Is Bigger Better?

As an urban farm the key for us to sustainability is being diverse. People are often surprised by how much food we produce here. To be quite honest, sometimes so are we, but through crop rotation, companion planting, intensive gardening, soil health, composting, and the use of cover crops, we’re able to grow enough food to feed our family and many others.

The video featured in this blog post was taken in the Spring. For most people the stand out is the corn, but if you really scan the video, you can see how many different foods we have growing in this small space. This is just one of our garden areas.

The other day, our 21 year old daughter, Brooklynn was watching as I packaged up a few orders of Asian Stir Fry Greens and she and I had a conversation about what we have growing.

This exchange led me to reflect on how much food we actually grow. Now I don’t keep track in numbers or weight, but I definitely keep records. So here’s what we’ve grown this year alone.

Spring/Summer

Herbs: Basil, Lime Basil

Produce: 4 types of tomatoes, 3 types of cucumbers, 3 types of potatoes, 3 types of peppers, 2 types of corn, 8 varieties of beans, green onions, 3 types of peas, squash, 3 types of cowpeas, cantaloupe, 2 types of zucchini, 2 types of okra, mulberries, green beans, pears, sweet potatoes, eggplants, onions, carrots, 3 types of radishes, a few lettuce varieties, strawberries, cucamelons, and pumpkins.

Flowers: 3 types of sunflowers, edible marigolds, and edible violas.

Protein: Chicken and eggs.

Storage: Jams, jellies, preserves, salsas, peppers, relishes, pickles, pesto, and frozen veggies.

Fall/Winter

Herbs: Cilantro

Produce: 4 types of radishes, beets, carrots, 3 types of peas, green beans, 2 types of broccoli, 3 types of cabbage, 3 types of mustards, collards, arugula, 2 types of spinach, potatoes, Swiss chard, several lettuce varieties, 3 types of kale, 2 types of turnips, rutabagas, and endive.

Flowers: Edible nasturtiums

Protein: Chicken and eggs

So with all of the food produced here the question is how much space do you have? Our answer…..enough for now! Eventually we would love to expand to bigger livestock, but for now we’re content with poultry, so what we have is fine.

If we asked you the question is bigger better with what you now know about all the food we produce what would you say?

The truth is that a lot of space isn’t required to produce high quality food. You can be diverse on any level. So whether you have a small stoop, a patio, or a container garden, what matters most is how you use the space you have.

Bigger does not equal better!

Compost!

Did you know that we offer compost year round? Even if you’re not planting during the Fall and Winter months you could still be providing your soil with added nutrients for the Spring and Summer.

In the above photos you can see the before picture of an example of what goes into our compost and the finished product.

Composting is an important part of organic gardening because it allows for the use of just about everything from the farm with no waste.

The pea tendrils and shells shown in the bucket, were used to give back what the soil helped to produce and it’s truly beautiful to see how healthy fertile soil is developed by using things like these. Of course we add in chicken manure, wood ash, and grass clippings, etc. We try to achieve a balanced mix of greens and browns.

If you’re planning a Spring garden? We’ve got you covered! So Order you garden compost today!

 

 

Growing Now! (December)

It’s the last day of November and boy are we happy to say goodbye to it! This month has brought many ups and downs on the farm, but we’re rolling with the punches.

With an early frost we lost a few plants, but our garden greens took off. This Swiss chard pictured below is just one example that has been loving the cold.

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Brandon loves his root veggies! So he is one happy man with all that we’ve harvested this month! He’s been eating them in a variety of ways plus we sold a few too!

Arugula and spinach are on the way! In our home we go through spinach like crazy and arugula is a definite favorite of mine, but we’ll try to save some for you to enjoy as well!

The only herb that survives the cold for us is cilantro! What’s funny about this plant is that it volunteers every year and never where it was first planted!

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We have several varieties of kale growing. It can be used in salads or own it’s own. Your choice!

If you haven’t tried our Asian Stir Fry Greens, what are you waiting for? They cook up delicious and tender! Try them with fresh lemongrass from Bain Home Gardens!

This month with all the announcements and recalls made on the food produced nationally, we’re extremely grateful that we grow our own! We’re also thankful that we get to feed all of you and we hope to see you again next month!

Surprise!

After Hurricane Michael came through we thought all hope was gone for these organic potatoes, but this is one time we are so happy to be WRONG!

With temperatures expected to drop below freezing this week, we decided to check just in case. Plus this area will not be used in the Fall and Winter seasons, so a cover crop was next in line.

Cover crops help to block weeds and fix nitrogen in the soil for the next season. This is one way we practice excellent soil health because it prevents soil erosion. Cover crops also help our land to remain productive and fertile. So although we won’t be eating these plants, they’re still very important.

You can see from the photo that the potatoes weren’t very big, but they were there and that’s what matters! We dropped them in a recycled egg carton that we received from my Dad. He loves bringing us egg cartons to fill up for him, but sadly they’ve been piling up lately while the girls are on “strike.” It’s ok though because he knows they’re good for it.

So after a long day we are happy to report that our Fall potatoes weren’t a total loss and we wanted to share this great surprise with all of you! We wish there was enough to go around, but hey Spring will be here before we know it and we can all enjoy fresh organic potatoes again!

Growing Now! (November)

Yay! Cooler temps mean Fall veggies can grow in plenty! The bugs are almost gone and we’re no longer sweltering while working in the gardens! So what do we have growing this month? Well we thought you’d never ask.

Greens, greens everywhere greens! It’s so nice to walk out outside and see this beautiful sea of greens.

From Pak choi to collards, lettuces, and broccoli we have the greens covered.

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Garlic was planted a few weeks ago and since it’s our first time, we’re ecstatic about them taking off! They’ve been planted with arugula and spinach in hopes the bugs don’t like the greens as much as we do!

Oh how we love our mustard greens! They come in red and green and we’ve got both.

We hope to be inundated with green beans galore. These are the ones that do well in all temps!

It just wouldn’t be right without our staple kale greens. We grew Red Russian Kale last year and loved it so much, we had to bring it back.

Yes! There is always more. I mean where would we be without our roots? We can’t forget about the radishes, turnips, rutabagas, and carrots. So we have those as well.

This month we’re featuring Fall flavors of pear preserves and pumpkin butter. Buy them on their own or in a gift set. Other flavors are lemon ginger and brown sugar.

In addition, we have been canning crazy with all our peppers, so pepper sauce is also available. Try it on sautéed greens! Our favorite is collards.

Plus we have Fall soaps, both scented and unscented along with our body butters available in your choice of scents. Contact us for details!

We love this life! We love growing food. We love that we can offer products to nourish your body inside and out. We thank you for supporting us and as we continue to grow, we appreciate you being here with us. See you again next month.

Growing Now! (October)

October means that Fall is here and we can all look forward to cooler temperatures or so we hope! Here on the farm, we are enjoying the change in season with a change in vegetables.

Last month we talked to you about the colors of Fall and matched up those colors with our organic seasonal produce. Our biggest achievement in the garden for the Fall season so far has been the beautiful lettuce you see pictured below. We say this because it was a volunteer plant and the first of the season. Isn’t it lovely?

Green beans are a favorite here and we have planted these in plenty! Most people may be surprised that we’re growing beans in the Fall, but our friends over at Bain Home Gardens hooked us up with a variety that does great through all the seasons! The picture shown below is when it sprouted after just 5 days!

Cool weather means we can plant radishes again! You guys may remember that Mr. Hawkins Homestead Farm (aka hubby, Brandon) loves his radishes! In the picture below, you can tell that we had a few failures, but we planted them in the heat of August and realized that was too early. Not to worry, they went to the chickens and they enjoyed them immensely.

We have Fall potatoes growing! We have planted 2 rounds to end out the season and we couldn’t be more excited for them to grow and get in our bellies!

Of course we’re growing a variety of peas and they’re growing up so nicely.

Broccoli with a surprise is growing as well. Can you tell from the picture what the surprise is? No? That’s ok. We will share with you what the surprise is later….to be continued!

There is so much more to come as well. Collards, kale, spinach, cabbage…….plus, plus, plus….

We’re babying these plants. Trying to keep them cool and praying and hoping everything grows! As always, everything will be offered direct on our shop page and we will keep you posted when it’s ready.

Growing Now! (September)

As August ends and we roll into September, I am SUPER excited about Fall. It truly is my favorite season! When my mother in law, Darlene was alive, she visited us in North Carolina every year during this time to help out with the kids. She and I would go down a road much like this one to take our youngest son, Joshua to preschool. Joshua learned then and remembers now how much I love the different colors of changing leaves. He has made it a tradition to bring them to me as he finds them each season. Even though he’s almost 12, the other day he brought in a leaf that was the prettiest color of yellow and slight orange. It made me think of all the beautiful colors that Fall brings. Not only colors of tree leaves, but of all the Fall produce as well.

Just think there are reds, greens, browns, oranges, and even purples. Let’s match up these colors with the Fall veggies.

Red: Radishes and beets. They like to grow in loose soil with cooler temps.

Green: Most lettuce varieties love cool weather.

Orange: It couldn’t be Fall without pumpkins, but we can’t forget the carrots.

Brown: Winter squash and potatoes. Fall staples!

Purple: Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower too. Fewer bugs in the Fall means a more bountiful crop.

So…..can you guess what all we’re growing this season? We can’t wait for all of it to come in. We’re excited to bring back salad blends, cruciferous veggies, crunchy carrots, potatoes, and all the greens you can eat! As always we have more growing and a few surprises too!

Of course we still have late peppers, a few tomatoes, okra, our basil varieties, and rosemary too! Until next month…..

Seasonal Toxins

It’s currently August and when we moved here in August of 2015, I realized how bad the environment here can get. Almost immediately I began to get daily headaches and sadly, it has happened every single year since.

Growing up in New York, I wasn’t allergic to anything. Upon moving to North Carolina I realized that at the end of March, going into April pollen would become my nemesis. I mean pollen so thick that it coated the cars, mailboxes, garbage cans, porches, and you if you stayed out there long enough. It was rough, but thankfully this is when I began to research and found out about the benefits of raw local honey. Taking this honey daily helped me to build up my immune system and allowed me to get through the pollen season.

In moving to Alabama I had no idea how bad the air was here during certain times of the year. My parents retired and moved here about 12 years ago. We always visited, but never more than a few days and apparently not during this time of the year. When I developed the pollen allergy in North Carolina which happened over time, I had a thought that the further south I went, the more I would have to deal with….I just didn’t think it would be as bad as it gets for me here with all the sprays.

At times my headaches would get so bad that could not leave the house. The good part about that is that I worked from home. The bad part is that it left me unable to do certain things with my family. Thinking the worse, I went to several doctors and the common question was always “are you new to this area?” Why? Well the answer is simple, but hard to bear. The doctors told me that this is the time of year when the farmers use heavy sprays on their crops.

Now please tell me how is that beneficial to people like me? It’s not. I mean think of the man who was just awarded millions of dollars because he handled harmful chemicals almost daily. Pesticides are known for causing harm to people and to the environment. They can be carried by the wind or get into our water system when it rains. Sometimes they show up as headaches, nausea, or asthma. Other times, they can lead to fatal illnesses like cancer.

Whatever is being sprayed during this season is extremely hurtful to me. I used to joke and say that I was allergic to Alabama, but I actually have chemical sensitivities and I am extremely sensitive to pesticides. The headaches were my body telling me to get help.

I learned about my pesticide sensitivity years back when I was on a blueberry craze. I purchased blueberries from a local supermarket and I was eating a lot of them. On one occasion, my whole body became inflamed. It was like my skin was burning from the inside, I was itchy all over, and I felt extremely sick. I went to urgent care and during this visit, I told the doctor the only thing I was doing differently was eating a lot of blueberries. I had always eaten blueberries and never had a food allergy in my life up to this point. The end result was this, blueberries are heavily sprayed with pesticides, and since I was eating so many I was exposed to the pesticide at a higher dosage. My body could no longer fight them off on its own. The reaction was it’s defense in telling me something was wrong. So as you can imagine, I knew the doctor here was correct about the sprays in the air. It just made sense.

Unfortunately, during August, September, and sometimes later I have to deal with these headaches. Some days I am unable to leave the house. Other days when I can leave the house, I cannot ride in the car with the windows down. I was able to find a local honey source here, but it took a lot of time. So I suffered at first. The doctors prescribed me something for the pain along with allergy medication, but I am not one of those people who likes to take daily medicine. I will, but I would rather not. Plus it doesn’t really work. So I use alternative methods, like covering my face if I have to go out, immediately washing my clothes, using a mask, or just staying in.

You guys know that we choose not to use any pesticides on anything we grow. Of course we know we live in an area where conventional farms and cash crops with heavy sprays are the norm, but even still I share my story because it’s important to know how your environment can affect your health and what you can do about it.

Of course I use other methods than the ones listed above, but if you suffer from seasonal toxins you have to find what works for you specifically. Each person is different and what works for me, may not work for you.

The bottom line is living in the Wiregrass means heavy sprays. Research, protect, and take action for yourself and your family. Find ways to fight and live, even during the times of seasonal toxins.

What do you mean you’re sold out?!?

When you’re growing food or raising it, there is always a time period that our supplies get low or we may even sell out. Yes I said it..sold out! WHY?

Well there are many reasons, but I’m going to give you the top two for us.

As a small farm, we only grow what’s in season. This means that as the seasons change, our vegetables will too.

With our organic chickens, time is of the essence! We don’t rush our birds and they aren’t force fed. They eat what they want, when they want. So they simply take time to grow. We boost our numbers in the Spring and Summer to account for Farmers Markets and new customers, but once they’re sold out we have to wait for the next batch to grow.

The good news is that if you purchase from us, you know that you’re getting the very best that we have to offer. Your organic produce has been cared for without the use of chemicals and your chickens have enjoyed their life.

So right now as the seasons change over and the birds are growing, we ask that you’re patient with us and any other farmers you support. We are working hard to make sure you have all that we can offer you for the next season.

Please know that although we may not have very much organic produce right now, we do have herbs like basil in abundance, plus we’re making pesto, salsa, and canning pear jams to extend the tastes of Spring and Summer along with our organic bone broth kits. Find all of these on our Shop Page.

We appreciate all of you and we thank you in advance!

Failures!

 

Let’s face it. We all have them. As much as we wish we could be perfect and everything could turn out successful, the reality is that NEVER happens. So when it comes to gardening or farming, you should expect and will have failures.

How do we handle these failures? You’ve spent months caring for your plants only to have something go wrong! Do you kick, scream, and just give up? Do you decide to never grow anything EVER again? No! Of course not.

Rule Number One: Don’t be discouraged!

Especially with organic methods there is always going to be something or some pest that came in and decided to eat the plant before you could. If you’re fortunate to get some of the plant then view it and all the holes as character! Be thankful those bugs left you any at all. Research that particular issue or pest and figure out how to prevent it from happening.

Rule Number Two: Be patient!

Growing food takes time. It takes careful planning, watering, weeding, babying, etc. Don’t be in such a rush or think you’ve done something wrong because your plant isn’t progressing as fast as you’d like it too. Perhaps it’s a weather issue that stunts its growth. It could be that your soil is too dense or missing something. Try to figure out the issue and go from there.

Rule Number Three: Don’t be overconfident!

Sometimes when we’ve successfully grown something, we think we’re professionals at it the next season. I’m here to tell you that we’re not! No matter how many times, I’ve grown something, I have realized that anything can happen! For example, we grow our organic sweet basil every year, but this year something decided to eat it. Basil of all things!! Really?!? Basil usually deters pests from your other plants, but something likes our basil, so some of it has holes. The solution? I covered it up. No more holes!

Sometimes more research is necessary. If one method doesn’t work, think outside the box. Ask yourself, what else can I do? Ask other growers, watch videos, read up on that particular plant. Just don’t give up! No matter how long you’ve been gardening, something will always happen. So be prepared, figure it out, and happy planting!