Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter & The Garden

We had a wonderful Easter with the entire family attending church .. and lunch afterward.  The Mr. had to scoot off to work .. this should be his last Easter to miss out as he's retiring at the end of the year.  The sky was cloudless and our temp was about 68F. 
Easter Greetings from the Mac Family
I was able to get out and work in the yard and gardens for a few hours this afternoon .. Day 7

spring growth is just below the surface

It will take several days to get the perennial beds cleaned up, debris blown and shrubs trimmed.

Soon greenery and flowers will fill this bed

The whiskey and wine barrels have been moved to their permanent locations and filled with potting soil.

I've got bulbs to plant
... and to freshen up the front porch, we have new rocking chair pads to make our afternoon rest periods more comfy to take in the views.

Outdoor furniture is making an appearance!  Can't wait to rock that new grandson!
What's up in your garden?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

If It's Free .. It's For Me .. (Healthy Life Summit) ..Last Day

Here are some pod casts that are streaming free today ..

Healthy Life Summit ... check it out!

Topics ~ Techniques for making real foods

Neurocranial Restructuring

Recover from Autism with Diet

Homemade Beauty Products

From CAFO's to Grass-Based Agriculture

Friday, March 29, 2013

Baby News

We welcomed this little fellow into our family on Wednesday morning; isn't he beaUtiful!
baby 'K'
This grandma is in LOVE!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Equiping The Next ...


Have you developed homemaking and/or homesteading skills that you can pass on to others?

I recently had the opportunity to give back by hosting a 4-H foreign cooking class in my home.  It was a good experience and we have more classes in mind and another one scheduled.  All it took was someone bringing up the subject .. then .. little old me .. offering to teach the class.

I gave the students a few choices .. and cookbooks.  They chose the country and cookbook ... AND the recipes they wanted to learn to make.  Japanese food was selected.  They provided the majority of food .. I supplied specialty items already in my pantry.

It was a good learning experience by students, teacher, and 4-H leader.  Next month we are meeting again to  make Danish food.  This is to fulfill requirements in their handbooks, and gave me the chance to share my cooking skills with a few lovely young women.

I think it is very important to share any skills we have learned so the next generation can be informed and skilled.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Day 6

No pictures .. but I did manage to spray the fruit trees with a dormant oil spray that I made using water,  organic clary sage & fir vegetable oil soap, vinegar .. and 1/2 teaspoon tea tree oil.  My pump sprayer was no where to be found . . . so I used a spray bottle .. definitely not a small job!  Thank goodness the trees have not budded or leafed out and are only a few years old.  Now it's time for a lazy Sunday afternoon nap!

Sunday Reading

.... after church (of course).

Organic Fruit Tree Sprays

Soil Care

Companion Plants For Fruit Trees

Guide and Charts on Planting Companion Vegetables and Herbs and Fruit Tree Companion Planting

E How ... Companion Plants for Fruit Trees

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Greater Strength

... and better sleep.

Since adopting better nutrition the past several years ... and using the lavender oil every night on my pillow for sleep, I can feel the joints in my hips and leg bones have more strength in them.  I was a sorry mess, in pain .. always tired .. foggy headed .. sore this and sore that prior to using the farmacy as my medicine cabinet.

There were countless food allergies .. sleepless nights .. creaks in my knees .. tender tendons in my shoulders ... did I mention no energy? 

My farmacy includes using only whole foods at home, buying eggs and meat that are not tainted with drugs and GMO's .. getting to know my local farmers and how they feed their animals.  Buying whole raw milk .. even if I cook with it, at least it started out loaded with beneficial enzymes and nutrition packed.  Growing a garden, buying organic when needed .. sprouting wheat to dry and grind into flour.  It's a pretty serious matter when you consider the ill health of a large percentage of people. 

rich bone broth
This week has been one big temptation after another.  We've eaten out quite a few times between date day with  hubby .. and a birthday dinner for our youngest.  Yesterday, it caught up with me and I was in a sleep induced stupor requiring a mid afternoon nap.  Phooey .. that's enough bodily torture and I don't want to go back to that state of poor health.
sprouts are easy to grow on your counter top in winter months

Are you shopping at a farmacy, have your own farmacy .. or do you have a poor diet resulting in needing prescriptions from a pharmacy? I don't know about you ... but this new socialized health care system could be a bad pill .. keeping healthy and not needing to use it is good proactive medicine.
one of the veggie gardens at The Thrifty Garden Home

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bit by Bit

It's a work in progress .. and nitty and gritty!

Day 5 ~ Was cold, cloudy, sunny, blowy and with snow flurries.  There's something neat about working out in the cold .. with the sound of wind blowing through the tree tops .. and snow flurries .. seems a bit surreal and other worldly.  Perhaps that's why it took me until 3:00 PM to get outside and work in the garden.

The call of the wood stove kept me snug and cozily napping on the couch .. but work has to get done!

I added some wood ash to the raised beds .. just a little sprinkle .. then tilled it in.

I dug the dirt and fine bark down and away from the outside edges of the raised beds and fence posts.  This will help keep the wood from rotting as fast.

Some dead scarlet runner bean vines were pulled down from the wire fence .. the bark was raked and spread out a bit.

My comfrey seeds arrived from here.  I'll be planting some just to use for making organic fertilizer.

The heirloom tomato seeds were getting a little leggy .. so I added more seed starting soil to the tray ... look, they're getting real leaves now!

Hopefully by mid (next) week .. the temps will be more normal and in the 50's.  Now .. that will be some good gardening weather.  What's up in your garden?

A Little Here ...

... a little there.  Work!

Day 4 we purchased these two barrels.  The long one will be planted with deer resistant plants and sit a bit tipped with flowers spilling out .. to be placed in our front flower bed.  The short half barrel will go inside the fenced garden and planted with bulbs and/or tubers that the voles find so tasty.  They both need a good pressure washing .. before filling.  One is from a winery and the other once held Jack Daniels whiskey .. it's a bit charred inside.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Double Dig and Rototill

Day 3

I'm not a big fan of rototilling the soil each year .. it disturbs the earth worms too much.  But the raised beds need more attention.

After double digging around the edges and center of the beds, the Stihl Kombi-System with attached tiller made quick work mixing up the soil

Half way done ..

Monday, March 18, 2013

2013 Garden ~ The Good-The Bad-and-The Ugly

Day 2
top soil mixed with clay taken from our property to mix in the raised beds

Our fickle weather had a little break of sunshine this afternoon so I got out to work in the garden.  I focused on the raised beds as that's where the soil needs the most work.  We bought 'garden' soil from the nursery two years ago .. and again topped off the beds last year.  This mixture was void of any clay .. mostly decomposed plant matter (could be wood and manure) with sand.  The beds sit on top of clay which proved to give poor drainage .. which caused a soil fungus to grow.

 Last year I amended half of the beds by adding/mixing in some clay to the purchased garden soil.

soil fungus .. it's decomposing fine wood in the soil

The beds that had the clay added fared well and most of the fungus is gone.  It did not affect the plants .. so I'm not too worried about it this year.  I just want to mix in more clay and a bit of rich earth to balance out purchased soil.  Today I was able to double dig to a depth of 12-18 inches down to bring up ground clay.
vole tunnels provide good rich soil to add to the raised beds
the tunnels are easily scooped up

Then I added some fresh rich soil taken from the vole tunnels in our yard.  This should give our raised beds a much better blend to help break up the fungus and help it decompose the wood matter a bit faster .. aid in water drainage AND improve the soil quality.  I'll deal with the voles another day. 
This soil took 10 minutes to collect .. the voles, albeit pests, serve as good soil producers

I will test the raised beds using a soil testing kit after I finish this process.  Tilling the soil will bring up more clay from underneath the planters to help give the soil better structure and drainage.  

I have read that not all soil fungus is harmful.  Hopefully by breaking this up, adding more clay and tilling the soil for better drainage, this will not be a problem in this particular bed next year.  That's the risk you take when you purchase a large quantity of soil at once.  Our in ground garden does not have this type of problem as the soil has a good balance of nutrients and good drainage.  All of our garden tools will be cleaned well before using them in the other garden. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

2013 Garden Journal

raspberry canes trimmed and thinned

blueberries are starting to bud

raised beds have been lightly hoed .. I'll be using my small Stihl combi tiller

Planted and covered last fall .. I think it's spinach
Rhubarb .. always first to return
Our in ground garden
Just so you know .. the previous two posts were sporting pictures from last summer.  The real garden doesn't resemble that quite yet .. in fact it's far from it.  No .. the land has been 'scrubbed' clean from the snow and cold weather.  Perennials have turned to mush and dead plant matter .. the stuff that amends the soil to make it more fertile. In the North Woods our winters are harsh .. causing most everything to die back and go dormant.  The land sleeps for quite a while.  Well, things are just starting to wake up.  I'm going to document the 2013 garden adventure .. starting with pruning the raspberry canes.  Today turned cloudy with big banks clinging to the mountains .. every once in a while .. opening up with downpours.  There are probably a few more days of snow before summer .. but for now we are 97% snow free! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Natural Fertilizer

One4'x8' and another 1/2 same size bed together holding about 50 tomato plants ~ 2012
Yesterday I mentioned making compost tea .. It's really not made from compost .. but from green 'weeds' such as dandelion greens or comfrey leaves.
2012 crop ripened in basement

 I had this 'brewing' all summer; it takes about two weeks.  Here is a link with directions.  I mixed 1 cup of tea concentrate to one gallon of water and applied weekly starting mid summer.

part of 2012 crop ripening in the basement
two teardrop tomato plants produce oodles of goodness
If you read the comments in the linked post (particularly #2) some people make it by just throwing the greens into a bucket drilled with holes in the bottom .. and catch the liquid below in another bucket .. then use this super concentrated version .. diluted .. it's supposed to NOT smell.  Unfortunately .. my version is rather smelly and needs to be strained. I'm going to try both methods this summer.

Another few  links to homemade tomato fertilizer ... I have not tried these but found them interesting.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We Have A 100 Percent

... germination rate on heirloom tomato seeds saved from last year's garden.  I have a nice collection including a few from Mr. H and Lynn S.  I tend to plant more paste type tomatoes because of their great canning abilities in making ketchup and my all time favorite .. roasted roma and garlic tomatoes, and of course canned tomatoes in their own juice.  Instead of canning salsa, I can Mexican style stewed tomatoes.  These jars of goodness are more versatile as they can be used for making chile .. and my favorite 'semi-fresh' salsa. No more hour upon hour of chopping hot peppers and onions.  This is a much easier way to enjoy salsa year round.

 This year I have planted:  yellow teardrop, orange smudge, orange beef steak, Amish paste, roma, Vincent Watts (a large beefsteak type), turkey grape, brandywine .. and mortgage lifter.  How do you like those names?  If you cook with paste tomatoes .. the Amish variety yields HUGE well flavored fruit.  My romas tend to be of average size .. so I like to plant more of the Amish paste to get more bang for the buck in my square foot tomato plot.  Last year we yielded well over 200 pounds of tomatoes in a space of about 4'x12' .. not bad.  The plants grew on five foot high trellises.  This gave plenty of points to tie up the big heavy branches of the plants.

In our North Idaho short growing season, we have to start our plants from seeds indoors well before the average outdoor planting date usually around Mother's Day for plants that don't tolerate frost.  Even then, keeping a row cover handy is a must for those occasional late spring frosts.

Looking  out my window toward the garden, I can just about see dirt .. in and about the last of the snow.  Gardening on a mountain .. we have even fewer hours of sunlight .. and must wait for what seems FOREVER to get out and garden.  What plans do you have for your 2013 garden?