May seems to be flying by. This week we saw temps of 100 and nights into the 40’s. What a wild ride. To think that plants have to be adapted to such swings and thrive at it is quite impressive. CM published a short article about the evolving Monkeypox situation. He even changed the oil and oil filter in the truck which is a great skill to learn and do. Let’s get into it. Of course, we did a whole lot of planting in an attempt to grow as much food as we can.
A lot of veggies are coming up and are getting ready to be transplanted this coming week. Long beans are a fan favorite on the farm and we are growing two types this year. One red and one green. We really enjoy them in stir fry which is a quick easy meal on a hot day. Hopefully, we will be able to can and pickle some to enjoy this winter.
Our trellis arrived in the mail from Bootstrap Farmer and I was able to get some 7’ t-posts to attach it to. I am not the biggest fan of this trellis due to it being plastic but it’s supposed to last for many years and it was 1/3 the cost of buying wire fencing which I used last year for some short trellises. For what we could afford, the rolls only came 3' tall so we had to double net the trellis system to get enough vertical coverage. Since you can increase your food production in the same space by 1/3 by using a trellis to grow up, we are adding pole beans, cucumbers, yams, gherkins, and tomatoes to these trellises as well. The mixture helps reduce pest pressure and increases productivity. A huge win for us. I stuck with having a trellis on every other row to reduce costs and I think it looks nice too.
Sage has decided to bloom as well which means I will not have to buy more seeds to propagate it. Yay! I want to have swaths of herbs in order to make meaningful amounts of them to use over the year. I am planting oregano, thyme, sage, and parsley in blocks to produce enough to cook with. Herbs are so expensive now (along with most everything else) so it's great to grow them and make your own seasonings.
As an experiment last year, I bought some Chinese arrowhead bulbs from an Asian market on eBay and grew them out, they overwintered and multiplied much to my surprise and so I am growing them out again to start mass producing them. The coldest temp this winter got down to 0 in January so I did not expect these to survive but they did. This swamp-loving edible plant is related to our own native edible arrowhead. The Chinese variety however has been cultivated for a long time so its bulbs are much larger. This plant is a potential staple crop here and will be added to the list of priority species to grow out. The nutritional value, ease of cultivation, and zero pest problems make this a top priority species for us. Here is a short cooking article with some background and uses you may be interested in reading.
Our Mars grape, which is our area's most disease-resistant grape, was hit hard by the unexpected late frost last week but has since put out more flower spikes and leaves. We are hopeful to enjoy a handful of seedless grapes from this wonderful variety. Contender beans are pushing up through the mulch in the 50’ bed I planted them in last week. Really neat to see them all coming up and the slugs have not been causing problems thank God! Ozark everbearing strawberries are ripening now so we are so excited to get fresh chemical-free produce! This week we will be planting out the tomatoes and peppers we started indoors back in April.
Seed starting is very challenging inside a tiny house, to begin with, due to the space constraints but also due to the fluctuating indoor temps of the woodstove. We are proud to have so many survive our first attempt and will expand on these methods next spring now that we know what to do.
Chamomile has started to bloom along with yarrow to brighten up the garden beds and food forest alleys. The insects they attract do seem to help keep pests down too. It’s nice to be surrounded by beauty in a world so chaotic right now. I started 4 flats of parsnips, tea hibiscus, and salsify to plant out in a week or two when they are big enough. I also bought seed starting flats from BootStrap Farmer in case you want to get your own. They are fairly heavy-duty and seem to be holding up well after three years of use. I want to focus on nutrient-dense foods, especially root crops that I can store in the ground here in my climate so I do not have to build a root cellar. Maybe in the future, we can build one but for now, in-ground storage is the most energy-efficient and economical as well.
For fun, I added in a picture of a little heirloom apple forming from Hewe's Virginia crab and a lovely mulberry ripening up.
CM made a lovely strawberry pie this week using the sun oven to cook it! We have not made a lot of meals from this awesome low-tech contraption but the results are excellent. In minutes we reach temps of 350 degrees in full sun. How neat is that? We did not have to use any fossil fuels or wood to make a delicious pie. To think we can plop this oven down on a table outside and within an hour or so we have a meal ready to go. This type of technology is critical in a de-industrializing country and I highly encourage you to buy one.
With the advent of the next mass psychosis scare tactic of monkeypox emerging on the scene, CM wrote a short article about the latest news and some interesting information you may want to check out for yourself. I have a few articles I would like to post in the near future. One is on the human environment when looking for a future place to call home. This is a part of an ongoing series I call Finding Home where I explain all the factors I look at when I am doing my property searches for our new place if we are able to move.
Due to the 100-degree days we had, a little lady got heat-stressed so we took her into our other container which was very cool (thanks to thick spray foam insulation it felt like AC in there), and gave her some watermelon to rehydrate. Within an hour she was doing a lot better so we took her outside and sat with her in the shade for a little bit till she jumped down and wanted to be with her siblings again. So damn cute!
Sometimes I get depressed with what seems monotonous everyday chores and life here on the farm. Our lifestyle is not easy but it is the most economical and realistic given our income and resource base. That doesn’t mean everything is rainbows and unicorns, however. I got a bit overwhelmed trying to figure out how to grow enough food to last us a year but the cost of bulk seeds, growing them in poor soils, and watering by hand is very daunting. We came up with the strategy to buy some seeds in bulk that are affordable but the other things like soybeans, corn, and sorghum will just have to be grown out and save their seeds to grow even more next year. Our drug neighbors are not always causing us problems but it is something we are situationally aware of living next to them. This can drain you over time and it is something I have to manage. They are what Dr. Phil in podcast episode 13 calls BAITERs. They are reckless, lack empathy, take no responsibility for their lives, will happily take what is yours without any remorse, and cause harm at a moment's notice. I wonder how common this will be as the country slips further into chaos? Perhaps living with this threat is helping to instill skills necessary to protect our homestead in times of crisis. What really does help though is talking to wonderful people that reach out to us through our website. Their friendship and support really bring so much joy to our lives. Having like-minded folks to talk to really make life worthwhile.