Thursday, May 31, 2012

Update: The Great Tomato Experiment

Believe it or not, last week the temperature around here dropped to around 32 degrees one night and hovering just above that 2-3 other nights. We even got the slightest dusting of snow. {Sigh... } Such is life on a mountain.

The good news... my tomatoes did GREAT! I wanted to get them in early so that they would get a jump on the season (since it's so short here), so I planted them before the recommended May 31st date.

Since planting them in the ground in buckets (read about that HERE), I just used the bucket lid to cover them up. It was a super quick and easy task that my kids could help with. And despite high winds two nights, they stayed in place without any issues.

Only one plant had extended itself beyond the rim in such a way that I couldn't use the lid. I don't know if I failed to plant it as deep in the bucket or if it's just a larger plant much sooner (I believe the latter), but I just inverted another bucket on top of it and it did fine.

I've also noticed that they are doing really well for this early in the season. I believe the concentrated water with hay to prevent drying out has helped, but even more so, the heat generated from the bucket has created a great environment. And the bees are very interested in these plants!  As a side note, I've realized that the buckets have offered protection from wind, hoses being dragged through the garden, and saved them from the little feet of my helpers! It's much easier to notice the white buckets than a small green plant.

So as of today, I'm definitely pleased with the bucket experiment (more updates to come). If I can obtain some more before the weekend is out, I'm going to do this with my peppers as well. They typically struggle and limp along in our cooler mountain climate.

Anyone trying this experiment that would like to share how it's working for you?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We've Named the Homestead!

We've finally named the farm. Seems that if you have goats, you need a herd name. And if you're going to name a herd, seems like it should kind of follow the name of the farm. (I had no farm name.)

So after much deliberation, I'm pleased to announce our new homestead name...

It's kind of like when you give a mouse a cookie. One thing leads to another and after I named the farm, it seemed like a good idea to set up a website for it. Actually, it's just another blog, but I've set it up more like a website. I'll still be blogging right here like I always have! But if you want specific information on how we are managing our farm, photos, and such, you can see it by clicking the new link on the right sidebar any time you want (or for right now, click HERE).


I encourage you to check out the new Sweetwater Farm site often as I'll be adding to it regularly.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Blessing

"Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”

Thus the sons of Israel did as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, just as the Lord spoke to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel; and they carried them over with them to the lodging place and put them down there."
~ Joshua 4:6-8

Photo Credit
Stars and strips... 

to serve as a memorial...

for all those who have served to keep freedom alive...

May we show our gratitude by not squandering what so many sacrificed to give us. 

By God's providence, we may still worship Him today. Lord let us use it wisely!

'Behold, now is "the acceptable time," behold, now is "the day of salvation".' 
~ from 2 Corinthians 6:2  

Friday, May 25, 2012

What Will You Do This Summer?

Summertime. Three months of bliss! Not that the other nine months aren’t equally captivating in their own way, but when the regular academics are over for the year and the pressure of meetings, regular events, and school commitments has come to a close, the freedom that summer offers (along with the great weather) is a bit intoxicating to say the least! If you’re like me, the “wanna do” list is often more than time allows.
It’s easy just to write out a list of things YOU want to accomplish, but what’s on your list for the future homemakers in your family? While I believe in training daughters on a daily basis by having them work along side of me on just about everything I do, there is a time and place for learning a specific life skill that goes beyond the fundamentals or essentials and captures their passion for learning.
Certainly, I want them to know all the basics of homemaking. This does not change from daughter to daughter. Before they are grown, every child should know how to do laundry, cook a meal, clean a home, etc. But there are areas of specialization that they may find especially compelling and stimulating to their mind and soul.

The rest of this article is at Raising Homemakers where I'm posting today. To finish reading, click HERE.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Friday Inspiration: Camping Food!

What would summer be without camping? Or at least a day-long picnic? Now is the time to mark a few days off on your calendar and reserve a site for your overnight stay, wherever that may be. And when we camp, it seems everyone gets a bit hungrier. So whether you camp in a tent, a camper, or a cabin, planning the food is a big event for the trip!

Get Campie has a Recipe Box of ideas (along with great photos and leads on campers - my dream camper is a vintage canned ham!).

This idea from Truly Simple was totally new to me... Orange Cinnamon Rolls, in oranges no less! Okay, so I don't do rolls in a tube, but perhaps an easy monkey bread recipe could be adapted for this? And use the orange pulp to make the icing? May have to try this one. Hey, I've camped with a sour dough starter. How hard could it be to do monkey bread?

Sure enough, someone is way ahead of me. Donna Kelley who is a contributor for "Mom Click" of the Daily Hearld came up with a blueberry muffin in an orange. Check it out!

Here's a link for 64 camping recipes from Better Recipes, including the traditional Banana Boats. The recipes are rated on this site, so it will give you a good idea of things that worked well for camping. I'm not promising these are healthy recipes, but the list will get your brain thinking so you can maybe adapt them to fit your eating habits.

Last year I found this list of recipes on Quiet Journey's site. It's quite extensive and has a little something for everyone. Most of the recipes on this site are from scratch, but easy to prepare, which is really nice since most camping recipes focus so much on cutting corners that they opt for ingredients I prefer not to use. (I'm fine with it for once in a while, but a whole trip on processed food will make us all come home needing a vacation from our vacation, if you know what I mean!)

Along the lines of healthy camping food, Katie Kimball has two ebooks you might want to consider. The first, Kitchen Stewardship in the Big Woods, features recipes for real food camping. The other book, Healthy Snacks To Go, has over 45 portable food items you can make for the hungry crowd.

I saw this Ina Garten Baked Fontina Dipped recipe on Pinterest and thought it should work for camping if you use a lid with coals on top. Going gourmet sure makes for some fine eating while in the woods! Get creative and think outside the box!

I like to try and gather some local food from the area where we're camping and make something. Last year, we camped at the beach and picked up some fresh clams. I planned this in advance and brought along everything I would need to make clam chowder (which was perfect on a cold foggy night at the beach!). Be sure you research farmers markets as well as recipes you might need.

If you'll be cooking in a dutch oven for the first time, you'll find Backwoods Home Magazines post on the Seven Secrets of Dutch Oven Cooking a must read as well as Scouting Magazine's guide for controlling the temperature!

Don't forget, if you're using a dutch oven over the open flames, a Grandpa Jake's Campfire Cooker would be a worthy investment! It allows you to cook items at various temperatures while having a few shelves for setting things on - always a need when camping! I have mine ready to go!

Finally, don't forget the snacks. I don't need to give you a list of junk food... all you have to do is walk down a grocery isle and you can fill your cart fast. But for those who want to take some healthy snacks along the way, consider making some homemade granola bars or trail mix to take along with you. Here's a list from Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans to get you started...

If you're going to have food, you'll probably have yellow jackets (wasps) as well. They are also called meat bees for a reason! (They're not bees at all! Bees are our friend, yellow jackets... not so much.) Last year, as we were wrapping up a fantastic camping adventure on a river in the mountains, I got stung several of us got stung and it was miserable! We could hardly eat our food on the last night because they were so thick! From now on, I'll take along my Rescue Disposable Yellow Jacket Traps to hang in the trees. I've used them in our outdoor dining area at home, but it didn't occur to me to take a couple camping. I can assure you, I won't forget again! (And they don't trap the bees, just the wasps.)

So, where will you be camping this summer? Please share your best camping food tip!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Goats and Roses

According to public perception, goats can eat anything. That's not exactly true, but they will TRY to eat just about anything. And one thing they love... roses!

It's amazing how fast they can consume an entire plant. And if they KNOW it's there, the minute they're out... they go right for it! In the time it takes for you to catch on, it's probably too late. 

But I'm one determined gal.

Recently, after they ate my roses (a second time), I got smart and pulled out the Repels-All. I've used this on my roses in front of the house because the deer like to eat them at night, but I hadn't thought about using it to deter the goats. So I tested it on the goats by holding the spray bottle up to their nose. Oh, yeah... it's totally offensive to them!  

Repels-All is a natural repellent made from like dried blood, putrid egg, garlic, cloves, fish oil, and other nasty smelling stuff. It's totally natural, safe, and considered organic so you don't have to worry about using it. And it won't matter anyway because they are NOT going to like it! 

Repels-All is made by the same company (Bonide) that makes MoleMax, another must have gardening product that I use. I wouldn't be able to grow potatoes without it because gophers around here are as thick as flies! Both products repel rather than poison, and so I hope my purchase encourages companies like Bonide to work toward making more great items that work naturally to discourage garden pests. 

Believe me when I say, you want to be upwind when you spray the Repels-All. And wear gloves or you'll be smelling it for hours afterwards. When you initially spray your plants (it's works on anything), you'll think it's way too nasty and you won't be able to enjoy your garden! Thankfully, after it dries, you really can't smell it, but the animals still can. Once it has had time to dry, it won't just wash off either. It lasts a LONG time before you have to reapply. I think I use it about 2-3 times all summer long and never have a deer issue with my roses (when I remember!). 

And now, I don't have a goat issue. 

Bring on the roses!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Barn Hop #63

Welcome to the Monday Homestead Barn Hop where you're invited to link up your blog with your very best post of the week; something happening at your homestead or something of interest that will help benefit fellow homesteaders. Plus, each of the 3 Homestead Barn Hop hostess selects her favorite post of the week to highlight the following week. So be sure to visit all three blogs because the "Featured Homestead" could be YOURS!

This week Elaine at Sunny Simple Life brought up an interesting fact... raw pumpkin seeds can be used as a natural wormer in chickens. I had never heard this, but always looking for a good holistic remedy, I looked into this a bit and seems a lot of people put stock in this tasty treatment. According to the posts I read, pumpkin seeds are coated in a naturally occurring chemical that paralyzes the worms so the chicken can then expel them (some feel you need to follow up with buttermilk to help with the elimination). You can read more about how this works at The Backyard Chicken Coop. At the very least, your hens will get a real tasty treat without nasty side effects!

Thanks for sharing Elaine! Hope your flock continues to flourish! 

Join The Barn Hop!
and Amy @ Homestead Revival...

...invite you to link up and share your homesteading adventures!

1. Write a blog post about what's going on at your homestead or a post on something you're learning or an item of interest that will benefit the homesteading community. Be sure to add the red barn button and link back here so others can join in the fun.
2. Come back here and enter your information in the Linky. Please be sure to link to your actual post (click your title and then copy the URL above) and not your home page so those participating later in the week can find your post easily.

3. If you don't have a blog, leave a comment and tell us what's going on at your homestead!

Please Note: As hostesses of the Homestead Barn Hop, please understand that we reserve the right to remove any links that are not family friendly. While this may be subjective, we will err on the side of caution in order to keep our blogs appropriate for all readers. Thank you for your understanding!

Occasionally there is a problem posting due to glitches in the internet or the Linky Tools. If you have difficulties or see that your post is removed and it follows all "family friendly" guidelines above, please wait a little while and try re-posting. We're sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, be we do not have absolute control over the internet. Thank you for your patience and understanding!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Inspiration Friday: Al Fresco Dining!

Pictures motivate me. I'm visual like that. So it's not surprising that I've been thinking about doing a pictorial inspiration series on Fridays for a while. All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl, indeed! Well, this Jane, anyway. And you?

Some weeks I may have a theme, but other weeks, it will just be a hodgepodge of fun things I've found that inspire. Or something just pretty to see. Decorating, gardening, animal care, camping, ... who knows where this will lead! Fridays should be fun, right?

So, on to the inspiring...

About this time of year I start to think about dining al fresco. I LOVE to dine outside!

A simple table covered with a white cloth and folding chairs can help focus attention on the people and the surroundings rather than distracting from the scenery. Foodies who follow "Outstanding in the Field" will be familiar with this theme. (Click the link to view their gallery of dinner settings!). This is something everyone can do... just set up a folding table somewhere in your garden or back yard, throw a sheet over it, and let the garden be the focal point. (You can just drag out your regular dining chairs if you need to!)

Still not simple enough? What about this...

Too much sun or heat? Go covered!

Apartment Therapy
Martha Stewart
Do you have an urban setting? Why not create a garden like space?

Blythe's via Apartment Therapy
Perhaps you live in an apartment building. Do you have a balcony? Background music and a small table top water fountain can help mask traffic noise. If you have to, keep the table indoors, but put it right up against the window.

Canadian House & Home
How about some creative ideas for something totally new? Check out this incredible homemade outdoor chandelier that doubles as a planter. I'm thinking an old galvanized watering trough might work for something similar as long as you had hefty hooks! And it looks like just about everything in this photo is reclaimed. It's a great way to furnish a patio for not much money.

Where I live, evenings can be a bit chilly. Perhaps an optional heat source wouldn't be a bad idea!

The Enchanted Home
Pottery Barn
I don't think it's so much about the items on the dining table itself, but rather placement of the table. Have you given any thought to where you could dine outdoors on your homestead? Perhaps a little TLC in a favorite spot would make for an enchanted setting. Add some white christmas lights or a few candles and comfortable seating (so people want to linger at the table).

If you live where mosquitoes are a problem, be sure to use citronella candles and offer guests a natural repellent. Chilly evenings? Keep a few scarves or sweaters on hand for guests who don't have a light jacket. Sometimes I like to play soft instrumental music in the back ground (songs with words make conversations difficult).  After all, ambiance is part of the experience along with good friends, home cooked food, and great conversation!

Don't forget... outdoor dining isn't just for when you have company over. Why not dine outdoors every night? We do! After all, summer is fleeting and you've got to sieze the day (or in this case, the night)!

Now it's your turn. I'm making this into a Linky Party and the Featured Post on the right sidebar. You have till next Friday to take a picture of your own dining area and write a post on it. Tell us all about it and give us your best ideas! Talk chairs, do-it-yourself, or settings, but just keep it to outdoor dining. I can't WAIT to see your ideas!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Great Tomato Experiment

We all know tomatoes love heat and need at least 75 days to make that wonderful delicious fruit we all crave. My problem is that I just don't get enough heat in my micro climate to really grow to nice sized tomatos. In fact, the last two years, I didn't get to harvest any until late October! If it freezes before then, the whole tomato season is over in one night.

Determined to solve this and grow great tomatoes, I'm trying something new things this year. Like short season variaties that mature in 55-65 days.

And tomatoes in a bucket...

First, I acquired a LOT of food grade buckets for free from a local bakery. (Good for them in that they're recycling; good for me in that I can afford this project!) My husband cut the bottom off each bucket on a saw - can't remember... table saw or ban saw? Either might work.

Next he cut chicken wire in a square large enough to cover the bottom and continue a bit up the sides. Then he attached it with a staple gun. We didn't bother about the sharp prongs sticking out inside because they're way down at the bottom and it's not likely we'll be working in that area. However, he did use a round piece of lumber that he inserted into the bottom of the bucket to keep it from collapsing when he stapled. This just kind of helped it keep it's shape. Once stapled, he removed the wooden form.

Finally I dug a hole large enough to sink almost the entire bucket in the ground, leaving just the rim sticking up above. Before placing the bucket in the hole, I fluffed up the bottom of the hole and added a bit of amendment. After placing the bucket inside, I filled in around the outer edges.

Finally, I removed all the side leaves from the tomato plant except the very top set in order to encourage root growth from the stalk of the plant. Then I filled in with a mix of soil and amendment almost to the top leaves and added straw as a final step.

So now to explain the WHY behind this all...

Protection. First and foremost, I needed to keep the gophers from eating my tomato plants! They take the entire plant down into their hole if you're not on top of them. The chicken wire will eventually wear out, but not this season. It can easily be replaced in necessary.

We live with wind all year long (although my property is one of the least windy in the area). The sides of the bucket will protect the seedlings from high winds until they are a bit stronger.

Although rare, we've had snow as late as June on the mountain. Since I saved the lids, if we have a late cold snap and the plants are still short, I can just put the lid on to keep them warm (and maybe weigh it down with a rock).

Root growth. The open bottom allows for roots to go deep (as long as Mr. Gopher doesn't notice). If the bucket were closed, there wouldn't be a need to sink them in the ground. If you're gardening on a balcony, this will certainly still work, so go for it! But if you have the land, utilize it for mineral nutrients and maximum growth.

Heat. The plastic will help trap some needed heat! A friend used black buckets at first, but that cooked the plants, Later she tried the white buckets and was successful. So I'm hoping the bucket makes the tomatoes very snug and happy so they'll produce lots of big fruit!

Watering. Even as the plant grows larger, the bucket will act as a water well, concentrating the water right where it needs to be. The straw will help it from drying out (our summer humidity is usually around 10% - pretty low). It's important that tomatoes not get too much water, but rather consistant water, otherwise the fruit will get cracks. With a dripper down in the bucket, this will make for very efficient watering!

For support, I'm installing 6' metal posts - one between each bucket. Sturdy and strong, these will allow me to tie up the tomatoes as they get larger.

Perhaps not the prettiest planting arrangement, but I'm desperate! I think once the plant fills in, it will look a lot better.

And now I wait...

And dream of juice, ripe, homegrown tomatoes...

Updates forthcoming!

Have you ever tried this method? If so, please chime in with tips and let us know how successful it was!


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