The age-old saying, “April showers bring May flowers”, has rung loudly the last few week as we have had much rainfall. The farm has exploded with life. Everything is green and full of hope and promise. Come along for a brief update of what our last days have entailed since March.
The month of April boost so much planting that we literally couldn’t keep up with the schedule we made for ourselves! The first round of soy beans have been planted along side our feed sunflowers and squash. We have enough space in this plot to plant another row of sunflowers and soy beans which will be done within a few days. These sunflowers will be used primarily as a feed supplement for our animals. As feed cost continue to rise we have to find sustainable avenues of caring for our flocks organically. Rabbits will partake of the stems and leaves and the seeds will be harvested for the chickens. The goal is to plant in succession until Fall. This should provide a steady supply of additional feed and hopefully offset our feed bill during the warm months. Even the soy beans are a feasible option for feed. The leaves are safe for the rabbits and the cooked beans are are an outstanding source of protein for the chickens. While this is not likely to be something we do, as we have a small market for fresh soy beans, it is nice to know that it is an option.
Okra, roselle, and corn have been planted, and all are doing well except the corn. Germination was only about 50%. We believe that heavy rains lifted our seeds to the surface and the birds helped themselves. As a result, we will be replanting that plot. The corn that has germinated is growing beautifully. The Three Sisters method we did last year would have been even more successful if we had chosen a less vigorous bean. We are still deciding if we are using this technique this year with a different bean.
The primary variety of okra we are planting this year is Motherland okra from saved seed from our original planting of seeds from Baker Creek. These okra plants grow fast and attain very high heights. We are entertaining the idea of using these giants to train our pole beans to climb. It would be an interesting sight, to say the least. What do you think?
Roselle has been planted in the high tunnel and will soon be planted in an outdoor plot. We learned last year that it takes just a few roselle to have a nice harvest. However, since then, our tea blends have taken off! So this year we will be planting double the amount of roselle we planted last year! It will be a lot to keep up with the harvesting and dehydrating. Of this, we are well aware. It comes along with the territory.
Eggplants & peppers have been set out in the high tunnel, but only a few have been planted in the field plots. This worked to our advantage as we lost quite a few of each and needed to replant them. We think the loss was due to high temperatures directly after transplanting combined with inconsistent watering while I, farm manager, was recuperating from tendonitis. With this second planting, we were able to replant in a string of rainy over cast days. This allowed the plants to become well established and effectively cope with the high temperatures in Hoopty.
The cucumbers that were planted in Hoopty immediately took to the races! We have several right now with fruit on them. The ones in the field plot, however, are taking their sweet time. There is just something about the humidity in the high tunnel that the summer plants absolutely love!
That we have great gratitude for the rain is an understatement. The time it saves us when rain falls from above is precious. This time is able to be used for planting, weeding, inspecting, or whatever else our hands may find to do. The rain has blessed all of our March plantings. Lettuce, Choi, & Asian Greens set out on March 20th are ready for harvest today, April 24th. That is quick! We are not complaining at all. We got off schedule with our secession planting of the above as there should have been a tray of each ready to be planted as these are harvested. However, that imaginary tray remains on our to-do list. As farmers’ market season will be in full swing next month, we can not afford these kinds of slip ups ANYMORE!
Our perennials are back in full swing! We are always happy to welcome them back. Lemon Balm, Wild Bergamot, Mint, Garlic Chives, Asparagus, and all the fruit & flowers are growing ecstatically as they have been programmed to do by our Creator. Lemon Balm was previously in a raised bed, so I was very interested to see how removing the bed would affect the return. It is a tad smaller than it usually is by now. We are hoping that as the season progresses, it will continue to rebound. We have come to love our Lemon Balm teas! We have seed still, so if push comes to the worse, then we will establish another plant. Bergamot also has become a welcomed flavor. I love to sneak it into dishes and see if the family notices the change. Hubby is often the first to inquire, “Can’t quite put my tongue on that flavor. Hmm.” That’s me! Finding fun ways to tease the pallet with goodies from the garden. Soon, the Bergamot will flower, and at that time, we will begin harvesting, although I can’t promise I won’t sneak a few leaves in the meantime.
Onions are ready for harvest. We simply haven’t had the time to pull them and begin curing them. This year will not be the bumper crop that we had last year, and we are not crying about it. We expected that our first time growing our own starts from seed would have its own issues. The onions we do have ready to harvest are a mix of ones we grew from seed and ones we grew from Dixiondale Farm. It will be nice to contrast and compare the two.
Sometimes growth can happens too quick and cause issues. We women are very familiar with stretchmarks resulting from pregnancy. Thankfully our skin CAN stretch! Veggies however are not equipped for sudden growth. We’ve seen watermelon, radishes, tomatoes, and even beets crack or burst due to and influx of water causing swelling of plant to the point of no return. We had not had the pleasure of seeing this with cabbages until recently. You can view that video here.
Although there isn’t rain falling indoors, there is still much growth happening in Hoopty. We have blossoms on the tomatoes, and cucumbers are growing on their luscious green vines! This is such a welcomed sight as we have been craving these particular homegrown veggies the most during the fall and winter. To say that the store bought ones are not the same would be a huge understatement! We left plenty of space on the cucumber row for succession sowing and to plant our Basil starts. This will guarantee we have plenty of cucumbers through the season for markets as well as for preservation projects at home. It is also a nice way to conserve valuable space. As far as tomatoes go, we finally got a few set out into the field area but have a whole tray to go! The hold up is preparing a space to plant them. As you know, nearly all of our wooden raised beds have been removed due to decay. We have yet to order and install the Olle Gardens raised beds we are planning to replace them with. This means that 90% of our planting space is in Hoopty this spring. That is a little nerve-wracking when you consider the results of the heat wave from last year. Our plan to navigate any losses due to heat waves this year includes shade cloth and hoops. We are also planning on planting plenty of tomato, cucumber, and pepper plants outside of the high tunnel as well. It’s like my Mama always said, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket baby.”
We can’t speak on growth without mention of the chicks and bunnies. The chick are doing very well! They each have developed their own personalities and its becoming easier to determine the males from the females. Mama is still with them however that is about to change this week as we are giving them a run with in the larger run to protect them from the larger ones. They will be able to observe each other without being able harm the chicks. When time comes to merge them with the other flocks it will not be as if they do not know each other at all and it will be less of a shock to the chicks. Of course pecking order is just going to happen. We have learned there is no avoiding this determination of their hierarchy in the flock. We just monitor to be sure no one chick is bein abused excessively. We want to do our best to moderate any bad behavior and ensure all the girls are happy. This crew will be our Spring 2024 layers. By then they will be in the prime and ready to keep us stocked with colorful butt nuggets!
The rabbits have almost all found their forever home. Of Cher’s group four are left of nine and of Sweet Pea’s group one is left. We decided to keep the only female from Sweet Pea’s group whom we have named Calypso, after the legume… get it? She is a take charge kind of girl and knows no strangers much like her father. She is also very sweet. We look forward to watching her grow up. We are at the precarious time where the kits are old enough to begin mating so we will be separating the remaining girls from the boys very soon. We continue to have them for sale. If you are local to the Dothan area, please do reach out for more information.
Then there is Brady. Oh Brady! My fur-baby is already 30+ pounds and a huge goof ball! He fits right in! He is very smart but is not friends with the heat. He also need for good naps throughout the day to behave as he should. This means he has to be engaged mentally and physically enough to be tired enough to feel the need to recharge. He will not nap out of boredom! He will instead find mischievous ways to burn his energy. This is one thing we expected as it is well known of this breed and many other energetic breeds. We have several toys for him to play with indoors as well as out. His favorite activity now days seems to be fetch. He hasn’t quite mastered bring the ball TO YOU but he will bring the ball PAST YOU in hopes to get you to chase him. Speaking of chasing, he loves chasing the cats. They have no problem putting him in his place though if he plays too roughly. The chickens too are becoming more aware of Brady the bigger he gets. We are training on not nipping at them as he corals them back into their runs. This is a challenge because we are working against his DNA. It is our hope that with monitoring and intense training we can continue to help this sweet boy be the best dog he can be! Phase one of the fencing for the farm is almost complete! No one is more happy about that than our Brady boy.
It seems that every time we are on to a good routine there has to be some sort of setback. Many times, it is out of our control – weather or, in this case, health. Recently, I began having pain in my right foot and ankle. Those who know me know I deal with chronic health issues already, so pain is no stranger to me. In fact, pushing through the pain is also no stranger to me. That is exactly what I did for a whole week until I realized all my nursing and diy treatments were ineffective and another medical professional was needed – a doctor. I went and was diagnosed with tendonitis. It’s been a tough couple of weeks trying to heal during such a busy time on the homestead. I get the distinct feeling that this will be a reoccurring issue that surfaces from time to time. You gotta love aging!
Our nectarine tree, Rosie, had the most fruit it has ever had this year, and sadly, we ate the least fruit we have ever. A new challenger has taken the scene this season, and it ruined our harvest! I wanted to cry, but we have learned much as each season has passed from our various fruit trees. For that reason, the tears did not fall. We took to our Farming Basics app and found out that our newest nemesis is a fungus called Monilini fructicola. As it grows, it causes brown rot. It is pervasive! It causes the fruit to become mummified many times before it is even ripe. It affects peaches and plums, which are all planted next to Rosie. We have found that copper based fungicides are an organic treatment to this newest of challenges. We have also found research that says that even with copper treatment, organic farms regularly lose 75% of crops due to this fungus. No wonder there are no organic stone fruit growers in our neck of the woods! One of these years, we will get it right, hopefully while Rosie is at her prime and before the plum and peach trees are affected. At that point, there will be CNG stone fruit growing at Bain Home Gardens!
Egg and microgreens subscriptions are moving along nicely. Flower subscriptions have not yet begun as we had to post pone the start date. The date to begin that subscription for the spring session is still tba. We did have to pause for a week as I recuperated. However, we are back on track. We have the absolute best patrons! Many of them offered to come assist us on the farm to take the load off of the family. That is the definition of CSA! My heart was so full of appreciation. If you have a CSA near you, find out about their practices and see if you can support them. Your support means so much to these farms. You also increase revenue for your local economy. This year we were able to use the funds from our CSA’s to purchase OMRI Listed soil for the high tunnel. Though we were not able to buy enough for all 936 square feet, we were able to take care of more than 75%! That is a huge undertaking! So if you are supporting Bain Home Gardens in any way, subscriber or otherwise please hear us now – WE THANK YOU!
We started this blog post on April 24th. Today it is May 8th. That should tell you just how busy we have been. There is always much to do. Right now there are cabbages waiting to be fermented and Kombucha to bottled to name just a few tasks waiting on us. It makes me smile. I read some where to look around and appreciate the things you have to day that you dreamed you would have yesterday. When I do that I just say wow!
The next time you hear from us we should have attended two local farmers markets. We will update you on those then. Sending well wishes – from our family to yours!