panic come over me but then I remember that we put it out there that we wanted a homestead.  One much cheaper than this one, one with a wood stove and a well, a barn, places to walk.  It is coming!  I am excited to find it.

Our Farmstead in August (chokecherries, herbs, bees, and helpers)

SAM_0007

August is a beautiful time on a farm.  The daily rainfall (incredibly rare) has made this place look like an absolute Eden.  Allow me to give you a tour in photos with your morning coffee.

SAM_0005

This wouldn’t be Pumpkin Hollow Farm if there were no pumpkins.  Princess orange pumpkins and green pinstriped pumpkins are quickly filling the front yard.  Some have taken over the herbs.  Some have volunteered in the back pasture and in the mulch pile with the help of our neighborhood birds.

SAM_0011 SAM_0010

SAM_0008 SAM_0012

We grow dozens of herbs for the medicines we make.  Our bees need not scurry far as they are immediately drawn to the medicine gardens.  Calendula (for mouthwash and skin conditions) mingles with Bidens Ticks (a strong anti-biotic when mixed with juniper berries).  Blue Lobelia masquerades as a prim and proper flower when its real superpower is in opening airways and has a place in my asthma medicine.  Funky red Monarda (also known as bee balm) is great in cold medicines and in my brain extracts.  Another picture of fluffy calendula brightens up the herb garden.

SAM_0015

The bees have been tremendously busy bringing in bloomers full of pollen from the sweet herbs surrounding them.  Should we get a bit of honey this year it will taste of summer and herbs.  Wild Herb Honey.

SAM_0013

Such bounty we have received from our dear gardens.  I was surprised to see that even though I stole their tomato cage and stopped watering them the shelling, snap, and snow peas all continued to grow.  I shall try to extend their season next year.  I did not expect them to survive through summer.  The tomatoes are growing with a new vibrancy now that the sun has started to show hot on their beds.  The green beans are irrepressible and the corn is taller than me.

SAM_0003 SAM_0004

Another thing taller than me is the mullein.  We let it grow in the yard instead of mowing it down and it is a powerful tool in our artillery for everything from asthma, colds, nerve pain, and digestive disorders.  This herb is a gift!

SAM_0024 SAM_0022

Another gift of August is chokecherries! So many people ask me what a chokecherry tastes like and I am ever surprised that a lot of folks have not tasted the sweet taste of chokecherry jelly.  They are not eaten plain.  A small bite will taste like a drying powder in the mouth.  They are boiled with water and the juice is used to make a myriad of recipes from chokecherry tapioca to chokecherry pudding (an American Indian tribe Crow recipe eaten with deer jerky) along with chokecherry jelly that my grandmother used to make and my new favorite, chokecherry gin, that my friend Sandy made!

SAM_0025 SAM_0023

There is something magical about berry stained fingers.   A sense of place and of the earth, the warmth of the day, an adorable helper, and the promise of goods to eat during the winter create a peace only found on farms.

SAM_0001

Though we are as busy as our bee hive, we take time to see the flowers, smell the earth after rain, bask in the sunshine, and give thanks for nature’s gifts,

SAM_0020

and fully enjoy summer for winter’s winds will be knocking on our doors before we are ready!

 

Out of Space Farming (finding garden space in unusual places)

IMG_0093

We need a bigger garden in the next house!  This is always our mantra.  The next house will indeed have a bigger garden and I will inevitably run out of space.  We have already begun saying it again.  This quarter acre garden is the largest we have had and succeeded at but the drive to farm and garden and grow more veggies and succeed at the farmer’s market and at filling the root cellar leaves me looking for nooks and crannies of dirt.  I need more space!  Our lease doesn’t run out for another garden season or two so what is a farmgirl to do?  Find space.

IMG_0092

A palm reader once told me that I would be farming in pots.  Yeaaah, sure.  Pots of farm vegetables are reserved for the day our kids stick us in an apartment.  Pots of vegetables are for when you don’t have a yard to tear up.  And pots are expensive!  I don’t want to go out and buy all those pretty ceramic pots.  They would break in the first hail storm anyway.  (You can see my wheels turning here, can’t you?)  What about five gallon buckets?  I could put them between the rows of the garden!  I could line them up the driveway!  I could fill the porch with them!  So, off to Walmart we went to get five gallon buckets.  I needed over two hundred dollars worth.  Yikes.

IMG_0098

I wrote on our website and on our Facebook page our wish list for the farm including five gallon buckets.  Two different folks wrote back that we should check the bakeries at the local grocery stores.  That seemed odd, but the frostings and other products come in those buckets and they just throw them away.  (Read the ingredients on those suckers and never buy a cake or donut again.) So, back to Walmart we went and scored a few buckets.  Every time Doug thinks about it, he pops by the bakery and gets me more buckets.

IMG_0097

I have nine buckets of peas going next to the house and they are coming up wonderfully.  If an impending hail storm were to come, I could easily move the buckets to the covered porch.  Twenty seven tomato plants and ten peppers will hop into buckets of potting soil as well.  Okra, green beans, pinto beans, and more will find their way in a cushy bucket to grow.  They will line the house and wherever I can sneak them in.

IMG_0099

The other place I found was this patch of driveway.  It is a hill of sand and ants.  It has been overlooked long enough!  I will plant medicinal herbs there.  I will dig a hole, put some garden soil in it, then drop the plant in.  I plan on this being a spiral design down the little hill with thick hay in between the plants.  (Speaking of which, the hay was free too.  It was sitting at the feed store, moldy and unwanted.)

IMG_0100

One could also use a children’s swimming pool with a few holes drilled in the bottom filled with potting soil.  It could easily fit in about any size yard.  Most any large container or few feet of overlooked ground can hold vegetables and fruits.

IMG_0101

Anyone can grow vegetables.  A south facing window can provide all the salad fixings one would need.  We new farmers just need to look at space with new eyes.