Thursday, April 25, 2013

Planting Potatoes

After seeing our neighbors potato crop last year, we were inspired to plant our own this year. Having never grown them, I asked our neighbor how she does it. The answer was very straightforward and simple. Could it really be that easy?

First, we went to our local CoOp and bought 3lbs (each) of Yukon Gold and Kennebec seed potatoes. Did we need 3lbs? Probably not, but at $0.40/lbs why not get extra, just incase.

Next, we cut them into pieces, making sure each piece had a good eye or two.

After discarding the rotten ones and the cut pieces without good eyes, we ended up with 54 Kennebec and 58 Yukon Gold chunks ready for planting. Some say its best to let them sit to "heal over" a day or two after cutting, I let them sit half a day.

These will be planted in our main garden. We planted half this patch last year (expanded it last fall) and planted a winter blanket of wheat, rye, and clover - so this soil is much nicer than the Children's Garden, where we planted our early crops.

Some plant potatoes in hills, I planted in rows. I like straight rows, so I used and aid to get them (almost) perfect. Spacing the potatoes in the row depends on the size of full grown potato you want to harvest, a regular size potato is typically spaced 12-15" apart. To keep even numbers, I planted 30 chunks in a row at 12" apart. Two full rows of each, and a third row half and half. So the total planting is 90 potatoes. (With 2-3 potatoes per plant, we should hopefully have a good yield.)

I put hay - no correction - straw (yes there is a difference) down between the rows for two reasons:
1) To keep the weeds down.
2) Help show my son where it is safe to walk in the garden.
I did not water them. Some say its good to, some say the cut potato has enough moisture already for Spring planting (Fall may be another story).

I will eventually put straw between all rows, but will wait until I plant the rest. Pole beans will go on the back side (left in photo) on climbing structures, and bush snap beans immediately in front of the potato row (right in photo). Then the rest of this bed will have tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, and eggplant.

The brood checking things out...I told you they follow me around!

Pumpkin is always very helpful (at keeping my feet warm)!
But in all honesty, they are being helpful. We discovered a large underground city of voles, which can cause extensive damage to our Apple Orchard. The barn cats (and Genny our dog) are playing a crucial role in their extermination.

How do you plant potatoes?
This was shared at the Farm Girl Blog Fest.

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Saturday, April 20, 2013

2013 Garden News

The cold weather is (hopefully) behind us! Please raise your glass with me in a toast to the 2013 Growing Season! Kicking off the season, so far we’ve planted:

  • 40 Early Italian Garlic
  • 63 Onions (Yellow/White/Red)
  • Lettuce (all Heirlooms- Crisp Mint, Gentilina, Tennis Ball, and Grandpa Admire’s)
  • Carrots (Calliope Blend, Touchon, and Rouge Demi-Longue De Chantenay)
  • 106 Sugar Daddy and Sugar Snap Peas
  • Easter Egg Radishes
  • 29 Sunflowers (Russian Mammoth, Arkara, Vanilla Ice, Lemon Queen, and Chianti)
This is the Children's Garden, it is for the early crops (listed above), and the three sisters (Corn, Pole Beans, and Squash). It's the first season for planting this site, so the soil isn't nearly as nice as it it aught to be. We'll see how it does. I've also never tried the three sisters method, so we'll see how that does as well.

But, we will have some fun structures in the Children's Garden - the Wall of Peas, the Sunflower Forest, and the TeePee of pumpkins, not to mention the Maze of Corn!

The low for the next couple days (34) doesn't look pleasant, I was going to plant today, but maybe I'll wait til next week...
  • Beans (Kitchen King Bush Snap; Caseknife and Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean)
  • Corn (Stowell's Evergreen Sweet, Peaches & Cream, Early Bantam)
  • Cucumber (Long Green Improved)
  • Eggplant (Early Midnight)
  • Peppers (Jimmy Nardello, Sweet Red Cherry, and Candy Apple Bell)
  • Potatoes (Yukon Gold and Kennebec)
  • Squash (Loofa, Birdhouse Gourd, Pink Banana, and Spaghetti)
  • Tomatoes (Sun Gold, Brandywine Red and Pink, Cherokee Purple, Rutgers, Mortgage Lifter, Juliet, and Beef Master)
Then, the first week of May I'll plant:
  • Pumpkins (Connecticut Field, Jarradale, Musquee de Provence, Rouge Vif d'Etampes, Winter Luxery, Baby Boo, Jack Be Little, and Jack O'Lantern)
  • Watermelon (Sugar Baby, Stone Mountain, Moon & Stars, Jubilee, Wilson's Sweet, Green Fleshed Pineapple, and Charleston Gray)
I've started many seeds indoors, including flowers and herbs...they are all doing well, outside hardening off, and anxiously awaiting transplant time!

What does your garden list look like this year?
This was shared at the Farm Girl Blog Fest.

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Mint Garden

Ever since I was a child I've always had a fondness of mint. I'm not sure why exactly, but it all started because my Mom had a patch of spearmint growing outback. I loved picking the leaves, rubbing them in my hands, and the smell that lingered!
I'm a sucker for anything mint. Put mint in the name and I'll buy it- mint ice cream, mint cookies, mint gum, mint brownies, mint tea, mint, mint, mint, the list goes on and on...(you get the point)!
Finally, I have my own mint garden, thus far with four savory additions: Sweet Mint, Apple Mint, Peppermint, and Orange Mint (from left to right in the picture).
They are filling in my fairy garden very nicely!
All members of the Mentha family are wonderful herbal remedies! Such medicinal properties include: High in Vitamin A and C, aid indigestion, gas/bloating, calm nerves/relax, fevers, headaches, and decongestion.
  • Apple Mint (M. suaveolens) beautiful white blooms, grows tall.
  • Peppermint (M. piperita) gorgeous lavender blooms, grows moderate height.
  • Orange Mint (M. citrata) stunning lilac blooms, creeps low and sprawls down the sides of the planter (at least did last year).
  • The Sweet Mint is a mystery. I bought it from Lowe's last year, kept the marker to put on my gardening journal (which I really need to organize one of these days), and now it's gone. I vaguely remember researching the Latin name from the marker, which escapes my memory now, that it actually isn't a Mint, of the Mentha family. However it is the true leaf used in a real Cuban Mojito. Yummy!
All members of the Mentha family are wonderful to use fresh, but can also be dried. To dry mint, like many herbs, hang bunches upside down in a dry, dark area. They can also be dried on a screen. Store dried leaves in an air tight container.
Do you grow mint? What is your favorite?
If you don't grow mint, what herb are you passionate about?

This was shared at the HomeAcre HopShare Your Cup Thursday, and the Farm Girl Blog Fest.

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Difference a day makes

It is amazing the difference a day makes, especially a day that is a picture perfect Spring day...high 60's, crystal clear blue sky, and an ever so gentle breeze...a perfect day.

Our Wild Sour Cherry bloomed!

Yesterday our Pear tree started showing signs of buds...

Today, the same tree looked like this...another day or two and I'm sure it'll be in full bloom!

One of the old established Apple trees, unknown variety, is swelling with dark pink buds.

And the crabapple trees are just about to burst! Looking at the trees their are beautiful, deep pink buds filling the branches!

A patch of wild violets popped up...I don't remember them being their last year, this is right outside the font door!

And our side yard is filling up with them too! I love it!

The periwinkle is spreading up the driveway...

The clover under our new Pear and Peach trees has filled in nicely!

And more grape hyacinths filling the side yard! I have little patches like this all over!

I love Spring, when everything starts to come alive! It's always helps me remember to "stop and smell the roses"!

Lastly, a friendly hello from Patches and Pumpkin, two our barn cats. They're very curious what goes on inside...

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Identifying a fruit tree

I was inspired to write this post after reading a story at Our Neck of the Woods.

You may think it's easy to identify a fruit tree by its fruit...right? Well, we had a fruit tree in which the fruit alone did not lend itself to a positive id.

Our first Fall here, everyday provided a new discovery. One such discovery was a fruit tree, but it was mind boggling. We couldn't tell what it was. So we took notice of the fruit - that it was round like an apple, yet also resembled a pear, or possibly a quince. I didn't think to take pictures or detail notes of the fruit. We found it late in the harvest, most had already fallen off the tree and were bore through by ants, wasps, bees and the like. So no tasting took place.

Last Spring, our first Spring here, this tree bloomed earlier that the other apple and pear trees we have. The bloom was beautiful and extremely aromatic with a light sweet fragrance.

Without taking notes about the fruit, of course I forgot the details. All I could remember was...I thought it an apple, pear, or quince. Trying to identify based solely on the blossom was not happening. So I took pictures and notes, and anxiously awaited the fruit to ripen. It was a long summer!

When the fruit finally ripened, in September, I grabbed one and headed inside. (I had to make one more trek out to grab a leaf and take note of the bark.) Once I had all I needed, I made a detailed list of characteristics.

-5 white regular petals
-sweet smelling
-petals, polypetalous
-10 to 12 stamen
-4 to 5 sepals
-bloom in cluster

-green broadleaf
-no lobes
-finely serrated
-I couldn't decide if it was ovate (oval to elliptical) or cordate (heart shaped)

-2 1/2" diameter
-sits 2 1/2" high
-7 to 8" circumference
-hard and firm
-extremely sweet smell, prior to cutting
-sweet taste
-yellow, russet skin
-fall ripening
-pome (several seeds)

Using a combination of books my husband has, and the internet (specifically, we identified it as an Asian Pear (pyrus pyrifolia). Scrumptious!

This year, we're working on yet another type of fruit tree - this one is either an apricot or plum!
Do you have fruit trees, or any tree for that matter, that you've had to, or are trying to identify?

This what shared at the The HomeAcre Hop and the Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop.
-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hello Spring!

Well finally! The long awaited Spring weather has arrived, I only hope it will decide to stay! The warm temperatures and sunshine not only stirred the Spring Peepers to sing us a soothing lullaby to sleep, it also woke up my lazy early bloomers!

We have our own mini micro climate, I'm sure of it! Our neighbors daffodils have been blooming for a few weeks, and ours just now decided to open (and some are still thinking about it)! But the sweet smell is worth the wait.

The Early Snow Glories are peaking through! (I just planted these last Fall.)

These are Old Fashion Hyacinths...

This Ice Stick Tulip opened in just one day! (I planted these last Fall too. There is a row of them, but only this ones has opened so far.)

And of course, I can't go anywhere with out my entourage...

I hope y'all are out enjoying this beautiful weather as much as we are!

Head over to the Share Your Cup Party to get your daily doze of happiness!

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pirate Map craft

My son, Q, who is 3, loves the show Jake and the Neverland Pirates. While he's been stuck at home and inside recovering, we started playing Pirates! To add to the fun, we made Treasure Maps!

It was easy and fun. First, we drew a map with various things on regular white printer paper. We made a few, one using black ball point pen, and two more using markers. In the end, the marker maps turned out okay, but the ball point pen map turned out great!

Then, I steeped a couple black tea bags. I used two techniques, one we used a tea bag and wiped the stained water over the map; the other we poured the stained water on the map and let it sit a minute. The technique didn't prove much difference in the final product.

After they dried, I used corn oil to give it that shiny luster! (I also traced over some of the map drawn with markers, because they faded with the water stain.)

After it dried a little, but still damp, I tore the edges for an authentic look.

Crinkled it up in a ball...Voila! (We rolled one like a scroll too.)

Ahoy Ye Matey! Where de treasure be?

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

-Live Simple, Be Happy-
Magnolia Holler

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Medicinal Inclusions to the Garden, Part 1 - Garlic

After my son’s fourth ear infection in four months, I started doing research for at home remedies. I found an herbal remedy that included garlic! Who would have thought! Though I should have known, garlic is good for everything – including sinus infections, sore throats, and earaches! It’s funny too, because I just planted 40 in the garden-if only they were ready now…

The home remedy I found for an ear infection was from Live Strong. Visit their site for more detailed instructions.
The basic instructions to make and use the infusion are:
  1.  Use Sweet Oil (preferred) or Light Olive Oil;
  2. Crush 5 peeled cloves, fresh garlic (ensure you use fresh because it has the highest amount of antioxidants, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial properties);
  3. Soak the crushed cloves in warm oil on the stove for about an hour. Careful not to boil or simmer – just keep it warm;
  4. After an hour the infusion is finished. Remove from heat and store in refrigerator, with or without cloves included. Now you have Garlic Oil. (Never keep garlic oil at room temperature; it can develop botulism spores over time.)
  5. To use for an ear infection – with the child laying on his/her side, drop a few drops of warm infusion into the infected ear, place a cotton ball in the ear to keep it from draining out.
  6. Have him/her lay, without moving, for 10 minutes. Repeat as needed.
  7. If you suspect an erupted eardrum, do not use the infusion.
Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to try this remedy. His fever was too high (ranging from 104-106) so we took him in and now he’s on an antibiotic.
But now I’m eager to learn more about herbal remedies as I already have a collection of plants, flowers, and herbs that have medicinal properties! My collection includes: Lemon Balm, Borage, Calendula, Blue Hyssop, Lavender, Aloe, Rosemary, & Mint.
As I embark on my journey into herbal medicines, I’ll share what I learn with y’all by writing a Spotlight. This week the Spotlight is – Garlic. Garlic is an antimicrobial plant, which fights bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
In addition to the Garlic Infusion (above); you can make a Garlic Oil, to drink when battling a respiratory illness, such as bronchitis, the common cold, the flu, or congestion. To make and use the oil:
  1. Mash one or more bulbs of garlic;
  2. Cover with enough Apple Cider Vinegar or Olive Oil to cover the garlic. Mix well;
  3. Allow to stand for a couple days;
  4. Strain through cheesecloth, squeezing the garlic to ensure you have all the juice;
  5. Store in the refrigerator;
  6. To use: Add to food; or take ½ tsp every hour.
Hope you enjoyed today’s Spotlight!
This was shared at The Old Time Party, Green Thumb Thursday, and the HomeAcre Hop!
-:Live Simple, Be Happy-