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!

Growing Now! (August)

August is officially the last full month of Summer and here in Alabama, it’s typically the hottest month as well. So the phrase “out with the old and in with the new” comes to mind, but the reality is that since we have so much Summer produce still growing, the best thing for us to do was open up a new area.

We grow in a small space compared to those who have acres and acres of land, so every single piece of our property is precious! Plus I already tried and hubby (Brandon) said I 100 percent, absolutely could not, without a doubt, grow food on our front lawn. What that means is strategic planning is always the name of the game here!

So since we’re always growing, I had to play garden box chess. Never heard of it? Well basically I get to say where I want to move the garden boxes, and Brandon jumps the pieces around until they’re locked in place. Checkmate! This frees up not only planting space, but space needed to rotate our birds to fresh grass.

For the Fall and Winter seasons we are growing organic winter squash, potatoes, root vegetables, leafy greens, cabbages, and many others. Normally we would post pictures of everything, but since most have just recently been planted we’re patiently for them to emerge.

Instead you will get pictures of some of the organic tomatoes, flowering beans, peppers, basil, green beans, sunflowers, and spaghetti squash we have growing right now. Enjoy and we will see you next month!

Journaling!

We’ve been talking to you about crop rotation and companion planting. Now let’s dig a little deeper and discuss how to keep records of not only what plants you’ve grown from year to year, but also what successes and failures you’ve had. Think about it, you could say “well there was this one time when I planted such and such and it was delicious.” BUT……

What about it was delicious?

What seed did you use?

Did you save them?

How did you grow it?

Where did you grow it?

What was it companion planted with?

What pests bothered it?

I can continue, but I’m sure you get it right? When you have a garden journal you can record all of these. It will also tie together everything else we’ve been blogging to you about over the past few weeks. Write down what you planted where to ensure you’re rotating your crops effectively. Write down what was planted with those plants. Did that combination help or hinder each other?

Journaling also helps you to keep track of planting dates. This has been vital to me specifically, because well I forget…..ALL the time! So now I map out each garden area. I’m no artist but I literally sketch it out in my journal. I record when the seedlings emerged and what the seed packet says about days to germination and days to harvest. It’s been our experience, that this does not always match up with what’s exactly on the package. Sometimes things can take a really long time based on your specific growing conditions or can grow at the speed of light. This is all so important to record.

Gardening is really a practice of tries. You keep trying until you find what works, then you stick to it! There is Science, Mathematics, and English all rolled up into it. What? You thought you were done with school? Not quite. To be truly successful at growing your own food, it takes work and for us, prayer! After all who better to ask for help with your garden then the one who created all of it in the first place?!?

Of course once you get everything down perfectly and your system is working there is always the inevitable. Some new pest or a weather disaster. The important thing to remember is that some things are just out of our control! Things happen and you learn, write it down, and move forward. We had to specifically learn this lesson with the weather. If a cold freeze comes and kills the tomatoes you just set out, maybe tomatoes isn’t the thing for you this year. Or maybe the lesson will be that you will pay attention to the weather and get out there and cover them up!

Ultimately you’re in control of how you garden. We just want to give you the tips that have helped us along the way. One final tip is this, please don’t rely on the plant markers to tell you what’s there. They fade. They get washed off. The dog runs off with them. Happened to us! So please learn from our mistakes, keep a journal, and most of all, Happy planting!