The weather prediction was exactly right. We got our first freeze on October 11th getting down to 32 degrees. All the tender warm season crops were killed but luckily we got all the fruit collected the day before. It’s both a sad and a happy day. I’m sad because it means the end of lots of crops and signals winter is almost here. But I’m happy because I’m so sick and tired of eating tomatoes and peppers every single day that it’s nice to have an abrupt end. Haha!
My first year of growing sweet potatoes was also my worst sweet potato harvest year ever. They were so small and I harvested very few. Thank goodness for learning from mistakes. I’ve been consistently growing massive sweet potatoes every year since. I made 7 changes to the way I grew them the first year and it really paid off. I would guess (someone test it and tell me!) you may even be able to harvest big sweet potatoes in the northern US where they are harder to grow, using these secrets!
On Sunday, we had 8-9 inches of rain in the space of 2 hours. It poured so hard. We were in the basement for a while, then came upstairs to eat lunch. One of the kids went back downstairs after lunch and said that the basement carpet by the stairs was wet. I looked down there and sure enough it was. Then I walked toward our storage room to go check the crawl space.
One step into the storage room and my foot sunk into an inch of cold water. An inch of water spread across the entire floor and the area rug was soaking wet. I called Cameron down and we went into high gear hurriedly cleaning up any cardboard boxes on the floor. Luckily the majority of our stuff was elevated on shelves or in plastic bins.
The first time I made grape fruit leather, it was unintentional. I was making grape juice to can and had a bunch of pulp left over. I spread it on dehydrator trays thinking it wouldn’t turn out but it actually did!
I wanted to try making it again but without heating up the grapes past 105ºF so it would still be a living food. I was making this side by side with an oven fruit leather recipe and there was a huge difference in taste. The oven version (cooked at 170ºF), had an almost burnt taste while the raw fruit leather was intensified and highlighted the grape flavor. You can tell by the color that much of the nutrition is preserved.
The search for land, or a house with land, continues. The property we looked at last month with 27 acres of land- it was very dreamy but had some quirks- is now under contract. We could make a counter offer because the seller has an escape clause but we don’t intend to do so… at least right now.
I believe that layouts for the home garden are not explained or talked about enough in gardening books. I would guess this would be because of the variation of landscape makes it so no garden plot is the same and therefore it is difficult to duplicate garden designs.
The other reason is perhaps because most garden design is based on personal preference and very subjective. For example, some people thrive with a permaculture layout where plants are sporadic but as a whole work together, and others may do best with a more formal layout. And then there is the battle between using a raised bed versus using rows.
Here is the first and biggest mistake of my own making!- I decided my chickens could do some fall garden cleanup for me (can you tell where this is going?). I set up our electric chicken fencing inside the garden to keep them in a set area I wanted them to clear. I wanted them to clear behind some cabbages which were actually inside the area I would put the chickens but totally covered with netting and the netting was held by wire. I also wanted them to clear around my apple trees and in the watermelon beds. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that the chickens could cause damage to the cabbage plants but it didn’t.
A “soil block” is a square of potting soil that is compressed into a mold forming a block. It is a method of indoor seed starting. Instead of using container to contain the soil as is usually the case with starting seeds indoors, the compressed soil serves as both the container and the soil medium all in one!
Usually roots will encircle a container once they reach a certain size. With a soil block, instead of roots encircling a container, they are “air-pruned”. This allows for a seamless transplant with virtually no transplant shock.
At lunch today when I opened the refrigerator at our house, there wasn’t much food. I didn’t have much time because I was about to run out the door to go get kids. I grabbed some REAL fast food, two fresh red bell peppers, and headed out the door.
As I bit into it like an apple, I had this thought and realization that this is what my body needs. It was so sweet, crispy, and full of flavor, even just plain. I felt an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that God created such delicious things for us to enjoy. I also felt gratitude that I get be a part of the process of creating. And gratitude for being able to grow it in the most natural way, how it should be done.
Not long ago, my Dad came to my house and we were out in the garden. I was talking about growing dried beans and he asked me about what the plant looked like. When you’ve only seen beans in bags from a grocery store, it totally makes sense. I remember wondering how dried beans grew too! I actually find that quite a few people who visit my garden find the dried beans fascinating. I hope this guide dispels all the mystery and helps you feel confident in growing dried beans!
Thankfully, I haven’t seen a bunny in the garden this week. Whew! But there is something else eating my fall seedlings and I think it might be crickets. There are black field crickets everywhere in the garden after it gets dark. I killed a few by hand but the numbers are huge this year. I can’t wait until I can let the chickens in the garden! Until then, Each fall seedling I’ve planted, I surrounded it with a plastic cup. We’ll see if that does anything!
While not all of us have a root cellar (I don’t), we can make the most of the storage spaces we have. Ventilation is very important if you want to prolong the life of your vegetables.
In the ideal root cellar set up, you would have a cold air intake vent at the base of the root cellar wall and on an opposite wall and the top would be the warm air outtake vent. Cross ventilation is best.
In my basement, I don’t have either of those things, but it is unheated, and it’s not closed off tight from the rest of the house so it does get some ventilation, though not the ideal kind.
I have lots of news for this week! A few months ago, Cam and I set a goal to move to a place with 5 acres or more by 2021. We have started to look at homes and acreage just so we can get a feel for what’s out there.
I am starting a new series of blog posts that will be come out the first week of each month. It is “Getting Started with a Year Round Garden”. Even though much of the things I will talk about will be applicable to any garden season there are definitely other things that will really help you if you plan on gardening through fall and winter.
And perhaps you already have a garden established but there will still be lots of information that can be applied to an existing garden. I have a tendency to think big and imagine an idealized garden even though there may not be such a thing in existence. That being said, I think it’s good to know what the ideal would look like so you can strive for it even when your garden is less than ideal. I think with enough determination anyone can make an amazing garden even out of the most unlikely garden site. We have had to deal with less than ideal sites in 2 out of 3 of our gardens.
Last weekend, Cameron and I went on a day trip to Kansas City. A friend of mine gave me the name of a good restaurant and we ate there. I am really picky about good food now because the garden makes me super spoiled but this place was actually pretty good! The only problem was I did I walk out of there feeling super heavy because I got fries and a burger.
In the year round garden, when the going gets tough (freezing temps, winter storms, you name it!), you need to have a backup source of food, and more specifically, fresh food.
Even with vegetables that can extend your season (mentioned HERE) and low tunnels, once you hit very cold temperatures there isn’t much left in the garden. January through March is when I really struggle to do 100% backyard garden vegetables because of prolonged periods of cold, ice, and snow. I’m in zone 6b so if you are in a colder zone this period is probably longer.
This week was a scorcher here in Arkansas. We had multiple days of 95ºF with a heat index of 105ºF. It’s really tough trying to get little seeds to germinate in that kind of weather. I was watering the seedlings twice a day and the surface of the soil was still drying out. Luckily, everything seems to be popping up ok. Even my carrots actually germinated! Yay! I sowed them a little more heavily this time just to be sure.
Dehydration is a method of food preservation which works by removing the moisture in food. When you remove that moisture, the microorganisms like mold can’t grow and break it down. The result is a shelf stable product that doesn’t spoil for many years.
When dehydrated, packed, and stored properly, fruits have a shelf life of 5 years and vegetables have an 8-10 year shelf life. More information on shelf life HERE.
This week I haven’t done as much preserving and instead have been trying to focus on getting fall crops in on time! It’s perfect because I’m harvesting a lot of peppers. Peppers are my easiest thing to preserve because my favorite method is drying. It’s so easy, all you have to cut into whatever size you want and then set on the dehydrator trays.
I have a very special guest post today by Cameron! He is the builder around here and because he can explain this way better than I can, he is going to give you all the details on how to build a low tunnel. I also made my first ever YouTube video to explain the process if you prefer to just watch rather than read (please keep that in mind as your watching haha!).
I’m Becky. Gardening and eating from that garden is my passion. I’m a believer that a year-round self-sufficient homestead can begin no matter where you may live. My goal is to empower others continue on their journey toward a self- sufficient life.