The Weekly Digs #233

by Becky

We enjoyed a quick getaway vacation last week in Florida. I didn’t say anything on the Weekly Digs because this is a public space and it’s usually not good to announce you’re out of town 🙂

Back in September we found out that Noelle had an optional gymnastics meet she could attend in Florida. At first we were leaning towards not going but then I thought about how long it had been since seeing my brother Paul and his family (5 years!) who live there and we decided it would be good to go and make a vacation out of it.

It was so great to be able to see Paul, my sister in law, and all my nieces and nephews. We went to the beach together, played games at their house, and then went to Blue Springs State Park and saw the manatees. 

One of the things we wanted to do while we were there was go to a U-Pick orchard to get citrus. So I looked around and found a place called Showcase of Citrus. We headed there right away.

Real orange juice slushy

Showcase of Citrus is an interesting place. They have a mix of farm animals in the front as you walk up, along with the other thing they are known for which is a monster truck that is 16 feet tall and that is available for rides/tours around the farm.

After passing the truck and the animals, we walked to the main building and saw picnic tables and a place to order drinks/ treats. They had orange slushies made of fresh squeezed juice and each enjoyed one of those. Cam asked the cashier about the U-pick and they said they had no picking happening because they didn’t have any oranges. 

She said they replanted 80% of the trees last year due to hurricanes, hail, and freezes so picking was sparse this year. They also didn’t have any oranges available for purchase which was a bummer! 

So the day before we were going to leave, I found another place which was u-pick by appointment only and it looked promising. 

It’s called Lake Mills U-Pick and it was awesome! We got a personal tour by Jim the owner and were able to pick grapefruits, tangelos, and valencia oranges. He did a great job of adding education and fun stories along the way. I highly recommend it!

In the Garden

We got home late Tuesday night and Cam still had Wednesday off of work so we took advantage of him being home and knocked out a big project, getting the seed starting tables set up! 

Video of all that is below:

YouTube video

I mentioned in the video we are getting a grant for a high tunnel. I thought a lot about whether or not to share that because I knew it would garner some controversy. 

Truthfully, we went back and forth with pros and cons for a while as to whether or not we should apply. We aren’t the kind of people who expect handouts of any kind and also we hesitated because we like to be under the radar and not on any type of government list.

But the more we thought about it, the more we realized that we were letting fear rule our actions. So far, it has been a good experience. Our local NRCS rep is super helpful and answered all our questions. Cam is writing a separate blog post about the process and what is involved since I got so many questions about it!

Using Richard Perkins method of making garden beds. This area was used for potatoes last year and is low in organic matter. On went a 3 inch layer of compost. Also sheet mulching here because of a pesky patch of johnsongrass.

On another note, the busy season of gardening is fast approaching! Once the seed tables were set up, we started to get going on planting.

I’m a little behind schedule because of our recent trip but hopefully will get caught up soon. 

  • In soil blocks Cam planted Hatch Chilis (mild), Big Jim (medium), and Sandia select (hot!). He has been wanting hot peppers for a while and he took it upon himself to order the seeds and get them planted. 
  • I also planted ginger and comfrey in 4 inch pots. 
  • I moved a set of chickens into my caterpillar tunnel to weed for us and fertilize. There was a bunch of chickweed in there and no crops since we pulled out the carrots a few months ago. They still sleep in the coop and we carry them there during the day to fertilize and forage.

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BETH March 3, 2024 - 10:51 am

I was curious why you guys were getting an NRCS grant. Is it to pay for the high tunnel you already have or for another? I didn’t know if the USDA had retroactive payments? I just bought a high tunnel kit from a local Amish family and thought about applying for the grant but didn’t want the USDA to be in my business either which is the reason I didn’t apply.

A video suggestion. Maybe I missed it, but a video that explains your rotational planting in your high tunnel would be great once you start doing that. Anyway, I love your videos! Thank you for teaching in an easy to understand way.

Becky March 4, 2024 - 3:49 pm

Hi Beth! It’s to pay for a new one. The first is already paid for. And even though they do reimburse you after the assembly, you can’t start on or purchase a tunnel with a NRCS grant until everything is approved by them. They also have very exact specifications for the high tunnel. That being said, I think qualifications vary somewhat by state.

Even though we are mostly a homestead, we do sell food (though not a large amount) and therefore are technically a farm. This fact, along with a several other requirements, made us eligible. My plan is to grow grapes and strawberries in the new tunnel.

Thank you for the video suggestion! I always appreciate ideas.

Graham March 3, 2024 - 1:20 pm

Where do you purchase your grains in bulk? What led you to using that company?

Becky March 4, 2024 - 4:29 pm

I purchase my grains from Azure Standard. Here is my personal link I first found out about this company when I was searching for a source of organic rolled oats in bulk. I have been ordering from them for 5 years now and have been happy with the quality. They have a LOT of options for organic foods. And shipping is cheap for it being a bulk order. Azure is kind of like a co-op where those in your community order and you pick a “drop” near you, this is where you pick up the order. It comes on a semi-truck and everyone helps unload, then you take your order home. Only negetive is you need to be very flexible with your time because pick up is already determined and you need to make it there. Once you experience it once it will all make sense and they also have a lot of info of how it works on their website. Also as a side note whenever you purchase grain, no matter the source, it’s good to freeze what you get first (or order in winter which is what I do!) so that you aren’t met with pantry moths or grain weevils later on.

Heather April 23, 2024 - 6:36 pm

Becky, where did you get the comfrey from? I’m having such a hard time finding somewhere online to buy it from!

Becky April 24, 2024 - 1:11 am

I buy them from a farming friend of mine. You can also use code BECKYPORTER for $5 off your order!


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