Wild Things Farm

  (Crab Orchard, Tennessee)
Farm life adventures of the Happy Hoer
[ Member listing ]


I'm sure that some of you have heard this term by now.  In a nutshell, it's recycling, reducing waste, organic gardening, and being frugal.  Pretty much the way our grandparents lived and the way we should be living.  That's the concept I've been living by here on the farm, and I've been encouraging others to live this way as well.

We all need to know more about life and how everything is intertwined.  The more we know, the better off we'll be, because the more we know, the more we will want to be in tune with nature.  The more in tune with nature that we are, the better off everyone will be.

The other day I received an e-mail from a permaculture site that I subscribe to and I've listened to this song--oh maybe 75 times in the last two weeks!  It's my new favorite song.  It's really good....listen...and the video that goes with it is pretty good too, but I REALLY love the song.  Hope you enjoy it too!





I'm sure that some of you have heard this term by now.  In a nutshell, it's recycling, reducing waste, organic gardening, and being frugal.  Pretty much the way our grandparents lived and the way we should be living.  That's the concept I've been living by here on the farm, and I've been encouraging others to live this way as well.

We all need to know more about life and how everything is intertwined.  The more we know, the better off we'll be, because the more we know, the more we will want to be in tune with nature.  The more in tune with nature that we are, the better off everyone will be.

The other day I received an e-mail from a permaculture site that I subscribe to and I've listened to this song--oh maybe 75 times in the last two weeks!  It's my new favorite song.  It's really good....listen...and the video that goes with it is pretty good too, but I REALLY love the song.  Hope you enjoy it too!





So, what's new?

I was asked the question yesterday "So what are you growing that's new this year?"  I stumbled and stammered around with a few crops and realized that there are so many crops that are grown on the farm, I couldn't really come up with the entire list right off the top of my head.    So many hours have been spent this winter perusing the seed catalogs and websites that by the time the seeds are ordered, the varieties don't seem "new" anymore.  Kind of like when you work at a day job and you spend the last few months of the year worrying with the budget for the next year---by the time the new year rolls around you're so used to using the next year's date that it isn't hard to switch from current year to next year.....okay enough of that.

New varieties for this year:  a few new tomatoes in addition to the large variety of heirlooms that are saved and grown from year-to-year:  Moskvich Heirloom, Valley Girl, Big Beef, and Nepal.    

Last year I grew one package of horticultural beans (beans that you shell) and they were called Tongue of Fire--very tasty.  I saved seeds from those to grow this season and I found another variety called Taylor Strain Italian Shell which will be planted this year as well.    Along with the Partridge Head beans, Haricot Verts, Roma II and Blue Lakes, we should have a good variety of beans throughout the season.

Sweet Granite won the selection for a new melon to grow this year, and "Winner" Kohlrabi was the winner in the kohlrabi category :-)

An amazing variety of lettuces have been selected to provide greens throughout most of the season.  These include Mottistone, Tropicana, Summertime, Reine Des Glaces, Dark Red Lollo Rossa, Panisse, Allstar Gourmet Mix, Cherokee, Red Rosie........ in addition to the greens that are grown to be added to the lettuce mixes.....YUM! I can hardly wait.

Kale seeds have been hard to get this year, with several seed crop failures and sold outs--a combination of "last year was a crappy growing year everywhere in the US" plus the amount of press coverage kale received last year about how healthy it is.  A variety called "Afro" caught my eye, as it has the frilly leaves that are fun to eat (yes, I said fun to eat).    I'll probably grow another variety or two as well, IF I can find more seed.

All the seeds that I order online have been ordered.  I buy all the seed that I can from local sources, and my favorite is the Crossville Garden Center.  They are building a new building this year and it looks AWESOME!  I can't wait until they open........

I'm so tired of being cold.........



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.


Okra and Grits

Okay, what comes to mind when you hear the words "okra" and "grits".  Why, the South, of course!  Many of the Wild Things Farm CSA members are transplanted Northerners, so on the "Veggie Rating List" each season, okra is one of the most noted veggies on the "Do Not Want" list.  One year a lady told me she didn't even want okra to touch her box!  Hmmmmmm.  Maybe it is an acquired taste, but I LOVE okra.

It's very pretty too, a member of the hibiscus family:



I really don't mind if some folks don't like it.  That means more for me :-)

Grits--that's another probably acquired taste, but I love grits as well.  A "health blog" (shall remain nameless) the other day mentioned 10 foods that you should never eat; grits was on the list.  Needless to say there were several negative comments regarding the author's choice of foods.  Some of them like refined sugar, were valid, but some were kind of "eh", not that unhealthy in the amounts a normal person would consume.

Anyway, my ramblings bring me to the subject of polenta.  I only heard of polenta about 9 years ago on a camping trip to Ossabaw Island (NC).  One of the campers had brought polenta in a plastic tube that you just slice off and fry up in the pan.  Hmmmm, cold grits in a tube.  How interesting.

Then I started looking in the stores.  Seems like polenta was a trendy sort of food.  I found a recipe and made my own--it is very good, and sort of like pasta or rice, a good neutral base for all sorts of yummy toppings.  I even did a blog about polenta several years ago.  http://www.wildthingscsafarm.com/blog/2010/01/22/playing-with-polenta

A few days ago I was discussing food trends with my mom and dad, and my dad, who turned 80 this year, said his mother used to make polenta when he was a kid--huh?  I asked him what she put on top and he said whatever was in the fridge that needed to be eaten.

There really is nothing new under the sun, now is there?


Open Farm day at Wild Things

I tried to capture the essence of the day in photos, but of course parts of it are blank :-)

Started out finishing up four CSA boxes for pickup today and the lettuce is still doing great



Some of the varieties are starting to bolt and taste bitter, but there is a new bed of seeds germinating, a bed of transplants, and several flats of plants ready to transplant in a couple of weeks, so we should be good on lettuce for a while longer.  One of the advantages of living "in a holler" is that it's cooler here so crops like lettuce, kale, and chard will continue to grow during the summer (most of the time).

Today was Open Farm day for the CSA members.  Several families were off on vacation and the threat for rain was REAL, like it thundered all around most of the time we were outside, but the rain held off.  One of the members and I set up a croquet court thinking maybe someone might play, but it was just too hot and humid to play.  BTW I found the croquet set at a yard sale for $3.00.  It was missing the red ball, which has been replaced, and today we discovered that one of the stakes and 2 wickets are missing--oh well, those are easily substituted.

Back to the farm.....we had good eats.  I love it when you say "pot luck" with no rules--well, the only rule I had was it had to be finger food and we cheated a little by scooping the beet and pea salad with chips, but all the food was great and the CSA members got to meet and visit with each other AND see where their food comes from.

inorchardWe worked our way from the house, through the orchard, down to the high tunnel



where I explained how the peppers are doing really well and the tomatoes are doing really crappy--well, tomatoes are doing crappy everywhere from what I here.  The awesome organic salad tomatoes are starting to make a showing though.....

The chickens showed everyone how much they love their new "chunnel" for "chunnelling" back and forth between their portable yard and their happy hen empire


and one of the members was explaining about how large the rose hips are on the rosa rugosa shrubs in the new border along the walkway to the chicken area.

Future plans are for an arbor to support the kiwi vines I purchased very very early in the spring.  I read somewhere that it is best to leave them in the pots the first year until they become established.  They were purchased from one of those catalogs where you can buy 10 plants and get 10 more for a penny or something like that.  Four female and one male plants made it to my place and are doing great in their gallon pots.  It will be in the area between the two beds in the photo below.....



I also explained to the group how I'm slowing killing all the lawn area in the yard by mulching with newspapers, cardboard, compost, rotating the chickens through an area for a time, and using bagged leaves from the enormous leaf pile.  I have sprayed a few really weedy areas prior to mulching, but I'd rather experiment more with sheet mulching and leave the spray for the fence rows.  So far I've planted rugosa roses, raspberries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and Echium vulgare (bee plant) in these newly created beds.  Everything is doing really well, so I'm slowly expanding "the kill zone". 

One thing that we did collectively do was everyone brought a coffee cup or plastic drink cup to use  today and then leave them at the farm.  I'm going to keep the cups in a "party box" to use instead of throwaway cups.  We'll get to the plates next . 

All in all it was a great day.  As you can see, the dogs Hattie and Lucy are in most of the photos, and the newly rescued kitty cats "Smokey" and "Bandit" got their share of attention as well!


It's fun to share this little corner of the world with folks that appreciate knowing where their food comes from!  And thanks, Kim for being the photographer :-)


Another great raw kale salad

It's been a few days since I've taken time to post any news....rain, rain, rain.  We've already had as much rain as we usually do in an entire year.  That means several crops have drowned, weeds are thriving, and us farmers are busy trying to salvage the season.

One crop that has been a staple in the CSA boxes so far has been kale, and it has been really yummy.  I've tried cooking it several different ways and it's okay, but I personally prefer it raw (if it's young).  Tonight was another late night and I was craving something fresh and green, so I harvested a big handful of kale.  After rinsing it,  pulling out the stems and tearing it into bite sized pieces, I went scrounging in the kitchen.  

In the fridge there was some rice left from a night or so ago, and I had cilantro, tomato, onion, added some garlic scapes that were in the fridge as well, some roasted garlic cloves, a couple spoonfuls of corn relish, a handful of pickled pepper rings, and a can of black beans.   I splashed some extra-extra virgin olive oil (unfiltered) and a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar.  I tossed it all together and YUM!  Yet another tasty way to eat kale RAW!

I got a new camera and it has a setting on it called "food".  This is what "kale kitchen sink" salad looks like on my new camera setting "food"......



I also rescued two kittens from the road today but that will be another post--- :-)


Kale Pesto

Years ago I remember finding a recipe for fresh pesto--using basil.  I made it and served it as a side dish for supper--the kids were small and both they and their father tasted it and said "YUK".  How did I know it was supposed to be spread on bread or served with pasta?

Last week one of the farm members asked if there was kale in the box when she picked her share up.  I told her yes, and then asked if she didn't want it.  (there's lot of greens early in the year)...she said "oh yes, I do want it.  A friend was telling me about a kale pesto that she made".

Kale pesto, hmmmmm.  I can't stand the texture of cooked greens so any way to get them in a palatable condition, raw, is interesting to me.  Plus, all the vitamins and minerals stay intact when a veggie is raw.  I perused the myriad of recipe sites on the net and came up with one that I thought I could work with, as I never have all the ingredients in a recipe "on-the-fly".  Here's the link to the original recipe:


First off I have one of those really small food processors so I had to really cram the leaves in there.  3 cups of kale were added instead of 5, and just about 1/2 cup basil leaves.  A generous handful of walnuts and 5 cloves of garlic were added to the mix.  Once all that started moving around in the processor, I drizzled in some unfiltered olive oil until it was the consistency to spread then added salt to taste.

The pesto was spread on cornbread fritters that accompanied a bowl of small red beans with sweet pepper relish on the side.



Why George Washington cut down the cherry tree

A few days ago I was performing weed control behind the high tunnel (aka mowing with the tractor).  A creek runs along behind the high tunnel and while backing the mower out over the edge of the creek to reduce the area of snake habitat, I spied several cherry trees that had lots of bright red, voluptuous cherries on them.....




So tempting.....so, so, over the creek!



I did temporarily lose my sanity and turn the tractor around to see just how close the bucket would get to the tree, BUT I regained my sanity when I compared the cost of a broken bone or wrecked tractor to the cost of a container of fresh cherries in the store.  The birds are enjoying a cherry feast.

I believe George just cut the darned thing down and ate the cherries himself.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!


Seed starting tips

This post could also be called "well duh!"

A friend gave me some seed starting flats that have tiny cells in them, maybe 1/2" square or so, and there are probably close to 400 cells in the flat (I haven't counted them but there's a LOT)  I filled them with soil and started trying to drop seeds on the soil and they were bouncing everywhere.  Then a light bulb went off--I put an empty one over top of the one I was trying to seed, dropped a seed into each cell and voila!  They fell right in the center of the soil-filled cell underneath. 

I'm sure someone else has come up with this trick, or one better, but it sure made seeding the flat of broccoli raab much easier for me! 


WHAT are you putting in your MOUTH!

OK, it's that time of year, when a lot of us make new year's resolutions and attempt to improve something about our lives.  The way I look at it is that we have "tomorrow" to improve, or "next week" to start something new--maybe "first of next month"--oh what the heck--new year's-----"I'll start taking control of what goes in my mouth".

 It's a real comfort knowing where your food comes from.  I was with my best friend at the grocery store the other day and I couldn't believe how stressful it was trying to decide which of the produce to encourage her to buy....the conventional spinach was--well, YUK!  not fresh...the organic wasn't much better and I thanked my lucky stars that I don't have to worry about where my produce comes from.  (If I had known she needed spinach I would have brought her some <img src=)" title=":))" />

Now's the time to decide how you want to nourish your body this year--join a local CSA and know where your food comes from, go to the farmer's market and get local produce (ask if it's organic) or continue to paddle along with convenience foods whether frozen or canned.  It's your choice.  Our bodies are using what we put in them to build new cells every day.  Junk in--junk out, as the old saying goes.  

I went to an "open house" yesterday at the home of one of the farm members.  They had prepared salad using greens from the high tunnel and they were really excited to share that information with the guests at their party.  It was exciting to me to be eating veggies that were grown on my farm but prepared by someone else--I knew where those veggies came from.   I know everyone isn't to that point in their consumption of food, but it's a really good feeling, and if you can't grow your own veggies, belonging to a CSA is a good foundation to taking control of your diet.


Creamy Garden Vegetable Soup with Tomato Salad

So right about now the fridge is getting overrun with fresh veggies.  It's hard to keep up with them this time of year.  We had much needed rain all day yesterday and other than having to pick squash and dig potatoes in the rain, it was rather enjoyable.

I decided to try out a creamy fresh vegetable soup.  It actually turned out to be very tasty and was relatively easy to prepare.  Here's the recipe (it's a loose one, okay?)

Peel and slice about 3 carrots

Peel and cut 3 or 4 potatoes into 1" chunks

I used about 6" of a Daikon radish, peeled and 1" chunks

1 kohlrabi peeled and cut into about 1/2" chunks

Roma green beans, stem end broken off, sliced lenthwise about 3 times then crosswise to make "French Style" beans

Cover all these with water and simmer slowly until tender.  You might need to drain a little liquid off at this point but save it in case you need to add some back.

Salt and pepper, parsley, and a can of cream of celery soup.  I let this cook a while then added garlic powder, a dash of cayenne pepper and a package of frozen corn from last year.  Then I added a handful of peas I had frozen earlier in the season.  I stirred the pot vigorously to kind of "puree" the potatoes a little to make the soup creamy.

At this point I would have added some cream to thicken the soup a little, (if I had any) but a big dollop of whipped cream cheese was the best I could do.  Stir the cream cheese or cream into the soup and let it thicken a little.


For a side dish I prepared a tomato/rice salad.  There was a bowl of leftover wild rice in the fridge so I took about 1/2 cup of that, chopped one tomato, 1/2 of one of the long Diva cucumbers growing so prolifically right now, a generous sprinkling of fresh basil, some chopped onion, minced garlic, then drizzled with lemon juice and a little unfiltered olive oil, salt and pepper, and tossed well.


The best part of both of these recipes are that they use fresh ingredients that are pouring in from the garden right now, and that's why we garden (or belong to a CSA), right?


M - I - C - K - E - Y

T - o - m - a - to


Well, what else am I supposed to do in the sweltering heat while picking produce?


Breaking Traditions

Everyone knows what traditions are.  Families have traditions at holidays, and there are certain ways that you're just supposed to do things. 

Well, this year I broke a tradition that I've had for I can't remember how many years--I think as long as I've been gardening.  Every year since I can remember, I've waited until the tomato plants were really too large to stake or cage.  I know there are others out there who are guilty, and you know too :).  It's not a really bad crime, it just breaks a few stems and plants and in the really bad years, really small tomatoes fall off....but anyway, this year I got ahead.  The fence posts got driven, the wires pulled, and this year I'm trying out some handy-dandy velcro ties to hold the plants upright on the wires.  They are reusuable and if they work, very economical.  Easy to use, that's for sure.  I just cut them into about 6 inch strips, loop around the stem and the wire, and voila, upright tomato. 

There are about 320 tomato plants in the garden this year, thanks to absolutely NO decent tomatoes last year due to the late blight (which hit early in the season, I might add).  I guess it's kind of a withdrawal symptom to plant so many, but a friend provided seeds for about 13 different heirloom tomatoes plus the ones normally grown on the farm.  I learned how to make sun-dried tomatoes too, so lots of Romas were planted for that adventure. 

Today was really hot and on the way back from planting the second crop of corn,

the dogs took a dip in the creek.

It looked and sounded so refreshing it was really hard not to jump in there with them!

After we got back to the house, peas had to be picked and chickens fed and put to bed.  The three big hens are still in the portable "tractor" so they can finish up the lettuce and spinach and other spring crops that are past harvest condition, and the 6 week old chicks are enjoying their new house and back yard.....

 I took pictures while the chicken house was being constructed.  That's another story when there's time to put it together!  Now, the sun is down so I can rest.


There's nothing like home grown veggies, and water hoses

Happy Mother's Day!  I went to visit my mom and dad, sisters, brother in laws, nephews, etc., today and we had a wonderful picnic on an absolutely gorgeous spring day. 

There is a bumper crop of bibb lettuce at the farm this year, so I picked a bag for each sister and my parents.  I don't listen to the news, don't have tv, so when I handed them the lettuce and they laughed and jokingly said "does it have e-coli on it", I said "of course not, I grew it and I know how it was grown and picked".   Then they told me about the e-coli recall from several major grocery stores involving fresh green veggies. 

It's getting to be a scary place out there, depending on folks we don't know to provide our food.  I don't grow everything I eat, but if I could, I would.

Yesterday I planted the tomato plants; around 320 of them, assorted heirloom varieties, and several "mainstream" varieties that produce well, taste good, or have good qualities to them.  The garden prep went well, manure spreading, post installation, wire stringing, planting.....then came the watering in of the plants.  I think the initial watering in of a freshly planted plant is as important as colostrum is to a human or animal when it's first born.

Anyway, the garden I planted the tomatoes in is in an area where there is irrigation pipe to the general area for drip tape, but to do the first watering I have to drag water hoses around. 

I don't think there's anyone around who hates water hoses as badly as I do.  I bought 2 that are supposed to be "kink free" but they still kink, although it's easier to get the kink out than a regular water hose.  I had them hooked together and couldn't quite reach the last 1/4 of the beds (you know the story).

A few years ago my son (college, okay) gave me a waterhose during one of his moves.  He said he didn't need it anymore.  It looked like a college kid water hose (cheap), but I took it anyway, being the great mom that I am :)

I haven't used the hose much but I do remember looking at it oddly as it doesn't hang in nice round loops, but rather in a strange accordian fashion. 

Back to the tomatoes.  I needed just a little bit more water hose to get to the end of the beds I had planted so I got the college kid water hose out.  Oh my gosh----it is the water hose from hell.....kink is not the word.  AFTER I had convinced it to straighten out straight (about 15 minutes of messing with it),  I had to hold it gently in my arms to keep it from kinking just from holding the nozzle at the end to spray the plants.  It was worse than worst!  I honestly think I could have carried water in 5-gallon buckets faster than I got that hose to work, but it became a challenge, know what I mean? 

It did not get thrown away though.  I'm somewhat of a packrat of things that might be useful in another life.  I left it laying in the garden, so I know where it is, and it will serve another useful purpose, but I promise it will never have water running through it again!

RSS feed for Wild Things Farm blog. Right-click, copy link and paste into your newsfeed reader