Wild Things Farm

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

Building Beehives

One person's demolition project is another's construction project.   A friend of mine added a garage to his house and in the process demolished part of the porch.  The porch ceiling and floor were both made from cedar boards.  They were headed to the burn pile but he offered them to me.  I saw beehives!

One of "the winter projects" is to build 7 beehives.  I'm wanting to expand the apiary and I think 10 is a good, reasonable number of hives for a novice beekeeper.  I've been waiting for warmer weather to continue working on the boxes, and every day I think it will be warm enough but today I decided to just do it although the high for the day was only 31 degrees.

My woodworking shop is on the back porch so I put on down-filled overalls and jacket and started up the table saw.

All the sawing was done outside, and the glueing and nailing done in the warmth of the house.

The boards are not wide enough to make a medium box (I use all medium 8-frame supers) so I'm gluing two of them together then trimming it to size.  The piece that is trimmed off the glued boards is then cut at an angle on one side to shed water and then glued and air-nailed over the seam--voila! a dual purpose handle and joint reinforcement.



The ends are notched to accommodate the frames and allow for "bee space".   Corners are glued and nailed with finish  nails.

Finished box, sitting on top of the crude jig I made to put these boxes together.

FullSizeRender (2)The handles are ending up at different positions on each box but I don't think that's going to be a problem because every time I look at the them I'll know they are in the "free" position!

Plans are to just let the hives weather.  Can't wait to get back in the bees and the gardens!


Sweet Potato and Kale Fritters----YUM!

Okay, I'm getting a little creative in my attempts to consume green leafies every day.  Most days I resort to munching on kale while I'm harvesting it--which is probably my favorite way to eat it.  The CSA season is winding down, and  the regular season ended last week, but I'm filling a few vacation makeup boxes this week and next, BUT I can actually relax a little.  Well, almost.

The large high tunnel has been stripped of its summer cover crops of beans and lettuce, kale, chard, arugula and braising mix have been planted and are being coddled along with sprinklers every day.  The small high tunnel is in the midst of seasonal turmoil with a perfectly healthy tomato crop being removed--it's so hard to do that--lots of composted leaves and chicken manure thrown down, and spinach being planted in for the upcoming winter crop.  I'm going to try a little cress this year as well--haven't grown that before.

Back to the regularly scheduled program---Sweet Potato and Kale Fritters.  Feeling a lot hungry and a little creative, I grabbed a half dozen of the skinny, not-saleable sweet potatoes and grated them on the grater


I probably ended up with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of potatoes grated.

Then I took a large handful of washed kale and chopped it sort of finely


I'd say there was about a cup of chopped kale.

Of course anything like this needs onion and garlic and since it was after 8:00 pm, I used minced dried onion and garlic powder.  To stick it all together I grabbed a fresh egg from the happy hens and a heaping spoonful of flour.  Quick mix with a spoon, and


a nice sticky mixture to make fritters with.  I put a glog of olive oil in one of my trusty cast iron pans, heated it for a few minutes, then put in a small handful of mixture.  Let it brown on one side and give them a flip.  I did turn the heat down just a little so they would cook through before browning too much......


All I can say is YUM!  I ate the two smaller ones along with fresh sweet corn, sauteed summer squash and a big yellow Mr. Stripey tomato.  It doesn't get much better than that :-)


Is it really Spring?

Although I've tested the limits of gardening by planting in the high tunnels and under cover, snow flakes have fallen on my efforts and the seeds have begun to germinate!  I'm not cheering yet, but it seems as though the "outdoor" crops are on a roll.  Just last week we had snow flurries for a full day.  Now, the last couple of days, have been near 80.

Being a farmer is kind of like working for a woman who's going through menopause.....okay one day and very messed up the next!  Just go with the flow......

This morning began with thunderstorms.  The storms were predicted to be really fierce here on the Cumberland Plateau, but for some reason we escaped the "fierceness" factor.  Fine with me.

The dogs, cats, and I took a walk this afternoon just to see what's going on around the farm.  I took a few pics.....

daffodilsfromnannys2014.webJPGThis  patch of daffodils I got from my Nanny's house in Newport many years ago and have moved it 4 times until here....I hope their final place to multiply.  She had a hillside full of them that she planted at her house.   They make me smile and think of her.  She's my horticultural inspiration.

mushroomlogsAnother item in the woods are the logs that I've innoculated with shiitake and maitake mushroom spawn.   I hope they've survived the brutal winter we had and will produce lots of yummy mushrooms in a few months.

pachysandra4.4.14webSome of the spring flowers have started to bloom, and I was amazed that the pachysandra waited so long to bloom.  Here it is among a field of trout lily leaves.  Here's a trout lily just beginning to bloom:

troutlily.webToothwort is coming out....always one of the first to bloom

toothwortwebAlong with Virginia Bluebells, one of my favorites:

bluebells4.4.14webI'm still amazed every spring because the hillside behind the house is literally covered with bluebells!  Gorgeous sight to behold.

One thing that happened a couple of weeks ago was a little disturbing.  I noticed a different spot on the bluff behind the house.  It sort of caught my eye one day as something that was different....

rockfall1webSee the light brown color at the top of the bluff, kind of in the middle?  Well, that color was new.  I walked over to see what had happened, and I found this...

therockthatfellwebA rock on the ground, right where I used to stand at the really cool creek that runs in and out of the bluff behind the house.  WOW, it was big!  About 4 feet around.  I looked at where it hit the ground and there was quite a hole there, along with a bunch of rocky debris...

wheretherockhitIt doesn't look like much from the pics, but it sure made me feel small and very careful about walking around bluffs.  You just never know when nature's going to rearrange her house!

Happy Spring, Y'all!











Winter is hanging on

Okay, so March 20 was officially the first day of Spring. There were a few days of nice, sunny, spring-like weather BUT winter has not quite let go yet. With nighttime temps at 24 degrees last night, about the same tonight and even colder tomorrow night, I'm sure getting a workout with the row covers and high tunnels in this sort of weather.

Today I transplanted 5 flats of Broccoli Raab into individual cells for replanting outside, really soon!

broccoliraabwebthe chives outside the high tunnel are happy, happy....


One of the projects on the wintertime funky weather list was to install a dry creek bed at the back of the house to drain the roof (no gutters yet) and a spring that is under the house.  Here's a start....


It will evolve over the course of the season, but at least the landscape fabric is down and the outline of rocks is in place.

I've been planting comfrey around the farm for the bees and the mulch.  Comfrey is a perennial that will produce lots of organic matter over the course of a season.  Several plants were planted in the orchard and at various places around the farm....


Two weeks ago a new puppy arrived at the farm.  His name is "Blue".  His father is a Cur dog and his mother is a Catahoula.  I call him a "Curtahoula".  It's been awhile since a new puppy was here at the farm, and it is a constant battle to teach them not to kill chickens, cats, and not poop on the porch.  So far he hasn't threatened a chicken, hasn't caught a cat, but, hmmmm, has pooped on the porch several times...



In this photo he is really fascinated by a bunch of acorns he found on the ground--I could not get him to look at the camera.  He's a good dog so far :-)

I dug a clump of daffodils from my Nanny's house in Newport about 25 years ago, and moved them to my place in Lenoir City.  After that they moved to Crossville, to Crab Orchard, then to Wild Things Farm.  In spite of being relocated several times, they still remind me of my Nanny and I smile when they bloom.



In the photo below you'll see the "Front Bluff" gardens planted in Swiss Chard, lettuce, kale, onions, mixed greens, and spinach---all covered up with row cover.  Maybe I can fool Mother Nature long enough to get a few things under way a little early!

The area nearest the camera is the newly established berry bed.  I killed the grass in this area last year, mulched with chicken manure, and will mulch with leaves before the raspberries, tayberries, blackberries, and hazelnuts are planted.


backyardberrypatchwebI'll go throw another log on the fire and dream of warmer days......




I'm in Detox, and you can be too!

I'm not a big fan of New Year's Resolutions, but just so happens that this year I'm determined to cut out as many chemicals in my life as I possibly can.  It's really harder than you think, in today's world.

Our skin absorbs most anything that touches it--just like if you swallowed it.  YUK!  If you think of the skin that way, you'd be more careful about what you came in contact with.   This makes one think about everything that we use each day to keep ourselves "beautiful" and "presentable".    Read the labels and if you wouldn't swallow it, don't put it on your skin!

First I got rid of the antiperspirant deodorant.  This has been a little challenging, but I'm managing.  I haven't made my own deodorant yet, but am using Tom's brand until I get the time to make a batch from several recipes I've gathered.  The antiperspirant part of deodorant isn't good for us, nor is the aluminum, so I'm doing something different.  It doesn't keep you from sweating, but if you keep your pits clean it's not that difficult.  

Shampoo.  I've made a batch of shampoo bars.  A little more difficult to use, but I really like how my hair feels when I wash it.  It's just a recipe with coconut, palm, kukui nut, olive oil, and a few other things in it.  At least I can pronounce everything that's in there.

Next comes the conditioner.  The last bottle of conditioner I had, I threw the bottle away.  Now I just rub a squirt or two of sweet almond oil into my hands and work it through my hair and it works just fine.

I have naturally wavy/curly/thick hair and I don't curl or style or color it so these natural remedies are perfect for me.   Really, I'd say they would work for anyone who wanted them to work, whether blow dry, hot curlers, or curling iron.

Body lotion went away as well.  I found a recipe for solid lotion bars that I could scent with my most favorite smell in the world---Patchouli--and that's what I've been moisturizing with.  The bars work really well because it melts with the heat of my skin (lotion was always cold) and it feels really good!

Handmade soap has been a staple in my household for about 20 years now, and patchouli is my favorite.  My kids, although grown and gone now, still appreciate a gift of homemade patchouli soap for birthdays and Christmas.  I can also pronounce everything that is in the soap recipe.

The latest addition to my anti-chemical arsenal has been a reverse-osmosis water filter for the kitchen sink.  Many years ago I had one and loved it.  The filter makes water taste like....well.....nothing!  What water is supposed to taste like.

The next target is homemade toothpaste and deodorant.  It's really scary when you start looking at all the ingredients that are put in the things we eat/use every day.  It almost seems like a plot against the health of the human race......


An "A-Maizing" Day

I went to visit a friend today and he said he had some "maize" seeds that he had been meaning to give me but just hadn't remembered until today......I thought maize was just corn--well maybe colored corn, tasteless corn....Indian corn.

I had no idea that it was a "precursor" for lack of a better term--to our modern day corn.  I don't even consider GMO crap modern day corn.  Look at these pictures and you'll understand my excitement!

maize1webHe gave me a small garbage bag full of assorted ears of corn and they varied from the normal Indian corn to an unrecognizable ear of corn-like grains of wheat on a cob with purple husks and dark silks.....oooohhh!!!  I had no idea this was what the original maize was like.

maize2webIsn't that the coolest thing!  I bet the native Indians were excited to get corn that didn't have husks around each kernel :-)

maize3webSee that little red corn seed on the lower ear of corn?  That is what is inside of each of those wheat-looking kernels on the ears.  I picked it out of an ear and put it on that ear to get it in the picture.

I hope they will germinate, cause I'm gonna have some serious FUN growing these babies!

BTW I've Googled it and can't find much info.....if you know more, please share!





Winter chores and a wildflower walk

Winter chores are nothing new.  While on the way home from town Friday, I noticed that the 36" culverts that carry the canal through my property were sort of getting overgrown and close to getting clogged up....

stoppedupculvertswebIt's way easier to clean out a culvert BEFORE it gets clogged with everything that culverts get clogged up with.  After chainsawing for about 30 minutes and piling everything up in between the culverts, I was able to get a small fire started to burn the debris....

fireatculvertswebOnce the fire went out I had a small bucket of glass bottles, a tractor bucket load of firewood, 2 clean culverts and a good workout!

I checked the beehive and was so happy to see that it was FULL of bees and they were BUSY!

After planting 6 flats of assorted greens; lettuce, kale, mustard, and braising mix in the large high tunnel, I threw several bags of leaves into the chicken pen to keep the girls out of the mud.  They love scratching in the leaves and will spread a pile of them in no time.

THEN I had promised the girls I would clean out their coop and put fresh leaves in there.  It's amazing how much quicker their coops get pooped out in the winter when they are stuck inside during cold weather.




I used hay last time for their bedding.  I won't do that again.  It turns into a solid mat that has to be chopped apart AND I had to put it in a separate compost area because I know how many weeds can germinate from hay--BUT it was all I could get at the time.  I refloored their coop with fresh dry leaves from my stash.   It smells wonderful.

Today was a gorgeous day so Hattie (the dog), Bandit (the girl kitty) and I decided to take a late afternoon wildflower walk.  There really are wild things to look at this time of year, and some are even starting to grow (I'm so excited!)  Here's a visual of our afternoon journey.

streamandbluffbehindhouse2.22.14webThis is a very cool bluff right behind the house.  The stream you see is it....it comes out from under the rocks where I was standing and goes back in where the black area is in the top of the picture.  Very cool spot.

tricklefromrocks2.22.14webThe rocks are leaking....look closely... maybe you can see.

moss2.22.14webBeautiful moss garden--it loves this weather!

columbine2.22.14webColumbine starting to show some life...

heuchera2.22.14webHeuchera showing its winter colors...

pachysandra2.22.14webNative pachysandra should be sending up white flowers before long.




and Walking Fern are still attractive through the winter.


The pond is full to overflowing with the recent rains.

Days like today give one that boost of sunshine desperately needed this time of year!




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!





Keeping busy on a cold wintry day

Cabin fever?  Not me!  I am ready for spring, but there's lots to do indoors.  I had taken a bunch of neat pics of the snow all around the farm, but somehow they got lost in between the camera and the computer--I'm sure you know the feeling :-(  Just imagine everything around covered with about 5 inches of snow.

After tending to "the girls" this morning, I collected almost 2 dozen eggs.  They've begun laying more and more each day.   During December and January I was only getting a half dozen or less.


And there were no green eggs during the winter.  I mumbled something about "soup pot" with an Amerecauna in my arms last week and suddenly they started laying!  (haha)

With the back porch stocked with firewood, (thanks to my boyfriend) I'm all warm and toasty for a day's worth of piddling.  A couple of weeks ago my sister gave me her stash of jewelry-making supplies......oh my....she created a monster!



I did have a few things of my own, and of course I had to go purchase things I didn't have, but it's SO MUCH FUN!  Here are a few things I've put together so far.....



A bracelet made with memory wire and a pair of earrings to match.  I gave these to my sister for sharing all her goodies with me.

jewelryinprogresswebHere are a couple of wire bracelets I'm working on, and of course I need another size wire to complete the design in my head.  Another pair of earrings is in the top of the photo and a necklace pendant (just above the beaded bracelet) is in progress.

It's amazing how time flies when I'm fooling with beads and wire.  Another batch of blackberry wine was started this morning and of course Pinterest grabbed an hour or so of my time :-)  What's the old saying "Make hay while the sun shines".....I say "make jewelry when it's nasty outside"!

One thing on my "winter list of things to do" was to tie dye a Wild Things Farm sign for the farmer's market.  I came across a nice piece of heavy fabric last summer that I've been saving for such a use.  This afternoon I tied up and dyed the background for the sign.



It's a rainbow, grass, and a big sunshine....can't you see it?  Well, it has to sit in plastic for a day or three then rinsed out and washed and THEN we'll see if it worked.

The snow is melting quickly and tomorrow's weather forecast is for rain.  I'll be in the high tunnel harvesting greens for a Saturday "crop drop" as my youngest son has affectionately named my veggie deliveries.

Stay warm and keep busy.



Life in the Country

Life in the country is somewhat different than life in the city, or even in the suburbs.  If you live in the country you have to get used to seeing, uh, well, dead things.

Theres'a perpetual spring really near the farm, called "Baker's Spout" .  It's a spring that runs under the county road that my farm is on, and someone has plumbed a pvc pipe into the spring so it is running out of a "pipe" and it runs all the time....24/7.  It's been a local "hot spot" for many, many years, and folks still gather water there for drinking.  I drank it once when I first moved out here and, um, I'm won't drink it again :-)

That makes it a favorite for local hunters to bring their fresh kill to clean under fresh running water.  Do they take the carcass, guts, and bones with them when they are through?   Nooooooo they don't.  The local dogs go shopping there quite often.  Every dog I've had since I've lived here has frequented "The Spout" for supplement to what they are fed here at the house.

Hattie is no exception.  Just a few days ago I was working over at the new high tunnel at I noticed her prancing about and was able to get a shot.......

hattiewithribcagewebShe had confiscated an entire rib cage and was carrying it about looking for a place to bury it.  Some people say "ooooh, gross"!  I say....It's life in the country  and someday she may stumble upon it and have a tasty snack to munch on :-)



Groundhog Day

Sunday mornings are usually spent in the depths of Pinterest but this morning, after I got through with my chores at the chicken coop, I was wondering if the groundhog saw his shadow--I'm not superstitious, just curious :-)

Well, he did see his shadow, and I saw something on the website that mentioned Candlemas.  Okay, "google, what is candlemas"--it was a Christian tradition to bring all the candles that were to be used in the church during the year into the building and bless them.

ALSO, February 2 marks the midway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Solstice.  Farmers are supposed to have half their corn and half their hay left at this point in the season.  

ALSO, February 2 is celebrated as the day that Jesus was taken to the temple and offered to God (abbreviated version).

An excellent explanation of all these different celebrations of such a strangely named holiday are on the website:


Who would have thought?  By the way, the resident groundhog at Wild Things Farm DID NOT see his shadow today :-)


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.........



Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

At a friend's house on New Year's Day, I tasted a really, really good Sweet Potato Salad that her son-in-law had sent her the recipe.  I kind of overdid the chipotle peppers, but it was still very tasty:

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Cranberry – Chipotle Dressing

2 ½ lbs. local sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2” cubes
¼ cup plus 1 tbsp. olive oil - divided
salt and pepper – to taste
3 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce – more for extra heat
5 tbsp. lime juice
4 tbsp. honey
4 tbsp. ketchup
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ c. cilantro
1 c. fresh cranberries
1 c. slivered toasted almonds
1 ½ c. chopped green onion, green and white parts
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread sweet potatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 25 minutes, stirring once, until tender but still firm.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.
2) In a blender or food processor combine, chipotle chilies, lime juice, honey, ketchup, garlic and cilantro.  Process until pureed.  Continue to process while adding remaining olive oil in a slow stream until mixture thickens.  Set aside.
3) In a medium pot, add cranberries, ½ cup of chipotle mixture and ½ cup of water.  Cook over medium heat until cranberries burst.  Use the back of your spoon to crush the cranberries, this will thicken the juices. Allow to cool.
4) In a large bowl combine roasted sweet potatoes, chipotle chili mixture, cranberry mixture, almonds and onions, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Of course I didn't have ALL the ingredients--I had to substitute dried cranberries for the fresh, but instead of cooking them until they popped, I cooked them until they fluffed up--it was still great!



Living lightly

Did you know that if everyone unplugged their clothes dryers ALL the nuclear plants could shut down?  Interesting........

laundryonrailwebIn the winter I hang laundry on the stairway railing, in the summer on the porch railing.  Haven't used the dryer in.....6 years?

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