The Goings On – November 2020

Hey there folks! How are you? We are doing, well, ok I guess over on our corner of the earth. Things have been better to be sure but things could also be worse. This is just the highs and lows of farm life! When we started this blog we decided to be honest and share with you our successes and failures since we know farming is more times than not, not always pretty. Those disappointments happen! So let’s talk about some of them shall we.

Pests

Pests have been at an all time high! We knew it was going to be a bad year when entomologist Ayanava Majumdar communicated to us early Spring that the bugs were weeks ahead of schedule for the year. That is never a good thing! Later in June when he visited Hoopty it was abundantly clear to him and us that we were all the way in it! UGH! Ugh really is an emotion that readily describes 2020. So we have been fighting all season long & even harder than usual. In Hoopty white flies and spider mites were terrible at the height of Summer! At the top of the list of aggressors this Fall are flea beetles! They seem to love every crop that we are growing. In particular our Mustard & Asian greens varieties. Of these they have destroyed half the crop planted for the Fall! Some crop losses are inevitable but this year, when things have already been so rough, another loss just wasn’t what we needed. We have and continue to fight these pests by using mechanical and organic remedies. However these become nearly ineffective when yet another element comes into play…

Rain

It may seem odd to list rain as a problem however in our case it has really worked against our pest management program. While we know rain is absolutely necessary to grow healthy crops we are griping, if you will about the days on end of heavy monsoon-like rainfall. You see for Diatomaceous earth rain is a huge deterrent. DE washes a way easily and becomes ineffective when wet. Days of heavy rain fall are taken advantage of by the flea beetles and before you know it entire beds have disappeared literally over night!

Devastated Red Mustard Greens

There has been a joint attack on many of our crops such as our Turnip leaves. There seems to be some sort of an alliance between the Flea Beetles and Fall Army Worms. Although we use BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) for worms, heavy infestations require application every other day and is far less effective if done in the rain. Speaking of the dreaded Army Worm, do you know why they are called “army” worms? One source says, “They are so named because of their habit of crawling in large numbers from field to field when they have exhausted their food supply.” We have witnessed this to be the case as they have moved from one permanent bed to another and leaving much devastation in their wake in a matter of 24hrs! This year, after just one day of heavy rainfall, for the first time we found them eating our Zinna as well as our Fennel! Fortunately we did catch them before those items were lost too.

Someone enjoyed our Salad Turnips

No rant about pests would be complete without mentioning the dreaded fire ants! This year they have given us grief in our raised beds and in the high tunnel! Not only do these pack a powerful bite but they too are army-like in the swiftness in which they can damage a crop as they build alliances with other pests! Our okra and corn have fallen victim to the ants this year.

Ants on okra bud

Although we have lost time, we continue to plant and take advantage of the long growing season our region offers. Currently re-growing is cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, mustards, lettuce and more!

TRIAL UPDATES

Cucumbers

If we had any idea the cucumbers would be so beautiful in the sea of green that is Hoopty, I’m certain we would have planted far more than we did. They are doing very well! The next set of data is to determine for how long they will grow into the cold months in an unheated environment. We chose two varieties for our trial. However, we have had 3 volunteer plants from a variety planted over the Spring pop up so that brings us to a total of 3 varieties. Of these we will see which yields will be the best under the cooler temps.

Cucumber Trellis

Squash & Zucchini

Consider my mind 100% blown when I went into Hoopty and harvested squash this month! I know others are probably like, “Yeah, yeah…you’ve got a hoop house – duh!” For me, however it will never stop being so amazing! We planted one variety of squash and one variety of zucchini for our season extension trials. We have harvested a couple of squash thus far and the zucchini isn’t far behind! We have already determined that we will allow for more space next year for Fall squash and zucchini! I can already taste the roasted zucchini and sweet potatoes!

Squash

Corn

This one gets logged in the fail colum unfortunately. We feel the failure was due to a combination of pests pressure from ants and late planting. We are not however giving up on corn. We will be planting again in the Spring.

Herbs

This year the herbs have really been the shining stars of the farm. Lemon balm & Lemongrass have really grown far better than they have in years past. Also Fennel, Purple Basil, Thai Basil, & Cilantro all really left their mark! We enjoy learning to cook new and exciting recipes with these herbs. Our trial with Fall Dill is underway and so far the results are a bit inconclusive. Stay tuned on that front. However the Fall propagated basil is doing fantastic. If things go as planned, we should have fresh basil right up until January meaning there will only be 4 months instead of 5 months we have to go without fresh basil.

Fennel

THIS WEEK’S LISTINGS

With all of the issues we have had the last few months we are honestly quite proud of our listings that we offer to you each week. As we have mentioned recently, seasonal farm boxes and a wider selection of produce will be available January 2021. This week the Bain family farm has the following home grown goodness to offer your family:

  • Lemongrass
  • Scotch Bonnet Peppers
  • Hot Pepper Basket
  • Sweet Pepper Basket
  • Jams Jellies

What’s To Come?

It seems that COVID is going to be sticking around a bit longer. So we remain vigilant to keep our family and community safe. We will continue the contacless methods of delivery for the foreseeable future.

On the farm in the upcoming weeks we will be pulling okra from Hoopty, planting turnips, beets, onions, tulips, carrots and rutabagas. We will also finalize winterizing our strawberries and other fruit bearing plants that require such. I’m tired just thinking about it all! On the brighter side, next month is yet another special month for our family. Do you remember why? Check back next month for more goings ons at Bain Home Gardens!


The Goings On – October 2020

October has arrived and for the first time in years, it actually feels like Fall. Admittedly, our bodies are still adjusting to cooling temperatures. Increasingly shorter days means all farm hands on deck while the sun shines in all its glory. All in the family have been very busy preparing for Fall. We have nearly gotten all of our long season crops planted and now we take a breath… a short one anyway! Check out what’s been happening since we last spoke.

The Produce

Okra has been growing like crazy! Finally with cooling night time temperatures it is slowing down. Thankfully we have been able to freeze quite a few gallons and should be set for the Fall.

Eggplants, for the second year in a row, have proven to be the divas of Bain Home Gardens. They finally decided to get with the program and are gifting us with delicious treats. All four varieties are coming along nicely, three of which are under the cover of Hoopty. We hope this means we can reap benefits for a few more months a least.

Asian greens are loving the cooler temps! Sadly the bugs love to munch on them as well as everything else! We have already enjoyed these as baby greens in sandwiches and cooked the mature greens in stir fries. We are filling more beds with these type of greens and they are available to purchase today on our listings page.

We also recently harvested the first mustard greens of the Fall season both green and red varieties. These were planted in succession. In about a month we should be harvesting from our second planting and so on and so forth. We always plant an obscene amount of greens because we like to freeze them for use later in Summer when it is a bit harder to come by tender greens.

The farm is finally starting to look like a farm again since the beginning of our Fall make over! FINALLY!

Replanting

When Sally hit last month we didn’t know what to expect. Our biggest concern of late has been the high tunnel (Hoopty). We are always concerned about the possibility of wind damage. Fortunately that was not a problem. The high water levels did wash away some newly established seedlings in the field areas. Since we had many of these on stand-by for the Fall plant sale, we simply replaced those from our own stock. Sadly this meant we had to remove these from the sale. Thus replanting has been done for mustards, collards, broccoli and chard. Although we are working hard to rebuild stock for the continuation of the Fall plant sale, we cannot guarantee that there will be any plants available. If and when they are, we will make an announcement. Here is hoping!

New Crops

Artichoke seedlings breaking ground

One thing you have come to know about Bain Home Gardens is that we thrive off growing the unexpected or unconventional. It takes a lot of research, prayer and a whole lot of experimentation! The rewards far out weigh the losses in most cases. Over the past few years we have mastered growing long beans, kiwano melons, Thai eggplants, & most recently Jamaican Scotch Bonnet peppers. On the agenda this Fall is artichoke. We experimented with one variety last Fall with no success. No worries; our tenacious spirit fueled more research and this Fall we are trying our hands at a different variety. Who knows how this trial will go. However if successful we should have our very first artichokes early 2021.

CSA Season

October marks CSA season! It is an exciting time for us. It is finally time to share all that we have planned and grown with our members! Not to brag but our CSA members are the absolute best! We strive to grow diverse crops so our members have a healthy abundance in their eight week shares. Therefore supplies for non members maybe limited the during the eight week CSA. Please check our weekly listings page. We do have a little extra love to go around.

This Weeks Listings

This week we are happy to add our Asian Greens to to our listings page. I just had some scrambled with eggs and cheese – YUMMY! In addition Mr. Bain Home Gardener just gave the go ahead to list his pet project – Scotch Bonnet Peppers! Both of these are now live on the listings page!

This year is almost over and I’m sure you may share the sentiments of others we have spoken to who say, “Good riddance!” However this year has taught us a lot about ourselves. We have come to understand the true meaning of friends, family, love and togetherness. We have grown in ways we didn’t recognize we needed to and for that I have to say to 2020 – THANK YOU! Of course the real thanks goes to our heavenly father for supporting us and helping us to grow during such a difficult time.

Who knows what November will hold for the Bain Family! If you would like to see then check back next month for more Goings Ons at Bain Home Gardens.


The Goings on – September 2020

So it has arrived – the month at which Summer turns to Fall! This is such an awesome time of the year for many reasons. It tends to be very beautiful. If you live in an area where there are many trees that are not of the evergreen variety then this stunning beauty is nothing new to you. Hues of orange & yellow meeting the blue sky is such a pleasing canvas. We have had the joy of vacationing in Tennessee early October and my, my, MY – JUST STUNNING! Alas… no vacation this year. Not going to beat that dead horse today – moving on! We have so many more positive things to focus on this month.

From Summer to Fall

The garden is always a mess this time of year. Some beds look just plain pitiful if I’m being 100% honest. The heat has ruined most of our Spring greens and what the heat didn’t get, the bugs did. This is nothing unusual but I felt the need to gripe just a little. So where does the positive come in? Well Fall is time to reinvent the farm a bit. Bed turnovers and crop rotation change the face of things rather quickly around here. For instance, the bed pictured below once had beans and Summer squash varieties in it. It has been amended with aged compost and now leafy greens live here and will until mid Winter. In a different bed where zucchini was planted our snow peas are coming up. Soon the area will be teaming with the beautiful lavender and white blossoms. Whatever failures and mistakes were made in Spring and Fall can literally be covered up and you simply start again. In this way season change over here at Bain Home Gardens is quite forgiving.

Sowing Our Seeds & Expanding

Creating new beds for our farm expansion project has been rather labor intensive. Our friends over at Hawkins Homestead Farm have been using a type of permanent bed system and with great success. They invited us to try it as well so we are experimenting with a few of those. You already know that these trials will be documented carefully so that we can assess how well these work for us as opposed to our usual high density technique. This has meant moving loads of compost, spreading, leveling… As I type my shoulders are saying, “massage me!” However the pain is so worth the gain! So far we have planted collards, mustard greens, kale, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, fennel and we didn’t even mention all of the root crops! We do not like to put all of our eggs in one basket so the planting has been split between the field and Hoopty. These have been and continue to be planted in succession to extend our harvest window.

In addition to the native Fall crops we are running trials with with a few non native vegetables, among these is artichoke. It is a beautiful edible ornamental plant that we would love to include in our landscaping. In addition we have heard that the flavor of a freshly harvested artichoke will blow your taste buds away!

Just recently we began to dig up our sweet potatoes. You can watch a short video of the beginning of the harvest here. These will be cured and most will be made available to our CSA members and our family. As we continue to harvest we will have a better idea as to if these can be made available to the general public.

Fall is also the time of the year that we plant our bulbing plants – flowers, onions and garlic. Beds also have to be amended and prepared for these as they should be shipped to us with in the next few weeks. Many of these will not be ready to harvest until May – July of 2021! TALK ABOUT PLANNING AHEAD!

September – Why Special for BHG?

We mentioned earlier that September is a very special month for Bain Home Gardens. We wanted to elaborate on why. On September 23rd 2019 a dream began to be realized for our family. That is the week we broke ground on our high tunnel that we have affectionately come to call Hoopty. To think a structure of wood and plastic could change the face of a business. Admittedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly limited just how much change has been implemented but we see great potential! Here is a cute little video in which we take a little walk down memory lane. I’m a firm believer in never forgetting where you came from. It took a little less than three months to complete our structure. It was well worth the time!

Because we were able to start planting earlier in Hoopty, this years cucumber, tomato, pepper and okra harvest have been more than prolific! We couldn’t be more pleased with the results. We have been able to supply our family, Kith & Kin CSA and and our loyal customers throughout the Wiregrass; not to mention the jars we have canned and bags we have frozen. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies however. We have certainly had our share of failures in learning to grow in this unique ecosystem. We have learned what grows well in this environment and what doesn’t. As I feared, pests have been a huge irritant. These issues you could say are a part of the learning curve for high tunnel growing. Thankfully we have received guidance from the best in the trade and are paving our own way by creating a knowledge base for growing organically. We are taking notes on every single thing and are certain that this will ensure that the 2021 growing season will be even more spectacular!

Kith & Kin CSA

This month also marks the beginning of our Fall CSA. Thanks to farm expansions on both farms we offered more shares this season than we ever have! This is very exciting for us. This community continues to grow each season and we are excited to welcome our new members as well as welcome back our members that have been with us since the beginning!

This Week’s Listings

You may have noticed that our produce listings have been more limited as of late. As aforementioned the Fall turnover on the farm will temporarily limit available produce options. However we are very excited to be able to offer even limited options year round. This is what we have available this week:

  • Basil – We have Purple, Thai, and Genovese varieties. If you have a preference please indicate.
  • Lemon Grass
  • Pepper Basket
  • Jams & Jellies

Keep in mind that our Summer Plant Sale is also underway. We are happy to help you get your Fall gardens established with plants from our Clean Starts selection. If you want to feed your family your own home grown goodness then this is a fantastic place to start!

All in all it has been an extremely busy month! We have the calluses to prove it! It is however so rewarding to work hard and see the fruits of our labor! Check back next month for more goings on at Bain Home Gardens.


Our Top Home Learning Hacks

So you are going about your merry way and along comes a global pandemic that derails your life! Welcome to life with COVID-19!

Life has changed for many of us in ways we never thought possible. Lysol is now a rare commodity. Right after checking for our keys and wallets, we now check for masks and gloves before leaving home. A cough is a dreaded sound in a crowd of people. Yes, life is truly different as opposed to 2019. More to the point though are the changes many parents are being forced to make – the transition from brick and mortar school to virtual or homeschooling.

What is the Difference?


Homeschooling is private schooling by a parent or other full-time instructor. Curriculum can be supplied by an outside source, paid or free. The options are endless! In most states you will need to be enrolled in an umbrella school. Your base requirements for schooling will be determined in large part by your umbrella school.

Virtual schooling for our purposes is public schooling done from the home of the student. A learning coach is responsible for checking that student assignments are completed, keeping the student on track with assigned lesson plan, logging daily attendance and more. Curriculum is provided based on the state the student is enrolled in. Teachers are assigned to each grade or subject by the school but may not be as accessible as one would hope. Learning is online based. Programs utilized my vary from state to state & from year to year.

Our family has had experience in both of these learning platforms. So we refer to both collectively as home learning. Each have their pros and cons. However, there are some specific techniques we applied to both that has allowed for us to have  a good measure of success. This took lots of trial and error! Seriously, mistakes were made! Our mistakes however do not have to be your own.  Although we do not profess to be experts we do want to share what we have learned over the years in hopes that it can be of benefit to you and your family. So here are our top 5 hacks to home learning!

Remain Structured


If your kids where previously enrolled in a brick and mortar school then this is something they are already accustomed to. It is, however, up to parents to maintain this structure. This will require a measure of self discipline for all parties involved, particularly the parents. If you are a working parent this will be particularly difficult but it is possible. Set designated start and stop times for school. At our home we begin each school day by 8 a.m. On an average day, assignments are completed by 1 p.m. If not we have a hard stop time of 3 p.m. This prevents mental exhaustion of student and teacher. Trust me, once you’ve reached that point nothing good results!

Get dressed for school. It may seem simple enough but it is easy to allow our young ones to stumble out of bed, grab bowl of cereal and report to their desks in their pajamas. I mean, who’s going to see them – right? True; but consider this. Our attitude is reflected in the way we dress. Why do we dress professionally for interviews? We want our potential employers to see a confident responsible person so we dress as such. As a result we feel self assured and will likely ace the interview. It’s no different with school. If your area requires school uniforms you may try that each day or you may create your own dress code. At our home a button down shirt or a polo style shirt with slacks or jeans is acceptable.

Accountability


Accountability is defined as “the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility.” Every school has a code of conduct. It outlines the rules and clearly defines the consequences if said rules are not followed. You likely already have house rules. Create a code of conduct for your home learning as well and consider it an addendum to the house rules. Follow it consistently. This may take much energy in the beginning but as everyone becomes adjusted to their new routine it becomes easier. In our home hubby serves as the “principal”. If we are having issues that I as the teacher cannot resolve with the kids, they get sent to the principal’s office. This rarely happens! Just knowing that it can is more than enough to keep the kiddos on the straight and narrow. It isn’t that you are running some military training school but there has to be a measure of order in the environment for it to be conducive to learning. The students must understand that there will be consequences even though they are at home. You will find things going much smoother throughout the year with applying this one hack!

Take Frequent Breaks


This is something that breaks the norm of conventional schooling but it pays huge dividends! Taking breaks refreshes the brain and emotional state. You can decided when and for how long but be sure to incorporate these particularly during your struggle subjects. For us these are History and Mathematics. We take 10 – 15 minute breaks. As a parent and homemaker I usually take this time to do do a quick chore like taking meat out to thaw for dinner or making a business call. Our kids will do anything from walking the dog to taking a quick power nap. We find that the ratio 1 hour of work to 10 minutes of break is much better than banging our heads against the wall! Often times when there is a problem we can’t seem to figure out, we take a break, come back and the solution just jumps out! Invaluable!

Play Background Music


One of our children has ADD. Quite sometime ago we began to play nature sounds music or some type or orchestral music. He was so young that if he recognized the song he would stop and sing along. This created even more struggle because the class was immediately turned into a concert! Thus the instrumental music. As he got older we migrated to music more pleasing to his tastes. Even throughout college he continued this practice with jazz tunes. This sets a mild and calm mood setting mind and emotions at ease to tackle the day. Studies have shown that “background music may improve focus on a task by providing motivation and improving  mood. During long study sessions, music can aid endurance.

Have Fun!


While these are difficult times make the most of the extra time you have together with your young ones. Their minds are now in your hands. While proceeding with caution don’t forget to have some fun too. YouTube some fun Science experiments on the current topic of class. Do some fun physical activities together. Create a crazy recipe that even the dog won’t eat. Laugh!

Since your child maybe feeling more and more isolated you now also have to factor in his/her socialization. We have made use of the Zoom app and had family game nights with friends. Also though the kids have created links and invited their friends to hang out & play games. Please consider age and adult supervision accordingly. Our young ones need an outlet to express how COVID-19 has changed their lives. As parents we want to be there as much as humanly possible but a real friend is also a good source of comfort. The emotional support they get from each other goes along way towards making the school day more bearable for them and you.

In conclusion, be patient with your children and yourselves. Rather than view this change as yet another complication of COVID-19 look at it as a new adventure, a new chapter in the book that is your family. Prospective is everything! Your students will mimic your negative attitude much quicker than a positive one. So even when there are screw ups and failing grades try to have a good outlook and remember there is always tomorrow!

These techniques and suggestions are from the outlook of the parent. In our next series we will interview the kiddos and see what suggestions they have to offer. That should be a real treat. I’m honestly scared!

Happy learning – from our family to yours!