Bountiful Blessings Farm Produce

  (Hinckley, Illinois)
Locally Grown - Quality Farm Produce at Affordable Prices
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Scouting

This morning I spent at least two hours scouting the fields for any potential problems. I really only noticed one problem, weeds. Even though we spend a lot of time weeding and cultivating, those pesky little buggers seem to always haunt us. Nevertheless, one neighbor farmer told me that shows that the soil is healthy. I am not sure if that is an indicator of healthy soil or not, but I do know that weeds rob the vegetable plants of water, nutrients and sunlight. So, noting the weeds, we will be doing some clean up this week. In fact, dad was out on the cultivator must of the afternoon. The preparation area is coming along well and our stage area is almost complete. Thanks, Dad! 

Andy and I spent the afternoon replanting popcorn that did not germinate. Once that was complete, we planted more beets, lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, carrots, radishes and kale. This upcoming week I will need to plant the second batch of green beans and several other plantings. It is exciting to see this all come together. I am still trusting God to give us favorable weather to produce and harvest a bountiful crop. I thank Him for the opportunity to see His wonderful creation each and every day - little seeds eventually turning into edible vegetables to sustain our lives. It is incredible! Again, may God richly bless you this week!

 
 

Popcorn

Well, tonight sets the first record of the season; it is 9:30pm and I just got in. It has been a very productive day and I feel good about the way things went. Dad worked on equipment most of the day and then came out to the field to give me a hand planting. I put in all of the ornamental corn, broom corn and popcorn. That took most of the day. I had to work down some ground, then lay out the plot. Nonetheless, it was a big task. I am looking forward to the popcorn this fall. We planted popcorn last year, but only for our own use. This year we planted popcorn with the intent of selling it in the winter. Last year's popcorn was awesome. 

Kim just finished making supper, so its time for me to eat. I hope you all have a great week! We will be planting more tomorrow. I will keep you up to date! God Bless!

 
 

Sunday Adventures

Yesterday was another very productive day. I revamped the seed room and erected the small temporary greenhouse outside. We use the temporary greenhouse for plants once they are transplanted. So now with the expanded seeding room, we will have enough room for our seedlings as we continue to sow. I also went back out to the field to disk the last little patch left before it rained. I changed the fuel filters once again and head out to the field only to have the tractor stall out on me in the middle of the road. I was able to get it running again and get it up into the farm yard. I pulled the filters again and realized they were only half full with fuel. This made me realize that there must be dirt in the bottom of the tank or in the line. So today I am going to investigate further by take in the fuel line off of the tank to see if there is any flow out of the tank. I am guessing this is the problem. The engine is being starved of fuel. 

Once I get the tractor running, I will most likely work on the doors for the greenhouse. It rained a little bit, so I am sure it is too wet to disk. Oh well, there isn't much I can do about it. We moved all of our onion sets and seed potatoes to the cooler as it was starting to get too warm in the garage. It is also dark in the cooler with will slow things down. This warm weather is making every want to sprout. In fact many of the trees are starting to leaf out. I am not so sure that is good, but it is what it is. I am also going to try to get the rest of the orchard pruned tomorrow. I only have a few more trees to go and it will be done. Then I can spray the trees with dormant oil. This smothers any insects that may have laid eggs under the bark before winter. This will also help to prevent worms. Well, it is time to get busy! Have a great day!

 
 

Pinky Too!

It's amazing what a chiropractor can do for a sore back! I have not been to a chiropractor for many years, but I finally went today and got an adjustment. Dr. Rice in DeKalb, Illinois fixed me right up. He had me feeling better soon after I got on the table. What an amazing feeling it is not to have pain. Today I was able to get a lot done. I seeded the items on our calendar for today; organized the garage so there is more room; cleaned the floor in the greenhouse; cut the wood for the cold frame and filled flats for tomorrow. I also picked up sphagnum moss and seeding soil for later on. It took me a couple of hours in DeKalb this afternoon between the appointment and filling out the paperwork. It's all good though. I have to go back one more time and the doctor said I should be good to go. Not bad, since I have not been there since 1983 when I hurt my back at the nursery. 

 Tonight I stopped over to my friend, Rick's shop. He is building another Farmall M tractor for the breast cancer cause. It will be called Pinky Too! He wants to take it down to Sublette this weekend for the tractor show. They are featuring Farmall and International Harvester tractors. He will be taking Pinky as well. What a great project! Any donations go directly to the cause. Rick has a BIG heart. I'm proud of him. Rick's sister had breast cancer and lost the battle about three years ago. His mom is also fighting breast cancer at this time. My prayer is that they will find a cure. May God grant the doctors and researchers insight to a cure.

 
 

I See the Light

Walking outside this evening was so beautiful. It is a wonderful night with clear skies. The stars are incredible and the moon, the moon is amazing! Everything is lit up by the luminous glow of the bright yellow moon. Awesome! After a long day of seeding, cleaning and repairing things, I took my wife out for dinner with my uncle and aunt. We had a lovely dinner in Lee, IL. The food was great and we enjoyed Raven and Samuel, my little cousins as well. Tomorrow my nephew, Andy will be helping me with a few projects. My sister called and told me he has baseball practice in the morning, but later in the day he will be coming out to help me. As I have mentioned several times before, He is great help. I have more seeding to do tomorrow and I want to work on another cold frame. That should keep me fairly busy until Andy gets here to help. On Sunday, after church, Kim, my daughter and I are attending a play. My niece and nephew, Grant and Taylor are in "The Wizard of Oz". Taylor is a munchkin and Grant is the mayor of Munchkin land. I am excited to see the play.

The seedlings are looking great in the seed room and I still have some room for more. I am working on another seed rack to accommodate more flats. The temperature in the seed room has been remaining steady, which is good. The humidity level is good and there is good air circulation. The only thing I would like to improve is the lighting. I think it could be better, but I think it will be alright for this year. I might want to improve on that next year. Well, its about time for me to hit the hay. You know what they say, "Early to bed..."

 
 

Getting Ready for the Market

Have you ever had one of those days? Well today has been one of those days for me. I tried so hard to keep on task today, but I had several emergencies that I could not let go without addressing. Anyhow, the day is coming to a close and I am still on schedule with the seeding. I have one variety of seed that needs to be reseeded. Germination was only about 50% and then they damped off. On the next batch I am going to watch it real close. Not to say that I was negligent the first time, but I am going to be more cautious not to make any mistakes. I use a bleach solution to sterilize the seeding trays and I use quality seed, so I am not sure what went wrong. I added more ventilation in the seed room thinking that there might not be enough air movement. Hopefully, this will correct the issue. 

Tonight, my wife and I are heading to a meeting for the Hinckley Farmer's Market. We are excited about the upcoming season and hope it will even be more successful than last year. Nora Gubbins and Christy Bark are doing an excellent job in organizing the market. For more information about the market, be sure to check out the website at  http://www.localharvest.org/hinckley-farmers-market-M49935

There is also a link to the Facebook page for the market.

 
 

Pooped Out and Popcorn!!

Today was a long day of meetings. I spent all day learning! I guess that was a good thing, but sometimes after being in meetings, one feels like they wasted a day. I am not sure how I feel yet?? I worked on a few seedling issues this afternoon and watered the ones that were in need. Tomorrow is another day of seeding and then building a second cold frame. It seems like spring is just around the corner and I am behind! I hope it all comes together and I am sure it will. My nephew, Andy will be coming out this weekend to help with with a few projects. As I have mentioned before, he is such good help. I wish I had several more just like him. I say that only knowing that I have several nieces and nephews that are very talented and gifted. By no means are they to be slighted. Everyone is gifted differently.

I also received a phone call today from my popcorn seed supplier. The seed is going to be shipped out soon. I guess there is no real hurry, as it will not be planted until the middle of May. This year we are expanding the popcorn production up so we can have popcorn this fall for sale. Keep watching for availability here online this fall. If it is anything like the popcorn we grew this year, it will be awesome. We will have both yellow, white and baby rice corn. Tonight I am going to take it easy and do a little reading. Hope you have a wonderful evening and we will catch you tomorrow. God Bless!

 
 

The Eyes Have It

Has anyone ever said to you, "Get your eyes examined!"? Usually they say it when something is very plain to see and you miss it. Well, I had this happen to me this past week. My mom told me I need my eyes examined. Not because, I missed something, but she noticed how I was struggling when I was reading. So today I went to get an eye exam. I am not really fond of the glaucoma test; when they puff a little air into your eye. Nonetheless, it is all part of the exam. The doctor told me my eyes were in good health other than some cataracts beginning to develop - another sign of getting older.  The appointment took most of the morning, so I was unable to post anything. Once I had lunch and got home, I was able to build the first of two cold frames. They are 48 inches square. This will give us extra room for hardening off our plants before they go into the field. I placed them on the cement near one of our buildings, facing south. I think it will work well. Tomorrow is a big day for seeding, so I am going to get some of the flats filled so I am ready to go. Hope you have a great afternoon and evening. More tomorrow!
 
 

A Real Treat

Another day is here and it is getting closer and closer to the busy season. Today I will be working in the shop on several pieces of equipment and I will be doing some more seeding this morning. I am not sure if I mentioned it before, but I am having some trouble with my back. I fell on the ice last week and I am in a little pain. I did not sleep very well last night and it is difficult to move around this morning. Usually, once I get going, it does not feel so bad. I am hoping that is the case today. There is so much to get done, and a bad back is not going to help things any. 

I mentioned the other day that we will be growing about 28 varieties of heirloom tomatoes this year. Some people have asked me why heirlooms. Heirloom tomatoes are not as productive as hybrid plants, but the variety, color and taste are unmatched. Heirloom tomatoes come in colors such as salmon pink, yellow, purple, red, orange and even green. Some are striped and others grow in unusual shapes. A few of the more popular Heirloom varieties rated for flavor include Brandywine, Black Krim and Hillbilly. Heirloom tomatoes also have a tendency to produce tomatoes continuously throughout the season. Heirloom tomato growing is not any different than growing hybrids. I have already been getting emails and phone calls asking me whether we will have heirlooms again this year. It all about taste! Many people have never tasted “real” tomatoes — if you’ve only eaten supermarket or other commercially produced tomatoes, you’re in for a delicious surprise. Stop out this summer for a real treat!

 

 
 

A Late February Blizzard

Well I knew it was coming, but somehow I had hoped the weatherman was wrong. I woke up this morning to about 5 inches of snow and strong, gusty winds. It even took sometime to get out the front door due to a drift. Then when I got to the farm office, the door was also blocked by a large drift. Now don't get me wrong, I am not complaining, but just sharing with you how my morning is going so far. I realized that I had very little wood for the office stove, so I had to cut a little wood to get me through the day. Fortunately, I put some inside last night so it would be dry. I was also surprised at how warm the office was this morning; it was 56 degrees. This is great; the insulation we put in this past fall has really helped the temperature in this old shop and now farm office.

As I stated in yesterday's blog, I went to the FSA office yesterday and registered the farm. I had to fill out about 5 or six pages of information only to find out that vegetable crops do not qualify for the program. Nonetheless, the farm is registered and the paperwork is complete. I can mark another item off of my "to do list".

I will be seeding in the seed room today; some tomatoes and cauliflower. It is so exciting getting back into what I really love, working in the soil. I have always loved growing things; whether it be ornamentals or vegetables. The seed room is about 75 degrees and moist. It is a perfect environment for starting seeds. The only thing I am not looking forward to, is going back out in the blizzard to get to the seed room! Wish me luck - here I go!

 
 

Heirloom Vegetables - A Little Bit of Our Heritage

What draws many of my customers to heirlooms is flavor. They want a tomato that tastes like a real tomato, not a plastic one. They long for corn that tastes like it did when they were a kid. They search for a sweet, juicy muskmelon, and wonder why cantaloupes are crisp and dry. After trying varieties that look good on the pages of seed catalogs but just don't taste like much, they turn to heirlooms.

What they find may well be something of a mixed bag. The best of the heirlooms really are wonderful. They have it all. They taste wonderful and look beautiful. No doubt about it, these varieties are terrific. There are, however, varieties that take a more experienced hand to grow well. Some are local or regional varieties that may or may not be suited to conditions in your back yard. Others are susceptible to problems unknown to earlier gardeners. Today, certain plant problems are much more common than ever before, and new, resistant cultivars may be the only ones suited to areas where certain diseases and pests are entrenched. Most of this is because since 1932, the American farmer has depleted the soil of it's major nutrients. Everything introduced to the soil is chemically enhanced or man-made. This is not good. Micro-nutrients are no longer available in the final product. Only through building up the soil naturally, will we bring those micro-nutrients back into our diet. These micro-nutrients feed the living cells in our bodies and we need them! Building the soil and heirloom varieties are a great start to a healthy renewal.

Nonetheless, heirloom vegetables can be quirky. Seeds may germinate slower than their modern counterparts, or they may straggle in erratically. Some may pop up after you've given up on them. As they grow, some heirlooms have traits that are downright odd. Other old varieties will do weird things. Unfortunately, information about such traits is difficult to find. About all growers can do is wait to see what happens, relying on their best instincts and experience.

With all of that considered, I really enjoy growing heirlooms because I actually have something that my ancestors grew. This it what makes it so exciting for me. Now, after many years, I actually have my hands in the soil my grandfathers worked. I have a piece of my own heritage. This is what makes my job so much fun and so rewarding!

 
 

Heirloom Peppers and a Long Day

Today was another productive day. Although, I wish I could have attended worship this morning. Nonetheless, I was able to complete the manure detail. It is all spread and ready for the ground to be worked down this spring. I worked on the seed room and seedling rack again today. It is almost done. I spent an hour or so on my seed planning chart and this afternoon my wife and I picked up a few things at the lumber yard to complete the seedling rack. We then went to the funeral visitation for my great uncle and tomorrow is his funeral. I am very honored to play taps on my trumpet at the funeral with my son. Later on this afternoon and evening, I washed the tractor and cleaned the manure spreader so it can be lubricated and put away until the next time I need to use it. Now it is time for supper and a little relaxation before heading off to bed. It's been a long day. As I mentioned yesterday, I have been receiving some of seeds in the mail and from UPS. It won't long and everything will be here. Some of the peppers we will be offering this year are list here:

  • Beaver Dam    
  • Datil
  • Bull Nose Large
  • Fish
  • Hinkelhatz Hot
  • Jimmy Nardello's
  • New Mexico Native Chile
  • Sheepnose Pimento
  • Wenks Yellow
  • Key Largo Cubanelle
  • Yellow Crest Longhorn
  • Cayenne – Long Thin
  • Jalapeno – Mucho Nacho
  • Habanero
  • Ghost Pepper
Last year we had a lot of requests for ghost peppers. I am not sure I understand the fascination of eating something so hot, but I thought we would try them this year. The Key Largo Cubanelle was real popular last year and of course we will have an assortment of red, yellow and green bell peppers. My dad is planning on have signs made so people know the background of all our heirloom varieties. I think it is so interesting to read the history of some of these seeds. I hope our customers will enjoy it as well. So now its time to eat! Just thinking about all these yummy vegetables is making me real hungry!
 
 

An Exciting Season Just Around the Corner

Well another day without being able to spread manure. Maybe tomorrow if it remains frozen in the field. I certainly do not want to make a big mess out of the ground by driving over it and packing it all down because it is too muddy. I am going to try it this in the morning and see what happens. I stopped by Rick's tonight and let him know I would be there around seven. Everything is green light go! This whole manure thing has been plaguing me for a week. Hopefully, today we can put it in the past!

Tomorrow afternoon I am going work on the seed room and seed rack. I will start sowing seeds next week. The bulk of my seed order will be here on Tuesday. I have to pick it up at the warehouse. I will also be picking up the seed potatoes and onion sets. It is a little scary getting 200 pounds of seed potatoes and over 130 pounds of onion sets. That works out to about 20000 onions! Of course some of these will be for bunching, but many will be bulb onions for cooking, etc. In Illinois, we have to use long-day varieties. Short-day varieties do not do well here.

Here are the tomato varieties we will be planting this year. We will have a nice assortment of heirloom varieties, and some hybrids.

  • Hillbilly
  • Roma
  • German Johnson
  • Black Krim
  • Aunt Molly’s Husk Tomato (Ground cherry)
  • Aunt Ruby’s German
  • Burbank Tomato
  • Chalk’s Early Jewel
  • Cherokee Purple
  • Djena Lee’s Golden Girl
  • German Pink
  • Livingston’s Globe
  • Livingston’s Golden Queen
  • Orange Oxheart
  • Mortgage Lifter – Radiator Charlie's
  • Red Fig
  • Sheboygan
  • Valencia
  • Chocolate Stripes
  • Earl of Edgecombe
  • Cherokee Chocolate
  • Black Sea Man
  • Copia
  • Brandywine
  • Green Zebra
  • White Queen
  • Primo Red
  • Red Deuce
  • Mountain Fresh Plus
  • Florida 91
  • Sweet Hearts
  • Sugar Plum

 

I am getting so anxious to get started. This is what I really enjoy doing; planting and growing these wonderful vegetables. It won't be long now!

 
 

Preparing for the Season

I never realized there is so much work just getting ready for the new season. Seed orders, repairing equipment, planting, mixing soil, marketing, are just some of the things going on at Bountiful Blessings. I really believe that being prepared is a good key to being successful. So, I continue to the  prepare. One of the things I am planning on doing this week, is to build a hotbed and a cold frame. My goal is to be able to provide vegetables here in our local area earlier than I was able to do last year. With the High Tunnel, cold frame and hotbed, Bountiful Blessings should get a little bit of a jump on the season. It'll be nice to have lettuce, greens and cool weather crops early! It is exciting and fun getting ready - I can't wait to get my fingers back in the soil, planting and growing!
 
 
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