The Goings On – January 2022

Some say that 2021 flew by and others say it took forever. If you really listen to each side you will find that their perspective is what really determines how they have experienced this past year. Focusing on the many negative experiences that many of us have faced this past year can take such an emotional toll on us. Our well being and self worth easily being effected. However, if you take the same individual with the same negative experiences and change their focus to the positive things in their life, you will find a much happier individual. One whose real joy and peace are not shaken. This is not because they are perfect and have the perfect little life but it is because their perspective is optimistic, focused on what they have rather than what they do not. Going forward in life let us all work hard to be the latter. Yesterday is unfortunately gone. Let’s affect change to today! That was my TED Talk for the month! Let’s get into the goings on why don’t we!

High Tunnel

We have put several of Hoopty’s rows to sleep for the Winter and still have more to go. The way we do this in the high tunnel is not all that different from how we do so in our raised beds. We pull existing plants leaving plant matter that is small enough to decompose such as leaves and very small stems. Everything else goes to the compost pile. We do any needed weeding while pulling the plants. Then we cover with around two inches of composted soil. Finally we lay down weed barrier to black out the soil and prevent anything from growing until we are ready. We have done this with the rows we plan to plant Spring broccoli & cauliflower on. That planting will be in February. We had planned to also do this with the row we are planting tomatoes on come Spring, however that has been delayed and we hope to get that done this week.

In other Hoopty news we have been dealing with army worms there! This is really disappointing for us. Although we use organic pesticides in the high tunnel, we only use them on crops that we know to be targets. Things like our leafy greens get treated twice monthly. The issue we have begun to have is on our carrot row which is on one of the outer edges of our high tunnel. For the first time since we began to farm the army worms are attacking the carrot tops! This area had not been treated and thus has been devastated! We will definitely have to replant our carrots which will put us behind on our goals for the year. While that is sad it could be a whole lot worse! Army worms are called such for a reason! They invade and destroy just like an efficient army, many times before the farmer is even aware they are there as in our case. We only lost half of the row prior to discovering the infestation but our lettuce and other greens seem to be fine. We have treated everything at this point just to be on the safe side.

The inconsistencies in the weather this Winter have kept us busy with Hoopty. Since our goal is to open the sides of the high tunnel when temperatures rise above 50 degrees, its been consistently open for days at a time. That is not the issue. The issue is the roller coaster of temperatures that have been the norm (and will most certainly return) means lots of opening and closing of it adding one more chore to a busy farmers’ to do list. We are so happy that the temps seems to be lowering! 80 degrees in December was getting to be a bit much!

Raised Beds & More

We recently re – installed our arched cattle panel trellis that is on the front side of our property. We installed metal t-posts in place of the wooden ones that were there. This Spring we hope to grow melons here so we need it to be real steady! In the beds on each side of it there are plenty of kale and other greens growing currently. Recently the snow peas that are climbing there have also begun to produce. These along with existing ones planted in the high tunnel means there will be plenty for your family as well as ours! Look out for these on the listings page this month!

This month we had large harvests of spinach and arugula. Spinach has been used rapidly in cooking and in salads for the family. Don’t worry we also shared! Some of the arugula was dehydrated using our new dehydrator.

We were really excited to see the Fall and Winter months coming because we really missed our greens. Currently we are growing as many of them as the soil can support! We are growing green, red giant, and purple stemmed mustards, collards, salad turnips, arugula, and about 5 different varieties of kale! We are working hard to keep the worms off so that we can all enjoy the little piece of Winter goodness that nature allows us. You can find all of these goodies over on our Listings page.

This month we will be planting radishes, kohlrabi, fennel, bunching onions, & more! Now you guys know we pride ourselves on growing year round but even we have to admit its a bit difficult and can be overwhelming. One way that we keep things manageable is by doing our best to keep to our planting schedule and keeping a good stock of seeds. See how we inventory and reorder each season here.

The Flock

Well the chickens are doing great! Somehow despite the decreased daylight they are still keeping us supplied with enough eggs for our family. Just this past week we even experienced the highest amount of eggs harvested per day since we got them back in April. We attribute this to the fact that our brooder hen Shrill – x has started back laying and one of her first hatchlings – Zag has also begun laying! We are beyond grateful and as we have extra we will place these on the Listings page as they come available.

The first phase of the run extension is underway! We are adding more protected space for the chickens to forage. In our area large birds of prey are a frequent sight. While we would love to have them free range it just isn’t a safe option. We work hard though to make sure they have all the extra nutrients they need to be happy & healthy members of the Bain Home Gardens team. They eat many herbs from the garden. We jokingly say that we are just pre-seasoning our eggs! The also get extra protein! I mean, what do you think happened to all those worms?! We are currently editing a flock update for the YouTube channel.

Simba’s Pride

We finally settled on a name for our rabbit flock. Yep – Simba’s Pride! Yes, we know a group of bunnies is not considered a pride but we love the pun and are gonna roll with it! Little Simba is not so little anymore. He is growing so fast! I picked him up the other day like whoa – YOU PUT ON WEIGHT! He is quite a healthy boy. Recently he got his first taste of spinach. At first he was iffy about it but he quickly warmed up to the idea. We are happy he did! In the upcoming months we will introduce more veggies to him and Gizmo. You have to slowly introduce new items to them so as not to upset their tummies too much. Just like us they have preferences too. One may love spinach while another may prefer fennel. It is really cute getting to know their little personalities!

Simba also got the opportunity to take his first what we are calling, “bunny walk”. Basically what we did was purchase him a halter with leash. So far we have only been following him around the yard to the grass patches he is interested in eating. We want to eventually get to the point where we can lead him but we realize that will take some time. He is such a smart boy. We will get there.

On January first, Gizmo turned 2 months old. She is the cutest little ball of fur ever! We just introduced her to Simba. We supervised and they got to know each other a bit. Eventually they will be bred together. Can you imagine how beautiful the Calico Lionheads that will result will be?! We look forward to the future with all its furry cuteness!

Being cute is not the only job these fur babies have. They have the responsibility to provide fertilizer for the farm! We collect and compost their manure. As we add more rabbits to the pride we will be able to make this valuable commodity available to our community. We do not have a time table on that but stay tuned!

Unboxings, Setups, & Reviews

This one area is new to me. Admittedly I appreciate watching these type of videos because they educate me and help me decide what products are a good fit for our farm & our family. Well we have been adding more products to facilitate easier homesteading because isn’t it more fun if its easier? Of course and we are more likely to stick with it! We know it will never be “easy” but with certain reliable products we can take the complicated factor out. Our goal for the coming year it to increase food production for ourselves and having the means to process our produce items into usable staples is vital. Another goal is also to buy less and less items from the grocery store. We have done increasingly well with this over the last few years. We have eliminated buying relish, broth, celery, peppers, eggplant, okra, cornbread mix, jellies & jams from the grocery store, to name a few things. Going into 2022 we are hoping to eliminate buying bread – buns and loaf bread. So far we have added several bread making aids and I am really practicing making various recipes to find one that really appeals to our family. I do not want my family to feel like they are missing out on anything buy having homemade bread but I want them to look forward to it like they look forward to salsa canning day and pickled okra canning day. Trust me, those are celebratory days here! So that means mama has to go to work and prefect her technique.

In addition to the bread making tools we have added a Blue Yeti microphone to aid with our podcast and video production. We have added a Cosori dehydrator as well. We have a small Sunbeam dehydrator that we purchased for $5. It is still working but it seems to be dying. Also it does not have temperature settings. We have found that sometimes it burns certain herbs so while we still have it we are reserving it for outdoor pepper dehydration. Since all these items are important for our homestead, we have decided to review them from the small farmer/homesteader view point. These videos will be posted on our YouTube channel as they are edited. We hope our brutally honest videos help you decide if these products could be beneficial for your household too. This arena is new to us so please bear with us as we become more proficient at it.

Bread making is new to me and after only making 3 loaves I can honestly say I’m hooked. Making wheat bread is a bit more challenging. You can see my first attempt at wheat bread here.

As you can see it has been a very busy month and there are no signs of it letting up and that is just fine with us. After all, time flies when you’re homesteading! Have a great month of January – from our family to yours!

Have you checked out our December podcast episodes?

https://anchor.fm/bain-home-gardens/episodes/Feature-Wednesdays—Whats-That-e1c9r43
https://anchor.fm/bain-home-gardens/episodes/Feature-Wednesday—Red-Russian-Kale-e1cavrg
https://anchor.fm/bain-home-gardens/episodes/Trying-Our-Blue-Yeti-e1bujea

Feature Wednesday – Salad Turnip

We came across this lovely brassica vegetable when trying to find quick growing crops for the CSA. We are glad we did find it! Our family loves it and eats it raw and cooked! Here’s what we learned:

▪︎ Salad Turnips grow more evenly in shape in cool temperatures however they will grow in the Summer too.

▪︎Leaves as well as roots are delicious, technically yielding two crops for the price of one!

▪︎As with most brassicas, the flavor of the roots and leaves are sweeter in the cooler months of the growing season.

▪︎They can be planted densely and still thrive but must be planted in soil rich in organic matter for this to be true.

▪︎We find when night time temps are consistently above 60° these grow the fastest! We have harvested as early as 35 days in Spring! Fall/Winter is a different story altogether. The batch that we just began harvesting from yesterday was planted October 16th.

▪︎We have more success planting in field areas or raised beds as opposed to the high tunnel.

▪︎Although we can tell they prefer full sun, we have noticed they will tolerate partial shade however more growing days will be required.

Cons…

▪︎It seems that all pests love them! If planted in Spring or Summer some sort of organic pesticide will almost certainly be needed. This decreases though as Fall and Winter approach.

▪︎Heavy rainfall or inconsistent watering will cause the roots to split making it even easier for pests to help themselves.

▪︎Leaves tend to hold on to dirt making them a bit more labor intensive to clean.

Have you planted the beautiful Salad Turnip before? What was your experience? Will you plant it again. Let us know in the comments!


Feature Wednesday – Fennel

Admittedly until a few years ago I didn’t know what Fennel was. Since then we have come to love this frilly cousin to the carrot. Here’s why:

▪︎ It freezes well! We tend to avoid blanching if at all possible and fennel – root & fronds – do well without it. Frozen Fennel goes well in soup & smoothies!

▪︎It does prefer to be planted in soil rich in organic matter however if you do so very little care besides the normal weeding and watering is needed. As you can see in our photo below, some weeding is needed for ours!

▪︎Butterflies love it & we love the butterflies so why NOT grow fennel! Each year we leave fennel in the beds just for them. The Black Swallowtails lay eggs on them and the little caterpillars come into the world ravenous! They devour the Fennel quickly. We collected one of the cocoons and got a butterfly. You can see that video here.

▪︎It freely self sows if you allow it to go to seed! These self sown plants are really strong for us.

▪︎You have the potential to get three harvests – several harvests of the fronds, one from the bulb, and if you choose to leave the bulb in the ground then you can harvest the seeds which are often used in cooking.

▪︎It deters aphids. Try putting potted Fennel near plants that attract aphids.

Cons…

▪︎ It has a strong licorice like flavor that’s not tolerable for some.

▪︎ While it can tolerate some frost we have found that it will show signs of stress with sustained freezing temperatures.

▪︎Fennel is allelopathic which basically means it doesn’t like roommates. Other crops tend to struggle growing near it due to its releasing certain chemicals into the soil. Currently we have some self sown kale & arugula growing near ours but we have noticed their growth seems to be stunted.

So what do you say to Fennel – yay or nay?


Feature Wednesday – Curly Kale

As Kale is one of the favorite leafy greens here at Bain Home Gardens, you had to know several would be on our list! While we love all types, we have found Blue Vates Curly Kale to be the best one for our zone. Why do we plant it year after year?

▪︎ It tastes so good & is versatile in its use – from eating in a salads to eating as pesto or with corn bread!

▪︎It holds up to heat and cold. While the Winter is of course best for these leafy greens, Curly Kale endures heat well too! Admittedly the flavor is far less sweet in the Summer but applying shade cloth keeps the leaves moderately tender. We often use our Summer crop for smoothies or greens powder.

▪︎It grows fast! In the Spring from planting it will be ready for first harvest in about a month and a half. In Fall that jumps to about two and a half months. We always fertilize with blood meal or fish emulsion at planting and quarterly thereafter.

▪︎ It is a cut and come again green. You don’t harvest the entire plant just the leaves, making yield possibilities have high potential! We have had two Curly Kale last 2 years and we harvested the entire time!

Cons…

▪︎ The Curly nature of the leaves makes it difficult to clean. We prefer to plant it in our high tunnel to avoid splashes of dirt collecting from rains.

▪︎Pest control is more difficult because it is very easy for the pests to hide in the crevices created by those curls.

▪︎Every pests seems to love it especially at the young tender stage. We fight hard to get it past this stage (1st 30 days). We utilize organic sprays and mosquito netting to accomplish this.

There you have it! I know most of you already have Curly Kale planted in your gardens. If not, it’s not too late! The growth maybe really slow this time of year but come Spring your Curly Kale will blow up in all is Curly kaleness! What do say? Will you grow Curly Kale with us?


Feature Wednesday – Opal Basil

This week we are featuring Opal Basil. You maybe wondering why basil, clearly a Summer crop, is on our Fall list. Well the cool thing about Fall in our area is the overlap of produce. Some Summer crops hold up very nicely in the Fall. Some even preform better! While that is not the case here let me tell you why we love Opal Basil:

▪︎It’s purple – duh! You already know I love purple. As it has such a beautiful color it’s a great addition to your edible landscaping.

▪︎The aroma is outstanding! It is only the second most aromatic basil we have grown (second only to Blue Spice Basil). The farm smells great on a windy day!

▪︎ The flavor is a bit milder than most basil varieties. I like it best dehydrated for tea though it does make an interesting looking pesto.

▪︎The color becomes even more intense with cooler temperatures however during the Summer months you’ll note more green on the leaves.

▪︎Bees love it and we love the bees! On many mornings I’ve had to skip harvesting it and come after the bees had breakfast. They seem to enjoy these lavender flowers more than the white flowers on our other basil varieties more.

▪︎ On our farm it is also used in our flower bouquets adding to a visual beauty as well as magnificent aroma to the bouquet!

▪︎It can handle a light frost! No joke!!! For two years straight this has been my observation. We have had 2 light frosts on our farm & our Opal Basil has been unscathed!

Cons…

▪︎ It is more spotty with germination and seedlings can be challenging to keep alive.

▪︎Although it can handle some cold, the growth will stunt notably once temperatures are below 70° consistently.

▪︎It isn’t as quick to self seed as other basil varieties we grow. So will definitely require replanting yearly.

Okay fellow gardeners what do think about Opal Basil? Do you grow it? Will you next season? Let us know!