PLOWSHARE THURSDAY – COMPANIONS.

The thing I am most grateful for in our gardening endeavors today is that we learned how to use “companion planting” to our benefit!

Those that may not have heard of this before: It is the method of planting that puts one or more plants next to each other, to naturally protect and strengthen them.

What this means is very simple:

  • Plant carrots with tomatoes.

carrots n tomatoes

  • Plant dill with just about everything.

dill-in-gh.jpg

  • Plant marigolds with just about everything.

marigolds

  • Oh, and when possible, leave a place totally natural – untouched!

wild plant area

The last one is a HUGE secret that we found out about last year.

The fire three years ago set us back on all of our normal routines.  The biggest damage occurred on the land and gardens.  To have something, anything, for harvest in the fall of 2014; we chose to let parts of the farm and gardens go natural.

Then in 2015, we were still trying to get a handle on things, and I was still doing surgeries.  Since I am the main person working on the farm and gardens, I was in no shape to keep up with it all (and we only garden on about 5 of our 20 acres.).

It was summer of 2016 when it came time to finally tame the whole area.  We have one long field that is about 100-feet wide by about 200-feet long.  It is the length of the whole main area of our farm.  Nothing is growing in there except weeds and wild grasses.  The chickens loved roaming around in there after bugs and worms.  The problem by mid-summer is that we could not see the chickens in the tall grasses anymore – HUGE DANGER FOR CHICKEN FARMERS!

Even though we had not seen or heard a coyote or fox in a couple of years, we did not want to take the chance.  Thus the major mowing finally began.  My sister was smart!  Out of the fire funds, we managed to purchase a John Deere Riding Mower – best investment ever!!

I put on my pretty sun hat (not – but it works- ha ha), doused myself with sun screen and bug repellant started the monster up and away I went.  What fun it actually was!  I could get pretty close to things so we would only have to push-mow a few spots when I was done.

When I got to the long field, I went around the first corner, and a praying mantis landed on my arm!  I stopped mowing, caught it with my hand and put it into the greenhouse.  It took me about 3 hours that first day to clear that long field (normal is only about 1 hour), due to the friendly critters!

We then realized that the corner where we had a pile of old wooden posts had attracted a bunch of bad bugs, which then attracted a bunch of good bugs – viola – natural pest controls!

We used to trim up everything thinking that this would keep the nasties away – nope, the best we ever did was to leave the woodsy area alone.  Most of the long field gets mowed now, but a large section with the wood gets left untouched.

Companion planting works in the same manner.  You plant things next to each other to deter the bad bugs and naturally attract the good bugs.  I even let the dill in the greenhouse run amok this summer.  It is over five-feet tall.  Has seed heads the size of basketballs, and attracts the aphids.  I have no clue why they love the dill more than all else, but they do.

I can now plant dill in succession and simply cut down and bad the old buggy stuff and throw it in the trash.  The plastic bags will suck out the air and kill them, or they will be moved to the dump when the trash guy comes.

I can still find a bit on my food plants – but not as much and it is easy to take care of with wash or wiping.

Hope this helps – happy gardening!

(If you enjoyed this bit of humor, please feel free to visit my latest blog: Life Lessons Lived  to get more laughter in your life!)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Advertisements

SEASON TWO – WOO HOO!!

It’s time for the next game-plan here on our little slice of heaven – food season!

The grandson started school this week. Therefore I now have more time to spend on/in the gardens (can you hear me jumping for joy?!).

First thing I am working on is revamping the greenhouse.  It’s been going well for the last five years, but it’s time for some improvements, at least I hope they will be in the long run.

  1. Tomato Racks: We have tried a number of ways to work with our tomatoes to get the best results:
    1. Wire tomato cages – not good in the greenhouse. The weather in there makes the cages fall apart after only a couple of years.
    2. We took an idea from our local Corp. Hydroponic Tomato Plant. They “hang” their tomatoes on long lines.  Once I understood the necessity of trimming off lower branches and useless branches, hanging seemed like a great idea.  Nope, the ropes disintegrated, and wires cut the stalks.
    3. Let them lay where they will. VERY WRONG IDEA!  Yes, we had tons of tomatoes, but we could not find most of them until too late.  Either they would rot or get stepped on.  Unless we could see them, we would lose them (and we lost too many for our liking!).
    4. Now we think we have a solution – a wooden rack:

 

So far, so good!  The only issue we have is that I thought of it too late.  The tomatoes in the background (pic on the left shows best – the walkway disappeared – hee hee), are how long and bushy we are already.

We had to go on one row/side of the plot and flip all the branches over to the other side.  Then we installed the rack.  Once in place, we very delicately found each vine and hung it on the rack.  There is a metal field fence (has 4”x4” squares to it) piece attached to the wooden rack for us to build the vines on.

They went into a bit of shock right after propping up; however, it has been about two weeks now, and they are starting to bounce back.  During the whole time, we had plenty of tomatoes.  We had enough that we can begin our barter time:

  • Eggs for tomatoes.
  • Squash for tomatoes
  • Fruit for tomatoes
  • Even got a new thermostat on the truck for a loaf of bread and a bunch of tomatoes (tiny eaters and large sandwich type).

We hope to have the three racks installed in that row by the end of the month (mid-September at the latest).  The front faces west which is our most intense heat.  This leaves the east side in full to partial shade by mid-afternoon.  Carrots, lettuce, spinach are going in there.  We are also building frames to go over the racks for extra cover on really cold nights.  One other year we had tomatoes through Christmas. Hope we can do that again this year.  Fresh tomatoes make such a great gift!

Happy gardening!!

(If you enjoyed this bit of humor, please feel free to visit my latest blog: Life Lessons Lived  to get more laughter in your life!)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

NEED SOME HELP? PLOWSHARE THURSDAY:

Those of you that have never been fortunate enough to live on a farm, plowshare (according to Merriam-Webster definition) is a part of a plow that cuts the furrow.  It cuts through the old stale gunk that may be devoid of any nutritional value and gets to the good stuff.  Starting this Thursday – May 25, 2017 – I am going to try to plowshare with you, my friends, family, and readers.

First and foremost, I want to make clear is I do not get paid for sharing this information!  I have no connection to any of my finds except that I approve of them because I use them and they work.  I only want to share the things that we personally do or use.  If some part of it didn’t work, I would share that too.

The subject today: Tomatoes.

tomato variety 2017

Since my blog is Helbergfarmstories, I will stick to the farm/gardens aspect of these shares. (I am developing a new blog just for human nature/survival items and will let you know when that is ready.)  The share for today is about growing the best natural tomatoes you can do at any place you have.

I love PBS (Public Broadcasting System), and our local station airs a show called Growing a Greener World.  I just finished watching Episode 803- Epic Tomatoes with Craig LeHoullier (dated by GGWTV on 4/29/17, but I tape all of them then sift through what we can use here in Colorado.).  I actually learned several new things and just couldn’t wait to share!

It is spring here in Colorado.  I have already put all of our seed starts from February into the greenhouse and outside gardens.  Since watching this program, I want to go back and do it all again.  I like to think that my sister and I know what we are doing (hahahaha – ok, stop laughing), but there is always something new to learn.  This was one of those “how could I have been so stupid for this long” moments.

The creator of the show, Joe Lamp’L, describes and share all the ins-and-outs of his garden (which, I must say looks pristine!?!), but he also interviews other influential people in the natural and organic gardening arenas.  Episode 803 what a hit and an eye-opener for me!

The first thing that caught my attention what the man he was out doing the interview on, got to name the “Cherokee Purple” tomato, which happens to be one of our most favorites!  Then I saw that he was doing most all of his gardening in his driveway!   WHAT??  Now we use pots, and plots, and rows, and have even grown in straw bales – but a driveway?  Well – IT WORKED!

The setup he has is amazing!  Everything from where and how he sows his seeds, to the layout in his driveway truly surprised me (not easy to do with this old lady!)!  Here we have been meticulously separating all our tiny little tomato seeds to carefully get only one in each little honeycomb space.  Now I see WE HAVE BEEN DOING IT ALL WRONG!!!

I fell in love with this guy’s methods and reasons for them!  However, I have a new problem…I want to do more!

  • I knew about pruning the tomato plants as they grow. Have known that one for decades.
  • I know about the value of the heirloom breeds also from experience. This experience was best proven by the taste method.

One year, about ten years ago, a good friend of ours decided to try his hand at growing heirloom tomatoes.  He builds a perfect setup in his heated garage and then proceeded to plant every single seed in the tomato packets AND about 20 different breeds of them.  This led to tomatoes coming out the windows – literally!  He didn’t know what to do with them all, but he knew we had much more room than he did.   Of course, we said we would take as much as he wanted to toss our way – oh silly us.

heirloom seed packets

We worked rigorously for several days straight to create our first two – hundred foot rows.  It was worth all the effort as we had no greenhouse at that time to extend the harvest.  Everything had to be done NOW – dig and weed the plots, put in the t-posts, hang the field fencing wires, layout the walkways around everything.  They were beautiful!

best tomato rows 2012

It was worth it!  That was the best Pico, salsa’s, and sauce’s that we ever made!  I also took it upon myself to taste-test every single one of those heirloom tomato breeds, and I quickly found my favorites.

  • The Cherokee Purple beat out my Black Krim (both are good, but the purple has a stronger flavor).
  • The Brandywine did not grow many (one more thing I learned, it is a heavy vine plant), but they carried a much sweeter flavor.
  • Then there was the Kellogg Yellow – less acidic so perfect for our friends that love tomatoes but can’t do the acid.

There was just so many different sizes, colors, flavors that I got lost in enjoying tomato salads all fall!  We froze and canned all that we could but gave away tons to others as well.

tomato salad

Episode 803 has now inspired me to revisit that year.  The fire took all my notebooks, but I still have great memories of it all.  This program also showed me some additional steps to help get the best tomatoes I can through the season, not just at the beginning.

I hope you all take a moment or two to watch it – well worth the time! Who knows, you may just learn something new?

never stop learning

href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/14663173/?claim=cmcumugdkcw”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin

WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND OUR GREENHOUSE? – Part 4 (last one)

Answers to all the little questions.

I think the first three Saturday blogs answered the

“Why did we do it?”     “What did we do it for?” and  “Why so big?” questions.

This final bit of our greenhouse process will hopefully answer more questions.  Please feel free to write me if you have more after this!

1)      Why Plants vs. flowers?  This one is easy – FOOD.  Everyone will always need food, not always need flowers.  We do plant flowers, but only for our admiration or to share with friends.

2)      Why inground instead of on tables?  In ground is more natural.  It also takes less water.  Plants can dry out much faster sitting up on a table.  The other main reason is temperature.  It would take more to heat the underside of the table vs. allowing the sun to warm the ground.

3)      Why so big?  We wanted to make sure we could produce enough (in the long run) to sell the extras.  We love to can and process our homegrowns, and it takes a lot of food to make something like a sauce.

4)      Why build it ourselves vs. hiring a company? This one I would re-think if we did this again.  I am very glad for the learning experience, but, it was hard, hot work.  I had never done something on this scale before (thank goodness our friend did) but I do love learning new things.  In hindsight, I would have paid a company to do it and just did some oversight on the hard stuff (to learn how it operates).  Also, because it took much longer than we originally anticipated, funds became scarce.  This is the main reason why we only have plots on the north end for now.  However, I and my motto (everything happens for a reason) also think we may have other ideas for the south end (a special seed start area and maybe an aquaculture spot?).

5)      How do we keep it hot?  The sun does most of it for us.  We do have natural gas heaters installed, but have never used them yet.  Thinking we may switch to electric, easier in the “alternative energy” long run.

6)      How do we keep it cool?  This is harder than the heating part!  Since we are in Colorado and we are closer to the sun, it is quite warm here during the summer/fall months.  We try to plant close to the seasons, but we also like things like spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets all year long.  During the summer months, those plants are closest to the swamp cooler (remember it is the width of the greenhouse – HUGE!), and we have started using shade cloth and warm weather crops trellised to provide more shade areas.  This helps to keep our cool weather crops cooler.  We tried to grow spinach and lettuce outside in the shady areas, didn’t work very well.

7)      How do we water?  We have our own well, plus we have rain barrels to collect any snow melt and rain that we can.  We have several tanks that we can transfer from one to another in, and if you noticed last week’s blog, there are several blue barrels that hold extra water inside the greenhouse.

8)      How do we feed the plants?  As natural as possible.  We have animals for manure, several wood chip piles that are continually composting down (part of this is through an agreement with our local tree trimmers), egg shells, coffee grounds, end of season plants (except tomatoes) are all mixed into our composting piles (yes, more than one).

9)      Do we use pesticides or garden naturally – how?  NO PESTICIDES!  We pull weeds by hand or dip in a vinegar, salt, and dish soap solution.  We use companion planting in EVERYTHING!  We have just started introducing the Weedless Gardening Methods to our exterior plots with great success.  We have free-range chickens and guineas to help keep down the pests (guineas are great for the grasshopper, snake, and rodent control).  The bummer to the birds is chickens scratch up everything.  We have to build good wire borders around the exterior plots, at least for the first couple of months.  Once the plants are established, the birds are pretty good about just going after the bugs.

We also leave part of our gardening areas weedy – this has been very beneficial!  We have left/created a natural attraction for the bugs, good and bad.   We found tons of Praying Mantis, Ladybugs, and Lacewings all over the natural area in the last years.  This then led them to our plots and protecting our food area as well.

It’s funny when you think about it; this trick was an accident!  Things got very overgrown after the fire and because of my surgeries.  It was all we could do to keep up with our food areas, so some outer areas were left to nature.  When we finally did get around to work on them, we could not believe how many good bugs were hanging out there!

Well, I hope this helps anyone that is thinking about creating their own greenhouse.  I will gladly share more with anyone that asks and give you any helpful hints that we have learned along our journey.  You do not have to go as big as we did.  There are now tons of online places to purchase some fantastic kits to help start you on your way.  My last bit of advice to you – HAVE FUN WITH IT!  We have been having a fantastic time learning all the unique attributes in all our garden areas.  We still are learning (hope that never stops!), and would love to hear what natural ideas you use!

Happy Gardening!!

20160605_091933 (1)         good pic our veggie garden

(Note: Neither garden looks like this for a couple of months yet)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Just How Green Are You?

One of my fav all-around veggies is cabbage.  I am half Irish, and this is a must! (Mom would find a way to haunt me about it if I don’t!  Her side of the family has always been more fun…a bit off, but more fun!)  In honor of St. Patrick’s day, my Farmer’s Almanac newsletter sent me this winner, not like I needed any more reasons to eat cabbage, but they are interesting facts:

13 HEALTHY REASONS TO START EATING MORE CABBAGE!

Happy cabbage

One of our favorite ways to have it is fried.  You can make cabbage pockets:

fried cabbage pockets

Which are yummy too, but we prefer just to chop it up, and go with it.  Sometimes we will do it with onions (sorry, bad pun!).

We have grown both varieties of green and purple.  Even tried growing Bok Choy, but didn’t have the same appeal to us as regular old cabbage.

purple cabbags          boc choy

Since it goes so well with corned beef (we have feasted on a couple of those already), we just can’t help but get going on our annual cabbage frenzy!  Those of you that may need a bit-O-help getting their cabbage on, the almanac also gave up a fool-proof recipe, check it out!  (F.Y.I., we always crockpot ours at least overnight before slicing.  Oh, and always make sure to cut against the grain.)

This year my sister wants to try making our own sauerkraut?  This should be interesting since we do not have anything like mom’s old canning crocks (try to find them now – WITHOUT a huge price tag on them) to let it soak in.

old canning crock

If any of you have a good modern recipe, I would love it if you would share!!

So, HAPPY ST. PATRICKS DAY to you all!  May it be filled with fun and enjoyment.  (It’s our Friday “game night” this year, so you know we will!)

st pat blessing

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

CAN YOU FARM WITHOUT SEWING?  (or sewing gone all wrong)

I do not consider myself a very good seamstress.  I am very proud of my yarn art, crafting, painting, card making, gardening and many other things, I can even change the tires and oil on my vehicles;  but sewing not so much.  One of the many reasons maybe that on my very first attempt I ran my finger over (mom could not quit laughing at the threads hanging from the finger when I asked for her help!?).  Since half that finger is now gone, no worries – right?

finger-after

Then there was my first attempt at trying to make a piece of clothing.  Three rainy days in Wisconsin.  I was in my late teens.  I had purchased my first sewing machine, all the tools of the trade, and a great pattern for a jacket like the one Don Johnson (look him up youngsters, yes he was/is an actor) had with the patches on the elbows (from the TV show).  It was gonna be great!

Three cold, rainy days I worked away at it.  Three soggy, nasty, frigid days I gave to that sucker.  Then, on the third day, the angels sang “it is finished” – sort of.  I went into the bathroom so I could see how it looked in the mirror.  One sleeve was about four inches shorter than the other – IDIOT!  HOW DID YOU NOT NOTICE THAT??  That left a scar for many, many years to come.

sewing sleves off (Not my jacket but same issue.  Just make my bad sleeve about six more inches shorter than the other – boo hoo!!)

I limited my sewing abilities to hand embroidery and hand patching (got pretty good at both), and sewing or mending very simple things.  If there was a big project to be done, I passed it off to my mother with a lot of begging – pleeeease!!

The old sewing machine she had, managed to stay with her through all our moves.  It was a Singer, but it had these cool knob thingys.  You selected the knob by the picture that was on it.  Stuffed it into a hole on the machine and then turned it to match the line for your selection and – bam – you were sewing a special stitch!  She loved that machine.

old singer sewing mach(closest pic I could find to hers)

When she passed, it stayed with us – at least until the fire.

When we started rebuilding our lives, I knew one of the major things we were going to need was a new sewing machine.  You cannot properly manage a farm without means of patching and mending.  So, “NEW” is the operative word here!  I had no clue how much the “new” beasties had changed.  I knew that vehicles, music and the like had upgraded to digital; but I was blind-sided by how much sewing machines had transitioned that direction too.

brother sewing machineThey are still the same basic size and shape as the have always been, but the computer programming in these suckers is scary!  I had to read the instruction manual (yes, guys – I do that from time-to-time) just to figure out how to make a straight stitch!?  I am not a computer dummy by any means, nor am I a proficient geek about them; however, this new one really did scare me!

My sewing was rough at best before; now it was pure torture!  I am determined to get a handle on this monster, how soon that will be is anyone’s guess.  I managed to make some basic flannel curtains for our smoke room/porch.  They turned out really nice (which was great for my seamstress ego)!  My thought is to keep it all simple and basic for now.  One day I hope to try a new stitch a week, not now mind you.  Oh, and this devil has an embroidery feature to it that the only thing I have to do is program the picture and change colors when it stops and tells me to – show off!  It can do in hours what it takes me days to do by hand.  Not sure I like that?embroidery pic 1

Sure it’s pretty.  Yes, it is fast.  But does it put the blood, sweat, and tears – oh and the love – into its work?  I think not!  Ha Ha machine – gotcha there!  (F.Y.I.  I got REALLY STUPID and purchased a serger at the same time as the Beastie.  Can you say, IDIOT!?)

love heart pic 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

ARE YOU SEEKING EXCITEMENT OR CONTENTMENT?

I have a 5-year Q&A journal that I purchased just after the fire.  I did this mainly out of fun.  I have a regular journal that I track major stuff in, but this one narrows things down to a simple singular question.  This was for today: Are you seeking excitement or contentment?

Since this mini book records several years in a row, I found it interesting that the last two years I was excited about things.  Things that, to date, really have not come to pass (bummed a bit on that one).  However, now I find that I am seeking contentment more than excitement.

Too many things, good and bad, have happened over a very short period of time.  I have learned, once again, to appreciate all that I do have.  I also appreciate the things I can still do.  Maybe this has made me mellow as I age (eeek-really hope not)?  I prefer to be content with the things I have, the people I share things with, and the way things are in general.

I am learning not to be so upset by things I cannot control (we will NOT get into politics in here!), but working on things that I can control.  The hardest issue yet to work on is “time” – it’s still a bugger for me.

where-has-time-gone

I used to live by the watch on my wrist, which is pretty sad if you think about it.  There was nothing else to let me know what I was doing except that watch and my day timer.  No cel phones, no ipads or tablets, not even laptops (they didn’t come out till much later).

I remember the first computer I ever used (and fell in love with) was the old punch-card type (for those that do not know what I am talking about: check out these pics!)  That and typewriters got me hooked on keyboards, but they did not keep my schedule.

I no longer have a watch.  The fire took what I did have, and then my cel phone just slowly seemed to sneak in and replace it (my new “monster” inanimate object).  I just keep alarms now.  They go off with all kinds of different noises when I need to do or be aware of something.  Being a writer at heart, I still keep a physical pen-and-ink day timer.  I find something comforting in paper and pen things.

writing-stuff

Then again, it may just be because I am addicted to these things worse than a drug addict (yes, I am positive on this!).  I CANNOT walk past a stationary store or section of a store without checking it out.  I physically and mentally have to keep telling myself – “Walk on – no you have enough and don’t need another!”  I also have issues with the crafting areas.

This leads me back to the contentment in life again.  With time constantly slipping through my hands,

time-slips-thru-hands

I try to focus on the things that really matter to me now.  My family, our critters, and gardens, the farm, and all my personal passions.  I have no need for huge social affairs anymore.  I prefer a comfortable get-together with a bunch of good friends.  I look forward to a moment of peace which is, unfortunately, few and far between.  My excitement now is only produced when I complete a crafting project for a family member of loved one.

I don’t think this is an age thing.  I think it is deeper than that.  We hunt all of our lives for peace.  We seek out like-minded individuals so we don’t have to be continually on the lookout.  I will always look to improve whatever I can for whomever I can but, all-in-all, I am content!

charlie-brown-n-snoopy-content

 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

CAN YOU HELP ME FIND THIS?

Hey people, need some help here!  I am pretty good with computers and the internet, but this one has me stumped!  I am looking for specific garden plans for this:

 

cucumber arber-trellis

It is a type of garden trellis/arbor however, the plants are in buckets and looks like there is a PVC pipe watering system too (not sure, just guessing)?

I first notice it in Pinterest, then I found out one of our fellow word press bloggers: Town & Country Gardening  also had a picture of this in one of his older blogs (also found him/that in Pinterest).

I have followed every lead that I could possibly find to get the instructions for building one of these for our little green acres, to no avail. (all sad – boo hoo sad face)

So, I am reaching out to all of you – please help me find these plans!  If I can get a handle on it, I would also like to modify them to work in our greenhouse.

 

 

 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin