October 28, 2022

Garden Notes: October 2022

I love October. In September, we hope for relief from the blazing summer heat, but in October, there is a noticeable drop in temperature. It's the month when we start watching for an early frost, and it's the month when the leaves begin to change color. (For my October fall color photos, click here.) It's the month when all our homestead critters are frisky and full of antics. Kitchen and garden projects have slowed down so there's time to enjoy the changes. Most of my cooking is done in the house now, rather than my back porch summer kitchen. October is when we light our first woodstove fire of the season and the first of the canned summer goodness is opened and consumed. The only downside to October, is that it's typically a dry month for us.

Rainfall 

  • 12th: 0.05"
  • 26th: 0.125"
  • 31st: 1.375"
  • Total: 1.55 inches

Temperature
  • nighttime range: 31-63°F (-0.5-17°C)
  • daytime range: 58-80°F (14-27°C)

First Frost

We had scattered frost on the morning of the 18th, and a blanketing frost on the 19th. So the summer garden is officially done. 

Marigolds sporting our first frost.

Planting & Growing

The fall garden is planted, but it's been dry, so it's not growing well. I've been watering some of my seedlings, but chickens got into the garden and scratched up quite a few beds. Anything that survived all that may have a chance! How long it lasts will depend on how cold or mild it is this winter.

Harvesting

Early October yields (before the frost) were meal size pickings.

Sauteed okra, onions, and cherry tomatoes

Orange Glo watermelon

No waste with watermelon. Chickens and goats love the rind.

Kale, collards, and daikon leaves

Greens steamed in butter with some grated carrot

Oregano, rosemary, and thyme (in my olive oil kept feta cheese).

Asian persimmons on the tree

The variety is Ichi-Ki-Kei-Jiro. I chose it because it said to be heat and drought tolerant (which it has been!) It's a fuyu type, which are ready to eat when they turn orange (unlike the kind that are astringent until after frost). This is the first real harvest we've gotten from it. It's about time too, since I planted it in 2015!

Scooping out the gel and removing the seeds.

Persimmon ready for ???

Persimmon pancakes

Freezing the extra in muffin pans.

When frost became imminent, we harvested everything that might suffer damage.

Last of the peppers. These are Giant Marconi.

Last of the green slicing tomatoes

Hugelkultur sweet potato squash

The last of the cushaws.

The mature squash have a home in the pantry. They are like pumpkins in terms of preparation and flavor. The green ones taste like summer squash, and can be prepared the same way.

A tender green cushaw seasoned and sauteed in butter.

But green winter squash don't keep well. The littlest ones still have tender seeds, so they were sliced, blanched, and frozen. The larger green squash, like this one,

Immature (green) cushaw

have large, but immature seeds that are tough.The skin is still tender, so the seeds were scooped out and the rest of the squash was cubed and canned.

Canned "green" winter squash. Eat like summer squash.

I planted three types of sweet potatoes. These are the Georgia Jets.

Taste testing the sweet potatoes required a sweet potato pie.

Overwintering

I'm trying something new this year. I found a YouTube video on how to overwinter pepper plants (https://youtu.be/x09X87UCZTI). I'm giving it a try.

Pepper plant pruned, potted, and ready to come in.

I only had two pepper plants this year, both purchased as 4-inch potted plants. This particular plant looked quite poorly most of the summer, and I kept thinking it was going to die. But the healthier looking plant died instead, and this one really perked up after a good rain and cooler temperatures. It was producing well until first frost threatened. So, it became my overwintering experiment. It would be great to get an early start on our peppers!

Challenges

The problems this time of year aren't so much bugs or disease, but lack of rain and critters. That includes birds (including naughty chickens), chipmunks, skunks, or groundhogs. In fact, we found a young groundhog had set up it's winter home in one of the garden beds! Dan found the hole, and I came face to face with the groundhog chowing down on a chicory plant. We didn't want it demolishing the garden and we hate to waste anything, so the groundhog became . . . 

Garden Groundhog Soup

Now you know why I was looking for a recipe for groundhog. My small harvest amounts were perfect for making this soup. I added peeled tomatoes, onion, green beans, yam berries, cowpeas, kale, tatume summer squash, and previously canned bone broth. Our favorite winter lunch is soup, so here are four lunches, ready to heat and eat.

Okay, I think that's it. At the beginning of the month, I didn't expect this to be a very long post. But first frost changed that! 

How about you? Is your garden just ending, or just starting?

October 24, 2022

Cookbook Review & Giveaway: Omnivore's Guide to Home Cooking

I often find myself looking for recipes for unusual foods. Things like small game (groundhog being the latest), or foraged foods such as day lily, poke, and hosta. Not too many cookbooks address these, so when I recently had the opportunity to review Judson Carroll's new book, I was pleased to find a cookbook that included those unusual foods and more.

The Omnivore's Guide to Home Cooking: For Preppers, Homesteaders, Permaculture People, and Everyone Else

I really like it. 

I like his philosophy. Here it is in his own words: "to eat as seasonally as possible and to include the widest diversity of foods possible. I believe that fresh and well-handled food has more than just vitamins, protein and carbs, fat and calories. I believe that real food has a life force to it that is lost when it is shipped long distances from where it is grown to where it is sold. My goal is, through careful cultivation and harvesting and the cooking and preserving techniques I use, to preserve and even enhance that illusive quality."

I like his cooking style. Tools and techniques are basic and practical, i.e. classic rather than trendy. The foods are those that are commonly grown, found, or caught in one's own neighborhood.

I like the way he writes. This book reads more like an interesting conversation about cooking than a recipe book. 

The book is indeed what the title says; a guide rather than a book of formulas. The recipes are described rather presented as lists of ingredients and steps; very similar to historic cookbooks. I realize not everyone will like this approach. But for a cook like me, who rarely (if ever) follows a recipe exactly as written, it's perfect. I always find myself adapting recipes to ingredients I have and how I cook, and this book actually encourages that. 

The book is available as a print or eBook at Amazon. eBook copies are also available at the author's blog. Also, it's also being highlighted for a giveaway at Permies.com this week! The rules to enter are simple, and you'll have a chance to get to know the author, ask questions, and learn more. 

Click here for how to enter the giveaway.

© October 2022 by Leigh at http://www.5acresandadream.com

October 20, 2022

Greenhouse: Foundation

Decision made, no time wasted! The weather has been pretty, so Dan got right to work. We'd decided on a dirt floor for our greenhouse, but since the ground starts to slope at the back, Dan either had to dig out the high area, or build up the low area. He chose the one that was the least amount of work!

Lowest spot is by the fence

He took down the first fence panel and gate, and got started.

Little chicken inspected, approved, and certified bug free







It probably seems unconventional, but it's similar to how the foundation of our 100-year-old house was done. We're too far south to have a frost heave problem, so traditional regional methods work well.

There are still several things to figure out, but your comments and suggestions have been very helpful, and we thank you for them.

October 16, 2022

Greenhouse: Planning

A greenhouse is something we've talked about from time to time, but as with so many potential projects, we couldn't settle on the details. Location was the biggest question because so much of our property is shaded with big trees. When Dan took down the pecan tree that shaded that side of the house, the front corner of the house was opened up to a good eight hours of sun. After observing it for the past year or so, it seemed like a good spot for a greenhouse.

The plan is to build a lean-to structure off of the sun room

We had this in mind when Dan finished the siding on that exterior wall. For every other side of the house, we upgraded all of the windows. This time, we were thinking that if we added a greenhouse, we wouldn't necessarily need to replace those windows (a costly endeavor). The greenhouse itself would add good insulation, plus hopefully benefit from the heat of the house.

The first step was to dig out those bushes to analyze the slope of the ground.

The ground is relatively level, with a gentle slope away from the house. The lowest spot is by the fence. So some leveling is in order. One option for that is pouring a concrete slab, but it's a greenhouse, so a dirt or gravel floor is the more economical option. 

Then we discussed size. The length and height are set by those five windows. The idea we settled on is to replace one of the windows with a door, to be able to enter the greenhouse from the house. An exit from the greenhouse to outdoors will be in the back, where the fence is now. A solar battery box is behind the fence next to the chimney, so that's a factor for where we can put a door. That also sets a greenhouse width of about eight feet.

For greenhouse walls, we've saved all of the original house windows we've replaced over the years. 

Old windows from living room, dining room, studio, and bedrooms.

Old windows from kitchen, bathroom, and pantry.

The casings on most of them are shot, but Dan can mill out whatever lumber he needs. What we'll have to buy is a roof. Also, we'll have to buy the doors and a fan for summer ventilation; something solar powered like our attic fan.

While Dan works on building plans, I've been looking at greenhouse ideas online and working on a list for the interior. So far I have:

  • potting bench
  • storage for potting tools and supplies
  • bin for potting soil
  • bin for mulch
  • worm bin for vermiculture
  • shelves for starter trays and pots
  • pot hangers
  • rain catchment tank for water and thermal mass
  • what am I forgetting?

The catchment tank brings up the possibility of at least some passive heating of the greenhouse, because water retains heat and acts as a thermal mass. Other non-electric heating ideas include rock or brick surfaces (also for thermal mass), or a rocket stove, heat sinks, compost, resident rabbits or chickens, and hot beds. One good thing is that our winters are relatively mild. On the flip side, our summers are very hot, which means a greenhouse would likely be too hot for plants in summer (and that brings up another concern, i.e. the probable transfer of that captured summer heat to the house.) 

Obviously, we still have lots to research and think about. But it looks like this project will definitely be happening this winter! And I'm happy about that. 

Do you have a greenhouse? I'd be very interested to hear your experience, especially what you grow, and how it impacts your growing season. What are it's benefits and it's limitations? What have you experimented with? What's worked and what hasn't? What would you do differently if you were to build another one?

Dan's not one to sit around after a decision has been made, so I'll have first steps to show you soon.

October 14, 2022

Garden Master Course Kickstarter Update

Kickstarter (click here for details)















The Early Bird specials for the Garden Master Course by Helen Atthowe have now expired. But the Kickstarter is going strong and there are still rewards to claim for donating as little as $1! The project was funded in record time, and several stretch goal rewards for $100 and up pledges have been guaranteed. 

  • Neal Kinsey's Hands-On Agronomy video workshop (I reviewed Neal's book by the same name here).
  • Justin Rhodes' Meat Chickens video, guide, and plans
  • All of the 2018 issues of Stockman Grass Farmer magazine
  • Tour of Wheaton Labs: The Movie
  • Helen Atthowe webinar, "Creating a Backyard Fruit Forest"
  • Wofati Greenhouse Plans
  • Plans for a solar dehydrator with rocket assist
  • 3 nights' stay in the Tipi at Wheaton Labs (for the top 4 backers)
  • Hopefully, the Lazy Ass Gardening eBook by Robert Kourik
  • I'll update this list if new stretch goals are added.

Now, you may be asking, if the project is already funded, why donate? The reason I do is because Permies.com is the most comprehensive online community focusing on homesteading, gardening, cooking, food preservation, natural building, critters, renewable energy, permaculture, etc., etc. Every time I do research on a topic, at least one Permies link comes up, and usually for the most helpful information. These are real people actually living the life, so they speak from experience. With trolls and spam eliminated quickly, it's an interesting and pleasant place to spend time. And it's free. 

Except, we all know that nothing is truly free. Any time we get something for free, somebody else has to pay for it. I think Permies is an excellent online resource, one worthy of support. And I know from being on the Permies staff, that all of the money from every Kickstarter goes to developing resources that promote homesteading and permaculture.

Willing to help? Just click the banner below (or this link)!
 






Alright. Enough of that. On Sunday, I'll show you Dan's newest project!

October 11, 2022

Kickstarter: Permaculture Garden Master Course

I'm really excited about this one!















What's it all about? I'm sure most gardeners are familiar with the Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener Program. It trains volunteers to answer the thousands of gardening questions that people call in to their county Cooperative Extension office. My stepmom was a Master Gardener for awhile, and I admit I've been tempted to take the course, just for the knowledge. But the deterrent has been that it's geared toward conventional gardening and includes the use of chemical fertilizers and sprays. I'm not interested in that. 

In January of this year, Wheaton Labs hosted a Certified Permaculture Garden Master Course in Missoula, Montana. That was too far away for me, but the entire 5-day event was videotaped. Now Permies.com wants to turn all that raw footage into a professional quality permaculture garden master video course! This is something I'm definitely interested in!

The instructor is Helen Atthowe. Helen is a long-time no-till farmer, researcher, and teacher. Noteworthy (to me!) is that she interned with Masanobu Fukuoka. As a former extension agent in Montana, she designed, wrote, and taught the manual for an Organic Master Gardener course for the Montana Cooperative Extension. Now, she teaches the Certified Garden Master Course. If this Kickstarter is successful, this course will be available to us all as a video. 

The course teaches organic, veganic, no-till, and permaculture gardening knowledge and skills. You will learn:
  • how to understand functions and interactions within plant, soil, microorganism, and insect communities
  • how to identify and manage all the relationships that make up a healthy farm-garden-ecosystem without pesticide and fertilizer inputs
  • soil and habitat-building for beneficial organisms
  • systems-thinking for gardeners and farmers: how to manage relationships rather than just crops

To see the course contents, click here and scroll about halfway down the page.

Does this sound like something you could support? If you're ready, click here! Early Bird supporters get the best deal. In addition to the regular rewards for a $1 pledge and up, everyone who donates at least $1 now through Friday, will get $199.88 worth of early bird specials:
  • Early Spring chapter from A Year in an Off-Grid Kitchen by Kate Downham
  • Justin Rhodes' Great American Farm Tour: Extended Cut
  • Angi Schneider's Succession Planting e-book & calculator
  • The 3rd issue of Living Woods Magazine
  • Composting with Chickens eBook
  • Chapter 10 from Leigh Tate's 5 Acres and a Dream The Sequel
  • Paul Wheaton's Permaculture Thorns Presentation from Exit & Build 2022
  • Practical Biodynamic Farming with Adam Klaus from Permaculture Voices
  • Grow Don't Mow eBook from Roots Down 
  • Hotbed Plans + Self Heating Winter Greenhouse Plans eBooks from Dirt Patch Heaven
Plus these popular repeat goodies from previous Kickstarters. (You can use the gift codes for yourself, or to pass it on to someone else. )  
  • Gift code for The Berm Shed Movie
  • Gift code for Spring 2019 Issue of Communities Magazine: Community Land 
  • Gift code for Learning to spin yarn on a drop spindle by R Ranson
  • Gift code for Thomas Elpel's Green Prosperity chapters 1-10
  • Gift code for Common Weeds And Wild Edibles Of The World (HD movie)
  • Gift code for Native Bee Guide by Crown Bees
  • Gift code for An hour long presentation by Tim Barker about ram pumps
  • Gift code for Six Quick Stove Tricks from Ernie and Erica Wisner
  • Gift code for a two hour long Farm and Animal Relationships presentation by Jacqueline Freeman
  • Gift code for Hugelkultur chapter from Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist from Michael Judd
  • Gift code for Uncle Mud's EZ Cob Rocket Stove from Chris McClellan (aka Uncle Mud)
  • Gift code for Thermophilic Compost for the Garden or Homestead pdf by Alan Booker
The early bird offer ends at 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14 (Mountain Time). 

Access to the Garden Master Video course starts at $50 for raw, unedited video of the entire event. The professionally edited, polished video will be available at the $80 pledge level, with more rewards for higher pledge categories. This is probably the lowest price point we'll see for this course; future access to the finished course will likely be higher. If you grab it during the early bird specials, it will be like getting the course for free!

To see all of the pledge levels and their rewards, click here.

Interested? Just click the banner below (or this link)!
 






I know all that sounds like a full-blown sales pitch, lol. It's just that I'm really excited about this project. The course will be my winter personal enrichment learning project. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments, and I'll try to answer them if I can.

October 7, 2022

Dehydrated Potatoes For Instant Mashed

I grew up in meat and potato country, where potatoes were the standard starch for most meals: baked, mashed, boiled, scalloped, hashed, french fried, you name it, we ate potatoes that way. Now, I rotate the starches I serve—rice, pasta, potatoes, bread or rolls—but our favorite is always potatoes. Especially, mashed. With salt and butter. Or gravy.  Or my mock sour cream (ricotta with a little kefir stirred in until it's sour cream consistency). Yum. 

There are a lot of steps to making mashed potatoes, however, so I don't make them very often. There's store-bought instant, but somehow I don't think those taste very good. They supposedly use freeze drying to make it (which is said to be superior for retaining flavor and nutritional value), so maybe it's the other stuff they put in it: vegetable oil (soybean, cottonseed, sunflower or canola), corn syrup solids, maltodextrin, sodium caseinate, disodium phosphate, mono and diglycerides, calcium stearoyl lactylate, artificial flavors, artificial color, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bisulfite, dipotassium phosphate, silicon dioxide, etc. Or maybe because I'm so used to eating real food, that store bought instant mashed potatoes just taste "off."

When I discovered several mashed potatoes dehydrating videos, I was interested! They were pretty easy to make.

Cut into chunks and boil as for mashed potatoes.

Mash when soft. Don't add milk or butter. If it 
needs thinning, use the potato boiling water.

As you can see, I didn't peel my potatoes, even when I'm mashing them. It adds nutrition, and neither of us minds the bits of peel. We're used to it.

Spread onto fruit leather trays or parchment paper. Set the dehydrator
to the vegetable setting and dry until crisp (for me, about 18 hrs)

I've tried both waxed paper and parchment paper for drying things like this. I don't find either works very well, so I'm thinking I need to invest in some fruit leather tray liners or maybe silicone baking sheets.

Break into pieces and put them into the blender.

Blend on high until it's powdered!

Store in a sealed, airtight jar (I vacuum pack mine).

I haven't tried making mashed potatoes with them yet, but I'll report back when I do. I'm going to follow the rehydrating recipe from Northstar Prepsteader.     

Heat to boiling
2/3 C water
1 T butter
1/4 tsp salt
Remove from heat and stir in
1/4 C milk
2/3 C potato flakes
Season to taste 

If these are as good as everybody says they are, we'll eat a lot more mashed potatoes this winter!

October 3, 2022

Video Course Review: Soil-First Gardening: How to Grow Black Gold in the Backyard

Although I'm a long time organic gardener, it's only been in recent years that I switched to no-till. Like any new approach to gardening, there's been a learning curve. And along with that learning curve, there's been a lot of experimenting. Some of those experiments have worked out well, but others haven't. So when Anna Hess contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing her new video course on Udemy.com, I was happy to say yes! 

I'm guessing most of you are familiar with Anna. She and her husband Mark blog over at The Walden Effect, and Anna has written a number of excellent homesteading books including The Weekend Homesteader, Homegrown Humus, and Bug-Free Organic Gardening.

Soil-First Gardening: How to Grow Black Gold in the Backyard is her first video course. Who is it geared for? Anyone seeking to improve their gardening skills. It's a fantastic introduction to no-till gardening for the beginner, yet contains ideas that experienced gardeners will want to try. The lessons cover compost, no-till organic gardening, biochar, hugelkultur, and cover crops. She explains how each technique improves the soil and shows easy how-tos to apply to your garden. What I found impressive is how she and Mark have uniquely adapted these techniques to their region and their garden. There are some interesting ideas here! I learned new ideas for concepts I'm familiar with, but looking to improve.

The overall presentation is appealing. Anna's friendly personality makes you feel like you're right there with her. Each section includes an interactive assignment, a downloadable PDF handout, and a brief quiz. The sixteen lessons are short but to the point. The course is self-paced with a total time of one hour. 

Why can I recommend this course? Because true expertise comes from experience. While it's important to understand the principles behind any concept, it's equally important to be able to apply those principles to gain results. In other words, being able to explain something from head knowledge is good, but being able to explain something from experience is better. Anna Hess has experience I can respect. 

Why Udemy? Why not just go to a free video site and look around for similar information? This is the second course I've taken at Udemy.com, and I really like the platform. The videos are very well done and free from fluff comments and trolls. In addition to organized lessons, assignments, handouts, and quizzes, Udemy lets you add personal notes anyplace in the video. All of these are truly helpful assets compared to regular video websites. Plus, I have lifetime access to all the courses I buy.

How much does it cost? Regular price is $19.99, but I have a coupon code! Follow this link to get 35% off 

SOILBOOSTER

The code expires October 8, 2022. 

Who doesn't want better soil for their garden? It's the key to nutritious produce and abundant productivity. As gardening season winds down (or up!) I hope you'll treat yourself to this course and be inspired for your next gardening season.