From the Garden: Springtime Update

Spring has sprung. April showers, warmer temperatures, and hands-on attention make a happy garden. Farming is subject to the whims of Mother Nature, and so far, she seems content to help.

The farm’s focus this year has been succession planting, meaning getting multiple crops from a single plot throughout the growing season. For example, spinach, a cool weather, frost-hardy crop, comes up first, followed by beans after the spinach is harvested. The broccoli will be followed by a cover crop, or “green manure” to enrich the soil naturally.


The spinach is doing well in the center beds. Two cuttings from the one small 30″×12′ plot have already provided more than three pounds of the leafy green. Green and purple beans are filling out the row of spinach and the spinach bed will cycle to beans when the spinach is done.

The red leaf lettuce is coming along nicely and should be ready later in April. The rain showers most certainly help! This year, these beds were sown with lettuce and carrots. A row of lettuce with a row of carrots on either side offers an optimal yield of the two crops. This technique may be used in the future if it continues to show success.


The broccoli crop has been a particular challenge, inasmuch as, insect larvae find the leaves tasty. The solution, from the organic farmers’ toolkit, is a soil dwelling bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis. Bt is safe to humans and devastating to moth and butterfly larvae (thank you for that one, Mother Nature!). The broccoli is now coming along. The full row of three beds is planted for succession harvest in May and June.

Squash transplants are filling out. Three more hills will follow and all together should provide a significant yield of patty pan squash. Space should not be a problem for this sprawling vine this year!



The onion transplants are getting settled and should offer lovely sweet red and yellow onions this summer. Remember: trim the roots on the transplants to speed growth.


Tomatoes will be transplanted before the end of the month. The direct seeding methods need… improvement. Fifteen plants should provide a good harvest.

In addition to continuing to use principles central to organic farming, we will irrigate the gardens with rainwater and, as often as possible, the use of hand tools in place of petroleum powered devices.


Moving forward, the plan is to expand the garden, establish standard 30″×100′ beds and develop a long term crop rotation plan.

Meanwhile, the crops…

Meanwhile, the crops keep coming. Every day for a few weeks looked a little something like this.


We now have over a hundred pounds of squash. It is safe to say that we are having a good summer harvest.


The past few weeks have been a busy few weeks on the farm. The time came to move the chicks to a coop in the pasture.

True to our style, we constructed the coop out of reclaimed wood and materials.

We made the frame from old barn wood.



And the coop is mobile.


With three, yes that’s right, three, handles for carrying ease.


Easing it up the hill was a testament to the strength of the deck screws.



And then it was time to raise the roof!


And voila, move in ready!


And now, everybody is safe and sound.






The summer harvest is officially underway.

The mystery bush bean plants are just getting started and have given just over 2 kg of beans so far.


And this week’s harvest star is definitely the patty pan squash.


We’ve brought in over 6 kg this week! Does anyone know of any excellent recipes?

Mistaken Identity and a Mystery

Each year we plant pole beans. We made wonderful arbors, reusing old fencing materials. We got the seeds; we planted them; we were ready. The plants grew and were very healthy.


We waited for the little arms to sprout up and grab hold of the arbors. We waited, and waited, and waited, and only one plant sprouted.


Ah, nuts. We have bush beans. The disappointment isn’t too great because these plants are strong and will surely give us enough beans to last the year.


The mystery of the lone pole bean plant remains to be solved…

The Moment We’ve Been Waiting For

A few months ago, we placed our order for a straight run of Barred Plymouth Rock chicks.

Wednesday, we received notice that they had shipped and immediately set up the brooder pen in a safe area of the basement.

First we laid the vapor barrier and assembled the pen on top.


Then we added the added the shavings,


the heat sources,


and multiple watering stations.


And yesterday morning was the moment for which we have been waiting! The chicks arrived!

They are fragile newborns, but they all seem to have strong instincts. They know to eat, drink, stay warm, and quickly scatter to the corners of the pen if a piece of furniture is inadvertently moved across the floor.



After over a year of planning and preparation, we are so excited that this phase of our journey is finally underway.



Last summer, working through a forestry manager, we hired Hiwassee Timber Co to harvest timber from the property. The timber company couldn’t work during the autumn and winter and returned last week to continue the job.

They are incredibly meticulous at their jobs and wonderfully kind people (Ashley, nimble with a chainsaw and the skidder driver, brought us homemade strawberry jam, bread and butter pickles, and her pickled okra recipe after we offered a batch of our famous choco-rific cookies).

Seeing and hearing the trees fall from the woods is at times heart-wrenching, but there is also a dignified elegance in watching the choreography of the machinery. This video was filmed over the first two and a half days of this season’s harvest.

The harvest will probably last another several weeks, and when all is said and done, about 25% of the total property will have been cleared. The newly cleared land will eventually be used as pastures and orchards, exactly as it was used several generations ago.

When It Rains

When it rains, some folks might be inclined to curl up with a good book, a cup of tea, and listen to the lovely sound of the water on a metal roof. Around here, however, we are more inclined to dress in bright yellow slickers and go for a long, contemplative stroll in the clearing of the woods.


Since we eventually want to build a system that maximizes the property’s natural water supply, these long walks in the rain are necessary to follow the water’s flowing patterns.

A property-wide rain water harvesting system is a tremendous project that will take many years to plan and implement. However, every large project can be broken into smaller pieces. And the best way to begin any endeavor is simply to start.

So we started.

The most logical place to begin our project was to create a small system by the barn to water the vegetable garden.

We acquired a water tub and found the appropriate connections and extensions to run the water from the barn roof to the tub.





Lo and behold, after one light rain (~ 1/2″), the tub was almost full.


This water was emptied into a reservoir by the garden, and soon after, the newly sprouted squash received a lovely drink.




So Long, Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle has pretty flowers that smell wonderful. The honeysuckle scent has a stronghold amongst perfumists, but the honeysuckle vine had a strong hold on our fence.

Wild honeysuckle is a nuisance. A boa constrictor of vines, it causes horrible damage to fences and trees. These vines needed to be removed from the fence that borders our vegetable garden.

Many gardeners and farmers admit to using Roundup to do away with persistent, unwanted honeysuckle. We don’t use Roundup on our farm. Even if we did, in this case, our vegetable garden is directly next to, and downhill (downstream) from, the honeysuckle.

Manual extraction was the only way to go. It’s a process, and certainly not as easy as a spray bottle, but absolutely necessary.

We cut the vines as closely to the root as possible. Then we embarked on the arduous task of digging up the root systems. The vines will be easier to remove from the fence once they are dead. So, we trimmed the overgrowth, and now we must wait for the vines to die before we can fully reclaim our fence.