Friday, December 28, 2012

What to do with your raised beds at the end of December

Of course it would be ideal to say that at the end of harvest, the raised beds were cleared and prepped for winter. Alas, if you're anything like me, they are not. So, what to do if you've procrastinated with the best of us?

First - dig in.

Clear all the debris you can see on top, removing spent plants and any leaves that might have blown in when fall came our way.

Now is a good time to get an assessment of your soil done, too.  Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for further instructions on how to get your soil tested for FREE.Ideally now is the time to do this, because when spring arrives, the offices will be very busy and your results will take longer to come back.Whether you intend to plant some early cool crops or wait to plant the main summer crops, the results of your soil test will determine what it may need if anything.

I was pleased to see this worm in the dirt!
The hardest part of this is cleaning up the piles of your labor. Currently mine are still where I left them. I had to come inside and devour a bowl of homemade version of pasta e fagioli soup leftover from yesterday.

And so dear fellow slackers, there you have it.

And, photo-bombed, bigtime, by Bob. Thanks, Bob.
And then, here came the dogs:
And this one, in particular, was very serious....
And another dog is not quite so serious....

Whatever lofty things you might accomplish today, you will do them only because you first ate something that grew out of dirt.
- Barbara Kingsolver

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Sometimes, it's nice to see the faces behind the computer screen...

Some friends from Farm Chick Chit Chat recommended THIS SITE for putting some photos together in a collage format, and I sorta had way too much fun.  Give it a try - you might like it and make a photo collage of your own! Be sure to come back and tell me what you think!

Hope your December is full of love, peace, mercy, and grace.
Ed, Sheila, & Eddie Jr. of

Saturday, September 15, 2012

'Tis The Season To......Dry Apples!

Apples are in season in many places, and they are beautiful this year. I had no idea up until about 5 years ago that the southern Piedmont of North Carolina had such wonderful apples.  In my farmhousewife head, I thought they all had to come from cold climates....

Of the many ways to enjoy apples, besides fresh, in pies and applesauce, one of my favorites is dried apples.

Golden Delicious Apples - from a local grower
A terrific snack for on-the-go, they fit nicely in a school lunch, backpack, pocket book or for a long car trip.

First, get some apples - for dehydrating, cooking apples are best.  Next, gather some supplies and tools.  You'll need:

  • peeler-corer
  • knife
  • cutting board or mat
  • fruit fresh, lemon, orange or pineapple juice (to prevent browning)
  • couple quarts of water (2 quarts of water to about 1/2 to 1 cup of juice)
  • dehydrator
A peeler-corer makes short work of slicing apples.  It's way too much fun!
So, after you get an apple peeled, cored, and sliced - cut the stack of apple in half.  Then place the pieces in your water with juice or fruit fresh (to prevent browning).

At this point, there is some snacking going on!
Let the apples get thoroughly coated in the solution while you peel/core several more.

I wish I could tell you that I have the manual to this.  I do not.
So, I did what I do best; I WINGED IT!
So, yeah, I had no real idea of the temperature of this dehydrator since it was a second hand gift.  And, I was too lazy busy at work to look up the manual online.  This one rotates and I left it on pretty much all night because I like a more firm, chewy apple slice - almost crispy.

They are so good, naturally sweet and can be used to make APPLE PIE!
Just reconstitute them with some boiling water and you can have seasonal goodness all year long.
Check out this recipe for further details.

Just one more thing - this book comes highly recommended.  I like to collect them every year just for their pretty covers.  It's how I followed the steps to dehydrate the apples.

 Keep calm and preserve your own food!

p.s. one really cool way to save energy by doing this is to hook it to the solar power!  I do this with my crock pot also.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hope Farms has not been to the Montgomery County Farmers' Market in several weeks now, and we apologize to anyone who has missed us.

We do have a small amount of produce available.  If you are interested, please contact us directly.  Nine One Zero - Four Three Nine - Four Eight Five Four or email hopefarms1890 at gmail dot com.


Friday, August 17, 2012


I pulled almost 16 lbs of tomatoes this morning.  Just thought somebody might want to know.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

All systems........GREEN!

This was way back in the spring, apparently not only do I have dust bunnies buffalos in the house, I have neglected-to-publish blog posts in Que, as well.

Back in Time, and Progress

Sitting under the maple tree with coffee and the sounds of the farm behind me; birds chirping and singing, cow-bell's ring-a-linging, and pigs squealing for their breakfast make the remembrance of city-life a long-ago memory.

While I always managed to hear the sounds of horses chewing hay, clip-clopping down the road, and the smell of leather close by, there were times when I longed to live in the country, away from the hustle and bustle of it all.  Now a traffic jam consists of two bluebirds angling for the same nest location and maybe the rush of Sunday church-goers at 9:00am trying to get to Sunday school on time. These ARE the good old days, indeed.

My husband says "for every modern convenience one eliminates from their lives, a job (or two) is created." As an example, I haven't turned the knob on a dryer in about two years now.  Out to the well-house goes the laundry baskets, to be thrown into the washing machine, and then to the well used three-strand clothes line they go.  Taken down, sometimes folded - sometimes not, they go back into the house for the third round of processing; either to lay motionless on the spare bed in the front room waiting ever-so-patiently to be folded, or to be just as patient to stay there until someone says, "Mom, where's my camouflage pants?"

It's true also, what they say, about wood heating you twice, only I think it's double that.  Cutting the tree down, to be loaded into the back of the back of the pick-up truck, then unloaded, to be split by the wood-splitter and then stacked, ready to be burned in the outdoor wood stove.

Just the random thoughts of a farmhousewife. Sitting under the maple tree.  With coffee.

When it's too hot to go outside.....

we stay inside and talk about......FooD.  With lincoln logs and the assistance of the internet - we discuss digestion. Fun times, indeed!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Garden of Weedin'

At this point in the summer, as in years past, the weeds have nearly taken over the garden.  The raised beds suffer less from the invasion of Mother Nature's misplaced flowers, although keeping them consistently watered has proved a challenge.
One of the raised "beds" - complete with salvaged headboard.
The pitchers hold water for various insects, hopefully mostly pollinators....
Every year we learn more about beneficial and unwanted pests, and continue the rather steep learning curve in regards to soil amendments, composting, and management of planting successive crops.

It seems as though we are in the mid-summer garden of weedin' blahs, though.  Not much is producing well, and although we've had ample rain and sunshine, the heat has taken its toll on many of the plants we'd placed our hopes for bumpers crops upon, and alas, one cannot begin to sell a tomato at the farmers' market - so we have taken to giving them away.

I had to laugh when I came across a freecycle post offering "homegrown tomatoes," as it reaffirmed my saying of "you can't give 'em away."

New piglets were born about a month and a half ago, mama & babies are doing well.  One piglet died, as this was mama's first litter, she inadvertently smothered him within the first hour of birth.  Sigh.

Hattie the family milk cow is doing well as are "Red" and "Pete" the beef cows (yesterday Pete was referred to as a 'beefcake' by a dear friend of mine, and I believe that shall be one of his nicknames for sure - if the shoe fits...) and because of all the blessed rain and sunshine, the pastures are thriving.

Spencer, aka: the skinned horse and April, aka: pistol Annie are tolerating the summer well.  What can we expect from 25 and 37 year old California-grown horses in this NC humidity?  They like their salt rock which makes me happy, giving me peace of mind that they are keeping their electrolytes in balance, which is so important to avoid dehydration.

The farm dogs are hiding in the coolness of the damp earth beneath the old farmhouse and the barn cat makes an appearance after his daily nap, tired out from chasing mice all night (which hopefully keeps the snakes at bay, which will eat our eggs!).

In other news, my dad is here from California, and we are enjoying his visit.

Dad relaxes while Farmer Ed milks the cow, "Hattie."

Friday, June 29, 2012

Are you organic?

In the morning, when the dew is still on the leaves of the zucchini and cucumber vines, and the little hairs on the tomato plants glisten, the lettuce gets picked, along with the Swiss chard, parsley, basil and while the flowers await patiently their fate of being bound together and settled into a half-gallon jar - it never occurs to me that we aren't organic.

Packed for the area's only local growers' only market, these are the fruits of our labor. Time, energy, water, all of these a careful diligence that extends over the few acres of land we put to good use here on Hope Farms.

At the market today, a customer (or not - she didn't buy anything) asked if we were organic.  As I said "No," apologetically, I wondered why I felt the need to carry a 25 pound sack of potential guilt for not being certified organic.

I did offer, humbly, "we use no chemicals, ever" but it felt like a moot point.

She distantly viewed the produce on the table as though it were not good enough. Then she made her way over to another vendor without saying anything else.

For some other reason, as the day wore on, it nagged at me even more.  Did she not purchase anything because we aren't certified organic?  Does she  know what the paperwork is like, the initial certification cost amounts or yearly audit expenses are like?

One figure I've seen for initial certification is $750. For the year.  Yes, I said for the year.

Let's see;  2 dozen eggs per week at  $3.50/dozen = $7.00 x 52 = $364 yet, the "organic" feed it takes to make a dozen eggs (roughly four pounds per dozen) is about $25 for 50 pounds.  So, four pounds would cost roughly $8. Organic feed costs at $8/dozen x 52 dozen  = $416 so right off the bat I'd have to charge more for my eggs, and then; would anyone buy them?  And this doesn't account for the cost of becoming certified.

And that's just an example of eggs. Never mind the squash or onions, let alone the eggplant or tomatoes and the trials and tribulations that come with attempting to grow these things without using chemicals to ward off unwelcome guests and uninvited pests.

Living in a (rural) tier one county has it's pros and cons, for certain.  The untouched beauty and majestic mountains that surround us are unmatched, but the job situation is scarce.  I'm educated, hardworking, reliable and although I have looked and told everyone I knew I was unsuccessful at finding a job in Montgomery County with the exception of some part-time temporary work, for which I was most grateful, but it was.....temporary.

Why am I trudging through this diatribe?  It's not that I'm against "Organic" in any sense of the word.  But what I do take issue with is the idea that my husbands and my hard work, steadfast resolve to not use chemicals to control pests, and constant tending to the garden, livestock and poultry on this small-timey farm isn't enough for a customer - without the "label."

Please, don't get me wrong (and if you do, that's okay, too) but....this farm does not support itself (yet!).  I have provided, on more than one occasion, income and expense receipts to those-that-shall-remain-un-named and at the end of the informational session, their question was this: Why do you do this if it isn't always profitable?

The reasons are many, here are just a few:

We raise livestock, poultry and garden for our family.  We want to remain connected to our food and understand that eating whole, unadulterated foods is on of the best ways to sustain our health.

Without launching into a complex monologue about the mistreatment of animals far and wide within commercial agriculture suffice it say that our animals are given as close to a natural habitat and routine as possible, on small acreage, with humane treatment no matter the situation and if you think that's not important, look at the long- and short-term scientific evidence between humanely raised animals and CAFO's or commercial egg-laying operations. It only takes a few seconds of the videos widely available on the internet to figure out that a happy animal is healthy, and that means the world to us.

Kind of like money, if we don't have it, we don't spend it. So in that regard, if we are out of chicken, we substitute eggplant, or zucchini, or canned potatoes, pinto beans, chili, vegetable soup, or if we're lucky, there's a few pints of canned chicken breast in the canning room from last year. It takes planning, patience, perseverance and pints upon pints of canning jars to sustain our own food supply.

Use what you've got - kinda like the school of hard knocks - doing without can teach a whole new perspective of humility.

Eating in season is difficult and can be maddening due to crop failures, invasion of beetles, bugs, and other insects that can cause havoc with a garden.  There is something entirely rewarding, however, in being able to make an entire supper of what has been grown on the farm.

To sum up the seemingly wandering statements above, we do what we do for our family, for our neighbors, friends, and relatives and what is sometimes in more abundance than we need - we take it to the market.  A few dollars here and a few dollars there go toward purchasing another bag of feed, towards the water bill, towards the seeds that will bring us homegrown goodness next year, and for the supplies it takes to preserve the harvest of our not-so-organic garden and homestead. In a sense, we share.

I have often said that the meaning of life is to share, to give and in return, not just for the sake of being rewarded, is the greatest blessing. See Luke 6:38

At the end of the day today, a good friend and kindred spirit and I were talking about the day.  As she had gifted me with some of her own home-made goodness, I also ushered her over to the table to pick out whatever she wanted to take home with her.  She balked, relaying that it was hard for her to receive and as I reminded her that it was the same for me, we laughed.

"Don't cause a traffic jam in "Blessing-Ville, now," I said - understanding fully the blessing truly is in the gift of giving.  In a sense, when you don't accept a gift from someone else, you are stopping, or rejecting, their blessing - that goodness of being able to share. We laughed at the seeming oddity of it; accepting is really giving.

Organic or not, our farm is wholesome, sometimes frustratingly hard to keep up with, but we love what we do.  Good food, good friends, and whether or not we'll ever be certified remains to be seen.

There's a 25 pound bag of guilt in the baggage claim with no name on it.

It's going around in circles.  Let it be.

Monday, June 18, 2012

2nd Annual Sandhills Farm Tour

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

It's that time of year again - won't you join us for a big time?


For more information contact the Montgomery County Center of the NC Cooperative Extension at 910-576-6011

See you on Saturday, June 23 from 9am to 2pm at Hope Farms ~ where hope grows wild ~

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

While this winter has been mild, we've still had some cold spells and brisk winds to remind us that indeed, it is still winter-time.  As the pastures, fruit trees and vines lay somewhat "dormant" I can't help but think about all of the things in life that move in cycles, with busy times and times of rest, as well.

Sometimes, in the daily tasks we go about, whether we are farmers, teachers, bankers, servers or an employee in a manufacturing plant, it is important to just be.  This is what I have found the leafless trees, the naked vines and straw-colored grass to be doing.  They don't have to impress anyone.  They're not worried about missing the 20% off sale at the not-so-local department store.  They don't even worry about what they will wear tomorrow.  It's all planned out - in good time - they will be productive again.

While there are occasional fears as to the pre-Easter freeze we usually get in this area, I'm trying not to give in to the "what-if's" of life.  For usually where there is a deficit, another kind of abundance will be yielded.  This year, the addition of a greenhouse will be our season-extender, and I'm currently enjoying lovely green salads with kale, spinach, Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, Simpson lettuce, arugula.  Blessed, indeed.

While there isn't a particular point to this post (are there particular points to any of my posts?) I will leave you with some photos of pre-spring life in the greenhouse;

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In other news

Long overdue update, yes?  We've been busy - who on a farm is NOT busy? No matter the size, if there are animals and plants involved, time is consumed in large increments.  We hope your season ended brightly.

New on the farm:

On December 11th, Bacon Bits gave birth to eight tiny piglets, all healthy and cute! Four white (pink!) females, two red with black spots and two white with red and black spots.  They are all spoken for as of four weeks later (that went by fast!) And now Mama Bacon Bits is looking at us as if to say, "Is it time to wean these young'uns yet?"

Until next time,