Dinner on the Farm

After much angst, one of my acorn squashes finally matured. It certainly didn’t look like what you can buy in the store . . .

Odd little acorn squash

Odd little acorn squash

It sat on my counter for a few days until I finally remembered to pull a package of frozen ground lamb from the freezer out in the pump house. Last night I opened the squash up and scooped out the seeds.
Ready to stuff

Ready to stuff

While the oven was preheating, I sauteed some onions with the lamb burger and then added a few more ingredients. I then filled the squash with the ground lamb and baked for about 50 minutes (which was probably about 15 minutes too long as the squash basically pureed itself.)
The final product

The final product

Dinner was excellent. (I had saved the outside of the squash for the hogs after I had scooped out squash and meat, but one of the dogs decided she really liked baked squash and ate most of it before I caught her.)

The Squash that ate Detroit

– not really, but the squash is definitely taking over the breakfast room. The breakfast room faces south and gets wonderful light which makes it ideal for growing over the winter months.

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The peas I planted in an Earthbox in the Greenhouse are also doing well. This weekend I hope to put up a string trellis for the peas.

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Greenhouse

The previous owners of my place had left a metal gazebo screwed into wood strips, in turn screwed into the concrete pad. Over the years I kept telling myself I needed to take it down but never got around to it. A few months ago, I had a brilliant idea of turning the gazebo into a greenhouse. I also thought it could do double duty as an enclosed area to milk goats. The milking stand was on the deck, exposed to wind and rain, which translated into having to milk goats in the house in bad weather. However, in pricing out the polycarbonate sheets and other materials that would be needed, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to be a feasible project. It did get me looking at pre-fab greenhouses though and I found a Palram Nature Series Mythos Hobby Greenhouse on Amazon for a couple of hundred dollars less than it was going to cost me to convert the gazebo (and the shipping was free).

So I ordered the greenhouse and on January 29th it was delivered. The delivery driver put it over the gate and my first two thoughts were: 1) something was going to be broken and 2) the box wasn’t nearly large enough to contain a greenhouse the size I ordered.

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The box was too heavy for me to lift so I unpacked it at the gate and placed each piece in the back seat of my car to transport down the drive. Amazingly, nothing appeared damaged as I unpacked the box.

While I have no doubt that I could have (eventually) put the greenhouse up by myself, thankfully a (more skilled) friend came by on the 31st to put up the greenhouse for me.

# 1 - The first order of business was to take the gazebo off the concrete pad. # 1 – The first order of business was to take the gazebo off the concrete pad.

#2 - Then, each piece of the greenhouse was laid out. The instructions were simply diagrams - not my strong suit - and thankfully almost all the pieces had corresponding numbers to match the diagrams.

#2 – Then, each piece of the greenhouse was laid out. The instructions were simply diagrams – not my strong suit – and thankfully almost all the pieces had corresponding numbers to match the diagrams.

#3 - The next  step was to screw the frame into the wooden strips the gazebo had been fastened to.

#3 – The next step was to screw the frame into the wooden strips the gazebo had been fastened to.

#4 - Then the supporting framework was put up.

#4 – Then the supporting framework was put up.

Gradually more and more pieces were installed.

Gradually more and more pieces were installed.

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Until finally the greenhouse was completed

Until finally the greenhouse was completed

Note the vent (and the milking stand already set up for use)

Note the vent (and the milking stand already set up for use)

20160131_171024_resized In addition to the milk stand, there are now cinderblock and board benches with two earthboxes planted with peas and beets.

About 2 am the next day, the winds started to howl and blow. I lay there just waiting for the crash foretelling that the greenhouse had been blown into a tree or the pumphouse. However, the wooden strips screwed into the concrete which had held the gazebo in place were also able to keep the greenhouse anchored. Several high winds later, the greenhouse is still anchored and I have a sheltered area to milk goats as well as a chicken proof place to grow additional vegetables.

Home Grown

Dinner tonight included home grown lettuce, a radish and green onion (from my garden tower); feta cheese made from my goat’s milk and a hard boiled egg provided by one of my chickens.

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Garden Tower

My Earth Boxes are great but. . . my breakfast room isn’t terribly large so my gardening efforts are limited. So when the Garden Tower Project was giving away a free Garden Tower at the end of the year, I entered. I didn’t win (no big surprise there) but I did get a good discount on a Garden Tower so I scrapped my budget and bought one of the new and improved versions of the Garden Tower to set up inside. Rather than a one piece barrel construction of the original version, this one is manufactured in pieces. The spaces to plant are larger and are easier to access; but the new feature I really like is that the new Garden Tower rotates.

The Garden Tower arrived last week so I went out and bought some casters and then went down to the local lumbar store and had a piece of plywood cut to use as a base for a dolly. I took the outer packaging to use as a template to ensure the plywood was the right size (but . . . forgot that the Garden Tower has feet which extend out from the base, oops). Once I put the casters on, I was ready to put the Garden Tower together.

First a tarp since this is inside and water and dirt is involved.

First a tarp since this is inside and water and dirt is involved.

Then the dolly. I was anxious to get the Tower assembled and was thinking it was going to be inside so the wood didn't need to be treated. Another oops. I should have painted or varnished it but too late now.

Then the dolly. I was anxious to get the Tower assembled and was thinking it was going to be inside so the wood didn’t need to be treated. Another oops. I should have painted or varnished it but too late now.

Then the base. Perfectly sized (as long as I didn't put the feet on.)

Then the base. Perfectly sized (as long as I didn’t put the feet on.)

As you can see, there is a drawer in it to catch water and to empty the compost tube. From the top you can see the center compost tube.

As you can see, there is a drawer in it to catch water and to empty the compost tube. From the top you can see the center compost tube.

A few more rings added.

A few more rings added.

The compost tube in the center.

The compost tube in the center.

The Garden Tower completed. The zip ties hold the compost tube in place so when the potting mix is poured in, the tube stays centered.

The Garden Tower completed. The zip ties hold the compost tube in place so when the potting mix is poured in, the tube stays centered.

The Tower ready to plant.

The Tower ready to plant.

I followed the instructions to the letter and found that the amount of water to add to the Garden Tower as potting mix is added is way, way too much water. I was emptying out the drawer fairly frequently to keep it from flooding the room.

I followed the instructions to the letter and found that the amount of water to add to the Garden Tower as potting mix is added is way, way too much water. I was emptying out the drawer fairly frequently to keep it from flooding the room.

I did have a few more acorn squash as well as some started radishes and lettuces, and some onions so I’ve started planting and photographs will be coming soon.

Dinner anyone?

My spaghetti squash has been dutifully putting forth blossoms over the last few weeks. Initially all the blossoms were male but I finally found a female blossom and set to work to hand pollinate it. Squashes, unlike tomatoes, have male and female flowers and in the absence of bees or other insects that travel from blossom to blossom transferring pollen, growing indoors means that the gardener (me in this case) has to do the pollination.

Female blossom

Female blossom

Male blossom

Male blossom

A few more female blossoms appeared but no signs of squash and after much worry on my part that I had not effectively pollinated them, I finally found three small squashes.

squash 1

squash 2

squash 3

Indoor Gardening

I bought a spaghetti squash a few weeks ago. The organic ones were on sale for the same price as the non-organic so I bought an organic squash. It sat on my counter for about ten days before I finally decided to have it for dinner one night. I microwaved it for a minute to make it easier to cut open and when I opened it I discovered that most of the seeds had started to sprout. Wondering if I could actually grow spaghetti squash indoors this winter, I scooped out some seeds and threw them into a small planter. Lo and behold, the seeds (despite having been nuked) grew well.

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I added some organic fertilizer and put it in the breakfast room where it had plenty of sun. (I also bumped the heat in the house up to 62 degrees.) Soon it was looking even better. 20151118_120944-1_resized

Then it actually started to flower (of course all the flowers so far have been male.) 20151217_170237_resized

However, it soon became obvious it was becoming root bound so I was faced with either losing it because it was root bound or potentially losing it to transplant shock. I opted to try to transplant it and I set up some earth boxes in the breakfast room. A couple of days after being re-planted it appears to be doing well. I’m hoping for some female flowers in the near future that I can pollinate. 20151222_081704_resized

As the spaghetti squash appeared to be a success, when I opened the non-organic acorn squash I ate for Thanksgiving up, I scooped out some seeds and planted those as well. I had just about given up on those seeds germinating when suddenly . . . . 20151217_170215_resized

I went ahead and transplanted those as well. 20151222_081818_resized

Last night I planted some radishes and lettuce and placed the trays on a heating mat to help germination. I have several more earth boxes and with luck will be able to start enough seeds to plant them all this winter.

Possibly a Success — finally

I think the Garden Tower may indeed be the solution to my gardening troubles.

I planted less than 1/3 of the tower. One plant (the eggplant) gave up the ghost early on. Something ate one of the squash plants – not just nibbling on the leaves, but actually removing the stem. Some pretty caterpillars have been munching on the parsley, but . . . DSC01907

It looks like dinner DSC01908

My Most Recent Experiment

In the years since moving to the farm I have tried several different ways to grow vegetables. With 18 acres and manure from the livestock one would think a garden would be a fairly simple affair. However, nothing is ever as simple as it should be. My property is close to the Bosque and since the river attracts wildlife of all species, I often see deer in the pastures. I’ve had a bear stop by to snack (unsuccessfully thanks to the LGDs) on goat and sheep; and lost at least one goat to a passing mountain lion (prior to the acquisition of the LGDs). More problematic is the fact that I share the property with a lot of smaller, furry critters which have made gardening an exercise in futility.

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Since I do not use herbicides, pesticides or other poisons on my property, the moles and gophers are enjoying a comeback (the previous owners did use poison to keep them under control.) Although I know I have snakes, I’ve actually seen very few snakes in the area surrounding the house and evidently my snake population is not sufficient to control the mole and gopher population. In addition, there are a lot of rabbits and despite the dogs, in the evenings I will often see rabbits blithely hopping down the drive.

This year I put in raised boxes on top of hardware cloth. The first set of seedlings I planted were lost to a later than expected frost. I then tried starting plants from seeds without success. I lost the second batch of seedlings as well and am now on my third attempt. The livestock guardian dog has now taken to sleeping in the area where I’ve placed the raised boxes but so far I haven’t seen evidence that his presence is deterring the underground varmints.

So, in desperation, I have decided that while I’ll continue to try and grow in the raised beds, I needed another alternative to traditional gardening.

My searches brought me to a garden tower which is a barrel adapted to grow 50 plants – vegetables, herbs or flowers. While designed for individuals who lack the space to grow in a garden, I’m hoping this will also be the solution to my gardening troubles.

The premise of a garden tower is simple but anyone who knows me will understand why I say it made more sense to spend the extra money and buy one already made rather than attempt to make my own. Suffice it to say that creating one involves the use of a propane torch.

My garden tower arrived a few days ago. It was ready to go once the legs were bolted on and the plug for the compost tube inserted. The next step was to fill the tower with potting mix. I used an organic mix recommended by the manufacturers of the tower. Then I cleared out the refrigerator of all the old produce to put in the compost tube. On my next trip into town I purchased some nightworms and red wigglers as well as some additional vegetable plants. The majority of the tower will be planted once I start another set of seeds to germinate but I was anxious to get something growing this season. Most of what was available locally were varieties of squash so if this experiment works, I will be freezing a great deal of squash.

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Hopefully I have finally solved my gardening problems.

Carbon Footprints

DSC01644-001The Quibeyn Farm Blog was created to educate people to the value of, and need to preserve, heritage animals and heirloom vegetables as well as introduce them to the delights of truly fresh foods.

This indirectly ties into climate change and related topics. Reducing one’s carbon footprint* isn’t just about downsizing to a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle. Indirect consumption, such as dependence upon items that are shipped from out of the area, are also part, and often a very large part, of one’s carbon footprint. While I’m not in a position to alter some of my activities, I can do some things that both reduce my carbon footprint and encourage my neighbors to reduce theirs as well. One of those is to provide quality meats, eggs, and dairy products.

It has been suggested that the most effective way to decrease one’s carbon footprint is to either decrease the amount of energy needed for production of something or to decrease the dependence on carbon emitting fuels.

Buying locally grown, or raised, products fits both those categories. Locally grown and raised foods do not require transportation by refrigerated trucks or railroad cars. Small farms, unlike most commercial enterprises, tend to rely more on sweat than fuel on a day to day basis. In addition, well-run small farms tend to be more environmentally friendly as the farmers are very concerned about maintaining the health of both land and animals. Large scale producers, whether growing vegetables, fruits or animals, are focused on the bottom line. In most cases this means using genetically modified (GM) seeds and chemicals to grow produce and maintaining animals in feed lot environments, feeding a non-natural diet of grains and using hormones to promote fast growth. Stressing animals in this fashion also means antibiotics are necessary to keep the animals from succumbing to disease.

Raising animals on a natural diet, without using hormones and antibiotics, and using heirloom seeds while minimizing or eliminating artificial fertilizers to grow produce, translates into better health for those who eat local products and a better environment surrounding them. Let’s be honest though, it costs more to buy fresh foods grown without hormones, antibiotics or chemical additives. The small farmer cannot compete with a commercial business on a price basis. However, buying locally grown and raised produce, meat and dairy provides the consumer with fresher, healthier and tastier food, less likely to be contaminated; it reduces the consumer’s carbon footprint; and promotes a better environment to raise a family.

*The amount of carbon dioxide emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.