Saturday, August 25, 2012

Met the Mini Farmer Family And Peach Jam Canning Class

What a small community we have here in Gridley.  I had just talked about the cute mini garden/farm yard down the street from our place in the last blog posting.  Frank went to our local Ace Hardware and was talking to a very nice man working there, turned out he and his family live in the house that I was so fond of for their efforts to teach their family about growing their own food yet making it look so beautiful, right in their front yard!!!  He allowed us to take a picture of it although he did say they had been gone on vacation and just got back so garden needing watering. We took the picture and had an opportunity to meet the family.  There is nothing more rewarding than to have other people appreciate all your work and efforts of gardening and we sure think theirs is fantastic.  Thank you Heather and Bill for creating a work of beauty in your front yard AND for teaching your family about growing your own food.
We are giving a Peach Jam Canning class August 29, 2012 from 6:00-8:00pm.  Call to sign up as space is limited in our cool outdoor kitchen.  When the jams are cooking in the canner, I will be showing people how to dry apples, peaches and tomatoes using the sun and in the dehydrator. We have such a terrific crop of tomatoes this year, all types, if you are interested in canning some for sauces, whole or to dry, give us a call at Windmill Farm 846-3344 and we can put a pound in a bag for you or up to cases together for you.

When you have a garden or a small farm, it is very rewarding to put a plant in the ground and then later harvest and eat the rewards of nature.  Putting food away for the winter either by freezing, canning, or drying may be work now but in 3-4 months, it all will be worth it.  With your busy life, if you don't have time for your own garden, buy the produce from the Farmer's Market, check out your local small produce stands in your neighborhood (follow those signs you see on the roads), look at to see what farms are in your area or if traveling, check out what is available in the new city you are visiting.  But most of all, buy fresh, buy from your local farmers if you can.  It will keep agriculture alive and well.
See you at the fair!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

When to Pick Corn and Growing it as Ornaments in your Yard

I didn't always grow corn in my gardens because you could purchase it anyplace at the cost of 10-12 for a dollar and not worth taking up the space and my time to grow it.  Every family get together or party in the summer, there would be ears and ears of corn.  Now that corn is fairly expensive, I grown it, especially when we purchased our small farm and started our CSA farm.
Corn isn't that hard to plant because the seeds are large and easy to handle.  Two years ago, Frank insisted we purchase a seeder that you push because I would be on my hands and knees for hours planting in the spring.  I poo pooed the purchased because of the price, but boy was I wrong.  It looks something like this and comes with several round disks that have a certain spacing of holes.  There is a V shaped blade that cuts the soil; you pick the disk for what you want to plant (the vegetable seed is printed on the disk) and insert, you put your seeds in the container; you push the seeder down the rows and the chain hanging helps put the dirt over the seed.  Oh and the V shaped item can go up or down on adjustment for depth of seed which is determined by the back of your seed packets or follow the chart that comes with the seeder.  My planting time is measured in minutes to an hour instead of all day or days of planting and I am standing up-right instead of bent over and for this old lady, that meant lots of ice packs! Thank you my darling Frank!!!
The other advantage is that I would always put too many seeds too close together in my rows, wasting seeds and then having to go back and pull them up to thin.  The seeder gives you perfectly spaced plants.  The only real drawback I can say for the seeder is that your soil has to be fairly free of large clumps of dirt.  I have learned after Frank disks and rotatiles my soil, while it is still fresh, I will go in and rake out and smooth the areas where the drip tape will be placed and where I will be walking with my seeder.  If you don't rake out the big clumps of soil, the seeder just bounces around on top of them and the seeds doin't get into the ground and the row lines are irregular.
Back to how can you tell if your corn is ripe.  Since my corn is spaced so evenly, it is easier to pick and see the ears of corn.
Corn usually takes around 80 days from planting to being ripe.  Farmers agree that corn is usually ripe for picking 20 days after the silk at the top of the corn first appears. Brown silk that is starting to dry is generally a pretty good indicator that harvest time is close. Of course, there's a couple of other indicators as well. These include:
Plumpness-When feeling the ear, it should feel firm and plump (but not soggy) in the husk, with a blunt end.
Dried top silk-As stated above, the top silk should be dark brown and dried.
Corn extended away from main stalk-sometimes this is hard to see but when it is growing, the ear is tight up against the main mother stalk, but when mature, it extends out like a large V away from the stalk easy to pull down and ripe away from the main stem.
Sacrificing-when all the above happens, I will take one and pull it off and open it up to see if ripe.  Even if not quite ripe, we eat it anyways as it is normally yummy.  But within a few days of your sacrificed ear, most of the corn will be ripe.
One year, I thought I would be smart and only pick what we could eat or provide to my CSA members, thinking I was going to store the rest until I need them right on the plant.  Well, that was a mistake because when corn is ripe, that means the weather is probably very warm.  The ripe corn on the plant doesn't have a "shelf" life of very long before it starts to dry up and head towards the final phase of its' life, seeds.  The only corn that I have found you can leave to pick when ready is the Indian Corn that I grow for ornamentation for Thanksgiving or harvest time.  When it is ready, it has to be picked but corn picked, does store well as you have seen in the grocery stores.  They normally display it in big bins, not refrigerated.  As long as it is stored in a relatively cooler place out of the sun, it will last a good number of days.
Don't be faint of heart about bugs on corn. You don't expect to see them on corn from the grocery stores because that corn has been sprayed for pests.  I do not spray pesticides so that means, no matter what I have tried, worms are in my corn.  If I have a healthy plant, the worms are minimal and when you open up the corn, they are at the very tip of the corn, I break or cut that part off, wash the corn and the rest of the ear is perfect.  A few years ago, I sold my corn out at my roadside stand for a very cheap price.  A woman called me back and said she wanted her $1.00 back for the  corn because it had worms on the corn and never in her life had she eaten corn that had worms.  I gave her $1 back.
There is a house down the street from me that has dug up most of their front yard and each year grows a mini vegetable garden.  It is so darn cute because they have kids and they first start out with watermelon, pumpkin plants.  This year it is like a work of garden art.  They have about 5-6 stalks of corn planted here and there along their fence, behind the pumpkins, along their driveway; the pumpkin plants are getting so huge with large pumpkins showing; then they have planted all different types of sun flowers, tall and short; they used the corn to designate mini sections of their front yard for some other one or two kinds of plants.  It is all at the best right now probably going to show their pumpkins at the fair so the total look is adorable.  In the evening you see the whole family out there watering, weeding, talking about it.  I sent them a card the other day saying every time I pass their house, it makes me smile. I don't know them but I do know they are teaching their family how to care for things; how to feed yourself; how to make gardening a part of their lives.  Good going parents!!
Have fun in your garden, mini sized or a field size  Grow corn as a shade barrier; or as a backdrop to a sitting area; or to make wreaths in the fall. Until next time, happy gardening.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Beehives, Bee Skeps in Gardens and Home Decorating

Hot here in Gridley.  Our poor relatives that have been here to visit from the Bay Area.  Their weather has been from 55 degrees - 65 degrees.  This last week the coolest day was 100 degrees, today was 106 degrees.  They were suffering.
One of my CSA members owns a store downtown Oroville, called Mary Lake Thompson.  Her front window display reminded me of the importance bees play in all our lives, in our plant world but interestingly, also in our decorating world.Shelling peas- One of my favorite things
Since ancient times, bees have been kept for their honey. Honey was originally collected from the bees’ nest in hollow trees. To make collecting the honey much easier artificial nests for the honey bees to live in were made. Before wooden hives came into use, European and British beekeepers used inverted straw or wicker baskets called a “skep”. Skeps are baskets placed open end down with a small hole at the bottom for the bees to enter. They are the earliest and most simple form of the bee hive. The skeps were weatherproofed with a thatch or mixture similar to that used on house walls. It is rare to find an original old woven bee skep because most were destroyed when the honey was removed. Here are some photos of an antique bee hive and some photos of antique bee skeps.  I have had a skep in my floral gardens for years but they do not last but only a few years.  For a while, you could not find any at nurserys or decorating stores, but recently they are coming back for gardeners and decorators.
This antique beekhive is from France and is from the 1800s.  I want Frank to make me this for my garden.  Wouldn't kids love it as a dollhouse??? Hard to imagine it is over 200 years old and in such good condition.  Would have looked beautiful in a French country garden, a cute house just for the bees.

Skeps hanging from a ceiling to purchase.

These are antique bee hives using various shapes and found objects.

They are fun to decorate with also. Here are some pictures of a few ideas on how to use skeps in your home.   Here is one used as a lamp shade-
 Or to show interest and texture with a sisal rug.
The front window display is at Mary Lake Thompson store that has so many cute items all using the bee hive/skep theme. I want them all!!

She even has bee napkins, bee coasters, and these are bee plates.  They look just like paper plates, but are actually ceramic that can be put into dishwasher.  Check her adorable store out on Montgomery St in oldtown Oroville.  It is packed with the cutest items.

It seems that anything to do with old farms or outside farming implements can be re-purposed to be used inside as decorations. These old farm tractor seats look like art work.
tractor seat art Stay cool. Until next time, from Windmill Farm
Bee skep in zinnias, must get for the herb garden.