I hardly know where to begin. I am so far behind on all the wildly magical things going on in our life that this Summer has somehow morphed into Fall. I can hardly recall a year that has gone so quickly in my adult life.
I’ve always said I could be a professional student if only I was independently wealthy. Well, We’re still not independently wealthy, but we have somehow begun building a life that is allowing me to explore my passions and get paid. I pinch myself occasionally. Is this really me, getting to do this?
Pharmacy has been good to me ya’ll, but it’s no walk in the park. There is a reason it’s listed among the Top 10 Professions most likely to commit suicide. It’s a high stress job with long hours and demands 100% perfection. No surprise that the burnout rate is also remarkable. I am tremendously blessed with a husband who enjoys his job and has encouraged me to pursue what pulls at my heart. It is a gift he has given me this year… and a timely one at that!
At the end of September, I was fortunate enough to attend The 2017 Farm & Food Leadership Conference. Blessedly, this national event was held in nearby McKinney, Texas.
FARFA…. Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance is a national organization supporting independent family farmers. It works to protect a healthy and productive food supply for American consumers. FARFA is an advocate for independent farmers, ranchers, livestock owners, and homesteaders, as well as the consumers who support them.
Ya’ll, you’d hardly think this organization would be necessary. We all need food and farmers. Shouldn’t it be easy to farm enough nutritious food to feed our huddled masses? Let these statistics sink in:
This AMAZING Conference covered so many facets of Farm to Table Education. There were so many education opportunities, but not nearly enough time to attend each session. I settled on those that pertained directly to our farm and the direction we are headed.
I almost forgot… the most amazing Farm to Table dinner too. This was our first, but it won’t be our last. Dinner for about 150 people at Pure Land Organic Farm , catered by the incredible sustainably (and locally) sourced ingredient restaurant in McKinney: Harvest .
Connecting people with a common bond. Farmers, Ranchers, Nutritionists, Chefs, Sociologists and Anthropologists, Beekeepers, Backyard gardeners with a vision, Inner City gardeners with a plan for their community. This event paid no heed to political affiliation, ethnicity, age, or religious beliefs. Our goal is the same. To learn. To provide sustainable nutritious food for the body, mind, and soul to all walks of life. Breaking bread together never tasted so good.
Yowsers! We have figs. In fact, we have a disproportionate amount of figs. We have figs coming out our ears all from one very happy (but unknown species) tree.
We planted the little gal (there are male and female plants…. the girls being the producers) about 7 or 8 years ago, and it got off to a very rocky start…. multiple times. Every winter it appeared to die back to the brink of true death until two years ago. Last year we got spoiled by simply eating all we wanted off of the tree. There were enough to pick and eat daily, but not enough to make anything with. This year, the stars must have been lined up right because we have whopper crop this year. I’ve had to get on the ball and start collecting fig recipes. There are some amazing ones out there!
I’ve found this collection at BonAppetit (the figs with bacon and chile is on my ‘to do’ list… Wow… I’ll bet those flavors pop!)
I found a ‘cheeky chilli pepper fig chutney‘ ….. you know anything chef Jamie Oliver puts together is going to be good. My dear friends Aryanne and Martin gave us one of Jamie’s cookbooks several years back. The man knows how to use his ingredients, no question about it. I love that he focuses on using fresh ingredients and prefers seasonal cooking (cooking with what is available at the appropriate season of harvest). I do think that was God’s intention anyway. We were never supposed to eat the same thing 365 days a year like we are prone to do now. It’s probably one of the reasons the standard American diet is typically out of control and obesity and other body system dysfunctions continue to plague our country. If it’s not fresh, it’s likely filled with preservatives and other chemicals to make it taste more appealing.
And finally…. a ‘pear-fig-ginger-jam (with ahem… a dash of whiskey)‘ that we’re gonna have to try. That sounds like it would be incredible over a block of yogurt cream cheese (labnah) or cream cheese with some crackers.
Figs are a food of the Bible, and are loaded chock full of health benefits. God is good that way… giving us just what we need. Dried figs… the most common way people eat chem…. are even more densely loaded with nutrients than fresh. Although I like to eat them both ways, fresh from the tree is my preferred route of nourishment.
The Fig low down:
Any of my local friends want some figs? Give me a shout and this farmgirl can hook you up!
Take care, and have a blessed day,
I’m not gonna lie. Gardening can be an exercise in exasperation. I think that’s probably why God put certain strains of bacteria in the soil that actually boost our serotonin levels and decrease our anxiety (ie: mycobacterium vaccae)….. otherwise, we’d probably have thrown in the trowel and starved to death long ago!
In years past, my gardening nemesis (aside from too little or too much rain) has nearly always been squash bugs . They are pervasive and will ultimately kill or severely cripple anything that resembles a squash plant. They also stink to high heaven when you squish them (the only way I know to kill them organically). My proboscis so sensitive that I can smell them (dead or alive) before I see them.
I’ve been gardening for about 10 years…. honing my skills every year. Successful gardening is definitely an acquired skill….and you can’t quit learning or something will eat your lunch. Literally! Prior to this year, I didn’t think I could hate a garden pest more than squash bugs, but clearly I’d never met the cucumber beetle. I’m glad I know Jesus, because if I didn’t, I’m fairly certain that my personal h*ll would include these garden pests.
I planted in early April. This last North Texas winter was a mild one, and all the signs indicated that the last frost was behind us. I watched my rows carefully, waiting for the little seedlings to pop up out of the soil. I always get a little extra heart pitter patter when I see them emerge. This year, each morning when I went out to do a quick check and spot weed, my seedlings started completely disappearing nearly as fast as they came out of the ground. What the what??? It took me several days to identify the culprit. While we do have a few of the spotted variety (see above left), the majority of these evil suckers look like the ones on the right. Striped destruction. Right there. They have eaten every single plant in the cucumber, melon & watermelon family, and THEN they started on my squash. Are you kidding me?? Even the squash bugs have their gustatory boundaries.
If you’ve stuck around here for any length of time, you know that we go as organic as possible on the farm. In the garden, we are 100% organic all the way down to our heirloom seeds and homegrown cow manure compost. Unfortunately, all of the resources I found on organically managing cucumber beetles required some serious forethought and planning….. the kind of planning that you do in the fall and winter. Helpful information, but too late in the game.
Organic gardening isn’t so much about destroying the enemy as it is repelling and reducing the numbers of ‘feet on the ground’. In my search, I found a few different general gardening ‘bug be gone’ recipes, but I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand for any single recipe. Time was short. The cucumber beetles had systematically moved on to my young squash plants, and there were beetles everywhere. Complete and utter destruction of all things cucurbit was eminent.
I decided to take the ingredients listed in a few recipes, and combine them for my recipe:
“Bug Be Gone” Brew
1 big deep bucket or ‘under the sink’ style trash can
1 old fashioned flour sifter
about 3 gallons of food grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
about 1 cup of premade minced garlic (I will make my own in the future, but urgency required the premade stuff)
about 2-3 mls each of the following oils. I use Young Living Oils because I know they are potent, pure, and full of health benefits! …. and once again, we are striving to be 100% toxin free, especially in the garden.
I added the oils to the garlic and then added that mixture to the bucketful of DE. Make sure you have enough room in the bucket to mix thoroughly without spillage. It is some pretty potent smelling stuff!
I then began sifting the mixture over the plants, making sure to get the ground around the plant well covered too. Honestly, that part went way faster than I anticipated. I did notice that the beetles seemed to scurry when I started applying the dust, but I decided to withhold my assessment for a few days.
I also went back and replanted seeds on the same day that I spread the initial application. I put some of the DE mixture in each little hole I made for the seeds, and then put some on the top of the rows for good measure.
It’s now 6 days later, and I’m happy to report that the cuke beetle population has definitely made a dramatic turn. While I still find an occasional straggler, for the most part, it appears there has been a retreat by the enemy. My new seeds are coming up, and I am being vigilant about dusting them once they pop thru the upper crust of the soil, and re-dusting them after watering. So far so good….. but for now, I’d call this battle a victory.
My garlic is nearly ready to harvest and I will be making more of my Bug Be Gone with my own cloves in the future. The sifter is a key piece of equipment for this endeavor. Mine came from my kitchen, but you can find ones like it in junk stores, or just buy a new one on line for about 10$.
Enjoy your day!…. and I hope you win whatever battle you’re currently fighting.
First fruits (okay, vegetables) of gardening this year!
I’m not sure why so many people think asparagus is hard to grow. It isn’t. Maybe it’s because it can be so dang expensive in the grocery store that people just assume it must be hard. Or maybe it’s the patience factor….. because planting it means you MUST wait for several years (at least 3) before getting good bounty if you want a sustainable crop.
Oh, you can plant it, and get a few stalks the first year you plant it…. but if you harvest all that grows, you deny the root system the energy it needs. That part we snap off and eat? That’s what supplies the roots (technically called rhizomes) with energy. Remember in elementary school all you learned about chlorophyll? The green upper part is what helps turn sunlight into energy for the plant. If you always harvested 100%, eventually the root system would die off and you’d have to start over again. For this reason, we let about 50% of our crop reach full maturity so that we feed the root system in anticipation of next year’s harvest.
In some areas of our garden it actually has the weed quality about it…. (ie: a plant growing in an undesirable location) now. And in some parts of the country, it actually grows wild in bar ditches. It is a great foraging food if it’s in your area (provided foraging doesn’t include raiding your neighbor’s garden at midnight ;)!
Asparagus is interesting and rather amazing. It literally grows inches every day during growing season. To make sure you are able to get to it before it gets woody, you really have to check your plants twice a day, or you might as well let them leaf out because it may be stringy and tougher than you like.
Asparagus is loaded with health benefits…
Store bought asparagus is no substitute for fresh picked in terms of flavor. Fresh picked is sweeter and more tender. Many stalks never make it beyond the garden as I eat it straight-away… picked as a snack! People who say they don’t like asparagus (kids in particular) typically find that they like the fresh stuff. I find this to be true with most foods when comparing farm fresh vs most store options. So, go find your local farmer’s market and hunt down some of this fresh goodness while the season is upon us.
Fresh asparagus…. it’s what’s for dinner! (and for breakfast…. omelette’s anyone?)
Have a blessed day,
I think gardeners must suffer a worse case of spring fever than the average Joe, and North Texas weather only plays with our emotions making the situation even worse. We have beautiful days followed by cold snaps frequently with little or no warning. It’s a dance of self control and roulette with the Farmer’s Almanac officiating.
We have no kids of our own, so the farm and garden are managed by us alone. If you live on a farm, you know that the chore list is never ending. Gardening season kicks that list up a notch or two. This season we are trying something new. Have you heard of WOOFing?Technically, the acronym is WWOOF, and stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. It is an international organization that connects people who want to learn about organic farming with organic farms who needs extra set(s) of hands…. people like us! You can actually plan a learning/working vacation by being a willing WOOFer. We live in a deep and friendship filled community. While many of our friends have their own farms, we also have friends who live in town in subdivisions where gardening is hampered by privacy fences, small yards, poor soil, and a low bee population. We have one friend in particular who homeschools their children, and was looking for a way to incorporate gardening and self sufficiency skills (a dying art in my opinion!) into the curriculum. WOOFing in the truest sense means that the student generally lives on the farm for a period of time while working… so food and lodging in exchange for work. We are modifying that format a bit in this case, and I’ve got two young WOOF pups who will be learning the finer points of organic gardening alongside me this season and will be taking harvest bounty home in exchange for their work. It’s definitely a win/win situation for all parties involved. My two young friends have proven themselves to be hard workers…. harder even than many adults I know. I am really looking forward to passing what I know and have learned thus far on to the next generation, and am loving the relationship I’m building with my WOOF Pups. Respect and love for what we grow to nourish our bodies (whether that be animal or plant) is something I hope to pass on to others. The “cleanest” food we can eat is that which we have the most control over from start to finish (much like the company I represent), and it’s the most very basic first sustainable step in living a life focused on complete wellness.
Gardening, you see, fills so many needs: Spiritually, it gives you time to pray and connect with nature. Physically, it provides you with exercise, sunshine, and direct contact with dirt (a very very good thing!). Emotionally, it has been scientifically proven to be a balm for the soul…..originally thought to be simply calming, but now there is evidence that exposure to microbes in the soil actually BOOST serotonin levels in the brain providing a sense of peace. And finally, Nourishment…..if grown organically, you will have regular access to some of the healthiest food you can get your paws on.
We’ve got our onions, lettuce and kale planted… that’s all I’m brave enough to plant for now. But in just a week or two we will begin planting the rest of our seeds. In the meantime….. lots of preparation is still in order for this busy busy time. Stay tuned for updates!
Why try to explain miracles to Kids when you could just have them plant a garden? ~ Robert Brault
In early winter I start itching to get my paws on the latest edition of The Whole Seed Catalog. It’s crack for the organic gardener. Truly. I’m not sure how many times I thumb thru the catalog highlighting, circling, and dogear-ing pages before I make my final selections. I feel like Imelda Marcos in a shoe store. Rareseeds.com is my ‘go to’ source for seeds simply because I trust them and I respect their ethical stance on heirloom seed preservation. Their seeds aren’t just heirloom, they are also organic.
We are organic gardeners, and that includes our seed choices. I am frequently asked why seed choice is so important. Oh ho ho. Seed choice is VERY important any time you are asking something of a plant ( it’s one of the things that really sealed the deal for me on my essential oil company of choice ).
Organic heirloom seeds are better for a multitude of reasons:
My seeds arrived last week and I’m itching to plant. It’s still a little early for most things. I prefer to plant directly into the soil, but will prestart a few that take longer to germinate in my greenhouse.
Cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, lettuce, kale, onions, zucchini, butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, beans, beans, and more beans…. and so much more! I’m even making an attempt at growing loofah sponges this year!
Come on spring! We’re ready!
Hey there....thanks for stopping by! This is me (Liz James)... an eclectic mixture of holistic (and organic) farmgirl meets pharmacist. It's a synergy that works well as I speak truths and dissect fact from fiction. If you're looking for healthier living options, you've come to the right place!