2019 garden updates

Just a quick post on the 2019 garden so far.

The garden woven fabric is working wonderfully so far.  If it holds up through the year and comes up in good condition we will be getting more for sure. See our previous post about it here: 2019 Spring garden .

Rabbits destroyed the rows of lettuce,  spinach, cabbage, broccoli , cauliflower.   They ate what they wanted and are leaving the rest along for now.   We are at war with them at the moment but they are still winning I think.

The plants have gotten to the point that they are outpacing the weeds which saves us some time.  Between the weeds that come up still, the black fabric ,  and the hay bedding from our rabbits that we added to the rows, the soil is keeping its moisture.  It has been very much needed in the hot dry weeks we have had recently.

 

We have already been eating squash,  zucchini , radish, garlic (planted last year) , spinach, peppers.

Our herbs are also rocking and we were able to use them and the garlic with the last of our frozen tomatoes to make an amazing batch of sauce.

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So many great things going on.   Very exciting time of the year.

Speaking of the war on the rabbits – we have recruited some help.  They are small now but once they get some size on them… varmints beware! We’ll share more about Callie the Calico and Ursa the Little Bear, in a future post.

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Blackberries, Strawberries and Blueberries. Oh my

Just a quick post about our berry production on our little homestead.

The first year we planted strawberries and a thornless blackberry.   The second year we added more strawberries,  blackberries ,  and then blueberries. Third year we added more blackberries and blueberries.

We are adding more as we can afford to and also when we can get an area cleared for them.

 

The strawberries were a mix of Alpine,  Ozark,  and probably some others we are forgetting. We tried a white strawberry too, called Pineberry.20190515_181305.jpg

They are planted in a old building foundation with a concrete wall that has fallen down.  It was a defined area that we always try planting things in.   Strawberries are about the only thing that we have found to work there.   We say work but even though we are currently getting lots of strawberries,  we are not getting lots of flavor.   They have all been so bland this year!  Our theories on this are that we have had record level of rains this year effecting the taste  or they do not get enough sunlight.  Or both. There are a few trees surrounding them we are considering cutting down.

Any suggestions from you guys are welcome in the comments!

 

The blackberries are a thorn less variety we like, named Apache . The property is covered in “wild” blackberry plants,  but they do not produce as much due to their thickness and the wild animals get most of them before they are what we consider ripe.

We are planting them on the edge of our young orchard and keep adding as we take back the woods.   They will have plenty of room to expand in the future.   The plants do well for us despite a few bites taken out by deer and rabbits from time to time.    Last year we even got enough to make a cobbler.  I would be fine if we got enough this year to make 20 cobblers.  We might be planting more,  or we might give it a few years to see how far they expand on their own.

Blueberries  we have planted several varieties so far,  mainly because where we buy them from seems to change what they  have every year.   They are all doing a great job despite the light deer grazing,   we have not gotten a significant amount off them yet,  but maybe this year!

 

 

We also have some grapes we have started that we will go over in a future post.  Thinking about maybe doing raspberries.  We are in zone 7b so researching what we could realistically grow here.

What berries are you growing?   What are some of your favorites?  Are we forgetting any that we should get started?   Let us know in the comments !!!

2019 Spring garden

Finally got time to get the 2019 Spring garden in the ground. So much work but such a fun work. Putting stuff in the ground, giving each plant a little “grow babies” whisper and daydreaming about how delicious the rewards will be in a few months.

The entire weekend was spent on tilling, laying out the rows, and planting. We realized we needed to do something for weed suppression this year. In previous years we just weeded, constantly. This year we are trying a woven plastic garden cloth. It should keep the weeds way down while still allowing water through but not getting too hot. Once those 3 and 4 foot widths were secured, we could start adding in the plants. Most of the rows were plants that we had already started in our greenhouse, with a few being seeds that didn’t need a head start. By the end of the weekend we had planted three 25ft by 50ft gardens and a smaller herb bed area.

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The favorite part of the day for me I think was the last tilling that morning. It was right at daylight, and going slow over the rows so the tiller could do its job. It was an excited anticipation like when I was a kid before a birthday or before a favorite dinner. This giddy feeling with each pass of the tractor picturing what would be growing in each row. Then I thought about my grandfather, and how when I was a kid I would watch him till up rows in his garden on an old red tractor. I wonder if he was as excited in those moments as I was now.

Then my mind drifted to the previous owners of the property. We found a “produce for sale” sign when cleaning up some of the trash. That probably means they had a little stand at one point. So we know they farmed some, not sure exactly where or how. Maybe the exact same rows I was moving down someone else had done just that 50 years before me. What about 100 years before me? I had the luxury of doing it on a small tractor, but at one point though, it could have been someone behind a plow and a team of mules. Not growing as a fun hobby but for a legit reason of food. I miss a row or don’t plow an area as deep as would be needed and we get a little less vegetables. The man and his mules make the same mistake and his family could go hungry. It meant so much more to him. Where my morning was full of excitement his likely had a healthy does of fear and worry as well. It is another quick reminder of how blessed our lives are in so many aspects. Gardening as a hobby has to be much more fun than gardening to prevent starvation.

Back to the plants!

We already had rabbits strike. In three days they had already eaten an entire row of Broccoli/cauliflower, Cabbage, and at least three rows worth of lettuce. They even bit off a pepper plant and left it just laying on the ground. We are working on plans on how to deal with them. Anything from rabbit repellent spray to companion plants that rabbits don’t like to much stronger methods. The garden is between the house and the road which strikes out some options. We’d love your comments if you’ve got any suggestions on what has worked for you in the past.

Plants we are most excited about – tomatoes, obviously. What they sell in most stores as tomatoes should be illegal compared to how a REAL tomato tastes . Along with that, we have yellow squash and acorn squash are high on our list as favorites. Melons didn’t work out for us last year so fingers crossed for this year. Corn also, especially the Glass Gem corn but also the Peaches and Cream. Oh, and potatoes. And 3 different colors of carrots.

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Maybe we are just excited about everything?

The smell of dirt, the sun coming up catching the dew on the surrounding plant life. Birds waking up and starting their songs for the day, sometimes flying down to check out what the tractor had overturned. Just spending time outside planting things.  There are far much worse ways to spend a weekend, and not many better ways. As always we urge everyone to plant things. It is so rewarding.

Starting our small greenhouse

Having years one and two gardens past us , we started to dream bigger. We wanted a place to start seeds earlier and a little bit more substantial than our hot box we used our second year.

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Small but effective.

We also wanted a potting shed, and a place to start some young trees, and nut bushes that could use a safe environment for the first couple years. With all of these things in mind, we decided to build a small greenhouse. There is a future plan on building a larger greenhouse/sunroom on the future house. We needed something a bit sooner though.

We spent some time figuring out where would get good light but not block anything in the future. It made good sense to put the greenhouse by the gardens, too. With our site in mind, we got going!.

First thing we did was set the posts. It is not the first thing we should have done. The ground seemed level to the eye. However we quickly realized it was no where close. It took some time and lots of shovel work to get it level for the walls and floor. It would have been much easier without the posts already in the way.

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Chief inspector Bandit the dog was there every step of the way making sure everything passed inspection. We will be posting more about this awesome pup in a future post.

Once the posts and brick were laid, the frame went up pretty quick.

 

The only thing on this part we should have done differently was to slope the roof more. It drops six inches but would have been better to do it ten or twelve. We have not had any issues yet, and we don’t usually have any snow accumulation here so will have to wait and see. We have had one of the rainiest starts of the year on record, and it has not leaked a drop yet. Fingers crossed, it continues to hold.

For the lower section we used metal just like we did on the barn.  The reasons being it helps prevent rot from rain splash back, also it matches the barn kinda.

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Below you can see between each rafter we have venting. So 4 holes on each side to help the green house cool down when needed.   On a sunny day even if its only in the 60s  the greenhouse can hit 120 pretty quickly.

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Vents out from the top.  Vents laying on the ground. 

After the outside was up, all the rain that came showed us we needed to work on the drainage around our little building.

We dug a simple ditch around the side that was causing the issue. From a previous post we mentioned there was a little decorative pond on the place when we bought it. Around that were loads of pea gravel and large rocks for a wall. We filled the ditch with buckets of the gravel, then laid the stone on top. Fixed the issue so far, and looks great to us!

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Inspector Bandit on the job.
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Front
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Left side

We are so happy with our first little greenhouse. It is already being put to good use. So many seeds started and even ten small trees. The pictures below do not even show all of them.

 

In a future post we will go through what we did on the inside and show you guys what it looks like . Got any questions? We would love to hear from you all in the comments!

What’s in a name?

We want to start by saying thank you to everyone who has read anything on our blog so far! Blogging is a new world for us and it is so rewarding and exciting to get the views/ comments/ likes from everyone. We’re enjoying sharing what we have learned so far and hope that we can inspire or motivate someone to do something too.  Plant just one thing – you don’t have to wait until you have acres or until you can retire.  Plant one tomato or one sunflower; it doesn’t matter.  Just do something! It will be so rewarding.

A few years back life did a big reset. After the dust settled on that it was clear a plan had to be made. The idea and the want of homesteading and a more simple life style was in the background but it started coming forward. This idea is expounded on in our first blog post if you want to check that out.

Having always kept various journals and date books it seemed only natural to do the same with the homesteading idea. A green journal that had been a gift was picked to be the one to start the daydreaming.

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Pages and pages of drawings and writings . Things from TV Shows, original ideas , hopes and dreams were all written down in the simple green journal. Bank accounts, types of loans, dates with a realtor and appointment times. Anything that had to do with finding a place and what to do with that place was written down in the journal. It became a treasure in itself and a constant companion.

There was a 6 month period of doing nothing but working towards a goal. No weekends off, no vacation, no thought other than getting a place started. Pennies pinched, clutter sold off , constantly thinking of how to get closer to the goal. One singular obsession and the journal becoming a manifestation of that obsession.

After buying the property it just felt like it needed a name. There were not even any other names considered really. It was obviously Green Journal Homestead.

It is a fun memory , a fitting name, and a reminder that anything is possible even when it seems like it is not.

That first Green Journal was filled up a few years ago but recently another journal gift had been given to celebrate the start of this blog.

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The journal might be new but it is like finding an old friend. The pages are already filling up just like the last one. Ideas flowing on paper just like before. We are very excited for the new adventures to come. We hope that all of you come along with us!

Orchards and Patience

The saying is true ” The best time to plant an apple tree is five years ago.  The second best time is now.”  Growing up with several fruit trees ,  we knew we wanted to have several on our homestead.

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The thoughts on layout of the homestead is something that has changed several times.  It will also probably change several times in the next few years even,  but where to put the fruit trees was pretty obvious.  The hillside going up from the road to the top of the property  does not look like much of a slope,  but pushing a wheelbarrow up it full of compost ( why did we put the compost pile at the BOTTOM of the hill?? ) and you can certainly feel it.  The sun rises from the “bottom” of the hill  and travels up it during the day creating a micro climate perfect for young trees.

We laid out where the trees would go keeping them minimum 25 ft apart.  Staking out where the first tree would go then folding a 50ft rope around it to measure out  to 25 ft.   Then with two stakes with two 50ft ropes in half can put the next stake where the two ropes meet.  This allowed us to put stakes in while always remaining 25 ft away from any other tree.

Year one we planted apple,  pear,  peach,  plum trees.  Two of each going up the hill. Planted them in October and it did not rain that year again until December that year.   The next two months were spent carrying what seemed like infinite 5 gallon buckets of water to the young trees.  The following Spring showed that all the hard work had paid off and all the trees made it.  We also planted thornless blackberry bushes the first year,  we will cover that more in a future post.

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They are hard to see,  but the trees are there.

List of planted trees

  1. Apple—   Granny Smith                     5. Peach— Belle of Georgia
  2. Apple—   Honey Crisp                        6. Peach— Belle of Georgia
  3. Plum—    Methley  Plum                     7. Pear—  Kieffer
  4. Plum—    Ozark Premier                    8. Pear— Orient

Year two orchard wise was not as big an expansion as year one.  We had run out of open area to plant the trees and a large portion of the “orchard time”  was spent clearing new ground for a few more trees.   October year two we planted only one more apple tree, (we did plant more berry bushes though) an Arkansas Black. It is a later in the year apple which we like the taste of, kind of like wine. We are hoping it will store and cook well .

  1. Apple — Arkansas Black

Year three for the orchard we did a little better  planting three trees.  Two apple and one more plum tree.    One of the apples was to replace the granny smith tree planted from the first year.

  1. Apple—  Granny Smith  (to replace the one that died)
  2. Apple— Gala
  3. Plum—Damson
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Can see a few of them in this photo .

The original granny smith apple tree had been doing great, we thought,  which might have been the problem .  It produced in year 3 about a dozen little apples.  Then the weather shifted and summer hit hard and we probably should have picked off the young fruit.  The combination, we believe, stressed the tree too much and it died. A better course of action would have been to remove the apples so the tree could have focused more on root growth.  So far we have only lost that one out of eleven ,  but even that one could have probably been avoided.   It was a good wake up call on keeping a better watch on the young orchard. We were too excited by the idea and possibility of having apples so soon and it probably cost us that tree.  Patience is really needed here.  There is no rushing a tree growing.

The plans for the orchard going forward is to monitor but not baby the growing trees,  and at their young age, if any show problems to replace it.  At this point in time there is not really anymore room to squeeze in more trees. This could change after the house is built and we know where water lines and septic will be located.  We are discussing adding some figs and pawpaw trees maybe, but we have to see where we have that they could thrive.

As we clean out the woods more and define what will remain woods and what will be pasture we do want to line that with nut trees.  There are no nut trees on the property at this point and that is something we want to correct. We are also looking to add some trees that will change their leaf color and drop leaves in the fall. We get the benefit of the leaves changing and then the benefit of new material to add to the compost. We got a couple of small oak trees around Earth Day last year and hopefully they will take off.