Summer Vegitables

canned

So you are all probably thinking “Uh huh, he said he would update once a week, yeah right.” LOL. Well, I try, but am only getting time about every other week. Last weekend we had our Annual Helmig Farms BBQ competiton so we were a bit busy.  Every year we host a large event (about 60 people this year here at our farm, where locals get together and compete in BBQ’ing in four catagories :Chicken, brisket, ribs, and pork.  Medals and trophies are awarded,  food and drink provided for every one, and a great time had by all. Alot of visitors seemed to gravitate towards the vegitable garden and asking different questions. As for our summer garden update, we took our last picking of green beans and wax beans on Tuesday night. I still need to pull up the plants as they are all done just have not had the time.  We were able to can 27 pints of green beans out of the deal, so that will be nice this winter. When canning, the wife did her batches just plain beans and some homemade bacon that I butchered and cured last fall. The batches i did i added the same homemade bacon, but also through in some homegrown chopped up white onion.  The peas are also all done, we ended up with 4 gallons of peas frozen.  They take up alot of room in the garden but are sure yummy, and for pea lovers they are a wonderful treat in the wintertime in casseroles, on salads, etc.  The pea plants are already all ripped up. Later this weekend my Dutch Flat Head cabbage is ready, so i will need to shred it and ferment it for sour Krout. Recipes are on the internet as for recipes, it takes about a week or maybe a little more depending on volume, temp, etc. Also i notice my onions have fallen over.  Stalks have not turned yellow yet, but will today or tomorrow I am assuming. So i will need to pull them as well, bunch them, and hang them. Hang onions in a cold dry place for maximum keep time. Depending on the species you can keep for example yellow onions almost into next planting season. My white onions for example, or red onions, or walla walla’s will not keep near that long due to their sugar content. You can still hang them, but they will spoil fairly quick. Debating trying some shredding and freezing methods this year for longer keep time on the white onions.  Tomatoes are doing wonderful, growing like weeds, and fruiting, but are not yet ripe. Zucchinnis have had one massive picking already. We canned 18 jars of Zuch-relish, and I gave about a dozen Zuch’s away to my mother as she likes making Zuchinni sweet pickles. She wanted to trade me a few jars in trade for the produce, but I don’t much care for sweet pickles, so politely refused. There are about another 50 lbs of Zuchinni that are still growing but not yet ready for harvest. My garlic never did all that great, as they were from 2 year old cloves, but i will take the ones I can and hang for drying to use for re-planting stock next year. Carrots are also all ready for harvest, and are very large. I added some sand into the carrot area before I tilled it this year, and they grew a world better! Much larger in diameter and length. Will probably get 10 pints or so out of the carrots.  Peppers are also doing well, jalepenos and bells, and have been being used through out the summer for cooking. I didn’t plant a whole bunch of peppers this year as i still have loads of them in the freezer from years before.  On a side note “Sammy” our Yorkshire pig is fattening up nice also, and loving the canning season! Sammy gets all the scraps from canning, and plants i yank up, etc on top of her feed ration. So she is a happy camper, and will be more than ready to butcher in fall. Butcher time is strictly dependent upon pigs weight, and cool weather. I wait till the weather is cold so i can hang the pig and age it for a few days, but not totally cold enough to freeze, as frozen animals are a PAIN to cut up and process. usually October is prime butchering season. 

Early Summer garden Status

So sorry it has been so long since I have written any blogs guys! We have been super busy at work, and been working 12 hour days 6 days a week, then throw in all the farm work when i get home, and just haven’t really had the time. however, today I thought I would make time, specially for you readers. So today I wanted to touch on the garden aspect of the farm. I had planted several rows of peas, and we have already taken 3 large pickings from them, with another picking due this weekend. Now any one that has never grown peas and interested in them let me go over a few quick pea basics. The plants get very large, and DO take up alot of room in a garden. You get several “pickings” though, as not all the peas are all ready at the same time. Another little farmer trick, is when you plant them you plant one row one day, then a week or two later plant another row, and another in a week or two and so forth. This will ensure constant pea picking rotations instead of 3 weeks of peas and they are all done and ready to rip them out. Every picking we get about a large colander full. This may sound like alot of peas! But remember that shells are the bulk of the size and weight. Once the peas are shelled one colander equals about enough peas for one dinner for a family of four. (2 cups or so would be my guess). It is about 1/3 or a quart ziplock bag full. Kinda depressing going through all that growing and all that work for so little produce, but fresh peas are my absolute favorite! So for any one thinking of growing peas, just keep those things in mind. as for species, I have had excellent luck the last several years with “Wando” peas.

Now on to peppers. This is the first week of 90 degree and hotter weather so I know the peppers will finally take off now. Until now though, they have just kinda hung out and have not done much, and only had minimal growth. Personally I grow peppers from seed, as do i with my tomatoes as well. seeds are either bought for specific kinds, or basic Jalepenos and bell peppers i grow from seeds I saved the year before from harvested peppers. When i do this i plant them in small little containers and sprout them in the window sill, they are ready to plant about late march, however, the weather here in late march is usually pretty cold and still chances of frost. So what i do is save large apple juice containers, milk jugs, large gatorade bottles, etc and I remove the cap and leave it off for moisture access and ventilation. I them cut out the bottom. I plant the pepper and place the container on top, mounding a little soil around the base to ensure good insulation and also to keep the wind from blowing them away. Basically it is like a little “free” greenhouse for them until the sun really comes out. I am pretty confident they will really go gang busters this week!

My tomatoes are doing extremely well. they too were all planted from seed, sprouted in the window sill, kept to grow out in a small green house I have on the south side of the house, and planted about late march. For tomatoes i use the same greenhouse effect as the peppers due to late frosts. (My father did not greenhouse effect his, and in late march he planted them as did I, it frosted, he lost them all and had to go buy new plants). What I do a little different for tomatoes is I have wooden rack I have built. Basically 2ftx2ftx3ft high. the racks are kind of ladder shaped on the sides with wooden slats for tomatoes to grow, and lean/rest/climb on’ in the 3ft high rack, there are 3 horizontal slats. Any ways, early in the year i buy a roll of plastic sheeting. I plant the tomato, place the rack over it, wrap in up in plastic, and stable the plastic in place. The size of the plastic allows me to fold it a little over the top. Not sealing off the top as it needs to be open some for ventilation and water access, but enough to act as a green house during late frosts. They are all getting very tall and bushy, and are all doing well. Its almost July now, I took the plastic off the racks about a month ago. 

Beans are all growing great. a little early to be producing yet, but the plants are very healthy. Beans also add/give back a little Nitrogen into the soil. So not only do i grow them to eat, but I use them as a rotation crop. meaning i will grow them in one spot one year, and the next year i will place them a few rows over where my tomatoes were the year before, or what ever. I not only fertilize with manure every year, but rotating the beans helps add a little more nitrogen to the soil, and in a constant and even rotation. 

Onions are doing great as is the lettuce and we have been eating the heck out of both! Carroes are growing well and very healthy but not a whole lot of produce in them quite yet. I think the warm weather will help them along nicely. Zuchinni plants are growing massive, but not “Zukes” on them yet. they will come a little later. Squash is growing well, and starting to fruit, as are the cucumbers. Cabbage is doing marvelous and with hot weather here and to continue i will probably have to pick them this weekend and make the years sour kraut. Cabbages prefer colder weather, hot weather will some times turn them and spoil them. 

Raspberries and blue berries are all doing fantastic. for mothers day i bought the wife 2 more blueberry plants and 4 more raspeberry plants, so our berry orchard is growing quite fast. blue berry plants are loaded with berries, but are still green however. 

Garlic is about the only crop we had that did not do so well. I had some cdloves left from 2 years ago, they were still hanging up, but were starting to shrivel and get a bit soft. I planted them any ways as I thought it was better than buying garlic to plant (kinda defeats the purpose of being self sufficient), but as a result only about half of them came up. 

where fruit trees are concerned most are doing wonderful! I did however totally lose a cherry tree. Not sure what happened. Looks like he got sprayed, but I didnt have any spray any where near him this year. Not sure, any ways he died. but all the apples, peach, plum, and various other production trees are all doing great. We noticed 4 deer coming around lately, and i was excited. Deer kinda left the area due to some neighbors that are pretty heavy into poaching! So i was excited to see them coming back. However, i quickly noticed my trees were not so happy to see them! They had begun to eat my fruit trees. So now they are all netted and tubed and the deer can’t get to them any more. Problem solved. The heard garden it doing very well also. Cilantro/corriander is doing amazing! chives are also thriving as is the mint. the other herbs are growing, but they were plants from seed, and may take a little while to grow and establish.

Summer on the farm is great so far. everything is growing wonderfully as anticipated. We have a TON of canning coming up in our near future! take care every one, and thanks for reading. I will make sure I start taking more time to write more prepper farming blogs. i am going to try for at least one a week! take care and god bless every one!

Brush Removal Day (F**K*NG Sotch Broom!)

ImageLooking out my Living room picture window this morning, hot cup of Folgers in my hand, the aroma from the coffees steam drifting up my nostrils, and the sun beaming into the living room from the East. “This will be a great day to do some spraying!” I think to my self. I havn’t posted anything in about a week, i started a new job as a machinery operator and overtime has kept me pretty busy. Yesterday (Saturday) was my first chance in a week to tend to the farm. We have new baby goats born earlier in the week that have taken up my workday evenings in feeding and casterating and general care. So saturday i grabbed the trusty Troy Built brush cutter and set out on the 20 acres with a full tank of mixed gas and a vision. “Brush Be Gone!” here in northwestern Oregon “Scotch Broom” and “Tansie” are the two main culperates. Tansie will actually kill alot of livestock, especially cattle if they injest it. So it’s a must for removal. I spray the hell out of it every year. Or if I am walking by and see a plant I will try and pull it up by its roots, leaving the roots exposed to direct sunlight to kill the little bugger. The other bad weed we have is Scotch Broom. This stuff isn’t really poisonous to livestock, but it literally will completey take over a farm around here in a matter of a couple years! It’s a real booger to kill. It’s a bi-annual plant, so it only comes back every two years, so just when you think you got it all killed, cut, sprayed and all gone, the crop from year before last comes up and you got a whole new crop of the stuff. The other problem is seeding! There are probably 10,000 seeds on one single plant. So once it goes to seed, one single gentle wind and the stuff has seeded it self over literally 5 acres! I will admit during bloom it is very pretty, but it starts off like a thick 1 ft tall carpet, by the next year it is 6 feet tall. After a couple years, I am not exaggerating, this crap will be an inpenetrantable solid wall 12-15 ft high! Spreading and seeding itself every year along the way and spreading. Long story short, who ever got this stuff started here in the Pacific Northwest should have a red hot fire poker shoved up their ass! Every year i spray, and cut, and spray and cut and spray and cut. Our farm was over ran with the stuff when we got it, part of why we got it so cheap. Every year it’s a constant year long effort, and every year I gain about an acres worth, it’s a hard battle to just break even and keep the stuff nuetral with out getting worse, let alone making head way one it. But, what i have been doing and has been successful so far, is i spray it a few times when i can, then go and cut it off with the brush cutter. I build a fence around the area etending the pasture, and put goats in it for about 2 years, as they eat off any new shoots and seedlings coming up. This seems to work pretty well, but is not cheap, and is a lot of work. Any ways, so yesterday, I took out the brush cutter. I cut a piece about 3 acres in size (yes, by hand with a darn weed eater with a blad attatchment, hence what I mean by alot of work). Some of it was sprayed and dead, other spots were not, and were still healthy growing plants. I cut them off any ways, so at least they will not goto seed on me, I can keep it kind of nuetral this year, and allows me to focus my real hardcore scotchbroom killing and removal efforts in other locations. And since the sun is going to be out today, as soon as the morning dew is heated off the grass, and everything is dried up a bit, I’m gonna fill up my back pack sprayer and head off. I will do one pack sprayer of CrossBow to spot spray Scotchbroom, tansie, black berry vines, and any other broad leaf weeds vines and plants i do not want. Once that is done, i will mix up another backpack sprayer full of my own custom mix. I will mix 1/2 Crossbow (and not water it down as much as reccommded) and the other 1/2 will be Round-Up (It too will be a little more concentrated that recommended). The reason for this mixture, is i use it along my fence lines, the driveway, etc. It pretty much kills everything. My fences have a hot (electric) wire running about 10 inches off the bottom wire, so i spray the fence lines to keep things from growing into the electric fence and shorting it out. I do this every year, and the result is about 6 inches on both sides of the fence line, that is just bare dirt, where nothing grows. PERFECT! It also makes fence repairs, removal, etc ALOT easier not having grass and weeds and vines growing up through the fence and making it all tangles up and hard to get out of the ground. Also, the less organic matter that grows, the less that dies, which leads to the least amount of decomposed organic matter, resulting in a LACK of top soil getting taller and taller each year, which in turn for the general farmer means that the bottom wire of your fence pretty much remains where you originally put it, instead of the bottom wire getting covered by dirt, rusting off, and comprimising your fence strength, usability, and helps the bottom line of actually keeping critters inside the fence where you want them. In case some people are not familiar with general herbicide applications, CrossBow is very useful, and kills broad leaf plants only(It WILL NOT kill grass), it great for spot spraying unwanted plants, weeds, vines, etc and not killing all the grass or having big dead spots all over. Round-Up is another very useful spray, but it kills grass, and smaller kinds of weeds like dandilions and that sort of thing. This is great for spraying along fences, spraying driveways or walkways, around flower beds, that sort of thing. Always be sure to read labels, and try and think ahead of what you really want your end result to be. In other words, if you want grass around to grow and look nice, or to feed livestock, or to choke out young upcoming brush and weeds, then keep Round up the hell away! On the other hand, if you are trying to keep grass out and keep vines or berries or other broad leaf organics alive, then keep the crossbow away from it. As i write this I keep checking outside, the sun is up pretty good now, I can feel the heat from the window, telling me it’s about time to go out and start mixing up some weed killer! Thanks for listening folks.

Catching Rain

I am sitting in my comfortable recliner, some annoying cartoon on tv that my 3 year old is watching, the fire next to me roasty and toasty, and on the window panes the rain beats hard. The past week or so it has been half way decent weather out, but here in early spring with fresh new fruit trees in the ground, seeds planted in the garden, we need a rain. Which brings me to my topic of the day. Catching, and using rain to our benefit, not work against us, and here in western Oregon we get TONS of rain! Lets start off by first mentioning that in spring, rain is needed to help growing trees and shrubs establish root systems, and provide water for the growing plant to begin structural growth, bud development, and over all cell structure. With out the rain, plants would just wither away and die. Same for seeds planted in gardens or flowerbeds. The rain is needed to keep these seeds moist and germinate so they can sprout and grow up through the earth. One way of harnessing rain that some may not think of, is i store rain water. I have rain collection units around teh farm here, from 5-gallon buckets at the bottom of gutter down spouts, to rubber maid tubs catching rain off the wood shed roof. Why would I collect rain water you ask? Well, if I was in the city the use of rain water for plants would be super beneficial due to city water containing so much cholorine and flouride and such and would provide the plants with a more pure and nitrogen enriched source of water. However, we do have a well here on the farm, so the purity of the water is not an issue. Mostly i use the collected water for animals. The rabbits and the chickens both live off the collected rain water (except in the summer, then it is well water). Its also handy sometimes having some easily accesible water for washing off farm or garden tools, rinsing off eggs, washing off dirty hands what ever. Rain is our friend, not our enemy, and has a million uses. As the years progress I intend on expanding my rain catching system to something a little more substantial, but in the mean time what i have will have to work. Happy rain catching every one.

Mulching and Wood Chip Day

As Spring continues here in the Pacific Northwest grass and weeds are starting to grow. I am seeing grass and weeds sprouting in our gravel driveway, and many other places around the farm that I will definately have to start spraying soon. I was thinking of this yesterday evening as i rolled myself a smoke, sat on the porch looking up the drive seeing all the scotchbroom turning dark green and healthy again. Darn stuff. I have about a 3 acre piece that is not fenced in yet, and goats and stock can’t be kept in there to keep the brush mowed down. So this particular piece of land, until i get it fenced, i have been keeping brush down by hand with herbicide, weed eaters, machette, and hand shears. Not very fun. And of coarse it has to be the brushiest, rockiest, most uneven piece of ground on the whole place where I can’t even take a mower into. Oh well. Any ways, was sitting on the porch last night, thinking about some fruit trees i have, some flower beds, and other things of that nature, and decided that with weather permitting I will make today mulch day. During the fall I save two large 100lbs feed bags (the white woven plastic strand kind). In one I pick up dead and fallen maple leaves and stuff it full. In the other I put wood shavings. The savings i get from cutting wood all year round. Sometimes when i have a big burly hunk of wood with knots every where I will just lay it on it’s side and use the chainsaw to split it into desired pieces. Yeah its more of a use of gas, but it saves having to beat and beat and beat on the darned thing, but also it gives me nice long wood shavings, which I use in around the place in lew of Bark Dust. Just a side note for folks, if you stand the block of wood upright and saw through it, the wood chips will be very fine, and powder like, if you lay it on its side and cut with the grain you will get those long strands I am talking about. Just a note.

Any ways, alot of fruit trees and flower beds (the ones that are planted already and sprouting up) will get a layer of crushed and crumbled broken up leaf bits (1/2 inch thick or so, maybe an inch) fallowed by an inch or more of wood shavings. Mulching helps retain moisture in the hot summer months, but it also help prevent grass and weeds poking up through. No it doesn’t totally stop them, but it does slow and impeede them. My only advice for others doing this, is I also take a soil ph tester with me as I do this. The wood shavings has potential of making the soil more acidic over time. each  year I test around the trees and beds, and ajust accordingly to what each species likes and needs. Happy gardening folks

Rock Bed Herb Garden

So it always seems like our farm produces more rocks and boulders than it does crops and livestock! No, actually things grow great here, but when we excavated the land when i was building the house i now have an overwelming stockpile or rocks and boulders. I definately bought a rocky piece of ground. However, instead of letting it get me down, I figured out a way to make the rocks work for me instead of against me.

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Between my pump house and an electrical tranformer (which i had already built a rock wall around to hide the ugly electrical box) I built a large rock garden bed, filled it with dirt, and it will be our “Herb Garden.”

It is still a bit early in the spring (3-11-13) to be planting alot of the herbs yet, but when the weather warms up i will plant all the seeds into the ground and let her grow. I have a fairly large collection of seeds from last spring that i purchased, with ambition of making some kind of herb growing bed. However, every day farm work, kids, and our jobs (wife is a Nurse, i am a Logger), getting an herb bed just never got done. So now, this year the bed is all done, the seeds are waiting, and we will be cooking and BBQ’ing with fresh herbs all summer! Yummy!

My design and construction of the bed may not be perfect, was just my thoughts, reasons, and materials i had at that given time, and is as fallows:

 The bed is placed on a natural ditch and water flowing line (was excavated for water and power lines to the house, so water kinda naturally flows in that area in heavy rains). To avoid over saturation of the soil and herbs, I shallowly dug up any grass in that general area. I then went into the field and packed every single rock by hand over and tossed over the fence landing next to the work area. Once i had a good supply of rocks, I started lining them up and setting them all in place so that they would not only hold in the soil, but also look halfway pleasing to the eye. Once the bed was all shaped i then used a five gallon bucket and a shovel, and placed in Approx. 2 inches of gravel in the bottom of the bed. I did this in thoughts of it will give good drainage for the herbs, but also as a water and drainage barrier for heavy springtime rains and the water that flows underneath the bed. This way the water should have a place to still flow, but not flood out my herb garden, making it a big swampy soupy mess. Any ways, once I smoothed all the gravel out i then used the tractor and got some extra soil i have piled up in numerous places around the farm and dumped it into the herb garden, smooting it out and plucking rocks sticks and weeds by hand. then Voila! Rock bed herb garden complete.

As far as the herbs i will be planting in there they include: Mint (already planted in there now), Rosemary, Chives, Basil, Horse raddish (have it growing in a pot, need to plant it in my new herb bed), Cilantro/Corriander, Stevia, Dill, Thyme, Terragon, Oregano, Sage, and i am wanting to also pick up some spearmint when ever the local store starts stocking the plants. I was thinking maybe some Lavander also since i know it is edible just to add a little color to the bed, but i may try cooking with it a bit and dabble with it before i  plant any.

While i was making the rock bed herb garden I also built along side the drive way a rock bed flower and shrub bed. I currently have some small trees in there and some flowers and shrubs, but the trees will be removed and transplanted to a different location once they are bigger and a little more mature and stable.074

I am using it for kind of an incubation/baby nursing bed for the young trees, giving them a place for them to grow a bit, establish a good root system, get used to the soil, etc. The trees that are there now but will be removed in a year or two and placed in a final location include: Oriental Spruce, Colorado Blue spruce, Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, White Fir (also known as a Piss Fir), a Willow tree, and a Golden rain tree. As far as decorative things that will stay are Forsynthias and Tulips, and will let the wife add what ever flowers she would like to add color. This smaller rock bed is purely decorative, basically just some eye candy along side the drive way (placed it up against a rock jack i build for the fence) as we/people travel up and down the driveway.