Friday, June 28, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?


With summer officially here I'm anxious for the plants to start growing.  I always find this time of year a bit challenging.  After the bustle of spring planting and preparation you actually need to wait.  Of course there are always new projects, pruning, and weeding, but now the plants to do most of the work. 

At this time of year I always make the mistake of wandering around the garden impatiently sticking seeds in bare spots regardless of my carefully crafted planting plan. While most of the time this simply results in overcrowded plants, there are definitely moments when this random planting produces breathtaking combinations.





Our first year tomatilla plants are up and looking good, but this year's been a bit rough on the broccoli.  The straw bale garden is coming along, and the tomato plants there are clearly ahead of the plants in the garden.  I can't wait to compare the harvests.  The potatoes in the center of the straw bales look fabulous, but I am a bit worried that they may have flowered too early.  Amidst the important vegetable and fruit garden, the flower beds are turning out nicely, and the bee garden is beginning to get the look of a second year, more established garden.


How's your garden growing?


Check out some of these great photos of other people's gardens from this week and share some of your own in the gardening flickr group.



 

Each Friday I share photos from our garden with an update about what we're doing, what's growing, and what we're eating.  I invite you to come play along, I love seeing what others are trying.  You can join the fun in 3 ways:
  • If you blog, I welcome you to write a post or share a post from that week about what's growing in your garden
  • If you aren't a blogger, I invite you to join my gardening flickr group and share photos of your garden from this week - I will try to grab a few photos each week to share on my post.  Please include the date, a general location and your name so I can give you the proper credit.
  • And last - if you don't want to blog or share photos, just follow along and check out all the links and photos and maybe share a comment with your own gardening experience from the week

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Backyard Farming Connection Hop #38

This past weekend we celebrated our twins 5 year birthday !  It was quite a party and we got to share our garden and animals with many friends old and new.  Despite the energy and sugar, we took time to celebrate the solstice with a simple meal from the garden on Friday.  Thanks to an influx of family, the gardens are mostly weeded and we're settling into summer mode.  

As plants emerge, it is time to start thinking about caring for them.  Many people are already experiencing trouble with pests.  This week I'm featuring two posts about attracting and dealing with pests naturally - stop over and take a look, and if you haven't joined my weekly series 'How Does Your Garden Grow Series,' Come by on Friday and check it out.


From Homegrown on the Hill Make your own Pesticide


From Learning and Yearning, attract beneficial bugs to your garden



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.



(If the HTML for the buttons doesn't work, feel free to just save the photo and link it back to this page).

Friday, June 21, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?


It has been lovely this week to get back out in the garden.  Last week the rain kept us in our boots, but this week we were back out there getting our hands dirty and making sure all those newly sprouted weeds were getting plucked from the garden and deposited into the compost bins.






Unfortunately the weeds weren't the only ones to combat in the garden, 3 of our big hens have been making daily forages into the garden.  I like to think they are there to pick out the bugs, but in reality they've moved their dust bath right into one of my garden beds.  Luckily the littlest one here (the 1 year old) thinks it is her job to get the chickens out of the garden and she spends much of her day flapping her arms and yelling 'NO DUCKIES.'  I moved our garden artwork into the garden in hopes of deterring these errant birds.

We also have some errant tomato plants that are coming up from last years dropped tomatoes.  This weekend I hope to round up these little plants and distribute them around the garden to more permanent homes.  This week we're loving the strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and tonight I used some of the garlic scapes in a sauce for dinner.  I can't wait to try garlic scapes in pesto tomorrow night.  What's happening in your garden?

Check out some of these great photos of other people's gardens from this week and share some of your own in the gardening flickr group.



 

Each Friday I share photos from our garden with an update about what we're doing, what's growing, and what we're eating.  I invite you to come play along, I love seeing what others are trying.  You can join the fun in 3 ways:
  • If you blog, I welcome you to write a post or share a post from that week about what's growing in your garden
  • If you aren't a blogger, I invite you to join my gardening flickr group and share photos of your garden from this week - I will try to grab a few photos each week to share on my post.  Please include the date, a general location and your name so I can give you the proper credit.
  • And last - if you don't want to blog or share photos, just follow along and check out all the links and photos and maybe share a comment with your own gardening experience from the week

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Canning and Preserving Resource Guide

It's already the time year when the harvest is starting to come into the kitchen and we shift from frantically planting to preserving (at least it feels frantic in our home). In our yard, the strawberries are ripe and ready to pick which means it's time to make jam. Here are some fabulous guides to canning and preserving:

Schneider Peeps has a post on Preserving Basil in the freezer (gotta LOVE fresh and frozen basil)


Everything Home With Carol has a post on Canning Peaches


To see more resources on other homestead topics or for details on sharing your post here, visit the Homestead Resource Guide Link up Page.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Homestead Highlight: Janie

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 Janie to this space (make sure you stop over and get a free copy of her wonderful Egg Project book)!

* * *



Hey everyone, I’m Janie from Hedgecombers.com
I’m a food blogger & self sufficient wannabe that lives on 30 acres in south west England.  








How long have you been backyard farming?  



I grew up on my family’s smallholding and from a very young age was used to getting my hands dirty. If there was ever a pig to gut or a chicken to pluck I was always front of the queue to help!



I traveled overseas for a few years in my early 20’s and after a relationship break up, finally moved back to the farm in my early 30’s. I’m 40 next month (Eek!) and as I can’t have children - I get my maternal kick from my critters.




What got you started?



I swore off meat for 8 years as a teenager when I discovered how mass produced livestock was reared and treated. I remember being repulsed at the way large scale ‘farmers’ treated the entire journey of their animals, and wanted no part of it.



Moving back to the farm meant I could take full responsibility for the meat I ate, by rearing my own. My dad passed away in January of this year, so I have taken on his role of growing our veggies too.



What does your backyard farm look like?  


The farmhouse I grew up in is just beautiful. The oldest part of it is 12th century and it is drenched in history. How I wish those walls could talk!



My parents converted the original stone farm buildings into rental cottages, and Jonny & I live in one of those. The buildings are surrounded by 30 acres of our own land, so it is quiet and private even though we live in a touristy area.



We have a really old orchard next to the farmhouse with cooking & cider apples and my parents planted another one around 25 years ago with sweet desert apples. They also dug a lake with an island which is where my ducks live. We have a large allotment area for us and another for the tenants and each cottage has a plot in a giant poly tunnel. We have a smaller (much tattier one!) for the family – if you ever need me, I’ll be in there!




Where is it?


We are on the south coast of Cornwall, so we get the warmest weather the UK can offer, although we do of course get a lot of rain! Our winters are mild, only occasionally do we get any snow and it (sadly) rarely settles.



What has been your biggest success and biggest mistake?


Biggest success, boy I’m not sure I’ve had one. OK, well I was an acupuncturist for 10 years and gave it up when my Dad first became ill. I had trouble dealing with other people’s problems and felt that I had lost my empathy. I also hated the 50 mile drive I was doing 3 or 4 times a week, so I closed the business down and took on a couple of jobs in local shops. I buckled down and cleared my debts (which I am hugely proud of!) and have since been working to turn my blog into a business.



Although I am as poor as a church mouse, I have the absolute BEST lifestyle in the world! My day is my own. I spend time with the animals, in the kitchen creating, cooking and photographing recipes, weeding, planting or harvesting in the poly tunnel. So long as I can pay the household bills every month I really don’t need much else. Sure it’d be nice to splash out on a new lens for my camera or not have to worry when the car needs some work doing, but any stress caused by lack of funds is instantly negated by looking out of a window! 




So the long winded answer to your question is, my biggest success lies in accepting I need very little more than the land can give me.



As for the mistakes, I’ve made SO many and unfortunately when you make a mistake with an animal it can ultimately have pretty sad consequences.



I guess my biggest mistake was initially keeping the ducks in pens overnight. Not only is clearing ducks pens out a nightmare (think constantly wet, muddy & very poopy), they are so much safer now. If they see/sense/smell a fox they get onto the water or island and are immediately safe. I no longer clip their wings, so if they need to fly away from danger they can.



I still lose a couple every year because it seems the only way a new or young bird learns the danger of a fox is for them to see another bird getting killed.



What plans do you have for the future?


Where do I start! I’ve just written a book with the help of my readers and am so in love with the process I’ve already started on the next one!



We planted a nuttery this year and I can’t wait till we start picking our own nuts. Jonny has cleaned and set up Dad’s old bee hives so we are hoping to attract a couple of swarms soon.



We’ve recently been given an industrial meat grinder & sausage stuffer so will be having a go at making our own sausages, oh and we’re importing a pressure canner from the US. I am so ridiculously excited to start canning! It’s not done much here in the UK, and I can’t understand why. I love the idea of storing food long term without needing the three giant chest freezers we currently have!



If anyone would like a free copy of Project Egg, an egg busting cookbook filled with recipes that use 3 or more eggs, visit this link to download your copy. You’ll even find a recipe from the lovely Gretchen in it!



 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Backyard Farming Connection #37

This has been one of those - run around with lots to do and not actually get much done kinds of weeks!  Without further discussion here are this week's features:

From Taylor-Made Ranch, save money and energy using Solar Screens


And from Green Eggs and Goats, I LOVE these trellises!



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.



(If the HTML for the buttons doesn't work, feel free to just save the photo and link it back to this) page.

Friday, June 14, 2013

How Does your Garden Grow?

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”
- Claude Monet


It's been hard to find time to get out in the garden this week between the rain showers.  As we watch out the windows and wade our way back and forth to the animals through the mud puddles, the weeds seem to be filling up every inch of open space in the gardens.  Our biggest nemesis is the horsetail that seems to grow at a rate of inches a day.  My hands are itching to get back out there into the dirt.

Despite the rain, the plants are growing along out there, although many of the heat loving varieties seem to be growing much more slowly this year.  The tomatoes in particular seem less than happy about the amount of moisture.


With bowls of strawberries coming into the house each day and lots of lettuce, we've been enjoying fresh spring salads with goat cheese (my favorite).  The peas are getting more flowers each day, and we're days away from having fresh peas.


The straw bale garden is still growing well although only 2 of the 4 tomato plants are truly thriving.  The potato vines look amazing!




Check out some of these great photos of other people's gardens from this week and share some of your own in the gardening flickr group.



 

Each Friday I share photos from our garden with an update about what we're doing, what's growing, and what we're eating.  I invite you to come play along, I love seeing what others are trying.  You can join the fun in 3 ways:
  • If you blog, I welcome you to write a post or share a post from that week about what's growing in your garden
  • If you aren't a blogger, I invite you to join my gardening flickr group and share photos of your garden from this week - I will try to grab a few photos each week to share on my post.  Please include the date, a general location and your name so I can give you the proper credit.
  • And last - if you don't want to blog or share photos, just follow along and check out all the links and photos and maybe share a comment with your own gardening experience from the week

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ten Herbs for your Garden (and how to grow them)

If you grow nothing else in your garden, consider growing herbs.  Whether you have a sprawling garden or a series of growing pots, herbs are a must have.  Not only do they take up a small amount of space and are easy to grow, but just a few small sprigs in the grocery store often cost more than a small plant from the nursery.  Here are some growing tips for 10 must have herbs.



Basil

Basil is an absolutely fabulous herb.  It is perfect fresh or cooked into a variety of dished and is a staple of many salads and sauces.  Having fresh basil in your own yard or deck is truly one of the best reasons to get into gardening (and the plants are beautiful).

Growing Tips: Start basil from seeds either inside or plant directly after all danger of frost is past (we lost several basil plants to a late frost this year).  Basil loves rich, well drained soil and grows well in the ground or in pots.  This plant loves the heat, so try to give it at least 8 hours of sun a day.  Harvest a few leaves at a time early before the plant flowers.

Chives

If it is one thing we have an abundance of at our home is it chive plants.  These lovely plants add a bit of green to the garden early in the spring followed by beautiful ball-shaped purple flowers and are fun to just eat right off the plants.  Chives are often used at the end of a dish to add some flavor and garnish.

Growing Tips: Chives are really bulb plants and can be grown by seeds or seedlings.  Grow them in rich, well drained soil as part of a garden border or in containers.  Although they are relatively hardy, don't over water them.


Rosemary

Rosemary has a unique flavor that makes it a welcome addition to the herb garden, and is a key flavoring in many dishes.

Growing Tips: Rosemary has always been a growing challenge for us and we seem to lose our plants each year whether I bring them inside or leave them out to brave the cold.  On the other hand I know several people who live just slightly farther south who have large, gorgeous plants year round.  Rosemary loves sun and will grow best in warmer climates (zone 7 and up) although it will do well during the summer season in cooler climates.  Rosemary does best with light water, good ventilation, and well drained soil.  It is a great choice for container planting although care should be taken when transplanting.

Thyme

Thyme can be used in a wide array of dishes from sauces to soups to fish and salad dressings.  Thyme can be used fresh from the garden or dried for use throughout the year.

Growing Tips: Thyme is a beautiful, low growing herb that grows well in full sun and well drained soil.  While is can be grown in zones 4-9, it should be protected during the winter months.  Thyme can be started from seed or divided from mature plants.

Dill

Dill can be used fresh, dried or frozen throughout the year to flavor.  Dill is a key ingredient when making pickles or in many fish dishes.

Growing Tips: Dill is an easy plant to grow and only needs occasional watering.  Since the main roots are very deep, dill grows best in deep containers or directly in the garden in full sun.  Grow dill from seed by sowing a few weeks before the final frost.


Oregano

Oregano is a commonly used herb in the kitchen and is used in many Mediterranean dishes.  Many of my favorite dishes use Oregano as a key ingredient both in the fresh and dried versions.

 Oregano is moderately hardy and can grown as a perennial anywhere over about zone 5 (although we've had success several years in zone 5). It does well in well drained soil and can tolerate dry conditions.  Harvest Oregano when the plant is about 8 inches tall.

Parsley

Parsley is a versatile herb used as a mild flavoring or as an edible garnish.  Both the flat leaf and curly leaf variety are beautiful.

Growing Tips: Parsley is a biennial plant that will grow for one or two years depending on your climate.  You can start parsley by seed (just be patient) and grow in a moist spot in full sun to partial shade.


Cilantro

If there is one herb I can never have too much of, it would have to be cilantro.  This fresh tasting herb is packed with flavor and is used in many dishes.  In addition, the seeds that form after the flowers are used are the spice coriander so you get double the herbs when you grow this plant.

Growing Tips: Cilantro is grown easily from seed by planting them in the fall or starting them inside during the spring.  Cilantro also readily self seeds and even though the plants die back each year, you will continue to have cilantro each season.  Cilantro goes to seed easily, so plant the seeds periodically through the growing season for a continuous harvest (you can also cut back flowers to extend the harvest of each plant).

Lavender

While Lavender can be used as a flavoring in the kitchen, it is most commonly used in potpourri, crafts and for medicinal purposes. Lavender is also a beautiful perennial that adds a shot of purple to your garden or deck.

Growing Tips: Lavender grows well in poor soil and survives drought which makes is ideal for container gardening.  Start by purchasing small plants and keep your lavender plant in well drained, slightly alkaline soil for best results.  For those living in zones 5-8 you can grow this as a perennial, although in zone 5 we often lose some of our lavender in harsh winters.

Mint

Mint is a perfect herb for the summer - think lemonade, mojitos, and fresh soup.  It is very aromatic and is a wonderful plant to simply walk past in your garden.

Growing Tips: The major problem with growing mint is its tendency to take over an area.  Unlike many other herbs, mint likes a slightly more moist environment.  It is best grown from plants and does not do well started from seed.  To keep mint under control, plant in a container or in barrel in the ground.

What herbs are your favorite?

Stop over and share your herb related posts on the Homestead Resource Guide: Growing Herbs


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Backyard Farming Connection Hop #36

This weekend we took off for a few days to Vermont.  Driving through the fields of corn and cows I was reminded of the humble and tiny size of my own backyard.  And yet - at this time of year that little backyard is bursting full of green and growth.  If you missed Friday's post, I just started a new series call "How does your Garden Grow?" where you can link up and share posts and photos of your garden.  Please stop by and play along!

With early harvests already come in from the garden, it is already time to think about preserving some of the bounty.  This week's features are all about berries and preserving!

 From the Homestead Lady, Ways to Preserve Cherries


 For the second week in a row - this post from Schneider Peeps gives an easy quick look at Canning Berries.

From The Rural Economist  here's a post on making strawberry jam


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.



(If the HTML for the buttons doesn't work, feel free to just save the photo and link it back to this) page.