Garden Envy and Livestock Dynamics

Is it possible to have “garden envy” over your own garden??

Garden Growth
The garden is taking off! I am SO happy I used a Ruth Stout method of gardening – thick layer of straw to help with weed suppression and moisture retention.
More Garden Glory
Squash, beans, onions, lettuce, broccoli and peas – oh my! The garden is taking off in summer garden madness!

I have NEVER had a garden look like this!  I am so proud – and fortunate!  I think a major benefit has been the addition of straw everywhere to help suppress weeds.  Often called the “Ruth Stout Method,” this layering of organic mulch blocks sun from weeds (causing them to die, or at least stunt their growth), hold in moisture (less watering or at least less fluctuation), and decomposes over time allowing the organic matter and nutrients to soak into the soil.  You can use more than straw – hay, grass clippings, leaves (clean up last fall’s mess!), or other untreated natural products.  You could use mulch or wood shavings, but I would make sure they don’t have the dye in them.  Also stay away from walnut or locust shavings as these contain natural toxins that will kill many plants, or at least inhibit growth.  The larger the chunks of mulch the longer it will take to decompose, but the deeper the mulch the better the weed strangling powers!  This is a definite WIN for future years!

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Colton’s sweet corn patch is doing wonderfully – already tasseling out!  We planted a second round a few weeks later that is, of course, behind the first round, but it is growing pretty well too.  He is SO excited for sweet corn – it’s the first time he’s been able to get it past “mole food” stage!  We are planning to harvest and store a fair amount for ourselves, but what we don’t give to friends and family may be available at the farmer’s market!

For those that don’t know – we have become a vendor at our local Farmer’s Market!  We don’t have a ton to offer, but we are learning and hopefully growing – in product, experience, and knowledge!

Major Product #1 – Farm Fresh Eggs.  We have chickens.  This venture started with Dad’s flock but since we couldn’t keep up with demand this spring, and I am hoping to increase the egg business, we brought 20 to our farm.  However, as our newsletter subscribers learned, we lost 10 hens to predators.  I was pretty bummed, but Colton said I could get more pullets!

We sold 17 dozen eggs at one Saturday market and could have sold more – since we suddenly only had about 8-10 dozen at most, we were needing some girls with laying abilities asap.  Gaumer Family Farms to the rescue!  He had some ready to go at the right time – and the day after we brought them home one was already laying!  They have so many types of chickens, ducks, turkeys, and other fowl I’m excited to try more!

We have had horses all my life and there is a natural “pecking order” to them (no pun intended!).  Sometimes it takes a while – and a bit more fighting – for the horses to figure out who is boss and where a new horse lines up in the herd.  It’s no different for chickens.  I asked a few chicken people – including Gaumer Farm – and they said the girls were young enough they wouldn’t have a problem integrating.  There were a lot of loud squawks and the younger girls were terrified of everything (probably more so in shock!), but after a few days the raucous has toned down and the new ones are settling in.  It’s funny how even though horses and chickens are completely different animals there is still that natural process.  It extends to all sorts of livestock – cattle, hogs, etc. – and even humans.  Just depends on how long we decide to squawk about it!

Chicken Egg Business
We have upped our flock numbers to keep up with the farm fresh eggs demand! Girls are so happy to get out on grass during the day!
Introducing New Chickens to the Flock
We got a flock of 20 pullets at the end of March; mid-June we had a predator problem and ended up losing half. Luckily we found someone local who had pullets available and replenished the flock with 20 more – but they have to get used to each other!

Major Product #2 – Lettuce.  Since I started the farmers market the two biggest products we have were eggs and lettuce.  The Prizehead Leaf and Ruby Red Leaf Lettuces have been excellent producers for us!  The Bibb lettuce produced and held up well but it bolted more quickly and I had to pull it from the garden.

Which created more space!  But we have more lettuce that needs to get in the ground.  While this is a bit of a gamble – putting the same crop in the same place – I think we will be ok.  With the compost we still have it will provide some nutrients and better soil.

Major Product #3 – herbs.  I might have a slight obsession with trying new things – including herbs!  I had a few from last year but I went a wee bit crazy this year.  On top of the Garden Roster I added some Russian Tarragon from my cousin, French Tarragon and chives from Red Barn Nursery, and since my basil hardly did anything I got a Genovese Basil from them too.  They are a gem in our area!

But herbs are amazing!  You can use fresh or dried, and many of them include nutraceuticals that are missing in some diets.  I am harvesting fresh bunches for the farmers market and any left over after market I dry for future use.  If you are an herbalist or more interested in holistic/natural remedies, herbs are the way to go.  There are herbs for headaches, sore throats, anxiety, wounds, hundreds of things.  I have one lady that bought a bunch of anise at the market and the next week came back for more – she said she had so much inflammation in her body and after a few days it went away.  The only thing she could figure out that was different was the anise.  Do your research (I am not an expert – just an avid researcher!).

One marketing tip I would have – find a recipe!  Several of my herbs are unknown to people, some have heard of them (like anise) but don’t know what to do with them.  If you need a simple doc setup, contact me and I can work on something for you!  But instead of people not knowing what to do with the herb – give them a way to try it.  Look around for easy recipes with minimal “weird” ingredients (so they don’t have to buy a bunch of random things they won’t use again).

Odds and Ends.  I originally started this blog because of the amount of crafts I started making geared towards farm life, repurposing, and other boredom creativity.  I also started it as a writing outlet for my “farm life” and opinions.  Since then, the focus of the site has changed – I have had to take a more business-minded approach – but the craft thing is still there!  So for the Fourth of July we came up with these cute “Patriotic Blocks”!  There are tons ideas on Pinterest – so many that I might have to try this for fall and Christmas!

Patriotic Wood Blocks
To help celebrate the Fourth of July we came up with these “patriotic wood blocks” in various sizes and designs! Even if you’re reading this after the holiday, contact us if you’re interested – we ship! We can also create something for summer, fall, Christmas … ;P

And finally – MICROGREENS!  This product has been on my radar for several months.  It has a super fast rate to product (anywhere from 7-14 days), is super healthy (one plant jammed into a tiny sprout), and is pretty versatile (fresh eating in salads, wraps, sandwiches, or sauteed in stir fries or dinner garnishes).  There are many flavor profiles depending on the veggie used.  Plus – they are unique.  Many people in our area may not know of this power-house veggie, but I’m trying to find things that would help expand our product list, customer base, and offer something not available from other farmers (many of us have lettuce).  Since our first round of lettuce is about done and the second isn’t quite ready, microgreens seemed a great way to go this weekend!  We still have some learning to do, but we’re getting there!

Microgreens for Salad
Had to harvest some microgreens to try – these are Black Oil Sunflower Microgreens – adding them to our lettuce mix. Aren’t they pretty!!
Radish Microgreens
I didn’t time these right, but these radish microgreens are pretty cook – fast growth to harvest, taste like a radish (even with some heat!) and look pretty cool, too!
Radish Microgreens
Trying something new – microgreens! They’re a fast turn around, super nutritious, and because of how fast they grow and can be harvested are a good interjection to the lettuce season.

 

There is a TON going on at the farm!  Colton worked all through “Stay in Place” but I was off, which allowed me extra time to jump start the gardening season; however, I have had to go back to work and it’s been tough keeping up with everything – including the blog, newsletter, and YouTube channel – but so rewarding to see this spring’s hard work coming to fruition (figuratively and literally!)

If you haven’t already – subscribe to our newsletter!  I send out an email about once a month with some insider information and you’ll get a “perk” for signing up!

Be sure to find us at the Princeton Farmer’s Market!  We would LOVE to see you!  The morning is super busy – and we usually sell out of eggs first thing – but we are finding a balance to keep our existing customers happy and market goers the chance at farm fresh egg amazing-ness!  The market has several excellent vendors including farm fresh produce, baked goods and jams/jellies, plants, crafts and woodworking.

If you are a local farmer or someone interested in farm fresh products – be sure to check out our NEW FACEBOOK GROUP – Farmer-Consumer Connection!  We want everyone to find what they need in their community, and we especially want local farmers to succeed and grow!  Help us connect these two things by enjoying this group.  Add friends who are looking for farm fresh beef, eggs, produce, etc.  This is a bit more geared toward Bureau County (local area) but if people are willing to travel, please add them.

Hope everyone had an enjoyable Fourth of July!  We’ll see you at the Farm or Market!

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