Just To Be Straight With You..

If you are growing your own greens, such as Kale, Collard Greens, Turnip Greens, Or Chard, I am going to level with you- at some point you are going to find a worm in your pot.  No matter how many times you wash them and how thoroughly you pick over the greens at some point you will miss one.  Don’t worry, the meal is not ruined, just fish the little guy out and dump him in the compost bin. I just want you to know what you are getting into when you start growing your own organic greens.

Probably 95% of the time, the worms on your greens will be cabbage loopers.

Common Name: Cabbage looper Scientific Name: Trichoplusia ni (Hübner) Order: Lepidoptera cabage looper

Description: The caterpillar (larva) grows to be about 2 inches long, is light green and has three pairs of “true” legs behind the head plus pairs of fleshy “false legs” (prolegs) on the 3rd, 4th and last or 6th segments behind the segment with the last pair of true legs (the abdominal segments). This arrangement of legs causes the caterpillar to crawl with a “looping” motion, similar to that of inchworms. Some specimens are marked with light stripes along the body. Adult moths are mottled grayish-brown with a 1 1/2 inch wingspan. Each forewing is marked near its center with a pair of characteristic silver markings: a spot and a mark resembling a “V” or and “8” with an open end.

 

This article from Texas A&M goes on to say that the worms are “medically harmless” meaning that you can boil them in your pot and be fine.  You could even eat one and be fine.  I must say that unless I find myself in the Outback of Australia with Tom Selleck having just been saved from death by the Aborigines, I am not eating worms on purpose.  But, it is nice to know that no one will die if it happens while eating organic Kale from my garden.

You can control the worms organically with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).  This is a bacteria that makes the worms sick and either kills them or causes them to stop eating- which will result in death.  This bacteria only effects worms, so the lady bugs and other “good guys” in the garden are safe and will not be harmed.  But, of course, this should not be used in a butterfly garden as it will kill all worms, caterpillars included.  Bt will also kill tomato horn worms and other pests like these.  Chickens will also control the worms but the downside to this program is that the chickens will eat more Kale then the worms.

Also, you need to know that just because your Kale or other greens may have been chewed on by worms, it is not ruined.  Just pick the munched on leaf and chop it up as usual.  Once cooked, you will never know the difference.

You should be growing greens, by the way.  They are nutrient dense, easy to grow and like cool weather.  This means that in Texas, we can grow the from August/September until May or June.  I have greens such as Chard, Kale, and Spinach in my garden almost year round.  So, put them on your “must have” list for the seed order. You will be glad you did!

KaleDon’t worry about a few holes.  If you garden organically, you will have some.

For The Love of Bunnies

jonthan and bunny

About a week ago, I rounded the house to find our dog, Duckie, sitting with purpose on the sidewalk giving me a look that said, “You need to deal with this.”  As I walked closer I spotted the littlest brown bit of furry cuteness sitting at her feet.  I picked it up and was surprised to the the baby rabbit was still alive.

Baby rabbits need help to keep warm, so is took this little guy in, wrapped him in a wash cloth and tucked it in bed with Jonathan.  Jonathan fed this baby every hour with kitten formula.  Rabbit milk is extremely hard to replicate and all the information I have found (this is not our first bottle baby rabbit) says to use kitten formula.  The rabbit, named Spock, would lick the formula off of Jonathan’s finger and snuggled up to him during the night. It was just so sweet.

Then the other morning, he woke up to find that the bunny had died.  Yes, he cried.  His heart was broke and I just hate it.  One of the hardest lessons I have to learned as a mother is to let my children grieve loss- whatever that loss may be.   My first urge is to make it better, to get a new pet, or sweep it aside as if it doesn’t matter just so I don’t have to feel heart broke as well but none of that benefits my child in the long run. Like it or not, as long as we are on this side of heaven we will experience loss.  One of the best things I can do for my children is to walk with them through it and show them how to feel real feelings and then deal with them in a healthy way.  It is hard.

I must say that the farm has provided many opportunities to deal with grief and death.  When we began this journey of homesteading, I had no idea how much death would be a part of our lives.  But, never have we experienced the joy of life in the way that we have in our everyday lives on the farm.  If we refuse things like the baby bunny to save ourselves from hurt, we would miss the days of joy and fun that was brought by the bunny.  To love is to risk hurt, but love is worth the risk.

The afternoon the Jonathan’s bunny died our kitten ran up with another baby rabbit.  What did I do?  Handed it to Jonathan.  Some might think I am crazy to provide my son with another opportunity to feel loss and hurt, but I think I provided him with another chance to love.

That rabbit died, too but before Jonathan had gotten attached.  To be honest, we have never bottle-fed a rabbit and had it live.  But hope springs eternal on a farm and we will keep trying should the opportunity present itself.

bunny

Holy Basil

holy basil herb

One of the new herbs that I have grown this year is Holy Basil. This herb was recommended to me by my good friend, Gail, because she said that it had the most amazing scent and thrived in hot Texas summers.

Well, anything that thrives in a Texas summer needs consideration and I am always looking for wonderful smelling plants.  I must say, she was right.  Holy Basil does smell amazing.  The scent is really not anything that you would think of when considering a Basil, it is sweet and citrus-y  mixed with clove and mint.  I love it.  I have not seen its performance in the summer yet, but being that it is a Basil, the summer should be no problem.

Not only is Holy Basil great for the garden, it is great for the body.  Long used in India as a medicinal herb, Holy Basil offers much to the body in form of healing and mental health.

“Healing Power: The tulsi plant has many medicinal properties. The leaves are a nerve tonic and also sharpen memory. They promote the removal of the catarrhal matter and phlegm from the bronchial tube. The leaves strengthen the stomach and induce copious perspiration. The seed of the plant are mucilaginous.”            http://hinduism.about.com/od/ayurveda/a/tulsibenefits.htm

This website lists the top 15 uses in India for this herb. Tulsi is the Indian name for this herb.

Holy Basil will grow to a height & width of about 2 feet.  As with other Basils, you will need a spot in the full sun with good organic matter in the soil.  The more leaves you harvest, the more the plant will grow.  This is true of all herbs making herbs the plants of  gardener’s dream.

So, when planting your gardens consider Holy Basil, you will be glad that you did.

I use herbs medicinally but you need to research and decide for yourself.  The information I provide is for educational purposes only.

Ahh, The Rain

As I write tonight, the thunder is rolling and the rain is falling.  Such a beautiful sound and the scent of rain in the air is just delicious. How grateful I am to have the rain to water all that has been planted.  Lately( like since Saturday), we have been having typical Texas weather- hot and humid.  I do not mind, the tomatoes and peppers are growing, setting fruit and acting as they should.  We are finally harvesting squash.

Trenched Garden PlotThis garden plot is one of four in an area of the farm that holds water each time it rains.  And by” holds water” I mean that water will sit in this area and be squishy to walk on for days after the smallest rain.  As I write the trenches are filled to the brim from the rain coming down.  We suspect that there may be an underground spring located here, as well.  Anyway, for whatever reason, this area is a challenge.  So, to possiby make this a usable area I have trenched deeply and piled the dirt up to raise the rows.  Hopefully, this will allow the plants to drain well enough to grow properly.  I am thinking that if the plants can survive the spring rains that this wet area will be a benefit in the summer.  So far, the bell peppers and egg plants are doing well.  These particular plants like the heat to really thrive, so they are just now beginning to grow vigorously. Also  planted in these wet plots are cucumbers, watermelons, mush melons, and butter beans.

You may notice the hay scattered about.  I had company coming and thought a quick mulch that would make the beds look nice would be hay and I could just run to the farm store and get a bale easy.  So, I did.  Then a day or two later as I was admiring the lovely garden plots it occurred to me that I had no idea where the hay had come from and what had been sprayed on it.  Yikes!  Thus, I raked it all out and fed it to the goats.  This may seem like a lot of work but considering that some of the herbicides that are used on hay fields kill any plant in the nightshade family (think tomato and eggplant) and stay in your soil for five years- this was hardly a waste of time. Now, I can rest easy.  I will have these plots mulched by weeks end, but I will use pine needles from my mother’s place.

potato towersOur potato towers are growing very well. I covered the plants about 5 days ago as shown in the photo above and already there is so much new green growth out of the top of the compost that it is time to cover again.  I am excited at the idea of home-grown potatoes!  In the tomato patch, “Large Red” and “Illini Gold” are loaded up with green tomatoes, Matt’s Cherry  is looking good as well and has an orange fruit getting ripe as we speak.  I love to look out the kitchen window in the morning and gaze at my gardens while I wash dishes.  We have so many song birds in the gardens, they love to sit on the trellises that we have built for the tomatoes, cukes, and melons.  I would like to think they are happy to sing to me in the morning, but I know that they are really just casing the joint.

cute kittenMaybe my fierce farm cat will keep the birds from eating my tomatoes?

 

What is growing in your garden?  If you don’t have a garden, what would you grow if you could?

Pardon Me, But What State Are We In?

A state of dismay?  Or a state of confusion? Maybe a state of denial, but this can’t be the state of Texas!  We set a new record last week of the coldest nights we have had since the early 1900’s.  That my friend, is a record I do not care to repeat.  My tomatoes and squash are very confused and are not growing at  all, waiting on the warm days and nights that are supposed to be the norm in May. However, when you live in Texas and you know what is coming in one of our Texas summers, you hate to complain about cool weather.

But, that is Texas.  The weather is very unpredictable and you just have to put on your big girl panties and deal with it.  I have been keeping the peppers and eggplants in the greenhouse until this week.  Surely, this was the last cool snap we will have- but I have said that every week since Easter.  There are watermelons, cantaloupes, and bush beans waiting to come out as well, so this week will be planting week.  The new chicken house should also be completed by the end of the week.

Rain, cold, and wind did not stop a great bunch of gardeners from coming out to buy herbs and roses on Thursday.  We had a good time chatting about herbs, container gardens and vertical gardening.   Master Gardeners are just great people.

Friday the inside of the house is got some much needed attention and then I met Tony in Tyler for some R&R.  We went to the Tyler Rose Garden- yes, even my down time revolves around gardening- and truly stopped to smell the roses.  This was his idea and I am so grateful for his ability to but on the brakes and un-plug.  When I mention how busy the farm is during the spring, do not mistake that for a complaint or a cross to bare- I love it.  But, that said, no matter what your profession or job you must take time off to just enjoy something with no deadlines or demands.  Even when mothering was my primary job and all the kids were little, we took time off.  Not necessarily without the children, we would go camping or a day trip to the river anywhere where the kids could run and explore and I could just enjoy them and God’s creation.  This will feed your soul and enable you to give more when you get back.  We must take care of our hearts, life is futile if we do not tend to our hearts.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! And do something, anything, that will feed your soul and your heart.

One of the many wonderful roses I smelled. The Dark Lady Rose

One of the many wonderful roses I smelled.
The Dark Lady Rose

So, What Have You Been Up To?

I waited and waited for the spring selling season to get here, I potted herbs and started seed and dreamed about how busy and fun it would be.  Well, so far I have not been disappointed, we are busy and it is fun!  However, I am so busy that I am not even sure what my name is.

You may have noticed I have not been blogging much and what I have done is to re-post things that I really liked. Also, I have not had much time to read the blogs I follow and feel so disconnected.  So, today I am going to give you an overview of what an April on an herb farm in Texas looks like, just in case you ever thought of having one yourself…

We took farm animals to New Tech High in Coppell, Texas, about an hour and a half drive from us, to show them where their food come from and to make them aware of how animals who produce our food should be treated.  That was great fun!  The rabbits were the biggest hit.  As a matter of fact, two high school boys were so smitten that they each bought one of our babies and took them home.  I must say, I was a bit surprised by the fact that it was the males that went on and on about how cute and sweet a bunny is and had to buy one.  Those boys probably have strong drives to be fathers as well.  I know because I have one of those kinds of males living in my home.  Jonathan just has to hold any baby in the room- even if it is screaming its head off!  That event was for Earth day.

The next day, Sierra and I loaded up Big Red (our 4X4 suburban) and headed off to the Wood County Master Gardeners class where I had the great privilege of teaching a class on composting and container gardening.  I absolutely love those folks, they are so kind, fun, and encouraging.  Not to mention that they bought a lot of herbs which really helps the bottom line at Hollyberry Herb Farm!  While we were at the class, Tony stayed home to work on trimming trees, cutting down dead ones, and getting the greenhouse up an running.

Every Saturday since the first one in March we have headed out in the dark at 5:30 am to the White Rock Local Market.  That has been an excellent business move for us.  Lots of great people looking to support family farms and delighted to have organic herbs available are to be found at that market.  Savannah will be taking over that market for me as we look to sell at other markets around us.  Cheyenne will be selling herbs at the Athens Farmers Market just as soon as I get the paper work filled out.

Last weekend, Tony and I found ourselves in Jenks, Oklahoma at the Jenks Herb & Plant Festival.  Wow, what a great festival that was and Tony & I enjoyed three full days with just us grown-ups.

And of course, in the midst of all this we have been planting new gardens, tilling ground for veggie patches, adding container gardens and seeding more herbs and veggies into the flats in the green house.  I am happy to say that the permanent herb gardens are just about finished.  We will be mulching, weed eating, and planting the last few plants.  This will be just in time as we are having Master Gardeners from 3 counties out to visit on Thursday as well as a visit from the White Rock Farmer’s market manager.  I am so looking forward to that visit.  It is great to have company it is good motivation to get things cleaned up and ready to go.

beginning of the herb gardenThis what the permanent herb gardens started out like in February.

herb gardenThis is it today, most of the green plants are herbs, there is still plenty of green to be removed from the paths.  Within 24 hours all these will be mulched and full of herbs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApink parosol irisPink Parasol bearded iris, such beauty.

How is your spring going?