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!

Companion planting!

Let’s talk about companions….When you plant certain vegetables and herbs together, they use or feed off of each other. Some herbs even help with pest control. True story! Take for example the picture above. The bean plants have climbed up the corn stalks so no trellis is needed. Beans also fix nitrogen into the soil and corn needs nitrogen, so it’s a perfect match.

There is also a need to point out that certain plants don’t like each other. Take for example tomatoes and potatoes. These two plants compete for soil nutrients and thereby planting them together is a bad idea.

Companion planting not only works with vegetable and herbs, but flowers too. Nasturtiums and marigolds are two favorites we like to plant around here. They are known to protect certain plants from pests like aphids!

Here a just a few other suggestions:

Nasturtiums and Cucumbers – Cucumber beetles hate these edible flowers. So not only is it a pest deterrent, but it tastes good too!

Tomatoes and Basil – Basil is wonderfully fragrant, it’s an excellent herb to cook with, and it’s said to boost the growth and flavor of tomatoes.

Overall, the very best thing you can do for your garden is keep records of what works where you live. A journal is your best friend and will help you from season to season. Happy planting!

Crop Rotation

The health of your soil is directly connected to how well your food will produce. Here on our urban farm, we produce food year round. In order to do this we have to take precautions to protect the health of our soil. One of those precautions is crop rotation.

Crop rotation involves moving plants around in order to deter pests, prevent disease, weeds, and soil depletion. We like to follow a pattern of green, bean, root, fruit.

Earlier this year when we harvested our first potato crop, we researched and reached out to other farmers for ideas on what to plant behind them. We read a ton of information and were given many suggestions, but in the end we planted melons, cantaloupes, and tomatoes. So far they are growing just fine! Even with all our humidity….

The chickens control the pests, we pull the weeds, and our soil is happy and disease free! All due to crop rotation. So remember crop rotation is one important step in having healthy soil and plants. There are plenty more that we will share with you. Until then, happy planting!

Fall Plantings!

Here in Alabama, it seems odd to start preparing for and then planting fall vegetables when it feels like it’s 100 degrees outside, but really if you wait for the cool down it will be November and that’s too late!

So we are planting NOW! We have begun the process of clearing out some of the squash plants that have stopped producing. In their place will go more organic potatoes along with carrots, rutabagas, and radishes.

We know you guys want those leafy greens year round and we wish we could provide them. Did you know that in the Summer months, leafy greens are almost non-existent because the heat wipes them out? Sad, but true! There are some heat tolerant varieties, but “tolerance” doesn’t always equal survival. Our heat and humidity have proven to be just too much for some plants. One day we hope to extend our growing season with a climate controlled greenhouse, but for now we look forward to planting many different varieties for you to choose from in the Fall.

Of course we plan to offer staples like collards, kale, and broccoli. We have been researching, praying, and planning and we decided to try our hand at cauliflower and cabbage. We haven’t been successful with these in the past, but we’re hoping this is our year!

Since we’ve harvested the meat birds that we’re pastured in one of our garden areas, we will be turning it over for the Fall. It’s imperative between plantings to always add nutrients back into the soil. Good thing the chickens left us plenty of nitrogen! So we’re happy about that and we’re hoping for a beautiful and bounteous season to come!

 

 

Growing Now! (June)

We’ll HELLO SUMMER! It has definitely arrived with back up! With that being said, we want all of you to be safe while outdoors. Stay hydrated and wear a hat if you can. Everyday that I’m outside, I’m fully covered. I wear light loose fitting clothing to protect my skin from the heat and a hat to make sure the sun isn’t beating right down on me. I’m very careful to drink lots of water and take breaks inside under the air conditioning. Heat exhaustion can be deadly so it’s extremely important to take care of you while enjoying this Summer heat.

This past month has been filled with many Farmers Markets and we’ve been loving meeting all the people and getting to know our fellow growers and vendors. Of course, we’ve still been tending to our gardens. We need good clean food to eat as we know all of you do as well.

We have been busy picking and shelling organic beans. We have grown quite the variety and are excited to share them with you. Our corn will be ready in the next few days and when I tell you we can’t wait to eat it….well we just can’t wait! The plan is to roast it on the grill in the husk next to our chicken! YUM 😋! Non-GMO and organic of course!

We have loads of tomatoes! So many are growing, but they’re mostly all still green. A few have started to turn, but we’ve been eating them almost as soon as we get them off the vine.

Cucumbers are growing in abundance and we’ve been making  pickles! There is nothing like it! So fresh and delicious!

We have a few varieties of peppers growing and with what we’ve been able to harvest we’ve been combining them with tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers to make a fresh salsa! We hope to share it with you guys once everything is ready!

We picked sunflowers and roasted their seeds! I know, I know we’re supposed to give them to the chickens……we just couldn’t resist so mums the word! We can’t have them all mad at us and not laying any eggs!

We have succession planted green beans and are excited for them to start producing again. Eggplants are starting to produce and we should have okra soon! Plus we have pumpkins in June and there are more to come!

By way of fruits, we have cantaloupe, watermelons, and honeydews growing. We hope they’re prolific!

The plan for July is to get more potatoes in the ground and to plant a final round of corn. We will be starting fall veggies soon and will keep you posted on that!

We thank you for supporting our family. We love what we do and we’re proud that you allow us to feed YOU!

Growing Now! (May)

Well the warmer weather hit then 3 weeks of rain and I almost lost my mind! Somehow I completely missed the “Growing Now” segment for April and since it is now June, I also missed the deadline for May.

Farming is hard you guys! Even on a small scale, there are highs and lows. The weather is constantly changing, the bugs make your beautiful produce look like warfare, some things just never grow, others catch diseases or this year the over abundance of rain kills them. Then there is the never ending battle with the weeds……..you get my point right?

So what’s a lady to do?!? Cry, pray, rethink, research, and then start again. So that’s exactly what I’ve done. If you follow my Facebook page then you know that tropical storm, Alberto came through and knocked down our corn. It was literally leaning over! I have to say that through that whole ordeal, I was most thankful for our customers. Most of you went through that went us and I don’t think you guys know how much your care and concern meant to me. So I just want to say a huge THANK YOU!

Onto what what we now have growing….currently we have a wide variety of beans and cowpeas. Most should be coming up this month. So far we’ve been harvesting Spanish Tolosana kidney beans. There isn’t enough to cook yet, but as the rain subsides and we can pick more, we’re planning to make a nice chili with them.

Something new for us this year is okra. I have personally always like okra, but my husband, well he WAS a different story. Last year I started getting okra from our friends at Bain Home Gardens and found ways to hide it in cooking. I bet you’re not surprised to know that he actually does like it. So of course we’re growing it! The type pictured below is a red variety (please forgive the weeds) It’s going to be so good! Oh and eggplant too!

As always we’re growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. Unfortunately our tomatoes have not enjoyed all this rain, but we’re hopeful that some are still salvageable. Cucumbers on the other hand are producing well. Peppers are taking their time growing, but they have begun to flower. So we’re just patiently waiting.

Our second round of squash and zucchini is producing like crazy and we couldn’t be more happier about that. Our basil is back and we began making pesto last week. Plus that rosemary I told you guys about in March actually came up!

Out of all the things we have growing now, we’re most excited about our corn! Did you know that mostly all the corn produced in the world is genetically modified? For us this means that we barely eat corn or corn products. So being able to find trusted organic non-GMO corn seeds for us has been amazing and we cannot wait to pull that first ear off the stalk and eat it!

Until next month…..