Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wonderful Pumpkin Season

Our first year was SUPER!!! The pumpkin season is over now. The patch was successful, we had several different types of pumpkin and squash plus beautiful mums. We worked hard to fight the squash bugs, cucumber beetles, powdery mildew, and wilt. We learned a lot about pumpkins and mums and are already planning for next year.

One the agenda for next year we have 9 varieties of garlic to plant, 10 new types of mums and at least 30 different types of pumpkins and squash. We will continue our attempts to grow seasonal heirloom veggies.

Until then we will continue to post our cleaned fibers and yarns on our etsy site. Our winter will be full of spinning, dyeing and felting.

Enjoy some of our pictures of the pumpkin stand and the small events that we had, such as community day, with pumpkin painting, petting zoo and guess the weight, and the pumpkin carving day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Awaiting the Mums

Well, we are awaiting the arrival of the mum cuttings. They were to ship on Monday to arrive sometime on Thursday. We spent the afternoon yesterday, gathering the ingredients for our soil-less mix. We found the sand and mulch in bulk, but had to buy bags of the peat moss and some kind of tiny pebble thing. We got everything in town using the farm dump truck. Mike spent 2 two hours last night cleaning the area for dumping then dumped the pile. Once on the ground he mixed all the parts with the skid loader. Then he pushed the pile under the over hang to protect it from the wind and rain. Which was a great idea!!! We were able to fill all of the pots today even though it rained on and off. The pots are stacked and ready to go once the cutting arrive.

On our walk through the patch today we discovered a pumpkin, an actual pumpkin!!! This patch might have pumpkins after all!! If you can't see it, it's on the left side right at the bottom of the yellow flower!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Pumpkins are Planted and Growing!!!!

Where has the time gone? I know - to the pumpkin patch. We started with the idea of the black plastic mulch and planting the seedling by cutting holes in the plastic and placing them in the ground. We thought this would be a great way to control weeds from growing up between the plants. We laid three rows of plastic by hand and planted 50 -75 seedlings. This was super hard work, there was a tractor involved to cut the rows, then raking, then rolling the plastic, then more raking to keep the plastic in place. After we finished those three rows, Mike suggests that maybe the place that sold us the plastic has a machine to lay the plastic. I thought, " Are you kidding? Of course we should look into that, why are we doing this by hand?!?" Then we spent a week of trying to rent the equipment, picking it up, it not being there to pick up so we abandoned the whole plastic mulch idea.
These pumpkins need to get in the ground, so we started planting seeds by hand straight into the field. It was just the three of us, Mike, the baby and I. That kid is a trooper. I have never seen a 2 year old so willing and pleasant to just wander around a 3 acre empty field sticking seeds in the ground. It was awesome. We planted, then it rained. We planted more, it rained more. Then it rained and rained. Finally last Friday the final seeds were planted. Who knows if they will grow, who knows if the pumpkins will be on time. Some will be early, some will be late. Oh well, it was our first attempt at something larger than a flower bed so we are learning. I haven't taken any other pictures since May 20th, the pumpkins are really looking better since.
During all of this craziness, I was able to place an order for mums. I searched high and low on how to grow fall mums and the only information I could find was on taking cuttings from your mums. Well I only have 4 mum plants of my own and 3 of them are boring white and the other is pink. So I took the cuttings and planted them in pots, with only 2 colors. That would be a totally lame display - must search harder!!! So Mike purchased the book, "The Growing and Marketing of Fall Mums" by Don Langevin. This book gave us all the information we needed to successfully find a supplier of mum cuttings. I chose of Minnesota. They were great to talk to on the phone and the variety was great!!! The mum cuttings are being shipped June 14 ( holy crap that's today!!! ) They should be here by Thursday, then the next adventure will start.
The Giant pumpkins are on the move. It looks like the monster at the house has taken over most of the garden and is growing at a rate of 8 inches a day. There are female blossoms on it now. This picture was taken on June 7. It has grown quite a bit since then!!!
Finally all the sheep and goats have been sheared except for the Pygora, she has a small patch on her back thigh that will not shed off. Oh well, she looks a little frightful.
I am finishing up the Spring Semester of school and this sessions class is on Electronic Production. We needed to create a corporate identity for a company and I chose the pumpkin patch. I'm happy with the project for the class, but Mike thinks the logo needs some tweaking before it's official.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Natural Grass Mower

There are a hundred and one things to do today and the only thing I did was sit in the middle of my yard, surround by the goats, enjoying the warm breeze. I held the new baby kitten as Meow ( our daughter's cat) sat by my feet. All I could hear in my head was," with two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard, Now everything is easy cause of you and our..." Oh how I love Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I have never been more at ease.

We invested in a portable electric fence for the front yard. We staked off an area with some shade and left the three older goats go to town on the high grass. The goats seemed to enjoy the change of scenery and liked grazing on the tall grass. If we move the fence around we might never have to use the mower again.

Also, the weather finally worked with us and we were able to do our May Pole dance and spring celebration.

Plus - Our local FFA (Future Farmers of America) and the 4-H had an auction to benefit the two programs last night. We enjoy going to help out the organizations and to score a couple of good deals. We ended up getting a rain water barrel. We have an open top barrel, but this one has a spigot and a leaf screen on top. Just the right thing to collect rain water to water the giant pumpkins. We also picked up a bag of feed for the animals, a garden hoe, and a great cow hide looking lamp shade.

Pumpkin Patch tilled under

Finally we had nice enough weather to disk the field under. The field had not been plowed in over a decade so the turf was hard to turn over. Mike ended up driving the tractor for the first time.
They ended up finding an attachment to dig rows so that the black plastic mulch can be laid down and then the dirt be pushed back onto it. Once that is done we intend on punching holes in the plastic to plant the seedlings.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Savvy Photographer is having a give-a-way

Again not farm related but the weather has been so frightful that I have been working on my images lately and wanted to share this with everyone too.

Hey photographers and digital scrappers, Savvy is giving away the Beach House Collection Templates to a lucky winner! To enter just spread the word about Savvy and then post your comments to their blog.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Textures by nicholeV photography plus patch progress

I took this picture during the day of rock removal from the pumpkin patch. We placed the baby on the the trash can for safe keeping as the skid loader moved rocks from the soon to be planted area.
I thought it was an interesting scene as the storm rolled in on us. The sky was dark and in the place she was sitting there was no background except for sky.
I used a texture from nicholeV photography on this image. I added a border that I did over top. I really love this image, with my baby and her pink cowboy boots.
Interested in textures check out nicholeV photography -

I love nicholeV photography

I know this is not a farm topic, but still a big part of my life is my photography and I just wanted to profess my love of nicholeV photography and the super awesome textures and actions offered on the website. I fell in love with textures last fall and I can't get enough of them. I think that textures makes the pictures have an old time feel.

This is site is an inspiration to me and the images are fantastic. Check it out!!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Homemade Lemonade & Chive Oil

Yesterday I spent the evening making fresh lemonade. I used 4 lemons, 5 cups of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, fresh lemon balm leaves and mint leaves. First I washed the lemons and peeled the zest off of one lemon. I placed 3 cups of water in a pot to boil and added the zest. Once the water was boiling I added the sugar and stirred. While the sugar water was boiling I cut and squeezed the lemons by hand, which is great for nails and cuticles. I ended up with a cup of lemon juice.
Once the sugar had dissolved, I removed the water from the heat and lightly bruised the lemon balm and mint leaves and placed them in the hot sugar water. I left that to cool while I worked on other projects. Once the mixture had cooled I added the lemon juice and the additional 2 cups of water.We like ours a little less tart than others, so add the lemon juice first, stir and taste, add then additional water if desired.
Pour the lemonade into a pitcher and place in the refrigerator until chilled. Strain to serve and enjoy.

That was one project using the fresh herbs that are growing in the garden. The other project was a chive oil.

This recipe was passed along from another herb freak!! To make the chive oil, I cut a large bunch of chives, about 2 oz. I placed them in a pot of water and brought it to a boil. I removed the pot when the chives were bright green. Then in the blender I added the chives and a cup of olive oil, blend and let sit. I let the mixture sit for about an hour, then I strained it. Done.

I used the chive oil to top a tomato dish.
Cut tomatoes into slices, lay out on a plate, sprinkle with fresh oregano and chopped garlic. Then add a thin slice of mozzarella to each tomato slice. Then drizzle with the chive oil. This dish can be served cold or it can be broiled until the mozzarella melts to make a tasty hot appetizer.

We are enjoying the fresh herbs and increased the herb garden by adding horehound, peppermint, pineapple sage, catnip, arnica, angelica, lavendar and tansy.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Here's Johnny! New Goat on the farm!!

Well, the weekend began with a Friday night of fleece sorting in preparation of our trip to MD Sheep and Wool Festival in West Friendship, MD. We ended up with a total of 35 pounds of fleece to take to have processed. There will be a nice 50/50 Mohair/Wool blend, a nice black and a soft fluffy white wool. I use a guy out of New York to get the fleeces done and he sets up at the show, it's a great way to save on shipping.

Early on Saturday morning we woke up to the roosters alarming like crazy. There was a fox in the hen house. Since we just hatched 8 chicks last week the chickens were going insane over this. Mike chased off the fox, and we all were up and ready to go early Saturday.

At the MD Sheep and Wool Festival we purchased a beautiful little cashmere goat. He is chocolate brown and such a sweetie. We are super excited and he has been welcomed into the barn.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pumpkin Plants are taking over the house

I guess it has been a while since the last post. The month has gone by so fast that I never have time to write. To update the pumpkin growing....At final count we have 31 varieties of pumpkins and over 6,000 seeds. We have started many types indoors so we have seedlings to plant outside in a couple of weeks. There are a handful of types that have a longer maturity date and we started those first. They included the Howden Biggie, the Fairytale, Bliss, Rouge, and this large white/pink thing. We want pumpkins from the beginning of Sept to the end of Oct, so we are trying out the idea of starting some earlier than others. That way we can have some harvested and still have some for a "pick your own" patch.

The second group we planted include Blue Moons, Goosebumps, Winter Luxury, Valento, Lumina, Red Warty thing, Cotton Candy, and Butter nut squash. We planted 8 seeds of each and all of those are coming up. So now the dilemma is what do we do with these quick growing large plants, since the locals suggest we don't move the plants out side until May 15? Solo Cups!!! Each plant is being moved to it's own party cup and set up on an 8 foot long folding table in the living room.

The giant pumpkin experiment is on. We have one outside in a plastic walled hut in attempts to have a fairly large pumpkin by the time of the Shippensburg Fair at the end of July. It is a normal Dill giant, we have the hopes of getting a 400 -500 pound pumpkin from it. Inside the house we have seeds from the linage of the 1689 pound pumpkin which was the 2007 world record, seeds from a 1568 pound pumpkin which is the parent of the 1689 pounder and seeds from a 1298 pound pumpkin.

The field where our pumpkins are going to be planted has been cleared of large rocks and is now going to be plowed. We had planned to plant around the rocks but now we don't have too.

As for the other veggies and seeds. We have had good luck with the tomato seeds, the plants had grown quite large from January when we were checking the air in the house. The warm weather came and someone...not mentioning any names... thought it was a good idea to plant the tomatos in the garden. The plants were large and getting root bound in the containers they were in, so the idea was to get them out before they died. I had suggested that it was not warm enough yet, but no they were planted and now they are dead. So the lesson for the week is no matter how warm it is in the beginning of April, don't plant your tomatos outside until May at least in our area. SO I have replanted more seeds and they are being babied inside.

We have also planted cucumbers, basil, cilantro, eggplant and peppers. Everything is growing well.

**Here's a little note to anyone who wants to garden and start seeds indoors with a toddler who wants to help...write the name of the seed on the container NOT on plant sticks. We planted 9 different hot pepper plants with the intent to sell some at market, we made plant sticks for each peat pot in the tray. We watered them and placed the tray on the heat mat under on the plant stand under the light. we turned our backs on the tray for a minute to clean the counter and get our notebook to write down how many of each we planted, the order in the tray and whatnot....when we came back to the tray little fingers had removed all the tags, mixed them up and we retagging pots. In the process some seeds had been pulled out and stuck back in randomly. So we have a tray full of growing hot pepper plants but have no idea what is what, so they will be for personal use.
As for the animals 4 out of 7 animals have been sheared. The Angora goats did fine as always, Lily the one year old Baby doll sheep was very crazy and was nicked a couple of times, but we patched her up and she looks great today. Well as good as she can look with the hack job I did on shearing her. While we were shearing yesterday there was a whole new group of chicks that hatched. At last count this morning I think there were 12 babies running around.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Maple Syrup Success

Finally finished with our first maple syrup. We gathered over 40 gallons of sap. We ruined the first boil, so we ended up with a quart of syrup for all of our hard work. But it sure tasted good on the waffles. We have a better understanding of the process and hopefully next year we will have a better season for it.

We went to the Maple Festival at Fort Hunter in Harrisburg last weekend and spoke with a gentleman who boiled his syrup the same way we did, in a cast iron kettle , then finished it up on the stove. He said that we were on the right track and by boiling in a kettle there will always be a smokey taste to the syrup. To get rid of that we will have to get an evaporator. I don't think we tap enough trees for that. Although we have been offered the opportunity to tap more trees on other farms next year, so who knows where this adventure might lead.

Now that is done, we are getting ready to start more seeds indoors. We have some sunflowers started from the Garden Show we attended at the Farm Show Complex. The kids were offered a chance to plant some seeds to watch grow, and Evelyn's seeds are sprouting already. we are looking to plant the eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and Kohlrabi.

We have found some really great recipes for herbal fertilizer, pest repellent and powdery mildew remover. Check out The recipes are located in their newsletter section. They are a herb shop in CT. They are very helpful and have great fresh herbs!!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Snow, Snow and more Snow.

We haven't had much to post about due to the massive amounts of snow we had here. With the harsh winds we had to continually plow the driveway just to get back to the house. The animals did not leave the barn for two weeks. They walked out on the patio of the barn and just stood there and looked out. Today, for the first time in weeks all of the animals plus the chickens ventured out into the pasture.

The maple syrup adventure continues to be a learning process. We had some of the sap spoil and some of the syrup had too much of a smokey flavor. The sap is still running so we will continue to experiment.

We must have very good air in the house, the tomato plants are growing very quickly.

Now Mike has the idea to compete in the Shippensburg Fair with some of his giant pumpkins. we will have to plant them by the end of next week to have it ready for the fair at the end of July. We will see how that works out.
Here are some snow pictures:

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Does our house have bad air?

Mike was doing his research on gardening, veggie plants, and whatnot and came across a gardening book from 1954, The Homeowners' Complete Garden Handbook by John Hayes Melady. It suggested that you start your tomato plants indoors in January, to make sure that your house is a suitable place to start seeds. So we planted some saved seeds from a friend's heirloom Stuffing Tomato, some Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, Genovese - an Italian Heirloom, and Orange Amana another heirloom variety.

So far, there are sprouts of each. We are using organic prepared potting soil, not that it matters it was what we had on hand, and they are under the light for 12 hours. It is just a regular florescent light, not a heat lamp. We are excited that it worked and ready to get the other plants started this spring!!!!

The benefit of doing this not only saves you a ton of money, time and effort if your house is not suitable, but also should yield a nice bunch of early tomatoes.

Our Maple syrup adventure yielded us a shot glass full of smokey maple syrup/water. We have several more gallons to process, which I think will work out better the next boiling day, because we have a better understanding of what's going on.

BUT now our buckets are under snow.

So on our snow day we are obsessing over our giant pumpkin books and seeds that arrived in the mail on Friday. Our seeds came from a pumpkin that was over 1600 pounds!!! Our goal is an 800 pounder. Oh the pie we will make.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Boiling - Day one

Our first day of boiling sap was cold and not very productive. The wind whipped around our kettle so bad that it took forever (and the deconstruction of a metal shevling unit) to get it up to boil. We had a nice fire going but the wind kept the kettle from holding enough heat to boil, so after hours of no luck, Mike found an old metal shelving unit and took it apart to use as wind breaks and insulators. Once that was set up around the fire pit the fire blazed and the kettle held a rolling boil. We are still processing the sap, so we are at the sweet water point. Hopefully by the end of the day we will taste the sweetness of victory. Here are some pictures before the shelves.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The sap is flowing!!

The sap was flowing last weekend, then we had horrible rain and wind. When we checked the buckets after the storm we thought they we full of rain water but we tasted it and it had some sweetness to it. Then is was warm enough again for the sap to run even though the wind chill was incredible. We got such a harsh wind it pulled on of our taps out. So we have to fix that today.

We have collected over 16 gallons of sap to boil down. The fire is started and the kettle is set, We'll let you know how it goes.
The pictures here are one of the taps, 10 gallons of sap and our little investigator checking out on of the buckets.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tapping the Maple Trees - Syrup ahead!!

On our walk around the yard yesterday, we noticed that some of our smaller maple trees had already went to bud. Oh no!! That means we missed the sap run. We have been having the right kind of weather for the sap to start running but we are 2 to 3 weeks earlier than any of the suggested tap dates.

Luckily, when we came home from work on Friday, our box from Anderson's Maple Sugar had arrived. Since we had the equipment, we decided to tap one and see. The drill went in and before we could get it out the sap was running down the tree!!! We hit the mother load.

We tapped 9 trees with 11 taps around 11am on Saturday morning, by the time we checked the buckets at 4pm we had 1/4 of a bucket of sap from several of the taps. So I guess it was ok to tap, I think it's a combination of the weather and the fact that we are further south than most sugar shacks.

Thanks again to Grit magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and the PA Maple Syrup Producers for letting us know how easy it is to tap, collect, and make our own maple syrup!!!

On a different note, we finally got the Christmas Tree out to the goats. They love pine trees. There is a goat farm in town that sells trees at the holidays and what is left over they give to the goats. So we thought we would try it. They loved it. The sheep tried it but they weren't into like the goats were.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Awesome Seed Stand - Grit Magazine

Ok we finally finished our seed starter stand with the help from Grit Magazine, Jan/Feb 2010 issue, page 82. ( ) We were looking at several stands out there but they are all so industrial. This article makes a stand/bookcase.
It's not overly fancy but it is nice wood and the lights are hidden for year round use I guess the key is to not fill it up with junk in the off season.
It's funny how we came across this magazine, it had goats on the front and one of the pictures inside had goats in a tree. If we had a tree close enough to the pasture, I know Athena, the pygmy devil would be in it. So I wanted to read about other peoples goats. Then we stumbled onto this article about the seed starter stand and maple syrup making.
In Martha Stewart Living this month ( Feb issue) It also mentions how easy it is to tap your maple trees. So I looked into it and Mike spent some time with the PA Maple Growers Association at the PA Farm show last week. It seems like we understand the whole process and our supplies are on their way. We ordered them from Andersons Maple Syrup,
On another note, we had a hard time finding dry bean seeds. We don't eat alot of green beans but our diet is full of kidney beans, chick peas, and black beans. I came across this wonderful seed company: Vermont Bean Seed Company, . The seeds were shipped quickly and as soon as we get them planted this spring I'll update on how they are doing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What do we do now?

Well, we were lucky enough to gather about 11 different varieties of pumpkins from friends and family to save seeds from. They are interesting one like the fairy tale variety and a handful of white ones. So, the beginning of December we are slicing through pumpkins gutting them and drying seeds. The seeds laid to dry for 2 weeks, it was getting close to the holidays, I wanted the counter back. The seeds felt dry and they were bagged and tagged just like the one book suggested - plastic bags.
I always thought seeds kept best in envelopes, but into plastic they went.
We received the purchased seeds, and while looking through the collections to map out a plan, we open the box to find this, a bag of moldy pumpkin seeds. Crap, now what??? It's not a vital thing to save these seeds. We were just trying to see what would grow from saved seeds. So off to our books we went, one suggested that you should disinfect your seeds with a bleach to water solution. So far it looks like it worked. The seeds are mold less.

I guess it will be spring until we see if they grow or not.

On a happy note all of our purchased seeds have arrived from Johnny's Seed and Reimer Seeds.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The New Year with a New Focus

We have successfully set up our farm as a business. Dusty Bottom Acres, LLC. We have a goal for the year and that is to plant, grow and harvest some of the oddest and coolest veggies and pumpkins in the area. We have redirected our blog from being just our crafts and everyday life to what we call confessions of a first year farmer. See, we have no experience with growing much of anything. So, this is going to be our diary as we learn, grow and mess up.

Our farm includes fiber animals, so we have plenty of wool and mohair for sale. We are currently working on the Etsy store now.

The Blacksmith might find some time to post a project or two, but who knows because of his ambitions to grow the largest pumpkin. It looks like the largest is over 1600 pounds!!! I think he will be happy with anything over 200 pounds. But still that is a huge pumpkin!!!

Join us in our adventure for 2010!!!