The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Corn & Fall Seedlings

The corn was ripe and ready to pick, so that was the chore for today. I have found it easier to pick the patch if I pull up or break off the stalks as I pick. It clears the ground and helps get it ready for the next crop.


I plan to use the corn stalks as a heavy mulch in a new area we want to turn into another herb bed. In years past, I have pulled up the corn stalks and piled them right outside the garden. This time, instead of stacking them on the ground, then loading them up to go somewhere else, I decided to load them directly into the back of the pickup. When I finish mowing the grass and weeds down in the area for the new bed, I can just drive by and unload these directly onto the bed. Well, that is the plan anyway.

Here is our corn harvest for the year, minus the half dozen ears we have already eaten. There are quite a few small, irregular ears that I will give to the chickens. Our young hens that are about five weeks old, have really taken to eating the scraps and comfrey leaves I bring them, so I hope they enjoy these small ears of corn. My plan is to cut the corn from the cob and can it. We tend to eat more corn from the can than from the cob, and this will also give us another learning experience since we haven't canned corn before.

I have almost finished digging the potatoes. Once the potatoes are out this area, I will till this space, along with the adjoining old beet and onion beds for some of our fall crops. The area the corn was growing in will be used as well. With that in mind, and the time growing short, at Frank's recommendation, I planted most of my fall crops in tubs on the porch a couple of days ago. The only thing I didn't plant like this are the turnips, which are Purple Top White Globes. I will direct seed them.

The things I have planted in the tubs are:
  • Dr. Jaeger's Cantaloupe - 85 days
  • Autumn King Carrots - 70 days
  • Earliana Cabbage - 57 days
  • Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach - 45-50 days
  • Long Island Improved Brussel Sprouts - 100 days
  • Cushaw Green Striped Winter Squash - 110 days

  • Bucklunch Sugar Beet - 110 days
  • Mammoth Long Red Mangel Beets - 110 days

Our first average frost date here is October 31st which is 102 days from the time I planted these seeds. The cantaloupe and winter squash vines cannot tolerate a frost.

If we have an early frost I may be able to save some of these plants with frost cloth, so I will plant them in the same area. The beets, carrots and spinach can tolerate a mild frost, so they should be fine.

The cabbage and brussel sprouts will be happier once it cools off and can take a hard frost, so I'm curious how they will do.

Gardening is an ever changing outdoor 'school house' where I never quit learning. The possibilities are endless and can reach as far as your knowledge and imagination can take you. Grow something. Anything. It never ceases to amaze me that I can take one small, tiny seed and watch it grow into something truly amazing. Something that can feed and sustain me. I am in awe.

Until next time - Fern

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lessons I've Learned From My Garden

These lessons work here in Zone 7 where we live in southeastern Oklahoma. The techniques we use may need to be tweaked to work in your neck of the woods. There are several things I have learned this year in the garden that I would like to share. It teaches me something every year with every crop. We have also learned a lot from the comments and interaction we receive here on the blog. I have grown rather fond of this small piece of dirt...and weeds.....and grass....

Don't plant onions too deep or they will not make a nice onion bulb. I have never grown a decent sized onion until this year. When I mentioned this on one of the gardening articles, one of the comments indicated that an onion should basically have only the roots in the ground.

I have always planted them much deeper than that. Then the next day or so, we stopped by Grace's house and she had a beautiful onion in a tub that barely had it's roots in the ground, but looked great.
So, I uncovered the base of some of my onions, and guess what? They grew bulbs! Real, live onions! I was very happy and thankful I finally figured out what I had been doing wrong.

We are having the best corn crop this year we have ever had, but I can't really tell you why. I planted a new variety, Stowell's Evergreen, an open pollinated, white, sweet corn variety. One difference this year was my planting technique. I tend to plant corn way too close together trying to utilize all of our space. Corn doesn't particularly
like to be crowded. This year Frank recommended I poke a hole in the ground with the handle end of my hoe, drop in a couple of seeds, then step on them. This worked very well and kept me from planting so close together. The result? Nice full, large ears of corn. And it tastes good to boot!

I planted the green beans in the new part of the garden that hadn't been fertilized much. In some years past, I didn't have a very good green bean crop and the only thing I could figure out was the soil was too rich. Because of that  
experience I thought this would be an okay place for the beans this year. They are growing well, just not producing any beans. I 'watered' them with some old milk a few times for the calcium. Next, I was thinking of putting on some wood ashes for the potassium. I'm glad we still have plenty of green beans we canned last summer. We'll just have to wait and see how they do.

 For some reason, I have not figured out why, we also have the best potato crop ever this year. There are many more potatoes, and they are much larger. The only difference I can think of is that we set the tiller a little lower and got the soil loosened up a little deeper. I was able to hill them up twice before Frank's surgery and the weeds took over. Now that I have mowed down the grass, I am getting them dug up to make room for the fall crops.

 What makes a carrot go to seed? From my reading, if a carrot goes to seed the first year it will not make good seed. Carrots are biennial, which means they need a 'winter' or a spell of cold weather to produce viable seed the second year. I am really surprised at the size of the seed stalk this carrot is producing, compared to the regular carrot greens, it is huge. I will still try to harvest the seeds from this plant and see how they do. I will plant them separately in seedling pots and see if they germinate just to learn something new.


I have a tomato jungle growing. Since this year in the garden has been hit and miss, I have not been keeping up with the tomato suckers. In years past, I have been pretty vigilant in removing them, but not this year, and it has turned out to be a good
thing. I was taught to remove the suckers to allow the energy to be focused into the main plant. But, this year, with many, many suckers, I am finding I have a lot more tomatoes coming on. Now I need to learn a happy medium between removal and encouragement. Interesting.

The purple hull peas seem to have vined out more this year. I almost think it would be beneficial to plant them along a stock panel trellis the way we do tomatoes. It would make them easier to pick and I would walk on them less. That would be a lot more panels to dedicate to the garden, though, so I will have to ponder that one. Maybe it would do just to plant my rows a little farther apart. They are such a hardy plant and will keep on producing as long as you keep picking. They don't require near the moisture of other plants, such as corn or squash.

We don't eat fresh cucumbers, but I do like pickles. Last year I planted too many cucumbers, this year I planted too few. If I want enough cucumbers to make pickles, I need more plants than this. Next year, I will go back to more plants and pull them up when I am finished making pickles.

There is always so much to learn in the garden. No two years are exactly the same. The weather is different, the time I can spend is different, the bug population is different, there are just untold differences to learn about and deal with each and every year. If you believe that extremely hard times are coming to our country and world, and you want to be able to grow your own food, don't wait until that event happens. It will be too late to learn the lessons of gardening in your location, or the location you plan to go to. Even folks that have gardened all of their lives come up against something new that requires a change in plans when it comes to growing food. Grow what you can. Can what you grow. Enjoy the blessings of the harvest.

Until next time - Fern

Friday, July 18, 2014

Why Food Is Killing Us

The more we read, the scarier it gets. And yet the yummy, enticing commercials and food packaging makes it so easy to pick up something ready made, convenient and easy to fix. It saves time, effort and, in some cases, money. But why aren't they telling us the damage it can do to our bodies? The only basic answer I have is profit. As long as the populace is ignorant of the facts, they can be duped into anything, right? I would like to say the answer to that question is: Wrong! But, I really can't at this point. The Economic Collapse Blog has an article out titled Big Corporations Have An OVERWHELMING Amount Of Power Over Our Food Supply that is a real eye opener. It's a good one to start with here.

It appears to me that there are groups of people that are waking up to many things in our day and time. Food production practices and restrictions, the rape of our economy by the PTB (powers that be), the dwindling freedoms we once took for granted, and the labeling of those that don't march lock step to the beat of the government drum as terrorist, such as Veterans (with a capital V), Christians, conservatives and good old independent 'we don't need anything from the government' folks.

So, in light of that short rant, I want to share some more articles with you that continue to highlight the poison we are expected to consume as part of our daily bread. I can't say I hope you enjoy the read, but I do hope it provides you with information that you can use to make wise decisions for you and the ones you love.

I'll start off with an article from NaturalSociety titled: Why You Should Stop Counting Calories and Start Counting Chemicals. There is a piece of this article I have included. It is just amazing. The following is a quoted excerpt.

  • "But here’s the kicker. Even if you eat an organic salad once in a blue moon, and don’t regularly and actively detox your body from all these environmental poisons, your body can’t absorb the nutrients from good foods. The scientific proof of this fact is overwhelming:
  • High fructose corn syrup consumption leads to an impairment of digestion and absorption of nutrients, leading to obesity.
  • Malabsorption of nutrients and important trace minerals happens when our guts are wracked with gluten, GMOs, glyphosate, pesticides, and other chemicals. Additionally, nutrients are likely not being absorbed in your stomach or GI tract due to flora imbalance."

A good friend sent me this article. She and I compare notes and talk about ways to improve our health and the food we prepare for our families. It is great to have others you can turn to who are trying to live the same healthy life style. It's always nice to know you aren't the only one when most people find you to be a bit strange. This article is from Natural News and once again highlights the detrimental effects of the preservatives found in so many foods that we purchase from the store

We have written about fluoride before, and here is another article warning of this destructive poison.
This next article actually surprised me. I have long known that breakfast cereals, among many other things, are fortified with vitamins and minerals. I figured this was necessary since most food is grown in dead soil and solely supported by chemical nutrients. I had no idea that we were being overdosed with the types of synthetic additives used for this 'fortification' of our diets. The most scary thing here is the population that consumes the vast majority of breakfast cereal: children.

And speaking of children, here is another article outlining the importance of knowing what is in the food you feed them, especially babies.

The next article includes some of the previously mentioned chemicals, but provides information about the effects they have on our brains. Just one more piece of evidence showing the destructive properties of some of these additives to our food.

Some of the good news is the fight against the forced usage of GMO crops. There are some folks that do not want to grow food that makes people sick. The bad news is how hard Monsanto is willing to fight to keep people under their thumb and in their pocketbook. 

And here's the kicker. Cloned meat. I don't know about you, but the thought of eating cloned meat makes me sick just thinking about it. In my humble opinion, God created the beasts of the field, as well as mankind, to reproduce in a certain fashion, not in a petri dish. It is very scary to think that man considers his skills and knowledge anywhere near what creation wrought for us in the first place, that he could somehow improve upon what is already here. I know, I know. Seeds have been manipulated and reconstructed for years and years. Well, look where that has gotten us. The food is killing us. I can't see where cloning will come anywhere close to improving the predicament we are already in.
Read. Learn. Study. Ponder. Discuss. Ponder. And learn some more. It is the only way we will be able to make intelligent, informed decisions about our health and well-being. It takes effort and hard work to produce those things we need to live. It takes time and dedication. It takes commitment. It takes love. It takes sacrifice. And it is worth it.

Until next time - Fern

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Nutrition of Purple Hull Peas

Purple Hull Peas are easy to grow and packed with nutrition for both man and beast. It, along with crowder and black eyed peas, are commonly called cowpeas. I have found that the chickens will eat the seeds, and the goats will eagerly eat the pods alone, or the pods with the peas intact. When we shell the peas, I always keep the pods for the goats. They're funny, especially One Stripe. When she sees me coming with a garden bucket (metal instead of the black rubber ones we use to feed the goats), she runs over to see what I have in store for her. She will generally eat whatever I offer, whether it is beet greens, carrot tops or comfrey. But she really gobbles down the pea pods. Because of this, and the common usage of cowpeas for animal feed, this nutritional post will include the types of nutrients the animals receive from this versatile vegetable, as well. 

Cowpeas are a legume and will grow well in hot, dry climates. They are utilized all over the world as a valuable food source. Another benefit to the home gardener is the ability of cowpeas to fix nitrogen in the soil. If you have a new patch of ground you are gardening, plant cowpeas or another legume the first year to build up the nutrients in the soil. It will benefit other crops the following year.

The nutrition data listed for 1 cup of cowpeas (blackeye, crowder, southern), boiled with salt is:
  • protein 13.2g
  • carbohydrates 33.5g
  • dietary fiber 11.1g
  • sugars 5.6g
  • Vitamins A, K
  • folate
  • choline
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • potassium
  • sodium
  • zinc
  • selenium
  • flouride
  • omega 3 & 6 fatty acids
  • calories 198
Overall, cowpeas are a very nutritious addition to the diet. They store well when dried or canned, it is easy to harvest seeds for subsequent planting seasons which remain viable for several years (I planted four year old seeds this year), and they are prolific producers in our area.

The differences between cooked peas and raw mature seeds is quite dramatic. Here are a few of the differences.
  • protein 39.3g (26g more)
  • carbohydrates 100g (66.5 more)
  • dietary fiber 17.7g (6.6 more)
  • calories 561 (a whopping 363 more)

Eating the peas raw, or feeding them to livestock raw will provide a much greater nutritional benefit. This is just another example of why we need to consume the water, broth or juice from the vegetables we cook. There are a tremendous amount of nutrients cooked out into the liquid.

I have been happy to discover that the chickens will peck at the dried pods to get the seeds out of them. That is a plus, since we won't have to shell them for chicken feed. The goats will eat the dried pods whole, seeds and all. They are like kids in a candy store when it comes to cowpeas, and I am very glad. It's an easy to grow crop that produces for about four months here. This will allow us to grow a very nutritional vegetable for both man and beast. 

Other benefits of growing cowpeas include the ability to grow a lot of plants in a small space. When my friend Grace saw my pea patch she asked, "How are you going to pick those? They have all run together." Good question. I just walk where I know the rows once were. I like to utilize all of the ground in the garden, and this worked out well. If you prefer a garden with nice neat rows you can walk down and tend to your vegetables, my garden will drive you crazy. I plant everything very close with the goal of covering all of the available dirt in vegetables. If they kind of invade each other's space and overlap, that's okay with me. It gives me a few more meals instead of trying to deal with the grass and weeds that always take over empty spaces. And I have enough grass and weeds now, even with my overcrowding.

If your climate allows, I would recommend some type of cowpea for your garden. It is a great producer loaded with nutrition and it will help build up your soil. And even Frank the carnivore likes them. I think I will grow an even bigger patch next year.

Until next time - Fern

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Food For Thought From Ol' Remus

Hi Everybody. As a general rule, we don't normally post on a Tuesday. But we found the Ol' Remus article this week to be very direct and to the point. I normally have to read his articles twice. He writes in a style, even though I thoroughly enjoy it, that I find difficult to truly comprehend. And there are times when I am not sure I truly do comprehend. So, if you have the time and inclination, read his main commentary. It's a little bit scary. Hope you enjoy it.

We'll talk more later. Frank

Monday, July 14, 2014

Uh-Oh...Did the Kefir Die?

The performance of the kefir has been causing some concern since we came home from the hospital. Up until yesterday, I didn't think the prognosis was good. This is what happened.

While Frank was in the hospital, the plan was for me to come home everyday and do the chores - feed the animals, milk the goats, etc. One of those chores was to strain and feed the kefir. On more than one occasion, I did not come home for at least 36 hours, and once for 48 hours. This impacted the animals as well as the kefir. The two does I am milking were thrown off their routine as well as their feeding schedule. They did not get milked regularly, but they did not get fed either, so they produced less milk. Was this ideal? No. But, there are times we have to prioritize and choose what we will do with our time. Frank easily won, hands down. It was fairly easy to get the goats back on track, even though they are not producing quite as much milk as before. I expected that.

My standard practice is to strain and feed the kefir every 24 hours. During the 48 hour period I was away, the kefir had fed on all available nutrients in the milk and the jar was half whey and half fairly solid curd, kind of like cottage cheese. I strained it and gave it a full quart of milk to 'eat' and headed back to the hospital. Two days later, it sat for around 36 hours. It was kind of thick again, but not near as much as I expected. I could tell it wasn't happy. A few days later, we were home and I started feeding it regularly again. The first milk I had to feed it after we got home was getting a little older, and I don't think it liked that either. You could say Frank's stay in the hospital made the kefir sick.

It still thickened the milk somewhat the first day or two we were home, then appeared to quit. When I strained the milk after 24 hours it was still very thin, like milk, and had a semi soured smell. The chickens got this milk. After a second day of staying very thin, I briefly rinsed the grains with tap water when I strained them, before feeding them again. I had read or been told that somewhere and had tried it before when the kefir interacted with the sourdough starter I had out on the counter for a number of days. I thought I had killed the kefir then, too. For the most part, it seems to be a very healthy, sturdy culture. Then you find out that there are some things it just doesn't tolerate well.

After I rinsed the grains, I waited two more days to see if they would perk back up and they did not. I didn't take any pictures, but the grains were not round and plump looking like they usually are, they were smaller and more grainy looking. Finally, on about day eight when I was convinced they were dead, about half way through the 24 hour period, I scooped the grains out of the milk and squeezed them with my fingers, just kind of smashing them flat. They still had the sticky, tacky consistency that is supposed to be there, so I that gave me a little hope. Then, surprise, surprise, at the end of the day when it was time to strain them, the milk had thickened some. Not quite as much as normal, but I could tell they were on their way back to health, and that's good.

We were looking forward to drinking the kefir when we got home, especially Frank. Well, I can't say that. He never looks forward to drinking it because the taste just isn't quite in his top ten list. But he is looking forward to drinking it because of it's health benefits, especially now that we are working on healing his body.

This is just one more example of don't give up. Try everything you can think of and then some. Does it always work? No. But you never know. You might just be pleasantly surprised. We were.

Until next time - Fern

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Healing Soup

Since Frank has been home from the hospital, I have been trying to fix some meals that will be easy on his stomach, healthy and healing. After a few days, he was up for some soup, so I went through the garden to see what I could find that would make a good healing soup. This is what I came up with.

I started off with a few tablespoons of olive oil. To that I added a pound of ground pork. While the meat browned, I cut up a few things from the garden.

I picked a pepper, a few stems of immature celery with the leaves, a few carrots, onions and a squash, along with a few purple hull peas that I shelled right into the pot. After the meat was browned I poured in the broth from last year, then started adding the vegetables.

Knowing that peppers have trace minerals that are not found anywhere else, I also added some of the peppers we dehydrated last summer. The cabbage I used was the only vegetable that came from the store. Then I looked over at the tub of potatoes we dug and picked out the small, bite sized ones and added them in whole. I seasoned it all with salt, pepper, a large handful of parsley and about two tablespoons of minced garlic. I cooked it all in my cast iron dutch oven to absorb that trace amount of iron into the soup.

Knowing that most of these ingredients came from our ground, grown with love and no chemicals whatsoever, I felt very good about the nourishment I could provide Frank to promote the healing of his body. God has certainly blessed us with His bounty, may He bless you also.

Until next time - Fern