Thursday, May 27, 2010


Way back, almost 5 years ago though I can't remember exactly when, my father-in-law gave us a large basket. It was such a nice basket and I wasn't quite sure what I'd use it for but I knew we could enjoy it. I jokingly said it would one day be our harvest basket though we had neither garden nor land at the time.

Well, that day has arrived! The small bronze bucket beside it was our old harvest basket. It too was given to us shortly after our marriage... it contained cloth placemats of chickens at the giving! We still use this bucket to gather our eggs, but, in this season of squash galore, it is much too small for our daily veggie harvests. The farmer girl was getting rather tired of emptying it on the table multiple times before the picking was complete!

We've picked our first set of cowpeas from all "volunteer" plants. This is one of farmer girl's favorite tasks- here she is shelling away! She does it so well and I'm happy to let her!

In other news, it looks as though our waltham butternut squash is not a great variety for here. It has died back significantly in the last week. There's a good amount of squash on it and we haven't had the rains and such for bad anthracnose, but something has it yellowing and dying. We'll try something else next time.

As for the Seminole Pumpkins, it looks as though we have ANOTHER case of cross pollinization. We have 2 fruit forming and they are rather long and thin for a pumpkin! Very disappointing because seminoles are a great pumpkin here and we were really looking forward to yummy pumpkin soup this summer!

Have picked a couple okra, lots of leaves off the amaranth, a single cucumber and a few beans. The watermelons are finally flowering and the peppers and tomatoes are setting small amounts of fruit. Pickleworm is staying in check with Sevin applied every 10-12 days. Can't wait for the canteloup to ripen- it's loaded with fruit now but nothing ripening any too fast!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

what to plant now

I just heard someone this morning bemoaning that he'd missed his chance at a garden and maybe he'd try for fall. That's the beauty of Florida... you can always start something!

Just yesterday I planted seeds:
1) okra- gotta keep this stuff coming. Learned last year that around here, they really will poop out before the first frost.
2) eggplant- only have 4 solid plants and no blossoms yet. Not sure how prolific they'll be and given that I get really tired of okra through the summer decided to go for more eggplant.
3) basil- a naughty dog destroyed my tender transplants. I have 4 still standing. And yes, that should be plenty for copious amounts of pesto, but its not quite enough to hide a rain barrel. And besides, I'm very curious to try this cinnamon basil as well.
4) amaranth- very yummy green that's thriving in the heat. Looking forward to summer salads with this stuff around!
5) sweet potatoes- I pulled a few more volunteer shoots from the compost pile. Finally have some shoots coming in my intended starts... now that my bed is full with volunteers!
6) beans- now I actually DIDN"T plant beans but I could have. I have a good number of beans going now and will probably plant round 2 in mid to late June to fill in holes the squash will leave.
7)collard greens- again, I didn't plant these, but only because I still have plenty. Mine are growing like mad and were planted back in November (I think).

Then I had ordered some fruit seeds from tradewinds so those got planted as well:
1) star fruit- why not... lets give it a whirl
2) pigeon pea- mostly for animal forage
3) papaya- we read the way to do this is to start it in the summer (technically late summer, but oh well), keep it in pots to cold protect it thru the winter then set out as soon as its safe and treat it like an annual.
4) feijoa- some kind of a guava that is supposed to be more cold tolerant.
5) black mulberry- an enormous tree we don't know where we'll put yet, but the fruit is like blackberries and bears all summer so we'll just have to find a place!
6) maypop- a type of passion flower but is cold tolerant
7) jujube- an interesting sounding fruit... again, why not.

So if you're thinking that you've missed it, jump in anyway. Get digging. Do something. It may take you till fall to get your beds set up anyway! But if not, there's still lots of things that will survive the heat and bugs that you can plant and enjoy this season. So go to it!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Beating the worm to pickles

So we definitely have pickleworms in force. I harvested everything of decent size on Tuesday then sprayed with Sevin. I hate the non-organic aspect but given that its been on the market for DECADES, I think its safer than other non-organic methods and definitely more effective than organics with this particular problem. With my piles of squash on Tuesday, I called up a neighbor who took some yellow sqash. I froze the rest (that we wouldn't have time to eat fresh) and made my grandmother's zucchini pickles with the zuccs.

The yellow squash (early prolific straight) is supposed to be more resistant to pickleworm. I have it right next to the canteloup so I was a bit nervous. I bagged any fruit that was big enough to bag and sprayed the squash, canteloup, zucchini and the cucumbers which have their first few blossoms. Fat chance they'll get pollenated now, but oh well. I left the pumpkin and butternut alone.

I didn't pick anything Wednesday so I'll probably really have a big harvest today. Hopefully I find evidence that I'm at least giving the pickleworm some breeding difficulties.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


I've been salivating over others' tomatoes. The winter lasted so long that it was ages before I got seeds germinating. I had always kinda mocked the idea of a greenhouse in Florida, but...well... I now see there's a use for one.

So we decided that we would build one this fall. We contemplated making it a 4th use on our pumphouse/chicken coop/pole barn structure we're constructing (ok... so we're not constructing yet but we have it designed and some materials purchased), but decided it would be too risky to have goats so close to tender (and yummy!) young plants.

Then we decided to look at for some greenhouse ideas. They have a product that we just can't beat with a DIY.

This baby comes with 2 covers, one for winter (clear PVC for maximum light transmission) and one for summer (60% shade cloth). It has 4 shelves giving 14.25 square feet of grow space. All for less than $60 (shipping to here is about $15)
With stacked shelves, we'd be very dependent on morning and afternoon sun as only the top shelf would get any sun at noon, but I still think it would be worth the money. And were we to DIY it, I'd probably spend $60 on fabric or visqueen and a bunch of time ending up with a product with lots of air leaks.
So we have not yet ordered this next homestead upgrade, but if anyone local (Volusia County) is interested in the same or similar farmtek item, there's a bit of a price break with larger orders as well as some savings on shipping. So if you're interested in something, let me know. Or if you know a way to do something similar for less, especially if using recycled materials, please share the wealth.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A day's harvest

Copper has worn sores on Dulcinea's hip bones. I think its safe to say she's adequately bred. Her milk production dropped and is coming back up now. Helen will get dried off in July and Dulci in August. That will be a shock to the system. I picked a whole mess of squash today, as you can see. Been picking enough for a meal or 2 everyday and still got this many today. May be seeing the first signs of pickleworm in the dark green zucchini, but I'll have to cut it open to be sure. Finally have a moderate amount of fruit forming on the canteloup though we've had blossoms for weeks. Almost ready to pick our first butternut. Pumpkin has yet to blossom but the vine is plenty strong. Watermelons are seriously struggling. Not sure why. Blossoms have started on the cucumbers. Couple blossoms on the peppers and beans and 2 amaranth plants are getting big enough to pick from. A bug has been munching on the collards but there's still plenty for us so I'm letting it be. Doesn't seem to be anything too detrimental. New layers have popped out 3 eggs this morning. None from the leghorns as they lay white eggs. Forgive the lack of our morning daylillies in the picture- the kids already ate them.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We have the rest of our lives for pretty

Sorry again, Mr. Snooty. This is a living, breathing, PRODUCTIVE homestead. We just don't have resources for pretty right now. This is our latest testimony to the value of zipties. Goats were climbing over this section of fencing... and the farm girl really likes her neon zipties that were in her Christmas stocking. So here's the fix. If you don't like it, look through the other part of your bifocals.

This other eye sore is from Angel, the very good guard dog. We hardly even have a squirrel cross the property lines anymore, but she does have some nasty habits we can't seem to shake. One is that she loves to "play" with the sheep and put her mouth on their legs. She never actually bites, but its quite unnerving to watch. Secondly, she loves to chew on plant pots and will dump out plants on occasion to get to those pots. And thirdly, she will sometimes dig these holes that are deep emough to hear Chinese voices. Any advice is appreciated.

Oh my! Did that hurt???

No words necessary.

a different kind of egg

I've had lots of luck with those upside down, topsy-turvy planters... just not with growing plants! Instead they have become quite the wildlife hub. The last one I took down right at the end of winter was housing 3 enormous frogs. This one I took down gingerly (lest a frog come leaping out onto my head). I also knew a bird had at one time lived in there. I peaked in and saw nothing. I poked around a bit and still nothing. So I proceeded to dump its contents into my herb bed that I was re-doing. I was very sad to see 5 tiny little bird eggs. 2 broke. The other 3 were intact. I removed the nesty stuff, dumped the compost out, replaced the nesty stuff and then replaced the 3 remaining eggs and rehung the planter hoping mama would come back and save her babies from my carelessness. It was very sad as you can clearly see blood vessels had formed. I can't guess what bird it was- blue jay, mocking bird, robin... I don't know. The only times I saw anything it was zooming away too quickly and too far away for me to tell. Sorry, mama bird, I will hang this in a secret place in the woods where it can be your home and not be an eye sore for the snooty man down the street.

free chickens

A few days ago I got a call from "Pappy". Pappy has become a good friend though we met purely through business- he's the foreman for the tree company who I call for mulch. And being that I'm STILL is dire need of mulch, I was especially happy to receive this call. But it was for a completely different reason. Pappy knew of some laying hens who's inheritor was less-than-happy to keep them. We called a few friends to see if they could use them first, but ended up pulling out our old stand-by pen and doing some minor repairs to ready it for these 12 chickens.

So yesterday I got a call from Pappy's friend and zoomed off to pick them up. It appears to be 6 red stars, 1 rhode island red, 3 leghorns and 2 polish frizzies. I'm kinda excited over the frizzies as we've never had "interesting" looking birds before. I was warned that the black one is sassy, but they seems to be doing well so far. They came from a 12' by 12' (guessing here) penned yard with a traditional coop. Our 6'x3' pen is quite a difference, but I think they'll adjust fine. I'm concerned about the leghorns given that the last time we had leghorns they cannibalized each other like crazy. No fun. But I'm watching closely for pecking. We've had them 24 hours and have gotten a single small white egg. Certainly hoping that picks up a bit better. Also hoping that maybe these frizzies will be broody enough to hatch out eggs once our day range coop is built. Will be a fun change of pace at any rate.