I got some help the last couple of days clearing out the citrus house from our own personal clearing machines!! No I am not talking about a tractor, lawn mower, weedeater or chainsaw. Our machines have names......Betty, Praline and Doughy!! This is not some cutesy thing where we name our tools......these are our goats.
The citrus house had been neglected all spring as I have been busy getting the beds sowed and fields prepared for planting. The elderberries were sprouting and the grass and other weeds were knee high. I had been racking my brain to figure our a way to get a gas-powered machine into the citrus house. I designed the citrus house without a gate. At this point it seemed silly now that I had not put a gate with which to get a mower in. Harmony and I discussed it and we came up with the idea of dropping the fence and letting the goats in for a few days to see what they could do with it. On Monday evening I went down and dropped the fence. Immediately the three clearing machines entered the area and started doing their work. As of later that evening when we went down to do chores they had pretty much mowed it down already. We've left them in there for the past couple of days and it appears that the citrus house will be ready for the banana and pineapples by this weekend. They did a great job!!
Interestingly this is not some 47 Daisies epiphone.......even large companies like Google rent goats to keep their property maintained. Highway departments rent goat herds to clear the medians and side shoulders. It is amazing the amount of vegetation (woody and herbaceous) that these very efficient animals can consume in a day!!!!
Do you have areas that need clearing? GET GOATS!!!!!
What a difference it makes having more hands on the farm!! We had a volunteer garden work day on Saturday afternoon. We weeded the onion bed and laid down mulch on the broccoli, cabbage, chinese cabbage, cauliflower, collards and tomatoes. Other than it being a scorching day (record highs for March 26th) it was a huge success. Hopefully all the volunteers had a good time and from our standpoint we got a lot of much needed work done......THANK YOU!
Spring is always the busiest time of year on a small diversified farm like 47 Daisies. I was sitting in the living room last night and gave Harmony the to-do list for the week......here it is......
1. Plant out the rest of the plants from the seed room
2. Seed a succession planting of beans, lettuce and squash
3. Prepare the ground in the citrus house
4. Spray the grass with vinegar to kill it in the citrus house
5. Plant the pineapples and banana
6. Till the bottom field
7. Get the rest of the tomato posts in
8. Finish hilling the potatoes
9. Finish laying the irrigation lines
10. Transplant the flower plants
11. Rebuild the mower deck......and get mowing
12. Finish mulching the tomatoes and eggplants
13. Mulch the new pepper transplants
If we can get all that done then it will have been a productive week..........life is never a dull moment here!!! But even though we are busy, busy, busy......we love every minute of it.....!!!!
I love mowing...I really do. I have no idea why and can't explain it, but I LOVE it. Dylan loves this about me, as well, as you could probably guess. Considering the acreage we have to mow, this is probably a great thing that I love it so much. I could mow all day. This doesn't happen....ever...but I do mow in spurts of an hour or so at a time several times a week. This is in addition to Dylan mowing when he gets spare minutes as well. It's pretty much a constant job 3/4 of the year.
I had my first round on the mower last night, and it was awesome. I started out with the Christmas Tree field behind the house, which took me about 30 minutes. Dylan had mentioned that if I completed that field to move down to the bottom and mow down the thistle. He said not to try to mow the whole field, just mow down the thistle.
I went down to the bottom and couldn't believe what I saw there. 85% of the field was COVERED in thistle. The plants ranged from little new ones to ones that were already 2-3 ft tall. We knew about a month ago that we were going to have issues in that field, but I don't think either of us were prepared for this. There was no way I couldn't mow the whole field and "just hit the thistle", as Dylan had said. They were everywhere. Before long, I took great pleasure in mowing them down. They seemed to "thump" every time I hit one. I started thinking if this were a game, I'd be winning due to the number of points I was accumulating.
Apparently, this thistle is Bull Thistle, according to Dylan. So after some research last night, we learned that it grows in disturbed areas and prevents livestock from grazing and spreads like crazy. Well...considering the whole property at this point is "disturbed" since we moved in, this could be a problem. The solutions are very strong herbicides (not going to happen), digging the plants and burning the seed pods (way too many for that to happen) or mow/chop them down before they flower and hope for the best. I guess we're going with the third option.
This bottom is one of our mulch fields, and if it continues, we aren't going to be able to use the chopped thistle as mulch, so this is disheartening. Hopefully, consistent mowing will keep them down and they won't come back with such vengeance next year.
Wish us luck.
Since we have been growing tomatoes we have been experimenting with the best way to support them. Tomatoes are a staple crop in the garden beloved by most everyone. As we increase the number of plants we grow each year the ever haunting question of how best to support them comes up again and again.
In the past we have caged our tomatoes using concrete reinforcing wire (5 ft tall). This works well for a few plants but can turn expensive when you start getting into the hundreds of plants. For the past few years we have been staking our tomatoes and then tying them to the stake periodically but this can be very time consuming and farming is one of those ventures that need to be streamlined as much as possible.
If you do a search online for tomato support systems you will find as many ideas are there are people growing tomatoes. Some seem to work ok and some seem ridiculously complex but may work for a few plants in your backyard.
We will have somewhere around 375 tomato plants in the beds this year so we are now moving to what commercial tomato growers use......the basket weave method. Hopefully it will work well and keep those juicy fruit off the ground out of the reach of the hungry microbes and insects.
How do you support your tomatoes? Do you have a unique way that works for you?
Recently we have had many people contact us about starting a small organic/natural farm similar to ours. This interest in farming is exciting! A thriving local economy (especially when it comes to food production) cannot exist without a network of farmers and supporters of those farms.
In response to this explosion of interest in small farming I thought I would write and tell everyone why we started 47 Daisies and why we farm the way we do.
It seems cliche but I have wanted to farm since I could walk and talk. Since I was a little boy I would tell anyone who would listen about "my farm." This dream grew and grew as I went through my childhood and when I met Harmony she caught the bug too. Interestingly this is not an isolated phenomena. If you google the word "barnheart" you will find thousands of people all over the country yearning for a simple, rural, local life surrounded by the sights, sounds and painful muscles associated with a small farm like 47 Daisies.
I started my first CSA in 1998. While working for the US Fish and Wildlife service I was driving from farm to farm (I was putting up fence for farmers to fence cow out of the creeks) I was listening to NPR and heard the commentator say........."You have to make your own sunshine." Again this sounds cliche but that comment all those years ago triggered some spark and the rest is history.
After a brief five years in Wisconsin to finish up graduate school we moved to Ruston. 47 Daisies materialized instantaneously and the support from Ruston and surrounding communities only cemented the dream that we had been carrying for so many years. Having grown produce in so many different climates over the years (Wisconsin, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New York) gave us the knowledge base we needed. Knowing the ins and outs of each individual plant's needs is the first step. Learn about your local climate and then combine the climate and what plants want and then observe and learn. This is the key to successful natural growing. The plants, insects and animals will tell you everything you need to know if you only listen and observe.
We continue to learn every day. We listen and observe and make adjustments constantly..........We feel very strongly that it is every persons right to eat good food. Food that is produced with a conscience. Food that is produced in harmony with nature....not fighting against it. Food that is fresh and nutritious. Food that does not contribute to our global ills. This is why we farm. This is why we live the life we do............to make peoples lives better in our own small (hopefully significant) way!!!!
With a little persistence, stubborness, and of course some hard work we will continue to do what we do....... if for no other reason other than we love it.
Dylan had a great idea of starting a kid garden this year, and it's really taking shape! Kade has always had a little garden that he throws cucumbers and beans in...usually with a bean tee-pee..but this year we have decided to expand on that and make it a kid's oasis.
There will be a sunflower house, cherry tomato plants, a cucumber tower and a green bean tunnel down the middle! The kids are really excited about it, and Kade's really been great with the planning and set up so far.
Tonight, Kade and Eilah planted 4 tomato plants in the garden...the first plants in it so far! Eilah destroyed a plant and thought you were supposed to pull the plant out of the dirt and put the dirt in the hole...but with my help...we got it done. We may only end up with 3 tomato plants, but that's okay.
This will be a place where the kids can go hang out, and eat whatever they want without any questions. It will also be a great place for the kids during farm meetings and tours, etc. We're very excited to see it take shape!!!
I have never been a real big fan of growing flowers. Its not that I don't like flowers......I love them! I have always just concentrated my efforts on things that I can eat.......and I like to eat fresh veggies (and so do my kids....they can eat at least 25 cucumbers and 10 melons a day).
This season though I am partnering with Harmony (the flower lover) and putting in a bed of ALL types of flowers. The bed is prepared and will start to be direct seeded this weekend. With the warm weather it is time to start adding that splash of color to the green backdrop of veggie crops. So what are we planting? A few of the flowers that are going in the flower bed are snapdragons, irises, purple coneflowers, yellow prairie coneflowers, celosia, statice, asters, zinnias, globe amaranth, daisies, black eyed susans, hollyhocks and many more that I can't think of off the top of my head. I will handle the 7 different varieties of sunflowers in other beds (we already have vanilla ice and moulin rouge planted along garden edges). It should be fun and exciting to learn about these plants and add this to the crops coming out of the ground.......and since I like to eat things maybe next year I will add an edible flower garden (nasturtiums, pansies, etc).
May your day be filled with flowers!!!!
Watching the news last night there was a report on corn farmers in Louisiana planting their crops. Apparently farmers are scaling back what they are planting because of the DRY conditions expected during corn season (i.e. May, June, July).
This does not bode well for the growing season. We are prepared though. We started installing the drip irrigation last night. Kade and I set up the drip lines on one of the garden beds sporting cold weather crops considering the weather is calling for a stretch of two weeks which will be 80 degree weather and DRY. We are still under a drought from last season and the drought is already intensifying as we move through the spring months. The drip irrigation seems to do its job but does require some tinkering.......apparently it is just like everything else......install it, try it out, turn it off, fix your problems, turn it back on, check your lines, turn it off again, fix your problems.....etc, etc, etc. At some point I figure the system will be fixed so many times that the leaks have to be disappear!!!!
Last year we started irrigating in April. It looks like this year we will be starting in March. Not good news for the things that don't get irrigated. Hopefully the long range weather folks are wrong, but for now we are hedging our bets and setting in the irrigation which will see us through the growing season and keep plants happy and producing!!
That is truly the question. It is always a game when we start a new season. The game goes like this. How early of a crop can you get out of the garden beds? Put things in as early as you possibly can.....make sure you ordered enough seed to reseed if your crop gets frosted. When it comes to transplants (i.e. tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants) this is a different story. We push the limit on these as well........but beware because one spring frost can take out your entire crop for the season. We start all of our own plants from seed in the seed room in the barn. When the seedlings get too big for the lights, they get transferred to the hoophouse for hardening off before they go into the beds outside. This transfer from the secure, heated seed room to the hoophouse is always a tricky thing. When should you do it?
We transferred all of our tomato and eggplant seedlings to the hoophouse on Sunday evening. It had been a warm weekend and we knew that it was supposed to get chilly on Monday night (low 40s) but no worries because it would be warm in the hoophouse (at least 5 degrees above that under plastic). I had to leave town at 4 am on Tuesday morning for a meeting in Mississippi. I got up, made coffee, went out to my car and noticed that it was a bit more than chilly......it was downright cold!!!! I got in the car, turned it on and noticed that temperature was already down to 34 and we still had 3 hours before the daybreak warmup......aaaagghhhh!!!!! I sat there in my car wondering whether to go take them into the house or to leave them alone and risk it. If we lost those plants we wouldn't have time to get more started!!!! I chose to leave them and hope the hoophouse did its job.
Harmony had to take Kade to school that day and she noticed that it registered 31 degrees at 7 am..........and pretty heavy frost!!!!! OH NO!!!! I sat in my meeting in fits of worry about the tomatoes and eggplants until I got a picture texted to me from Harmony at around 10 in the morning.........thank goodness!!!! NO DAMAGE!
The hoophouse did its job!!
Lucky for everyone......if all goes well we will still have tomatoes and eggplants this season!!! :)
I was updating the planting spreadsheet last night..and so far...we have 96 different varieties of plants in the gardens. Kind of hard to believe, but true!! A few of these varieties are:
Elegance Greens Mix
Ovation Greens Mix
Mild Mesclun Mix
Easter egg mix
Bennings green tint patty pan
Y star patty pan
Early summer yellow crookneck
Lebanese white marrow
Early yellow saffron summer squash
Baby blue hubbard
....and this doesn't include the onions, lettuce heads and 7 varieties of beans that are already in the ground. Along with mustards and celery....oh! and garlic. And the potatoes. And the beets. And rutabagas. And spinach...and kohlrabi. :) And I think that's it so far.
We have been very busy here at 47 Daisies, but are enjoying every minute of it! The babies actually napped in the double stroller on Sunday while were weeding the garlic bed.
We are very excited about this growing season and hope you're getting excited as well! We hope to be at the opening of the Ruston Farmer's Market on April 2nd and our CSA will start in May.
Hope to see you soon!!
Dylan and Harmony, whichever of us have the time to sit down and write for a few minutes. : )