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Education- Did YOU Grow This?

 

Who says you can’t have basil in March? Not us!

We took this short video clip a few months back as we planted our organic basil in its permanent space for the year. If you follow us on Facebook, you may have seen this clip when we originally posted it, but we added it here because it goes perfectly with this topic.

Each year as the seasons change, we begin to plan and plant for the next one. This is important to note because we only grow what’s in season. You won’t find us with items like watermelons in April or peaches in March because they’re not in season.

Why is this an important topic? Well for one we want you to be an educated consumer. We see so many people going to Farmers Markets or road side stands without asking any questions. If we’re buying locally the number one question we always ask is:

Did YOU grow this?

Why?!? Well we are making a choice with our dollars to support LOCAL and want those dollars to count for our community.

I recently posted on Facebook that by buying local, you strengthen your farmers and your community. Let’s illustrate this:

  • You go and purchase food items from your local farmer.
  • Your farmer uses that money to buy seeds, feed, equipment, soil, etc., thereby putting money back into the community.
  • The farmer uses those items to grow more food for you and others in the community to purchase.
  • You are happy to have a trusted local food source.
  • Your farmer is happy making a living doing what she loves.
  • The process repeats itself.

This motto only works if the person you’re buying from has produce that was actually locally grown. We follow various charts for our zone. From these we’ve learned how to plant for the seasons as they come in.

This year in preparation for Kith & Kin CSA we purchased a small indoor setup that allowed us to get a jump on the season. This was necessary for the success of our CSA. So we’ve started early, but we’re still planting what’s in season.

The bottom line is this. If it matters to you how something was grown or if the person you’ve purchased from actually grew it, then please ask questions. After all, if you make a trip to a farm or a farmers market instead of the grocery store think about why you’re doing it….

We do it because we want to keep money in our community! We want to support those small farmers who take pride and care with their plants and animals. We want to eat fresh organic and chemical free vegetables. We want to eat eggs and meat from animals who lived outside and ate grass and bugs the way God intended them too. We want to support those who support us. We want to shop from people we trust who are hardworking and honest. Who take the time to grow the food and can tell you what challenges they faced in doing it and how they overcame those challenges. We want to sit around and “garden talk” or “farm talk.” These things are important to us! We hope they are to you as well. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you see us, ask us questions. We are always ready to share!

 

Growing Now! (June)

Hey guys! Thank you for being here again this month for our “Growing Now” segment. We have acquired quite a bit of new followers and want to take the time to say welcome and thank you for joining us in our quest to bring truly clean and organic food to The Wiregrass area. Something that’s a little different about this post is that it’s late. We usually have this segment ready for the last day of each month, but May has been a hard month for farmers to say the least! So please forgive us on our tardiness!

As we go into June we are hopeful and excited about rain! Last year around this time, our gardens were flooding and there was way too much rain. This year we’re all literally praying and hoping rain comes. Nevertheless if it doesn’t, we will keep working hard and getting up early to take care of our land, plants, and animals. This is the part of farming that gets serious and although we’re small, we feel the effects just like the big farmers do. At last check, rain has been forecasted for later in the week, so hopefully it will.

In the month of June, we are heavy into the garden change over. We are pulling the last of our Spring crops and rearing into Summer. Everything is a bit late this year, but we have the most beautiful tomatoes growing! Some that have began to color and others that we’re trying hard to patiently wait for.

We saw our very first pepper on the vine over the weekend. It’s so super cute and even though the plant is small, we look forward to harvesting peppers soon.

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Our always non-GMO and organic corn was given a compost feed yesterday. It has been fighting to stay alive and was looking pretty sorry. We are going to baby it to ensure that it can perk up and get the nutrients it needs. According to the records, we should have corn this week! There are a few ears developing, but very slowly. We are pushing through and hoping the compost along with the expected rainfall will do wonders for it.

Our herb garden is expanding and I’m happy to say that all herbs are doing well. Here is a new one for us this year!

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Cucumbers and squash varieties are flowering! Oh and pumpkins are thriving.

This is the last month of our Spring CSA. It has been a great season and it’s bittersweet to see it end. Thank you to all our members and those to come!

As we go out to meet all of you during Farmers Market Season we are so excited. Our customers keep us going and we love meeting everyone and hearing your feedback.

In chicken news, we’ve got them growing and like we do every summer we’ve bulked up our birds to be ready for all our customers! Our originals and new ones to come! Be sure to check our “Announcements” to see where we will be. You can also follow our Facebook page. See you next month!

A New Term….

Wondering what it is? Well I will tell you. It’s “seasonal.” Yes you’ve heard that term before, but maybe not how it applies to eggs. Now before you dismiss it and think I’m crazy let me share with you a few things.

Most chickens have a dormant stage that happens in the Fall or Winter where they lay very little to no eggs. When they come out of that dormancy, it is usually Spring or close to it. All of a sudden eggs are booming! You have eggs coming out of your ears, or so it seems. Then when the weather heats up in the Summer you still have eggs, but not nearly as many as you do in the Spring. Fast forward to Fall and eggs are dwindling or maybe they’ve stopped altogether going into Winter. Do you see the pattern? Right after their dormant stage, when the weather is warming and the days are getting longer, the chickens begin to lays eggs in abundance. Coincidence? Not at all. Hence the term…..seasonal!

Sidenote: We know there are some people who use artificial lighting to try and keep their birds laying, but we do not. We don’t feel that this is in their best interest. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, we take the stance of if God created the birds to need a rest period than we are going to let them have one.

It has taken me 3 years to actually figure out this idea of eggs being seasonal, but they truly are! Just as we grow certain vegetables in certain seasons, eggs are most plentiful in Spring. Now of course eggs are available year round at your grocery store, but these are not anywhere near a fresh farm egg. Most of these birds are chicken house birds. No light, no bugs, no grass.

Please don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get eggs “off season” or outside of Spring because you definitely can. You just may not be able to get as many.

On our farm, we have tried to set a pattern each year of hatching new chicks in the late Spring or early Summer months. Since most chickens start laying around 6 months of age, the plan is that once the others began to slow down, we will have new ones that are just starting.

To illustrate this, in the month of May we hatched 8 chicks. These will be ready to lay sometime in November. Now whether or not they will they actually do so…..Who knows! Chickens need lots of daylight to hatch an egg and if they’re not getting it, you’re not usually getting eggs. November and December are low daylight months so it may be possible that they’re ready to lay, but the conditions they need to actually produce an egg won’t be there.

So this year when your favorite farmer or egg supplier runs out of eggs, remember eggs are seasonal and they will be back in Spring! If they do happen to have eggs, it is most likely a lower quantity.  So as mentioned above, your regular 3 dozen may turn into just 1.

Just think your farmers still have the labor and expense of feeding and taking care of the birds and they may not be getting eggs either.

If you are one of those people who are fortunate to purchase farm fresh eggs in the later months, be thankful that you don’t have to go to the grocery store and buy store bought eggs that have probably been sitting on the shelf for two months already before you spend your hard earned money on them.

An important fact is that just as people are stressed by crazy weather patterns and major changes, chickens are too!  Really our chickens have had a “rough” year between moving day with their new coops, the hawk attacks, all the rain last year, and now the extreme heat! No wonder why the hens are giving me the side eye when I go to collect eggs…I should be happy there are eggs at all!!! Lol!

Don’t worry. You guys know how spoiled these girls are. We are working hard to keep them hydrated and healthy. Their health and well being is our main concern, so we will do what we can to help them to live well and keep producing the eggs we’ve all become accustomed to.

 

 

Dog Days of…..Spring?

That term usually applies to Summer right? Well not this year! This week on the farm it’s been SUPER HOT! I know, I know it’s not just on the farm, but at your house too. It’s always something, isn’t it? Last year it was rain and this year it’s a heatwave. So what do we do? Well let’s talk about it as I share with you some tips that work for us. 

Just about every morning I have a conversation with Shena of Bain Home Gardens. This is usually right after the crack of dawn as we are both working diligently to beat the heat. Yes! I said the crack of dawn……we have found that this is the coolest part of the day. Take for example Sunday, I went out around 6 pm to finish up farm chores. Right before this I checked the weather and wouldn’t you know it was still in the high 90’s? 97 to be exact!!! So I sprayed myself to fight the mosquitoes and headed out. I had started that morning, but didn’t get it all done so I had to wait until the second coolest part of the day to finish out the work. 

Side note: Sometimes the weather can be deceiving. As the sun goes down it may seem like it’s not that hot, but this is where you can get yourself into trouble if you’re not careful. Heat exhaustion is real and it can creep up on you without warning. So be observant and take precautions. 

Back to  Sunday……About 45 mins after I went out I was pouring sweat. Even still the meatbirds needed to be moved and watered. (Hens have an automatic waterer) Plus my evening garden inspection was absolutely necessary since we’re heavy into bug season.

A few things that we do to beat the heat is number one you guessed it, go out early. The plants have previously had a long day of full sun and an equally long night battling with bugs, so getting a nice cool drink in the morning helps them to soak up water in the soil throughout the day. I like to get down right at the soil level and make sure everything gets a good soaking at the roots. Thankfully we have some drip irrigation, but it’s not everywhere. 

The importance of staying hydrated cannot be stressed enough! Drink water before you go out and then take water with you to ensure you have enough to keep you well while outdoors. This is our second tip. 

Our third one is take sun breaks. Have your chair ready in the shade and sit for at least 5 mins to give your body a break. While you’re there enjoy it! Don’t stress about what has to be done next. Sit, sip, and relax. Be thankful for what you’ve completed thus far.

Just because it’s hot doesn’t mean the work stops. So as farmers and gardeners it’s up to us to find what works. Of course the list could continue, but these are just a few. If you have a suggestion or would like to share something that works for you, let us know. Until then, we hope these tips work for you. 

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Tools of the Trade

I was out in the garden the other staking tomatoes and realized that I needed some garden clips. Don’t know what those are? Well they are the featured image for this article and pictured below. Garden clips have become one useful tool in the garden that we can’t function without. Can you see why?

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Do you garden? Are you a farmer? If so what “tools of the trade” do you use? What makes your life so much easier and enables the time you spend in the garden to be productive and efficient?

Now if this is your first time here, then let me tell you that we are not a large scale farming operation. We are an urban farm. Meaning we live and farm in a community. So you won’t find any tractors or backhoes here. We don’t even have a riding lawnmower! What we do have are a few tools that for us have become invaluable. Let’s talk about some of them….

Raised beds: Having had a back injury which sometimes likes to rear it’s ugly head to send me a reminder, having raised beds is a must! Just the slightest elevation helps me to not have to bend or stoop as much. We have them in all shapes, sizes, and heights.

Garden Hoe: Lifesaver! We used to hand pull all weeds, but not anymore. This tool has liberated everyone. From time to time we do have to get down there and get our hands dirty, but not so much. We use it hill potatoes, clear weeds, and mix up dirt or compost.

Pickaxe: This tool is for the guys of Hawkins Homestead Farm. They are the ones responsible for digging rows and this is their preferred method.

Diatomaceous Earth: Having first learned about this for use with our chickens, we were absolutely thrilled to learn that we could use it in the garden. Being organic means that we have to find different ways to combat bugs and this is one of them.

You guys know that the list could continue, but these are just a few that for us make farming so much easier. If you have a special tool or something that makes a hard chore seem like light work, please share in the comments below. We’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

Growing Now! (May)

In May we switch our focus into Summer vegetables. Of course our Spring veggies are still growing, but Summer produce yields an abundance and we love how much we can preserve from this season. Think cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers. Then think pickles, sauces, and  salsas. We have all that growing and more. They have a long growing season and we usually have them into the Fall.

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Everything we grow on the farm has a purpose. Flowers are no exception to this rule. Sunflowers are always in bloom this time of year. Whether we have volunteers or those planted, they’re such a joy to grow. Look out sunflowers! This year there’s a bit of competition from the marigolds and violas.

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May has become the official month of potatoes here on the farm. We planted early this year and have already dug some up in April, but we’re hoping for mounds of potatoes. More will be dug and available very soon! Plus we’re succession planting to have them continuously throughout the season.

We still have peas growing, but they may be at their end soon. We were saving seeds from a few plants, but the peas sprouted inside their pods. Of course I threw them in the dirt. Maybe, just maybe if I can keep them shaded, they will continue to grow.

By way of fruits our mulberry tree is in heavy production right now and we’re enjoying picking berries throughout the day. If you follow our Facebook page, then you know that we also made mulberry jam and it’s good! It’s available for purchase, but since Alabama Cottage Food Law doesn’t allow for jams and jellies to be sold online we have zeroed out the price allowing you to place the item in your cart and pay upon delivery.

Onions is another thing that we’re growing in abundance this year. We have plans to dehydrate and make our own dried herbs. If we’re successful we will make them available to all of you. Onions too when ready.

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One of our goals is to preserve more food than we have ever before. In keeping track of our grocery budget this past year, we can easily see how growing certain produce in plenty will cut down on our buying. Last year we ate tons of frozen okra (mostly because we chose not to sell any), we enjoyed pesto from our basil plants, onions, and pickles made fresh from our organic cucumbers. We preserved quite a bit, but we’re looking forward to so much more. If anyone has a favorite recipe please comment below or send us a message. We always love to learn. We’re looking forward to a great month to come. Thanks for joining us for our “growing now “ for May. See you next month!

 

 

 

 

2019 Farmers Market Kick Off!

Are you ready?!? We sure are and we’re so excited to be coming to Enterprise on Tuesday April 16th! This is a brand new market for us this year and we hope to be able to come out on a regular basis. Of course we won’t be by ourselves. Bain Home Gardens will be joining us too!

The Spring season has just started so that means it’s egg season. Pick up a dozen or more along with fresh organic produce, jams, and a few bath and body products.

Our farm accepts all forms of payment including vouchers and EBT.  So don’t be a stranger. Shop, say hello, or just pick up a card for later. Hope to see you there bright and early at 7am.

Dreams Realized!

Lately we’ve gotten an increased number of inquires from people who are interested in starting their own farms. The fact that someone took the time to reach out to us for advice is amazing and it definitely inspires us to do more. We feel like we are in a constant state of learning and growing. The sharing of knowledge is how we continue the cycle of clean farming. So although I can’t take you by the hand, what I can do is give you our story to follow. Maybe then your dreams can become a reality.

You guys have heard me say that everyone should have access to fresh organic food locally. When we moved here we thought we would. Really had we, I doubt that Hawkins Homestead Farm would even be necessary. We were content being supporters of local farms.

Of course we’re here now and we don’t plan on going anywhere, so no worries there! What did it for us was a need. A need to eat the way we had become accustomed to before moving to this area. A need that could not be filled at the grocery store, but one that was very necessary. Not just for my health, but for the health of my family as well.

So what did we do? We prayed. We researched. We read books. We watched videos. We joined forums and groups. We asked questions. We made ourselves very familiar with the local laws and requirements. We found out how important it is to pay attention to the weather and to keep good records. We learned all that we could about soil health. We researched what was being grown in this area and how. We found what specific chicken breeds we wanted to raise for meat and for eggs. We wanted to stand out…to be different than the norm. We educated ourselves on what would make us successful at feeding our family. This was our first goal.

So what happened? Well OUR need turned out to be a need a lot of others had as well. I remember when Shena, of Bain Home Gardens asked me if I planned on selling our eggs when we first got chickens. My answer was no. I would have gladly shared, but sell them…..no. That slowly evolved into well I guess I could sell some, but I need more chickens. Our tag line really says it all. “What started as food for our family, has blossomed into food for yours.” This one statement is literally how Hawkins Homestead Farm started. Just by growing our own food, we found family, friends, friends of friends, and others also had a need and a desire to eat fresh clean healthy food.

What’s HUGE for us is access to LOCAL, fresh, chemical free, organic food. Having the satisfaction of knowing that we planted, watered, and weeded while God made it grow is awesome to say the least! Over the last few days, the start of our Spring Kith & Kin CSA season started and as I was pulling carrots out of the ground I was super thankful for each one. Thankful because every carrot was proof that we CAN do this. We ARE doing this! We are the local that we have supported all along. It’s crazy to type that out, but true. We are feeding our own family and many others!

Something else that is super exciting for us is the education. I have always been aware of how I choose to spend my dollars, but once you start farming the knowledge you glean is unreal. The learning never stops. You just have to be willing to take it all in. I have books, magazines, newspapers, websites that I’ve bookmarked, etc. I just love learning.

Raising animals is definitely a bonus. The joy of learning about, watching, and caring for our birds is fascinating. I could talk about chicken breeds, genetics, egg shell colors….. for days! Chickens are such funny creatures. They have attitudes and personalities. Some are snobs and picky eaters. Others are just plain greedy. Chickens always want to be in the know. I haven’t quite figured out if it’s curiosity or just plain nosey, but I’ve had chickens jump up in my lap and others who just plop themselves right next to me. They want to be seen and heard.

I used to say that all roosters were going to the freezer, but after buying some on accident, I fell in love with them. Their colors, their stature, and what they bring to the farm as a whole is just wonderful. I have yet to have a favorite hen, but roosters OMG! Sadly, some didn’t like me as much as I liked them, but that’s alright too.

Of course there are cons to farming. For us, more than anything they are due to things that just come along with being a farmer. Like HOT weather, bugs, and losses.

Alabama is hot! You guys know this! Would you believe that we’re still trying to adapt to the humidity and heat here? One thing we learned quick is to get out early and go back late. We water the garden and the animals early in the day. We check in mid day for refills on the animals and of course to collect eggs. Then we go back in the evenings to finish out farm chores for the day. This is what works for us.

Of course the bugs are a big one. I have to remind myself that they need to eat too and when you’re growing food pesticide free, bugs will come. The problem is when they try to stay and make families. That’s a no no! Sometimes we’ve been too late and either everything has holes or it’s completely gone. Like overnight gone! Then there are those times when we’ve learned what to expect and when. With organic farming bugs may be difficult to manage, but not impossible. Often times nature works within itself. It’s up to you to figure out how to make nature work for you.

On to losses. They definitely happen. It’s just a part of farming that you have to accept. Sometimes plants don’t grow. Or some disease, like powdery mildew takes them out. You can do everything right and the weather changes suddenly. Then bam, your crop can’t handle the shock and it dies. It could be that maybe your dog who you’re training decides to taste a few chickens instead of protect them. Or a hawk who has put your chickens on his menu. It could even be that you have an aggressive bird who attacks. Although you want to keep him, and may need him to keep up your genetics, he has to go to the freezer and that’s not how you planned it. You could go to sleep at night and wake up the next morning to chaos. These things are all a part of that constant learning.

The best advice I could give anyone who wants to grow anything is to pray about it. There are days where I’m out in the gardens or with the animals just talking to God. It’s important to our family that we do things the right way, so who better to talk to than the one who created all of it?

Then get to work!  Do the best you can to have a quality consistent product. Be honest and safe in your practices. Never become overconfident. Have fun. Take time to enjoy what you’re doing. Hopefully you will find more pros than cons and create something special of your own. Maybe then you can realize your dreams. Hope this helps!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Now! (April)

Well hellloooo Spring! Thank you for finally arriving! We were a bit worried with all the low night time temperatures, but now that you’re here it’s time to get our grow on!

This is the time of year that Brandon and I take some time off to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Since we’re both so busy we look forward to having time to relax. We don’t talk about the farm, bills, or any of our stressors. We focus on each other and having fun. Fun for us looks like just about anything outdoors, music, and great food! So just in case you missed our announcement, we are closed until April 2nd.

This year April marks the beginning of Kith & Kin CSA . This means we have planted just about EVERYTHING! We need to make sure our members have a great selection, that we can feed our own family, and have food for all our loyal customers.

April also marks the beginning of Farmers Market Season as well and we’re kicking it off in Enterprise! More information to be announced soon. We couldn’t be more excited to get to all of you who have been waiting and asking us to come out that way!

You may have noticed that we are using part of our “growing now” segment to keep you informed on not just what we’re growing here on the farm, but also to keep you informed on our family life. We want you to get to know us as people, not just farmers. We love when we are able to put names with faces. So we want to make sure you have the opportunity to do the same. We invite you to check those inboxes if you’ve signed up to receive our emails or follow us on Facebook which we try to update daily.

Now onto the plants……Did I say we were growing everything? Well I meant everything! Fall, Winter, Spring, and even some of Summer are all happening on the farm right now.

From Fall we have brussel sprouts, lettuces, and others.

From Winter we have collards, onions, and spinach.

img_2606Spring has brought us peas, potatoes, and many more root veggies.

For Summer we having been transplanting Summer greens and others too!

All in all we are gearing up and should be ready with lots of fresh organic produce for everyone.

In poultry news all the turkeys are gone. Thanks everyone for your orders. We have another batch on the way and will be taking orders for those soon. Our chickens are “growing now” too and we will be working our list for those who have birds on reserve.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for all your support and we’ll see you next month.