Wild Things Farm

  (Crab Orchard, Tennessee)
Farm life adventures of the Happy Hoer
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Smart Layering

A week or so ago I was perusing the "Parade" section of our local newspaper and ran across a great article for take-it-with-you lunches that utilize a lot of fresh veggies from the garden AND provide you with a healthy lunch....here's the link:


Stay warm!


Brrrrr! Cold Chicken Toes

That's the only suitable title I could come up with for this post.  Sunday was fairly warm for January--in the upper 40's actually--then the wind blew and blew and the bottom fell out of the thermometer.  Monday and Tuesday night were both 8 degrees below zero and the high yesterday didn't get over 6---SIX!  That's not much.

Then, then.....the power went out about 3:15 yesterday.  I had a gut feeling about it so I put a pot of chili on the woodstove....



Oh, and the reason it looks so light in there is because of the camera flash.  It was really dark, but I had candles lit in my awesome scavenged wrought iron chandelier that couldn't be used electrically anymore......



It is hanging over the table in the "wining room" (the room where all of my wine is in various stages of fermentation) formerly known as the dining room.   It's actually part of the "great room" so the candles worked great.  Who actually uses a dining room that much anyway....

After staring at the fire, chunking wood, reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" with my tiny flashlight, and eating a bowl of pretty darn good chili,  the power came on--just about 5 hours after it went off.  I've lived off the grid before and really, I like a little electricity.  I don't use my clothes dryer, don't have tv, I heat with wood, am stingy with hot water.....but I do like electric lights...oh, and the computer :-)

Today I had to get outside.  The temp had gotten up to 30 so it was time for an excursion to the high tunnels to see how the veggies had held up to the brutal temps.  Lettuce, chard, spinach and kale all did well.  The broccoli raab and arugula succumbed to the bitter cold--BUT they were sort of on their way out anyway so it's not a big deal.

When I went to the empire of the Happy Hens yesterday to water and feed, I saw blood in the snow around the water and feed pans.  Oh no!  Not blood.....not now!  I looked at chicken toes until I found the problem.  One of the hens had broken a toenail into the quick and it was bleeding pretty profusely.    I gathered her up under my arm and headed to the house to the first aid kit.   I told her to not tell the others that she had actually been in "the house".  I grabbed some gauze and peroxide but couldn't find any adhesive tape, so here we go to the shop.  She behaved fairly well and didn't try to attack me or anything.   I was able to clip off the damaged part, pour peroxide over it a couple of times, then bandage it with a gauze pad and------electrical tape.  Maybe it will stay on long enough to heal a little.  Even  a small problem seems amplified in bitterly cold weather.

This morning when I went to water and feed and collect the frozen eggs I saw no blood and I didn't see a bandage on any chicken toes, so maybe all is well.   Their feet do look awfully cold in this weather though.

A lot of the country is experiencing this brutal cold front called, what, "Ion" or something like that?  Stay warm and pore over the seed catalogs.....spring will be here before we know it!



New Year, New Season

Time just keeps marching on--well, it seems more like jogging nowadays.  It's really hard to believe it's time to be starting some of the seedlings for this next season in just a COUPLE OF WEEKS!

One of the things most exciting about gardening for a living is looking forward to next season.  Each year notes are made all summer long about what worked, what didn't, which areas of the garden grew certain crops and so on.   The next year all those notes are checked and re-checked and guess what?  Mother Nature changes the rules!!!!  Keeps us on our toes and gives us something to talk about at the market.

Plans are to fence in several of the gardens this year to keep deer out once and for all because the resident Catahoula Hattie doesn't get much sleep at night from having to bark at them so much :-)

The 2014 season will be the 7th season for the CSA.  There will be 20 shares available; 10 for the Fairfield Glade Wednesday delivery, 5 for the Friday farm pickup and 5 for the Knoxville Sunday delivery.  If you've been thinking about joining the farm you better do it quickly because after "the first of the year" is when it fills up each year.   I do attend the Wednesday Farmer's Market at Fairfield Glade, but the CSA members get first choice and I don't grow everything for market that is grown for the members.

Why join the CSA?  Well, if you're one to procrastinate and don't make it to the market, you'll not have fresh, organically grown produce to fuel your body with.  The members are really good about sharing recipes that they've tried and I'll pass them along during the season as well as share recipes that I find to share.  There are always a few veggies that are grown that are hopefully something new and I will share how to prepare them with the members as well.

Belonging to a CSA assures you that you will have fresh, organic produce each week to prepare food that our bodies are meant to consume rather than the processed, sugar-infused crap we find lining the grocery store shelves.  Oops, sorry for that little jump onto my soapbox (but it's true).  Oh, I'm not free of guilt--I love crackers with my soup and chili and I'm a self-proclaimed chocoholic BUT I do eat lots of veggies from the farm gardens.

Being a CSA member is almost like having your own garden but you don't have to worry with the pests, drought, weeds, and back-breaking work---that's the farmer's job!

This year's prices are $520 for Fairfield Glade and farm pickup full share ($310 for half share) and $620 for Sunday Knoxville delivery ($360 for half share), and the season runs for 20 weeks from early May to September.  For share sizes and more details check out the farm listing on this website.

Do you know your farmer?   You should.


Twas the Week Before Christmas

And all around the farm, the creatures were stirring....







Really looking for something to harm......did you think I was going through that whole poem?  Really........

Today was one of those wintertime treats!  Sunny....mid 40's at some point during the day.  It's funny how 50, cloudy and breezy is intolerable but 33 and sunny calm is great!

One of the projects on my "to do" list for the winter is to mulch around the blackberries and blueberries and I got started on that yesterday......



I know, I know, the black leaf holders are kind of ugly, but they do keep the leaves from blowing around until they are put in their place.  I'm using layers of newspaper around the bushes then lots of leaves to keep the weeds down.  I do have lots of leaves....



I LOVE my leaves!



Each season, John, Dear (that would be my tractor) and I spread a thick layer of leaves over every inch of garden space, in the chicken pens, and wherever I want new garden ground.  I did get the orchard completely mulched last week as well---yay!



One thing I'm experimenting with this year is planting seedlings in the high tunnel throughout the winter season.  Most of the crops in high tunnels are planted in late September/early October but in the hurry of getting another high tunnel built this year and all the other chores I have around the farm, the big high tunnel wasn't completely planted before cold weather set in.  I'm experimenting to see if everything doesn't need to be planted at the same time.  So far I've planted endive, yellow and scarlet mustard, braising mix, assorted varieties of lettuce, sorrel, and kale.  The first test plot was planted about 3 weeks ago and I've harvested a few greens from them.  Today I planted another 5 flats of seedlings and we'll see how they do.   True, things do grow slower this time of year, but they do still grow!  I say hopefully next year I'll have time to get everything in earlier :-)

Okay, now scroll back up to the first pictures.  The kittens follow me into the high tunnels and catch and eat grasshoppers!  I don't know how to reward a cat, but I make a big deal when they catch one.

(2nd pic) Hattie the Catahoula dug in that bed for hours--then she came up with a mouse!  I was so proud--that's one I won't have to deal with :-)  Notice one of the Happy Hens had made her way up to the bed.....see next pic....

The chickens were in their pen and I was in the back garden spreading leaves.  This garden is really close to their pen, and they were following me up and down the fence.  I got to thinking--hmmm what is there to keep them in the pen?  Just a fence--no gardens to scratch up and destroy, so I let them loose.  They had a ball!  I think I'll let them out again tomorrow...it's supposed to be pretty here again (yay).

Until next time.....


Open Farm Day at Wild Things

The weather couldn't have been better for today's Open Farm.  Although I've hosted several Open Farm days for the CSA members, this one was for both members and customers of the "Organical Veggie List".  Visitors got to pet Hattie and Lucy (the dogs), love on Smoky and Bandit (the cats) and we were mildly entertained by the Happy Hens.

Unfortunately my camera is still laying on the counter in the kitchen, untouched during the days' festivities.   Just imagine the fresh greens in the high tunnels, gorgeous blue skies, Christmas lights in the house......there, you can see it.

Several tie-dye shirts found new homes, I have a feeling that many tubes of soothing lip balm are going to be in stockings this year, as will the awesome handmade soap bars that flew out the door!

The real reason for this communication is to pass along recipes for some of the snacks that folks asked for.  The spinach balls were a big hit and they would be well served in a bun warmer to keep them warm while on the table.  This recipe is from a cookbook from a Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs cookbook, sponsored by Historic Racheff House and Gardens.  I got suckered....uh....persuaded to buy the book when I was Pres of the Fairfield Glade Garden Club.  It's actually a pretty good book.  Here's the recipe:

Spinach Balls

2 (10 oz) pkgs frozen spinach
2 medium onions (1 cup finely chopped)
2-2-1/2 cups stuffing mix
6 medium eggs (I used Fresh Eggs from the Happy Hens)
3/4 cup melted margarine (I used butter)
1-1/2 tsp thyme
1-1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder or 1 large garlic clove, crushed

Cook spinach and drain well.  Use paper towels to help dry spinach.  (I pressed it into a sieve to get all the liquid out.)  Combine all ingredients and mix well--I used my mixer.  Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight.  Form into about 1 inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet.  Bake in 350 degree oven for app 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  After baking, balls may be frozen and reheated in oven at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes.

The next favorite recipe was from the same cookbook and this one came from Moira Kay, WBIR TV co-anchor.

Sweet Vidalia Onion Cheese Dip

2 lg Vidalia or sweet onions, chopped (I used sweet onions)
1 cup reduced fat mayonnaise (I used regular)
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1-1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Grease baking dish.  Preheat oven to 375.  Mix onions, mayonnaise, cheese and Worcestershire sauce.  Turn into baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.  Serve warm with crackers or chips (I used tortilla chips).  I kept the dish on the stove eye on low while everyone dipped and munched, but my stove is very handy to the traffic pattern in the kitchen.  A hot plate would work well also, but it needs to be served hot.

Lastly, is the homemade pimento cheese.  I had clipped this recipe from a Southern Living magazine several years ago.  It's called:

Our Favorite Pimento Cheese

Make the mayo mixture:  In a large bowl stir together 1-1/2 cups mayonnaise, 1 (4 oz) jar pimentos, well drained, 1 tsp worcestershire sauce, 1tsp finely grated onion, and 1/4 tsp ground red pepper.    Mix well.

Toast the pecans (I used walnuts):  Toasting brings out the rich flavor of the nuts.  Preheat oven to 350.  Bake 1 cup nuts in a single layer in a shallow pan for 8-10 minutes or until tasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Shred the cheese:  Using the small side of a box grater, grate 8 ounces of extra sharp cheddar.  Then use the large side of the grater to grate an 8 ounce block of sharp cheddar.  (I cheated and used packaged shredded, but "they" say that fresh shredded really makes a difference.  I'll try that next time.)

Stir together and enjoy.  It may be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week.

No one asked for the recipe for the M&M's or Nutter-Butters, but then I don't think anyone tried them either :-)  That's all for now--I'm going to put my feet up for a while!


Preparing for Winter

The weather prognosticators are calling for really cold weather tomorrow night--first really "hard freeze" of the year, although my thermometer read 24 degrees last night.  So that means removing the irrigation pump from the pond and subsequently draining the lines that feed all the different garden areas and the drip irrigation spiderweb that is in place in the gardens.  Done!

Next is to install all the wire hoops over the beds in the high tunnels to protect the winter crops inside the high tunnels.   The second layer of protection inside the tunnels really makes a difference..

rowcoversinhightunnel11.13This is a shot inside the larger high tunnel which is 20x96.  This tunnel has lettuce, kale, braising mix, spinach, broccoli raab, endive, mustard, radiccio, and a few other greens. The newer tunnel is 12x80 and is protecting spinach, swiss chard, arugula and broccoli raab.  Oh, and both tunnels have a row of strawberries on each of the outer walls.  Strawberries outside in this area (on this farm, anyway) are "iffy" during late frosts and freezes in the spring so I'm trying them inside each tunnel.  So far I've been able to eat strawberries with my yogurt about 3 days a week.  We'll see how they do on a production scale next spring.

On Saturday I opened the bee hive and on top of the frames of the top box I placed 2 layers of newspaper, cut a hole in the middle, then poured about 3-1/2 pounds of white sugar on the paper.  The sugar was then spritzed with water to "crust" over.  Several of my beekeeping buddies have said they are going to put a solid bottom board in over the winter because they are thinking that we will have a colder-than-normal winter--so, I decided to do the same.  I cut a piece of 1/4" insulation and covered the bottom board just after I put the sugar on, then I went about my chores.

It was a beautiful Saturday, low 60's and sunshine.  About 30 minutes after tending to the bees I noticed A LOT of bees around the entrance and a few of them on the front starting to "beard"--okay, maybe it was too warm to install the bottom board on Saturday.  I moved it back about halfway and a few minutes later all was back to normal.  It's okay to deal with one or a few hives in this manner but you sure couldn't do this with more than a few!  I've got a lot to learn about beekeeping :-)

Wintertime around here also means doing indoor things and that includes soap making.  I LOVE patchouli scent and bought a couple of patchouli plants this past summer.  They are in pots in the house and doing well.  I've been collecting leaves from them to make an oil infusion and finally gathered enough to actually get it done.  I used sunflower oil as the base oil (it's cheap and effective for this purpose).  I stuffed a pint jar full of dried patchouli leaves then filled it with sunflower oil.  Heat a pan of water to boiling, remove from the heat and set the jar of oil and leaves into the pot of water and let it cool.  Put a lid on the mixture and shake it up every time you walk by it for a few months.



This is my first time doing this, so I'll report back as the experiment progresses.

Another project on the farm is that the chimney for the woodstove is in progress--YAY!  Hopefully it will be ready to use by Christmas--I'm excited!



I plan on stuccoing the block since it's on the back of the house and not visible unless you walk all the way around to the back of the house.  Building the scaffold is just about as tedious as the block work.

Another winter project around here is winterizing the gardens.  The front bluff garden was in pretty good shape but there were 3 beds of overgrown lettuce, pepper plants, and a few ugly cabbages in addition to a few weeds.

I moved the electric poultry fence around this garden since it's adjacent to the chicken pen anyway.  The girls went nuts!



Now that they've gotten that garden cleared out they'll be moved to the pond garden next--I appreciate all the help I can get :-)



Winemaking and Rainbows

This is about Week 6 of my winemaking adventure.  So far I've got Pear Wine, the first batch started, Blackberry, Strawberry, Raspberry Jam, and today a batch of Muscadine was mixed in the fermenting crock.  Everything seems to be going okay so far.......(the taste test will tell in the end).



The big carboy is the pear wine and the others are in gallon jugs.  Sometimes there is too much "must" to fit into a gallon jug so that's where the smaller bottles with balloons on them come into use.

I picked up a quart of pure Muscadine juice at the grocery store the other day so I've got that brewing in the fermenting crock in the pantry where the freezer keeps the temp just a little warmer than the house if I leave the door closed.

Now for the rainbow.....this fall has been great weather-wise; mild temps, bright sunshiny days....but the leaves just sort of turned color really quick then fell off.  A cold front moved through today which caused things like some wind, lots of clouds blowing around, and bright sunshine and rain at the same time, in the late afternoon.  You know, the perfect setup for a rainbow



I didn't notice while I was taking the picture, but it almost looks like there are two rainbows there, doesn't it?


A little more protein than I bargained for

Yesterday morning, instead of the usual yogurt, fruit, and granola, I opted for a fresh pear that I picked from a friend of a friend of a friend....well, somebody's tree, and a piece of Friendship Bread with cream cheese on top--a little indulgence to break the routine.  Okay, I was out of granola.

I lightly toasted the bread, shmeared (yes, that's "sh"meared) the cream cheese, cut up the pear and sat down to enjoy a light breakfast.  I finished the bread first, and got to the last slice of pear....took a bite.....and there was a worm pulling itself back into the center of the slice.......



See it there in the lower right hand part of the plate--I put an arrow next to it (I think it's an arrow, anyway).

I'm glad it was a whole worm.


Little Miss Muffett

I know why the spider frightened Miss Muffett away....it was probably a Black Widow.

Today was one of those "piddling" days where there are some things on the to-do list but nothing really pressing (finally!)  I had gone to the big high tunnel to remove unneeded items for the winter season and store them where they are supposed to be stored--flower pots, a stray gourd, a sprayer, and a sprayer box with attachments inside.  The box had been flattened during its abuse this summer, being tossed around out of the way of summer harvesting.

I took all the "stuff" to the shop to sort out and properly store.  I opened the sprayer box and noticed that the owner's manual brochure, warranty card, and plastic bag with spray tips were all glued inside the box with spider webs, including about 2 dozen acorns and some leaves.  I swiped it all out with my hand (bare, no less) and cleaned off the book and other items and put them away.  I had thrown the box down in the floor of the seed starting greenhouse and when I walked back out there, this is what I saw:


The spider is just to the right of the peanut butter lid.  I know it doesn't look like much here, but in real life it weighed 2 pounds!  Well, it WAS about 1-1/4" from tip-to-tip.  I was REALLY, REALLY close...can't you tell?

And I was lucky she didn't bite me while I was sweeping her house clean with my hand!

P.S.  The peanut butter jar lid is what I used to trap her while I ran to get the camera.

P.S. again.....she's a lot smaller now.


The last of the fresh tomatoes

Although I'm always ready for the intense labor of the gardening season to subside, I'm never ready for fresh tomatoes to end.  Yesterday I made a scrambled egg/pepper jack cheese sandwich with 2 slices of a very ripe, juicy, Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato.  There was a bit of it left, just begging to go.......

cherokeepurplewebsizeOh my!  I call that an "oralgasm"!



Mirror, mirror


Mirror, mirror, in the pen

Tell me who's the prettiest hen?


A Tale of two Kitties

This past year has been a banner year for the rodent population.  Both in the small seed-starting (aka "flower house";) and around the Empire of the Happy Hens.  I corralled one into Hattie's pathway the other day and I give her credit for the "kill".....but I'm not always around to find them for her :-)

hattieandfreshkillwebSo, I put the word out that I was looking for a couple of cats, actually kittens, to help keep the rodents under control.  I know, I know, domestic cats are going to take over the world, but I'll let them start their war here on the farm.  My boyfriend came by one afternoon and asked me if I had seen that little kitten up at the mailbox.  I told him no, and as soon as he left I went up there and looked around--nothing.  My neighbor did pull up while I was walking around up at the road so I went over to visit with him for a little while since it had been a long time since we chatted.

I told him I was looking for a kitten and he said he'd bring it to me if he saw it later.  About 30 minutes after I got home he came carrying up two tiny kittens--one a smoky grey and the other one the proverbial black and grey striped cat, both females.

smokeyinhoneysucklewebbanditonhandrailwebWell, they played and pooped around (mostly on the porch uggh!) for about three weeks and one day I was backing my car out and, well, Smoky is gone.  Bandit was lonely.  I went to the flea market the next Saturday and one of the first things I saw was a cage with two gorgeous grey "Smoky" colored kittens with a sign that said "Free Kittens".  They were friendly, so I took one of them home.


First greetings with everyone didn't go so smoothly.  I decided to call her Smoky because Smoky and Bandit go together and she is the perfect color.  Anyway, when I put her down on the porch, Bandit and Smoky both said "Hhhhhhhhhi" to each other, in a gutteral sort of way, and Smoky hid under a pile of rhododendron on the back porch for about 2 weeks.  I had just gotten Bandit to go poop in the yard, and here we go again.  Smokey started pooping in the sawdust pile underneath the table saw in my makeshift wood working area on the back porch.  She has since started going out in the yard.

Ever so slowly she began to come out for longer periods of time.....until this morning I saw this out the front door.....

nursingkittieswebsizeOMG (that's oh my gosh)!  Lucy is letting BOTH kittens nurse--she's not had puppies in years!

Well, I guess the kitties are welcome in doggie world.





Where do you fit in?

Over the past several years I've fed my passion for self-sufficiency by reading lots and lots of how-to, gardening, self-sufficiency, organic, and permaculture books.  Supplementing the bookreading with great videos on YouTube, magazine subscriptions, and workshops when available.

A question came up recently and I'm sorry I don't remember exactly where I saw it, but the question still burns in my mind:  "Are you a part of the problem or the solution?"  I asked my oldest son that question and of course he said "what's the problem?"   I responded "When asked that sort of question, what would you think the problem is?"  He started thinking.....and he actually came up with the correct question.

I challenge you to ask yourself this question during your daily routine....when you throw away a perfectly recyclable aluminum can or glass bottle rather than recycling it, are you part of the problem or the solution?  When you run your clothes washer and/or dryer and/or dishwasher with just a few items in it are you part of the problem or the solution?

I know everyone has their opinions about global warming, but as a farmer I live right in the weather and work with the seasons and each year it becomes more challenging.  I call it "global weirding" and am really ashamed at the mess my generation and the generations before me are leaving this planet for our kids and grandkids.  I don't know for sure, but I'd say that sucking all the oil out of the earth is like disabling part of our cooling system, as well as paving the surface so it can't breathe--

One person can change the world, but only if they practice what they preach and teach others to do the same.  It's an overwhelming job, but lots of somebodies have got to do it.

So, are you part of the problem or the solution?


Combining the hives

So, I started out this year with three hives.  I painstakingly woodburned the names "Virgo", "Taurus", and "Aquarius" on the fronts of the hives so the bees would know which one to go into--well, maybe not for them, but for me.

I'm a Virgo, my boyfriend is a Taurus, and I just like the name Aquarius.  I always start singing that song......

Back to the story.  I believe the last time I reported on the hives there was no queen in one of them and it's kind of late in the season to introduce a new queen, so I was advised by fellow beekeepers to combine the two hives.  To combine a hive you take the top and inner cover off the queenright hive, place a sheet of newspaper over the top box, then set the queenless hive on top.  The bees eat through the paper to get out and then they come back to the same hive.  It gives the bottom hive more workers to do bee things like collect pollen and nectar, drag out dead bees, and so forth.

They really do eat the paper, see?



I'll have to watch for little black and white bee poops around the yard.

So, what's the name of this hive?  I'm calling it Virtaurius.


The honeymoon is over


This has been a roller coaster year both for gardening AND beekeeping.  Of all the years I could have started beekeeping, I picked "the worst beekeeping year" (according to several fellow beekeepers) in a long time to begin.  By July we had just short of 9 inches of our average yearly rainfall.  This translates into rotting crops, washed out nectar and pollen, and wet bees.

The excitement began last summer, attending meetings, wondering what the heck everyone was talking about in "bee lingo", then last winter building the hives was fun, and waiting on the bees to arrive--like an expectant mother!

Three packages arrived, one absconded (that's one of those beekeeping terms that means "they got the h**** out of here";) on the third day of their residence.  Okay, I have two hives.  Sometime in July one of them swarmed.  Everything I read said that bees don't swarm their first year......I DIDN'T READ THE BOOK TO THE BEES---darn!

When I realized that one hive had swarmed I looked at the other hive and they had no queen, no brood, no eggs.  A couple of weeks later the hive that swarmed had eggs and brood and obviously a queen that I didn't see, but the other hive was still egg-brood-and queenless.

Advice from several veteran beekeepers was to combine the hives since it's so late in the year.  Take off the cover and inner lid of the queen-right colony, put a sheet of newspaper over the top (no bad news please) and place the queenless hive on top.  Supposedly the bees will eat their way through the newspaper, walk through the hive and fly out the front entrance and come back in the same way.

We'll see.  After feeding them all summer, getting stung about 20 or so times, and I haven't even added up how much money I've spent, I think I should have adopted a kid instead.

P.S.  Whatever a beekeeper wants to charge for his honey, don't complain :-)

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