A Real Update

Farm life can ruff.

So much has happened since my last post. I started a new job and I an learning to be a dialysis nurse. I have had a heart attack and triple bypass, and a few other health mishaps we shall call them. But I am still here, kicking and finally getting the farm, though only as a supervisor because of a health mishap, fully underway.

Going in the right direction.

Our current projects include modifying the new barn to accommodate the chickens and goats. Getting fencing up around the new field. Which includes a pond for our silly ducks. And getting our garden beds prepared. We also have seed starts in the greenhouse.

It’s a hen party.

For those of you that get our not so monthly, monthly newsletter, or on one of our customer emails may have seen that after last year’s abysmal garden we decided not to do a CSA program. We keep tossing it around, especially of late. What we will do is send out an email when we have a surplus of produce. The same with eggs. I will be setting up forms on our Contact page so that you can let us know which list you would like to be on.

I will attempt to post more often and get the newsletter out in a more timely fashion.

Tammy ~SSM~

What is in Your Herb Garden?

Herbs are perhaps one of my favorite plants to grow. They are easy, useful, and beautiful. They make the perfect addition to any flower bed or vegetable garden.

I use fresh and dried herbs in many of the soaps, lotions, and salves that I make.  When any of us cook here we use very little salt and flavor with our herbs. It makes the need for salt so much less and the food taste so much better. I also make herbal teas and herbal tea jellies from them as well.

What are your favorite herbs to grow?

I currently have the following growing:

  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • 3 different kinds of mint
  • Lemon Balm
  • Tarragon
  • Chives
  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Parsley
  • Dill
  • Lemon Grass
  • Bee Balm

Right now things are still in pots, in the greenhouse or have actually made it to the herb garden. We have so many projects going on at one time that it is just plain crazy here some days. I am very proud of the fact that I was able to start most from seed instead of buying plants. For the first time I have actually grown lavender and rosemary from seed. I think having the little greenhouse is the key to that.

If you don’t have a greenhouse or are a beginner with growing herbs I recommend purchasing plants or herb growing kits.  The beauty of herbs is that they do not have to take up a lot of space and they will grow in most well drained soil. I have successfully grown them as container plants, window sill gardens, and in the soil.

The amount of sunlight needed varies between plants but I have noticed over the years that if you plant the larger plants to the back of your garden and then move forward to your smaller and annual plants you have much more success. They definitely need to have water, the soil should always at least feel damp to the touch. A nice rich compost mulched around the base of the plants ensures proper nutrients and moisture.

Enjoy your herbs, one of the most versatile plants on earth.

Light, Love, and Peace

Tammy ~SSM~

Water Bath Canning vs Pressure Canning

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There really is no debate on which you should choose. There are somethings are safe to water bath can but everything can be pressure canned. Why can’t I water bath can low acid foods? My grandma only ever water bath canned. I have heard pressure canners can explode. Tons of reasons to avoid pressure canning. But one big one to use it. BOTULISM!! A silent, odorless killer. Other things can happen as well but this is the big one.

What is botulism?

Picture courtesy of the CDC.

Botulism is a bacteria that can kill you. If nothing else it will make you feel sick enough you want to die.

It is a rare, potentially fatal illness caused by a toxin. The toxin is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The disease begins with weakness, blurred vision, feeling tired, and trouble speaking.

It is a nasty illness that we can avoid by properly preserving our food bounty.

 

What can I water bath can?

Things that are considered high acid foods. Tomatoes are a big one, unless of you are growing low acid tomatoes, those varieties are a story for another time. Jams and jellies, pickled anything. Fruit preserves and most anything that you add lemon juice, vinegar, or are fermented.

Some fruits are considered naturally high in acid:

 

  • apples
  • berries
  • blackberries
  • blueberries
  • cranberries
  • peaches
  • pears
  • raspberries
  • strawberries

What should I pressure can?

Anything that is not on the above list. Those things can also be pressure canned. There are no safe ways to can fresh squash, including pumpkins. Those need to be prepared how you want them and then pressure canned. Or simply frozen.

Other items, not produce related, that you should pressure can are meats, soups, and broths. Your other option is to freeze them. All of this will prevent you, your family, friends, and customers from being poisoned.

Did You Know?

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Did you know that you can start your garden even if you are on food stamps?

Yes, any seeds or plants that are edible can be purchased with your EBT card. You can use containers and such you have to start your seeds. Compost and newsprint to start your no-till garden.

What seeds to buy to start

Some things are easier to grow from seeds than others. For the beginner I recommend peas, beans, cucumbers, lettuce, squash and melons from seed. They will grow in anything. And are great for direct sowing.

I recommend bush varieties so that they are easier to care for and take up less space. A few well tended plants will provide enough for your family.

Herbs that grow well from seed are basil, parsley, dill, and coriander. If you are feeling adventurous you can pot a few peppercorns to grow indoors. This is one of my experiments this year. We will see how it goes. My family just loves fresh ground pepper.

What plants to buy

Tomatoes, peppers, brassicas, and cabbages all do best for beginners if purchased as started plants. They will give you a bit of a headstart on your summer garden.

Many grocers offer a limited selection of plants. Go with what you can find. It is money well spent since vegetables are so expensive in the grocery store and there have been so many recalls recently. Another option is to use some vegetables that are in the store already.

Many times you can save the roots from bunching onions, celery, lettuce, tops of pineapples, etc. Place them in water to get the roots started again and you can then place them in pots.

Starting plants from seed

If you cannot find started plants then you will need to start from seeds. I have been lucky enough to have a small greenhouse. If this is not in your budget you can either purchase the seed starting kits or make your own.

The key is to find a sunny spot that you can leave the seeds in to grow. You also need to make sure that the growing medium stays moist. Too much water and mold will grow. Too little water and the seeds will dry out and no longer be viable. I love the self watering cells that come with starter pellets. They make it very easy and do come in window sill sizes as well.

A quick note on soil

Plants need healthy well drained soil to grow. A quick easy way to do this is to use newspaper and/or cardboard and compost. I like to layer with cardboard in the fall to kill weeds. I lay the cardboard down and cover with compost.

Spring I will use newspaper and compost. I can plant directly and weeds will be controlled at the same time. I do like to add straw over top when possible to help maintain moisture.

One tool that I have found invaluable when I am doing a no-till garden is a cultivator. It will help keep the soil loose and aerated throughout the growing season. It is a pricey investment but has saved my back, knees and hands in countless situations.

 

The Incredible Rosemary


Common Name
Standardized: rosemary

Latin name: Rosemarinus officinalis

Plant Family:
Lamiaceae (mint)

Overview

This is a woody, perennial plant with a 2 year life span, or so I have heard, mine typically live for several years. It is native to the Mediterranean and a member of the mint family.
It is a fragrant addition to your herb garden. It looks like an evergreen with small pointed leaves, that look like spines. It needs well composted, draining soil and mulching if overwintered outside. It produces small white or blue flowers in the summer.
This is a great addition to food like pork, lamb, game, poultry, and fish. It has medicinal properties as well and can be used in skin care products as well. It is a good source of iron, calcium and Vitamin B-6.

Cultivation and Harvesting

It is a wood plant that can be grown from seed but does best as cuttings. It enjoys growing in containers as well as out in the garden. Containers can be brought in during cold weather, however, rosemary does not like to be transplanted.
Typically just the leaves are harvested throughout the growing season. Some have been known to harvest the stems to use as skewers for kabobs. The leaves can be dried and stored for use later on. I will cut what I feel I need for drying and hang upside down over a screen.

Common Uses:

  • Dried
    • Seasoning food
    • Teas
    • Soaps
    • Salves
  • Fresh
    • Seasoning food
    • Air Fresheners
    • Infused to oils, butters, etc

Medicinal Uses:

  • Relief from anxiety
  • Indigestion
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Cold and flu
  • Poor circulation
  • Skin Care
  • Oral Health

Disclaimer:

Should not be used by pregnant women except in cooking.
Always consult with a qualified healthcare practioner before using herbal products. If you are pregnant, nursing or have medical conditions and are on prescribed medications this is essential.
This information is for educational purposes only not to be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. None of this information has been evaluated by the FDA.

Calendula Flowers

Common Name

Standardized: calendula
Other: marigold, pot marigold

Latin name

Calendula officinalis L.
Plant Family: 
Asteraceae

Overview

Calendula is a well-known herb and garden plant that has been used topically, ceremonially, and as a dye. It is also used as a companion plant in many vegetable gardens. This is an edible flower used in teas, tinctures, and various other recipes. Used in home crafted skin care products it helps with dry skin.

Flower Background

This is a self sowing, annual that will come back year after year once you establish it in your garden. It is a member of the Asteraceae family and produces a daisy-like flower with orange or yellow petals and pale green leaves. Though it can now be found through out the world it was originally native to Europe, the Mediterranean, and Middle East.

Cultivation and Harvesting

There is no need to start this plant in a green house it has simple requirements and does well as part of a garden or a pot. Simple spread the seeds or mix with other wildflower seeds and cover lightly with soil. They require full sun and well draining soil. They bloom from early summer and until early fall. Mid summer is the best time for harvesting flower to dry. The middle of the day when the resins are high and the dew has evaporated, clip the flowers just below their base. Place them on a screen to dry, avoid high temperatures and direct sunlight when drying to keep the bright colors.

Common Uses

  • Dried
    • Teas
    • Tinctures
    • Infused Oil
    • Skin Care
  • Fresh
    • Salads and other dishes (was once known as the poor mans saffron)
    • Teas
    • Tinctures

Medicinal Uses:

  • Anti-inflammatory to skin and mucosa
  • Lymphagogue (moves lymph)
  • Vulnerary (promotes healing of damaged tissue)
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Emmenagogue (stimulates menstrual flow)
  • Cholagogue (stimulates bile)

Indications:

  • Gastrointestinal: Purported to help with gastrointestinal disorders and discomfort. Use as a tea.
  • Lymphatic: Used for various infections of the respiratory system and localized infections. Also used to boost immunity by stimulating the lymphatic system. Use as a tea or topical salve.
  • Gums and mouth: Make a tea to gargle with for sore throats, periodontal disease, inflamed gums.
  • Emmenagogue: May help to stimulate menstrual flow.
  • Topical applications: rashes, stings, wounds, burns, sunburns, abrasions, swellings, eczema, acne, surgical wounds, scrapes, chicken pox, cold sores.

Disclaimer:

If you have a known allergy to other members of the Asteraceae family such as feverfew, chamomile, or Echinacea species be cautious when using calendula.

Always consult with a qualified healthcare practioner before using herbal products. If you are pregnant, nursing or have medical conditions and are on prescribed medications this is essential.

This information is for educational purposes only not to be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. None of this information has been evaluated by the FDA.

5 Tips for Garden Planning

 

 

Battle Cat says that he is ready for spring too! He has cat business to attend to and you just can’t do that when it is cold and wet out. If I haven’t introduced him yet to you all he is 1/3 of the Salt & Pepper Gang. The other two members are Koda and Blizzard.  I know such a mean looking gang aren’t they? The hole was the dogs’ contribution today to working around the house. They dug up freshly turned soil and layed down in it. But I digress, I did say 5 tips for garden planning didn’t I? Of course I did. Gardens are best planned out to offer the most success. Dream big when thinking about what you want to grow. You can narrow it down and then plan on expanding as time goes on.

Tip #1

Find the perfect spot. You want some where that gets 8 to 10 hours of sun per day. You will also it to have good natural drainage so that water doesn’t pool in any one area.

Tip #2

Test your soil! I cannot stress this one enough. You will need to take samples from the whole spot. It is a good idea to go through your local co-op extension office. They will test the sample for free and give you a good break down of what is needed in your soil. Often they have what you need to collect the samples. You can also purchases all kinds of soil testers in garden centers and on amazon.com.

Tip #3

Check your growing zone. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone will help you get a general idea of what your growing season looks like. There is even a function now that let’s you put in your zip code so you can get very specific.

Tip #4

Write a list of every vegetable you want to ever grow. Then narrow it down to what you think you can handle for the season. This may mean the basics such as tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, squash, etc. But don’t toss that list, you will get to it eventually.

Tip #5

Start amending your soil before you even think about doing anything. Based upon the

results of your soil testing of course. Some basic things to use that will help all gardens are compost, manure, lime, and potash (not grill left overs unless you are using wood, charcoal is a no go for the garden).

 

 

 

Light, Love, and Peace
~Tammy~SSM

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 Carrots cut to 1 inch pieces
  • 1 chopped sweet onion
  • 3 lbs butternut squash (or pumpkin) chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 6 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 3 TBS White Wine Vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper (omit for pumpkin soup)
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce (omit for pumpkin or if you do not like spicy food)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Saute carrots and onions in dutch oven (heavy stock pot will work as well) on medium high heat until lightly brown.
  2. Add squash, broth and orange zest and bring to a boil.
  3. Cover and lower heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in cream and remaining ingredients. Allow to cool.
  5. Process with a handheld blender or put into a regular blender. Blend it all until smooth and creamy.
You can serve this cold or piping hot.
Light, Love and Peace!

Check Your Local Code Before You Get Urban Chickens

IMG_1197Looking to keep poultry in town? Here is an example of our local code that says yes, we can keep chickens within certain limits, such as keep your chicken house clean. It even says that pygmy goats would be permitted as pets. So are you allowed to milk pets to keep them healthy? Hhmmm…something my urban and town living friends need to look at. I just wish we could do it in our apartment complex!

While most of us would like to do what we want but when you live in town or a city it doesn’t hurt to check out the local codes. Avoid becoming a news item because someone who doesn’t like gardening and such turns you in, become a news item for doing it according to code or working to change code so that everyone can enjoy gardens and such.

Busy Mom Menu Planning Tips

mom cooking

Pre-planning your menu will do several things for you. It will force you to double check your calendar. It will force you to go through your pantry, fridge and freezer (helps keep things fresh). It will also force you to make a grocery list (which will help you stay in budget). Quick note about budgets, I know they are hard but we will discuss those another day. 

This is where I start. I get paid every two weeks so typically that means 42 meals (3 meals per day for 14 days) need to be planned out. You guessed it, breakfast, lunch and dinner all need to be planned. So now that we have figured that out I check out what I have on hand. If I am lucky I have some things left from my last grocery shopping. I try to add one or two extra meals to my budget each week and/or bulk items. 

Next I get out my calendar to see what is going on during those two weeks. What is my work schedule, what is on tap for the kids, what is on tap for Daddy aka Papa. That will also determine what gets made on what days. 

By now I am using what limited “extra” brain power to see what I have on hand to make and write down those meal ideas. I have a habit of starting with dinner ideas. Now I take a piece of paper and divide it in thirds. One column I put the day of the week with the appropriate date on it. List what I know I have for dinner, list what would work on each particular night depending on our schedules. Now in the third column I start writing my shopping list. 

The next thing I do during the school year is pull out the lunch calendar. Lunches are frequently left overs when school is out but in honor of going back to school I am going to add this tidbit. I ask the kids which days they are buying and which they are taking. From there we get down to the nitty gritty and figure out what they want for those days they are taking. I write these down on the calendar so that I know what they have planned (yes they some times change their minds, too bad it gets carved into stone). I make sure to add any extra items to the grocery list. 

Next we look at breakfast, ours is usually pretty basic. I need to have pancakes on hand (make them and then freeze them for future use). Eggs, bread and/or biscuits, cereal and the like. Though honestly if there are “favorite” left overs they will get eaten for breakfast as well. Mac and cheese anyone? If I am running low on any necessaries they get added to the grocery list as well.

Ok, so dinners are on the calendar, lunches are on the calendar and breakfast is fly by the seat of our pants. It really all comes down to schedules. Are these plans written in stone no, except for planned school lunches, those are written in stone. Now you have not only planned out your menu for two weeks, you have a realistic working grocery list and perhaps a budget!

Light, Love and Peace!