The homesteading dilemma

The homesteading life dilemma | www.pickytoplenty.com

The homesteading life dilemma | www.pickytoplenty.com

I have more time on my hands in the morning lately. The hubs leaves early for his new job and I have a few hours to kill before I have to hustle out the door and head to the newsroom. It’s a nice time to reflect and a time I should be using to blog more. More than a year ago a switch went off — well, actually it was the television. That one small act triggered a chain reaction that led to free-ranging chickens, six baby bunnies, hundreds of square feet of homegrown vegetables and a burning desire to reach a higher level of self sufficiency.

I have a desire to more on our homestead than what we are doing now | www.pickytoplenty.com

I have a desire to more on our homestead than what we are doing now | www.pickytoplenty.com

These days I find myself dreaming about the day when we no longer rely on a grocery store to provide a majority of our food. As much as I try and shop local there isn’t always enough money in the bank to purchase the locally-farmed, organic meat so I choose the grocery store alternative. We are having to buy greens again since the aforementioned free-rangers ate all of my kale and lettuce greens. Baby greens are emerging in another garden which I need to get covered this weekend along with two others so we can (hopefully) have a fresh supply of greens and other cold-faring veggies throughout the fall and winter. I have been baking fresh loaves of sourdough bread weekly and have cut commercial bread from our diets (however I do still purchase buns and other bread product like wraps and Naan that I can also make at home). In another month or two we should start seeing some eggs and the roosters should be ready to butcher. The collection of jars in the basement is growing each week due to my new addiction to canning. Things are slowly coming together but I have a burning desire to do more.

It will be a month or two before the chickens are productive on our backyard farm. How do you keep motivated on your homestead? | www.pickytoplenty.com

It will be a month or two before the chickens are productive on our backyard farm. How do you keep motivated on your homestead? | www.pickytoplenty.com

Enough with the baby steps. I want to leap, bound and jump towards a homesteading lifestyle. But life has that way of putting up road blocks. Time for one is lacking when you work a day job that keeps you on your toes and constantly busy — oftentimes beyond the 9-5 constrains of the working world. Money is another one. But mostly, it’s me. I could find the time but instead I read up different skills and projects online instead of picking up the tools and getting to work myself. As much as I dream about this lifestyle it seems I am my own biggest roadblock. Anyone else find this the case? I want to be self-sufficient yet I am afraid to take that leap.

No more grocery store bread for this household | www.pickytoplenty.com

No more grocery store bread for this household | www.pickytoplenty.com

It’s too easy to live a modern life. We have every convenience available to us at the swipe of a finger or the click of a button. Why would I take the time to make a fresh loaf of bread when the commercial option is available for less than $2? Why wash the dishes by hand when the dishwasher is there? Why hang things to dry when I can toss them in the dryer? I score one out of three there. I do make my own bread but I rely on the conveniences of appliances to do a lot of jobs that I can do myself which will ultimately save us money (eliminating another roadblock).

The desire to live a simpler life has resulted in new life on the farm | www.pickytoplenty.com

The desire to live a simpler life has resulted in new life on the farm | www.pickytoplenty.com

How do you stay motivated? What homesteading skills have you mastered? What is your advice to keeping on task?

 

Growing a future

It’s been a while since I shared some photos of the homestead so I grabbed my trusty Canon for an update. Everything is growing amazing considering my black thumb. Have I not mentioned that before? Normally, I am the plant killer. But that’s usually indoors. How I managed to start more than 100 seedlings this year is beyond me. Maybe my thumbs have developed some green.

It’s an exciting time at the Moore homestead. As the plants grow an idea is blossoming, one I hope to share with you soon. In the meantime, enjoy the updated photos from our farm in the making.

My favourite season — strawberry season (recipe included)

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The gardens are really starting to come along here at our wannabe farm. The cucumbers and tomatoes are starting to produce flowers that will soon turn into fruits. The potato box is almost full and the vines are starting to blossom. The beets are starting to poke through the soil, exposing their heads as are the first planting of carrots. While they won’t give me much fruit this year, my strawberry plants are thriving — even the wee little ones that I started from seed.

Strawberries have to be my all time favourite fruit. The red morsels are exploding with sweet and sometimes tart flavour. Just the smell is enough to get my mouth watering. Nothing compares to the taste of fresh, local strawberries.

Even though our harvest will be small this year, I still plan to get my fix from market stands and farmers’ markets. Strawberry season is unfortunately only a small window of time here in Ontario. How do you plan to make the most of it?

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Chocolate Cookie Cups with Strawberry Mousse Filling

For the cookie cups

• 1 C unsalted butter, room temperature

• 3/4 C white sugar

• 3/4 C brown sugar

• 2 eggs

• 2 tsp vanilla extract (I was out and the cookies still tasted great)

• 2 1/4 C all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp baking soda

• Chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. Beat together butter and sugars in an electric mixer until creamy and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time followed by vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Add desired amount of chocolate chips.

Put a scoop of dough in the bottom of a muffin tin and spread dough up the sides. Bake for 10-12 minutes. I had to push down my cookie cups with a spoon once or twice to keep the shape.

Once golden around the edges, remove cookies and let them cook.

For the Strawberry Mousse

• I can coconut milk

• 1/2 pint local Ontario strawberries

• 2 tsp powdered sugar (next time I plan to use honey)

Put coconut milk in fridge over night. When you remove it from the fridge, be sure not to disturb the can too much. Scoop out the fleshy part of the milk, it will be hard and thick, trying to avoid any of the liquid. Beat with whisk attachment in your mixer until it starts to look fluffy. Add the strawberries and sugar and beat until its whipped.

You could eat this as its own dessert. The coconut flavour is mild compared to the strawberry. I may have eaten a few spoonfuls before assembling the cookie cups.

Assembly

Once the cookies are cooled, add a dollop of chocolate sauce. Top with the strawberry mousse and refrigerate.

Enjoy!

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A tasty, crunchy way to use up that garden kale

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The kale is taking over. Seriously, my eight winter blend kale plants that I started from seed in March is growing like mad. Not that I’m complaining, This means we have an endless supply of super nutritious kale to add to salads, sandwiches, eggs and even toss a few to Mr Thumper (I think Kale is the new dandelion for him).

For a while now I have seen kale tips touted as the new potato chip. But I was a skeptic. Potato chips are my biggest vice, there are few flavours that I won’t eat and I can never eat just one. So you can see why I would think a toasted leaf could never possibly be a good substitution for the irresistibly crunchy and salty potato chip.

I was right.

While the kale chips I am munching on as I right this are certainly tasty, they are not on par with the potato chip. They just aren’t. But they are a tasty, crunchy way to use up the bounty of kale in one of our gardens.

Garlic-Parm Kale Chips

(single serving)

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• 3 Large Kale Leaves

• Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

• Garlic Powder

• Salt + Pepper

• Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 300. Tear or cut kale from stems, breaking into 2-3 inch pieces. Toss in olive oil and massage it into the leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread leaves on a baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes. Sprinkle on desired amount of parm

 

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Pasty what? Lessons in chick rearing from a wannabe farmer

Sure, chicks are cute, but they are also disgusting little poop balls.

Sure, chicks are cute, but they are also disgusting little poop balls.

I have a confession: chickens freak me out. Scratch that, birds freak me out. I’m not sure what it is about birds, maybe it’s the feathers, maybe it’s the bony structure or maybe it’s the beaks. Regardless, I have had a lifelong aversion for feathered friends.

Raising chicks is a bit of a courage test for me. Oh right, I haven’t blogged about the 17 peepers keeping warm in my basement as we speak. So, now you know, now where was I?

One week old Plymouth barred rocks being raised dual purpose for meat and eggs.

One week old Plymouth barred rocks being raised dual purpose for meat and eggs.

The other night, I had to reach my hand into the brooder box and pull out a chick with a little dried poop on his butt. This condition is called pasty butt and it can be fatal. And it’s gross. Chicks are gross. Luckily, I had read all about pasty butt, though I had hoped I would never have to put that knowledge into use.

This little chick looked weaker than the rest as he plucked at his chick food and slowly moved around. When it bent over I had a look and my fear was confirmed: there was poop and it was stuck.

In nature, mother hen takes care of this but with her not around, it was up to me to save this little guy.

Although I’d had the chicks for almost a week at this point, I hadn’t done much handling (though I need to get on that or we will have problems when they grow up). Chickens freak me out, even teeny weeny baby ones. I mustered up my courage, reached my hand into the brooder and picked up the pasty-bummed bird. Instantly it began squeaking and squirming. I was terrified I was going to crush the little fella.

Now, there are a few ways you can treat pasty butt. The way that popped into my head first was to soak the little birdie bum in some warm water and then gently wipe away the fecal matter. Gross.

Still fearing I was going to crush my baby bird, I called the husband down for wiping duty (he was not impressed). It didn’t take long. A little soak in the water and a couple swipes and the vent was cleared up.

Success. Not only did I handle a baby chick, I saved its life. Think about a cork in a wine bottle, the pasty poop does the same job. So yes, I can say I did save the little guy’s life (or maybe Dave did, since he did the said wiping). Let’s go with we saved it.

Another way you can treat pasty butt is with a moistened Q-tip or by running their rears under warm water. I think next time I will try the Q-tip method as the chick won’t be so wet in the end. I feared for his life as I laid my head on the pillow that night. Would the chick be OK? Will it freeze?

When I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t tell which chick was the past butt. They were all happily chirping around the brooder box waiting for fresh feed.

These chicks will eventually provide for us. We are raising them for meat and eggs. The hens we will keep for laying and we will keep one rooster but the rest will be dinner. I know this offends some, but hey, I’m a meat lover and that’s not going to change. The great thing about raising chickens ourselves is knowing exactly what goes into the bird. In a world where labelling is only required on foods grown without pesticides or genetically modified ingredients, raising and growing your own food is one way to eat without worry. Even if it means having to pick up a few chickens here and there.

A few more gross details about baby chicks.

They poop in their water dish. All the time. I have to change it several times a day because these little peepers like to potty where they drink. They also like to potty everywhere and can carry e. coli so make sure to clean their brooder box frequently and always wash your hands after coming into contact with the little guys.

They are also pretty damn cute.

We are raising Plymouth barred rocks and they are mostly black unlike the traditional yellow chick. I do enjoy checking on them each day and seeing how much they have grown even if they are gross little poop balls. Another thing I’ve learned about chicks is they grow fast. Really fast.

The lucky thing about having an aversion to chickens… they won’t become pets and it might be easier come dinner time.

Wanted to thank my good friend Caitlyn Van Leeuwen again for the babies!

And one more picture of the peepers

And one more picture of the peepers

It’s beginning to look like a farm around here

Broccoli, Eggplant, Celery, Tomates, Squash, Melons and Cucumbers in this 16x8 raised bed.

Broccoli, Eggplant, Celery, Tomates, Squash, Melons and Cucumbers in this 16×8 raised bed.

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt — Margaret Atwood

Boy did I ever. It was a busy weekend on the backyard homestead and you know what, it’s starting to look like a farm around here. This quote is fitting not only because my weekend consisted of a whole lot of dirt, but because it was included in the course guide for a backyard farming workshop I attended at Sentimental Farm. Even with the three-hour workshop on Saturday, I still managed to get a lot done on our growing mini farm.

Almost all of my 32 tomatoes are in the ground, planted in 16×8 ft raised bed along with cucumbers, squash, melons, eggplant, celery and broccoli. My peppers will be planted in a similar bed next to this one with cattle panels bended between the two to form trellis tunnels (see plan here) for the various climbing veggies. Most of my berries have been planted in a patch. More mesclun and romaine seeds went into the ground and I dug a European-style raised bed for my corn and beans that I hope to get in the ground this week. I also made an attempt at thinning my carrots.

See how there are two stems, you have the thin it out to one or you won't get a crop.

See how there are two stems, you have the thin it out to one or you won’t get a crop.

What’s that? You have to thin carrots? Who knew? Not me. At least not before attending my course on the weekend. According to Rob, if you don’t thin your carrots, you won’t have carrots. Now, it’s not that I am crazy about carrots (next to peas, they are probably my next least favourite vegetable on the planet, raw or cooked), but it was the thought of not having a yield that drove me to attempt the pull out and relocate the extra carrots growing. Carrot seeds are teeny tiny little things and planting just one or two seeds per hole is pretty difficult. Once the carrots grow a few inches, you can see the multiple stems coming from the same spot. The idea in thinning is to gently pull the weaker carrot out and move it to a new spot, that you dig by pushing a pencil into the ground. It is best to try this after a few days of rain when the ground is soft, or so the man in the YouTube video said. Sadly, the carrots that I transplanted all appear to have withered away BUT the carrots that are now singletons are thriving. I think they grew an inch overnight. A solution to this Rob offered is organic carrot tape that is available at TSC stores. It is essentially carrot seed properly spaced on rows of toilet paper that you plant in the ground. I don’t know the cost of this, but seeing how many carrots didn’t survive I might look into this for next year.

Rabbit hutch is half finished but Thumper has moved in.

Rabbit hutch is half finished but Thumper has moved in.

On the livestock side of things, Thumper is finally outside enjoying the sunshine. The rabbit hutch is almost finished, the hubby just has to finish the girl’s side and then we can put our meat rabbit operation into business. I’m sure Thumper will be happy to learn that he will soon have a few lady rabbits to” entertain”. Bunny was a little afraid of his new house at first, but after a few minor adjustments and luring with dandelions (his favourite) he can now hop up and down the ramps and get from his house to his run. Doesn’t he look happy?

He sure loves those dandelions.

He sure loves those dandelions.

There was also a fair amount of planning done this weekend for the fall/winter harvest. Who knew there were so many varieties you can grow all year long with the help of a hoop house (something we will be adding soon so be sure to check back for a how-to). What vegetables would you like to see in a fall/winter CSA? Varieties that I have: cabbage, kale, spinach, winter mesclun, super gourmet mesclun mix, Autumn King carrots, beets, arugula, swiss chard, Coastal Star Romaine, cabbage plus herbs parsley, cilantro and chives. Varieties I plan to add: corn salad, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, leeks, scallions (I am out of seed and will be ordering a hardier variety for fall) and radish. Varieties I am considering: brussel sprouts and parsnip. If you are thinking about signing up for a CSA what varieties would you like to see added?

Hope everyone smelled of dirt at some point over the weekend!

PS: This week has been declared Local Food Week in Ontario, celebrate by supporting a local farmer either at a farmers’ market or farm gate stand.

My attempt at a European-style raised bed with 2-foot rows and 30-inch paths.

My attempt at a European-style raised bed with 2-foot rows and 30-inch paths.

I cheated on these ones but I don't think my seedlings will produce any fruits this year so I couldn't resist.

I cheated on these ones but I don’t think my seedlings will produce any fruits this year so I couldn’t resist.

Almost time to add a new layer to my potato box. Grow potatoes grow.

Almost time to add a new layer to my potato box. Grow potatoes grow.

First harvest of the season and plans for a CSA

The first mesclun greens of the season

The first mesclun greens of the season

It looks like spring is finally here… although it feels more like summer, but who’s complaining? The first nice weekend of the summer brought the first harvest from our backyard garden — baby greens. We started our mesclun mix in March and grew it under plastic which gave it a head start. There is no better salad than one you grew yourself.

Next year, we won’t have to wait until May for the freshest salad, we plan to grow greens right through the cold winter months with the help of a hoop house. Extending the season means we can continue to be self sufficient year round and we hope to be able to share the yield.

Super Gourmet Salad Blend from West Coast Seeds

Super Gourmet Salad Blend from West Coast Seeds

In the short time that I have had this blog, I have talked about how an idea for a food blog grew into something so much more as our lifestyle began to change. Once you learn the truth about the food that we eat, you can’t unlearn it. I struggle between price and method every time I go to the grocery store. While my wallet says I shouldn’t splurge on the free-range, organic chicken, I can’t seem to put the conventional chicken in my cart. By growing and raising our own food, we can enjoy food raised in humane conditions and fed only quality ingredients. This came about as a solution to the small anxiety attacks I have every time I hit the grocery store check out, watching the total rise with each “beep” of the scanner.

Now it only seems to make sense that if we are going to growing a whole lot of food, that we share it with people who care just as much about the food supply as we do. I currently have more than 25 tomato seedlings that I started from seed along with a few I purchased from Tree and Twig in Wellandport (Linda still has some left if you want to add any heirloom varieties to your garden) and we don’t really eat a lot of tomatoes. We do, however, eat a lot of tomato-based products that we currently buy. Thanks to my Zia Susie, I have started a mason jar collection for all of the canning projects I have planned for this year’s harvest. Over all, there will be about 60 varieties of fruits and vegetables growing on our little backyard farm this year. So I am thinking we will have plenty of extra to share with friends and family.

What I am really excited for is the possibility of starting a small community supported agriculture farm. It’s an idea we have been kicking around for a little while now. If you aren’t familiar with what CSA means, it’s basically a share-operated farm. Farmers sell shares of their harvest for a set fee at the beginning of the season and in return, share holders are rewarded with a weekly basket of freshly-grown produce. In this system of farming, both the rewards and risks are shared by the farmer and the consumer.

Last week I started reading The Market Gardener, by Jean-Martin Fortier, who along with wife Maude-Helene Desroches runs Les Jardins de la Grelinette in Quebec. They support 200 families through a successful, organic CSA as well as farmers’ market sales on a 1.5-acre micro-farm. They started small and grew into the successful operation that they are today. By focusing on growing better, not bigger, they have made CSA farming a viable business, supporting their family off of their land. This book is full of useful and helpful information and includes garden layouts, crop rotation schedules, tool recommendations and even a breakdown of sales per vegetable at Les Jardins de la Grelinette.

Had you told me five years ago that I would be dreaming of running an organic micro-farm, I would have told you to take your meds. Farming has never crossed my radar as something that I wanted to do, yet now I find it hard not to dream about the idea. I literally lay my head on my pillow at night thinking about the work and the reward that this venture will bring and drift off with a smile on my face.

Having almost finished The Market Gardener, I think we can manage to start a small CSA project as early as this fall. So I have a question for you:

And, since I have had my first harvest, here are two quick salad recipes:

Mesclun with simple raspberry dressing

  • Fresh mesclun mix
  • Peppercorn goat cheese
  • nuts and dried fruit of your choice

Dressing:

  • raspberry jam
  • olive oil
  • vinegar

Combine choice of vinegar with olive oil and raspberry jam. Put salad ingredients in a bowl, toss with dressing. Eat.

Peppery mesclun with berries

  • mesclun mix
  • peppercorn goat cheese
  • organic blueberries
  • organic strawberries
  • balsamic dressing (I cheated on this one)

Toss all ingredients together and enjoy!

Chocolate Raspberry Pie Bars and dreams of a backyard farm

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It never seems to fail, the May 24 weekend is too cold to plant — again. At least we didn’t get hit with rain — or snow! After this winter, it could have been possible. Instead of planting, I am gazing at my seedlings dreaming of what our backyard gardens will look in just a few months.

Yesterday wasn’t totally unproductive in terms of gardening however. It’s the long weekend and there are plant sales every where. I chose two that I knew of that were selling organic, heirloom seedlings just a short drive away, Linda Crago’s Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm in Wellandport (the sale continues today until 3 p.m.) and The Sentimental Farm in Grimsby, which is operated by Rob and Chris Croley. Today I picked up a few new tomato varieties (one called Isis, how could I resist?), a hot pepper, some different kales, mint and the best raspberry jam that I have ever had. If you live near Grimsby, I suggest you head to the Sentimental Farm on Ridge Road and pick up a jar of Chris’ raspberry jam, it is amazing and this is coming from someone who rarely reaches for jam.

With two jars of this amazing jam now in my possession I was inspired to bake. Since I can’t plant food, I might as well cook it. I turned to Pinterest for some inspiration and came across these Dark Chocolate Raspberry Pie Bars from Deliciously Sprinkled that I had pinned a while back. While the original recipe calls for whole raspberries it suggests you can use jam if you don’t have fresh or frozen, so I subbed in the delicious jam with fair trade chocolate chips and organic ingredients. The only non “clean” ingredient I used was the condensed milk as there was no organic version available at my local grocery store. Anyone know of a good alternative to condensed milk?

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Here is my take on the recipe

For the crust and crumble

  • 1 Cup organic, unsalted butter
  • 2 Cups organic, all purpose flour
  • 1/2 Cup dark brown sugar
  • pinch of salt

For the layer of chocolate

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Cup organic, fair trade chocolate chips

For topping

  • Seedless Raspberry Jam from the Sentimental Farm
  • more chocolate chips
  • left over dough

Set oven to 350.

Cream butter in a mixer. Add flour, brown sugar and salt and mix until it forms a crumbly dough (make sure you add the whole 2 cups. I initially didn’t and could not figure out why it was so creamy not crumbly). Press the crumbly dough into the bottom of a greased baking pan. Mine was about an inch and a half thick. Bake 15 minutes.

While the bottom layer is baking, pour the can of condensed milk in a saucepan with a cup of chocolate chips, I used semi-sweet. Heat, stirring constantly until combined.

When crust is golden, remove it from the oven and top with the delicious, chocolate. Top this with left over crumb, blobs of jam and more chocolate chips.

Bake 30 minutes.

Let it cool, slice and indulge. These pie bars are a perfect combination of indulgent chocolate, buttery shortbread and tart raspberries. I will definitely be making these ones again. Picky to Plenty’s official taste tester approves. He says the edges are especially tasty. He says this is one of the best desserts I have ever made.

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Welcome to the farm Thumper

Our first farm animal

Our first farm animal

Well, I guess there is no looking back now. Thanks to my good friend Shandra, we have our first animal on our backyard homestead. Introducing Thumper, though Shandra refers to call him Dave 2 (as they have similar hairstyles at the moment). He is a lionhead and lop cross, and he was free. I did a little researching and had a few posts from homesteaders who had success in breeding this type of male with New Zealand white females for meat. Since that is our purpose in breeding, and he was free, I thought it was a pretty good place to start. I have a lead on some lady New Zealanders, so Thumper might be in business soon.

Thumper is currently living in a dog crate in the garage, which is where he had been living with his previous owner. One of the must-do projects for the coming long weekend is a rabbit hutch, especially if we get some lady rabbits. I have a few ideas pinned on Pinterest (follow me here), on my homesteading board, so it will be a matter of choosing a design and finding the materials to make it. We also have to get started on our chicken coop as our friends Bryan and Caitlyn have put some Plymouth Rock eggs in an incubator for us. It’s starting to look like a farm here. Caitlyn has also generously donated some raspberry bushes to us. Thanks guys!

Hopefully we will have some nice weather this weekend. I am excited to head over to Linda Crago’s annual seedling sale at Tree and Twig farm in Wellandport Saturday. I plan to pick up a few different tomatoes (including one called Isis, which I am solely buying because it shares a name with my female Cane Corso, one of three that we have, the others are Nico and Donzi) and some hot peppers. It looks like Saturday and Sunday might be a wash, like this whole week. Monday is promising some sunshine. Hopefully the weather man is wrong about the other days.

The rabbits are being raised mostly as a meat source for our dogs. We feed them a raw diet, following the BARF model, which includes fruits and vegetables. Rabbits on their own are too lean to be a main meat source for dogs, but they are a good supplement to their diets. At the local butcher shop, they run about $20 per rabbit. One female rabbit (which, if my lead comes through, will cost $20) can provide up to 300 pounds of meat per year. It is far more economical for us to raise the rabbits ourselves, though I know it won’t be any easy process, especially come harvest time.

I am not going to lie, the idea of killing a rabbit upsets me. I know it’s going to be hard. I wish we could have had a chicken harvest before rabbits, but based on the fact that the dual-purpose Plymouth Rock takes anywhere from 16 weeks to 6 months to reach maturity, that doesn’t seem likely. The idea of harvesting chickens doesn’t seem as terrible. Maybe it’s because I don’t really like birds. There is something about them. They are just these strange, bony, feathered creatures. I don’t find them cute or sweet, though that my change as we get to know our flock. Bunnies however, are pretty darn cute. I mean, look at Thumper up there. He has a beard and a hairdo, kind of like a mini mane. He is a pretty cute little guy. And, I am pretty sure his offspring are going to be just as cute. Cuteness aside, these rabbits are going to bred for a purpose, just as our chickens, to provide a sustainable meat supply. Knowing where our meat is coming from brings me some relief. This is going to be a learning year and I plan to share everything here as we grow our backyard farm.

I will post some better pictures of Thumper soon along with pictures of his new home. I have read a lot about feeding rabbits naturally and I plan to feed a mix of rabbit feed and greens.

New seedlings that have sprouted since my last post: butternut and spaghetti squash, goji berries and sugar baby pumpkins.

 

 

A box full of taters

Potatoes are planted!

Potatoes are planted!

We had a productive Sunday on our backyard farm. This weekend I planted more spinach, green onion, arugula, swiss chard, romaine lettuce and carrots. I also planted the first of my beet plants.

Another project we completed was our potato box. My husband did most of the work on this one.

I found the inspiration for our potato box on Pinterest (follow me http://www.pinterest.com/amandamoore5). The idea is to build a small tower that you grow with the potatoes. We built our potato box with wood we had laying around the dry shed, so we didn’t follow the directions to a T (they specify 2×2 posts, the ones we used were a bit larger). Dave cut the boards into 21- and 24-inch lengths with the posts 33 inches in height. He then attached the four boards to the bottom of the box (for a visual see http://www.veggiegardener.com/how-to-build-potato-tower, I would post photos of our potato box, but I left my card reader at work, check back tomorrow for photos). We filled the box in with dirt (we used triple mix and sheep manure) and planted the mixed seed potatoes we ordered from West Coast Seeds (these are a mix of Sieglinde, Chieftan, Yukon Gold, and Russian Blue, I can’t for these to grow) along with the majority of our seeds for this year. I planted them whole, though I have also read you can cut them into smaller pieces with at least two eyes per piece. As the taters grow, we will add more boards and dirt until it reaches the top of the box. To harvest the potatoes, you remove the boards. Some bloggers have reported yields of 100 pounds in a 2×2 box. Only time will tell how successful we are at potato growing. Fingers crossed we will have plenty of spuds to last us next fall and winter.

What is your favourite potato dish?

Why you should grow your own potatoes (or buy from a local, organic farmer)

Potatoes found in the grocery store are sprayed with a concoction of chemicals — pesticides, anti-sprotuing agents, fungicides, herbicides. Potatoes, like most root vegetables, absorb these chemicals that wind up in the soil. Potatoes are twelfth on the Dirty Dozen list, a list of the 12 foods you should buy organic according to the Environmental Working Group. Be sure to buy these organic (or grow your own) apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, potatoes. Alternately, the “Clean 15” are onions, sweet corn (though a lot of corn is GMO, so be sure to watch for this), pineapples, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwi, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, mushrooms.

We are growing our own food because we are concerned about the food we are eating. Conventional products do not require labels warning consumers that they have been exposed to heavy doses of toxic chemicals, but organic farmers who want to label their products as such have to pay large amounts of money for certification. There is something backwards when a product has to be labelled for not having something in it, when products that could potentially harm our health require no such label. We will be able to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables from our little homestead with the peace of mind that they are not genetically modified and have not been exposed to pesticides. It doesn’t get any fresher than the backyard.

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