Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Backyard Farming Connection Hop #30

I'm so excited we've made it to the 30th week of the Backyard Farming Connection Hop!  This week before I share the featured posts, I want to invite you to link up to the Homestead Resource Guide.  These thematic link ups will appear permanently on my blog for people to reference (as well as over on The Adventure Bite).  If you haven't had a chance to scroll through the topics, take a look at some of the great posts, and make sure you come back and link up your new and archived posts.

Homeskills
Other Homesteading Skills (if it doesn't fit elsewhere!)

Growing Vegetables




 

 

Recipes & Preservation

Brambles (Blackberries, Raspberries, Marionberries)
Blueberries
Citrus
Gooseberries and Currants
Pome Fruit Trees (Apples and Pears)
Stone Fruit Trees (Apricots, Cherries, Peaches, Plums, Nectarines)
Grapes
Strawberries
Exotic Fruits (Kiwi, Mango, Passionfruit, Etc)










This week's features are all about growing, using a preserving herbs.

From A Life Unprocessed, Using, Harvesting and Preserving Chives


From Our Neck of the Woods, Drying Herbs from the Garden


And from Summers Acres, Transplanting Mint










 
I want to know what's happening, in your garden, on your homestead, in the barnyard, and in the kitchen.  Whatever is in your backyard farm and home, I would love to hear about it.

Each week I will share some of my favorite posts on the Backyard Farming Connection Facebook page.  And in case you haven't seen, I have a 'featured button' so if you've been featured in the past, grab a button.

For details on linking up visit the hop page.


Please be patient - I seem to be having come technical difficulties with my buttons (still)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Gardening Methods: Hugelkultur

As I began research and exploring various gardening methods over the last few months, I've been reading more and more about the Hugelkultur method. This method is a hot topics and is based on the idea of building a raised garden bed using a variety of materials, many of which you may already have on hand.

I'm excited to try this methods on a new bed we will add this fall. If you're looking for some information here's a run down and some links to find more information.

Hugelkultur

Hugelkultur gardening is based on the same principles that are at work in the forest.  This method uses a combination of wood, compost, grass cuttings and fallen leaves, and creates a deep bed that decomposes over time.  The decomposing wood creates a sponge-like environment that retains moisture and adds nutrients to the garden bed over time.  In addition, the decomposing process naturally creates heat and can actually raise the temperature of your gardening bed.  Many of the photos I've seen of these garden beds are created with a huge mound in the center (6 or 7 feet), but I've also seen the bed done just a few inches above ground, and you can also read about building a bed right into the ground here.

In addition to adding nutrients and creating a warmer bed, the Hugelkultur method also attracts beneficial animals (such as worms) and creates natural spaces for air and water.  For all the benefits, you do need to put in a lot of work up front and you need to be aware of nitrogen depletion as the wood decomposes.  During the first few years you need to continue to add nitrogen via green composts, nitrogen fixing plants, or naturally nitrogen rich supplements (like rabbit poo).

How to create a Hugelkultur Garden
  1. Lay down a layer of cardboard - to block existing weeds
  2. Lay down a pile of wood - create a mixture of large and small logs and branches
  3. Add a layer of whatever you throw into your compost bin - greens, grass clippings, fallen leaves, etc and pack this down into the spaces in the logs
  4. Cover with compost and water thouroughly
Although you can plant vegetables in your bed right away, there is a benefit in allowing the garden to cure for a time period.

Our hope is to build a bed this fall and have it ready to plant next spring. I love that this method uses so many things we already have on our mostly forested lot.  If your looking for some great detailed posts and first hand experience, and want to learn more about Hugelkultur, check out Joybilee Farm and Arcadia Farms.

Or check out some of these books on permaculture:

              

Do you have a favorite gardening method? Check out some of these posts below and share your tips and tricks in the comments (if you're reading this on email, you will need to click through to see the posts)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Chicken Resource Guide

If you haven't visited the Chicken Resource Guide lately, check out over 60 wonderful posts on raising happy, healthy hens and roosters.  If you have a post to share about raising animals, practicing homesteading skills, or gardening, visit the Homestead Resource Guide page and link up.

Today I am sharing some posts to get you thinking about providing healthy food for your chickens.

From Maple Grove, Why Chicken's Eat Grit.


From Lally Broch Farm, here is a healthy treat idea.


From Natural Chicken Keeping, some thoughts on using medicated or un-medicated chicken feed.

Looking for something else - check out these great links below, or one of my favorite chicken keeping books (if you're reading this on your email, click through to see the posts):

 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Potato Towers


The last 2 years, our potato crops have been a flop.  They would develop lovely green leaves, but when we dug them up, we would barely harvest what we planted.  I do believe that most of the blame rests with me and my lack of care and maybe a bit of poor soil, but those 2 poor crops were just the motivation I needed to try some potato towers (if you're looking for a great article that discusses 7 different methods for growing potatoes go here).

Potato towers have the advantage of growing potatoes in a small space (instead of letting the plants sprawl) and as the potatoes grow up, there is more space for tubers to form.  You can build towers in many different ways (tires, reclaimed wood, fencing, etc).  We chose to re-purpose some items from around the yard (hence the chicken wire).


To start, find some good quality seed potatoes and cut them into sections so there is at least one eye on each piece.  Let these pieces sit out for a day before planting them.

Next, build your tower.  I found so many varying sets of instruction for building towers, but we opted to add about 6 inches of composty-soil to the bottom of each tower, place the potatoes inside the tower.  By lining the edges of the tower with hay, we were able to cover the potatoes with about a foot of hay and soil mixed together.  It's important as the potatoes grow to keep them covered or you will get green, poisonous potatoes.  Because the tower is more exposed to the air, keep it well watered throughout the growing season.







In addition to our chicken wire potato tower, we also created a special potato section of our straw bale castle.  This potato space uses the same method as the tower, only is in the center of 4 bales of straw.  As the potatoes grow, we'll add more hay and dirt to cover them.  I'm thinking it will require less watering, but I'm curious to see what method produces the most potatoes.





Which method do you think will work better (the tower or the center of the hay bales)?

Have you used potato towers before?

Check out other posts about growing potatoes and share some of you own in the links below.

*** A little update from this post.  The potatoes inside the hay did the best.  If I were to make the towers again I would make them a bit bigger so they didn't dry out quite so much.  The hay bales were easier to manage and since we used both the area inside for the potatoes and on top of the bales for planting it was a win win.


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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Homestead Highlight: Heather Harris

My greatest inspiration in my own backyard farming adventure has been to hear the experiences of others. I invite you to read along here as Homesteaders share their adventures and experiences from their own farms, backyards, and homes.
 
Want to be featured as a Homestead Highlight? I would love to hear about your experience. For more information follow the link to the information page and share your own homestead here at the Backyard Farming Connection! 
Today I welcome Heather to this space 
* * *

Heather started her journey to self sufficiency and homesteading after watching the movies “Super Size Me” and “Food, Inc.” and hasn’t looked back.  She and her family live in Northern Indiana, where they enjoy raising a garden, rabbits and assorted poultry in their backyard.  You can find her blogging at The Homesteading Hippy.  Also, on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.



How long have you been backyard farming?  
We have been doing it for going on 6 years now.

What got you started? 

I have always wanted to garden, and we started with growing 8ROWS of different plants (yep, 8) in a single 4x4 bed.  We didn't get anything due to crowding, but that was the beginning for us.  We also watched the movies, "Super size me", "Food, Inc." and "Dive" and that was what really got us hooked on growing our own food. 
What does your backyard farm look like?  Where is it?  
It's about 1/5 an acre, and it's outside my back door. (LOL)  We live in Northern Indiana
What has been your biggest success and  biggest mistake?  Biggest success??? 
 Hmmmm....I think that learning about what hasn't worked for us has been the biggest success for us, it's all about growing and learning for us.  Biggest mistake?  that would be trying to grow 100 plants in the aforementioned 4x4 square  foot garden, with crummy soil.  
What plans do you have for the future?  


 To expand our garden, go with solar power as much as possible, and reduce our garbage to nil so we can take the garbage expense out of our budget.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Backyard Farming Connection Hop #29

Welcome back to another week of the Backyard Farming Connection Hop.  It's a busy time of year, but I invite you to take a look at some of the great posts from last week and some new great ones from this week.

If you haven't had the chance, stop by and look at the growing gardening section of the blog (and share your posts and growing tips:)

From A Life Unprocessed: Identifying And Harvesting Edible Weeds In The Garden


From Taylor Made Ranch, It's Time to Take a Bite Out of Your Grocery Bill

I want to know what's happening, in your garden, on your homestead, in the barnyard, and in the kitchen.  Whatever is in your backyard farm and home, I would love to hear about it.

Each week I will share some of my favorite posts on the Backyard Farming Connection Facebook page.  And in case you haven't seen, I have a 'featured button' so if you've been featured in the past, grab a button.

For details on linking up visit the hop page.


Please be patient - I seem to be having come technical difficulties with my buttons (still)

Friday, April 19, 2013

What Are You Growing This Year?

It's planting time (or almost) and I am so excited to share one of the newest projects going on here at the Backyard Farming Connection.  Together with The Adventure Bites, I am working to build an online resource of homesteading posts in an easy to find format.  I'm envisioning a wealth of first-hand, researched, experienced posts to help guide readers on their homesteading quest. 

You can learn more here, or visit the gardening, animal or homesteading tabs at the top of the blog to find many of the topics of interest to the backyard farmer.  Today I am sharing 3 of the permanent link ups below.  If you are a blogger and have a post to share, link up below, or simply, check out these posts on growing squash, asparagus and tomatoes.

Summer Squash and Zucchini


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Asparagus
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Tomatoes
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

To Dig or Not to Dig: The Dirt on preparing Your Soil

The quickest way to start an argument among gardeners is to get into a discussion on how to best prepare your garden soil for the growing season.  Those opinionated gardeners have thoughts on compost and fertilizer, soil testing and mulching, and of course whether to dig or not to dig.  As I sit here writing this I can just imagine a few folks reading the information below and shaking their heads in disagreement.


The Dig Method

The basic premise of the dig method, is well, to dig.  The idea is that by breaking up the soil and turning and mixing the soil you are loosening the air pockets and spreading the compost and nutrients throughout the soil structure.  Digging your garden is especially important for those with heavy soil that needs to be broken up.

Dig in the fall months on a dry day to maintain soil structure.  The best methods of digging are either to single dig or double dig.  Before you embark, be aware that these methods are labor intensive and are difficult for even the most fit gardeners.  For both methods, start by digging a trench.  For single digging, dig the trench 1 shovel depth, and for double digging, dig the trench 2 shovel depths.  Dig a row alongside the trench turning the soil into the trench.  Continue turning each row into the newly created trench and fill the final row with the soil from the first trench.  You can also simply dig down in your garden and turn each shovelful into the hole.

The No-Dig Method

When I first read about the no-dig method, I thought - what a bunch of lazy gardeners, coming up with a whole method just to save themselves the work of digging.  But the more I read and came to understand the no-dig method, the more I realized the the no-dig method actually makes  a lot of sense.

No digging is based on the idea that natural systems actually create passages in the soil for air and water, and organisms such as worms will do the work of bringing the nutrient rich soil on the surface down to the deeper soil.  When you dig you actually break up this delicate balance and then compress the soil by walking on it. 

To employ the no-dig method, you need to enrich the top of the soil and allow natural processes to bring nutrients down.  You can also use this method to build up a raised bed.

What's Best

Both digging and not digging have their own benefits, but ultimately it depends on your soil, the life of your garden, and you own time and energy commitments as to what will work best for you.  For brand new gardens, it is often best to dig your bed to pull out any rocks, clumps of clay and simply break up the soil.  Once your garden is established, I have found it easy every year to add some compost to the top and simply work it into the top couple inches of soil.

What method do you use in your garden?

If you have a post to share about composting or preparing soil, join the Homestead Resource Guide and link up below (for more info, click here).



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Homestead Highlight: Tammy and Stacy

My greatest inspiration in my own backyard farming adventure has been to hear the experiences of others. I invite you to read along here as Homesteaders share their adventures and experiences from their own farms, backyards, and homes.
 
Want to be featured as a Homestead Highlight? I would love to hear about your experience. For more information follow the link to the information page and share your own homestead here at the Backyard Farming Connection! 


Today I welcome Tammy and Stacy to this space.

Howdy, I'm Tammy Taylor of Taylor-Made Ranch. Our ranch is located in Wolfe City, a small rural area in Northeast Texas.  My husband Stacy & I wanted out of the corporate world so we pulled the plug a few years ago and now live and work here full time raising a small herd of registered Hereford cattle. I absolutely love it here and I feel I've finally come to the place I was meant to be all along. 

Our property contains my pride and joy - an 1880's barn that we still use in our ranching operations today.  We have a website to both introduce ourselves as well as market our animals - Taylor Make Ranch and we also have a blog to share our life here on the ranch at Taylor Made Ranch Blog.  Check it out, we love to have company!


I think our biggest success is taking things slow to get where we are now.  It was hard for us to be patient and go slow, but we kept our jobs (and salaries) in the city as we purchased our land and acquired the buildings and equipment, repaired and replaced the fences, improved the pastures and dug the ponds.  There was a stiff learning curve and we were lucky to have steady paychecks and trusted mentors as we found our way through.  I wrote a blog about our experience called "Chasing the Dream", you can read it here.


Our biggest mistake has been trying to save money on our first tractor purchase and WAY under buying - the stripped-down model could not meet our needs.  Although we make sure we're being wise with our monetary resources, we now make sure we're obtaining the equipment that will do the job we need it to do.



Our future plans are materializing and changing.  We decided we wanted to try to improve our herd by utilizing artificial insemination so we sold our registered Angus bull and Stacy became a certified A.I. technician.  We've already had several A.I. calves that have been born and they're impressive.  We've also had to remain flexible due to weather conditions.  Texas experienced a record-breaking drought in 2011 and we had to reduce our herd significantly that year to assure there was sufficient feed and water for our remaining girls.  We were hit with another consecutive year of drought in 2012, although thankfully with a smaller permanent herd we were able to squeak by.  But because of those lessons we have begun using stocker animals to utilize the flush grass of the seasons, pulling them and selling them as the grass wanes.  It's been a very good move for us.


We've also expanded with a 60-acre offsite pasture.  We're fortunate that it has yet another 1880's barn on it, those old barns really speak to my heart!  We're in the process of improving the pastures and having another pond dug as well as building corrals and pens for working the cattle.  The future looks bright!



This life works so well for us since we were aware of our footprint years before it was the common thing to do. I raise a large amount of our food through the use of raised beds for our veggies and harvesting God's bounty of wild plums, blackberries and pecans in addition. Our veggie garden is irrigated 100% from an underground cistern that collects rainwater that falls on our home, and we rely heavily on passive solar energy to supply much of our energy need (zero cost - SCORE!) I've learned to slow down and enjoy the beauty around me and it's AMAZING.   If I could encourage someone I'd like to remind them that a dream not acted upon is simply a dream.  Take baby steps and go slow, but take that first step NOW!







Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Backyard Farming Connection Hop #28

With spring here, it seems like everyday there are new pockets of green, color, and (yes already) bugs.  To help get the garden and yard space ready for the growing season, the chickens have been getting lots of extra free-ranging around the yard to gobble up some of those bugs, peck at a few weeds, and of course poop.  This week's posts are all wonderful examples of how to give those feathered peckers a little extra love!

From Farmhouse 38 - make your own Scarecrow Hawk Deterrent


From Timber Creek, consider trying some Chicken Gardening this year.


 I want to know what's happening, in your garden, on your homestead, in the barnyard, and in the kitchen.  Whatever is in your backyard farm and home, I would love to hear about it.

Each week I will share some of my favorite posts on the Backyard Farming Connection Facebook page.  And in case you haven't seen, I have a 'featured button' so if you've been featured in the past, grab a button.

For details on linking up visit the hop page.


Please be patient - I seem to be having come technical difficulties with my buttons