The Weekly Digs #91

by Becky
Published: Updated:

In the garden:

First, an update on the blueberries. I contacted the company I bought the blueberries from, and I am sharing their name now because I had a positive experience, Ison’s Nursery.

After an email and two phone calls, I was able to reach an associate who told me she would talk to the owners and get back to me. Imagine my surprise when later that day I received a call from one of the owners, Greg Ison. 

I had sent over an email with the same image I shared here last week. Mr. Ison said he had talked to his cooperative extension agent in Georgia to get his opinion. Both of them thought the leaf spotting was likely due to the time of year because the blueberry leaves change appearance as the nutrients are pulled back into the shoots and roots of the plant.

The other thing he said was that the spotting was not likely to be septoria leaf spot because that is often at its worst in August- September and significant leaf loss accompanies it. These blueberries still had their leaves. (That information is consistent with my own personal experience of septoria leaf spot on my tomato plants in 2019).

At the end of our phone call he offered to refund the plants if that’s what I wanted. While some of his points appeared to be valid, I told him I wanted a second opinion from my local cooperative extension agent in Arkansas and would get back to him. I was glad he was willing to refund them even though it was his opinion they would be fine.

So I contacted my own local cooperative extension agent here in Arkansas via a phone call. I told him that I received mail order blueberries with significant leaf spotting from Georgia. He immediately guessed the nursery was Ison’s which I found interesting! (Do they all know each other?! Haha! I suppose Ison’s has been around for a while.)

I didn’t  mention what Ison’s told me about the blueberries, and yet he repeated almost exactly what Greg Ison and the Georgia cooperative extension said about the blueberry leaves being spotted because the leaf nutrition was going down to be stored in the roots. He also mentioned that the stress of shipping was probably a factor. 

I still wasn’t quite convinced and mentioned my concern of introducing a possible fungal disease to my farm and he assured me that in the unlikely event it was fungal, it wouldn’t affect the blueberries next year.

 In addition, he said if I wanted to be extra cautious to clean up and dispose of the blueberry leaves as they dropped so that there wasn’t a chance of any possible disease lingering. 

At this point he still hadn’t seen a photograph so I said, “Can you please just give this picture a look to be sure it’s nothing to worry about?” He said yes and I sent over the image. His response was a repeat of what he said before, “I can see your concern so just take the leaves off the farm when they shed.”

Given that his first reaction was almost identical to the cooperative extension agent in Georgia, and he didn’t seem concerned a disease would spread, it was enough for me to feel better about keeping the blueberries. 

I also have a tendency (because I deal with anxiety 24/7) to jump to worse case scenarios. The look of the plants was definitely a bit scary and concerning but they all convinced me it would be fine. I learned something new too and that was worthwhile.

I have a better opinion of Ison’s Nursery now. I am so glad because they are a family owned business that has been around a long time! Blueberries aren’t their specialty, it is muscadine grapes of which they have created and patented many new varieties over the years.

All our family pitched in today to plant the blueberries. They look better now that they are in the ground. 🙂 I’ll definitely keep you posted on how they do in Spring and Summer 2021.

I am also still picking carrots and kale regularly. Although I will probably plant more kale into winter next year since it doesn’t grow much it just keeps nice and fresh in the ground for a few months. 

Snow in Arkansas?!

For the first time in a few years we got a decent amount of snow, about 5 inches on Sunday! It was enough for the kids to run out and build snowmen with and have snowball fights.

The evening it snowed we decided we ought to go up to our land to check on the animals. In the past, the chickens never really have had a problem with cold or snow. They don’t really like to go out in it much but are happy to huddle together in their coop. 

My garden and the chicken coop and run in the background.

We still have their extra run that is covered in plastic so that area didn’t get any snow and it is also warmer in there! They seemed content.

The cows were also surprisingly good. Their water wasn’t frozen, just a little slushy. Between their constant drinking and the still relatively warm temperature outside of 34 degrees Fahrenheit, it didn’t freeze. 

We were hoping the cows would work to get through the snow to eat grass but unfortunately it didn’t look like they had eaten much at all. As a result, Cam went and got the tractor and carried a hay bale into the paddock the cows were in. They excitedly chopped on their easy to eat food.

The next day Cameron went up to check on the cows and chickens again and discovered the cows had made a nice bed of hay to lay down in and rest. 


A few days after the snow storm, our cows kept getting out of their fencing! The electric fence is powered by solar and because of the cloud cover the fence wasn’t generating enough electricity to keep them in. 

The other thing Cameron noticed was that they were only escaping out of the portable electric wire. We have three strands up on the portable wires too but the charge was pretty weak.

Cameron had purchased the aluminum wire for the permanent electric fence on the exterior but the cheaper steel polybraid wire for the interior. He says he thinks that is where the main issue is and regrets buying the cheap stuff. 

We will probably need to go and purchase the aluminum polybraid if they keep getting out and use that instead. 

House Progress

If you guessed not much progress on the roof happened this week because of snow, you are right! We are practicing patience. In the meantime Cameron and I are going on a lot of dates to pick out materials for the house.

We wrapped up picking out flooring this week for the most part. We also have been needing to pick an indoor fireplace but have struggled so much to figure out what we want.

Most of our heat in winter will come from an outdoor wood boiler (someday Cameron plans to do a video about this to share, I am not super knowledgable about it). It is basically an outdoor firebox that has a water jacket surrounding the firebox. The water gets superheated and then gets circulated into the house via insulated pipes. The water then transfers its heat by moving through a heat exchanger and the hot air blows through the HVAC system. We got our wood boiler from Portage and Main.

A friend helped us get the boiler off the delivery truck with his backhoe. The wood boiler weights 2300 lbs.

Anyway so the wood boiler will be our main source of heat in winter. However, I still wanted a fireplace indoors because I like to look at the fire and the happiness it brings me when I look at it. We also will use the indoor fireplace as heat in the Spring and Fall when the temperatures bounce around a lot from hot to cold and back again.

The wood boiler works best and is most efficient when you do more of a continuous burn. So we will start using it when it is consistently cold.

Cameron and I have been going back and forth between using wood or propane for the indoor fireplace. I like the ease of propane (flipping a switch to turn it on) but the wood would be free and renewable for us. We finally decided on wood and picked out a fireplace that the sales representative said would be within our budget. A few hours we received the estimate and it was $1000 more than she said.

Oy. We may be back to square one. It’s kind of frustrating how many companies verbally say one price but then when it comes down to the actual paper estimate, it is different. That is what happened with our roof too.

The cheaper fireplaces are more decorative and don’t put out much heat. But the ones that are quality and work efficiently are over our budget. We need to make a decision ASAP because it needs to be done before the rough in inspection. The inspection will happen as soon as the roof is done.

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bill bennett January 14, 2021 - 2:47 am

We heat our 30’x60′ ft home with a vogalzang wood stove with a glass door. I mounted a regular box fan on the wall near the ceiling to circulate the hot air around the flue into our living room. The stove does a great job, but vogalzang is not the best company for customer support. The baffle at the top of the fire box warps and must be replaced about every third year. The stove is not designed to be damped, for the evening. It is designed for fast burns. We have had it 11 years.

theseasonalhomestead January 20, 2021 - 11:13 pm

Sounds like a good choice! I will have to look up that brand.


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