A Week in the Garden
22 July 2018
The garden is a magical place. I've heard that students of Zen will contemplate the enormity of the universe by  studying a single grain of sand. But have you ever thought about the magic contained in a seed? A small, little seed- at times almost microscopic- contains within its DNA every facet of a plant's development and characteristics. It's amazing to contemplate and even more delightful to witness as a seed grows into a plant with specific habits and form.


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The new planting beds look small in this photo, but if you had to weed them, you would believe it's larger than it seems! Eight new beds are planted with close to 700 plants, all started from seed in my hot frame or on the farm in a designated nursery area in the potager garden.  



But even with 8 extra beds for growing, there still wasn't enough room so Rick rototilled a small bed along the raspberry fence for Baby's Breath and some annuals. Baby's Breath is a perennial and will grow bigger every year so it needed a space where it could make its lovely, and driable, flowers. The three larger plants shown here will eventually grow to 6 feet tall!



The Baby's Breath bed is flanked by sunflowers with a row of gourds, ready to grow up the trellis



and flowers for drying- straw flowers and ammobium.



One of the stars of this year's garden is Tithonia- a tall (reaching to 60") multi-branched plant with fabulous and prolific orange flowers. The stems are furry, like velvet and the flowers can span 4" across. As you see, it's a butterfly magnet and, while hummingbirds are attracted to the color of the flowers, they don't linger long.

Karen from The Art of Doing Stuff wrote a beautiful description of how to grow a monarch butterfly at home. For a complete how-to with pictures, video and well written details, CLICK HERE. It's written in a 5 part series, but definitely worth viewing all the parts and checking it out. If you have milkweed growing around you, you have everything you need to be part of this miracle.



My home deer population is really getting out of control- they eat anything! With automobiles being the only "natural" predator, our deer herds have more than doubled in the past few years and they're starting to eat things they never did before. Hostas, morning glories, bee balm, rhododendron  are all fair game. Gladiolas used to be safe to plant, but no longer. The deer love to eat them just as the flowers start to open, usually an hour before I go to gather them for a flower display in the house. This year I cut them when no flowers were open and put them in water. I'm happy to report that glads can be forced into blooming. See the left flower stem with little show of pink where the flower comes out? That's how it starts and in a day or two, the whole stem will be flowered.



Garlic harvest 2018 is in, and what a total delight! Individual cloves were planted last September and have grown into beautiful garlic bulbs. I  made bunches of 10s and hung them in the garage to "cure". When the garlic is fresh, the "paper" wraps have not dried around each clove. It takes about 3 weeks for the bulb to dry sufficiently. Then the dried stems and roots will be cut off and the bulbs will be stored some where cool (haven't decided where yet). The largest bulbs can be used as "seed" for next year's crop. How much do you love that- a full circle of goodness?!



Though we've had garden fresh lettuce and radishes for a month, the Potager is offering up first harvests of beets, green and wax beans, zucchini and yellow squash in the next week. Yesterday I made enough pesto for the year from home grown basil and garlic scapes. It freezes great in small containers- the size used for salad dressing portions- and can be quick thawed in a bowl of hot water for a quick pasta dinner.



My BFF (Best Farm Friend) Paula sent me this picture today showing the steaminess of my farm after several hours of downpour. Since I'm usually the photographer and the care-taker, being outside looking in is an unusual and pretty perspective for me. And it's a perfect image of how I came to call this place the Farm in the Pines.

Have an inspired week, my friend. Love Sandy

Please share with your gardening, DIY and crafty friends.
Thank you!

 Simple Pleasures

24 June 2018

 

There are times when emotions become conflicted and it's actually possible to be happy and sad over the same thing. So it was when I returned to the farm to find my newly seeded perma-culture plantings covered with weeds. Not in the usual "oh, darn, I have a few weeds in my garden", but I mean, a blanket of weeds flushed onto all eight beds in remarkable varieties and intensity. In all my gardening years, I have never seen anything like it.



The dirt was new and on my previous farm trip, I was so happy that not only were all the plants from the hot frame planted (after 3 carfuls getting them to the farm), but I had seeded all the flowers which should be directly sown into the garden. This staggering broadcast of weeds obscured the seeded sprouts (if there were any) and made finding the new plantlets impossible. Fortunately, I had seed left over so I made a small nursery in the potager and replanted many seeds. The germination times are quick- usually in 3-7 days, so I'm hoping I'll have a new supply of transplants when I get back this week. It took me the better part of four days to weed all the beds, looking for the plants I wanted and not finding a one!

Once the beds were filled with dirt, a six foot fence enclosed the area. I was lucky to find a man down the road to help me with it- actually, he and his friend did it all. To our great surprise, a baby deer was napping just 10 feet from where we were working.- and she never moved the whole time they banged stakes into the ground, wrestled with the large roll of fencing and chatted.



I've been aware of her since the day she was born and it's a pleasure to watch as she grows stronger and taller each day. One day she napped under the road stand and scared the bejebers out of me as she darted out right in front of me when I approached!

Once the fence was situated, Rick came to install the irrigation lines. Regular watering is so important and really makes a difference in the yield of the harvest and size of the flowers and vegetables. Through careful planning, Rick got irrigation to all the new beds and my potager garden. It's set on a timer for alternate day watering from the raspberry line.



Even though I'm still planting, a harvest from plants started last year is starting and the yellow yarrow was harvested for drying last week. They hold their color well when dried and are a nice addition to dried flower bouquets and as decoration on herbal wreathes.



Anticipating a large harvest of flowers for drying, I made a drying rack from apple tree branches. I only had a corner of my living room to fit a drying area, so I think this design gets the most bang-for-my-buck, space-wise and cost nothing. It has 3 sides with cross branches to hook the flower bunches on. I like the rustic nature of it. Already, I have a few lavender and statice bunches collected too.


It's also time for organic lettuce which I started harvesting on June 6th.


(gladioli , onions, morning glories and lettuce)

AND garlic scapes. There are 2 main varieties of garlic- the soft neck and the hard neck. The soft neck you may recognize as smaller and sometimes braided for display. The hard neck, which I'm growing here, sends out a stiff central stem and before harvest season makes scapes.



The scapes are the flower stalks which curl from the center of the leaves and has a robust garlic flavor, very useful in pesto, stir fry or salads. These should be harvested before the flowers form to promote energy to bulb development. For more info-- CLICK HERE.  If you grow or find some scapes at a farm market, here are several good recipes for them, CLICK HERE.

It hasn't been all work and no play and through the road stand, I've met several people who stopped by to admire the gardens which are clearly visible from the road. My best treat was when two  NJ friends came for a day to explore the area and visit the garden.



Sheila and Debbie have birthdays just 2 days apart and each year take a day to travel together and visit a garden- a very cool tradition among friends! This year they came here and I was so happy to spend time with them and share the garden. It was a fun day for all!

So, it reminds me to extend an invitation to you to come out to the farm for a visit. There's always something beautiful to see and it's a quiet and relaxing place. Last week I saw a bald eagle and a baby porcupine crossed the road in front of my house- you just never know what to expect. Nature is lovely , and exciting and provides endless interest and amusement.

Have an awesome week, my friend. Love, Sandy.  

Feel free to share with your gardening, DIY and crafty friends.


Open For Business
4 June 2018
 All the planning, wishing and dreaming about my work at the farm in 2018 is now starting and I couldn't be happier, busier or more exhausted- in a good sort of way. Farming is not for wimps!

Every-so-often the work backs up.... like two weeks ago. The raspberry field was totally out of control. Those beautiful, but rambunctious canes were growing everywhere- I mean the field was covered with them and the "rows" were almost impossible to discern.  Their growth rate is astonishing, maybe 6" a week, so it was becoming quite a jungle in the field and I was getting worried whether we'd be able to corral them.

Rick is calmer than I and he said he'd take care of it. He came to the farm and rototilled the whole field, leaving only 4 one foot wide beds evenly divided across the field. He even got rid of 10' of a trial variety which had the peculiar habit of growing laterally, instead of vertically and had dangerously sharp thorns. In just a few hours, he totally transformed this crazy, out-of-control patch into a garden any one would be proud of. Then he laid the irrigation into the rows, put new batteries into the automatic timer and set it for alternate day watering. It was a job I could have never done myself.

A few days earlier I had ordered straw for weed control in the berry patch which was to be delivered on Friday. Rick was leaving Thursday,so spreading 18 bales of straw was left to me...until I got an email Thursday from my sister Tracy that she wanted to come to the farm and work, which she did.



Tracy surprised me by getting to the farm around 8AM and though the straw-man was to deliver around 11, he showed up at 8:30 and Tracy and I started right in spreading 6" of straw across the whole field, finishing after noon. It felt very magical to have all the components of a miracle come together. ALL my raspberry worries were gone from one day to the next through volunteer efforts and the field looks beautiful.



The area where Rick rototilled out the sharp, lateral canes- about 10'-  was covered with landscape fabric to discourage the canes re-emerging and self-seeded sunflower plants were transplanted from the potager to fill in the space.



Before Rick arrived, I had a chance to finish the "road stand" which is nothing more than a table with a canvas roof. But it sure is cute!



A sign post is at the end of the driveway and I can change out seasonal products easily.



Just a few other farm stand photos...








I'm going on the mantra "if you build it, they will come" because I didn't advertise and no one came the first week, but I have hope. I saw one person looking over the wares the second week, but didn't buy anything. And yesterday a lady came, walked into the garden where I was working and said she stopped for the stand but saw me and wanted to meet me- then after a nice chat, left and forgot to check out the stand! Good thing it's on self-service and I'm not paying a shop-keeper! LOL

And in other news... I'd been waiting on a dirt delivery for the perma-culture beds. Because of heavy rains, downed electric lines and trees, everything was muddy and difficult for dirt delivery, but that didn't stop the hot frame plants from growing. Eighty degree temperatures in NJ even made them grow faster and by mid-May the plants were ready to go into the ground, but no dirt! Just when I though I couldn't wait another day, the dirt was delivered.

Over the winter, the plastic for smothering the weeds was left in the frames.



Then, while Rick was rototilling, I traded out the plastic for cardboard. (which was another magical story- When I went to the recycle place, someone had just dropped off one-time-used, clean cartons which I took.  They only needed to be trimmed 3" from one side to fit perfectly and I got enough to do all the beds!!!!)



The corrugated boxes will break down quickly- probably within a month- and the glue attracts worms, all the while smothering the weeds below.
Then the dirt was delivered and before the men were out of the driveway, I was planting. My hot frame plants were soooo ready!



There is still a lot of hardscape to finish the perma-culture area- fencing to protect from deer, I have bricks to edge where the mulch meets the grass and an extension to the area where I've already planted baby's breath plants- a perennial which I'll begin harvesting next year. 

Working here, mostly by myself, is a quiet and pensive time. I think about gardens, and how to finance gardens (!), how to grow better plants (!!)- that sort of thing--  and all sorts of wonderings come up. At dusk, when I'm watering the plants and looking out at the big picture of the Farm in the Pines, I'm awed to have such a close look at the beauty of nature and to be a part of it. It's very humbling.

I hope your days are beauty-filled, too.

Love, Sandy

Busy Like the Bees
5 May 2018
 
I got swept up by spring which is why you haven't heard from me for a while. My list of to-dos keeps me busy and the days go by so quickly. Finally, after a much anticipated, though slow to arrive spring, there's lots of outside work and already I have the start of my summer tan! Which reminds me- do you have a favorite sunblock you'd recommend?
New Jersey is a beautiful state in the spring. With flowering trees like ornamental cherries, dogwoods and magnolias, bushes like azaleas, lilac and forsythia and bulbs making daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, any road trip is a riot of color and beauty. Gardeners know daffodils are not bothered by deer. So locally we see a lot of daffodils and they're beautiful when naturalized in the landscape.



Our home apple tree is in full bloom. It's hard to know how old this tree is- it was a mature specimen when we moved to this property 14 years ago.  Part of it is dead and lack of pruning has allowed it to grow past a useful size for harvest, but it does offer up beautiful handles for my hand made harvest baskets.
Last year we noticed early on that there were no bees during pollination time. As you would expect, we had no apples either. This year we are seeing some bees and look forward to feeding the deer who gratefully clean the yard of all fallen fruit.



The Hot Frame is working out better than I imagined- and it's full! Most of these plants are destined for the farm where planting of tender annuals starts at the end of May. Seeds were started in trays on a heated mat, then transplanted to flats which hold 28 plants. I chose flowers to dry and others to market as fresh bouquets. I'm growing 4 types tomatoes, 2 types peppers and eggplant for the potager. The statice which was started waaaay too early was planted yesterday in my home garden because it was ready. I have a second planting to go to the farm when the beds are filled.



I'm still trying to figure out how to have a small road stand at the farm- something that's economical to build and practical to manage as a part time, self serve operation. In anticipation of that, I planted transplants from my home garden into 4" pots. The generosity of my home flower beds has allowed me to pot about 50 plants- some dug (lambs ears, sweet woodruff, bee balm) and some which I cut and rooted with a rooting hormone (lemon geranium, a miniature catnip called nepeta and sage). 
The patio is a mine field to walk through, but there's something about happy plants that is contagious- it just makes me happy to see such a bounty. I forgot how much I enjoy working with plants and in the mornings I just can't wait to get outside to see what's happening. I planted the last of the seed-starts today- sweet basil and opal basil. They're such fast growers, and tender so they'll be planted last in the garden.


 
About two and a half weeks ago, the snows had melted and Rick and I finally made it to the farm to cut down the remaining raspberry canes. They were budded out and should have been cut in February- but what can you do when there's 22" of snow on the ground? I checked earlier this week and new growth is starting from the ground so I don't think any permanent damage was done by waiting so long. Looking at this barren field, it's hard to imagine how vigorous brambles are and since this is the third year, we should be heading into our best crop yet.



Because of the long and severe winter, everything is running late and I had doubts about the lavender bed, but I see some signs of green on most of the plants. I have my fingers crossed that they survived and will add to the harvest as lavender bundles, wands or potpourri buds.



The garlic I planted in the fall has made a nice start. My friend Paula gifted me with the bulbs from a local, organic farm. I was pleasantly surprised that they came right up through the protective straw mulch and have grown another 2" since this photo was taken a week ago. Paint sticks used to mix exterior paint make fun garden markers!



The perma-culture beds which were framed out last year will be filled with a good soil/manure/compost blend next week. There are 7 frames 4' x 12' and one 8' x 12'. The plastic was supposed to kill the weeds, but didn't work as well as hoped for or expected. Note to self-  Don't believe everything you read on the internet! Two or three sheets of newspaper will be put in the beds before the dirt, hopefully smothering the weeds.
Once the dirt is delivered, the garden must be fenced to keep out deer. I hope I've found the right man to set the fence posts for me- Rick and I exhausted ourselves last year doing it. Poor Rick had fence post elbow for 6 months! Most of the Hot Frame plants will fill the beds, along with many other seeds to plant. I've been day dreaming how pretty it will be filled with flowers and herbs.



Paper making.... how much fun is that? I like the idea of artisan paper with dried leaves and flowers, so I tried making it in anticipation of Mother's Day. It was easy and fun and a great project for kids of all ages.  If you'd like to try some, Read About It Here.


My crafts are selling pretty well at Sheep Thrills, a beautiful shop in Lafayette, NJ. I pass the store going to-and-from the farm, so it's easy to make deliveries. The owner, Tammy, is willing to try anything I make- even silly things like my knitting needle pin-cushion which was made by knitting a sleeve and covering an oatmeal box and topping it with a knit hat. It opens to hold other knitting tools or treasures. I think it may be the most ridiculous- and original- thing I've ever made. Being a niche market, only a knitter could appreciate it!

I hope you are fully engaged with all the earth offers us at this time of year- the phenomenal beauty from every window, around every turn. I find myself saying "thank you", a hundred times a day.
Love, Sandy  

Feel free to share with your gardening, DIY and crafty friends.
Thank you!
 
Copyright © 2018   Bringing the Farm Home    All rights reserved.
Contact Me  Sandy@BringingTheFarmHome.com
 

Loving My Plants with a New Mini Greenhouse
8 April 2018
 
It's been a busy time-  getting ready for spring, for farm work plans and starting a small greenhouse. This is what happens when I make up my own pleasures and go with it!
The farm is located in Eldred NY and the closest nursery is about 15 miles away. It's a beautiful drive to get there- up and down through pastoral hillsides, passing open fields and old farm houses and seeing a beautiful lake with older "camps" surrounding it. BUT... to drive there for a plant or two seems a bit out of the way. I'm thinking other people feel this way too and would like to have a nursery closer, especially where they could buy herb plants which are not always so common. I'm thinking if I have plants left over from the "permaculture" planting, I could share them with others at a small road stand.


I've started many seeds, but my enthusiasm was held in check because I had limited space to grow them before planting and I felt desperate for a greenhouse. Rick and I decided our south-facing patio, pictured above in summer, would be an excellent place to set up a small structure- not a cold frame with heat and smaller than a hot house so I named it a "Hot Frame".


  
Pretty ugly, right? BUT, it's 12' x 40" of heated growing space which can be disassembled and easily stored when the plants are moved to the farm. Please click through to see my considerations for the design, plans and more photos of the construction HERE. Rick was a great help in putting it together and he offered to care for it when I have to be at the farm doing spring chores. Teamwork makes the dream work- what a guy!



I'm already loading it with starter plants So exciting...
As far as plants for the road stand, in addition to any started in the Hot Frame, I have dozens of plants that can be divided from my home garden, have ordered 450 pots, 1000 plant labels and a bunch of plant trays. It's starting to feel like a very real endeavor!



Meanwhile, I finished sewing my Fun Farm Fashions with 2 rompers. For getting out in the field, my romper harkens back to coveralls but offers side pocket storage- one large pocket for a cell phone and seed packets, another narrower pocket for garden shears. Other coveralls have front pockets and whatever is stored there gouges my legs when bending or kneeling. Side pockets don't do that.  The fabric is lighter-than-canvas but sure to be a durable and easy wash-n-wear. The bib was made from a store bought, pre printed canvas- intended, I think, to be made into throw pillow covers. The word is "Love" in red ink and red buttons hold the straps in place. No zipper or workable buttons, the back-crossed shoulder straps do not slide off and the back has an elastic waist band for easy on-and-off.



I don't like to work in the field in the mornings, because the heavy dew makes my pants wet and dirt seeps onto my knees- I end up caked in dirt. I've been experimenting with sheet plastic (the type you may buy for a clear tablecloth), in different weights, washing it and drying it, sewing it onto fabrics and washing it again and think I have came up with the right one and added it to the knee section of the pink romper (If you look close, you can see a slight sheen from the plastic around the knees).  I think the plastic knee patch, sewn right onto the romper will keep my knees dry, with the bonus that dirt can just be wiped from the knees without having to wash the whole garment every time the knees are dirty.  I sewed elastic into the cuff to keep out ticks and other bugs .



I was reminded last week how much Rick and I love cauliflower when my grocery had a sale on the most beautiful, white-as-snow cauliflower heads. It's too much for two people but perfect if you use half to make cauliflower cakes. These are a delicious accompaniment for our Thursday night soup suppers and lovely at a tea party served with finger sandwiches. You can find the recipe HERE.

The 22" of snow has finally melted at the farm and it looks to be a warmer day on Friday so Rick and I will be heading up to finish cutting the raspberry canes (which should have been done in February, but weather was miserable for out door work). I'm excited to shift into farm time and start my spring projects there. I'll let you know how we make out and in the meantime, keep heart- warm weather is coming!   Love, Sandy

Please share this with friends who like gardening, DIY, farm foods and country life.
Thank you!
 
 
Copyright © 2018   Bringing the Farm Home    All rights reserved.
Contact Me  Sandy@BringingTheFarmHome.com

 

Welcome Spring!
21 March 2018
 
It seems so silly to be wishing you a Happy Spring! when out my window the winds are howling and snows are flying. We're supposed to get a foot by tonight- who ever heard of such a thing? Spring Day, the moment I've been waiting for after many long months of cold, wet, windy weather is now a broken promise.
It's like having a birthday and no one brings cake!

My little garden daffodils have formed flowers and I'm sure they're in a state of shock. Forsythia has a yellow cast, buds are formed and ready to emerge. Rick dug a wind-born treeling from my flower bed and disturbed the baptisia and we saw the corms which are ready to break through the dirt. Spring is ready- and so am I!


I wanted to show you my poinsettia from Christmas. It was such a pretty one- pinkish, close to apricot in color- and when I put away my Christmas decor, I couldn't bear to part with it (at least I hadn't named it or the sentimentality would have been way too deep!) . This is a perfect example of phototropics- when plant growth is severely altered by increasing or decreasing day light. We better know it through chrysanthemums, how in natural settings- such as your garden if you have mums which winter over- bloom in the fall. Shortening day length stimulates bloom.
Poinsettias are also phototropic - but a bit different from mums. Poinsettia "flowers" are actually leaves which change size and color in the shortening day light of winter. This photo shows how the plant has reverted to making green leaves now that day light is lengthening. Nature is so interesting to me.

         

Fortunately there are flowers on my orchids to get me through. The hot pink cattleya is a sweet scented annual bloomer, so I wait for it each year. I've named the yellow dendrobium Freckles for the small brown spots on the flowers. The burgundy-orange-ish phalaenopsis  is a miniature with a delicate nature. And my Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas-Valentines Day-St Patrick's Day-Palm Sunday-Easter cactus is still blooming!



The promise of spring swells inside me like a flower itself and I have to plant things- no matter how ill advised or short sighted since outdoor planting is still months away. To do this with full justification, I invent experiments I can try. So that's why I made 12  6-packs of dirt this week and started 12 different types of flowers just to learn more about them. I'm keeping very good track of the germination time (how long it takes for the plants to emerge from the seed), the hours under the grow lights until 2nd leaves (first leaves are not "true leaves") and various other statistical observations. Did I mention I really just like watching things grow?

When I was a kid, maybe 9-10 years old, my Dad and I set up my experiment in the basement furnace room where it was  warm and very dark. The question of the experiment was "Under what color light does grass grow best?" (This is lawn grass, of course) We cut holes in the tops of large, restaurant size tomato sauce cans and put the bulbs of a multi-colored string of Christmas tree lights into the tops of the cans- these were the old fashioned large lights. The cans fit over a saucer which held a kitchen sponge. An exact amount of water was given to each sponge and grass seed was carefully measured out and put on the tops of the sponges. The cans fit snug over the saucers to minimize other light sources and water was added equally to all sponges on alternate days, maybe a tablespoon. In very short time, the seeds germinated and I would measure the heights of the grasses daily. I hope it's not anticlimactic to tell you I don't remember which color was the best grass stimulator- the point of the story is that I've been watching things grow for a long time.

And then there was the time I secretly took a sweet potato from the kitchen, cut it into eyes and planted it in pots in the storage room in the basement, furtively watered it and watched as it produced albino vines which grew 6 feet or more until my mother discovered it. Kids, right?

 
   
With seed starting on my mind, I felt fortunate to buy this tray set-up at Walmart for just $5.00. A solid tray used to bottom water young plants, 12 6-cell growing containers and a greenhouse cover. The advantage to this is that if the soil is properly wet before planting, the greenhouse cover creates a closed system and it shouldn't need watering until the seeds emerge thereby not jostling the seed or driving it deeper into the soil than recommended.



The soil should be wet enough that it holds together when squeezed, but does not drip. I started with Jiffy Natural and Organic Seed Starting Mix.

       

I'm also experimenting with a wick system which was inspired by something I saw on-line for statice seeds to keep seedlings watered from the bottom. I save containers to recycle for seed starting and this time I used a plastic Glad brownie-sized-pan which comes with a plastic lid. I drilled 9 holes in the bottom and used cotton string as wicks (the cotton string was trim from shortening Venetian blinds). The pan sits in the top which holds water and wicks it into the soil. Dampening off is a fungal disease which occurs where the seedling meets the dirt- statice is prone to it- so for statice,  bottom watering is preferred. The seeds were sowed in rows in the dirt and germination was just 2 days with a saran wrap greenhouse cover.
Some people plant by the moon phases and the statice was planted between the last quarter and the new moon. I haven't studied this, but 2 day germination is phenomenal especially since the Burpee packet says germination to occur 21-30 days.

I started this post yesterday and this morning my sister Robin sent me a link showing microscopic images of seeds, reminding me that each seed holds the entire DNA of the full grown plant-  it's mind blowing especially since some of the seed I started were smaller than dust! If you want to fall in love with plants, or awaken your WOW, take a look at the beautiful beginnings HERE.
And if you want to organize your seed starting activities, request your FREE Garden Diary HERE.

In spite of the crazy-for-the-first-of-spring weather, I have lots of excitement for what's to come eventually. Planting some seeds or planning a crop, for me, is like the carrot for the donkey. I just keep going along knowing that someday I'll get the birthday cake.
Thinking of snow angels and spring blooms- Love, Sandy
 
Copyright © 2018   Bringing the Farm Home    All rights reserved.
Contact Me  Sandy@BringingTheFarmHome.com
 
 
 

Farm Aprons
14 March 2018
 
 I hope you're cozy in light of the 3 nor-easters which  recently passed along the east coast. Eldred, where the farm is located, got upwards of 20" of snow, accompanied by strong winds and rain in the storms last week. Electric was out for several days and the road in front of my house was closed due to fallen trees while the National Guard cleared the mess. Thanks to my BFF (Best Farm Friend)  Paula, for sending me some photos post-storm.


The seat for the picnic table is about 16" from the ground.
 
The house looks isolated when surrounded by snow.


And it seems we now have a pond in the back yard which looks beautiful to me, but no doubt will recede quickly once the ground thaws. These photos make me home sick for the natural beauty of the farm.

Last fall as I was preparing to close the house for winter, I sorted through my farm clothes- what a messy collection.  I'd been relegating my home "seconds" as farm clothes because I'm always painting something, digging in dirt, or involved in something sloppy.  But as I took stock of what I'd been wearing- 12 paint stained T-shirts, grimy blue jeans which wouldn't wash clean and two pair of nicer pants with ground in knee-dirt- I had to wonder... can't farm clothes be pretty and functional? I mean, girls like to be pretty, right? We're not slopping hogs here!

The more I contemplated farm-girl attire, I asked myself many questions about function, comfort and style and got quite excited to make a few items this winter. Aprons are THE cover-up for farm messes, so I started there. I  never wear an apron in the kitchen, but I remembered that in kindergarten we always had "smocks" to wear when we were painting or gluing projects. 



This apron is made of "ticking", the stuff mattresses were covered with back in the day. It's a durable fabric, a no-messing-around fabric, washes well and perfect for cover-up while painting. The large front pocket holds my cell phone, a piece of sandpaper, tape measure or any one of many tools I may need for the job at hand.


Aprons without ties are sometimes referred to as Japanese aprons. The ease of on-and-off without having to make a cute bow cannot be over stated.


Linen is becoming popular again due to its drape-ability which only gets better and more lustrous after many washings. Side applied pockets have an elastic top to hold in keys, cell phone or pennies found in the couch while cleaning.


Multi-purpose aprons are especially useful. This is meant to be a reversible, knee length cooking apron- great for a cover-up when making jams and jellies AND a harvest apron when you need to run to the garden to pick a fresh zucchini or pepper.



 Gardeners know that vegetables ripen throughout the day so if you go for a pepper, you may come back with a handful of beans, 2 cucumbers and squashes- too much to hold. The apron has gathering strings which pull up to make a big pocket- totally convenient for spontaneous harvesting.


Tired of getting to the end of a picking row only to find you've left your harvest basket at the other end of the row? No more worries. This half apron has a big pocket and is made of denim so it's easily washable to clean out the inevitable dirt which accumulates when pulling beets and radishes. The front tie can be adjusted to cradle the load.
These aprons will be "field tested" as soon as the snow melts!

Are you having a challenge organizing your recipes? I love trying new recipes and in the past have  1) made albums- organized by food group, year acquired and recipes to try later  2) ripped recipes from magazines and printed from the internet and thrown them in the cupboard waiting for a winter night to cut them out and put into afore mentioned albums  3) tried to find a recipe and can't find it, even though I am so well organized (LOL).


A few weeks ago I decided enough was enough when I couldn't find the recipe I wanted  to make for dinner. "Clothes pins" came to mind and with my hot glue gun, I glued a bunch of small ones onto the inside cabinet door above my prep counter. I selected my favorite go-to recipes, my tried-and-true recipes and those I want to try soon and pinned them to the cupboard door. Mission accomplished- total organization in less than 5 minutes!
After cleaning your cabinet door with a good de-greaser, just put a thin line of glue on one side of the clothes pin and press it to the cabinet door. The hot glue sets up fast and is quite strong . The glue will chip off easily with a putty knife if you decide you don't like it after a time or if you are going to de-clutter when putting your house up for sale. For now, I'm totally happy with this arrangement.


As luck would have it, I came across our favorite baked pork chop recipe. This is soooo good and easy to make with ingredients you're likely to already have in the pantry. If you'd like to make it  GO HERE.

I hope you're enjoying the first touch of spring,
Sandy
 
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Copyright © 2018  
 Bringing the Farm Home    All rights reserved.
Contact Me  Sandy@BringingTheFarmHome.com

March Madness

2 March 2018

 

 It's March- we made it! Winter is a time for planning and by the time the end of February rolls around, I have so many spring-things-to-do on my list, I'm chompin' at the bit to get started. By March 1st, I'm a month behind!
Early spring weather draws me out and I'm puttering, with no end result in mind- clearing leaves out of the flower beds, checking for new leaves on the old perennials, considering moving a plant from here to there- I just like being outside. My sage plant looks so healthy and vigorous, I cut 5 branch tips and am trying to root them in a glass of water- it's an experiment. I've never rooted hard cuttings in water before, but if it works, the more plants the merrier when it comes to landscape at the farm.


All the beautiful raspberry canes are dormant now.


The leaves are shriveled and dry. But now is the time to cut them back to produce a fall bearing crop. Cutting back should be done while the plants are dormant so Rick and I made a day trip to the farm last week to have a hand at it.  I was so happy since I hadn't been there since the week before Thanksgiving.

Last year, the winter after the first growing season, the canes were sparse and fewer to the square foot. This year the canes were robust- many 1.5" thick and sturdy enough to hold their weight at 6+' tall.

We'd given a lot of thought as to how to cut them back and we packed the car with every tool we thought would be helpful and efficient. We started with a weed-wacker with a blade recommended for light brush-hogging- that didn't do anything but cut the thinnest canes. So we switched it up to what we thought would be our ace-in-the-hole, an electric hedge trimmer. We connected 3  50' lines of extension cord to get juice out to the field only to find out that the hedge trimmer couldn't cut the canes either. So, with clippers and loppers  we were on our hands and knees hand cutting the ka-zillion canes which have to be trimmed.


 The ground is still frozen but the top layer is thawing gradually leaving a muddy crust. We had plastic sheeting in the shed which made a comfortable place to lay or at least kneel on- it was close to 60 degrees that day- but the work was tedious.


Since it was a day trip, in our allotted time we could only do half the patch and we left the cut canes in the field. It's important to ultimately take them out of the field to minimize the spread of any disease or virus which may be in the canes. The second half of the patch looks thinner so I hope next time we can finish cutting,  especially since we will have a chain saw with us. (!)


(My sisters and Mom- Vivian, Robin, Mommy, Sally and Tracy at the beach, circa 2007-8?)

I got a call from my sister, Robin Claire, a few weeks ago to tell me she was interviewing a chemist-herbalist-natural beauty products entrepreneur for her weekly radio show, Tributaries. Her interview with Dr. Cindy Jones was very interesting to me as it explained a bit about the farm-based science of cosmetics. I especially like the idea of using aromatic waters which are a bi-product of distilling essential oils from herbs and flowers.  (Now I want a distillery!)

Robin is one of the most interesting people I know. Located in Boulder,  she's  been streaming weekly interviews since 1992  with "pioneering individuals who share innovative and healthful possibilities". The subjects are broad- herbology, healing, nutrition, sustainability, to name just a few of the many topics in her weekly discussions which you can listen to and  SEE HERE . I'm proud of the work Robin does because it opens one's mind to new ideas and possibilities.

When I started writing my News From The Farm in the Pines three years ago, some people called it a "blog". At the time, I was only familiar with blog opinion pieces. I wanted to keep my work interesting, so I looked into blogging and signed onto several blogs so I could see how different writers approach their audience and what set their work apart from the millions of bloggers out there. Through this, I've on-line-met some really interesting people- the blogisphere is packed with energetic, innovative, foreward thinking individuals. What keeps my interest is that they have something to share which relates to my life, or to my dreams, or to my fascinations.

With information sent from my blogging "friends",  just this week I've toured the Pyrenees on a ski vacation with Susan and her family from Our French Oasis, learned why travel insurance is important from Susan at Between Naps on the Porch and learned how to tap a single maple tree for a delicious maple syrup harvest from Karen at The Art of Making Stuff. You know I'm more of a "hands on" type person but bloggers give me insight to things I've never considered and a glimpse into life far from my normal and routine.



You know how some days you wake up and think how much you would enjoy a fresh croissant, with homemade berry jam and you imagine that you're at a Parisian café and it's spring and everyone is light hearted and happy- I think there's accordion music in the background...... Oh, or is that just me?
It's hard to find a really good croissant on this side of the pond. My super market offers them, but store bought is just not as good as the real thing. One way to enjoy the buttery goodness inherent in any croissant is to use them to make bread pudding. So yum and made with store bought croissants. Find the recipe HERE.

It's an exciting time. I'll be starting some seeds this week and I'm looking forward to shifting gears to spring. Thanks for following along on my "great farm adventure"! You are appreciated.

In support of whatever brings you happiness, Sandy 
 

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Contact Me  Sandy@BringingTheFarmHome.com
   
 

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Getting Through February ~ Dreaming of Spring
19 February 2018
 
 As the unpredictable days of February click off my calendar, I'm lost in daydreams of spring. Outside, daffodils are showing their spikey leaves, the sage in my garden has gray buds and I'm staring at a pile of seeds intended for the farm, holding myself back from planting too soon. Last week, with 2 consecutive days in the low 50's, I saw the grass turn greener and I have to say, I got excited- more excited than I consider normal!


One winter reprieve was a trip to the annual orchid show on February 8th with friends Sheila and Debbie. Sheila and I have been going every year- I think this makes year 6- and enjoy looking at the amazing varieties of orchids and the way the growers arrange them for display. The show is held at a large farm market with a bakery, deli, butcher shop and fresh produce so we have lunch in the green house surrounded by the plants and do a little shopping on the way out. It's a great "girls' day" and I enjoy it so much- just what we need to bridge the gap between Christmas and spring.


 I've been totally obsessed with my organized garage and the ease I can work in there. Everything is at hand with table space enough for many simultaneous projects. Last week I made 4 trugs in record time. If you'd like to make one, CLICK HERE. If you remember, the garage organization started as a challenge from MyRepurposedLife and I'm happy to say I shared a win with a girl named Jennie for the "Most Creative Use of Space". The prize was a Kreg K-4, a very handy joinery tool valued at (around) $149.00 according to on-line Home Depot. I was totally amazed and delighted since I often enter contests, and seldom win. Not to mention, the prize was already mine with the ergonomic ease of working in the space.



I finished my little raspberry recipe collection- 24 pages of raspberry care, selection and my favorite raspberry recipes. Of course, this involved a lot of baking, to make sure the recipes were right and Rick couldn't have been more helpful and encouraging for this project! Most of the recipes are so old I don't even remember where I got them from. Some were ripped from magazines, all tattered now, many with stains that comes from being used in an active kitchen. The Raspberry- Lemon Scone recipe is new- and so delicious- and printed with permission from FlourArrangements.org. If you check out Suzanne Cowden's site, you'll find a lot of yumminess.


Speaking of yumminess, I've been baking this hearty, crusty bread each week and wanted to share the recipe with you. It's soooo easy to make- NO KNEADING- and you can add to the basic recipe to customize it for your tastes. I mix it together on my way to bed and bake it off the next morning- how simple is that? For the recipe, CLICK HERE.

My friend, Laurie over at CommonSenseHome, wrote an insightful  article on world population sustainability by food production which you can READ HERE. It's a very broad and in-depth coverage of food, resources and production and an eye opener of how we all can contribute to the solution of this looming problem. It changed my thinking about food production being measured in bushels and tonnage- it should instead be measured by calories. This was a big ah-ha moment for me. Thinking this way makes food production properly relatable to people. People need calories to live, not bushels or tonnage. It's a long article, full of verifiable facts. I think it holds a lot of interest for gardeners and non-gardeners alike.
Years ago I read a book called Mind and Nature by Gregory Bateson. Bateson was a free thinking  philosopher of the 1970's, had been married to Margaret Mead while she did her ground breaking studies in New Guinea and was well read and respected. From several books I read of his, my takeaway was that if you want to find truth, you must ask the right question. Much of our going around in circles in life is because we don't ask the right question, which is often times as illusive as the answer. Laurie has asked the right questions in researching her timely article.

With best wishes as we head towards spring and with thanks for the people who are asking the right questions.
Sandy
 
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Contact Me  Sandy@BringingTheFarmHome.com
 
 
 
 

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Planting Benches in the Garden?

5 February 2018

 

Even though it's still cold in New Jersey, I feel a coziness to be at home, busy with many projects and hope you're having some seasonal fun. According to the groundhog, there will be 6 more weeks of winter so if winter finishes in mid-March, that's fine by me!



With spring on my mind, a few weeks ago, I wrote an article on how to design a garden room, like the one I made at the farm last year. I think nostalgia made me do it, because I think of the farm everyday and can't wait to get back to my summer routine. Thinking about fresh garden vegetables makes my mouth water!
I put the article on my web site and that same day, I got a newsletter from This is My Garden and was reminded that they feature people's gardens on their web site. I decided to submit the story and they replied that they loved it and wanted to run it! Because I had already published it on my site, there was a conflict with a "Google original content" requirement so they re-worded my essay and took out some of the photos, but nothing was lost in the translation. If you'd like to see the feature story, CLICK HERE .
I'd never been on-line "published" before and it's very exciting that so many people read about the garden as evidenced by some new sign-ups to my Farm in the Pines News. If you would like to read my original story, with additional photos, CLICK HERE.



With a clean and organized garage, it is so easy to start on new projects and I couldn't wait to build some benches for the garden. Many times while weeding or harvesting raspberries, I would wonder- why don't I have a place to sit? (This is how my "to-do" list gets longer!)  I made a couple and plan to make more. They're light weight, customizable and can be moved from garden to porch or extra seating at the table. For directions, CLICK HERE.



I had time to organize my photos of the raspberry patch and was able to put them in a photo album chronologically showing the full season of how the berries grow.  Immersing myself in raspberry culture inspired me to make a collection of my favorite raspberry recipes. I've been dusting off recipes I haven't used for a while and have been baking up a storm. The trials have been going very well (so well, in fact, I've had to postpone my New Year's goal of losing weight by a couple of months). Do you really think I could pass up a slice of raspberry chocolate cheese cake (pictured above) or raspberry lemon scones? It's for quality control and science that I test (and eat) a sample of every recipe in the collection. It's been a delicious endeavor!



If you're planning to start seed for your garden this year, please let me send you my Garden Diary. It's easy to forget from year to year what works and what was less than perfect, but with this record keeper, you'll know. Easy to record seed starting dates, planting times and what does best.
It's free, just CLICK HERE.

I'm watching the farm weather, looking for a 50 degree day so Rick and I can go to cut down raspberry canes. It should be done while the plants are still dormant and it's an excellent excuse to spend a day the farm.

Have a beautiful week, my friend,
Sandy
 

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Contact Me  Sandy@BringingTheFarmHome.com  


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Cleaning Up A Hot Mess ~ Tips For An Ergomomic Garage Make Over
10 January 2018
 
I hope your New Year is starting off exactly as you imagine it. Just a week + into it and I'm wondering if you have resolutions to follow through or, if like many of us, goals to complete? I had to get off the "resolution" designation. For the past several years, I could not keep the discipline required going for more than a few weeks BUT goals I can keep for the whole year. Old habits are hard to break suddenly, but can change easier over time. So I changed the wording of my New Year commitment and it's been fabulous- so much less stress- and attainable. What a difference one little word can make!
 
You've probably noticed that the big box stores have a slew of organizing products available right after the Christmas displays are taken down. I give credit to the merchandisers for playing to our desires to start the new year clean and organized. At my home, the garage needed attention.  It seemed like all of a sudden it was out of control, though it had taken years to get this way. It took just one Christmas gift to bring it to the forefront of my attention.

 
Rick bought me a new belt/ disc combo sander. Is that cool, or what!  It's so great and I've wanted it for a long time. But I had no place to put it- I mean, no place. The scroll saw I got last year floated between being stored in the wheel barrow or on top of the table saw so any time I needed either tool, it had to be moved. My tile cutting saw has been on the floor for 3 years and the table saw had to be lifted over it in order to be used. OMG- I am a tool hoarder!

Fortunately, our garage is fitted with 14 linear feet of floor-to-ceiling enclosed shelving. It's an ideal place to store paints, boxes of nails and screws, garden supplies, craft parts, etc- most of which fit into dozens of plastic shoe boxes and totes for easy access, organized by like-items-kept-together. (Do you like how I wall papered the door to the house to resemble a book case?!)

 


But larger items posed a problem for storage when not in use and ease of access when needed. As luck would have it, and just in the knick of time, Gail at MyRepurposedLife created an "Organize Your Work Room" challenge (for info or to join the challenge CLICK HERE) and I accepted. It started me thinking about how the workspace could serve me better and what modifications were needed to make things easier and more accessible. Since I had a problem with my back last year, the old way of doing things- with brute strength- doesn't work anymore and I needed to make everything ergonomic as possible. This involved wheels.


Since I don't have a dust collection system ( but if you'd like to learn how to corral saw dust, CLICK HERE), the table saw and the chopper are moved outside to be used so they need to be portable and close to the overhead garage door. The table saw was too heavy for me to lift over the tile saw and move it without Rick's help which often became a problem. We extended the legs with  pieces of 2x2" wood from my stash, held in place with with long screws through holes already in the metal frame (and some duct tape, just to be sure!). I added wheels to the 2 legs which carried the weight of the motor of the saw. The back legs are longer to include the height of the wheels so the saw is level when used for cutting. It operates like a wheel barrow now and I can maneuver it in and out whenever I need it all by my self.
While cleaning up, I came across a plywood tabletop I cut many years ago and used it to make a dolly for the nail gun compressor. Now I can move it around the whole garage very easily. I also put the chop saw (miter saw) on a table we had and added wheels to that so I can get it out of the garage and onto the driveway with very little effort!

  

Counter space was also a problem. I work on several projects at a time and between wood working, painting and sign making, there's a lot going on! The only work surface I had was an old kitchen table which wasn't large enough for big or multi-faceted projects- and the height was back breaking. I really needed more counter space at a height where I wouldn't be bending over. I designed 2 storage cabinets with 36' counter top height which is awesome.


The scroll saw and the sander now have a place. 

 

Two 2' wide custom cabinets, back to back gives me 4' x 5' of counter top for my projects.


My original work surface is now comfortable (and clean enough) to sit at while painting.


So from one hot mess where nothing was easy or comfortable

 
to a functional and ergonomic space in just 3 days.

 

All those wheels (!) and lumber for the 2 cabinets with countertops was just $72.00 so the project was budget friendly, too!

Of course, it's so clean now, I hate to get it messed up, but that will only last a few days. I have many projects planned for the new year and I'm excited to get started!

Sending best wishes for a New Year filled with happiness and creativity.
I can tell, this year will be our awesomest!    Sandy 
 
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