We are doers! That's that & there is nothing we can do to change it! We struggle knowing that we would benefit from taking time off from our projects. However, we're terrible at allowing ourselves downtime away from our projects & if we're being truthful with ourselves we really don't want to take time off. Accomplishing & crossing a project off our to-do list it so fulfilling for us! We have to-do lists for EVERYTHING including our house, property, business, & personal projects. It's got to a point now that we have started using Trello to help us organize & prioritize all of our projects on our to-do lists!
My oh my we're crazies, but we wouldn't have it any other way! In turn, this will no doubt be our longest blog post to date as we set ourselves a goal at the end of our last blog post to write about our seeding starting process, a sourdough recipe, & the kitty hut project.
Our seed starting process is pretty basic in the realm of seed starting. This year we used three different soils/seed starting materials. We used Ferry Morse Organic Seed Starter Mix, Burpee Organic Seed Starting Mix , & Burpee Eco-Friendly Organic Concentrated Seed Starting Mix. Truly it wasn't intentional picking out & using the different soils but we're glad it happened. I, Armonda, now know which I prefer & will be using for future seed starting projects. I prefer the Burpee Eco-Friendly Organic Concentrated Seed Starting Mix. It was the most cost friendly of the three products per amount of product. It was the best at retaining water & soaking in the water. The first product we used, Ferry Morse, didn't allow the water to sink in very well. When we watered the plants the water would sit on top of the soil for a minute or would erode a portion of the soil where the water would finally go into the soil. After a quick google of "water not soaking into seed starting soil" the first link that showed up listed the Ferry Morse product that we used. Apparently the peat moss in that product causes this issue to occur. The Burpee Organic Seed Starting Mix was a good product & according to the ingredients list I could find on them both of the Burpee products have the same ingredients. However, the Burpee Organic Seed Starting Mix is premixed with water & is $1.00 more expensive. I spent maybe 2 minutes moistening the Burpee Eco-Friendly Organic Concentrated Seed Starting Mix & saved myself $1.00. So, if you want to buy something pre-made ready to put in a pot for seed starting I would suggest Burpee Organic Seed Starting Mix . Again though, I prefer the Burpee Eco-Friendly Organic Concentrated Seed Starting Mix.
Moving on to our next topic.... sourdough recipe & background on sourdough in general. I, Armonda, have been maintaining a sourdough starter, a levain, for the last 15 months. I use my levain to make everything I can. I have not purchased a loaf of bread form a store since I started my levain. I used this how-to to start my levain. If you want to try making your own bread I would highly suggest using a levain. Otherwise, you'll have to keep purchasing yeast as a leavening ingredient. I take great pride in knowing that I have control over & have created this integral ingredient. I'm not going to go into any potential health benefits of making & consuming your own levain leavened bread but google it if you want to as there are a great number of articles on this topic. I did find this article a good read on the history & some potential health benefits of slow, long fermented bread.
Okay, now on to the recipe... The recipe I picked to share with you is a two-for-one recipe! I use this sourdough cinnamon roll recipe as the base of my two-for-one dinner & dessert recipe. I made ham & cheese pinwheels for dinner & cinnamon rolls for dessert. Now I admit that I have a real problem with following the recipe directions. I feel the need to make any recipe my own & thus change something about the recipe every time I try & use a new recipe. In turn, the picture gallery below will guide you through my recipes for the two-for-one ham & cheese pinwheels dinner & sourdough cinnamon rolls dessert! Also, I envision these as great menu items for brunch! Yeah buddy!
Last topic for this post is the kitty hut that we built for our cats. It took the most work but will have the least amount of details presented of any of the topics we have discussed in this post. In turn, if you want a parts list to build your own kitty hut just email us. Otherwise, the overview on the kitty is that it's made of a PVC frame with poultry fencing surrounding it everywhere but on the bottom where it rests on the grass. We also constructed & installed removable cloth shelves, so they can be laundered, for the cats lounging pleasure! As you can see from the photos our feline kids are enjoying their kitty hut!
Our lives have changed so much in the last 5 months since our last blog post. To start with our 2016 growing season with a total of 20 weeks of production was our best producing season yet!
Over the past three years we have learned a lot about farming. This blog post will share with you what we see as the good... the bad... & the ugly of farming that we have encountered thus far.
We are so grateful for the lovely produce and farming knowledge base that we have grown. Over the past three years we have grown five different varieties of tomatoes, three different varieties of beans, three different varieties of peppers, two different varieties of corn, two different varieties of cucumbers, two different varieties of potatoes, summer squash, rattlesnake watermelons, carrots, sweet peas, lettuce, green onions, and pumpkins. They have all been delicious!
While growing our produce & knowledge base we have determined a few bad, less desirable, aspects of farming. Our biggest struggle has been with the weeds and poisonous plants on our farm over the past three years.
Our definition of "the weeds": any plant/green thing growing in our farming area that we do not consume or sell. The weeds continue to resurface despite our best no-till farming & manual efforts to eliminate them so the battle against weeds perpetuates.
The poisonous plants that we have struggled with includes poison ivy & wild parsnips. We like to joke that we grow poison ivy like a cash crop on our back two acres but sadly it is the truth. The poison ivy is everywhere out there! This year has been our first year of battling the wild parsnips but it packed a wallop. As a result, we have adapted ways of coping with these vicious plants. Our self defense mechanisms now include wearing blue jeans, high ankle socks, closed toe shoes, & gardening gloves EVERY TIME we go on the farm. Wearing all these clothing items might seem like a no-brainer. However, when it is 95° outside wearing all that clothing SUCKS hard but not no where near as much as being burned by either of these plants.
Our last, sometimes seemingly least effective & scary as hell defense mechanism is manually removing these plants from our farming area. Yes, we do pick these plants "by hand" and throw their limp, lifeless vegetation fannies as far as we can into our back acres. It has been quite exhilarating to remove these plants out of our farming area; reasserting that we can adapt and thrive as farmers. In case you are wondering, the term "by hand" means that we use our gloved hand that is also inside a plastic bag to manually remove these plants from our farm. Often we compete on who can pull the biggest root. You know a friendly competition that could end with us both having blistered skin, but hey, a farmer's gotta do what a farmer's gotta do.
On a final note, we have experienced numerous allergic reactions due to poison ivy & wild parsnips over the past three years. However, we are proud to say that this year is the first year that Armonda has not had to receive a prednisone shot in the booty to alleviate an allergic reaction. Woo hoo!!!
Viewer discretion is advised.
The following photos are stuff of our nightmares.
Destruction from grasshoppers, squash bugs, tomato moth caterpillars(hornworms), spotted cucumber beetles as well as dying plants & weather are the most of the ugly factors that we have experienced. We have learned that there is nothing more depressing & infuriating than experiencing any & all of the above.
For example, last year we harvested over 45 pie pumpkins from three plants & this year we only harvested 25 pie pumpkins from three plants. Here's the hardest part to digest... The only reason were were not able to grow & harvest more pie pumpkins this year is because our plants become infested with squash bugs and died off last week. It is so hard to watch it wilt away when you worked so hard to grow, protect, & nurture it. Since we do not use chemicals on our farm we hand pick as many of the less desirable insects off our plants & dispose of them, usually we squish them to death. It is a tragedy, but it is a survival of the fittest world we live in. We do use diatomaceous earth to curtail our locust, grasshopper, population. Otherwise, the locust would eat us out of house & home.
The most unpredictable & unsettling part we have had to work with is the weather. Our first year we were just coming out of a drought & concerned about having enough water in our well to drink & shower with, so we did not have any to spare to water our farm if it needed it. Thankfully, mother nature has cooperated over the last three years & we have had successful harvests. However, we know that farming is very volatile. In spite of all the potential ugly factors, we love farming & look forward to farming for the rest of out lives!
We are Four Flags Farm, Armonda & Ben Riggs!